Girl Out of Water // by Laura Silverman

//published 2017//

So I recently subscribed to The Book Drop through Bethany Beach Books.  While not the fanciest book subscription box out there, it’s very reasonably priced.  Every month comes with a book that is usually either autographed or included with an autographed plate, and usually some other kind of bookish goody like a bookmark or notecard.  There are four different types of books, and to start with I’ve been getting the YA, although I’ve switched to the Children’s for next month just for fun – there is a slight price variation between the types, but since the subscription is paid monthly, it’s easy to switch between them.

All that to say, Girl Out of Water was my first book.  It definitely wasn’t a book I would have picked up on my own, but it ended up being a much more enjoyable read than I anticipated.  While I’m not keeping this one for my permanent collection, it still was a solid story with a main character I actually liked (most of the time).

Anise, who narrates the story (in present tense, unfortunately), has lived her entire life in Santa Cruz, California, right on the beach.  She loves to surf, and has a solid core of friends.  Anise is 17, and this is the last summer a few of her friends are going to be around, as the group is starting to break apart and head off to college and other post-high-school things.  But Anise’s big plans for the summer are destroyed when her aunt, a widow and mother of three, is in a serious car accident.  Anise and her dad have to go to Nebraska to help take care of the kids and Aunt Jackie.  While there, Anise of course learns a lot about herself, mainly because of a boy, and at the end of the book is a wiser and more mature Anise than she was at the beginning of the summer.

A lot of this book was quite predictable, but I still found myself engaged in what was going on with Anise and her life.  Anise’s mother is a flighty, crazy woman who has been in and out of Anise’s life since she was born.  The mom is completely unreliable – Anise and her dad don’t even have a way to get a hold of her to her know about Jackie’s car accident.  Anise lives in fear that she’ll end up like her mom, and a lot of her actions revolve around this fear.

My two biggest problems with this book:  the first is that Anise is just way, way too melodramatic about the fact that she isn’t home for the summer.  Like I was totally on board with her being  homesick and upset, but she also acts like her friends are legit going to forget who she is, and that these “missing months” will mean they no longer have any common ground.  Hello?  You’re gone for like eight weeks, not the rest of your life…??  It just seemed like she blew the situation incredibly out of proportion, and all of her other problems stemmed from that.  However, I do have to say that I really liked the way that Anise didn’t spend a lot of time complaining about her situation – I really appreciated how she put a high priority on her family and helping with them, and overall seemed pretty mature about the importance of this responsibility.

The second big issue I had with this story is that Anise has already decided to go to a local college because she doesn’t want to move away from home.  I thought that was totally fine – what I didn’t like was how everyone acted like that was a stupid choice, and that she was strange and unnatural for not wanting to leave home.  She lives with her dad who dotes on her and she has everything she could possibly want??  Like why would people think it’s weird that she wants to stay home?  I think everyone is ready to leave at different times, and have no doubt that in a year or two Anise will begin to see how life changes and that moving away isn’t the end of the world, but I don’t think it’s right to pressure teens into going away to college just because “everyone” does it.  It felt like there was a really strong message that you HAVE to leave home to go to college or there is something wrong with you, and I didn’t like that.

And I guess there’s also a third thing – a lot of swearing.  I’m just not into it.  I don’t like this effort to normalize f*, and it appears a lot in this book as a total “this is just how teens talk these days” kind of way.  I’m old-fashioned, I guess – I don’t like it.  Constant swearing is pretty much a great way for me to drop at least half a star when I think back on my feelings about a book.

The love interest, Lincoln, was a little too something.  I mean – he’s black, adopted, and only has one arm??  This seems like a lot of minority issues to put on one character.  He was totally likable, but Silverman kept emphasizing these three things about him, which made him come across more as a representative of something instead of just as a person.  Plus, it felt weird because they both act like there is no way this relationship is going to work out long-term so…  just make-out buddies, I guess??  It seemed strange to emphasize the transient nature of their relationship while also acting like it was a really serious one.

Finally, I wanted Anise’s mother to actually show up.  So many of Anise’s issues seemed like they could have been resolved or at least partially resolved by a good hashing-out now that Anise is actually making some decisions about her mom/learning new things about her/learning new things about herself.  The ending of the book felt kind of vague and off-kilter, and I think that was part of the reason – several things like that felt kind of unresolved.

All in all, Girl Out of Water wasn’t a horrible read.  It made me roll my eyes a few times, but Anise herself was a really likable character, and that made me stick with the story even when it got a little ridiculous.  I’m passing this book on to the next reader and not particularly recommending it, but it was still an easy 3/5 and one of those YA books that would probably be better enjoyed by its target audience.

#9 for #20BooksofSummer!

Jackaroo // On Fortune’s Wheel // The Wings of a Falcon // by Cynthia Voigt

These three books are loosely linked as “The Tales of the Kingdom.”  Somewhere along the line, I picked up Jackaroo at a library discard sale.  I remember reading it in high school and liking it and not thinking much more of it.  Then, a year or so ago I stumbled across On Fortune’s Wheel at the Salvation Army for a dime.  Goodreads revealed that The Wings of a Falcon rounded off the trilogy, so I went ahead and ordered it used on eBay for a couple of dollars.

//published 1985//

I enjoyed my reread of Jackaroo.  It’s a decent story set in a kingdom far, far away and centers around Gwyn, the daughter of an innkeeper.  The Kingdom is ruled by the king, and two earls under him, and lords under the earls.  The common folk pay their taxes and struggle to make a living, something more difficult due to a famine over the last couple of years.  Gwyn and her family have it better than most; there is always business for the inn, and her father is a shrewd businessman.

This isn’t exactly a fast-paced story, but it unwinds at a comfortable pace.  Gwyn is a likable character (although her brother is quite aggravating), and I enjoyed watching her realize things about herself and her life that led her challenge her own way of thinking.  A 3/5 story that was pleasant but not life-changing.

//published 1990//

On Fortune’s Wheel revolves around Gwyn’s granddaughter.  This story had a bit more adventuring to it as Birle leaves the Kingdom and travels south.  Despite that, the book still felt slow at points.  When Birle returns to the Kingdom, there are several chapters that really seem to drag out.  This book also involved a scenario that consistently infuriates me: girl gets pregnant and doesn’t tell the father because it’s “her” decision – as though he had nothing to do with it!  I’m really tired of fathers getting zero rights and/or only the rights begrudgingly granted to them by mothers.  (Followed by the mother sighing and bemoaning the fact that the father is distant or not helpful or whatever, urgh)

Anyway, another 3/5 read that was again a pleasant story but not something that really spoke to me.

//published 1993//

The final book, The Wings of a Falcon, again takes place about twenty years later, but begins in the southern country rather than the Kingdom. This book was a lot weirder than the other two, and I found the main character, Oriel, to be 100% obnoxious.  I never felt like Oriel grew as a person at all.  He started by being a self-confident and pompous ass, and continued to be that type of douchey person from boyhood to adulthood.  He uses everyone around him and only does things that benefit himself.  The whole story really dragged and felt completely aimless.  It was a 1/5 read for me, and not a book I would ever return to.

Overall, the trio garners a 2/5 rating.  While I didn’t particularly love reading these books, at least I will have three empty slots on the bookshelves, as these are going into the giveaway box.

April Minireviews

Usually this space is reserved for books I felt kind of “meh” about, but this time around it’s just a way of trying to catch up on some of the backlog.  I’m ready for summer break!!!

Paper Towns by John Green

//published 2008//

I really was going to write a whole long review complaining about this book, but who has time for that?  I read this book because I felt like I needed to actually read one of Green’s books before dismissing him as a pretentious and condescending guy who just says whatever young adults want to hear so he’ll stay popular.  (These days, they call that “being relevant.”)  Now I can be quite smug about not liking him, because, after all, I have tried his books!

Paper Towns was about what I expected.  The main character was completely unrealistic, a high school senior who cared about grades, grammar, and making his parents proud.  And it wasn’t really those things that made him unrealistic, it was just his entire manner and way of speaking.  He spends most of this book running around trying to solve a mystery, following clues he believes his neighbor/crush has left for him.  I’ve heard Green get a lot of flack for perpetrating the “manic pixie dream girl” method of creating a story, but I’m not sure I buy that.  Like half the point was Quentin realizing that he saw Margo as a manic pixie dream girl (although he doesn’t use those words), and understanding that he’s only ever seen her as a very one-dimensional character instead of an actual person.  Yes, Margo is weird and quirky; and yes, she helps Quentin appreciate his life more fully; and yes, we don’t really get to know her from her own perspective – but I still felt like Quentin’s realizations of her were above the MPDG level.  A little.

Overall, the story was just dumb and kind of pointless.  It was a book that desperately was trying to be poignant and deep, but really just came through as cliched and boring.  I compare that to something like The Scent of Waterwhich doesn’t at all try to be poignant and deep and yet manages just that, and can’t believe that people hail someone like John Green as a genius and brilliant writer.  OVERRATED is the main word that comes to my mind, as this book was desperately boring, the characters were flat, and the entire book read like one long cliche.  2/5.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

//published 1817//

Somehow, I had never gotten around to reading this particular classic, and I’m quite sorry that I waited this long.  While this book didn’t have the character studies of some of Austen’s other works, I found myself laughing out loud on multiple occasions.  Austen’s wry sense ofhumor was at the forefront of this rather frivolous tale, and I loved the way that she poked fun at all sorts of things, but all in such a gentle and kindhearted way.

I purchased the perfect copy of this book, a wonderfully-sized paperback that I love.  My only problem was the “introduction,” in which I was treated to a ten-page synopsis of the story (complete with all the spoilers) and not a word of actual insight or thought!  I’m really heartily tired of introductions that are actually a CliffNotes version of the book.  Just because it’s a classic doesn’t mean that everyone who picks it up has already read it!  I mean really.  If the foreword isn’t going to actually give information, what’s the point?!

But the story itself is adorable and fun, and although this may have been my first reading of it, I don’t anticipate it being the last.  5/5.

Wild Palomino: Stallion of the Prairies by Stephen Holt

//published 1946//

This is another book in the Famous Horse Stories series, and one that I’ve had on a shelf for years and never actually read.  I wasn’t really missing all that much, as Wild Palomino was a wildly impractical tale from page one through the finish.  At the time that I actually read it I kept thinking, Wow, I should make sure to point out that crazy plot twist when I review this book!  But I honestly don’t remember many of specifics as this was an easily-forgotten story.  It’s perfectly fine, and the younger audience for whom it was written would probably enjoy all the drama and excitement, but it was just too implausible for me to really get into.  2/5.

The Prince and Betty by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1912//

So I mean, sure, some people complain about Wodehouse’s books being a little samey.  I’ve never found that to be an issue for myself personally, because each one has its own unique charm, despite following more or less a set of guidelines.  But I found myself getting major deja vu when I was reading this book, mainly because it wasn’t my imagination – Wodehouse actually used part of one of his other stories!

The part I haven’t been able to figure out completely is whether or not this book or Psmith, Journalist came first, mainly because of the whole thing where Wodehouse wrote lots of his books as serials before printing them as a book, and also tended to have some of his books published first in the U.K. and then in the U.S.  or vice versa.  Either way, this whole book felt weird because of the inclusion of virtually the entire plot of Psmith, Journalist, including a character named Smith!

The Prince and Betty starts as its own story, with Betty’s rich stepfather (or possibly actually father or possibly uncle, I’m not sure which as it has been a while) deciding that his next big scheme is going to be opening a casino on a small European island country.  Complicated hijinks begin, including the rich guy’s attempt to  make Betty marry the prince of said small country.  Of course, Betty and the prince already knew each other from before (except she didn’t know he was a prince… and neither did he!), but Betty thinks that the prince is just trying to appease her father (or stepfather or uncle), so she gets angry and runs away.  So far, so good.

Except next the story takes a strange turn.  Betty lands a job as a secretary for a small newspaper and – well, insert the entire plot of Psmith, Journalist here!  It’s a shame because I actually love Psmith, Journalist  – like, a LOT – but it didn’t feel like it fit into this book at all.  I’m not sure if it’s because I had already read Psmith, or if it really did read like two different books mashed together.  So yes, both halves were good reads, but they didn’t go well together, but that could have just been me…

March Minireviews – Part 2

I realize that we are now several days into April, but I am trying to wrap up the backlog of March reads.  It always makes me sad when I have to reduce the pile this way, but life is just too busy to keep up on the blog, I’m afraid!

Psmith in the City by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1910//

I actually love the Psmith books, although many people find him rather obnoxious (he is).  This book had a whole new level of interesting since I read Mike at Wrykyn and Mike and Psmith.  In those books, we discover the foundation of the friendship that is at the heart of Psmith in the City, so that added much more depth to the overall story.  In many ways, Mike is actually the central character, with Psmith playing a bold supporting role.  Mike is such a steady, stolid character, which contrasts all the better with the rather pompous Psmith.  I also love how whenever Wodehouse has Mike refer to Psmith in conversation, Mike always says “Smith.”  Wodehouse’s subtle decisions to keep or drop the P are cleverly done.

Another favorite thing of mine is discovering connections between different books and events, so it was great fun to find a reference to Three Men in a Boatwhich I read last fall.  All in all, Psmith in the City is a delightful 4/5 (on the Wodehouse scale, where a 1/5 is the same as a 4/5 for normal books) and definitely recommended – although you’ll enjoy it even more if you read the Mike books first.

From Italy With Love by Jules Wake

//published 2015//

This books is actually a DNF, so I’m not sure why I’m bothering to mention it, other than to see if someone else has actually finished it and thinks that I should totally keep reading because it gets better later on.

I really liked the premise, where an eccentric uncle leaves his niece a rare antique car, but in order to inherit it she has to drive across Italy, following a specific route which he has laid out for her.  As part of an inheritance for this other guy, the uncle says that the guy has to go, too.  I always kind of enjoy crazy old meddling old people who set up the young’uns, especially from beyond the grave, so I was all for it.  However, so much of this book just didn’t make any kind of sense.  The uncle promised the dude, Cam, that he could have this special car, so Cam has already told his brother that they can use this car for some fancy car show where they’re going to make tons of money except they had to spend tons of money to get ready for it.  Except how did Cam know that the uncle was going to die???  (Maybe he actually knocked him off and the book turns into a mystery later?!)  So Cam is obnoxious the whole time, which also makes no sense because what he is actually going to inherit from this drive across Italy is the first chance to buy the car from the niece (Laurie).  So wouldn’t it make more sense for him to be buttering her up and trying to get on her good side?

Meanwhile, Laurie is actually engaged to this other guy, and it’s obvious from literally the first page that this guy is a total tool, and as the first couple of chapters progress, it’s painfully obvious that the dude is trying to get in on all the cash he thinks Laurie is going to inherit, but Laurie seems basically oblivious to the whole thing, and it really bothered me that she went off on this trip (and is presumably going to fall in love with) some other guy while still being engaged to the first guy, even if the first guy is a jerk.  I found it 100% impossible to believe that Laurie would inherit this car and not do any kind of research on it, even something as basic as finding out how much it’s worth.  I mean, seriously?

And honestly, I could have overlooked a lot of this if the story had been remotely interesting, but it wasn’t!  To top everything off, it was boring me out of my mind.  Plus, while as of around 30% through the book Wake hadn’t dragged me through any sexy times, she still kept hinting around at stuff, so I had to keep listening to Laurie get “flushed” and “flustered” a whole lot, and, even worse, be repeatedly exposed to the word “nipples.”  Please.  “Nipples” is not a word that engenders romance, so I don’t want to hear about them, or hear what some guy thinks about them, or even to really think about them within the context of a romantic encounter.  Ugh.

So yeah, a rambling DNF on this book, but at least it’s one off the list!

Nettle King by Katherine Harbour

//published 2016//

This is the third and final book in the Night & Nothing series.  Thorn Jack was engaging, Briar Queen was engrossing, and Nettle King was a solid finish.  Part of the problem was that there was just too much of a gap for me between Queen and King, so I had trouble getting into the groove of this story.  But overall – I really liked this trilogy, and definitely see myself reading it again.  In many ways it reminded me of the Lynburn Legacy books by Sarah Rees Brennan.  These weren’t as funny as those, but it had a similar world-building in the sense that it all took place in a small, isolated community.

I also found myself comparing it a lot to The Fourth Wishwhich I had just finished.  In both stories, girls find themselves in love with guys who, due to magic, are basically eternal beings who have been around for centuries.  But where Wish felt ridiculous and contrived, I 100% shipped Jack and Finn.  Both characters are constantly seeking to put the other person’s safety and needs above their own.  Plus, they are a bit older (in college), and had a strong support system of other characters around them.  There was so much more depth to relationship between Jack and Finn than there was between Margo and Oliver.  I felt like Jack and Finn would be friends and lovers forever, but that Oliver and Margo would get completely bored of each other within months.

Anyway, the overall conclusion to the Night & Nothing series was quite satisfying.  I definitely want to read these books again within a tighter time frame, because I felt like I lost a lot of the intrigue by waiting so long between the second and third books.  A solid 4/5 for Nettle King and for the series as a whole.  Recommended.

March Minireviews – Part 1

Usually, I only post a group of minireviews for books that have just been sort of meh for me, leaving me with not a whole lot to say about the story.  But this month I’ve been super busy with work and other projects and just simply haven’t had time for reviews.  I really struggled through a reading slump the end of February and into March, but over the last couple of weeks have been back in the groove, which means I actually have quite the little pile of books waiting to be reviewed.  Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time to really unpack all the ins and outs, so I’m going to try to just give each read a few paragraphs… hopefully I don’t get too carried away…

Dead End Close by Dominic Utton

//published 2017//

I actually started a whole long review of this book but then got really carried away.  I disliked this book so much that the whole review was turning into a rather incoherent rant, so maybe I can just summarize a briefer, coherent rant here.  I actually rather enjoyed Utton’s first book, Martin Harbottle’s Appreciation of Timeand I think that added to the disappointment that I felt about Dead End Close.  This book focuses on several households all on the same dead-end street in Oxford.  There’s a bit of mystery/thriller aspect, but at the end of the day this book was just overwhelmingly depressing.  No one has a happy life, no one has a happy ending.  All of my notes on this book end with “???” because I just didn’t get this book at all.  There’s this weird guy meandering through the story (and sometimes narrating it) with a clipboard, and we are given the impression that he’s a supernatural/angelic being of some kind (???), but apparently there for observation purposes only has he does diddly-squat to prevent anything from happening.  Throughout the story, all the lives that started pretty bad to begin with only get worse.

But the biggest reason that this book gets 0/5 stars for me is that a huge part of the plot centers around a trio of Oxford boys who are trying to get into a club, and the initiation process requires them to rape a girl, video it, and then get the video to go viral.  This whole part of the book literally made me ill to read, it was so disturbing and dark and gross.  And maybe I could have gotten around this if this book had had some kind of point, but it didn’t.  The whole story was just completely pointless.  It went no where, there was no character development, terrible things happened to everyone, people get raped and killed, and a heavy sense of hopelessness lingers on every page.

I think I was especially irked when I got to the end and Utton attempted to whitewash his entire story by acting like, somehow, there was a message of hope.  Like, “Oh wow, sometimes bad things happen, but there’s always hope!”  Yeah, that doesn’t really fly with me when the only “hope” part of your story is in the next-to-last paragraph of the entire book.

Dead End Close was given to me free of charge from the publishers, and this is my obviously very honest review.  I hated every word of this book and wouldn’t even recommend it to someone I didn’t like.  Weirdly, I would still read another of Utton’s books, though, because I enjoyed Harbottle, but this one was flat dreadful.

The Wreckage by Michael Robotham

//published 2011//

They say that a book can impact your mood.  I think this is true, but I also think that sometimes my mood impacts the book.  I picked up The Wreckage (the fifth in the Joseph O’Laughlin series) during the height of my reading slump and could not get into it.  And even though I eventually finished the book, it never really gripped me.  I can’t say for sure if that was the book’s fault or mine, but I definitely felt very meh towards this story the whole way through.

I think a large part of this was because it didn’t feel nearly as personal as the other books in this series.  The other books have dealt with tight, domestic-type crimes (kidnapping, murder, robbery, etc.), but this one was more political, following a storyline in Iraq, where a reporter believes that several bank robberies are connected; and London, where our old friend Vincent Ruiz finds himself entangled in a complicated web of disappearances, robberies, and embezzlement.

The story was done well, and the present-tense that Robotham insists on using made more sense as a third person narrative.  But my personal disinterest meant that I didn’t read this book very closely, and consequently it felt disjointed to me.  It left me with a 3/5 rating, but I think that it will be better when I read through this series again.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

//published 2017//

This was another ARC, but one that I thankfully enjoyed a great deal more than Dead End Close.  This story drifts back and forth in time, following the lives of three German women before, during, and after World War II.  While this wasn’t exactly a cheerful read, it was a very engaging one.  Shattuck handles the shifts in time perfectly, giving information about the lives of these women at just the right time.  It is not a mystery, but each of the women has her own secrets that are only gradually revealed.

It was quite fascinating to read a story about “everyday” Germans.  Marianne, passionate about the resistance; Benita, rather naive and sometimes willfully blind; Ania, caught up in the dream of a better life and failing to see how the promises were built on shifting sand.  The language is lovely and the characters are well-drawn, although I wish that we saw more of Marianne’s thoughts and actions.  She is weirdly both the center of the story and yet in the background of it.

While I don’t see myself returning to this book time and again, I would definitely read another of Shattuck’s books, and recommend this one to anyone who enjoys history from the perspective of ordinary people struggling to see what is right.  4/5.

The Fourth Wish by Lindsay Ribar

//published 2014//

This book is the sequel to a lighthearted YA novel that I read in February, The Art of Wishing.  While Wishing didn’t really blow my mind with its awesomeness, it was still an entertaining and pleasant read, and I was expecting more of the same from The Fourth Wish.  Unfortunately, it was overall pretty terrible.  In this book, Margo is struggling to adjust to her new life as a genie.  For some reason, Ribar decided that the overwhelming majority of people who get a hold of a genie would use their wishes to find some kind of sexual fulfillment.  Color me crazy, but if I had three wishes for anything, I really don’t think any of them would involve sex…???  Plus, we also have to spend a lot of time nattering on about how genies can be either male or female (I mean the same genie can be either), and how this doesn’t change who they are on the inside, and they can still love each other no matter their outward apperance, aw how romantic except why so boring and consequently not actually romantic at all.

I skimmed large portions of this book hoping to actually find a story, but there wasn’t one.  Margo was a total whiner in this book, spending most of  her time being a jealous girlfriend.  I don’t really have high hopes for her relationship with Oliver, especially since they are not both timeless, eternal beings.  Like I don’t think this relationship is going to last five months, much less five centuries.

In the end, 2/5 and nothing that inspired me to find out if Ribar has written anything else.

Briar Queen // by Katherine Harbour

//published 2015//

Life continues to be quite busy, although I am feeling a bit more like reading these days, so we will see how that translates into blogging!  I’ve missed being active here, but sometimes real life interferes with my internet life!!

Quite a while back I reviewed the first book in the Night & Nothing Trilogy, Thorn Jack.  In that book, we met Finn, who had moved (with her dad) to her dad’s hometown in upstate New York.  However, the seemingly idyllic little college town of Fair Hollow is actually the home to a group of fairy-like creatures known as the Fata.  Finn falls in love with one of the Fata, Jack, who used to be human.  By the end of Thorn Jack, the love that Finn and Jack have for each other has made Jack human again.

Part of the reason that Finn and her father left San Francisco and moved to Fair Hollow was because they were recovering from the suicide of Finn’s sister, Lily Rose.  In Briar Queen, Finn learns that her sister isn’t actually dead – she has been taken by the Fata and is being held in the shadow-world that parallels the human one.  Soon, Finn, Jack, and Finn’s friends are all embroiled in an rescue attempt that leads to many terrifying and exciting adventures.

It’s been a while since I actually finished this book – almost a month, actually – so I don’t remember all the specific details.  However, I liked this book better than Thorn Jack, I think mostly because a lot of the first book was spent setting up the world and characters.  In the second book, we were able to jump right into some action after a brief recap.  Despite the fact that my notes for this book say, “Plot like a pinball machine,” overall this book seemed more cohesive than the first.  In the first book, I complained about the story feeling choppy and jerky, but Briar Queen flowed much better.  It was full of action and adventure, but still stayed focused and had a fairly cohesive plot.

All in all, this book was a 4/5 for me, and I’m rather excited to (someday) read the conclusion, Nettle King.

The Art of Wishing // by Lindsay Ribar

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//published 2013//

This book has been on the TBR long enough that it doesn’t have a date attached, and the blog whose review inspired me to add it appears to no longer be a blog!  So I don’t really remember what it was that originally caught my fancy.

While in some ways a typical YA, this book does have a fun little premise and, on the whole, is executed well.  Margo McKenna is our narrator and heroine.  She’s a typical high school senior – good grades, loves math, and is really excited about landing the lead role in this year’s musical.  She totally nails her tryout, but the role goes to a sophomore instead, leaving Margo feeling confused – especially when it turns out that Vicky is kind of terrible at singing and acting.  But when a series of coincidences mean that Margo ends up with a ring that was once in Vicky’s possession – Margo finds out that Vicky had a little help…  magical help.

I think that the main reason that I enjoyed this book is because I liked Margo herself.  Throughout, Margo is trying to make decisions that are not just good for her (or for her love interest), but for a variety of people in her life.  I also really appreciated the way that she works hard at becoming a better person.  There are several times that, instead of caving into the temptation to be bitter and angry about the fact that Vicky has the lead role, Margo makes a conscious decision to not let that bitterness rule her.  Instead, she is unfailingly polite to Vicky (and not in a sarcastic way), and completely throws herself into the (secondary) role that she is supposed to play.  I love that Margo wasn’t “naturally” nice about the situation, but worked hard at approaching the situation maturely.

While there is a bit of insta-love between Margo and Oliver (who turns out to be a genie), it ends up making sense within the context of what is happening, and I actually liked a lot of the way that their relationship panned out, and I felt like they had some good discussions.

The bad guy was a little over the top, and I didn’t really like the violence that went with his character.  I also felt like it was really weird that Oliver acted like it was pretty normal for his “masters” to request/expect sexual favors while they were in control of their wishes.  Like… why would one of only three wishes involve having sex with a total stranger…???  It wasn’t this huge part of the story, but it was all part of Oliver explaining how the whole thing worked.  I think he was trying to emphasize the fact that he has to do whatever his master wishes, but it still felt kind of weird.  His stories about having to kill people/arrange for their deaths seemed to make that point more poignantly to me.

While there were the expected unintended consequences of wishes, I felt like some of those areas were explored thoughtfully, in a way that made me wonder what I really would wish for if I had three wishes – because who knows what the long-term consequences are when you start meddling with fate?  I really liked the bit where Margo was trying to decide whether or not she should make her wish change the mind of someone in her life – her thought process through whether or not it was fair/right to force someone to do something they wouldn’t have actually done – even if it’s the best decision from Margo’s perspective – was really interesting.

The ending was good, with a bit of kick and only slightly rushed.  While it felt like this book worked well as a stand-alone, there is a sequel, so we will see where that leads.

All in all, this was a pretty solid 3/5 read.  It was entertaining and fun, had a decent story, and involved characters who were around 18 instead of 15, so their actions and decisions made a lot more sense.