Isla and the Happily Ever After

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Isla and the Happily Ever After

by Stephanie Perkins

December 2016

I finished the third and last installment of the Anna and the French Kiss series. It was wonderful. I loved Isla and the Happily Ever After. Perkins’ writing is vivid and her plot was moving and addicting. It was impossible to put this book down. As the end of a series, it was fitting and left the reader fulfilled and happy.

Isla attends the same school in Paris that Anna did, only a few years behind. Isla hangs out almost exclusively with her best friend, Kurt. He has high functioning autism and they get each other perfectly. For years, Isla has had a crush on Josh: a hot, moody senior who blows off school and loves to draw. One day they finally connect and get to know each other. Soon, they acknowledge the truth: they have both liked each other for years. Isla was too scared to talk to Josh (especially since he was part of St. Clair’s gang before they graduated and left him behind) and Josh thought Isla was dating Kurt. Such begins their rapid romance. Spoilers: they soon become inseparable, even though Josh respects Isla’s relationship with Kurt and their established routines for the most part. Isla and Josh are rapidly falling in love and decide to recklessly run away to Spain for the weekend. They enjoy the uninterrupted one on one time, but it is not to last. They get caught and Josh is expelled. His father is running for senator and can’t afford the scandal, so Josh is forced to return to N.Y. to be the proper son his parents need him to be. They take away his phone and he and Isla have to sneak around to talk, and those conversations are few and far between. They write letters, but the separation is a huge strain. Finally, over a holiday Isla returns to N.Y. and is invited to a fancy gala as Josh’s date. It is a strenuous night and Isla comes to the realization that she’d only hold Josh back from his potential if they stay together, and if so, that he would realize she’s not good enough and end things down the road. That would be too painful, so Isla decides to break up with him now, in order to hurt less. Josh is crushed, but Isla is stubborn. She returns to school and realizes that she is still helplessly in love with Josh. At first she dismisses it because she feels unworthy of love, but soon she tries to reach out, only to be met with silence. She even buys a comic book and gets it signed by the author for Josh, but then hides it. It’s a horrible time for both of them. While Isla is wrapped in her own misery, Josh is heartbroken, but determined to prove his love to Isla (who is obviously horribly insecure). For years, he’s been working on a memoir comic book of his high school years. He showed the rough version to Isla when they were together and she freaked out because there were only a few pages about her and a ton of pages about his ex (including a full nude spread). Josh took her limited constructive feedback and decides to rewrite it. If he can finish, then he hopes to win back Isla and convince his dad to let him go to college for art and comics. One day, he gets a package: it’s the comic book Isla bought him (her sister sneakily sent it as if from Isla). He takes it as a sign of hope and agrees to join his friends on their trip. Cricket’s sister is competing in the Olympics, so he, Lola, Anna, St. Clair, and Josh are going to watch her, stopping in Paris to meet Isla, “Josh’s friend.” They get together for dinner and it is horribly awkward. St. Clair and Anna are the first to leave and disappear to one of their favorite spots. They are followed by everyone so they can witness St. Clair’s proposal! Anna says yes, and everyone leaves them in peace. Finally, it’s only Josh and Isla left. He gives her the new manuscript and makes her promise to read it right away and call as soon as she finishes. Isla is so disappointed. She hoped he would want to stay with her, but she agrees. Soon she is lost in his masterpiece. It has a new, solid story and focus (and she is much more present). In the end, her character is reading the new manuscript and realizes that Josh truly loves her. She calls him to find he’s been waiting outside for her the whole. Isla wipes her tears and looks out the window to see Josh. She runs outside and they embrace. It’s such a beautiful ending. Side note: she makes things right with Kurt, becoming friends again, and it works out for the best because Kurt has made more friends in the meantime and is very happy. Additionally, the theme of life after college is woven throughout the book and Isla and Josh get into schools in the same town and are able to live together during college. It’s truly a happily ever after story and I loved it!

Summing it up: I loved this book. It had humor, heart, angst, and a happy ending. I definitely recommend it.

All the best, Abbey

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

by Ransom Riggs

December 2016

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children was another family recommendation. This time from my sister. I didn’t hesitate at all, but quickly took it to read. Not surprisingly, I’m happy I did! I really liked this book, even though it was totally creepy. It was so interesting, and had such a steady pace, not rushing or drawing out too long. There’s no easy way to really describe it, so I’d say, just dive in and find your bearings.

Jacob is an ordinary boy in an ordinary town, who wishes for something more. He works at a store, which he hates, and has a grandfather whom he loves, but who is seeming to go crazy. He tells stories about his old friends who could do amazing things, like levitate, form fire out of thin air, and one who is invisible. He also has a collection of firearms and talks about monsters. Jacob enjoyed looking at the old photographs of his grandfather’s friends when he was young and believed in them, but now he is skeptical and worrying about his grandfather. One day, he goes to check on his grandfather, only to find him dead. The crazy thing is Jacob sees a creature with tentacles receding into the woods. His parents agree to send him to counseling after going through such a traumatic event which is causing Jacob horrible nightmares. Jacob’s therapist is a great help and eventually suggests that Jacob visit the island where his grandfather met all his old friends. Jacob’s parents reluctantly agree and he gets to go with his dad. Once on the island, Jacob quickly finds the home his grandfather stayed at, but is dismayed to find it in ruins. It’s not long after this, that he meets his grandfather’s friends, who are truly different and haven’t aged a day from their photographs. Spoilers: Jacob is soon swept into their world, where time stands still in order for them to be protected from “normal” humans, as well as from horrible tentacled creatures called HollowGhasts and human looking creatures called Wights, both of whom hunt peculiars for food (Wights doing the brunt of the work because they can blend into human society). Jacob is drawn to the peculiar’s world and enchanted with their life, feeling at home and safe with them and their headmistress, Miss Peregrine. He’s learning more about his grandfather (including the fact that he had dated, Emma, a peculiar who can form fire and who has taken a pointed interest in Jacob), and more about himself. He finds out that he is actually peculiar, like his grandfather. They both can see monsters, while everyone else cannot. Before long, this ability comes in handy as he spots both a HollowGhast and Wight on the island and therefore knows trouble it’s coming for Miss Peregrine and her peculiars. Everything comes to a head when the Wight breaks into Miss Peregrine’s world and captures her, while the HollowGhast tries to kill Jacob, Emma, and a few of their friends. He is ultimately unsuccessful (he dies), but the damage is done with Miss Peregrine. Jacob and his friends must rescue her and defeat the Wight, who has been disguising as Jacob’s therapist. After an epic battle, they kill the Wight and are able to rescue Miss Peregrine (who was forced to turn into a Peregrine – her peculiarity), but she is unable to turn back. They also learn that the HollowGhasts are working together to capture other leaders like Miss Peregrine (who alone are able to manipulate time) in order to gain more power and eventually master time itself. Jacob has to decide if he will return home to his ordinary life, or abandon it to live with the other peculiars. In the end, he decides to stay with his new friends and help defeat the monsters. He tries to explain things to his dad, who is incredulous and clueless, but knows he’ll never really understand, and then he leaves to start his new life.

Summing it up: This book was so creepy and so good. I definitely recommend it and can’t wait to read the other two books in the series!

All the best, Abbey

If I Stay

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If I Stay

by Gayle Forman

December 2016

I actually watched the movie version of If I Stay a while ago before I knew there was a book. I loved the movie, so once I found out about the book, I was eager to read it. Well, I loved it just as much as the movie (if not a little better). I don’t know why I love it so much, given the tragic premise, but I devoured the book in one night. The writing was phenomenal. The plot was gripping and heart-wrenching and made it impossible to put the book down. The icing on the cake? There’s a sequel!

Mia is high school girl with a normal, rather good life. She has a loving mom and dad, a younger brother who adores her, and a boyfriend who melds great with her family. Mia is a gifted cellist who will likely be going to Juilliard. One morning, there’s enough snow to close school (a dusting in Oregon will do that), so the whole family decides to drive up to visit old friends. On the way, they get into a horrific accident, killing Mia’s parents on impact and sending her and her brother to the hospital. The strange thing for Mia is that she watches all of this outside her body – observing the events, conversations, etc that go on around her. The rest of the book follows her observations and her struggle to decide whether or not she should stay and live. Spoilers: pulling her to leave is the fact that she is an orphan and that her brother ends up dying. Pulling her to stay is the fact that she’s surrounded by family and friends who want her to live, and the hope of a future if she stays. In the end, her boyfriend plays her a cello piece, flooding her with memories and hope and she decides to stay.

Summing it up: This book was beautiful, heartfelt, and I absolutely recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea

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Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea

by Sungju Lee & Susan McClelland

December 2016

Because I liked the last book I read on North Korea, one of my library co-workers recommended this young adult non-fiction. As much as the subject matter is tragic, it is also fascinating. Even though it’s hard, getting outside of my bubble is so important to me and I think that’s why I enjoy stretching myself to read things beyond “happy fiction” (though we all know I’ll never stop reading that). I enjoyed reading from the viewpoint of a child/adolescent. It was very different: the tone of the book was light and fun, even while it was serious. I really enjoyed Every Falling Star and thought it was very well written.

Sungju Lee is a ten year old boy growing up in Pyongyang, the capitol of North Korea. He has a happy, carefree life, until one day his parents announce that they are moving to the country. There, a confused Sungju learns that it’s not vacation at all and something is very wrong. Later in life he learns that his father fell out of favor with the government. They slowly run out of food and working becomes pointless, so his parents stop and use their time to scavenge for food. Finally, Sungju’s father leaves. He decides to go to China and bring food back, but he never returns. Growing desperate, Sungju’s mother leaves one night to go to his aunt’s and also never returns. Sungju is starving and feeling utterly betrayed. He turns to one of his school friends who helps him and before long they start a gang filled with other boys who have been abandoned. They work together to find food, clothing, and shelter: simply to exist. Spoilers: Sungju spends the next six years struggling for survival: learning how to fight, becoming the strongest gang with a fearsome reputation, losing friends, and growing up. He becomes the leader of an established gang filled with his friends from day one, though he (and his gang members) still yearns for family. One day Sungju runs into his grandfather. He doesn’t believe it at first, but a portrait of his family convinces him that he has in fact found his grandparents. He leaves his gang, promising to visit every week. For a little while things are settled and happy – he even has a bed again. But then he is visited by a messenger with a letter from his father saying that he is in China and has been searching for Sungju all these years and wants him to visit. After agonizing over the decision, Sungju decides to risk it and agrees to journey to China.  He crosses the river with his guide and is passed off to another man who gives him a passport and sends him on a plane with instructions to not say a word. Before long, Sungju is in South Korea and after much confusion is reunited with his dad! Sungju had a hard transition into his new life, but is now a successful, educated young man working toward helping create smooth North Korean integration into South Korea. He and his dad are still searching for his mom. It’s sobering to read of parents abandoning their children and children fighting for their existence. And even more so learning about the challenges once they’re able to leave North Korea . . .it is anything but easy. There’s hope in reading Sungju’s story though and I’m grateful he shared it with the world.

Summing it up: this was a challenging, beautiful story and I highly recommend it.

All the best, Abbey

Anna and the French Kiss

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Anna and the French Kiss

by Stephanie Perkins

September 2016

I kept hearing good things about Anna and the French Kiss and I was so curious about it. Everyone loved it and I definitely see what all the fuss is about . . .I loved it too! I thought it was sweet, funny, endearing, and so touching. I was a little annoyed at one of the main characters, Étienne, was way too “wishy washy” at points, but it still didn’t diminish how much I enjoyed this book. I loved the writing, the plot, the characters, and the setting. It was just such a good book!

Anna is getting ready to go back to school when her dad announces that she will be attending the American School in Paris for her senior year. Anna is very upset, but there is nothing she can do. She is shipped off and left to find her way at a new school in a new country. It is difficult and scary, but Anna soon makes friends and begins to explore the city by the side of one in particular, Étienne. He is an American with a British accent, who also has a French father, so he knows all about Paris and the amazing things to see and do, and he is more than happy to show Anna around. Étienne has a girlfriend, so Anna must settle for friendship even though she wants so much more than that. As the year goes on, Anna falls more and more for Étienne, and he seems to be falling for her as well, even though he has a girlfriend. Spoilers: after many back and fourths, and quite a few misunderstandings, they finally get their feelings out in the open and Étienne breaks up with his girlfriend so they can be together. Étienne has a difficult home life which makes it hard for him to change and let go (his father is very controlling and is a miserable human being who keeps Étienne and his mother a part, even when she is diagnosed with cancer). So, it is hard for him to leave his girlfriend, even though they are not doing well, because he is afraid to let go. When he finally stands up for himself and doesn’t let fear get in his way, he is able to move forward with his life, including being with Anna and standing up to his father about his mother and where he wants to go to college. The story is also filled with the beautiful sights of Paris which makes Anna falls in love with the city. She is sad to leave at the end of the year, but she and Étienne will be going to colleges in CA that are not far from each other, so she also has that to look forward to. It is a beautiful ending to a sweet and endearing book.

Summing it up: I loved this book and I hear there are two more books in this series, so I can’t wait to read them as well. I highly recommend it!!

All the best, Abbey

Tell Me Three Things

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Tell Me Three Things

by Julie Buxbaum

September 2016

I found another amazing book . . . Tell Me Three Things. It was sweet, funny and moving. I am so impressed by Buxbaum’s writing style and ability and will be reading her other books. This was her first Young Adult novel and I was hooked on page one. Tell Me Three Things reminded me a lot of the movie, You’ve Got Mail (only taking place in high school). I’m still struggling with having finished the book . . .I’m just not ready to leave the characters.

Jessie has just gone through the unimaginable: her mother has died and her father has remarried (a woman she’s never met) and they are moving to L.A to move in with her and her son. It is a rough transition for Jessie, to say the least, but the one light in all the confusion, hurt, and loneliness is an anonymous email from Somebody Nobody (SN) who offers to help Jessie and show her the ropes of her new high school. At first she is skeptical, but then she takes him up on his offer and he gives her tips on cafeteria food and who would make a good friend. Jessie begins to adapt. SN was right: she becomes good friends with Dri and she also gets a job at the local book store, Book Up Below. The popular girls hate her and embarrass her regularly, but Jessie is partnered in English with another classmate, Ethan, who is quiet but very smart, and they slowly build a friendship. After about two months, Jessie’s stepmom (who is loaded) sends her back to her old home to visit her old friends. Jessie is thrilled, but the trip starts off rough because both she and her best friend have changed. After sorting out hurt feelings they make amends and move forward to be closer friends before Jessie has to go back. Spoilers: All this time Jesse has been trying to figure out who SN is and is battling feelings for Ethan. Everyone warns her that he has a dark past and that she shouldn’t get mixed up with him, but she is steadily falling for him. She is also falling for SN. With him she is herself and they have a lot in common, including losing a loved one. When they write, they go back and fourth sharing three things about themselves or how they’re feeling. Jessie is convinced that SN is a boy in her school named Caleb, but her friends help her figure out it isn’t him. Her friends think it’s Liam (the hot lead in a band who broke up with his girlfriend for Jessie), but Jessie is hoping beyond hope that it’s Ethan. Finally, SN agrees to meet her at IHOP. Jessie is so nervous and excited, but then very disappointed when Liam walks up to her table. But before she can really react, Caleb walks up, and then Ethan arrives. Liam is trying to ask Jessie out and she is trying not to show her disappointment when Ethan cuts in to ask everyone to hold on while he takes his phone out. Then Jessie gets a message from SN saying it’s him, not Liam. Jessie is filled with excitement, tells Liam she can’t go out with him and then she and Ethan finally “meet” and it’s perfect! Best ending.

Summing it up: I can’t say enough good things about this book. It was heartwarming and moving to tears at points, but also funny and sweet. I absolutely loved it and I highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

by J. K. Rowling

September 2016

I’m officially half-way through the Harry Potter series, and I am totally hooked and just loving it! I definitely think plot-wise and writing-wise, each book gets better and better. I love the characters and I love watching them learn and grow and face new challenges. There were a few things that really shocked/surprised me in this book, but I really enjoyed this fourth installment.

Spoilers ahead! We find Harry managing at the Dursley’s by hiding his school things and food that his friends have sent by owl. They have all remembered his birthday and sent cakes and presents. Ron has also sent an invitation for Harry to join them at the Quidditch World Cup and then stay with him for the last two weeks of summer. Harry persuades his uncle to let him go by reminding him that if he goes, Harry will be gone two weeks earlier than expected. The Quidditch World Cup is greater than even hoped, but it all ends terribly when during the night of celebrations, Death Eaters (Voldemort’s supporters) come to the camp and torture some Muggle-borns. Somehow Harry loses his wand and it gets used by a dark wizard to set off the sign of Voldemort causing confusion and fear. Soon, the excitement dies down and there is no clue as to what really happened. Harry, Ron, and Hermione return to Ron’s and then go back to Hogwarts. When they arrive they learn that this year will be very different. Instead of the usual house Quidditch games, two new schools (Durmstrang and Beauxbatons) will be joining Hogwarts and a representative (17 or older) from each school will participate in the dangerous Triwizard Tournament. Students freely enter by dropping their name in the Goblet of Fire, and at the announcing ceremony, one student from each school will be chosen by the Goblet. At the ceremony all goes smoothly as three students are chosen: Krum, Fleur and Cedric, but then all is confusion when a fourth name is called out: Harry Potter. It is a huge alarm because the Goblet must have been tricked to call out a fourth name and it cannot be undone – Harry must compete. Harry is shaken and consequently teased and jeered at because everyone thinks he magically put his name in (when he didn’t), and he even looses Ron’s friendship for a while over it. Hermione sticks by him though and soon Harry faces the first of three challenges: getting past an angry dragon to steal a golden egg. He does so by summoning his Firebolt and lives to go on to round two. This time, he must figure out how to breathe below water and save the thing he holds most dear: Ron (they have made up by this point). Dolby helps him (Dolby works in the Hogwarts’ kitchen now) by giving him a gillyweed to eat, which will let him breathe under water, and Harry rescues Ron and Fleur’s sister. Then it’s back to classes and prep for the last round. All throughout the year, Harry has gotten close to the new Dark Arts professor, Moody, and he has helped Harry get out of various scrapes. The final task is finally at hand: surviving through a maze to get to the Triwizard Cup. Harry’s journey is surprisingly uneventful, but he soon runs into Cedric and they get to the Cup at the same time and agree to touch it together. When they do, it turns into a Portkey (an object that can transport someone to a certain place). Harry and Cedric get taken to a graveyard where Cedric is immediately killed. Harry is captured by Wormtail and forced to witness Voldemort return to human form and then forced to duel him. During their duel, Harry fights with everything he has and is able to stand up to Voldemort. Their wands clash (because they are made with the same ingredient) and Harry reverses Voldemort’s last killings and sees their ghosts, including his parents and Cedric (whose last wish is that his body be returned to his parents). Harry holds off Voldemort long enough to escape to the Portkey with Cedric’s body. Once back at Hogwarts, where everything is in disarray and confusion, Harry is taken inside by Prof. Moody, but soon learns that he is actually working for Voldemort. Prof. Dumbledore comes in time to rescue Harry and the truth comes out about Moody and who he really is (another Death Eater: he took Moody’s form in order to do Voldemort’s bidding). When everything is wrapped up and resolved, the school is informed about Harry’s heroics and the school year comes to an end. It is bittersweet with the realization that one of their own is dead and that Voldemort has returned, but that Harry kept things from being worse.

Summing it up: another great installment in the Harry Potter series!

All the best, Abbey