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Publisher: Candlewick

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles

Posted by Irish in 2 Stars, Review, Young Adult1 Comment

Review: Living with Jackie Chan by Jo KnowlesLiving with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles
Published by Candlewick on 10 September 2013
Genres: Contemporary (No Romance Focus), Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Also by this author: Jumping Off Swings


Place(s) Traveled to: Unnamed – Somewhere in the Northeast USA

First Line(s): When Caleb, Dave, and I pull up to my uncle’s apartment building a wave of sickness rolls up my throat and threatens to spew across Caleb’s dashboard.

Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles is the follow up to her popular book Jumping Off Swings which deals with a one night stand and the resulting teen pregnancy. Unlike its predecessor, Living with Jack Chan is told from a single POV, this time Josh the baby daddy from Swings. In this story Josh decides to run away from his life and live with his Uncle and go to a new school several hours away from his old one for his senior year. He hides from the consequences of the choices that he made and while he seemed sweet in the first book here he just comes across as a bit of a dick. First, there’s the whole running away thing and then there is the whole ignoring his friends and family thing and in general he just has a very mopey bad attitude.

I found it very hard to like him in this book and I also found it hard to like his Uncle and his new love interest, Stella, as well. Josh’s Uncle Larry is this terrible over-the-top caricature of a character. He’s obsessed with karate and Jackie Change and never listens to anyone around him. If he loves karate then by default Josh must as well and so forces him to take lessons pretty much daily. Plus, his whole personality is just so annoying and grating that there were times that I literally cringed while reading scenes involving him. Then there is Stella, the unattainable girl with a bad boy boyfriend that Josh falls almost instantly for. As a reader, you can see all the not so subtle signs that Stella’s oh so amazing boyfriend really isn’t and so their whole story arc just seems so forced. Stella is also the sweet girl who is only willing to go so far to be a friend and so while she leans on Josh a lot she refuses to acknowledge him in public. Yeah. Great friend.

As with Jumping Off Swings, the story is broken up into four time periods with gaps of time between each. This is something that should move the story along quickly but again only seems to bog things down. Right before each gap there would be this revelation or bomb shell and I’d think FINALLY something is going to happen! Then the gap and when the story picks up again the characters are all in the same place emotionally and more in denial of their issues than ever before. It was a bit exhausting all this teenage angst  All of this led up to some rushed events with Stella, a blink of the eye break through with Josh’s BS, and a complete and total non-ending. I’m all for open endings but this one reads as if there should be more. That someone out there in a fit of spite decided to rip out the last chapter as it just cuts off so abruptly.

If I’m honest, I will admit that I am not sure why I finished this one. I think that a part of me just kept hoping that something, anything, would happen. But then nothing did. It was just so blah for me. I also think that after reading, and not really liking three books, by Jo Knowles that I am done with this author. Well, her books as I’ve followed her on twitter for a bit and she seems like a really nice person. But I never seem to connect with the stories that she writes. I am always disappointed in the books and I don’t think that will change. Its always sad when you break up with an author’s work but sometimes it just needs to be done.

That said, I think that those who liked Jumping Off Swings will enjoy this novel. Its written in the same style and does give a little insight into events that happened in that book. There is potential for discussion in how people deal with the consequences of a life changing event. What would you do if you were Josh? Would you stay and face the looks and the gossip? Or would you leave and try to forge a new life? I think that Josh did what he thought was right and it was a choice. Would I have made the same one? I don’t know. Maybe, as I am not one for confrontation. But would that be the right choice? No one can really say. That’s the crazy amazing thing about living there are always choices to make. Sometimes they are good ones and sometimes not so good. You just have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and deal with the outcome.

People who liked this better than I did:

What’s Not Wrong – “The characters are appealing but quirky and trying really hard to navigate their ways through school, or romance, or addiction, or whatever individual murkiness is giving them trouble. Readers can always find something to admire in these characters, even as we see them make bad choices.”

Reading Junkie’s Reading Roost – “Fans of JUMPING OFF SWINGS should be satisfied with this continuing story. It clears illustrates the aftermath of a life-changing mistake. Josh learns that he may never forget the painful past, but he may be able to grow from the experience.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Review: Jumping off Swings by Jo Knowles

Posted by Irish in 3 Stars, Review, Young Adult2 Comments

Review: Jumping off Swings by Jo KnowlesJumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles
Published by Candlewick on 11 August 2009
Genres: Contemporary (No Romance Focus), Young Adult
Pages: 280
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Also by this author: Living with Jackie Chan

Place(s) Traveled to: Unnamed – Somewhere in the Northeast USA

First Line(s): I can still feel a trace of his warm lips against mine as he slips away from me and fumbles for the door to his father’s van.

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles is one of those books that I’ve been hearing a lot about off and on since I started blogging. Most people seem to love it and praise its discussion potential. Its not an over hyped book but at the same time I was a bit wary of it but when I got approved for its companion novel, Living with Jackie Chan, I thought now was a good time to give it a try. And my first thoughts? For such a short book it felt so very long. This one was a tough book for me to get into and with the narrative switching between four characters it just seemed as if we never really got to know any of them.

It also didn’t help that there were these random jumps in time every few chapters which should have helped to speed the story up but always made me feel like I was missing something. For me, it just seemed like nothing ever happened in this book. All the characters were so passive and this lack of action or drama just made the story seem so slow. Perhaps I would have liked this better if this book was just between Josh and Ellie. The other narratives never added anything to the story and only took away from the main series of events that were going on.

The ending was also so inconclusive and I felt that there just should have been more to close out the story. I can be okay with open ended books when they are done right but there wasn’t the case here. For me, Jumping Off Swings was a bit of a let down and its not one that I can really recommend it to others. It just lacked depth and emotion and it leaves me sad as the subject could have been a really powerful one.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Review: Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

Posted by Irish in 5 Stars, Review, Young Adult2 Comments

Review: Froi of the Exiles by Melina MarchettaFroi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta
Series: Lumatere Chronicles, Book 2
Also in this series: Finnikin of the Rock, Quintana of Charyn
Published by Candlewick on 13 March 2012
Genres: Abduction, Action & Adventure, Death & Dying, Emotions & Feelings, Epic Fantasy, Family, Friendship, Girls & Women, Love & Romance, Politics & Intrigue, Romance, Royalty, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues, Survival Stories, Young Adult
Pages: 593
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon|Buy on Audible|Buy on Barnes & Noble|Buy on Book Depository
Also by this author: Finnikin of the Rock, Quintana of Charyn, Jellicoe Road

Place(s) Traveled to: The World of Skuldenore: Lumatere // Charyn

First Line: They called her Quintana the cursemaker.

I’m always wary when I go to pick up the second book of a trilogy because there is always the chance the second book isn’t as good as the first. That the second book really has no purpose but to get the characters from point A to B for the big climatic moment in the final book. And yet I just couldn’t wait to dive into Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta the moment that I had it in my hands because I loved beyond loved the first book in the series Finnikin of the Rock. To say that I loved Froi is an understatement because in some ways I think that I liked it even more than Finnikin.

Froi takes place a few years after the events of Finnikin ends and Marchetta does a wonderful job of explaining what happened in those years as well as give little refreshers of the first book without any long, boring info dumps. While Finnikin is told from a wide variety of characters as they move across Skuldenore the primary focus in this book is Froi and the time he spends on a mission in Charyn. There is still the revolving POVs but I liked how there was more of Froi’s POV and at times the other POV storylines just distracted me a bit. The transitions could be a little messy but the love that I felt for the overall story was enough that I didn’t let that bother me.

Froi has grown and changed a lot since we first met him in Finnikin and yet there is still this wild and feral side to him that just makes your heart ache for him. Then there are a whole slew of new characters that are all just as broken as he is and you just fall for each and every one of them. One of my new favorites was Quintana of Charyn. She is the mad princess and the center of a curse and your heart just breaks over and over as more and more of her history is revealed. But its not all heartache when it comes to Quintana because her story is also filled with hope and healing just as Froi’s is.

The story of this book was fast paced and action packed. There is a lot of intrique and drama as well as some laughter and even a few tears. In some ways I felt that there was a little more depth to the story in Froi than the one in Finnikin. Finnikin was all about the journey home for the people of Lumatere while Froi was more about healing and accepting oneself. There was a lot of dealing with the past as well as learning from past mistakes and learning to move forward. This novel left me breathless and I can’t believe how fast I made it through the near 600 pages. I am not positively DYING for the third and final book in the series Quintana of Charyn because unlike Finnikin of the Rock which is a self-contained story Froi of the Exiles ends with a bit of a cliff hanger. All the major characters are in a stage of flux and I am a bundle of nerves with curiosity wanting to know what will become of them all.

For me, the Lumatere Chronicles, is a must read series by everyone who loves a good epic fantasy novel. Yes, its flawed and I could be all nitpickey about them if I chose but the overall story of each book just makes it so easy to ignore all those little things that normally might annoy me in a book. The characters are all just so richly drawn and I love learning all their new layers with each book that they appear in. This is a series that I know that I will re-read often and each time I think I’ll find something new about the story to love. These are characters that stay with you and it really doesn’t get any better than that.