Jun 21, 2012

Once Was Lost

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
Published: October 1, 2009 by Little Brown

Samara Taylor used to believe in miracles. She used to believe in a lot of things. As a pastor's kid, it's hard not to buy in to the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reason to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town is kidnapped, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam's personal one, and the already-worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel.

In her third novel, acclaimed author Sara Zarr examines the coexistence of affliction and hope, and what happens when everything you thought you believed - about God, about your family, about yourself - is transformed.

This is a very interesting take on religion and teenagers, but don't be scared off by the religion and faith aspect of the book! This is not a book that will beat you over the head with a certain idea at all, and is really more focused on Samara's life as a pastor's daughter, as well as her doubts about what she has known her entire life. 

  • concept - I really like Zarr's idea of portraying a pastor's daughter and addressing the cracks in her faith and how her father's job effects her life. Samara's faith isn't perfect and neither is her family, like some people would expect it to be.
  • Samara's mom - While it sucked for Sam that her mom was away, I was glad to see a character with an addiction who was portrayed as being aware of what she needed to do in order to recover. She wasn't going to go home before she was fully ready. She seemed to realize that taking some more time to focus on herself was going to help her family more than rushing back to them.
  • ending - This book takes on some issues that are hefty and complicated - things that can take years or lifetimes to sort out - and the ending felt resolved enough, but wasn't unrealistically tying everything up perfectly.

  • Samara's attitude - Sam's sense of self preservation was seriously lacking! Someone she knows goes missing and she suddenly develops a habit of going out at all hours without telling anyone? I could maybe understand if it happened once...but it continued and she almost got a nasty education on the possible repercussions. 
  • Erin - Her personality bothers me - she's like a substitute teacher who is fresh out of college and so over-eager that no one takes her seriously. It's great to be enthusiastic about your job, but she pushes too hard, and Sam's not making it easy, but we see everything from her POV...so Erin comes off as annoying.
  • Samara's dad - One of my pet peeves in books is an MC who really needs to have a heart-to-heart with a parent, but just...won't. [Unsolicited life advice time - Your problems aren't going to evaporate if you ignore them, especially if they involve people you are in constant contact with, so work up the nerve to address those issues!] So, besides Sam's reluctance to talk to her dad about, well anything, there is a lack of them discussing, or even mentioning God or faith to each other. Faith in YA doesn't sell well. If it did, it would be everywhere, like vampires. Once something becomes popular, a million and one similar ideas get the support they need to make it to shelves. This book left me wondering if the strained relationship with Sam and her dad was just an inventive way to avoid actually writing about God and faith in a book supposedly about a crisis of faith. 

  • Why does everything have to be broken right now? I think of Job, in the Old Testament, who lost everything. He didn't just lose everything, God took everything away from him - his wife, his kids, everything he owned. Despite it all, Job kept on believing that God knew what he was doing. Well I don't. I hit the fridge door with my open hand,  hard, and it's all I can do not to smash my glass onto the floor.              - pg. 77   Samara
  • I wonder if that's how it feels to my dad, still. That everyone thinks he's crazy, or that he has all the answers. I just want him to have some of the answers. "Remember what my dad said. You could be God's Chosen Waiter."   "Yeah, well, your dad makes everything sound meaningful, and easy."   "It's an act."             - pg. 104   Samara + Daniel

3 robots
I was a bit disappointed because I expected this to have a lot more about God and faith, but it is a great exploration of Samara's family and the things we take for granted.

Acquired: bought

Jun 14, 2012

The Cupcake Queen

The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler
Published: July 10, 2009 by Dutton

A confection of a novel, combining big city sophistication with small town charm. When her mother moves them from the city to a small town to open up a cupcake bakery, Penny's life isn't what she expected. Her father has stayed behind, and Mom isn't talking about what the future holds for their family. And then there's Charity, the girl who plays mean pranks almost daily. There are also bright spots in Hog's Hollow, like Tally, an expert in Rock Paper Scissors, and Marcus, the boy who is always running on the beach. But just when it looks as though Penny is settling in, her parents ask her to make a choice that will turn everything upside down again. A sweet novel about love, creativity, and accepting life's unexpected turns.

I'm a fan of all of the books that Heather Hepler wrote along with Brad Barkley (Dream Factory, Scrambled Eggs at Midnight, Jars of Glass), so I was interested in reading Hepler's solo work, and this book sounded too sweet to pass up. It's definitely aimed at tweens and younger teens, which isn't what I'm used to.

  • Marcus + his dad - Between Marcus' theories about Jolly Ranchers and his dad's endeavor to recreate the planets on earth, I adored them.
  • Tally + Poppy - Tally's quirks and Poppy's art were really fun and definitely livened up the story.
  • Miss Beans - Penny's art teacher is pretty cool, and perhaps the only adult who takes any notice of the things going on in Penny's life.

  • Penny's mom - Penny's mom is very wrapped up in her own (very important) issues, and is too busy to notice that her daughter has problems too. She only seems to see what Penny does wrong. It's very realistic - I felt exactly the same way when I was starting high school - but it's horribly frustrating to read about. When you're outside the situation looking in, it makes you want to scream at them to just talk to each other already!
  • Charity - Ugh. The whole mean girl thing. I kind of hate reading about the fictional mean girl situation, where she single out the MC to pick on. In my own experience, this happens pretty often in middle school, but by high school most people are too busy focusing on themselves to bother anyone.

  • "The flavor you pick says a lot about a person."   "You've given this a lot of thought," I say.   "That's pretty much my life during third period. running errands. Developing candy-based theories about people's personalities."    - pg. 53   Penny + Marcus
  • "Girls are so dumb." Tally squints at him threateningly, but he continues. "With guys it's simple. When I hang out with my friends, we just chill. You two are all with the 'Oh, I wonder if so-and-so likes me.'"    Blake makes his voice high when he says it. "Is that supposed to be me?" Tally asks.   "Yes, you." Then he points at me. "And Penny. All of your kind."    - pg. 119-120  Blake + Tally
3 robots
A cute story, recommended for younger teens

Acquired: swapped for on swap.com

Jun 7, 2012


Timeless by Gail Carriger
(Parasol Protectorate #5)
Published: March 2, 2012 by Orbit

Alexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon, has settled into domestic bliss. Of course, being Alexia, such bliss involves integrating werewolves into London High society, living a vampire's second best closet, and coping with a precocious toddler who is prone to turning supernatural willy-nilly. Even Ivy Tunstell's acting troupe's latest play, disastrous to say the least, cannot put a damper on Alexia's enjoyment of her new London lifestyle.
Until, that is, she receives a summons from Alexandria that cannot be ignored. With husband, child, and Tunstells in tow, Alexia boards a steamer to cross the Mediterranean. But Egypt may hold more mysteries than even the indomitable Lady Maccon can handle. What does the vampire Queen of the Alexandria Hive really want from her? Why is the God-Breaker Plague suddenly expanding? And how has Ivy Tunstell suddenly become the most popular actress in all the British Empire?

This series is one of my all-time favorites. It's the perfect mix of tea, parasols, the paranormal, and utter insanity, all wrapped up in a humorous bow! Timeless is the conclusion of the Parasol Protectorate series, but Gail Carriger will be back in 2013 with a new series about Prudence, as well as a new YA series. How does she even have time to drink tea?

Spoilers ahead if you haven't read the first 4 books!

  • Prudence - Every time Prudence either appeared in a scene or opened her mouth it was hilarious! I was initially a bit worried that having a child might change Alexia and Connall, but it proved to make them even more entertaining.
  • Biffy - Some scenes in the earlier books were dull when not centered on Alexia's exploits, but Biffy's new life is fascinating and I really liked reading about him.
  • plot - This book answers questions that have been building throughout the series, and in Alexia's life and relationships.
  • nicknames - The names Prudence came up with for everyone that knows her parents are adorable!

  • Madame Lefoux - Ever since a certain automaton incident, Lefoux has gone from being a cool inventor to an annoying weirdo that shows up at the most inopportune times.
  • Lord Akeldama - In the last book or so, Akeldama also got annoying - ever since Alexia moved in with him and he became more of a central figure in the story. Now he's also showing all of the irritating and sneaky sides of his personality, instead of just the amusing parts.

  • "What do you call yourselves?"   "The Parasol Protectorate."   Biffy smiled. "I am enthralled by the concept of a society named after an accessory. Do go on my lady."     - pg. 102  Biffy + Alexia
  • Prudence grabbed her mother's head, one chubby hand to each cheek, and directed her attention at her own intent little face. "Tunstellings! Silly," she explained. "Eeegypttt!"   Alexia nodded slightly. "I agree with you on all points, my darling."     - pg. 229  Alexia + Prudence

4 robots
Great conclusion to a must-read series!

Acquired: bought