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.

A Kiss For Midwinter (Brothers Sinister #1.5) by Courtney Milan

17155964A Kiss For Midwinter (Brothers Sinister #1.5) by Courtney Milan
Release Date: December 18, 2012
Publisher: Courtney Milan
Source: Library
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

Miss Lydia Charingford is always cheerful, and never more so than at Christmas time. But no matter how hard she smiles, she can’t forget the youthful mistake that could have ruined her reputation. Even though the worst of her indiscretion was kept secret, one other person knows the truth of those dark days: the sarcastic Doctor Jonas Grantham. She wants nothing to do with him…or the butterflies that take flight in her stomach every time he looks her way.

Jonas Grantham has a secret, too: He’s been in love with Lydia for more than a year. This winter, he’s determined to conquer her dislike and win her for his own. It all starts with a wager and a kiss…

A Kiss for Midwinter is a novella (38,000 words) in the Brothers Sinister series. It follows The Duchess War. Each book stands on its own, but those who prefer to read in order might want to read that book first. – Goodreads

Review:

I am officially a Courtney Milan fan. Not that there was really any doubt after her first book, but A Kiss for Midwinter confirmed my love. A Kiss for Midwinter is the story of Lydia Charingford, whom we met in The Duchess War as the best friend of the main character. We find out that she’s had a hard past, but her family loves her and she’s a good person. Milan goes more into that in A Kiss for Midwinter.

Lydia has forever loathed Doctor Grantham because he’s sarcastic, blunt and he knows her deepest darkest secret. What Lydia doesn’t know is that Jonas, the Doctor, is in love with her, painfully, deeply in love with her. In this very short story (100 pages) we’re taken from two characters who butt-heads, to two who slowly have fallen in love with each other. Jonas’ doesn’t care about her past, he just cares about her present and her future. Lydia meanwhile in this book changes, and not because of Jonas, Milan did not write a novel where the woman changed for the man. Lydia changed because of growing up. She realized aspects of her relationships not only with her parents, but with herself. Lydia held her personal transgression from her youth against herself. Her parents never punished her so she must punish herself. What I really enjoyed about this book was also the parental realtions between Lydia and her father. They enjoyed eachothers company and her father also enjoyed harassing Jonas.

It’s hard to review this book because it was so short, but I really enjoyed this novella.

The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister #1) by Courtney Milan

17179340The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister #1) by Courtney Milan
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Publisher: Courtney Milan
Source: Library
Rating: starstarstarblank_starblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

Sometimes love is an accident.

This time, it’s a strategy.

Miss Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention, it ended badly–so badly that she changed her name to escape her scandalous past. Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at least they don’t get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town, the last thing she wants is his attention.

But that is precisely what she gets.

Because Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. When Minnie figures out what he’s up to, he realizes there is more to than her spectacles and her quiet ways. And he’s determined to lay her every secret bare before she can discover his. But this time, one shy miss may prove to be more than his match… – Goodreads

Review:

I have spent most of my life reading paperback romance novels with no shame. Okay, that’s a lie, when I was 13 there was a bit of shame, but I got over that quickly. However, out of all the romance novels that I’ve read, I never got into historical romance novels. No valid reason for not reading them besides the fact that I’m a big fan of the modern era. I’ve never been a person who would say they wished to live in another time period. One day however, I found one of my favorite people and bloggers, Renae, and while we have very little in common when it comes to books–no, really. Our venn diagram of similar books would be about 5% same, 95% not even close. It’s cool we have tents, puppies, the color red. I’ve decided to finally look into her historical romance recommendations and you know what? She was spot on.

Thanks to my library’s overdrive app, I was able to download this book and stay up to three am reading it with no shame because it was such a good romance novel. While aspects of it bothered me, it didn’t ever make me want to throw my phone and never read Milan again. If anything I can’t wait to read everything else by her.

Milan writes character driven novels and I regret nothing about my love of them and oh how I loved The Duchess War. There wasn’t a single character in this novel that I didn’t love. Even the mean ones were cruel and assholes of a reason. Minerva was hiding from her past, Robert doesn’t want to be his father and together they realize that they aren’t their past, but together they can have a future. While there are obstacles and banter, it was so realistic that I often laughed out loud and my heart often broke for both of them because at the end they just wanted someone to love them. They just didn’t ever see it being the person who calls them out on their shit and you know what: they loved it.

This quickly became one of those novels that I would happily give to others to introduce them to historical romance novels. It had everything: sass, feminism, romance, miscommunication, sweet communication. My three stars isn’t an indication that this is a bad book, it’s a belief that Milan can get even better and I can’t wait to read it.

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

13579626Rooms by Lauren Oliver
Release Date: September 23, 2014
Publisher: Ecco
Source: ALA2014
Rating: starstarstarblank_starblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

The New York Times bestselling author of Before I Fall and the Deliriumtrilogy makes her brilliant adult debut with this mesmerizing story in the tradition of The Lovely Bones, Her Fearful Symmetry, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane—a tale of family, ghosts, secrets, and mystery, in which the lives of the living and the dead intersect in shocking, surprising, and moving ways

Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family—bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna—have arrived for their inheritance.

But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself—in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb.

The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide—with cataclysmic results.

Elegantly constructed and brilliantly paced, Rooms is an enticing and imaginative ghost story and a searing family drama that is as haunting as it is resonant – Goodreads

Review:

Rooms is one of those books and I wanted a handful of my friends to read so that we could discuss it to make sure I got everything. This book will not make everyone happy, particularly those who are expecting Rooms to be like the author’s young adult novels. This is sexier, it is grittier, and while YA novels can definitely be all those things, this feels like an adult novel, not like Oliver’s former YA novels.

Rooms is the story of the Walker family who is forced to go back to the family estate after the death of the patriarch. His estraged family really stopped caring about him and are really only there for the inheritance. Told through various points of view, including two ghost Rooms is a haunting tale about what secrets to not only to a person, but also to a family. And what it takes to not only accept those secrets, but to also move on from them. How it’s often far harder than it should be. However, one of the problems with Rooms is the fact that there are so many points of views, it was hard to get a feel on any one character because you weren’t with them long enough to truly form an opinion. I was often bored with the characters, while the writing often had this poetic feel to it, the characters never did. Also, often the secrets never felt like these giant secrets to me. I understand why they would effect a family, but I didn’t understand why the family would tear apart in this particular way. I understood that by themselves the family had a lot they had to work through: alcohol, sex, suicide, but to me nothing felt like this giant secret that it was supposed to.

Rooms is Lauren Oliver’s first foray into the adult genre and her writing does not disappoint. The book itself however is another matter. Rooms is a novel about secrets and how secrets not only change a person, but how a person has to move on them no matter how much they hurt. While the novel was beautifully written in Oliver’s beautiful prose, this is a very firm adult novel that her young adult readers will want to remember.

Surrender, Dorothy by Meg Wolitzer

keeperSurrender, Dorothy by Meg Wolitzer
Release Date: July 1, 2000
Publisher: Scribner
Source: Library
Rating: DNF
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

For years, Sara Swerdlow was transported by an unfettered sense of immortality. Floating along on loving friendships and the adoration of her mother, Natalie, Sara’s notion of death was entirely alien to her existence. But when a summer night’s drive out for ice cream ends in tragedy, thirty-year-old Sara — “held aloft and shimmering for years” — finally lands.
Mining the intricate relationship between love and mourning, acclaimed novelist Meg Wolitzer explores a single, overriding question: who, finally, “owns” the excruciating loss of this young woman — her mother or her closest friends? Depicting the aftermath of Sara’s shocking death with piercing humor and shattering realism, Surrender, Dorothy is the luminously thoughtful, deeply moving exploration of what it is to be a mother and a friend, and, above all, what it takes to heal from unthinkable loss.

Review:
So I’m leaving my comfort zone with this one, but recent life circumstances have made it hard for me to read YA, where a lot of the focus is on beginnings and love and things like that. So I’m branching out. This book is about the opposite of beginnings: Sara Swerdlow is dead, which is something she never thought could happen to her (the human condition, right? We don’t like to consider our own mortality). Sara, who sounds like a Mary Sue from the very beginning, has been drifting through life for awhile. She is very close to her mother, Natalie, but seems ambivalent about it, she is a grad student in what I think is Japanese language, and she has given up on love, probably because, to Sara, love means sex and physical gratification. Everyone loves Sara, who is shy, but witty, blonde, thin, and everything you ever wanted your Mary Sue to be. Even her best friend, a gay man named Adam, wishes he was straight so he could love her and marry her and have children with her. It’s all a little bizarre. Sara dies in the first chapter, though, and her mother is sent into a spiral of grief. Wolitzer describes grief very well, or at least, her description is very close to how I’ve experienced it:

That was what death had done: It had taken away the possibility of complex and sustained thought, leaving her simpleminded, with basic, constantly shifting needs. The only complex topic she could think about was her daughter’s death, and that was too awful, so she shut her mind off, let it lie slack.

So that was the good, relatable part of this strange story, but it still didn’t really work for me. There is a dreamy quality to the writing that I liked as well, but I didn’t really connect with the material or the phrasing. Even the title, and the story behind it, was odd and silly to me.

Everyone in this novel is slightly unlikable, from Sara’s two best friends, Adam and Maddy, to Sara’s mother, Natalie. Sara herself is unlikable, at least to me. Grief reduces you to basic emotions, that’s true, and selfishness is a natural part of it in order to heal, but I get the feeling these people were all a little insufferable even before they lost Sara. Sara herself is not this goddess her friends seem to think she is; she has, in fact, done some pretty bad things. I can sort of see why her mother worshiped her, or at least felt like Sara was the best thing in the world; Natalie was divorced in middle-age and Sara, her only child, became the center of Natalie’s universe. She depended on Sara as a constant, the way I think most parents do. Parents expect to die before their children these days. I was also less than impressed by the depiction of Peter and Maddy’s marriage, which seemed so cliche, especially the bits about how Maddy imagines Peter’s sexual desire for her decreased after he witnessed her give birth to their child. Maddy doesn’t even want to be married to Peter without Sara around to talk to about it. The whole thing was really weird, especially because I still didn’t really get what was so great about Sara at all.

I quit reading this book when Adam’s boyfriend gets woken up by the baby and can’t fall back asleep for fear of AIDS. AIDS is brought up in reference to the gay characters so superfluously and unnecessarily that it confused me. I found I just wasn’t interested anymore in learning how these people got through their grief. In the end, it turned out this book just wasn’t for me.

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

20821376Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Release Date: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Source: ALA2014
Rating: starstarstarblank_starblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

From New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer comes a breathtaking and surprising story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance.– Goodreads

Review:

I finished this book last week and I’m still confused about it. This very rarely happens. I tend to finish a book and have a very firm opinion on the book. I sent a text message after reading this and went “Belzhar..I still don’t know.” My goodreads friends are polarized about it. Some thought it was the best book of the year and others can’t believe it got published. I continue to be firmly in the middle camp of I…I just don’t know.

The bones of the story are solid. Jam’s life isn’t remotely fair. Her British boyfriend, Reeve is dead and her parents have sent her to The Wooden Barn, the boarding school that is supposed to save her. What happens instead is that Jam is sent to Special Topics with a handful of her classmates and her life is forever changed. Part of their assignment is to write in this journal twice a week for the semester, that’s all. Just write. What happens though when they write is that they are taken to a different world. A happier world almost, one that they call Belzhar. In Belzhar, everything is different. It’s safe in a way and the person is in an alternative universe and they often become happier there. What the group finds out is the more time they spend in Belzhar (everyone has their own) is not everything is how it seems and quickly things can unravel. Including Jam’s life.

Near the end comes a twist bout Belzhar, and Jam’s life, it is understandably one that I can’t truly discuss but I will say that I wasn’t shocked. I saw it coming, and if I’m being honest with you, I rarely see twists coming and this one didn’t shock me at all. I’m not sure if it was Wolitzer’s writing, or the book in general but nothing about it particularly worked for me. It’s not a bad book persay, but it’s one that when I was asked to describe it to a friend I sat there going “Um…well..you see” and my friend stared at me because rarely am I at a loss of words when it comes to a book. Or any book.

Vanished by Kat Richardson

keeperVanished (Greywalker #4) by Kat Richardson
Release Date: August 4, 2009
Publisher: Roc Hardcover
Source: Library
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

The toughest case yet for Greywalker and P.I. Harper Blaine, “a great heroine” (“New York Times” bestselling author Charlaine Harris), has arrived.
Harper Blaine was your average small-time P.I. until she died-for two minutes. Now Harper is a Greywalker-walking the line between the living world and the paranormal realm. And she’s discovering that her new abilities are landing her in all sorts of “strange cases.”
But for Harper, her own case may prove the most difficult to solve. Why did she-as opposed to others with near-death experiences-become a Greywalker? When Harper digs into her own past, she unearths some unpleasant truths about her father’s early death as well as a mysterious puzzle. Forced by some very demanding vampires to take on an investigation in London, she soon discovers her present troubles in England are entangled with her dark past back in Seattle-and her ultimate destiny as a Greywalker.

Review:
Kat Richardson ranks right up there with Ilona Andrews for me in terms of well-written urban fantasy and strong female protagonists. I love a good lady PI (as evidenced by my love of Veronica Mars) and adding in ghosts, vampires, and other creepy-crawlies of the supernatural variety only makes things more interesting for me. (Good luck convincing Veronica Mars that ghosts exist.) In this fourth novel of the Greywalker series, we see some familiar faces (Quinton, for one, Harper’s transient boyfriend), but as Harper is forced to travel to California to confront her past, more new faces crop up. Harper’s mother is suitably vain and terrible, though it all seems to stem from a deep self-consciousness and fear of being alone, which made me feel sorry for her, really, and we learn some hard facts about Harper’s father as well, ones Harper did not know herself. Throw in a dead ex-boyfriend or two, and Harper’s poor brain is thrown all out of whack. Now, I am a desensitized reader. While I don’t really enjoy gore, I am not usually freaked out by supernatural happenings in books. This one, even in the very beginning, actually scared me. The descriptions of “the watchers” made me turn all the lights on in my bedroom while reading at night. Is there anything creepier than faceless forms watching you from the shadows? Ah!

So right off the bat, Harper is taken out of her comfort zone (literally, as she takes a job from Edward and heads to London) and is confronted with uncomfortable feelings that she doesn’t really want to deal with (grief for her father and grief for and anger toward a man who misled her during their relationship). It turns out there’s quite a bit of weird death in her family, and Harper is afraid she’s starting to have premonitions, despite being assured by Mara Danziger that Harper is in no way psychic. London is always a good choice for all things fantasy, given its long, and sometimes violent, history. I mean, if anywhere is infested with ghosts, it’s London, right? And as always, I love the way Richardson describes the Grey and its inhabitants, twisting, reforming, “steam-shapes” that range from merely curious to indifferent to dangerous. I also enjoy the mythical creatures, the names of which Harper rarely knows, and how terribly gross they usually are in the Grey. I like the loose supernatural basis on “real” creatures (or creatures that exist in our mythology, anyway). I am not really a stickler on lore; as long as the author creates something that makes sense, I enjoy it. So seeing so many different legendary names in one place was interesting and seeing how each new person or personality was handled is always more important to me than sticking to the rules. I loved Sekhmet, which is sort of unusual due to my relative disinterest in all things ancient Egyptian, but she was maybe the most intriguing of the supernatural creatures we meet in the first half. I also have a soft spot for impatient, somewhat homicidal goddesses (what that says about me, you decide).

There’s a big focus on vampires and their Egyptian origins in this one, and that’s what I like. Vampires coming from Egypt? Seems counterproductive with all the sun, right? But I like this departure from the standard Eastern European lore, and Richardson makes interesting an ancient culture that I, in particular, have no real interest in (outside of cat worship. I practice that everyday). I am also a bit of an Anglophile, so the London setting did it for me. The story kept me engaged and interested, especially since Harper seems to be learning a lot of new, pertinent information. I plan to read the new Kate Daniels novel before moving on to the next in the Greywalker series, Labyrinth. I’m looking forward to it!

An Unrelated Note: Man, I have been a bad blogger. Circumstances have been difficult for me this year, plus I’m having a baby in five three weeks (omg), so my presence continues to be sporadic. Ashley does a great job managing the blog herself and keeping it going; I want to give her a huge round of applause and say thanks for all she does. <3

Austenland (Austenland #1) by Shannon Hale

2004362Austenland (Austenland #1) by Shannon Hale
Release Date: May 27, 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Source: Library
Rating: starstarstarblank_starblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen;or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own? – Goodreads

Review:

I used my library’s overdrive app in mass amounts. I’ve listened to romance, New Adult, Young Adult, middle grade, grade school. I say this because the “Recommended to You” section is always a muddle of things that I would never read. However, this came up and I thought “why not!”

That was probably a mistake on my part.  Because, while I enjoyed Austenland and Hale’s writing; Austenland ultimately was not for me. This was more a fault on my part than the book’s fault. I’m not a big Austen fan. I know, I know. I am a disappointment to all. I am also not the biggest Pride and Prejudice fan. While I appreciate it, it doesn’t make me want to re-read it and be part of the story. Jane Hayes however loves Mr. Darcy, he is her secret obsession and is upset because no main can compare to him. (I think I threw up writing that.)

When a relative dies, Jane is thrilled to find out that she has been given a gift of a trip to an English resort that specializes in Regency-era acting. What Jane doesn’t expect is to find out how seriously they take their roles, and although it is role playing, it is stressful and Jane spends most of her time double guessing herself. Quickly Jane isn’t sure what’s real and what’s acting and it not only messes with her, but also messes with the reader. What’s real? What’s part of the game? Are the feelings real? Are they too part of it? What Hale does, is create this believable world that made me feel like I was there with the characters.

While I enjoyed the story line, I found Jane to spend much of her time annoying me. I understand that Jane is supposed to be in the same vein of Elizabeth Bennet, but this version didn’t work for me, and I’m not a purist. I also enjoyed the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, but I slogged through this. Which is hard to admit for multiple reasons 1) I read fairly fast and 2) this was an audiobook., I was already playing it at 2x normal speed. I should have devoured this book quickly, but there was something lacking that made me want to continue on daily.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 397 other followers