Review - Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked by Jen Calonita

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked
By Jen Calonita
Release Date: March 3rd, 2014
Genre: Children's Fiction
Source: eARC via Netgalley
Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked is a quirky adaptation of your usual, run-of-the-mill fairytales. Gillian Cobbler, who is a shoemaker’s daughter, lives with her large family in a boot. While her father might be famous for inventing the glass slipper, the Cobbler family has fell on hard times because Princess Ella (Cinderella) has pretty much unwittingly put her family out of business by having her fairy-godmother make all the glass slippers in Enchantasia. As a means to help feed her family, Gilly steals from royals. Nothing too big. A little bread here to feed her siblings, maybe a few pretty trinkets during her sisters’ birthdays. But one day, the law catches up with her and she’s sent to Fairy Tale Reform School, where villains are rehabilitated, so that she can straighten out her ways.
While at the school, Gilly meets several new friends, as well as some of the former-villians themselves, such as the no-longer-wicked stepmother, the formerly-evil queen, the Big Bad Wolf, and the Sea Witch. It’s during her course at the school that she and her friends start to notice fishy happenings, such as the Wicked Stepmother sneaking off on her own. Before long, mysterious alarms are set off and accidents start to happen. Eventually, Gilly hears a cryptic message, claiming that danger would befall FTRS. Worse yet, with the Anniversary Ball coming up and all the royal princesses attending, someone could get hurt. It’s up to Gilly and her friends to get to the bottom of things before disaster strikes.
I liked the creative promise this book held. I’ve always been a fan of fairy tales and fairy tale retellings and it was especially cute seeing this author’s take the genre, particularly in the children’s literature category. I liked the fact that we even got glimpses into the lesser-known fairy tales and nursery rhymes – Gilly’s family, about living in the shoe, is the perfect example. I liked the idea of a reform school and that the villains in the story aren’t always going to be bad, that there could be something more to their story. It’s just a cute, different perspective and the sheer imagination that was in the story could certainly keep a child invested.
That said, the imagination is about where the praises ended for me. I liked Gilly and Jax and even a few of the lesser mentioned side characters and I liked that that there was plenty of action in each chapter to keep my interest, but I almost felt as if this story was a little too fast paced. Just as soon as I read something, the author would change gears and take the story in a new direction or add another twist. I think that if the story had been paced out a little better, the book would have read a little more naturally. At it were, I felt as if I were reading a book that needed a large dose of Ritalin. Give the poor kid a chance to read and digest the information you give them before throwing them something else!
Similarly, I felt that the characters were a little flat and one-dimensional. That can be pretty common with children’s literature, seeing that the stories are substantially shorter than what I might be used to reading, but I just don’t think that’s a valid excuse. I still read children’s literature and there are several examples of kid’s book I’ve read recently that give characters depth with even just a few chapters. Surviving the Applewhites, by Stephanie S. Tolan, is a great example. Just because it’s a children’s book doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve a fleshed out story line and narrative.
I dunno. Like I said, this book had quite a bit of creative potential and the premise was cute, but I felt that it was poorly executed. I give it a very generous three stars and even for the Children’s lit genre, I think it’s for younger audiences, perhaps third or fourth grade.
I was provided an e-copy of the book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

What If Book Characters Were Pokemon? #3

Thursday, February 12, 2015

These posts are always so much fun to do! It actually took me a while to come up with some good ones for this post - not so much because I had a hard time matching the characters to Pokémon, but because I didn't really know which characters would be best to list. I try to list characters that are fairly popular, but sometimes it's hard to think of them all, especially if I don't want to bog the list down with a bunch of characters from one specific series.
So, I'll put it up to you guys! What characters are your favorites and which ones would you like to see in a future post like this? Are there specific categories you'd like, such as "hot guys" or "kick-ass girls?" Maybe even a category completely different from Pokemon, such as "What if Book Characters were Television Characters?" Hell, I might even make my own meme!
PLEASE let me know in a comment, so I can keep the fun posts coming!
Number One: Harry Dresden from the Dresden Files


Delphox's Pokedex Entry - It gazes into the flame at the tip of its branch to achieve a focused state, which allows it to see into the future. The moment that I saw this Pokemon used a staff to focus it's magic and attacks, I knew that it would be perfect for Harry Dresden!
Number Two: Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter

Butterfree's Pokedex Entry - It loves the honey of flowers and can locate flower patches that have even tiny amounts of pollen. As tempted as I was to put "Lunatone" for this one - I mean, it's her name, after all - I ultimately decided that Luna would fit adorable little Butterfree the best. She's a free spirit and is never afraid to be herself.
Number Three: Leo Valdez from The Heroes of Olympus

Klang's Pokedex Entry: By changing the direction in which it rotates, it communicates its feelings to others. When angry, it rotates faster. What else, other than a mechanical Pokémon, would the child of Hephaestus be? Not only that, but Klang is one of the strongest steel type Pokémon around.

Number Four: Lihn Cinder from Lunar Chronicles


Doublade's Pokedex Entry: The complex attack patterns of its two swords are unstoppable, even for an opponent greatly accomplished at swordplay. Well, Cinder IS part cyborg, so I had to go with another steel type Pokémon. Doublade is actually one of my favorite steel types and pretty competitive in battle. It's a fierce fighter, just like Cinder.

Number Five: Magnus Bane from The Infernal Devices, The Mortal Instruments


Chansey's Pokedex Entry: Being few in number and difficult to capture, it is said to bring happiness to the Trainer who catches it. Okay, it's probably not what you originally envisioned for Magnus, right? Well, let me explain. In the books, Magnus is seen as a powerful warlock and is often called upon to help solve problems and heal injured Shadowhunters. Chansey, similarly, is a Pokémon that is said to be compassionate and a healer. Not only that, but they are rare and we all know dear ole Magnus is one of a kind. Plus they're both SO ADORABLE! :3

So, what did you think? Was I right about the choices, or do you think others would have been a better fit? Feel free to tell me how you feel in a comment and be sure to make future suggestions! I'd love to keep these posts coming, but I can't do it without your help!

Waiting on Wednesday - Dove Arising by Karen Bao

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Phaet Theta has lived her whole life in a colony on the Moon. She’s barely spoken since her father died in an accident nine years ago. She cultivates the plants in Greenhouse 22, lets her best friend talk for her, and stays off the government’s radar.

Then her mother is arrested.

The only way to save her younger siblings from the degrading Shelter is by enlisting in the Militia, the faceless army that polices the Lunar bases and protects them from attacks by desperate Earth-dwellers. Training is brutal, but it’s where Phaet forms an uneasy but meaningful alliance with the preternaturally accomplished Wes, a fellow outsider.

Rank high, save her siblings, free her mom:  that’s the plan. Until Phaet’s logically ordered world begins to crumble...

Suspenseful, intelligent, and hauntingly prescient, Dove Arising stands on the shoulders of our greatest tales of the future to tell a story that is all too relevant today.
Maybe I'm just in a "Post-Fairest" lurch, but I really love the sound of this book. Reading the blurb, it sounds as if it might be a touch gimmicky, especially with how the protagonist's name is "Phaet." I always hate when authors use unusual spellings for names to make it seem more original. But despite all that, the idea of another "moon" book is promising! It won't be easy to not compare it to the Lunar Chronicles, but I think it has a pretty fair chance of being a decent, compelling book in it's own rights.

I'm one of those snobs that don't really give new authors a chance, either, unless they come highly recommended by friends or what, so I'll be taking a chance with this one come next month! Hopefully it'll be good!
And the cover is absolutely beautiful! If you didn't know, I'm a bit of a cover-whore, too. XD
What are you waiting on this month? Feel free to tell me in a comment or leave your links so I can check them out!

Review - I Was Here by Gayle Forman and GIVEAWAY!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

I Was Here
By Gale Forman
Release Date: January 27th, 2015
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Purchased

I Was Here is Gayle Forman’s newest release, which continues her line of contemporary teen fiction.
Cody has always thought that her friend Meg was her better half. While she was Buffy, Cody was only the sidekick. While Meg was a go-getter, out to take the world by storm, Cody sat by on the sidelines and rode her coattails. Cody is from a broken home, where her own mother won’t allow her to call her mother and where she has to work every day to help pay rent, while Meg has lived the gifted life with a mother, father and little brother, with just about everything she could ever ask for. Even more, when Meg is accepted into a prestigious college, Cody is left behind in the middle-of-nowhere town to go to community college.
But one day, Cody receives a message she’d never thought she’d hear: Meg committed suicide. Meg had never lead Cody to believe that she was troubled or depressed, so why would she take her own life? While at Meg’s college to clean out her dorm room, Cody comes across Meg’s laptop and a mysterious encrypted folder that she can’t access. All of a sudden, Meg’s suicide seems a lot darker. What was Meg hiding from everyone? And why hasn’t she reached out for help? With the help of some unlikely friends, Cody tries her best to get to the bottom of things and discover what secrets Meg took with her to the grave.
I’m probably in the vast minority here, but Gayle Forman has never really been a hit with me. I didn’t like Mia in If I Stay – I felt that she was much too selfish and self-absorbed in the midst of her death of her family. And I didn’t like how whiny and dependent Allyson was in Just One Day. While the premise of those books were nice, I just couldn’t get invested because the main characters irritated me so much. And, to be completely honest, I only picked up this book because Gayle was coming to town and a good friend of mine wanted to go to her signing. I had both books so, what the heck, I went and bought I Was Here and went to the signing.
I’m happy to say that the third time is a charm! Cody was a relatable character and quite likable. I loved how she stayed true to Meg, even after feeling betrayed by her death. Her dedication to getting to the bottom of things concerning Meg’s suicide proves that she was a great friend and that she really loved her. She was just a strong heroine to root for. She had issues with her own life, but she didn’t whine or bemoan her lot in life – she made the best of things and, if she wanted something, she went after it. The fact that I had a main character that I could finally like was a great bonus for this book.
The second thing, and what I feel is most important about that book, is the message. Suicide is never an easy thing to talk about and in a culture that sees the very act as taboo or even deviant causes us all to look upon such things with a negative light. We see the people who struggle with these very real problems as sick, as weak. Several YA books have attempted to broach the subject, one of the most notable ones being Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. I read the book a couple of years ago, expecting genius because of its high praise. I was sorely disappointed. I expected something with substance and insight, but what I got was a person who had committed suicide and decided to blame everyone for their decision. And it left a nasty taste in my mouth. While I understand that bullying and self-loathing are very real reasons for someone to feel compelled to commit suicide, I thought it was sickening that the main character in Thirteen Reasons Why decided to blame her decision to end her life on everyone but herself.
I don’t think suicide is deviant. And I don’t think it is taboo. Is it unhealthy? Yes, but it’s a safe bet that everyone out there, at one point in their life, has thought of ending their life. I do, however, think that suicide is unfortunate. While it may seem as an easy way out, it is a permanent solution to all-to-often temporary problems. That said, the decision to end your life is yours – and yours alone. While there might be people who help to compel someone to choose to end their life, it’s still the deceased’s fault. In I Was Here, Forman addresses this and acknowledges that Meg is, ultimately, at fault for what happened. And I like that Forman elaborated on how the repercussions of her actions affected those around her. Meg might have thought that her decision was hers to make – and it was – but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t without consequence to those she loved the most. Her family is left to deal with the gaping whole she left in her family and her best friend is left to deal with the anger and even resentment that comes from being left alone. The writing was so very emotional and spot on. And coming from someone who has dealt with both family and friends in similar situations, I can certainly appreciate this novel and the message that Forman got across.
While this novel was, for the most part, great – the one flaw I felt with the book was the romance. In the book, Cody meets Ben, who had had a fling with Meg before their relationship turned sour. Initially, she sees him as a foul person, but as they get to know each other and delve into Meg’s secrets together, a relationship starts to grow. Honestly, I felt that it was sort of forced and, to me at least, it took away from the novel instead of adding to it. I never felt any chemistry between them and it kind of seemed like it came out of left field to begin with. I think the book would have been even better had it just been avoided altogether.

For the most part, though, this book was definitely a hit for me. I’m glad I decided to pick it up in the end and that I can finally say that I’ve read a Gayle Forman book that was for me! I guess I can officially join her fan club!
And now for the fun stuff! I can't believe how quickly this blog has grown! I'm proud to say we've reaching over 100 followers and as a celebration, I'm giving away one signed edition of If I Stay by Gale Forman. PLEASE NOTE that this giveaway is US ONLY. I'm sorry my international readers, but I'm a poor college student! Without further ado, enter away!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review - Breaking the Rules by Katie McGarry

Friday, February 6, 2015

Breaking the Rules
By Katie McGarry
Released: December 8th, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Purchased
Breaking the Rules is the final installment in Katie McGarry’s Pushing the Limits series – at least for now. While faithful fans like myself continue to hope for an “Abby” book, we’ll just have to satisfy ourselves with this final book for now.

Breaking the Rules is the continuation of Noah and Echo’s story, which was originally introduced in the first book, Pushing the Limits. Throughout the course of the first book, both Noah and Echo try to deal with their painful pasts while also trying to navigate a somewhat rocky new relationship with each other. While many of the main issues both characters faced in the first book were resolved, many fans – as well as Katie herself – felt as if their story had no come full circle yet, so Breaking the Rules was the result.
Breaking the Rules takes off right after Noah and Echo’s graduation from high school. Before their first semester of college, they decide to go on a road trip out west, where Echo will go to show her artwork to various collectors and shows. They use this time together to try and strengthen their current relationship and as a means to try and get away from the turmoil of their lives, if only for a little bit. But that quickly comes to and end when Echo finds out that her mother, a famous artist, has been telling people to buy her paintings. While Echo tries to come to terms with such news, Noah finds out that his grandparents, whom had left him at the mercy of the foster system after his parents died, had never known he’d been in the system at all! Not only that, but they want to meet him, face to face. With these new events thrown their way, both get a little on edge and start questioning their choices in life. This, of course, leads to unrest in their relationship. Where they had been laughing and getting along just a week before, Noah and Echo start to bicker and fight. After a while, they must ask themselves if they can overcome such obstacles and be the person they’d promised each other they’d always be.
I’ll be the first to admit that Pushing the Limits was one of the books in this series that took me a while to get into. I can’t say that I didn’t exactly like it – because I love every book in the series, but it was definitely one of the weaker of Katie’s works. I think part of my reluctance with liking the first one was because I had a hard time connecting with the main characters and I grew increasingly frustrated by not knowing exactly what happened in Echo’s past. Finally, I think I felt it was weaker because it hadn’t answered all those questions we had at the end of the first book.
Luckily, though, Breaking the Rules gives the reader everything they could have ever wanted when it comes to a Pushing the Limits sequel. We get more of the awesome chemistry between Echo and Noah, as well as a chance to delve deeper into their troubled pasts as they both confront family members who had hurt them. We get to see them grow and mature in a way that we didn’t in the first novel. Instead of just being teenagers, we get to see them grow into the adults they always hoped they’d be. And, from the standpoint of a reader who’s been as invested in the series as I have, this leaves me highly satisfied. I love happy endings.
I’ll go straight out and say it. Katie McGarry is my new favorite contemporary writer. Screw Sarah Dessen. Hell, I even love her more than John Green. I love the fact that she’s not afraid to tackle heavy subjects in her books, like homelessness, substance abuse and death. Her writing is so raw and honest. As I read through Breaking the Rules, I could feel Echo’s anger with her mother, yet her aching desire to reconnect and make things right. I could feel Noah’s hesitancy to believe that his family might be something other than the trouble he’d always believed them to be, as well as his struggle to overcome his own grief and anger about his mother’s death. It’s not so often that a writer can pull your emotions through the wringer and that’s exactly what I love about Katie’s writing. It’s so very real.
Not only that, but she has one of the best “male” voices out there. I’ll admit that there are a ton of female writers who had write a swoon-worthy male lead, but Katie really ups the game in that department. I’ve loved every single guy she’s written – from Noah to Ryan to Isaiah to West. In Breaking the Rules, especially, it was fun going from Echo’s first person perspective to Noah’s. She was seamlessly able to switch gears with each chapter and kept both true to their original character. I swear, her guy’s perspectives seem so legit that I could almost swear she had some guy writing half her novels on the sly! Ha!
Really, I can’t praise Katie McGarry and the Pushing the Limits series highly enough. I have all four books in hardback and they have a place of honor – all signed! – on my bookshelf. (Unfortuantely, Breaking the Rules was an e-book release only. *Sigh*) If you are a fan of contemporary teen literature – of even the new adult genre – do yourself a favor and check out her work. You certainly won’t regret it!

Throw Back Thursday - The American Girl Series

Thursday, February 5, 2015


While her father is away fighting in World War II, Molly finds her life full of change as she eats terrible vegetables from the victory garden and plans revenge on her brother for ruining her Halloween.
This is a series that's always been pretty close to my heart. When I was especially little, I boycotted anything remotely girly. Mom dressed me until I was around five years old. I was her only girl, so I dealt with the fluffy dresses and curly tresses and all that mess. Until I finally decided to stop putting up with it. Around first grade, I started asserting my own independence and more often than not wore overalls instead of dresses. I played ball outside with my brothers and neighbors, roughed around on the trampoline and started devouring books one after the other. I really had no interest in Barbies or dolls. That was, until my cousin decided to get a My American Girl - the one who is supposed to look like you. I scoffed at first. Who needs dolls, right? But my grandmother continued getting the shopping catalogues and when I pursued through them one day and found this Historic based dolls, I completely fell in love.
Thus started a fifteen year love affair with American Girl. While I wasn't too interested in the ones that looked like you - they really had no real personality - I loved the stories that belonged with the historical characters. Molly's adventurous spirit, Kit's resourcefulness, Kaya's bravery, and Samantha's thoughtfulness. They all told such interesting stories and the fact that all the historical girls were based on certain time periods in American history gave me unique insight into my history that I might not have explored further when so young.
The first doll I ever got was Molly McIntire, who was growing up during World War Two. I mainly picked her because she was the tom-boy like doll, the only one with glasses. I got her when I was about ten and she's been a great friend ever since. In fact, fourteen other sisters have joined her over the years! I have an extensive collection and I don't plan to stop anytime soon. I read at least one book from each of the historical based characters, with a particular interest in Molly, Kit, and Kaya.
Looking back, the books probably aren't anything very special. They were incredibly short, but for a child who had never really read historical books before, they were like a window into a time I knew next to nothing about. I devoured them like potato chips.
Here's a few pictures from my collection, if you're interested. I always love nerding out about these things!
Here's my collection of doll outfits. Most, but not all, are historical outfits.
Not long ago, American Girl started to "retire" dolls, and the year before last Molly was selected to be retired. Considering I'd played with mine for years on end, she was a little worse for wear and didn't much look like Molly. So, I sent her to the "Doll Hospital" - to get a new head. She came back in a cute little hospital gown, with a hospital bracelet and heart socks. So cute! <3
And here's a picture of all my girls! From top to bottom, left to right: Elizabeth, Cecile, Felicity, Kaya, Rebecca, Kirsten, Caroline, Kit, Samantha, Nellie, Ivy, Molly, Emily, and (not pictured) Julie.
So, there you have it! My history and love affair with American Girl, from the books to the dolls. They're not as creepy as everyone claims, lol. I love them and plan to collect them for years to come. I hope to give them to my own daughter one day - if I ever have one. My luck, I'll be blessed with a bunch of boys. =P

Waiting on Wednesday - Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


An unforgettable new series from acclaimed author Katie McGarry about taking risks, opening your heart and ending up in a place you never imagined possible.

Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she's curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn't mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They're the good guys. They protect people. They're…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club's most respected member—is in town, he's gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it's his shot at his dream. What he doesn't count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.

No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.
OH MY GOD - ITS GOT A COVER! Yay! I've been so stoked about Katie's new series and I'm practically counting down the days until May when it finally releases! While it seems that she'd left the Pushing the Limits series behind for the moment, I have a feeling this will satisfy plenty of her readers while we continue to badger both her and her publisher for the Abby book we so desperately want.
You hear that, Katie? Harlequin Teen? WE WANT AN ABBY BOOK! *Amasses fangirls and pitchforks*
But like I said, I have high hopes for this series, too. From what I understand, she went through a good deal of research in order to write it and it has hot guys on motorcycles. What's not to love? Oh, and did I mention 496 pages! YES!
Yes, it's pretty obvious May 26th cannot get here quickly enough!
So what books are you waiting on this Wednesday? Feel free to let me know in a comment or even link me your WoWs! I love seeing what everyone has posted. =)

Top Ten - Classics I Can't Believe I Haven't Read!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Top Ten is the weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, in which we showcase our top ten books in a certain category. This week, we're supposed to list the top ten books we can't believe we haven't read from ______ genre. And classics are always a fun thing to list! In this go around, I'll be listing both regular classics and contemporary classics. Here we go!

10.)  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
You've all probably seen this on my blog recently, but this is definitely one  that I've been wanting to read for a long time. It first caught my attention when I was fourteen and here it is, ten years later, and I still haven't managed to pick it up!
9) Emma by Jane Austen
I've read the customary Pride and Prejudice, but I've never read this other book, which I hear so many praises about. I've heard that Emma is definitely a likable character and I'm eager to see how it measures up to everyone's words.

 8.) The Hounds of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I read all the Sherlock Holmes short stories when I took a crime lit class in college, but I didn't have to read any of the novels. I intended to get to them, but classes and assignments and everything got in the way, so I didn't have the time to pick it up. I hope to finally get around to them eventually, though!
7.) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Oddly enough, my class in high school didn't require us to read ANY Mark Twain. Weird, right? Anywho, I know there are several books that could've fallen on here with Mark Twain, but this was the first that came to mind. I hardly feel like a real American not having read them!

6.) Life of Pi by Yann Martel
This is one of the modern classics that I'd really like to get to read at some point. I've never seen the movie either, but I'm waiting to watch it until I read it. I've heard some great things, so I don't know why I've waited so long to get to it!
5.) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
With all the popularity this book got after the new movie came out, this was definitely on my radar again. So many people love it and I'm always ashamed to say that I've never read it. I hope to get to it eventually!
4.) The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I never got to read this novel because I was in the junior class that ended up reading The Crucible instead. While I loved The Crucible, I always wanted to get to chance to read this one, too.
3.) Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
This one was a book that I don't think any of the people in my school had to read. Other schools in our area, though, had to read it and I hear from my good friend that it was a good story. It's been on my bookshelf for quite a while, too.
2.) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
This was another incident in when the separate classes in my school read different books. I never got to read this book, but I've heard it's absolutely beautiful and a great story about what it really means to be human. Can't wait to read it!
1.) Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
This is a good example of even a classic children's book I haven't read! There are quite a few I could've chosen from that category, too, but this was the first to come to mind. A good friend of mine loved it as a child and I'd love to have the chance to finally read it!
And that's my top ten this week! What classics have you read or HAVEN'T read? Feel free to share your thoughts and your own TTT in a comment. =)  

Review - Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Monday, February 2, 2015

Orphan Train
By Christina Baker Kline
Released: April 2nd, 2013
Genre: Adult Fiction
Source: Purchased

Molly Ayer is a ward of the state that has spent the latter part of her life shuffled from one foster home to the next. Her father died when she was younger and her mother is a convicted felon and drug abuser. Molly has spent the majority of her life trying to be someone she is not, so that she could better disappear under the radar and slink her way through high school and various homes. This works to her advantage until one day, when she is caught trying to steal a used and battered copy of Jane Eyre from the library. She’s on the brink of her eighteenth birthday and instead of facing charges, she agreed to fifty hours of community service. She doesn’t know until afterward that her service will be done at the home of 91-year-old Vivian Daly. Her job? Cleaning out and organizing the enormous attic, which contains over eight generations worth of Vivian’s history.

Naturally, Molly thinks this will be a chore of epic proportions. It isn’t until she starts spending time with the elderly woman that she discovers how eventful and traumatic Vivian’s life story is. She was originally born Niamh Power, of Ireland. Her parents immigrated to America when she was eight years old, only to have misfortune follow them. When her family dies in an apartment fire, Niamh is sent on the orphan train to cross the country, hoping to find parents, or at least a way in which she could support herself.
This story is a dual time narrative, in which we get to see both Molly and Vivian’s (or Niamh’s or Dorothy’s) history. In the present day, Molly is trying to develop into a confident young woman, but with no friends or family to call her own, she’s having trouble adjusting. Vivian’s story, which takes place in the early twentieth century, is a detailed account of what happened while she was aboard the orphan train and what happened after she was adopted by her first family. Not only do we get to see her grow up, we also get to see the woman she ultimately became and how it affected her later in life. While both women might be different, they both have encountered great loss and they bond with each other over this.
I liked the unlikely friendship that they both developed over the course of the story. It was interesting to see that even Vivian, at her old age, could change and accept that she could finally risk loving someone again. The two main characters really brought the best out in each other. Another plus for the story was the dual time narrative. I’m a sucker for that sort of story – as well as historicals in general, so this was a nice, refreshing read. One of the most poignant passages from the book definitely sticks with me, even after I’ve finished it: “the people who matter in our lives stay with us, they haunt our most ordinary moments. They’re with us in the grocery store, as we turn a corner, chat with a friend. They rise up through the pavement; we absorb them.” As someone who has experienced a fair amount of loss in a relatively short lifetime, I could certainly relate to how both Vivian and Molly felt.
For the most part, I enjoyed the book. The historic aspect as particularly appealing and the friendship they developed was sweet. But there were a few parts of the book that bothered me. First of all was Molly’s foster parents, Ralph and Dina. Dina constantly makes snide comments about how Molly’s too much to put up with and that she costs too much to deal with and how she’s no good. And Ralph doesn’t do much to defend Molly. Um, what? I get that they’re foster parents and all, but aren’t foster families kind of monitored and licensed? Who the hell let them have a child if they hated children or detested the job so much? Dina was just so overly hateful and mean that it almost seemed over the top, at least for an adult novel. Not only that, but I felt that we didn’t really get to learn that much about Molly. I loved the historical aspects of the novel, but with the majority of the writing focusing on Vivian, we didn’t get to see much of Molly’s inward character growth. I think the novel could’ve been better executed by having a dual first person narrative. That way, we could’ve been in Molly’s head more and better understood her thoughts and emotions as the book progressed.
Not only that, but 2/3 of the novel is spent in Vivian’s childhood. I get that this is where the majority of the drama happened, but her adult life is just skimmed over, as if it had no impact on how she became the lonely old woman she was. A whole love story is told in maybe forty pages and when the love interest inevitably dies I felt nothing at all. And that really disappointed me. I think if more time had been spent developing this part of the novel, it could have been very touching and emotional. Instead we’re left feeling cheated.
Overall, this book was good and I’m glad I picked it up. But is it one of my favorites? Not by a long shot. This book was sweet and offered insight into a unique part of history that we might not otherwise know about, but the characters were a little flat and it ended abruptly. I think if it had been a little more fleshed out, it would’ve been better. If you are interested in the early nineteenth century, I’d say give it a try. But if you are looking for just a general, good historical, there are other places to look. My suggestions: The Help by Kathryn Stockett, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kiss or Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg. THOSE are historicals worth having on a shelf!