Tag Archives: Diana Peterfreund

Cozy and Popular How?!: My 1 Star Reads from 2019 (Part 2)

It is the time of the year where I get revenge on all my least-favorite books! Begin Part 2 of Amy’s Least Favorite Reads of 2019. 

This Pen for Hire by Laura Levine

The minute the heroine explained her name was “Jaine Austen” because her mother loved Jane Austen but couldn’t spell, I knew this wasn’t a mystery for me. But I unwisely kept reading anyway. Jaine likes eating, mocking skinny people, drinking margaritas, and whining about her lack of love life. When not doing any of the above she solves a murder. Her motivation made no sense and I found the book in general really irritating. 

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

Virginal descendants of Alexander the Great who go around killing unicorns? Heck yeah. If only the plot lived up to its amazing premise. Alas, the execution of the story is rather mediocre. The characters are underdeveloped and the villain downright cartoonish. Finally, a behind-the-scenes rape added solely to push the story along left this book solidly into one star territory. 

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I did not connect with this book on any level. And I feel kind of bummed about that fact. I appreciate the way the author kept certain information and slowly released it. It made me wonder if I somehow missed something but actually I just hadn’t been told it. But that is about the nicest thing I can say about this book.  I did not like the writing; I did not like the commentary about sex. I did not like any of the characters. I didn’t so much hate it as feel generally disappointed and disgusted. 

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

So, admittedly, the problem partially lies with me because I was under the impression this was a middle school novel. It most definitely is not. It also contains a whole list of thing I personally dislike: precocious children (à la The Little Prince and Be Frank With Me), child narrators for adult readers, attempted profoundness, confusing plots that jump everywhere, multiple unclear narrators, casual discussion of a sexual encounter, kissing…sisters?, angst, so.much.angst.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Unfortunately, this book lost me pretty quickly and never regained ground. I stayed perpetually irritated right up until the end. Not even turning the Beauty and the Beast plot into the story of Psyche and Eros (my favoritest myth ever) salvaged it. The hero is as bland as butter. The heroine is a moron who does literally the opposite of what she is told no mater the consequences. Lots of lust-fueled attraction. Not a series I will continue with. 

Bespelling Jane Austen by Mary Balogh, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard, & Janet Mullany

Jane Austen retellings with a paranormal twist. The Northanger Abbey retelling was clever. The other three made me want to gouge my eyeballs out with a spoon. Very TMI.

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn

So, you are part of an elite team of scientists sending two people into the past to retrieve a long-lost manuscript of Jane Austen’s, do you:

A. Send two people who actually look like the siblings they are posing as
B.  Find two people mature enough not to give into their lust and endanger the entire mission by becoming lovers while posing as siblings
C.  Choose two people who won’t run afoul with the racist and anti-Semitic attitudes of Regency England
D. None of the above

What? None of the above? Well, you would get along fine in this book! The rest of us will stand over here rolling our eyes. 


2017 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 2

My favorite reads from 2017…continued! 

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell “looks at the complex and surprising ways the weak can defeat the strong, the small can match up against the giant, and how our goals (often culturally determined) can make a huge difference in our ultimate sense of success.” An interesting, challenging read that explores the takeaway lesson of a relatively familiar Bible story. 

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund 

A futuristic, sci-fi retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I’d give the plot about 4 stars but the characters definitely bump it up to 5.  I love the characters. The author does an amazing job capturing the spirit of the The Scarlet Pimpernel but with a gender-bender twist. The science talk occasionally bogs the story down, but it was nice to have a YA book that “makes you think” while telling the story. Politics, science, moral responsibility, right and wrong, good and bad…it is all to be found hovering at the back of the characters and their actions and decisions.

Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison 

Book 1 in the Tyme series. Rapunzel retelling…starring Jack and his beanstalk. This is one of those books you have to stick with all the way through. Rapunzel starts off as a very annoying, naive, rude character who doesn’t know a map from a mother. However, her character arc is wonderful. The story is much more nuanced than most fairy tale retellings. Lovely world building and almost no romance!  

Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison

Book 2 in the Tyme series. Though billed as a “Cinderella retelling,” this book breaks from the usual Cinderella mold and has very little to do with the original story. It has a bit of an Ever After High vibe going but it transcends that with really solid, interesting characters and social justice themes. (A YA novel with a couple interested in something other than each other! Hurah!) That said, if I have one complaint with this book, it would be the romance. Overall, unexpectedly enjoyable.

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved. But Tessa’s return unearths buried memories and questions that don’t add up…leading back to the night of the murder. My Caveat: I’d give this book 5 stars for its genre. Not sure 5 stars compared to books overall. However, as a psychological thriller, I really enjoyed this one. It has deep, meaningful characters with twisted, broken personalities. There is no unlikely romance and there are strong, female friendships. It is creepy without being overwhelming. 

I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Desi Lee can accomplish anything as long as she has a plan. Soccer? Student body elections? College applications? She has it down. Coming to terms with her non-existent love life, Desi decides the problem is that she hasn’t put together the right plan. And what better place to find a plan than in a K-drama? I am obsessed with K-Dramas so I loved all the references. But really, I loved this book in general. Desi could easily have been a goody-two-shoes character. Yet somehow she comes across as relatable and hilarious. While her behavior at times is downright crazy, all she had to do was reference a drama and I was totally for the plan. Why not stage a car accident or create a fake love triangle?

Loyalty and Legislative Action: A Survey of Activity by the New York State Legislature 1919-1949 by Lawrence H. Chamberlain 

This book focuses on three legislative investigations of “subversive” activities conducted by the New York legislature. While that doesn’t sound like a topic you’d want to curl up with in a rainy day, I found it surprisingly readable and interesting. What continually surprised me was how relevant the book was. Though specific examples may no longer apply, the government’s actions and arguments are only too familiar. From John Doe investigations gone horribly wrong to the overuse of (possibly illegal) warrants, the general facts sound eerily like something you would hear in the news today. 


New BFF: Persis Blake from Across A Star-Swept Sea

Let me begin by saying, I love The Scarlet Pimpernel. I love the book. I love the 1982 movie starring Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Ian McKellen. I love Sir Percy Blakeney, aka The Scarlet Pimpernel. I love the story, the series, the characters, everything. 

So you better believe that when someone recommended a young adult, science fiction, gender-bender retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I was understandably wary. I’ve seen The Scarlet Pimpernel retold before, and it isn’t always pretty. Thankfully, Across A Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund turned out to be an amazing exception to the rule. This book was creative, well-written, fun, and actually quite believable. A great part of this was due to the main character: Lady Persis Blake. Aka, my new literary best friend. 

I liked Persis initially simply because she reminded me of Sir Percy Blakeney. I came to love her, however, because she takes all those attributes I liked in Sir Percy and makes them uniquely her own. Persis is a smart, strong, and likable heroine. Her transitions from empty-headed court lady to fearless leader to nerdy and dutiful daughter were believable and fun. She is a heroine but she isn’t a revolutionary. At some level, she accepts and takes for granted the limits placed on women in her society and I was pleasantly surprised by that. She wasn’t angsty. 

In fact, for a young adult novel, this book does a good job avoiding angst, even with the romance! No insta-love or mooning allowed.

Persis Blake combines all the attributes I like about The Scarlet Pimpernel with her own charm and context and I think that alone makes this book worth reading.