Review: Perception by Kim Harrington (@Scholastic)

Received from Scholastic for the purpose of review

Perception, by Kim Harrington, is the sequel to Clarity, which I reviewed (and enjoyed) hereClarity was a quick, fun read, and I jumped right into Perception the moment I put it down, anxious to hear about more of Clare’s psychic mystery-solving shenanigans.

The Plot

Clarity “Clare” Fern, teen psychic, is adjusting to her newfound social acceptance after using her powers to help solve the murder of a teenage tourist over the summer. Her ex-boyfriend, Justin, has made it clear he’d like to start over, and she’s also being pursued by the dark and smoldering new detective’s son, Gabriel. In addition, the girls who previously shunned her at school are now clamoring to be her friends, with the glaring exception of arch-nemesis mean girl, Tiffany.

But as the school year starts, the air is abuzz with gossip about the recent disappearance of a girl no one really knew. Did she run away? Or was she taken?

Meanwhile, Clare starts receiving notes from a secret admirer, and Justin and Gabriel swear it’s neither of them.

Clare decides to dust off her detective skills again: to discover not only what’s happened to the missing girl, but to unveil the identity of her mysterious suitor.

My Thoughts

Much like Clarity, Perception is an exciting, fast-paced teen mystery channeling the essence of Veronica Mars, but with psychic powers. (P.S. If you’ve never watched Veronica Mars, you really, really should).

The love triangle between Clare, Justin, and Gabriel is still a huge part of the story, even moreso than in Clarity, since the secret admirer plot line obviously places a lot of attention on Clare’s love life. I still see why she’s torn between the two of them and why the choice isn’t obvious, but I am happy to report that she does make a decision by the end of the book, and that it makes sense.

Clare was still smart and sassy, although occasionally painfully oblivious. She suffers from severe tunnel vision in some instances and misses some pretty big clues, but overall she was still an enjoyable character. And after all, she’s not really a trained detective, so it actually makes sense that she wasn’t picking up on everything.

Justin and Gabriel didn’t grow a whole lot from the first book. I still liked them both, but didn’t gain a lot of new insight into either of them. Yes, we learn a couple new things, but my opinion on both of them remained pretty much unchanged. It would have been nice to peel back a few more layers. But since I liked them in Clarity, I still liked them here.

The character who changes the most is Clare’s brother, Perry. The events of Clarity hit him the hardest, and it’s sad to see what has become of his character. While on the one hand, he is no longer the flippant womanizer of the first book (which is a bonus, in my eyes), his new personality isn’t much of an improvement. I still like him, in spite of his flaws, but he wasn’t a “fun” character in this book (and he wasn’t supposed to be). I actually really appreciated that the huge developments in Clarity didn’t just roll off his back, and that he needs to take time to process and overcome them.

As for the mysteries, I was a little less satisfied in this book than in the prior one. I felt like the clues were more obvious, and I’d figured out who the bad guy was really early in the story, despite a red herring that practically jumped up and down and screamed, “LOOK AT ME! I’M A RED HERRING!” It was still engaging and entertaining to solve the mystery alongside Clare, but didn’t have the same impact that the first book did, in my opinion.

Overall, I really enjoyed this follow-up to Clarity, and would be interested to continue reading about the mysteries that Clare solves.

Content guide: Contains violence, profanity.

Throwback Thursday (July 12) – The Boxcar Children

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

It’s the nature of book blogging to focus mainly on new releases, but there are thousands of great books out there that haven’t seen the “New Releases” shelf in years. We hope to be able to bring attention to some older titles that may not be at the top of the current bestseller list, but still deserve a spot in your To-Be-Read pile.

You don’t have to be a book blogger to participate! You can put up a Throwback Thursday post on your non-bookish blog; or if you don’t have a blog at all, just use the comments to tell us about a book you remember fondly.

Here’s how it works:
1. Pick any book released more than 5 years ago. Adult, YA, Children’s; doesn’t matter. Any great book will do.
2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it. Make sure to link back to The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books in your post.
3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

Feel free to grab the Throwback Thursday button code from the sidebar to use in your posts.

Thanks for participating, and we look forward to seeing which books you choose to remember!

PSA: Mandi is taking some time off from blogging, so she won’t have a Throwback Thursday post up today, but still be sure to link back to her blog as one of the hosts. She was, after all, the original mastermind.

My Throwback this week is…

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Yup, I’m going old school this week and featuring  a series I loved as a kid. The Boxcar Children is the story of four orphans — Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny — who strike out on their own in an attempt to stay together. They wind up taking shelter in an old abandoned boxcar, which they decide to make into their home. And while living in the boxcar, they solve mysteries.

Okay, so this is not the best-written series ever. The plots are far-fetched. The characters are pretty one-dimensional. And there’s nary a shred of realism to be seen.

But you know what? I don’t care. When I was a kid, I loved reading about their chipped dishes and their meals of blackberries and milk. I loved their loving sibling dynamic. I loved the cute little mysteries they’d solve. They were great books to hone my reading skills on, with an interesting story (to an early elementary-schooler, anyway) that kept me working my way through the series.

So no, I’m not recommending you pick this series up as an adult. Few books that appealed to me as a 2nd grader would impress me much now. But if you’ve got an early reader in your life — like I do — this is a great series to introduce them to the wonderful world of chapter books.

Link up your Throwback Thursday post below!

Review: Clarity by Kim Harrington (@Scholastic)

Received from Scholastic for review purposes.

I’ve had Clarity by Kim Harrington sitting on my shelf for a few months now. Scholastic was awesome and sent it to me, along with its sequel, Perception, very shortly after I started blogging. While I was intrigued by the summary and the covers are gorgeous*, I hadn’t gotten around to reading them yet. I like mysteries, but I need to be in the right mindset. However, I finally got “there” recently, and read them both back-to-back.

It was a lot of fun.

The Plot

Clarity “Clare” Fern has always been different. She is a psychic, and through touch, she can sometimes pick up on memories associated with objects. Her gift wasn’t a big shock – her mother is a telepath (can read people’s thoughts), and her brother Periwinkle, “Perry”, is a medium (can speak to  the dead). Their supernatural gifts are just something inherited through their genes, and they use them to make a living in the family business: doing “readings” in the tourist town of Eastport, Massachusetts.

Clare has always been a bit of an outcast because of her gift, but one day she gets thrust into the spotlight when a teenage tourist is killed, and the police reluctantly enlist her help to solve the crime. Now Clare finds herself at the center of a mysterious and dangerous web of secrets, while forced to work alongside her ex-boyfriend, Justin, and Gabriel, the skeptical son of the new town detective.

My Thoughts

Clarity was kind of like Veronica Mars, if Veronica was raised by her mom instead of her dad, wasn’t actually a trained detective, and was psychic. Which kind of sounds not at all like Veronica Mars, but just bear with me here. They’re both social outcasts, sassy and sarcastic, and solve crimes by tying lots of seemingly insignificant details together (although Veronica uses her razor-sharp intelligence to do this, while Clare mostly uses her psychic powers). And although both have significant trouble fitting in at school, they seem to have absolutely no problems getting all the town’s most eligible bachelors to go gaga over them.

So that said, this book appealed to the part of me that loves (loves) Veronica Mars. I enjoy reading about a sassy teen girl solving crimes, and I even enjoy the far-fetched lovey-dovey angst (normally I am heavily anti-love-triangle, but I felt like it worked in this book, even though I still fail to see how the town outcast gets all the most desirable boys in town swooning over her).

I liked how the mystery was presented. Clues were dropped throughout the narrative, making it possible (but difficult) for me to guess who the killer was, and what their motives were. I had it narrowed down to a couple options by the time the book hit its culmination, and while I can smugly say “I was right,” I was also wrong. And I definitely changed my mind a few times throughout the course of the story. I felt like the story had great pacing and the momentum built nicely all the way through to the climax. And while the ending was certainly open to sequels, it was satisfying.

The characters were enjoyable, and I liked how most of them actually served a purpose. There were very few filler characters, which means if someone was mentioned, it was relevant (at least in a minor way). I really enjoyed Clare’s brother Perry, as well as her mom, even though both characters had major flaws. And although there was a love triangle, it wasn’t terrible, and you could actually see why she would be conflicted over these two guys (as opposed to many books where one choice is obviously wrong).

There were parts of the plot that were far-fetched. For some reason, although Clare can’t seem to make friends to save her life because of her psychic ability, her brother (the medium) is described as being popular. There were times when the police allowed her and her family to do things and go places that I don’t think would ever be allowed by the real police. And as far as I know, “son of a detective” isn’t actually anything, and would not entitle Gabriel to any rights or privileges whatsoever in real life; but in the book, he seems to have been practically deputized. So if it’s going to bother you that stuff happens in this book that would not happen in real life (supernatural abilities aside), then you may want to skip this one. A healthy suspension of disbelief is necessary.

However, as far as I’m concerned, Clarity was a fun, exciting, entertaining read that kept me guessing until the end and left me satisfied once it was over. And that’s really all I wanted, so I was happy.

Content guide: Contains violence, some talk of sex, and occasional profanity

*Disclaimer: The original cover art for Clarity, which is what I have, is actually this. But I’ve shown the updated cover on this post, because it matches the sequel cover art, and because I think it matches the story better.

Review: A Spy Like Me by Laura Pauling (@LauraPauling)

Not too long after I started this blog, I had the privilege of being approached by the very first author to request a review from me: Laura Pauling, author of A Spy Like Me. I was kind of torn. On the one hand, an author was contacting me with a request to review her book! What an honor!

On the other hand, I hadn’t yet ventured into the world of indie books. Doesn’t “indie” = bad? Plus, although I adore Alias so much it makes me forgive Bradley Cooper for all of his dubious career decisions since then, I wasn’t entirely sure that a spy novel was up my alley.

But, after an internal debate with myself, I decided to at least give it a shot. After all, it’s not every day an author asks you to review her book (or at least, not every day for me. Yet). And the reviews on Amazon seemed positive. How bad could it be?

The Plot 

17-year-old Savvy Bent is working to adjust to life in Paris with her dad, following the abrupt and unexplained departure of her mother a year ago. Life consists of pastries and lattes at a neighborhood bakery with her best friend Aimee, working at her father’s theater-of-life company Spy Games, and most recently, a date with cute neighborhood waiter, Malcolm.

But everything Savvy knows goes topsy-turvy when her romantic date with Malcolm ends in gunshots and Savvy running for her life.

Soon, Savvy finds that her pretend spying has morphed into the real thing as she struggles to separate spy from friend and client from killer, all while she races through Paris’ most famous tourist attractions in an effort to find the truth.

My Thoughts

I was honestly completely surprised by my reaction to this book. I was winding down from a bad day, and decided to just take a peek at the first chapter, to see if I was in for an okay read or a big stinker (I was in a bit of a pessimistic mood at the time).

Next thing I knew, it was past midnight and I had torn through half the book. The only reason I forced myself to put it down then was because I have small children who WILL be up at 7 am, no matter how late I stay up, and they don’t let me stay in bed if they’re awake.

Savvy was funny and sassy, and I liked her immediately. My heart went out to her poor fumbling spy-wannabe father, and I was guessing about the other characters right along with Savvy for most of the book. And the Parisian setting was a lot of fun, even though all the pastries made me ridiculously hungry.

The pacing of this book was very quick, and the chapters felt like they were just flying by. Each time I’d reach the end of a chapter, I couldn’t just stop there, so I’d read “just one more.” There is a good amount of action, escapes and intrigue, and while I predicted some of the plot twists, some of them definitely took me be surprise.

I did have a few issues with the book. The first (and I have this problem with YA heroines a lot) is Savvy’s willingness to just let things go, or not ask about them out of spite. Without getting into spoiler territory, I’ll just say that something shocking and potentially catastrophic will happen, Savvy will be consumed by curiosity…and then someone with the power to clue her into what’s going on will annoy her, then offer her the missing information. And she will pass, because she’s being spiteful. I kind of wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her. Doesn’t the knowledge of why someone is trying to kill you trump your bruised ego? Apparently not.

Also, I found Savvy’s reactions to the romantic story line far-fetched. One minute she’s cowering in fear, afraid that her discovery could lead to her torture or death, and the next minute she’s…kissing? I could buy it if it was done in a spy-like way, using her feminine wiles to get herself out of a tricky situation, but that’s not the way it happens. Instead, she seems totally at the mercy of her hormones, which are utterly oblivious and independent of her fear and anger.

I’m sorry, but even as a teenager, if I was afraid the boy in the next room kidnapped my friend and was trying to kill me, I am pretty sure my hormones would be dormant, if not completely extinct. I don’t care how cute he is.

And I was a fan of the crazy roller coaster plot right up until the end. A couple new elements were introduced to the story line close to the end of the book that I felt muddled the plot rather than helped resolve it. I would have been happy just learning who was trying to kill who and why, without bringing in new characters and associations.

But despite my complaints, they really didn’t do much to detract from my enjoyment of this book. I could overlook them because I was enjoying the pacing and the characters so much. This was a fun, witty, fast-paced book that I’m thrilled I agreed to review. Thank you, Laura Pauling, for having faith in a new blogger. I’ve now read enough great indie titles to know that indie does not = bad, and I’m glad I overcame my unfounded misconceptions to read this book. I enjoyed it immensely, and am excited to read about more of Savvy’s adventures.

Content Guide: Spy violence, amorous activity