The Humming Room by Ellen Potter


THE HUMMING ROOM by Ellen Potter
Publisher/Year: Feiwel and Friends, 2012
Source: Library
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 184
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟





Hiding is Roo Fanshaw’s special skill. Living in a frighteningly unstable family, she often needs to disappear at a moment’s notice. When her parents are murdered, it’s her special hiding place under the trailer that saves her life.

As it turns out, Roo, much to her surprise, has a wealthy if eccentric uncle, who has agreed to take her into his home on Cough Rock Island. Once a tuberculosis sanitarium for children of the rich, this strange house is teeming with ghost stories and secrets. Roo doesn’t believe in ghosts or fairy tales, but what are those eerie noises she keeps hearing? And who is that strange wild boy who lives on the river? People are lying to her, and Roo becomes determined to find the truth.

Despite the best efforts of her uncle’s assistants, Roo discovers the house’s hidden room–a garden with a tragic secret.

Inspired by The Secret Garden, this tale full of quirky characters, mysterious secrets, and surprising growth is a story that only Ellen Potter could write.

What I thought

This book was seriously difficult for me to rate. I have gone back and forth between 3 & 4 stars…it really makes me wish for those illusive half stars. Anyway, I digress.

The Humming Room is truly an excellent take on a retelling of The Secret Garden, which I haven’t read since I was a child. Although I haven’t read it in so long, I absolutely recognized the general feel & ambiance of the classic tale. Ellen Potter captured it perfectly. And I really do appreciate what she has done for young readers with this book. She took a classic tale & updated it, making it more accessible for young readers. I won’t go so far as to say they should read this in lieu of the original, but I think it will encourage them to “tackle” the classic, if you will.

Where this book really shined for me was in Ellen Potter’s gorgeous writing and in particular, in Roo’s character. There were certain passages describing the island or the garden that were just so beautiful & atmospheric that I was just transported there as I read. This is definitely a must-read for nature lovers, and this is especially evident with Roo’s character. I really loved Roo, and even though I didn’t find her growth as drastic as I had hoped, I still found her story to be sweet & redemptive…not to mention, I adored her love of nature.

I guess where this fell to 3 stars for me is that it felt too short. For one, I felt like the ending was too abrupt. Also, the plot as a whole felt sort of rushed, and there were a good amount of things left unexplained. Plus, there were a couple side characters who I felt were just kind of thrown into the story. A few were mentioned almost in passing, and I wish we would have seen more of them. There was one in particular who, even though he was definitely prevalent in the second half of the story, I just felt like we never got to really understand his purpose. (I don’t want to mention names for fear of spoilers.) Granted, this all could be due to the fact that I read this as an adult. However, I think my feeling of disconnect could have been solved with just an extra 50 pages.

Again, I will say that as a whole, I thought this was an excellent rendition of The Secret Garden and a worthwhile read for young readers. There were a few things that kept me from loving this one, but I think kids would really be able to use this book as a spring board to expand their literary horizons.

The Almost Wives Club by Nancy Warren

THE ALM33545770OST WIVES CLUB by Nancy Warren
Publisher/Year: Nancy Weatherley Warren, 2015
Source: Nook
Format: E-book
Pages: 141 pages
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟



Kate Winton-Jones is marrying one of America’s most eligible bachelors. Edward Carnarvon III is rich, handsome and hers. But at the final fitting of her wedding gown, one of the seamstresses pricks her and a tiny blood spot appears on the outrageously expensive gown. Its famous designer fires the clumsy seamstress on the spot, whereupon the girl puts a curse on the dress and storms out. Kate doesn’t believe in curses. She’s modern, American and in love with the perfect guy. What could go wrong?

But that very evening she meets a man who makes her question her future. And then she discovers that Edward has been hiding a secret or two…and before you can say, “This dress is so cursed,” she’s on the run from Edward, his family, her mother, the paparazzi and the person she thought she was.

When the man who discovers her hiding place turns out to be the last man she should trust, it’s time to throw her cautious good sense out with the satin shoes she won’t be wearing. Playing it safe hasn’t done her much good. Maybe it’s time to play by a new set of rules. Her rules.

Sometimes Prince Charming is the one who turns out to be the frog, and true love appears in the most unexpected places.

What I thought

Let me start off by saying that when I picked this up, I was pretty wary. I wasn’t sure whether I would like this book or not (this isn’t my usual reading fare). Suffice it to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this sweet but fun novella.

Now, this was not a fine piece of literary fiction, worthy of the Pulitzer Prize, but I really don’t think that’s the point here. I had a good time enjoying it for what it was–a cute romance story. Sometimes, I want a girly read to kick back & get lost in, and this fit the bill. I will make the distinction, though, that I thought this read more like chick lit than steamy romance. Yes, the story revolved around a romance & there were definitely sexytimes, but it wasn’t overly graphic or erotic.

If I’m being honest, the plot & the love story were kind of predictable & followed the typical rom-com plot, but I truly mean that in the best way possible. Even though I knew how the story would end, I very much enjoyed the ride. Familiarity is not always a bad thing!

I very much enjoyed Kate & her personal journey. As a people pleaser myself, while it was frustrating to read at times, I could definitely relate. I absolutely loved her “love story”–particularly how it allowed her to really come into her own. I don’t want to give anything away, but her & her man were too cute together. They had that easy kind of love I always dreamed about & was lucky enough to find!

My only complaints were pretty minor. Being that this book was novella-length, I just kept wishing there were more. I’d like to see more of the two love-birds! I truly enjoyed both of their characters. The edition I read was about 120 pages. On a positive note, the story never felt rushed or abrupt, despite the length. My other complaint was that there were a handful of typos. That generally doesn’t bother me too bad, and it might have just been the particular edition I had.

I will definitely continue this series, even though I’m not necessarily dying for the next one. While the “cursed wedding dress” wasn’t a huge factor in the story (I feel like it’s more of a series arc, than a plot arc for this book individually), I felt that was a unique idea & I’m curious to see where it goes.

The Almost Wives Club was a sweet & silly, fun & adorable, swoonworthy romance worth checking out if you’re in the mood for a good love story!

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Amy and her parents believe they will wake on a new planet, Centauri-Earth, three hundred years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed‘s scheduled landing, cryo chamber 42 is mysteriously unplugged, and Amy is violently woken from her frozen slumber.

Someone tried to murder her.




Publisher/Year: Penguin/Razorbill, 2011
Source: My own shelf
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 398 pages
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟





Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the spaceship Godspeed. She has left her boyfriend, friends–and planet–behind to join her parents as a member of Project Ark Ship.

Amy and her parents believe they will wake on a new planet, Centauri-Earth, three hundred years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed‘s scheduled landing, cryo chamber 42 is mysteriously unplugged, and Amy is violently woken from her frozen slumber.

Someone tried to murder her.

Now, Amy is caught inside a tiny world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed‘s 2,312 passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader. And Elder, Eldest’s rebellious teenage heir, is both fascinated with Amy and eager to discover whether he has what it takes to lead.

Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she put her faith in a boy who has never seen life outside the ship’s cold metal walls? All Amy knows is that she and Elder must race to unlock Godspeed‘s hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.

What I thought:

I have this tendency to shy away from science fiction. I’m not sure where it comes from. I’d like to say it’s because technical jargon doesn’t do it for me, but I don’t think that’s quite it. One of my favorite genres is fantasy & while it doesn’t have technical jargon necessarily, it does usually involve some pretty extensive world building.

While I wouldn’t necessarily classify this book as heavy science fiction, it was an awesome intro to the genre for a reader like me. I discovered this book when it exploded through the YA book blogging world a few years ago. Despite the STUNNING cover & all the hype, I was admittedly nervous to begin this.

Now that I’ve finished, I can say 2 things right off the bat: 1) I shouldn’t have been nervous 2) I NEED books #2 & #3 ASAP.

As for the science fiction element, I truly did not have trouble following the world as Amy & Elder knew it on Godspeed. I think what really helped was having a character (Amy) who was being introduced to this world alongside the reader. That is seriously my favorite world building strategy. Elder was also learning as he went, too. Between the dual narrative, Beth’s easy to read writing style, and the near constant revelations & action…this was an absolute pageturner for me.

Although I did guess one of the plot reveals, I really wasn’t bothered because it seemed like every two pages, I was thinking, “OMG whaaaaaat” or “WHAT IS HAPPENING ON THIS SHIP?!” Especially in the last ~100 pages.

On another note, there were a few technical descriptions of the ship, but I never felt bogged down. For the most part, I just got lost in this story. I love those books that you sit down to read & the next time you look up, it’s however many hours later & you’re hundreds of pages further in the story. Across the Universe is one of those books.

A few other random thoughts I had:

–The beginning of Amy’s story truly freaked me out. Being frozen but semi-conscious for TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS?! ::shudder::

–Amy’s version of life on the ship was brilliant. It made me feel SO claustrophobic.

–I watched an interview Beth did a few years ago, during which she talked about being born & raised in a small town & what that meant to her. It was so interesting to see how that came out in the story.

–Another thing I really loved was how the romance kind of took a backseat in this one. I thought the budding romance was very sweet, don’t get me wrong, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes. I just thought it was nice to see that the romance wasn’t the whole story here.

Overall, I really loved this book. I think it was a great intro to a genre I haven’t read much of, and now, I’d like to look into reading more of. I can’t wait to continue this series!!

Love May Fail by Matthew Quick


LOVE MAY FAIL by Matthew Quick

Publisher/Year: Harper Collins/2015
Source: Free Library of Philadelphia/Overdrive
Format: ebook
Pages: 416 pages
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟






An aspiring feminist and underappreciated housewife embarks on an odyssey to find human decency and goodness–and her high school English teacher–in New York Times bestselling author Matthew Quick’s offbeat masterpiece, a quirky ode to love, fate, and hair metal.

Portia Kane is having a meltdown. After escaping her ritzy Florida life and her cheating pornographer husband, she finds herself back in South Jersey, a place that remains largely unchanged from the years of her unhappy youth. Lost and alone, looking to find the goodness in the world she believes still exists, Portia sets off to save herself by saving someone else–a beloved high school English teacher who has retired after a traumatic incident.

Will a sassy nun, an ex-heroin addict, a metal-head little boy, and her hoarder mother help or hurt her chances on this madcap quest to restore a good man’s reputation and find renewed hope in the human race?

What I thought

This book solidified the fact that Matthew Quick is an insta-read author for me. I LOVED Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, and I LOVED Love May Fail, so suffice it to say, I’m definitely a fan & I MUST get my hands on his other books.

I think one of the things that Quick does so well is to create such a diverse cast of characters (none of which I can relate to at all) that absolutely comes to life for me. Every one of them has issues, and even though this book was so RAW, it never felt heavy. I loved the four points of view telling the story, particularly because I felt that it lent itself to the story’s progress & getting to learn more about the characters as we saw them from different points of view.

I’m having some trouble explaining what it was that I loved about this book so much, and I feel like I’m rambling, but it was just such a beautiful story of redemption (for multiple characters) and a fascinating look at the impact we have on the lives of others. I was so moved by this book, even with characters I couldn’t really relate to & who were even unlikeable at times.

I’m going to purposefully keep this review short (and somewhat vague) because I truly think it’s best if you jump into this one without knowing much. Just sit back & enjoy the ride–it’s so worth it. There’s humor, heartbreak, love, hope, devastation, and redemption. It is not always an easy read (be prepared for some gut-wrenching scenes) and there are A LOT of adult subjects & scenarios in this book, but once you start, you will NOT want to put this down.

So, if you love character driven stories and want to read something that’s going to give you ALL the feels, I highly recommend Love May Fail!

Wicked by Gregory Maguire


WICKED by Gregory Maguire
Publisher/Year: William Morrow Paperbacks/2000
Source: My own shelf
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 426 pages
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟



When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

What I thought

THIS BOOK. This. Book.

Let me start off by saying that this book has garnered many POLAR OPPOSITE reviews. You either seem to absolutely love this or absolutely hate it.

That being said, I think it’s fairly obvious from my rating how I felt.

I think that, for some, they go into this book expecting the musical. Don’t. Those expectations will ruin this book for you.

I, for one, cannot stop thinking about this story, and that’s how I felt the entire time I was reading. There was just so much to THINK about here, and sometimes I just really crave that in a book.

I don’t even know where to begin.

First of all, this book is split up into sections. These sections are like snippets into Elphaba’s life & what was going on in the world at that particular time. There are jumps in time between the sections, but I didn’t mind that. To me, it didn’t feel like Maguire left anything out necessarily, but rather that he only focused on the important, formative points in her history.

As for the world of Oz, again, do not go into this expecting the whimsical movie world. Oz is much darker & grittier than what we have seen. And I loved it. This is Oz before Dorothy arrives (I’ll get into THAT shortly). There’s corruption, politics, sex, ruthless murder. This is NOT a child’s story, but I really liked that. It was reminiscent of reading Grimm’s fairy tales versus watching the Disney versions. And I liked that Gregory Maguire just kind of put readers in the world. There were no lengthy info dumps or endless descriptions of why Oz was the way it was. He unapologetically left readers to their own devices. I don’t always like this; sometimes I do want that explanation. But it worked here, and I thought it was brilliant. So many readers seem to want to know “why was this?” or “why was that?” We don’t get those answers always, and sometimes things just are the way they are. If that’s something you don’t like, stay away from this book. As for me, the “not knowing” and the “this is just how it is” really allowed my imagination to soar.

Along that note, with regards to the chronological jumps in between sections that I mentioned earlier, it seemed to me that some people were bothered by those. Characters who seem to play rather important roles in one section don’t always show up in the next section, and we don’t always find out what happens to them until some time later. I can see why that bothers people, but really, if you looked at random chapters in my life, the same thing would happen.

As far as Elphaba goes, as the main character, I honestly cannot remember the last time I loved a character as much as I loved her. My heart broke for her again & again, and yet she was always trying to overcome. I’ve always been one to root for the underdog, and I thought what Maguire tried to do with her & with this book was fascinating. Again, there were people who were upset that Dorothy only made a brief appearance in this book, but Dorothy was not the point. Elphaba was. And Dorothy’s role in her life was very minor in comparison to other aspects.

There really are “two sides to every story,” and I thought Elphaba was completely captivating & absolutely compelling. I will never look at the Wicked Witch of the West the same way again. From the very moment of her birth, she has people declaring that she’s evil, and this book takes a very interesting & philosophical look at the nature of evil & where it comes from & whether or not people can ever truly overcome others’ expectations.

All in all, this book was so many things for me: brilliant, compelling, heartwrenching, witty, enchanting, gritty, fascinating. I adored it, and I genuinely cannot wait to delve into the rest of this series. As I’ve said, if you want to give it a go, lose your musical/movie expectations and prepare yourself for the dark & enchanting world of Gregory Maguire’s Oz.