Mini-Reviews: In Which I Read & Love My First Sarah Ockler Book

June 16, 2015 / 3 Comments / Mini-Reviews, Review

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids
Author: Sarah Ockler
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source/Format: eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss
Publication Date: June 9, 2015
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This was my first Sarah Ockler book, and I’m glad that it lived up to expectations. Ockler paints a gorgeous West Coast landscape to bring to life a story of finding the power and strength to make your voice heard. Elyse, the main character, is a Tobagonian girl who has had her beautiful singing (and speaking) voice ripped away from her in an accident. Elyse was destined to be a great singer along with her twin sister, but has now escaped to the coast of Oregon as refuge while she rebuilds her self and world. There, she gets drawn into a bet between the mayor and a local businessman where the very house she is living in could be destroyed as developers come into the town.

The secondary characters, including new friends Kirby and Vanessa, and love interest Christian make this a fun, sexy, and meaningful read. I sank deeply into the lulling, oceanic world of Cove Bay, and the mystical mermaid legends and Wiccan lore that accompanied it. Ockler’s writing is gorgeous and lyrical, with plenty of swoon and great banter. The brilliance of the book lies in how well Ockler ties together these themes with feminism and power. A fantastic summer read with a lot of substance. I will definitely be picking up the rest of her books.

Secrets of the Sisterhood: The Cinderella Society, Episode 1
Author: Kay Cassidy
Publisher: Camden Creek Press
Source/Format: Downloaded for Kindle; first episode is a free ebook!
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is a sort of re-read, as I read the original book several years ago and have re-read it several times. This new version adds a lot of extra content and makes some changes.

Jess Parker is the lowest of the low on the high school totem pole. A new kid to Mt. Sterling High, she has been bullied incessantly by mean girl Lexy Steele after taking Lexy’s spot on the cheerleading squad. Unfortunately, Jess also happens to have a serious crush on Ryan, Lexy’s hot older brother. Just when things look like they couldn’t be worse, along comes an invitation to join a secret society of good-girls: The Cinderella Society. The Cindys sweep Jess into a social circle full of good vibes and makeovers…along with something much bigger: lessons in how to stand up to bullies and win.

Like the first time I read TCS, Jess’ voice is very engaging and sweet, and I had overwhelming frustration at the bullying and torture she suffered at the hands of Lexy. Despite the sugar-sweet covers and the fairy-tale name, The Cinderella Society, at its heart, is about how to be good to yourself and others, and how to make positive changes in your life when nothing seems right. It’s a book that has stayed with me for years because of how empowering and motivational it is.

The new version of the book – in three episodes, with extra content – emphasizes Jess’ Christianity. This was interesting, but slightly jarring as a past reader. I think readers looking for Christian fiction will LOVE this book, but for me, it didn’t add a ton. What did add a lot was the change in some of the Cinderella Society’s makeover ideals – the original focused on power, but this time around, it’s about image and branding. I thought this made a lot more sense for what the Cindys were trying to do, but felt it diluted the theme of power a bit.

For those new to it, this is a book that still holds as much relevance for teens as it did when it first came out. It’s inspiring and fun at the same time. Highly recommended for teens who need a self-esteem boost.

Guy in Real Life
Author: Steve Brezenoff
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Source/Format: Audiobook borrowed from library
Rating: Did Not Finish (stopped at chapter 25)

Steve Brezenoff weaves a tale of two different kinds of gamers – Svetlana, a role-playing game master who likes to draw and create her own characters, and Lesh, a new online role-playing gamer, and their romance together.

This was a DNF for me – I just couldn’t get into the voices of the characters or their interests. While I’m not a gamer myself, I do feel like I understand gaming and the obsession with fantasy worlds from my own love of books and watching The Guild (not the same, I know). For me, this book didn’t work because I just could not like or empathize with the characters – I found Lesh incredibly jerkish and Svetlana very entitled. However, I might have continued with the book if nothing else but for interest in the gender roles and complications (Lesh plays a girl character – in fact, a girl character modeled on Svetlana, named Svvetlana), but I found the parts where narration of Lesh’s game and Svetlana’s group game incredibly boring (especially in audio form). A disappointing read for me, though I hope that others enjoy Brezenoff’s quirky concept and writing.

Let’s talk: Have you read any of these books and what do you think of them? For the newer releases, are they on your summer TBR (because they really should be!)? Also, what do you think of this format of reviewing (sometimes I don’t have that much to say, so this works sometimes for me, but I’d like to hear from you)?

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3 responses to “Mini-Reviews: In Which I Read & Love My First Sarah Ockler Book

  1. I adored The Summer of Chasing Mermaids! It's such a lovely, modern take on The Little Mermaid, and I loved the characters and the setting. Glad you enjoyed it as well!

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