Mini-Reviews: Meet the Austins, When the Stars Align & Scarlet

September 7, 2015 / 3 Comments / Mini-Reviews, Review

Mini-Reviews: Meet the Austins, When the Stars Align & ScarletMeet the Austins

Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Find the author: Website, Twitter
Publisher: Macmillan
Publication date: 1960
Source: Purchased at used bookstore
Format: Paperback
My rating:

For a family with four kids, two dogs, assorted cats, and a constant stream of family and friends dropping by, life in the Austin family home has always been remarkably steady and contented. When a family friend suddenly dies in a plane crash, the Austins open their home to an orphaned girl, Maggy Hamilton. The Austin children--Vicky, John, Suzy, and Rob--do their best to be generous and welcoming to Maggy. Vicky knows she should feel sorry for Maggy, but having sympathy for Maggy is no easy thing. Maggy is moody and spoiled; she breaks toys, wakes people in the middle of the night screaming, discourages homework, and generally causes chaos in the Austin household. How can one small child disrupt a family of six? Will life ever return to normal?

Despite my enduring love for Madeleine L’Engle and my obsession with her lesser-known heroine Vicky Austin, for some reason I never quite got to Meet the Austins. Maybe because I knew that it didn’t involve any of the scientific elements that feature in so many of her later novels, maybe because Vicky is only 12 in this novel. I’m grateful that my book club forced me to finally read it! Meet the Austins is a very sweet middle-grade, and a great introduction to the loving, warm Austin family. Chapters are essentially episodes in the Austins’ lives as they bring spoiled orphan Maggy into their fold while trying to maintain the family traditions of reading, music, and food that pervades all of their books. It’s a book that is very much a contemporary, and one where you see L’Engle developing her talent at telling family stories. It’s cute, it’s honest about the difficulties of welcoming someone new into your family, all while seeing the beauty of the world, and having it change before your eyes. Die-hard L’Engle fans might be interested to know that this book was published a full two years before A Wrinkle in Time, and compared to that seminal book, it does seem very “ordinary” – but it does feature some interesting discussions of vegetarianism (from a kid’s eyes), and a little bit of the science and family that will play a bigger part in the lives of the Austins later. A really enjoyable read.

Mini-Reviews: Meet the Austins, When the Stars Align & ScarletWhen the Stars Align

Author: Jeanette Grey
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Goodreads
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: September 1st 2015
Source: Netgalley
Format: eARC
My rating:

"I couldn't put it down! I loved every sentence! The writing is outstanding, the setting entrancing, and the characters stole my heart. Fresh, flawed and instantly lovable, you'll root for Jo and Adam at every turn." --- S. C. Stephens, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Their passion burned hotter than the stars . . .
For Josephine "Jo" Kramer, nothing has ever been easy. When she earns a summer internship in Puerto Rico, working at one of the world's preeminent scientific facilities, she'll let nothing distract her. Not her own insecurities, not the arrogant scientists, and definitely not her tall, chiseled research partner, Adam.
For Adam McCay, physics is simple-it's women who are complicated. Especially brilliant, beautiful ones like Jo. From the moment they meet, he can feel the heat smoldering deep beneath her icy exterior. And Adam knows just what it will take to make Jo melt . . .
Under the endless stars of a tropical sky, Jo and Adam indulge their every desire. But as their internship comes to an end, their perfect island paradise is threatened. Was their time together a summer fling? Or is their passion hot enough to last the long winter nights?

I’m a fan of romance with science involved, especially between scientists, but I was a bit disappointed in this book – I expected it to be a steamy romance with a lot of character development and lots of physics at the Arecibo observatory in Puerto Rico. It’s a place that ignited my fascination in the movie Contact, so I was really expecting big things here! When the Stars Align had all of those elements, but I didn’t feel like the science played as much of a part as I wished it would, and I had a lot of trouble connecting with the heroine, Jo. She was a super-tough character who was downright mean at times, and while I’m okay with that, there has to be something in that character that makes me want her and the romantic interest together…and honestly, there were times when I thought he could do better. It was hard to see what Adam saw in her for about half the novel. That said, once they did get together, the romance was believable, and I found their solution to their problems satisfying and very HEA.

I think what saved this book for me were the secondary characters and the beautiful setting of Puerto Rico and Arecibo! If you’re interested in romance at Arecibo, though, I would suggest watching Contact for a more fully developed story.

Mini-Reviews: Meet the Austins, When the Stars Align & ScarletScarlet

Author: Marissa Meyer
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Pinterest
Also by this author: Cinder, Winter, Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5), Stars Above (The Lunar Chronicles #0.5, 0.6, 1.5, 3.1, 3.6), Heartless, Wires and Nerve, Wires and Nerve, Volume 2
Publisher: Macmillan
Publication date: February 5th 2013
Source: Purchased
Format: Audiobook
My rating:

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of Marissa Meyer's bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.
An NPR Best Book of 2013

I for real had a moment of “What the heck was I waiting for?” when I finally got to Scarlet. The second book in Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles series is probably my favourite sci-fi book I’ve read in ages – and certainly one of the most interesting fairy tale retellings I’ve ever encountered. If you read Cinder and enjoyed it, but didn’t find it completely captivating, rest assured, Scarlet takes it to eleven. I liked that I couldn’t guess what was going to happen even though I obviously know the tale of Red Riding Hood very well. I was also impressed by the way Meyer integrated the “Big Bad Wolf” storyline into the rest of the series, and how Cinder and Kai’s continuing story was a huge part of this book, but never detracted from the fact that this is Scarlet’s book. To me, the development of new characters Scarlet, Thorne, and Wolf was much more enjoyable and interesting than in Cinder. As an audiobook, I enjoyed the voices that the narrator presented and always knew who was who – that said, as the action got more exciting, I had to switch to paper because I just needed to know what was going to happen immediately. If I have one qualm, it’s that I felt that some of the build up to the final scenes slowed down a bit, but overall, this was a tightly plotted and well-paced book with amazing action scenes and mythology. I’m already reading Cress because I’m totally invested now!

Have you read any of these books? Which one is your favourite? Are there any old school favourite authors you know of that you’d like me to review? 

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