Saturday, December 27, 2014


3.5 out of 5 Stars

Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them.  

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class. 

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet. (from

I just read a scathing review of this book on Goodreads. Was it flawless? No. Were the characters in-depth and multi-dimensional? Not in the slightest. Was it entertaining? It was decent. 

I wouldn't say this book was awful, but I wouldn't say it was amazing either. It's right there in the middle for me. Mediocre. The writing isn't terrible. There was humor which I enjoyed. The premise was interesting. The scathing review said it wasn't creative but I beg to differ. The idea of an alien exchange program is pretty inventive. 

Let's talk about the characters for a bit, first. 

Cara starts out smart and savvy, a fiery redhead with determination. But as the story goes along she becomes more and more of a victim. She lets things happen to her and I didn't like that. For someone who was supposed to be so determined, stubborn, and headstrong, she was sure a pushover. She runs a blog that's pretty witty at first. Her journalistic need to find the truth is pretty much nonexistent once she decides she is in love with the alien boy. All of her friends abandon her, yet she still chooses Aelyx. Now what teenage girl who is even remotely popular at school do you know that would throw all of her friends and her ranking away for a boy everyone else hates? Especially as her life gets threatened. Cara seems to have a whole different moral set than most girls her age. I kinda wish there was more fight in her. That she would have started blaming Aelyx and searching for the truth behind some of his sketchy ways rather than becoming a milk-toast and sappy girl who falls for the mysterious bad-boy. Landers could/should have really honed in on Cara's journalist traits, have her discover the truth herself, and then have to decide if she would expose him or if she would keep his secret simply because somewhere in the ride she had fallen in love with him. That is the true conflict, to me, but it gets glossed over. Or something. I'm not even sure. 

There's a part when she is confronting Aelyx and wants the truth. How does he get away with not telling her? He starts touching her. Instead of seeing through it, Cara gets all weak in the knees for him. What is that teaching girls? That their man can do anything he wants as long as he kisses her and swoons her just right. Ugh. 

And Aelyx. The alien boy. I'm not sure why he suddenly falls for Cara. It seems to come out of nowhere especially after how much he supposedly hates Earth and humans. He obviously hates Earth enough to come up with a plot with his friends to destroy Earth. Even after discovering said plot, Cara is angry but eventually takes him back because he's misunderstood? What? And what's with the aliens looking just like humans? Landers could have had some sort of Beauty and the Beast thing going where Cara sees past an intimidating, otherworldly exterior and falls in love with him. 

Tori. I enjoyed her spunk. But then she becomes stereotypical and betrays Cara for what? No good reason. For someone who was supposed to be even more fiery and stubborn than Cara, she sure turned her back quickly. While we later find that she wasn't entirely a traitor, it still just plays off as too convenient and dramatic for the plot. 

Eric. Stereotypical jock. I'm not sure where the attraction is with Cara and him or how they became involved. I think it would have been better if they were just platonic friends that grew apart and Cara sees him and Tori hooking up as an extra stab in the back. 

The parents. So goody-goody for their own good. Always making out which is gross. I'm not sure why that needed to be in the story. And they let their daughter get away with murder. And they hold their ground even as their jobs and social lives are at stake. I'm not sure I know of any parent who would actually do that. You would think at least one of them would start thinking "Hey maybe we should send the alien back before the town decides to tar and feather us." 

The ambassador. Aelyx's ambassador or whatever is supposed to look old but not really be old. He's also monotone. I understand why Landers has him that way and it gets explained, but he's supposed to be a somewhat antagonist yet he ends up being forgettable because he's so drab. Speaking of antagonist...I'm not really sure who the actual antagonist is in this book. Was it Aelyx? Is it The Way? Is it Cara? There's just no telling. 

Syrene and Eron. Aelyx's friends are alright. They serve as points to help move the story along but Syrene is too angry all the time to relate to. Eron doesn't get enough stage time to really be significant. 

Despite the flaws in the character building, I didn't mind it. There are other YA books I've read where I have been frustrated with the characters all the way through reading. That wasn't the case with this. I just wish, for once, authors would create a love story that wasn't perfect, where the characters made stupid decisions and lived with those choices, where the headstrong girl stayed true to her character and didn't get swayed by some handsome stranger. 

That brings me to the themes in the book. This is where I think Landers did a good job. She shows that tolerance and discrimination are real human acts. Cara does serve as the ideal in this aspect. She sees how her classmates and people in her town treat Aelyx and she sees a problem with it. Her parents stand up for Aelyx constantly. Looking at Alienated as a lesson in acceptance and overcoming differences sheds a whole new light on it. Beyond the obligatory romance (really, I don't understand the attraction just like with most YA novels out there) we find a story of how humans treat those who are different which is a theme that is entirely relevant in our time (Ferguson riots ring any bells?). 

While I didn't hate this book, I also don't think it was my favorite. Now, that being said, I didn't like Divergent when I first read it also. It took reading the second and third books and watching the movie for me to really fall in love with that story. I will continue to read what Landers has to offer with this series. Hopefully she can add some elements and depth that will catapult it from mediocre to outstanding. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bodies of Water

4.5 of 5 Stars

In 1960, Billie Valentine is a young housewife living in a sleepy Massachusetts suburb, treading water in a dull marriage and caring for two adopted daughters. Summers spent with the girls at their lakeside camp in Vermont are her one escape - from her husband's demands, from days consumed by household drudgery, and from the nagging suspicion that life was supposed to hold something different. Then a new family moves in across the street. Ted and Eva Wilson have three children and a fourth on the way, and their arrival reignites long-buried feelings in Billie. The affair that follows offers a solace Billie has never known, until her secret is revealed and both families are wrenched apart in the tragic aftermath. Fifty years later, Ted and Eva's son, Johnny, contacts an elderly but still spry Billie, entreating her to return east to meet with him. Once there, Billie finally learns the surprising truth about what was lost, and what still remains, of those joyful, momentous summers. (from

I will admit I set this one on my shelf for a long time and it wasn't because I didn't want to read it. Any time Miss Greenwood releases a new book I am ready to devour it. She is one of my absolute favorite authors and I still pride myself in finding her book, by sheer luck, at a Barnes and Noble a few years ago. That being said, she's got a new book coming out, The Forever Bridge, and I'm ecstatic for its release. 

Bodies of Water does not disappoint. Greenwood treats the story with her signature pizazz and knack for capturing the right words. I was constantly impressed with the imagery of water throughout. Water becomes an extended metaphor throughout the entire novel. The story is captivating. A gift of Miss Greenwood's is to take a story that may seem predictable at face value but she captures the reader with her distinct prose. The character of Ted Wilson seems a little stereotypical, for example, but Miss Greenwood still manages to make it interesting. 

If homosexual romances offend you in any way, but you have read Miss Greenwood before and loved it, still give this one a chance. It may just alter your view of homosexual men and women. I think it was meant to be a twist in the plot, or at least a secret, since the synopsis on the back of the book doesn't really say anything about it. Whatever your response is to it I certainly hope it doesn't force you away from finishing the book. This is one book that explores the nature of love. What it really means to love and how freeing it is to follow your heart. Billie and Eva are a believable couple and their story is something that gives hope to any who long for love. 

I highly recommend this novel and any other work by Miss Greenwood.