A Review of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV: Stories of LIfe, Love and Learning

 Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV uses the same format as the rest of the series, with sections dedicated to Friendship. Making A Difference, Relationships, Lessons and Learning, Family, Tough Stuff and Overcoming Obstacles.
  The stories and poems are nice, but I felt that a lot of them were similar this time around. I got kind of bored halfway through it, butI think it’s because I’m getting too old to be reading this series.  I would still recommend it to any teenager.  It’s always nice to know that others are going through the same things as you. And sometimes, no matter how bad your situation seems, someone else is usually worse off.
   I liked the stories about family because I think that sometimes we take our families for granted. I used to and now, like many of the writers, I wish that I hadn’t.

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A review of Beltane (Pagan Spirits #1) by Erin O’Riordan & Tit Elingtin

I received this book for free through the First Reads program on Goodreads.  My copy is signed, which is nice. Unfortunately, this review is more negative than most of my other ones.
   It’s the story of Pagan twin sisters, Zen and Allie, and how their lives change over the course of a few years while focusing on a Beltane celebration that sets everything into motion.
   I really wanted to like this book, but I feel like it had some issues. The first one is the way it was formatted. Some of the paragraph breaks weren’t set up right and, due the the spacing, the last page of chapter 7 had two words on it. The other thing that bothered me was the way somethings used three sentences to say something that one sentence would’ve covered. Condensing is good sometimes.
   The characters were nice, but where they ended up was very predictable. I had the twists figured out and then had to wait a few chapters for them to happen. I don’t mind if things are a bit predictable, but things were just obvious here.
   I also didn’t like how much time jumps around. Some of it was ok, but in other parts of the book it was a little disorienting. One second it’s August and then it’s May of the next year. Maybe it’s just me. It’s odd that some of the other holidays aren’t mentioned much. I get that it’s about Beltane, but Samhain is mentioned in passing and Yule isn’t mentioned at all. I don’t think everyone eats meat on May Day either. I don’t.
   I did like Allie and Zen’s relationship. They seemed like great sisters and I liked how they were really there for each other. I really liked how accepting most of the characters were, especially Orlando. He’s Catholic, but was very respectful of the twins’ beliefs. I’m not saying that Catholics aren’t open-minded, but it seems like they can be portrayed as narrow minded in stories that deal with other religions. I feel like I really can’t go into much detail on anything without spoiling the book for others who might enjoy it.
  This isn’t something I would read again and I won’t be reading the rest of the series. I’d give this maybe 2/5.

A Review of Kara Was Here: A Novel by William Conescu

I received this book through Goodreads.com’s First Reads program. The number of pages on their site is listed as 272, but the copy that I received has 292 pages. 302 if you count the Acknowledgements and discussion questions.

Back of the book blurb: “Brad Mitchell’s life is falling apart. Both his marriage and health are in limbo. The woman he thought he would marry, Kara, has died from an overdose. A friend keeps trying to convince him that Kara was actually murdered, And then there’s Kara’s ghost. She keeps visiting.

The book is about the effect that a woman named Kara’s death has on the people in her life. There are three main characters: Brad Mitchell, Margot Cominsky and Gwen. Each of them are working through their own issues in life and then they start seeing or hearing Kara.

Brad retired from acting and is now a successful realtor in North Carolina, where him, Kara and Gwen are from. He’s married with a kid on the way when he finds out that his health is in jeopardy. He starts seeing Kara’s ghost almost immediately after she passes away.

Margot is the owner of an independent baking business, but she’s not exactly happy with her life. She’s pretty lonely, her boyfriend is stationed in Japan and isn’t convinced that Kara died of an overdose. She spends most of the book trying to prove that something else happened.

Gwen is Kara’s eighteen year old little sister. She’ll be going to college in NC, but she’s doing a summer long art program in NYC first. She feels out of place in her family and tries to follow in Kara’s footsteps once she gets to New York. She even hangs out with the guys that Kara was seeing, including her “fiancé” Steve (aka Mullet).

The book flawlessly switches between the three main characters’ points of view. I was never confused about which character was talking. It worked really well to carry the story along and provide decent backstories for everyone.

There’s a lot of lying in this story. Either by straight out lies, white lies or omissions of information. Brad doesn’t tell his wife about his condition; (She just thinks that he needs glasses.) Margot’s boyfriend doesn’t tell her when he’s on missions and Gwen usually has excuses for not calling people back/ not showing up. I think one of the main points the book makes is that honesty is important in relationships. Not just in romantic relationships, but in friendships as well.

Each of the characters finds out that they might now have known Kara as well as they thought they did. Her ghost tries to tell them this too. She appears to Brad and Gwen when they’re sad, nervous, or in a bad situation. Her ghost is a neat character in itself. It’s like a compilation of memories that they see. She’s always smoking a cigarette or drinking.

The novel isn’t really a ghost story or a huge mystery, but it has elements of both. I liked the ending. I’d recommend it to people who like “slice of life” novels or character driven novels.