I enjoyed how it explored the idea that maybe the thing you've dedicated your life to isn't the thing you want to do anymore, but it didn't get grossI enjoyed how it explored the idea that maybe the thing you've dedicated your life to isn't the thing you want to do anymore, but it didn't get gross about it. Sophie Flack presented a shy but powerful novel about what it means to be alive.
Captured me from page one, it did. The first little bit I read at the JoBeth in Cincinnati haunted me until I broke down and bought it online. FinisheCaptured me from page one, it did. The first little bit I read at the JoBeth in Cincinnati haunted me until I broke down and bought it online. Finished it within two days. If I had a hat, I'd tip it to Ruta Sepetys....more
I picked up Miss Fortune Cookie in response to seeing it everywhere -- on blogs, on people's profile picture, on Goodreads status updates. Out of sheer irritation, I looked it up to see what the heck all the commotion was about, and I was surprised to see that it looked like a very promising, cute book. I immediately checked it out from my local library and buzzed in anticipation for the moment when I would finally be able to read it. It was worth the wait. Miss Fortune Cookie won me over with its instantly likable main character, Erin, and the passion behind the presentation of Chinese-American culture. But what really got me was that it felt true.
Truth in fiction may seem, at first, to be a bit of a paradox. Readers will tell you, however, that fiction is the best gateway to the truth. Miss Fortune Cookie, despite its...creative elimination of swear words (s***!), felt like something that could really happen in a way that differentiated itself to me from other contemporary novels. There was something there that really connected with me. Maybe it was the nerdiness of Erin in the way she compacted truths down to equations, or the love for her family and culture, or struggling with college choices. Whatever it was, there was a shard of truth there, and it resonated with me.
I think what won me over wholly, though, was the main character, Erin. I loved her innocently sarcastic and self-deprecating narrative, as well as her sarcastic and self-deprecating humor. And although she had some dim moments, don't we all? Things that generally irked me about a character made me love Erin all the more.
Lack of passion in a novel is the bane of my existence, but Lauren Bjorkman has passion in spades. From the details that neatly frame Erin's tiny, shoebox apartment to the way Bjorkman carefully crafted Mrs. Liu's speech, I could sense the painstaking effort and heart that went behind the story. It made the exotic culture of Chinese-American lifestyles to come through loud and clear for me. (Also, I got a kick out of the presentation of Asian stereotypes that happen to be very true. One of my good friends from high school is Asian, and would probably get a real kick out of this book.)
With the humor, charming cultures, and wacky adventures, Miss Fortune Cookie is a real gem of young adult contemporary literature. And at just under three hundred pages, it's a short, fun read for anyone who wants a good story....more
At least once in your life, a book comes along that forges an instant connection before page one is even started. Skinny was that book for me. I knew, from the moment I heard Donna Cooner give her story behind Skinny, that I wanted to read it. I have always had private issues with my self image, but what drew me to this book was the concept of the little voice in the back of your head having a name: Skinny. With a Cinderella-esque format, a brilliant main character held up by brilliant supporting characters, and a little shoulder devil, Skinny was the book that, for me, could do no wrong.
I say "Cinderella-esque" because it is not a retelling of Cinderella with a few shoddily hidden parallels. Cooner curves the story so that it is entirely its own creature. From the moment I started it, I couldn't put it down. I loved the main character, Ever (though I will forgive her for her name), with her edgy narrative voice that was tinged with a depth that went beyond the pages. My only issue was how I wished -- so wished! -- that she would stand up for herself more. But even when she didn't, I could deal with it, and move through the story with her without it diverting my attention.
I love Lauren Myracle's blurb for Skinny:
The best -- and truest -- depiction of the joys and pangs of transformation I've ever read. Deeply moving, totally addictive, utterly fabulous.
I love how Skinny wasn't about preaching the warning signs of obesity or low self esteem. It was a beautiful story of a girl who transformed inside and out, so it doesn't come off as depressing or heavy. While it dealt with a very big subject and showed the not-so-friendly sides of human interactions, I didn't feel weighed down when I closed the book. I felt enlightened! It was a book that I could fully identify with, and learn from. And I loved that.
Cooner's writing style was simple and elegant, and effortless morphed between scenes of skipping and laughing happiness, to edgy betrayals and bitter anger. It carried along a story that built to a climax that had me grinning like a moron in my chair. Cooner packed a thrilling conclusion within a mere few pages. It was electric.
Skinny is a book that crosses boundaries. It's a book that can be read by anyone and everyone, because there isn't a person out there who doesn't feel insecure about something. Or who doesn't that that little voice of doubt niggling in the back of their mind. With its wit and universal message, Skinny is a book I'd recommend to anyone....more
When I first started into What Happens Next, I didn't know that it was a book with a strong theme of weight loss and self image running through it. Frankly, I didn't know quite what to expect. Certainly it wasn't the multi-dimensional main character, or the absolutely amazing romance, or the fantastic story. Of course I wished for all those things, but I was glad when that's exactly what I got.
The main character, Sid, had her flaws. But it was her flaws that gave her that third dimension. She was realistic by being many different things, not just a one-sided, cardboard cutout heroine. She was chaotic at times and had her hypocritical moments, but I felt she had a good heart because she was incredibly loyal to her brother, and family was important to her. As were her friends, even though they weren't stellar to her. And she was feisty! There's a single scene that sticks out to me where Sid is particularly (and hilariously) vindictive and it makes me laugh just thinking about it. That kind of lasting impression is the result of her awesome character.
What I loved most about the romance in What Happens Next was that it didn't get in my face. It took a backseat to the main theme, and having an emotional theme take the spotlight was a breath of fresh air. It also didn't carry that feeling of inevitability. From the synopsis, it's easy to deduce that Corey "The Living Stoner" Livingston is going to be a love interest, but it wasn't presented that way in the book. There was no insta-love. It felt incredibly natural. That kind of slow-growing romance let the arc of the character development shine through, so I saw how the romance shaped Sid instead of overwhelmed her.
Sid's story was amazing. Colleen Clayton doesn't focus on the horror (which I appreciate) but rather on the aftermath -- hence the title What Happens Next. It isn't depressing like a lot of close-to-home topics are (for example, Dreamland by Sarah Dessen or Willow by Julia Hoban) but instead it's an inspiring and hopeful story of how a teen can recover after a physical and emotional trauma.
I had a few issues with the writing style. It was distracting in the beginning, like it took Colleen Clayton a while to find her stride. I could see where it started to improve because the number of diamonds in the rough started to multiply exponentially. By the end, except for a few cheesy moments, I was very impressed with the way the writing style allowed Sid's story to flow effortlessly.
A great story that would definitely appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti and Laurie Halse Anderson....more
Rules of Attraction was an incredible story with two cheer-worthy main characters bundled together with rib-cracking humor. While this book wouldn't win any awards from me for writing style, Rules of Attraction was teeming with undeniable wit and a great story of romance.
Rules of Attraction is a rehashing of Perfect Chemistry. It was set up the exact same way as the first only with a "new" situation: the plot progressed the exact same way and, since it dealt with a lot of the same characters, it made the similarities more recognizable. My main problem was the climax. This quote by Robert McKee put my issues with Rules of Attraction's plot exactly:
If [the climax] fails, the story fails... If you fail to make this poetic leap to a brilliant culminating climax, all previous scenes, characters, dialogue, and description become an elaborate typing exercise.
Coupled with Simone Elkeles's a little too-simplisitic writing style and her tendency to tell and not show, the supposed "action scene" to cap off the book really fell flat and left me with the bitter taste of disappointment.
I cheered for the romance, though. Despite how inevitable the progression of the characters' relationship was, the two of them made me smile and laugh and sigh with frustration. Carlos and Kiara are definitely not a boring couple: their constant banter, their power plays, the give-and-take... It all culminated into a relationship to cheer for. Also, I think Simone Elkeles did an excellent job in alternating between the two main characters. (Quite a few scenes made me blush, though. Maybe not an issue for readers who're seasoned in the more risque side of romance novels, but I'm still in denial over slowly losing the innocence of my childhood.)
I wouldn't pin any writing awards on the cover of this book. While the style (mostly) worked to set a humorous and heart-breaking tone for the story, it wasn't as in depth as I would've preferred. I was mostly drawn in by the humor because almost any book that makes me laugh is considered a keeper on some scale.
I think, for all its faults, Rules of Attraction would make an excellent movie. It's a bit more original that Alex and Brittany's story in Perfect Chemistry and more enjoyable a story overall.
I hesitated slightly about picking up Chain Reaction, the third book, right away, but then I read the excerpt that came in the back of Rules of Attraction and was instantly hooked....more
Salvation set a fire under me the very moment I found out that it existed. I fell head over heels in love with Anne Osterlund's previous books, Academy 7 and Aurelia (and later, Exile). So I knew beforehand that Salvation was very likely to win my heart. And it did. From page one, I was captured. Enthralled, really, by the main characters and the story that wove around them. I liked how Romeo & Juliet it was without seeming like a cheesy remake, and also how the plot was slightly predictable, but exciting all the same. Salvation was a fantastic read, with a set of characters I'd love to have lunch with. Over...and over...and over again.
I was already familiar with Anne Osterlund's envious talent for crafting such depth-defying, lovable main characters, but it still blew me away how much I fell for Salva and Beth, both separately and as a couple. Both had characteristics that I could identify with -- like Salva's loyalty to family and culture, and Beth's need to take her life onto a higher plane. When the two came together, it was electric, though not perfect. The imperfections were what drew me into their relationship like an obnoxious third wheel. Even when they realized their feelings for each other, it didn't magically lay a smooth path before them, and I think that was my favorite part about the book. It made their relationship deep and more realistic.
I love the wealth of culture imbued throughout the story. Reminiscent of Simone Elkeles' Perfect Chemistry series, there are bits of Spanish thrown in. Which, if you're a veteran of the Fuentes brothers, you know is completely hot. But besides that, there was the topic of how Mexican immigrants live in this country and I liked how Anne Osterlund presented and handled it. It gave the story a core of truth that I really enjoyed.
I also enjoyed how the plot progressed. With the essence of a Romeo & Juliet style romance, and fraught with just as much tragedy, I was glued to the pages as the story unfolded. What a breathtaking ending! With an expert hand, Anne Osterlund brought each of the characters to a climax that was both split with tragedy and filled with hope. And while some of the scenes were a bit of a cliche, I was too much in love with the characters to really see them that way.
Salvation is a fantastic addition to Anne Osterlund's repertoire. It was so much fun to read with its subtle humor woven amongst brilliantly devised characters and an exciting plot. Even knowing that I was going to love it, I'm still taken aback at just how much I would turn out to love it. I can't wait for Anne Osterlund's next book....more
What Morgan Matson brings to the table in terms of talent is astounding. Inspiring even. To the way she uses clever, subtle details to bring out a character's quirks, or creates a heartbreaking ending, reading her books makes me strive to be a better writer. For her sophomore novel, Morgan Matson took a simple idea and turned it into an original story. While the romance flopped a bit for me, especially in comparison to Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, I'm keeping my eyes peeled for Matson's next book.
Second Chance Summer continues with Morgan Matson's great writing style. Her prose is easy to read and process, and elegant in its simplicity. Plenty of abstract thoughts, but presented in a concise manner that didn't overwhelm me. Instead, it did what abstract prose is supposed to do: create a profound atmosphere and added depth to the main character's narration. Morgan Matson writes with authority. She created a grounded reality, brought to life with tiny details that made it sound as if she truly knew what she was talking about -- like conditioning your feet to handle walking on a gravel driveway.
The main character, Taylor, didn't appeal as much to me as Amy did, from Matson's debut, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, but that's not to say she was a bad character. She struggled with things that a lot of us do as a teenager: like just trying to find something that you're good at, that makes you exceptional in your own standing, and facing some of life's inevitable things: like death. These two things alone made me sympathetic towards her, but I lacked a connection with her, that spark that made me cheer her on 100%. This didn't detract much from the book overall.
I had two issues with the plot, one good and one bad. The good: I nearly cried at the end. Matson created an ending that will pull at your heartstrings. Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer is the only book to date that has made me actually cry, but I had a feeling that if someone hadn't been in the room with me while I finished Second Chance Summer, this might've been the second. Now, the bad: the ending had a little bit too much cheese for my taste. That is a forgivable trait, but it made enough of an impression to make it mentionable. Where nearly the entire book had sounded like a masterpiece, the ending made it sound a bit cheap.
Another thing that stood out, for me, was the romance. Whereas the romance was excellent in Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, it flopped in Second Chance Summer. Nothing about it really meshed, from the way Taylor and Henry's history was portrayed, to the way they finally reconnected. It didn't seem real to me, like their rekindled romance was inevitable and therefore, there's no need to create a dynamic relationship. My continuous question was: why do they like each other? I can understand lasting attraction, but love? It didn't come off very convincingly. Taylor's relationship with her family was fantastic, though. I thoroughly enjoyed the way love and respect blossomed throughout the book.
Based on the premise alone, I probably wouldn't have picked up Second Chance Summer. But because it was written by Morgan Matson, my curiosity got the best of me -- I had to see what she would do with something as benign as a summer at a lake house. She has a talent, I'm starting to see, of taking things that have a commonplace feel, and displaying it in a way that hasn't quite been done before. She covered a road trip in Amy and Roger's Epic Detour and made it memorable. With Second Chance Summer, she took a shot at the summer lake house and put her own unique mark on it. I'm waiting in breathless anticipation for whatever she does next....more
Pushing the Limits had the blogosphere foaming at the mouth before it even hit shelves. Normally, I steer clear of books like this -- the ones that explode so drastically that it makes me just a little bit suspicious. (No, seriously, Twilight anyone?) I bought Pushing the Limits after reading the first two pages in Barnes & Noble. No book can be that good, right?
Wrong. So wrong. Pushing the Limits totally deserves the hype. It was amazing from start to finish. I was delightfully surprised by the depth and clarity of each main character, and by the stakes they faced. I was never once pulled out of the story by insincere or sloppy writing. Everything about it makes me conclude, This is how a good book is supposed to be written.
Besides the dynamic main characters, my favorite thing about Pushing the Limits was the writing style: McGarry didn't preach anything. Information came out naturally, because the circumstances required it. There was none of this boring the reader with paragraphs of explanation. McGarry shaved away all the excess writing baggage that has become the staple of young adult literature. Each sentence brought the respective character more and more to life, adding depth and clarity instead of adding mindless prose to equate to a whole lot of nothing.
McGarry didn't shortchange the characters, which made my emotional connection with them stronger. Echo and Noah were independent, but inextricably linked -- the more they learned about each other, the more they learned about themselves, and I think that's what makes their romance so great. (Of course, some blush-worthy make out scenes certainly help a great deal.) I'd predicted that Echo was going to be whiny, but I was wrong. I was impressed with McGarry's ability to build motivations and thought processes into the character's prose so that every triumph and complaint is justified. This aspect really made the characters pop off the page for me.
Pushing the Limits has the revolutionary feel of a book that sets new standards. McGarry took two issues that are very real, relevant things in today's society, and brought them out of their dusty corners, showcasing them in a way that made them easier to approach, and to understand. Katie McGarry set out to do something:
I wanted to write a story in which my characters felt strong enough to leave their pasts behind and create new futures for themselves... Two, I wanted to write two characters who were facing overwhelming issues and who, through battling these issues, found hope at the end of their journey.
McGarry's passion shines through the prose; her cleverness, through the playful, witty banter between her two main characters. Pushing the Limits is the physical manifestation of stark honesty and brilliance. Katie McGarry certainly put herself on the map with this one, and I think she's going places....more
I have long been a Sarah Dessen fan: there's something appealing about her writing and knack for storytelling that keeps me coming back for every story she writes. But there was something off about this one. I don't expect every single book to be exactly the same; Sarah Dessen has shown significant growth from That Summer to now, and I would be disappointed if every book had the same ups and downs and twisty turns. But Sarah Dessen always has a certain magic in her books, some underlying current that fuses the book together in my mind.
The Moon and More was lacking magic. Also, there was a lack of some basic storytelling craft that made me raise my eyebrows: what was going on in this story? The turning point that launches the rest of the novel -- the inciting incidence, if you like -- was shoddy. I completely missed how events had gotten to the point they had, and that meant that the rest of the novel was on shaky ground at best.
A lot of this tied back to the main character, Emaline. While I like her name and her easy teasing and snappy comebacks, I did not like her as a character. This, by itself, is not a bad thing because I am not required as a reader to be best friends with every main character. What was bad was that I didn't have a whole lot of respect for Emaline, because I thought she made stupid decisions. (Again, though, these decisions for the most part seem stupid because the turning point of the whole novel was so poorly done.)
The one thing that always remains consistent with Sarah Dessen, no matter what story she tells, is her writing style: so sparkling and true, she might've gone a little too close to the cliche side in this one, but regardless, I captured Colby crisply in my mind. Her worldbuilding is interesting to me, especially of Colby, because she's already had another novel set directly in Colby (Along for the Ride) and yet she was able to very expertly flesh out a different aspect of the world, very much like how each of us view very differently a space we both inhabit. A good half of my enjoyment of The Moon and More was how well Sarah Dessen presented the little beach town of Colby.
The Moon and More was another excellent addition to Sarah Dessen's works, even if it didn't resonate with me as much as her others have. One note that rang strong with this latest one was the topic of moving onto college. Having just completed my first semester of college, this is something that I immediately identified with. That, too, along with the writing, made The Moon and More a fantastic read....more
I'll probably be the first to admit that I have a total girl crush on Jackson Pearce, but with Purity, I'm a bit torn about how I feel about it. On the one hand, I loved the honesty and gentle humor brought into a story borne on the concept of racing to lose one's virginity. On the other, I thought it lacked a cleverness that I've come to expect of Jackson Pearce's work. Despite that, Purity was a good read with a great cast of characters and memorable, heartfelt story.
Right away the main character, Shelby, establishes her style. I love how honest her essence was -- it made it easy to connect with her and to sympathize with what she was going through. I also loved her friends, Jonas and Ruby, and how she interacted with them. They formed a truly cohesive unit that didn't seem forced or rehearsed, so it was fun to have them in the story. I also like how Jonas and Ruby influenced Shelby. They weren't petty or high and mighty when Shelby made a mistake. I liked how they worked.
I also liked how Jackson Pearce didn't get preachy about the whole sex thing. I think it would be pretty easy to start preaching from the pulpit about chastity, but Jackson Pearce showed real tact and finesse. It felt like an honest take on how a teenage girl felt about losing her virginity. I also really liked how the topic of God was interwoven throughout the story. Again, wasn't in-your-face spirituality philosophy, but felt like an honest to goodness account of how a girl questions the existence and workings of God.
My issue was that, while heartfelt, there was something missing. It's something small, something I would define as "cleverness," but has no real source. The result is that I enjoyed the story but there was something niggling at me just below the surface, and it kept me from going out to buy a copy for myself.
Laced with humor, it was a great story and even though the outcome was predictable, it was satisfying. It reminds me why I like reading contemporaries....more
This book was so ridiculous -- so dramatic, so poorly executed, so pitiful -- that there was no way I could take it seriously. It was shallow beyond compare; it even beat out ABC Family dramas in my eyes. But. It was a very entertaining read. A simple guilty pleasure for nothing but dramadramadrama. If you, dear reader, are expecting a Sarah Dessen/Kody Keplinger style serious story, this is not the book you're looking for. If you wanna kick back, go through the simple act of reading without getting emotionally involved, this is totally it.
My words might seem harsh, but I enjoyed the book. I finished it in two days. I liked reading it. I just couldn't take it seriously. It went from shallow but cute to absolutely, downright ridiculous.
Abby and Travis's relationship was formed and shaped by extremes -- extremes that could've been prevented by good ole common sense. But then it wouldn't be fun, right? Abby was a nightmare. I never bothered trying to like her character -- there was too much that I couldn't agree with from the get go. Didn't help that she was just plain dumb. And she strung Travis around like a broken kite. Their relationship was so messed up, I couldn't even...Good grief. None of it made sense.
If that's supposed to be the point, then kudos. This obviously wasn't the book that would win the gold in my eyes. By the time I'd surpassed the first third of the book, I knew the rest of it would be impossible to take seriously. The plot was predictable, shallow and sloppy. Constant ups and downs -- breakups and takebacks. The whole time, I'm going WTF? They'd break up, sleep together, break up again...and all the while, they're kissing and acting like they were dating regardless of whether they were or not. Two people who couldn't get their senses together enough to pick a decision and believe in it enough to stick to it? They deserve what they get.
The best part, though, was the dialogue. Jamie McGuire did a lot with dialogue -- very little with prose in general. A lot of the characters' personalities came out through what they said, which gave the book its own unique air. It was also hilarious. I loved the humor. I was constantly laughing from what the characters would say, though the rest of the time I was laughing about their stupidity.
This story easily fits any of the top pop love songs. Since it's so cookie-cutter, it fits to: "Payphone" by Maroon 5, "Wild Ones" by Flo Rida, "Glad You Came" by The Wanteds, "It Will Rain" by Bruno Mars and even "Just a Kiss" by Lady Antebellum. Travis totally had that "That's What Makes You Beautiful" thing going on about Abby and Abby...she doesn't get a song because she was so unstable.
It was a crazy story, and I would recommend it to any of you, dear readers, as long as you try not to take it too seriously. Because it's ridiculous. And even though I knew full well it was ridiculous, I read it. It was like taking a break from reality in the best possible way. People doing stupid things, making stupid decisions, feeling stupid emotions. It worked out in the end....more
My Life Next Door, featuring a Romeo and Juliet style romance with the shadow of a Sarah Dessen style plot, blasted off for me...but only for the first 250 pages or so. I was immediately hooked by a main character caught up in a world where she couldn't find a place to fit around her mom's political schedule, and became fascinated by the totally off limits next door neighbors. I loved the easy, lightly abstract writing style that molded a well realized world, and a fluffy romance that had all the earmarks of a great end-of-summer read.
So what happened? The main character, Samantha, happened. Robert McKee, author of Story, noted that an audience connects with a character, not when the character makes easy, everyday choices, but is forced to make a decision under extraordinary circumstances. And when the Extraordinary Circumstance came for Samantha, I was not impressed by the end result.
Samantha, as a main character, started out swimmingly for me. I was surprised by her witty, sarcastic comments when it put her in such contrast to how I imagined a senator's daughter to be. By the end of the book, however, she got really whiny. She lacked the guts, or mental clarity, to sit down and make a decision about a really big, life changing issue. Her spinelessness and lack of aggression after the climax really killed it for me. Also, I didn't feel like I was getting a lot of emotion from her. She seemed too one dimensional and easy to read instead of an in depth, realistic paradox. In contrast, the subcharacters were more dynamic. What had started out being a possible new addition to my bookshelf turned out to be a mere disappointment.
That was not for lack of command of plot on Huntley Fitzpatrick's part, though. The stakes -- and eventual crisis -- were well defined, but stained by the fact that Samantha was so passive aggressive it was painful. The rest of the story was very entertaining. I liked the progression through the first two hundred or so pages, and how Huntley Fitzpatrick deftly threaded multiple subplots together to make a realistic story. While in some places it was a bit rough around the edges, I think she's off to a great start in young adult contemporary literature.
The romance was a bit too much of the moon-eyed type for my taste, but first class for a fluffy read: starting entirely too fast so that the bulk of the story can be about the obstacles the two young lovers face in order to be together. Jase was a cool character, if a bit of a marshmallow. Didn't show a lot of development. He was entirely focused on either his family (cool), his car (also cool) or Samantha (maybe not so cool). I liked the dedication, but not the Edward Cullen-style, always glued at the hip way he had.
Despite my issues with this book, and the fact that I closed it feeling dissatisfied, I'm curious about what Huntley Fitzpatrick is going to do next. ...more
Girls Don't Fly was an awesome, short, cute story with an inspiring and heartfelt message. Myra was a relatable teen girl with a lot on her plate, still figuring out who she is and how she fits in. Kristen Chandler has a quick and easy writing style that says volumes. Girls Don't Fly was a great pick me up and a new contemporary favorite.
One preachy passage could have ruined this whole book (this statement still under revision, because this book had too strong a foundation to be rocked by one little paragraph of preachiness). Kristen Chandler, however, told her message (if she wrote with one in mind) through the main character, Myra, and her adventures and misadventures. She didn't sit down and go, "This will happen if you blah, blah, blah."
Myra was an awesome main character. She wasn't completely naive--she had a rough home life and a sucky ex-boyfriend. But she had spunk. She also had a drive. What really drew me to her was her strength. I couldn't understand why she would put up with her family putting her down all the time, but I admired her ability to keep her chin high.
I love how the romance held an unexpected twist and how, when it finally crept up, it was realistic. They weren't perfect. They weren't horribly cliche, either, which was a nice plus. I cheered for them all the way.
From reading her debut, Wolves, Boys, And Other Things That Might Kill Me, spunky but misplaced teenage girls seem to be Kristen Chandler's style. She does it well. I think she still has to grow into her talent, but I can't wait to see what she does next....more
What I Expected: A sappy tale with gritty undertones and vivid descriptions of "what it's like being a teen girl" all overlaid with gut-wrenching humor. And capped with a even sappier ending.
What I Got: Just about what I expected, except I didn't think I'd really love it. Not the same way I love Sarah Dessen books. I didn't exactly fall in love with this book, but I don't regret spending a weekend reading it, either. The whole thing was well done, except the main character, April, just about made me want to sit in a bathtub and drop the toaster in. I liked the story, though, even if pretty much the whole thing was far-fetched. Like, little green men saying "take me to your leader, earthling" would have been more believable, type of thing.
A little splash of irony? I actually really liked it. God help me if I know why.
April was dumb. Ridiculously so. Maybe this is just country-born-and-raised talking, but who the fudge doesn't know how to change a bulb? Wash the dishes? I mean come. on. And I know the whole book is about making mistakes, but jeepers creepers! Some of the things she did just made me go, "And you weren't expecting that to happen?!"
Ready for the irony? Even though a house plant had a higher IQ than April, she was pretty cool. She was hypocritical, overly intense, sometimes mean, hysterical, incredibly selfish and dumb, but I never once threw the book across the room. Somehow, I really really liked her character. I liked her story. I liked seeing how she changed and how she grew.
Writing-wise, it was alright. I did have an issue with how some authors use multiple question marks (???) and exclamation points (!!!!!) in order to show emotion. But other than my little pet peeve getting a work out, the writing fit the story. Sometimes it was short (it was usually really short, nothing elegant) and sometimes it got profound. I liked how Mlynowski divided everything up. It's a very unique style and I loved it. She really took out the overrated subtly on how to weave in backstory.
I didn't see a lot of humor, though. I would laugh in embarrassment for the characters, but it wasn't as uproariously funny as the blurbs claimed.
Story-wise, it was great. I think the story and the theme were the book's greatest strengths, even if the plot itself wasn't very "tight". You've got a girl who doesn't know much and you throw her out into the "big bad world" and see what happens. Typical things happen (except the hot tub. I don't think that happens a lot): you get suspicious of your boyfriend, a crazy next-door neighbor blackmails you in order to get into your little group, and you have sex for the first time. And your world falls apart, in the end. And thennn, it pieces itself back together.
Overall, I really liked the whole book. Enough to where I want to read more of the author's other works.
If you're a fan of Sarah Dessen or Deb Caletti, you may not find as much enjoyment in this book, but if you're a fan of Kieran Scott and Elizabeth Scott, you should make time for this one. :)...more
I think, whenever this series is mentioned, the proclamation is immediately followed by a dreamy sigh. I mean, really, who wouldn't sigh over any of the Fuentes brothers? It's such a shame to see their stories come to an end, but Chain Reaction was a great capper to the series: a steamy hot, but complicated romance, Luis and Nikki's relationship fell perfectly in the steps of the previous Fuentes boys, and although I think the writing still needs work, the power of the story shines through brilliantly. Chain Reaction was a great novel, and an excellent finish to the Perfect Chemistry series.
Everything about Chain Reaction (and really, the Perfect Chemistry series in its totality) was excellent. Except. I thought the writing style really needed work. There was way too much showing, and not enough telling, in every place except for the make out scenes. And while this is what makes the make out scenes so blush-worthy, I think if the same detail and sense of atmosphere had been put into the rest of the story, then it would have flowed better. As it was, I didn't get any kind of adrenaline rush when guns were going off and car tires were burning against pavement. However, it was rather easy to push the writing style aside and just focus on the story, because while the writing may be a little shoddy, the story had a powerful, passionate core.
There were a lot of great things about the story itself, but I think my favorite would have to be the characters. I like how Luis was portrayed as the more academically inclined brother in the first two books, even though his involvement in both prequels was pretty limited. I like how I could still see the academic in him (he did his homework, he studied before he went out with friends) and yet, there's this whole other side of him and a whole raft of struggles that he has to deal with. Same with Nikki: she had to deal with things that fifteen-year-old girls just shouldn't have to, but I liked the way it shaped her character. With both her and Luis, their motivations were clear. I understood where they were coming from, so it made the story much easier to follow, and to enjoy, even if their choices were obvious a mile away.
Despite the predictability of the plot, Simone Elkeles does not half-ass the drama. Normally, I steer away from unnecessary because it's just that: unnecessary. But this is drama that I can get into because I like and respect the characters. So even when everything hits the fan, I can understand why and not get pissy over it. Of course, a little dash of humor goes a long way. And Luis, like his brothers, has a wicked mouth.
Chain Reaction was a great addition to the Perfect Chemistry series, and ended the series well. I am so psyched to read Simone Elkeles' next series....more
The Butterfly Clues was a gripping, intense story with a fascinating, unique main character. I don't know exactly what I was expecting when I first started in: a quick, easy read, I guess. But Kate Ellison pulled me in fast with her addictive main character, Lo, and heart-racing storyline.
Lo, at first, was a bit off-putting with her psychotic tendencies to steal and her must-do-or-the-world-will-fall-apart paranoia of tap, tap, tap, banana-ing before entering and leaving a room. Her obsession with threes, sixes, and nines would make you raise your eyebrows at the page. Still, there's something vulnerable lurking between all that paranoia and obsession, something tender and fragile that really captured me, and made me want to know more about her and her story.
The setting of The Butterfly Clues was creepy, to put it lightly, but alluring in its own way. I don't think having a tour of the interior of a strip club or a place called Neverland could have worked in any other book. Here, it was fitting. Entirely so. Nothing streamline for this book.
There were only a few things I think lacked. For example, though I thought that the romance was well done, a few of the scenes were a bit too cliche, and moments that should have been crucial were understated. Also, Lo's relationship with her parents was not as well-balance throughout the book as I would have preferred. All of the drama with her parents came at the end, as if trying to fit its bigger role in at the end.
The mystery was fantastic, though. I was very impressed with how it was written--how it played out. I love books that surprise you, but I also love it when your suspicions turn out correct. It's a very satisfying moment.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has a love for mystery and chilling stories....more
By the summary, it can be accurately guessed what's going to happen. It's a predictable storyline. So it takes talent like Cath Crowley's to take a predictable storyline and turn it into a funny, enjoyable, unique book with great writing and even greater characters.
I liked the main characters, Lucy and Ed. Lucy had real sass—the kind country grandfathers tend to find charming, but she didn't come off as aloof because she had compassion. She was a visionary when it came to art and she was also fearless when it came to standing up for this passion.
Ed was really cool, too. He had a tortured artist's soul, but it didn't come off in this wimpy way. He wasn't this guy who was worldly and just happened to have a crappy life at home. Ed was the opposite: he was real thinker, passionate about art and actually had a good family situation with his mom. His bitter view on life ran deep. This believability really came off true.
The minor characters were also fantastic. They really added a great flavor to the book.
Cath Crowley writes these characters in a very real way. It's hard to explain how, but coupled with the atmosphere, the writing, and the humor, it came off as a great package.
The only thing that bothered me was how the chapters overlapped. I don't have a particular preference when it comes to choosing between alternating POV books and one-character POV books, but this really bothered me because Cath Crowley went back into a scene that had already been covered by another character and rewrote half of it in the other character's POV. I wouldn't have minded if it had happened once, but it was like that in most of the chapters.
I loved Cath Crowley's simple, gently sarcastic writing. Bookmarking on my Kindle is godsend because there were a lot of memorable lines.
The moment of clarity doesn't go any further than that because smacking into a tree in the middle of the night will knock clarity right out of a girl, every time.
Every now and then I think he's here because in the dark Ed looks like a shadow that someone else is casting.
Overall, Cath Crowley has the potential to be up there with Melina Marchetta. Her ability to turn around a predictable storyline and add on with incredible backstory will keep me looking for her next books....more
I have always been wary of classics. I had the misfortune of starting and completing Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger shortly before I picked up To Kill a Mockingbird and it was one of many that made me question why classic books were "classic." But when I started To Kill a Mockingbird, I wondered if it was one big cosmic joke. Because To Kill a Mockingbird was good.
Of all the "classics" I've read, this was the only one I've seen that actually reads like a modern-day novel. The voice of Scout was clear as a bell and immensely enjoyable. I loved her sharp wit and stubborn streak and fighting spirit. I also liked how Harper Lee made the prose mature and the dialogue child-like, so it really did sound like Scout was narrating her life from a much older age. It also made the story so much easier to understand, and that's the point isn't it? To understand the story. Not something, I feel, most classics get.
Even before I saw the movie, I had pictured what Maycomb would've been like. And with Harper Lee's excellent writing style, it was easy. She took her time with it and put in details that made the setting come to life.
The characters were just as life-like. I am a huge fan of Atticus and Cal and Jem. Besides Scout, that is. Scout was awesome. To Kill a Mockingbird was simply jam-packed with unforgettable characters that told an unforgettable story....more
Here is yet another example of when picking up a book on a whim is a good thing. I'd read one review of this book several years before finally picking it up at B&N, and it was only because I felt I couldn't walk out of the store without buying at least one fiction novel. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour may not be chockfull of surprises -- the fact both of their names are in the title kind of blows that plot twist -- but its story was sweet and engaging with touches of light, subtle humor that created a relatable and cheerworthy protagonist on an emotional journey.
Amy is trying to get over the death of her father, and one of the first things I noticed was that it wasn't said first thing. While it was obvious to me, I liked how Amy couldn't admit this fact out loud until much later on. This reluctance gave her a vulnerability that made her easier to relate to. She was subtly endearing, not desperate for approval or "in your face" about anything. A lot of her emotions were recognizable and so it allowed me, as a reader, to sit back and relax and enjoy the story. Amy did have her dull moments where she was a little slow on the uptake and she came off as incredibly naive, and she could've been a bit chiller about somethings, but overall, I liked her character.
While the arcs of the plot and characters were fairly predictable, Amy and Roger's story was amazingly unique and memorable. Complemented by the pictures strewn throughout the pages, the things that Amy and Roger experienced while on the road was fresh and exciting. (I may be a bit biased, however, since Amy and Roger stopped in Kentucky -- my home state -- and North Carolina, my current residence. Props to Ms. Matson for including Kentucky in all its glory, including the exciting fact that she corrected the pronunciation of "Louisville" -- Kentucky natives really do pronounce it "Loo-ville".) If you haven't picked up a copy of Amy and Roger and skimmed through the pages, you may not know that there are pictures of receipts, postcards, and actual pictures scattered throughout the book. These were an incredible addition, and fascinated me as a reader.
I imagine that some readers might find it a bit slow, though. There isn't action every single page, but that's not to say there isn't conflict. A lot of the story is dominated by Amy's emotional journey, allowing their physical adventure across the US to be more of a complementary aspect.
Even while their names are in the title together, Amy and Roger's romance didn't take center stage. It was a sweet, but not saccharine romance that developed naturally and realistically. I thought Roger was an excellent character and overall great guy. He never tried BS-ing Amy with the "you don't know you're beautiful" speech that seems commonplace in romances nowadays. I cheered as much for Roger as I did for Amy.
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour was a great summer read that was light, but not superficial; heart-wrenching, but not depressing. I'm intrigued by Morgan Matson's talent -- so much so, I'm looking forward to picking up her newest book, Second Chance Summer. I have a feeling that she's in the running to be the next Sarah Dessen or Deb Caletti. ...more
Cover Operations Report On the twenty-fifth of April, Operative Robinson engaged in the review of a top secret document, the fifth installment in a report regarding the progress of Operative Morgan (currently in remission). The review that follows is accurate to the best of Operative Robinson's ability.
Report Summary PRO: Spies. And all that it entails. CON: Middle grade label. PRO: Spy boys. And all that that entails. ;) CON: No movie. For realz!? PRO: Much edgier writing style. CON: Not enough spy boys.
Huzzah for spy books! Ironic thing is, one of my friends got me onto this series by accident, and she hardly ever reads. The first book in the series, I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You was shoved underneath her bed and, like any true reader, I fished it out, asked about it, and the rest is history. I love spy books, but Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series is practically one of a kind. There's nothing to compare it to! Not like that's a problem, really. No other spy series could touch this one.
For (basically) the only one of its kind, I wish it was higher up there in terms of reader level. I'm glad that it doesn't have a bunch of hot and heavy scenes and doesn't have any swearing, but some (just some) of the themes come off as kiddie.
That was certainly true for the first book, at least. Now at the fifth in the series, Cammie is going through much tougher stuff and the writing style and plot got a lot edgier. The older, more mature themes and writing style set a darker backdrop to the plot, showing Cammie's older thought process. I felt on more of a level with her on this book, versus the first four. Still cheered the heck out for her.
Love them spy boys. And there should be more. That is all I shall say on the subject. ;)
I cannot believe this series is not a movie. It would be an awesome movie. Just saying.
The only legit problem I have with this series is that you almost have to read them back to back in order to keep track of who's who and what the heck is going on between books. I completely forgot how the fourth book ended and had to piece it together from the fifth. So I'm rereading the series this summer. Again, just saying. ...more
A cancer story but not a cancer story. A cancer story for those who want a My Sister's Keeper-esque story and something better for those who don't. Finally, I have discovered just why John Green has gathered such a widespread and loyal fan base full of scary nerds. I find myself intrigued by his ability to be so in-your-face about a topic where Death is shown in a very brutal form and I am wary because his lack of subtlety is unnerving, too.
Hazel was an awesome main character. Very set in her own niche. I would never mistake her for any other of the hordes of characters out there. Her resignation to forever be a cancer victim coupled with a streak of rebellion to be outside the stereotype made her narration a roller coaster ride of humor and tragedy.
Augustus Waters. Ah, what a boy. He's accumulated a fan base all his own, and I can see why. He was practically the ultimate guy. The starving artist but not. Funny, charismatic, and just a bit too all-knowing to make a person uncomfortable. Almost too profound to be real. But of course, John Green can't have an Edward Cullen in one of his novels. Augustus wasn't perfect. Thank God.
The summary doesn't do the story enough justice, making it sound like Every Other Book out there populating the young adult shelves. I would never categorize this book in such a prosaic way. I knew going in--keeping in mind the hordes of Nerdfighters out there, ready to fight me to the death should I dare disgrace the cult--that I wouldn't be able to read it without getting emotionally invested. Jeez. I got a little teary-eyed at the end. There, I admit it.
I loved John Green's style. Very open and honest, but cutting it short just enough so as not to scare off all the readers. Oh, and of course I forget the most important thing! The humor--duh.If there is one thing I shall carry on into my Alzheimer's days, it is that John Green can make a person laugh....more
My arm was cramping. My butt was numb -- both cheeks, and half my hip as well. My foot fell asleep twice. But even when my bladder felt like a water balloon filled to capacity, I did not let myself move from my bed until I finished this book.
I picked it up at my favorite bargain bookstore because so many people had told me that I was missing out on something amazing. Quite honestly, I scoffed at them all. Seriously? A book called "Anna and the French Kiss"? It sounded like one long horribly fluffy, melodramatic spit exchange hosted in a shoddily described setting populated by characters that were as superficial as they were uncultured.
Oh, how learning teaches you how foolish you are.
After one or two false starts -- really, I didn't give it an honest start until yesterday -- I committed to reading it. Actually, I picked it up because two friends of mine were chatting about anime (not my area) and I was bored. And then, while the chatter of dubbed versus subtitled faded into a hum, I was suddenly not bored at all.
I was wary at first about Anna. She seemed, from the get-go, the kind of girl who flipped out over insignificant things and who conveniently captures the attention of the hottest boy -- the hottest British boy -- in her school on day one. While the second statement is true, only half of the first statement is. Anna did freak out over stuff when I thought she should just chill. I didn't really relate to her much except about being in a new place and all the uncertainty that goes with it. But I cheered for her character, even when she was being so stupid about everything that I wanted to punch her repeatedly. I am not one to abide the beating-around-the-bush not-know-exactly-where-we-stand kind of nonsense. Anna did. A lot. But during these moments, even when I wanted to slap her, I felt sorry for her, and that means I cared about her.
There wasn't anything overly surprising about the plot. I had seen it all before and knew, for the most part, how things would progress. However, I still enjoyed it, because I liked the characters. Even though Etienne St. Clair seemed way too good to be true practically from page one. With one major flaw. He did not say "love" once in the entire novel. This is not okay from a beautiful British boy. NOT OKAY. I liked the romance, though, because even though it was cliche, it was grounded firmly in a friendship. As well it should be. It would have been a major turnoff had it been an instalove.
I'm glad that Stephanie Perkins took a careful hand at crafting the rich and delightful atmosphere of Paris as much as she did with her characters. Her writing style was simple with subtle flourishes and even her excessive use of exclamation marks in prose added, and did not detract, to how I enjoyed Anna's internal dialogue.
I am so glad I picked up Anna and the French Kiss. It now sits happily on my shelves. I would highly recommend this as a spring or summer read but it also made a highly effective midwinter read, because it got me solidly out of my reading slump. Thank you, Stephanie Perkins....more
If you haven't picked up an Ally Carter book yet, consider your life incomplete until you do so. If you don't want to read about a smart thief and a gorgeous best friend (also a thief), then check out the Gallagher Girls: they're spies. (You can't say you don't like thieves or spies, because everyone likes at least one or the other.)
If you need MORE reasons to make Ally Carter your new favorite author:
Thieves. Yes, I realized I already mentioned this, but you've got to admit that it takes a lot of talent to successfully write a book about teenage thieves without making it into a middle grade novel. This new installment in the Heist Society series was a lot edgier than the first book. Kat is dealing with a lot of crap: with her family, with her identity, and with Hale. I totally lent my heart out to Kat through the entire book. (And yelled at her a lot when she wouldn't confront Hale with…certain topics.)
Humor. I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for funny books. Even if it has the WORST main character ever, if she's funny (she can't be all that bad) then I'll usually read the entire book without too much trouble. Kat, besides being a completely AWESOME main character, is funny. So is everyone else. Especially Hale when he's mad. ;)
Characters. Did I mention Kat's a world-famous thief? Just think about it: being an infamous con artist makes her smart. And not just smart, but clever. (Yes, there IS a difference, just like robbing a casino and robbing AT a casino.) So Kat is awesome, and Hale is sexy, and Simon is adorable, and Gabrielle is…apparently cursed, and Nick is…well, he's sexy, too. Don't forget the Scottish twins and legendary uncles. So yeah. In summation, you've got a great set of characters.
Plot. Wow. And I thought Patricia Briggs was the only author who could surprise readers with such class. Ally Carter drives her characters seemingly into a corner with no escape whatsoever (even for the world-famous thieves) and then slams you with a plot twist that is so awesome that it's beyond incredible.
I could go on and on. Ally Carter has presented a great addition to Heist Society and I can't wait to see what she adds to this series....more
When I finished A Midsummer's Nightmare, the very second I closed the cover, I thought to myself that no matter what she did, I would love anything that Kody Keplinger came up with. If she decided to write about a penguin colony in Antarctica that was suffering from a salt water allergy, I'd read it and fall in love with it. (Maybe penguins was a poor example, who wouldn't want to read about penguins?) What grabbed me about A Midsummer's Nightmare wasn't just the promise of what Kody Keplinger brought to the table -- it was the deliverance of that promise. Just reading the excerpt on the back cover got me pumped for this book: from the edgy main character to the premise, I wanted that book on my shelf. Kody Keplinger, from start to finish, does not disappoint.
The gem that sparkled for me in A Midsummer's Nightmare was the main character, Whitley. She was badass, but she wasn't surrounded by a diamond-hardened shell. She was endearing to me because she showed growth through the story. She learned. It was a breath of fresh air to see a character develop naturally, like a Polaroid, slowing moving out of the shadows, showing bits at a time and at an uneven pace that eventually reveals a stunning, full image. What struck me was that there was a blatant lack of the obligatory best friend. Whitley's personal journey was to work through the bitterness she felt about her peers and to accept that friends weren't so bad after all. Her ability to roll with the punches, but also to recover afterward, was what made her memorable in my eyes.
Kody Keplinger doesn't fool around. When she tells a story, she tells a story. The awkward step sibling romance? Not something I figured most authors would've tackled enthusiastically. But Kody Keplinger doesn't just focus on this seemingly impossible and inevitably awkward romance. She presents a wonderfully balanced plot, moving back and forth to address issues like bitter parental separation, compulsions to drink and party hard, and the rough adjustment to accept someone as family. I was impressed by the depth that Kody Keplinger tackled these issues.
Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird) has a writing device she calls the one-inch picture frame. Meaning that when she was overwhelmed with her writing, she'd think of her story through a one-inch frame and write only what was in that frame. The plot of A Midsummer's Nightmare reminds me of that technique. Whitley's story was very contained, focusing almost entirely on her, but supported by a small cast of characters. Instead of writing off these characters and pushing all the spotlight on Whitley, each sub character was intricately defined, allowing for each character to leave their own impression on the main character and the reader.
Despite the awesome main character and great, humorous writing style (even accounting for the horrendous amount of vulgar language), the romance lost me a bit. I really liked the forbidden nature of Whitley and Nathan's romance and how it fueled the passion between them, but Nathan came off a bit flat to me. He had a lot of predictable moments, and to me it was because he was almost the only character that wasn't fleshed out enough. It could've been because the romance wasn't meant to take center stage -- Whitley had more on her plate than just dealing with the Nathan Situation. Despite the few moments I couldn't get into Nathan's character, I cheered for the romance from the start.
Kody Keplinger was an immediate success with The DUFF and I think she continues to bring everything to the table, even on her third book. I can't wait to see what she'll have for us next....more