** WARNING: there will be spoilers for Divergent. DO NOT read if you haven't read Divergent already.
I feel as if my hands are hovering over the keyboard, not quite sure where to start and what to say other than WOW.
I read Divergent days after its release date last year, so I knew I’d need to refresh because Veronica’s world is so dense and structured. I couldn’t have been happier that I decided to re-read it; there were so many details that I would have been questioning in Insurgent. Veronica springs right into action and doesn’t provide a lot of back story. I think it’s expected of her readers to be well-versed in the characters and story. (This is probably my biggest piece of advice. Re-read Divergent, your notes, a blog… something that provides the ins and outs of all the chaos that goes down before you begin Insurgent.)
Insurgent is full (FULL) of twists and turns. Tris makes a lot of decisions that I didn’t always relate to or understand, but I don’t think she always knew why she was making them either. She’s searching, relentlessly, to find out who she is. Is she factionless? Is she Dauntless? She’s never been very selfless, but maybe she should have stayed in Abnegation. Because of all these uncertainties, there was a lot of friction between Tris and Four.
I know. Friction?!
I wish I could say to expect only the hottest, steamiest goodness from these two, but they’re both packing a lot of baggage. As they each have their own issues, more depth and complexity introduced itself. Sometimes it was hard for me to decide if Tris or Four was right. They both presented persuasive arguments for why they felt one way or another. My heart felt so torn. Maybe shredded is more appropriate. Tris and Four had so much trouble connecting – they were very hit or miss. I must admit that this part was hard for me to read through; sure, it’s only logical that when faced with so much turmoil, the romantical parts of life might be less… romantical, but somehow in Divergent, they always found a way to have sweet, tender moments. (And yes, I hereby instate romantical as a useable word. Go forth and prosper.)
The ride Roth takes us on in Insurgent is intense. I felt as if I were making the decisions right along with Tris. Her strong, rigid exterior was completely broken after the simulation attacks. She emotes so much more vulnerability and mourns the loss of Will and her parents. She takes on what I’d like to call a “savior complex” and feels like she needs to sacrifice herself to honor those who died. There were times when I felt like I, as a reader, was intentionally kept in the dark, though. I’d have questions about the whereabouts of people or how certain things happened, only to have Roth brilliantly explain them later.
There are people, solutions, and questions along the way that constantly left me guessing. Who is to be trusted? Is X person manipulating Y person? What side is that faction really on? The debates are endless.
There’s no doubt that this was my most anticipated book for 2012. I tried to slowly read through it so I could cling to every ounce of goodness, but yet again, I feel as if I should re-read this soon because I couldn’t contain myself. Somehow Roth always stumps me with her impeccable writing and I’m left thinking, “WHAT THE HECK JUST HAPPENED THERE?” or feeling like I missed something big because surely that’s not the way that just went down. The ending, to be sure, left me flipping back through the final pages several times as I was quite flabbergasted.
I hope you love(d) Insurgent by Veronica Roth as much as I did. Please, please link up your review in the comments below because I need to FEEL and empathize with other readers.(less)
You guys. Rarely is there a main character that I want to tuck in my pocket and keep with me forever. E...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
You guys. Rarely is there a main character that I want to tuck in my pocket and keep with me forever. Emme was definitely that girl in Take a Bow. She was a tiny, pint-sized, red-haired, talented, songwriting girl. She was so shy and unselfish, but had painfully low self-confidence. Despite that, she was super talented and everyone around her could tell. Her so-called best friend, Sophie, was happy to push Emme out of the lime-light so she could bask in everyone’s attention.
Sophie was mean and only focused on making herself the next big Hollywood star. Emme’s new set of friends – Ethan, Ben, and Jack – were incredibly protective of Emme. They saw right through Sophie to the core of her blackened heart. (Yes, she was this bad.) The boys form a band with Emme freshman year, and by the time they’re seniors, they’ve established a pretty decent following. They try to use the band as an excuse to pull Emme away from Sophie, as they only want the best for their girl.
I love, love, loved the musical aspect of Take a Bow. The story is actually told from four different people’s points of view. Emme was the character that I (obviously) connected with the most, but I liked being able to learn about different aspects of the program via the other voices. The story was fast-paced and moved at a speed I was really happy with.
If you give me a story that has a great group of friends involved, I will probably drool over it. I felt scared and sad to leave the characters when this story was over. I felt actively involved in the story, as if I too should be questioning where I should go to college and what would happen to me.
This is definitely a lighter read for me than usual, but it was perfect. I had been on a hunt for a book that wasn’t overly intense, but wasn’t so fluffy I felt like I was reading in the clouds. I loved absolutely everything about Take a Bow. Don’t forget to check it out – its release date is April Fool’s Day… though Take a Bow is no joke.(less)
Parker’s mom had a secret, one she kept for many years. She finally decided to be honest and the truth...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading!]
Parker’s mom had a secret, one she kept for many years. She finally decided to be honest and the truth has rocked Parker’s world. Parker used to be an all-star athlete, extremely involved in her church, and had tons of friends. She’s since quit the softball team, questions her faith, and finds herself lonely as her ex-best friends circulate rumors about her.
Parker’s church has completely turned on her since her mother’s secret was announced. Her ex-best friend (the pastor’s daughter) was forced to end their friendship. (Why she felt the need to be so atrocious, I’ll never understand.) Church ladies gossip when she walks by and she doesn’t understand how her family could be ripped apart like this. She’s just not sure where she stands anymore. A part of Parker still believes there is a God, as evidenced by the prayers she writes (and subsequently burns). She seeks normalcy — for her drug-using-former-perfect-student-brother to go back to his old self and for her dad to acknowledge that things are messed up. Her prayers are her true self – the things she feels she cannot tell anyone. She fears getting close to many people again because they always screw her over.
To receive a different kind of attention, Parker loses herself to kissing boys and remaking herself into a skinnier new girl. She wants to prove she’s different from her mom. She kisses anyone she wants, but never pursues relationships with the boys, giving her a not-so-great reputation. She’s never felt the need to date someone she doesn’t see herself with in the future. Besides, kissing is just fun.
When she meets the new assistant baseball coach, twenty-three year old Brian Huffman, she’s smitten with him. He’s cute and doesn’t know all her secrets (therefore doesn’t judge her). As the team manager, she gets to spend an abundance of time with the new coach. Their relationship slowly progresses into more than a friendship between student and teacher. Maybe kissing isn’t enough with Coach Huff.
On the flip side, she starts getting to know Corndog (Will) better. He’s always been her biggest competition for valedictorian, but now that she’s been officially deemed number one, their rivalry has subsided. Parker begins hanging out with Will and her best friend Drew outside of practices. It seems that Drew’s withdrawing a bit, and has his own secrets. Things get incredibly complicated as Parker’s secrets and friendships collide with Drew’s secrets and everyone learns the truth. Despite the multiple plot lines that were chaotically interwoven, Kenneally handled each one perfectly and never let anything take away from the story and Parker’s journey.
Stealing Parker definitely felt more intense and somber than Catching Jordan. It’s about a girl’s exploration to find herself and understand her relationship with God amidst a huge small-town scandal that rocks her world. It’s about her endeavor to understand (and explore) her sexuality. Parker is faced with a lot of responsibility being the bearer of her own secrets and eventually Drew’s. The weight of her mom’s decisions and her own, mixed with an obligation to stay true to her best friend, puts her under a considerable amount of pressure.
Kenneally gripped me from the first page with Parker’s story. I couldn’t tear myself away from the pages of Stealing Parker. While Kenneally won me over with Jordan and Henry’s incredible story in Catching Jordan, she has earned my readership for life with Stealing Parker.
(Oh, and…! I’m happy to announce you’ll get to connect with Jordan and Henry from Catching Jordan again via a few awesome cameos!)(less)
Estelle: Straight forward. (Is that cheating?) Measured. Artsy.
Magan: Dense. Slow. Seasoned.
What are your thoughts on the narrator?
Estelle: I liked him. He was a writer, and clearly had a lot of knowledge being that he had lived 70 years — a lot more compared the other characters in the book. He was never pompous, was always thoughtful, and I think he was a better man than he would ever admit. As a narrator in a young adult book though, I wonder how my perception of the book would have changed if Karl, the 18-year old, was the one telling the story instead. Sometimes with the author telling the story, the sense of discovery wasn’t there for me.
Magan: I enjoyed that he was a man in his seventies, but at times felt disconnected from him because I haven’t gone through similar life experiences (yet). I suppose, ultimately, a takeaway is that no matter what age we are, we can still connect with another much-different-in-age person. Karl and the narrator learned things from one another, though I especially loved that the narrator spoke a lot of truth and wisdom. And, even for an older man, he was very open about a lot of topics (i.e. sex, relationships).
Did you like the style of this story?
Estelle: I’m wondering if I am reading into the story too much. Because it was just so straight forward at times (reference to question #1), there weren’t too many surprises. The level of excitement was at one level, along with all the other more serious events that occurred. It was all on the same plane. It’s harder for me to feel invested in the lives of characters when the story is just told to me, and not shown to me. I felt like I was an outsider during most of the book. That being said each detail felt very deliberate and it was also very clear. Nothing was confusing.
Magan: Judging by the first few pages, I thought I would like it quite a lot. It seemed fast paced and filled with tons of dialogue (which I love), but there were many down times in the story where very little was happening. I think the pacing and timing were very true to life, but I didn’t love learning about Karl (the character I felt most invested in) from the narrator’s point of view. I thought the love letters to Karl’s girlfriend were going to play a much larger part of the story, but in reality, they didn’t. Bigger issues were confronted and the story was much heavier than I anticipated.
What were the strengths and weaknesses of this book?
Estelle: The weakness was the connection I did not feel with the characters. The strength was the relationship that formed between the author and Karl.
Magan: Strength: the development of the friendship between two unlikely men. Weakness: that I never felt hooked or invested in the story, despite the really big things that were happening.
What did this book say about art?
Estelle: I think this book had a lot to say about expression. In the beginning, Karl’s girlfriend wants him to write out long, involved answers to these questions she has made up to get to know him better and understand his love for her. He has trouble with this, and seeks out the help of the author, a person who is good at expressing himself in words. As the story goes on, Karl discovers what he is good at and what strength and effort it takes to actually do what you are good at. Even when people are trying to destroy that for you, and even when you lose confidence in yourself. (The author was also sort of in the same boat. He lost his inspiration and his drive to write.) Art means different things to different people, and you just never know when you are going to feel that spark. I think it’s also difficult to get to this place in life where you don’t care that others may not “get it”.
Magan: I feel like Chambers’ is saying that there is a way for each of us to express ourselves. For the narrator, it was with words. He was an author. For Karl, it became physical art. Karl found it difficult to talk about things he wasn’t passionate about. His insecurities took over. When he found his art, the words began to flow easily. I think this was an incredibly beautiful part of the story – finding what we’re passionate about, what makes us tick, and ultimately what makes us unique.
There was a lot of wisdom in Dying to Know You. Any particular quote-ables that stood out to you?
Estelle: “I think there is no better way to get to know someone than reading what they write.” and “For one thing, the dickheads never manage to smash everything. And for another thing, if you, and the people like you, the true artists, keep on making, the philistines can’t smash up everything. There may be fewer of you. Of us. But we win in the end.”
Magan: There were a lot of moments that stood out to me because they were full of life lessons. One of my favorites was, “I’m not a games player. To my mind, there are enough chances to fail in life without inventing more.”
Any final thoughts?
Estelle: I think this book had many intriguing ideas. It brought up many ailments (dyslexia, depression) that haven’t been represented in any of the other books I’ve been reading, and I appreciated that. It wasn’t a book that was full of action… most of the time it felt like it was a long explanation of two very different beings and how their lives affected one another. I tend to enjoy books where I am more invested in the characters and I felt it missed it mark there. I was interested but not enamored with them. Most of the time that’s make it or break it for me. Still, I hung on and finished the book and more than anything took away some greater understanding of expression and unlikely relationships.
Magan: I wanted to love everything about this book, but in the end it wasn’t that kind of book for me. I’m still conflicted over this being classified as a young adult novel. While the content wasn’t explicitly mature, I’m not sure how 12-18 year olds will connect with the story being that the narrator is in his seventies. I don’t feel like we saw enough of Karl’s point of view to understand all his actions and decisions. Like Estelle, I did enjoy seeing how these two characters connected. They needed one another – both needed someone to alleviate the loss they felt over losing people very dear to them. I felt like a subtle point was made that we aren’t meant to live a lonely life; we need people to help us make it through.(less)
Summary: It’s always been Honor, her brother Finn, and Rusty, Finn’s best friend. Finn inexplicably joins...moreReview Originally Posted on Rather Be Reading
Summary: It’s always been Honor, her brother Finn, and Rusty, Finn’s best friend. Finn inexplicably joins the military, loses his friendship with Rusty, and nine months later, is killed in Iraq. Honor finds herself driving across the country after Finn’s funeral reunited with (a very drunk) Rusty, hoping to make good on Finn’s last words to her.
Review:: Oh my goodness, you guys! In Honor was one of the books I was most excited to have received at ALA Mid-Winter back in January. When the copy landed in my hands, I wanted to hide away in a corner to read it right then and there. I, hesitantly, waited until I returned home to read it. Ginger, Yani, and I all read it at the same time so we could discuss.
And what a book to discuss! The entire time I was reading, I was choking back tears or my heart was racing. Honor’s brother Finn gave her tickets to a concert in California. Even though the road trip to CA from TX seems fickle and nonsensical since she’s just attended his funeral, she feels like it’s something he would want her to do. She loads her bags in his Impala and is all set to go when Rusty, Finn’s best friend decides to go with her.
Finn and Rusty’s relationship was complicated. No one understood why Finn joined the military when he had a full, free ride to college where he would also play football. Since he joined the military, his relationship with Rusty was strained. Honor isn’t thrilled to have a travel companion, but after several unfortunate events occur, she realizes that maybe it’s for the best that he went. Finn would have enjoyed seeing them drive across the country together.
That drive – almost the very same one – from TX to CA was one that I’ve made. When I graduated college, Dustyn and I sold our house and most of our belongings and moved to sunny San Diego. That was one of the longest, most difficult drives I’ve ever experienced. Leaving our friends and family behind was not easy, and I cried many a tear as Texas faded in the rear-view mirror. Even though I wasn’t making my trip for the same reasons Honor was, I understood in a deep, personal way how she felt. With each mile, she was saying good-bye to her brother and the reality was setting in just a little bit more.
The excitement of the trip was all in the journey and the mishaps. In Honor’s pages were filled with so much authenticity and so many real moments. Ultimately the story is so much more than Honor trying to commemorate her brother. Along the way, she finds truth and strength. And there’s maybe a little bit of a love interest with Rusty. Maybe.(less)
We’re all told that we shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover (or really, not even by it’s name). For months I’ve been decl...more[Posted on Rather Be Reading]
We’re all told that we shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover (or really, not even by it’s name). For months I’ve been declaring my excitement for Flirting in Italian and how anxious I was to read it. Unfortunately, I felt like the cute name and cover didn’t match the content inside. I was desperately left wanting more and in a really let down mood — to the point where I was unable to sleep after finishing and didn’t want to pick up another book for several days. I have never been affected by a book in this way — it left me skeptical and afraid the next book would fall short of my expectations, too. (Not sure if you guys feel the same way, but I don’t deal well with reading back-to-back frustrating books and somehow this one took away my hope that the next book would be incredible.)
Note: I am fully aware that I might be in the minority of people by announcing my dislike for this book. Let me try to help you understand why in the least spoilery way.
My first immediate reaction was that I couldn’t connect at all with the main character, Violet. I usually find a way to sympathize with most characters, even if they’re the polar opposite of me. I think that’s a tell-tale sign for a good author — someone who can make us get so emotionally involved despite our differences. Violet was bratty, spoiled, judgmental, competitive, and completely insecure. Her inner commentary drove me mad. She is supposed to live with four other girls for the summer in Italy while she’s trying to figure out why she looks like the mirror image of a girl in an 18th century painting. I could NOT take the constant distrustful and comparative dialogue; it left little hope for friendships to actually bond the girls because Violet was so much “better” than them. For someone who was also incredibly self-loathing body-image wise, home girl sure did think she had it going on and was better than everyone else.
I just wanted someone to put her in her place.
Next issue: I really appreciate when an author assumes their reader will retain information even if they only state it once. I don’t like being berated with duplicate information. So often, Flirting in Italian just seemed like a broken record. I don’t know how many times it was mentioned that Violet had never been to Italy before or picked up a paintbrush; however, once she set foot in Italy, she just wanted to paint everything. I could have dealt with her excitement over painting if she was actually painting. (That didn’t occur until approximately 50 pages from the end. Finally.) Paige, one of the girls studying abroad with Violet, was constantly referred to as the girl who said aloud what was on everyone’s mind and jumped into conversations. QUIT TELLING ME SHE DOES THOSE THINGS AND JUST SHOW THEM TO ME.
I suppose I’ve never better understood the phrase “show me, don’t tell me” when referring to a book. A lot of unnecessary telling was going on in Flirting in Italian.
My last and probably greatest issue was that Violet went to Italy in search of answers. She was trying to figure out if she was adopted. I thought that would play a huge part in the book and oh, coincidentally, a cute boy would pop into the picture. Nope. Not the case. Three quarters of the way through the book, Violet was just starting to wonder about the castle where the painting was said to have been made. So much attention was paid to the parties and the terrible boy, Luca, that she insta-love-crushed on that it felt like Henderson ran out of time to make her case for the painting. I realized about a quarter of the way through that there was NO way we were going to make our way through 8 weeks in Italy, especially since not even a week had gone by. Aside from the gross, sickening ending that had me audibly gagging, I was infuriated that this book was split into a two-parter.
I kid you not, friends, this book ends by saying to check out the companion novel Following in Love in Italian (which currently has no information available on Goodreads). This story is unnecessarily being split into multiple books; major editing could have been done to strengthen the plot to fit everything neatly into a standalone book.
As you all are aware, I’m a girl who loves kissy scenes. Let me not graze over Luca. I have a bone to pick with his character as well. He was confusing and a d-bag and downright rude. I didn’t find a redeeming quality whatsoever throughout the entire book. He was purely written into Flirting in Italian to provide make-out scenes. That sounds like a big WIN, but their whole relationship was way too dramatic for me. [insert many an eye roll] If what you’re expecting is Stephanie Perkins-esque, stop right where you are. You will be disappointed.
So. *paces back and forth* How do you guys feel about Flirting in Italian by Lauren Henderson now? Have you read it? Did you feel the same way? Please let me know!(less)
I was immediately attracted to Shooting Stars when I saw the girl on the cover was holding a camera; my two loves were combined – photography and reading. However, I must admit, this can also be a dangerous combination. I read Famous, a book also about a teenage photographer, and very strongly disliked the book because I couldn’t stop thinking about the un-likelihood from a professional standpoint. I hoped that Jo’s story would feel more authentic and real.
My initial thoughts were that the story was definitely fun, but maybe a little bit cheesy. I was impressed by how well Rushby described the job of a photographer. Jo’s character was easily relatable and enjoyable to get to know. It wasn’t until she became a resident at the rehab center and went undercover, though, that I really understood how much more there would be to Jo’s story.
She has big, big dad and family issues. She meets people in the facility who are dealing with some pretty crushing life issues, too. And then there was the huge twist in the storyline that definitely shocked me. When this happened, the whole story changed for me because I wasn’t expecting it at all. The book went from silly to more serious in a split second.
It was a change that was definitely welcomed. As I was reading, I could see the moral dilemma that Jo was going to face. I was going to be really upset if there wasn’t something more to come out of Shooting Stars than Jo scoring a bunch of money for a job well-done. In the end, I also like reading and feeling like I’ve learned something. This will be a great book for teenagers to walk through Jo’s situation and decide how they would follow through with the job.
As a result of the big surprise, there was a lot of character development and growth for Jo. I enjoyed seeing her figure out what her goals were and how much being a paparazzo impacted them. Her attempts to get shots with her hidden cameras were pretty hilarious and I loved seeing her fall in love. For a girl who isn’t close to many people, Jo had a lot to learn about letting her guard down to be in a relationship.
This was a really fun, quick read for me. I am happy to have read a book involving photography that I enjoyed. Shooting Stars comes out on Tuesday, February 28th. Don’t forget to it add it to your to-read list!(less)
The Disenchantments was one of the books I was most excited to have received from ALA. I admit: I was completely pulled in by the cover. Add in a road trip and music, and I’m sold. There were things I absolutely loved about this book, and other things I wish had been a bit more. I’m just going to break things down into a list of things for you guys…
Good: I didn’t realize this was written from a male’s POV. I never would have guessed that based on the cover. It’s always nice to read from a boy’s perspective, but I think the cover implied that things would be a little more light-hearted than they were.
…but: Don’t get me wrong. The cover is gorgeous, but a bit misleading. Colby is incredibly infatuated with Bev, his best friend. I suppose the cover of The Disenchantments makes sense if you think about how consumed Colby was with this girl. He absolutely lived and breathed for her, but the whole book was not sunshine and rainbows.
Good: I really enjoyed the characters and all their messed-up craziness. Bev made me feel angry and mad at her for stringing Colby along and making him jealous of all the other people she pretended to be interested in. Colby had so many things going through his head that he couldn’t quite verbalize because he didn’t want to ruin his relationship entirely with Bev.
…but: Sometimes the way Bev and Colby handled situations was so immature. For two people with so much independence, I expected their actions and behaviors to match. I wanted to yell at them and say, “NO! You idiot! Don’t say that!“
Good: The time frame for the whole book is a week, while Colby is on tour with Bev’s band. The week is pretty packed and dense. A lot, lot, lot of things happen. They meet a lot of people and experience great things, but there’s a ton of detail about everything they did.
…but: I wanted the characters to be talking more instead of doing so many things. Maybe this boils down to my impatience, but I needed Bev and Colby to get real and talk. They needed to sit down and have the conversation they were both avoiding: Why did Bev back out on the European trip?
Good: I really got a sense for how much these two had been through. We’re given their history and back stories. We understand how long Colby has loved Bev.
…but: When the suspense was over and I finally knew why Bev had changed her mind, I felt a little let down. I felt like there was a TON of build-up to something that didn’t seem so monumental, considering Bev is 18 years old. I would have understood the feelings and emotions more if she had been a younger character; she’d been carrying around the secret for so long that I guess I expected the feelings to dissipate somewhat. I still felt confused by why she wouldn’t have talked to Colby about everything.
The Disenchantments is still a book I’m very glad to have read. Please don’t think I’m telling you to stay away from it. Definitely give it a try! I think some of the things I’m discussing are a bit nit-picky, and I really do look forward to seeing how you respond to this book.(less)
When I read Wither last year, these were some of the reactions I had to the book:
“I really enjoy books that take me to a place that I’ve never considered, and certainly never read about before. For those reasons, I applaud the author. There were situations that DeStefano wrote brilliantly that could not have been written any other way.”
“The writing was beautiful. Incredibly well done. I felt the emotions, pain, struggle, suffocation, conflict, and confusion that Rhine, the main character, went through.”
When I look back at my review of Wither, I realize how many questions I had pertaining to the world and the setting, how uncomfortable the story made me, but also how much it intrigued me. There was a lot of description so the reader would have a sense for how Rhine felt being forced into a polygamous marriage with Linden. I felt the anxiety and freedom when she was finally able to escape the mansion with Gabriel.
Book two, Fever, picks up immediately where book one ended. We see Rhine and Gabriel on the run where they are soon captured and taken to an old, broken down carnival. That same sickening sense of something is wrong here washed over me. Many girls who were rejected as wives had found a home at the carnival and were being pimped out to nasty men. It seemed as though the girls had lost hope and were biding their time; after all, they were going to die when they hit 20 anyway.
I’m not going to go into much more detail about what happens at the carnival; it’s definitely something the reader should experience on their own. I felt the pacing was a lot slower in Fever (but I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing). DeStefano definitely took her time building the story and making me anxious for something to happen. The timing allowed the characters to devise plans and it made the details of the setting sink in. I am a very impatient person, so I did want fast answers and more information because I feared there were things that would happen – would Vaughn (Rhine’s father-in-law) catch up to them?
With the slower pacing, DeStefano surprised me a lot. Because there was so much build up, many moments or twists made me feel unprepared. They took me by surprise, in the best of ways, and I loved not knowing when to expect the next big turn. I found the story to be unpredictable and I felt extremely engaged.
Overall, I feel like I enjoyed Fever more than Wither. It’s rare to feel that way about a sequel, but I knew to expect uncomfortable situations in DeStefano’s writing. I accepted the world a bit more, and really enjoyed the grittiness of seeing the life outside of the mansion. The events felt more believable and DeStefano has me aching to find out what happens next.
If you read Wither last year, you definitely need to pick up Fever!(less)
What’s Left of Me is a very unique and compelling idea: two souls born into one body. Before puberty,...more [Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading!]
What’s Left of Me is a very unique and compelling idea: two souls born into one body. Before puberty, one of the souls is supposed to subside and fade away, leaving the other to dominate the body. This process never completely happened for Eva and Addie. Though Eva is definitely the weaker of the two, she’s still very much alive and with Addie. The complication is that the government cannot know. Hybrids are not allowed to exist. When Addie is approached by a girl in her class to help Eva regain her functions, Addie is hesitant. Eva is hungry for the opportunity to learn how to make their body speak and move again.
Did you notice my use of “their body” above? One of the most difficult things for me to grasp while reading What’s Left of Me was the plurality. I was trying to comprehend how the two souls were within one body. Eva (the main protagonist) always referred to things as “our body” or “our hand.” I wasn’t entirely sure what Eva could or could not do within the body. The girls could have discussions with each other (without being heard verbally). If Addie and Eva didn’t have to hide Eva’s existence, each girl would be able to “control” the body and her mannerisms or personality would take over.
That’s exactly what Eva is hoping for. She wants to regain control of her life again, while Addie is nervous hers will be destroyed. These two girls felt such conflicting emotions, and at times, couldn’t get along because they were experiencing such polar opposite emotions. While the story is told from submissive Eva’s point of view, I often found myself sympathizing more with Addie. Addie who was afraid to lose everything – who was the glue that held everything together. Eva could be perceived as whiny and selfish, and I struggled with her lack of foresight and concern about what would happen. Maybe that was a result of Addie always being in control? I almost felt as if Addie was the mature older sister and Eva was the bothersome younger sibling, despite that they were born into the body at the same time.
With the new world, it took me a little longer than usual to get into the story. I like a clear understanding of where a book is going and what I should be hoping for. Zhang definitely kept me guessing with unexpected plot twists and turns, which I loved, but I did hope to grasp the setting a bit more. Why were hybrids so bad (according to the government)? What happened in the war that made hybrids unwanted? Why were they being killed off? Some of these things were addressed throughout the book, but I would have found them helpful to know upfront.
Regardless of my drawbacks, I did find What’s Left of Me to be entertaining. I remember feeling similar emotions regarding the world and how the souls occupied the bodies when I read The Host by Stephanie Meyer; it took me nearly 150 pages to fully accept the world. While The Host a standalone book and over 600 pages, I suppose it is understandable for me to feel like I’m still seeking answers since What’s Left of Me is part of a series. I’m looking forward to seeing where The Hybrid Chronicles takes me next.(less)
Gigi, Neerja, and Bea reminded me a lot of the kind of girl I was in high school. I grew up in a tiny, tiny town and kn...more[Reviewed on Rather Be Reading]
Gigi, Neerja, and Bea reminded me a lot of the kind of girl I was in high school. I grew up in a tiny, tiny town and knew that the only way to leave was to make good grades so I could go to college and move on. My friends were smart, semi-dorky girls, too. (Looking back, I don’t think we thought we were dorky, but we kind of were. HA!) I related to Gigi’s feelings of overwhelming, long nights of homework. When she and Mike, a goofy athlete, are assumed to have cheated on a hard test, this leads Gigi to run for student representative to the school board. She’s forced to spend extra time with Mike working on a project and she has to go up against the new cute boy, Will, during the student rep elections.
There was a LOT that I really, really loved about this book. However, I almost gave up on it. The parts that I loved came after I hit the 130-ish page mark. In the beginning, there are a ton of secondary stories converging and sometimes the information felt a little unnecessary. I wished that some of this would have been edited out because I absolutely could not put down the book once I got to the heart of the story. Smart Girls Get What They Want made me realize that there are two types of young adult books – those that are absolutely written for teens and those that are written about teenagers but are for a slightly more mature audience. Smart Girls was the former – the language was for a younger audience (i.e. uses of IMHO or other acronyms that Gigi thought) and more details that I do feel younger teenage girls would find interesting. To me, these details seemed a little superfluous, especially in the first third of the book.
Smart Girls is entirely founded on conflict. Gigi is infatuated with manipulative, deceptive Will, but standing protectively to the side is Mike. She’s faced with difficult choices when it comes to choosing boys or her friends. She has to overcome her fear of public speaking to stand up for what she believes in. The biggest conflict is her internal struggle between trying to be the smart, bright girl with a future and living her life. Can she do both, or is it one or the other?
While I did have my issues with the beginning of the book, I am definitely glad I pushed through and continued to read Smart Girls Get What They Want. The overall lessons Gigi learned were great for teenage girls – the takeaway is definitely worth it.(less)
Timepiece shifts gears a bit – we’re no longer reading from Em’s perspective. We get to really dive into the life of Kale...more[Posted on Rather Be Reading]
Timepiece shifts gears a bit – we’re no longer reading from Em’s perspective. We get to really dive into the life of Kaleb – a snarky, womanizing, drunk-all-the-time seventeen year old. I enjoyed the bits I got to know of him in Hourglass, so I was super pumped for the change. Often times, changes like this can make or break a series. (Did anyone else throw Breaking Dawn when Jacob’s point of view randomly made an appearance? No? Okay – just me, then.) Because I really enjoy Myra’s writing, I hoped the change would be intentional.
It definitely was. Myra didn’t let me down. Kaleb is broken. He’s suffering from the current state his mom is in – on life support, with all of her memories striped away from her by Jack. He feels completely helpless and isn’t sure how to use his empathetic ability for anything productive. His ability to constantly feel what other people are emoting leaves him extremely vulnerable so he drinks (too often and too much) and casually sleeps with girls to ease the pain.
When Kaleb was introduced to Lily, Em’s best friend, I did a fist pump. Lily put everyone in their place and she took shit from no one. She was guarded and trustful of few people. She said exactly what was on her mind and wasn’t easily charmed by Kaleb’s tattoos and good looks. She sounded like exactly the kind of girl Kaleb needed. Lily has a special ability that was alluded to in Hourglass, but we finally get to see her talents come to fruition. Em feels that Kaleb is a good person to help Lily figure out how to use her skill, so these two end up spending tons of time together. Lily and Kaleb are often at odds with one another. He’s abrasive. She’s a hard ass. This means, as a reader, you’re in for a treat. Their interactions were awesome. I often found myself laughing out loud.
With an ultimatum set in place for the time space continuum to be fixed by Halloween, Kaleb and crew are on the hunt to track down Jack. While some of the time travel talk went a bit over my head (I haven’t read many of these kinds of books), I did find that Myra made it understandable if I was willing to take these sections a little slower than usual. Lily finds out how she can be useful despite there being severe dangers if she exercises her abilities. Kaleb realizes there may be more to his empathizing than he originally thought.
I don’t want to leave you with any spoilers that will take away from Kaleb’s story. Expect to laugh and to enjoy McEntire’s writing. Timepiece was just as enjoyable as Hourglass, and I’m anxious to see how McEntire continues this story in her next book (which just sold to EgmontUSA – congratulations, Myra!). One final recommendation: either re-read Hourglass or read the cliff notes Myra linked to on her blog. I read the posts and opted not to-reread and found it was perfect for me to feel connected to the story again.(less)
Estelle: Here we are for another book report… this time featuring Deb Caletti’s The Story of Us,...more[joint review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
Estelle: Here we are for another book report… this time featuring Deb Caletti’s The Story of Us, a contemporary young adult novel that hit shelves on April 24th — which sort of feels like Christmas Day in young adult publishing because EVERYTHING was released that day!
Magan: NO JOKE! I don’t think I’ve seen a release date as popular. All of us bookies probably went broke on April 24th…and right after the tax deadline, too. Hmm…
E: It’s a conspiracy! (Just kidding.) Okay, so let’s talk about The Story of Us, which looks like a deliciously romantic book from the cover art. Don’t you think? It made me want to go walk on a beach at sunset!
M: Oh yeah, I wanted to hug that cover. It elicits everything I had been wanting, in real life and a book: warmer weather, a beach, Zac Efron (kidding… that’s not on the cover, obviously), and a little romance.
E: The big question is… did we get all of that once we read the novel? The Story of Us sort of reminded me of Sarah Dessen’s Lullaby a bit because it was centered around a parent getting remarried after some disastrous relationships. Here, we have Cricket, who has recently gotten out of a long-term relationship, traveling to spend a week with her future step-family and end it all (hopefully) with a wedding.
M: I haven’t read that Sarah Dessen book, and in fact, this was my first Deb Caletti book. I liked that the issues seemed to be something teenagers could relate to. Sadly, divorce happens and families are split. What was interesting was seeing how these two families with older teenagers would blend together. That week was almost like a test.
E: Yes! A test for the dogs too! This was also my first Deb Caletti book. I liked the premise of the book and the mystery surrounding just WHY Cricket and her boyfriend, Janssen, broke up.
M: Oh, yeah. I liked the mystery, too, but I have to say my biggest complaint about this book is how long we were left wondering and guessing. I got anxious to know what happened because… I guess because I wanted to understand the decisions she was making as a result of what happened with Janssen.
E: That’s the thing. Caletti has some beautiful images and language in this book. Just as gorgeous and tangible as the cover, but when it came to cracking down on Cricket and what exactly happened between her and J, it just got to be too much. I think the book could have definitely been edited down almost 100 pages. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t completely into it. It took awhile. Probably 200 pages before I was in the “I cannot put this down” mode. But not everyone has patience to go 200 pages without anything really happening. And that’s another thing. The book focused on her relationship with J when really it was everything happening with her family that was bubbling into the real story, ya know?
M: Yes! I understand that SO much. J isn’t present in the book except via her flashbacks and the letters she writes to him. I wanted to understand him and how he was feeling. (Man, that’s such a girl thing to say.) I wish some of the extra family things had been stripped out and that maybe we were able to see the letters he actually wrote TO Cricket. Not just her responses.
E: That is a genius idea. I kept thinking about the structure of this book, which is basically we see the wedding craziness through Cricket’s eyes and learn about the backstory of her family and relationship with Cricket through her letters to J, which is a creative way to do it, for sure. But Cricket’s voice changes a lot in those emails to J and I’m not sure who she really is especially once we see her actions and thoughts during wedding week. J is always kind of a shadow to me… sort of ghostly because we never get the deeper side of him. (Even though from what we know he seems like a winner.)
M: That left me so confused. If he was such an awesome guy, then why all the drama? Cricket definitely seemed like a completely different person in her thoughts (and via her actions) than she did in her letters back to J. Especially once the BIG secret was revealed, I really didn’t understand how her actions and responses all meshed together. Maybe I just wouldn’t have responded like that.
E: I’m not exactly one to beat around the bush about anything so it was difficult (and a tad frustrating) for me to watch her spell everything out. If she had to go through this much to decide if she wanted to be with him or not, maybe she was looking too hard for an answer. Especially when Ash pops into the picture. She’s clearly attracted to him, and all I kept thinking was… hey hun, maybe you’ve been tied down for too long at too young of an age and need to see what’s out there. There’s no harm in that. But Cricket was deathly afraid of change and making decisions. And she even knew that about herself. It was a rough time… she graduated high school (yay for an older YA), her mom was getting a whole new family, and she was sort of lost. I think those feelings were very relatable.
M: Add to that the feelings of not being sure where her relationship with J were headed and not being able to make a decision about where to go to college. That IS a lot to handle. I always understood that she had a lot on her plate, but what was frustrating was her fear of not wanting to turn into her mother. I think at the root of everything, she was afraid she’d run away from guys like her mom did. Except, I didn’t get it! Janssen was a GREAT GUY. Her mom always dated d-bags. Yet, Cricket was still running.
E: One character I really loved was her dog, Jupiter. I just adored that little guy and animals never really make that much of an impact in books. But dogs and their relationships to their “owners” was very important in this book and while at times, it was a little too much, I did enjoy the parallels you could draw between dogs and how they perceive things and then the human side of all of that.
M: I’m definitely a huge dog person, but at times, despite my love for Jupiter, I just wanted to say.. get to the point. I understand. I love metaphors, but I had had enough. I needed answers.
E: Okay how about her relationship with her brother? I liked him a lot.
M: All the family things were great. I loved their closeness and the grandparents kept me cracking up, but I guess my question to you is this: what was this book about – learning about the family or learning about Janssen and Cricket? I just expected a lot of their story (ahem, the title of the book!).
E: I think that’s a strong argument. I expected one thing and sort of came out with something else entirely. Maybe Cricket did too? I just think if the point of the letters was to REMIND Janssen the many details of their time together… could that have been expressed in a better way structurally? Would we have felt the author got to the point faster?
M: I honestly would have liked to have seen both of their letters with the goings on of the wedding and life in the beach house making guest appearances. Instead, I feel like their relationship and her working through things felt more like the secondary plotline.
E: So how would you rate this book?
M: It’s most definitely a borrow kind of book for me, and hopefully we’re making it clear that working through all the decisions is a slow process. I feel like Caletti was intentional in making us dislike Cricket’s indecisiveness. Readers should be prepared for a slower read when they pick this one up. What about you, E?
E: I would agree. I think it’s a borrow book. I could see myself taking this one on vacation and reading it gradually over a few days. There are definitely some entertaining moments, and some filled with crazy chemistry, but in the end, I didn’t feel fulfilled.
M: Oh, I like the way you said that. Unfulfilled. Perfect way to describe this book in a word. Any last comments?
E: I’m most curious to see what fans of Caletti’s work think of this book and which other of her work they could suggest to us?
M: Awesome, I wanna know, too. So, readers, tell us what your favorite Deb Caletti book is! Also let us know if you’ve read this one. Do you agree with us?(less)
A story that involves secrecy and conspiracy theories? Sign me up.
Adaptation takes us on a wild ride as we try to piece together what happened to Reese and David after they get in a car accident involving a bird with glowing eyes: Where were they taken? What procedures were done on them? What in the heck happened to them in that facility?
Adaptation drew me in because I wanted to know the truth. I needed answers. Bird attacks have taken down countless planes across the United States and the government seems to be trying to cover up something. Reese believes it’s no coincidence that her last memory before the accident was a bird flying into the headlights of the car she was driving. While I was completely entranced leading up to the accident, my focus was a bit lost after they returned home to San Francisco.
The first 100 pages of Adaptation were strong and fast-paced; I felt connected to Reese and understood the chaos and panic that was overtaking the U.S. It was after this point, when David and Reese are released to go home from the facility, that I felt the story navigated away from its original purpose and became something else. Reese was never a girl who was interested in having a serious relationship — due to her father’s playboy-ish ways, she’s decided to distance herself from dating. When she returns home, she collides (literally) with a girl named Amber on the streets and a relationship quickly blossoms.
This is where I felt the story changed direction. Reese is trying to figure out who she is and is a bit confused by her sudden attraction to a girl. At least a quarter (if not a little more) of the book was dedicated to Reese’s sexuality. While I did enjoy this part of the book, I felt like I was left hanging and very little was progressing with what drew me into the story: what happened to Reese and David. I would have liked to have seen these two stories collide and more of David thrown into the mix to make Reese’s later confused emotions make more sense. (David was a character I wish had been more developed overall; for an event that happened to two people, the focus was primarily on Reese, leaving David very one dimensional.) While later the stories blended together, I felt much more dedicated to the beginning and end of the story.
Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying – I do understand Reese’s questioning of her sexuality and how a teenager can put everything else aside to chase after love. (Raise your hand if you’ve done this.) I am not discounting the impact or influence Lo will have; I believe it will speak volumes to those questioning or seeking to understand their sexuality and it will resonate with those who have been there. I simply hoped that Reese had been more driven to find out answers about what happened to her. Adaptation would have been more impactful if Lo had fused the sci-fi beginning and end with the very contemporary, explorative middle.
Despite my drawbacks, Lo successfully left me aching to know what happens to her characters. The blending of paranormal elements and conspiracy theories was incredibly intriguing. Pieces of the story felt so real to me that I couldn’t help but be wary of flocks of birds when I saw them. I have no idea what will happen next for Reese, but I am very anxious to see what Lo has in store for us.(less)
Sid is a girl who has two good best friends but remains boyfriendless. On her junior class ski trip, sh...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
Sid is a girl who has two good best friends but remains boyfriendless. On her junior class ski trip, she’s suffering from a case of beginner woes and hangs back at the bunny slopes while her friends move onto more dangerous adventures. She’s paired with a flirty, cute guy named Dax on a ski lift who makes her feel attractive. Though it’s against the rules, when he invites her to a party, she sneaks out to meet up with him. She goes alone because her friends don’t want to risk getting caught.
When she arrives to the “party,” she finds Dax, alone. This is the point where my stomach bottomed out and I knew bad things were about to happen. Time fast forwards and we don’t have a clear picture of what happened, but two things are sure: a) Sid is missing a lock of hair, and b) she’s been raped. When she returns to the ski resort, she’s in major trouble and her friends are infuriated with her.
Back at school, Sid is socially rejected (adios cheerleading squad) and her best friends block her out of their lives. Sid feels conflicted; she’s unsure of what to tell her friends so she disconnects from them by swapping out of classes they’re in. She meets a stoner boy, Corey, when she’s assigned to work on the Audio Visual (AV) team with him. Everyone has this idea of who Corey is and thinks he’s just a slacker, but while Sid is in isolation, she gets to know the truth about this mysterious boy.
Their relationship is very subtle and quiet. It begins with a lot of back and forth banter that proves what a strong and witty character Sid is. Corey reveals there is a lot more to him than what people think. Sid finds out that he works at a bakery. They begin having secret meet-ups there in the wee hours of the morning, where they talk while he works. Corey fills this role, this void, that’s left in Sid’s life because she has no other friends, no one else to talk to. Even though she distanced herself from everyone else, she realizes she needs this kind and respectful boy in her life.
Not all of What Happens Next is easy to digest or quite as enjoyable as Sid’s blossoming relationship. Clayton does an impeccable job of developing a very real depiction of what happens when a girl is victimized. Everything in Sid’s life has spiraled out of control: she has something ripped away from her without her consent, loses her best friends and her place on the squad, and finds herself very alone. She realizes the one thing she can control is what she eats and how she looks. She begins eating less and running more, with occasional binges thrown into the mix. Even though Sid is a smart girl who should have known to tell someone what happened to her, she didn’t know how. She feels like an idiot who fell for a big joke, like what happened was all her fault. Sid loses faith in herself and her anger manifests itself as an eating disorder. She used this to gain control back, but her decision-making skills were sometimes maddening (very true to form for a high schooler).
I had knots in my stomach while I waited for everyone to find out the truth. I waited patiently for the explosion. The anticipation was high, as was the emotional connection to the characters. Sometimes a smart girl doesn’t always make the best decisions, and we need a support group of people to put the pieces of our lives back together again. Sometimes that support group consists of the last boy you would have ever expected.
It’s not often that I compare books, but if you’re a fan of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak or Tammara Webber’s Easy, you should consider picking up What Happens Next. Clayton’s depiction of rape and victimization is difficult, but very well written and very much worth the read.(less)
Normally, if someone’s first offense is stealing a car, they don’t typically end up in a psychiatri...more[Review originally published on Rather Be Reading!]
Normally, if someone’s first offense is stealing a car, they don’t typically end up in a psychiatric facility.
Probation? Sure. Community service? Definitely.
Let this be a testament to how over-the-top Taylor’s father was. He had her best intentions in mind when he requested she be placed there, but from an outsider’s perspective, the entire family should have taken up camp in a facility. Taylor’s parents split years before and she chose to stay with her alcoholic mother, who despite many visits to rehab and attempts at AA, cannot get sober. Taylor believes her father still feels hurt that he wasn’t chosen over his wife. Life with her mom is anything but easy (though she doesn’t feel she can admit this to her dad) — she stays out all night drinking, brings home random men, can never hold a steady job, and they’re constantly moving because she’s always late with the rent.
One of my favorite aspects of Lascarso’s writing was how she made me feel connected to Taylor. I felt the anger and betrayal Taylor emoted – she was pissed at her dad and furious she had to be locked in the facility. She didn’t understand why such extreme measures had to be taken. Over time, we see the depth of Taylor’s problems — she can’t control her breathing, has panic attacks, and has been mentally fractured by her mother’s poor decisions and her father’s controlling hand.
She fights back against the system — resists therapy, neglects to do any school work, makes enemies instead of friends, and thinks of nothing other than a plan for escaping the facility.
Through an air vent in the floor, she hears someone playing music in the room directly below hers. Eventually she and the mystery person begin speaking through the ducts, but she doesn’t know who he is. One night he suggests she leave her doom room after lights out to meet him in the basement. They forge a bond in the used-to-be darkroom despite not being able to see one another; he has ways to help her escape that could prove very beneficial. Taylor continues to plot and plan her exit despite feeling like she may be running from one of the first friends she’s ever had.
Counting Backwards is an amazing tale of a girl who has really been dealt the crappiest of hands. Once in the correctional facility she has to overcome herself, as much as her past, to create a new future. Her plans don’t always work out as she wants them to, but part of the journey is seeing how she’ll deal with the speed bumps. She chooses to keep her feelings repressed, afraid of being hurt by anyone. Weathering the storm with Taylor was a unique mix of heart-break and intrigue. I pushed for her and hoped she would learn to make the right choices. Because I was so wrapped up in her voyage I couldn’t help but speed read through Counting Backwards in a few hours.
Maybe it’s just me, but rehab/correctional facility/psychiatric ward books fascinate and awe me. Counting Backwards is a wonderful debut novel by Laura Lascarso if you’re looking for a story with a very messed-up girl with a lot of repressed anger who gets herself into more than a few sticky situations.(less)
Carol Lynch Williams immediately caught my attention in Waiting, the story of London trying to heal after the loss of her...more[Posted on Rather Be Reading]
Carol Lynch Williams immediately caught my attention in Waiting, the story of London trying to heal after the loss of her brother, Zach. Written in verse, the story is immediately entrancing – Lynch submerges her readers into the deep emotional, aching pit of London’s life. The pacing is fast and Lynch’s words are deliberate, meticulous… calculated. I breezed through this sorrowful story of loneliness and loss.
London has grown up with missionary parents – living in the farthest reaches of the world. They had moved back to the United States, where Zach and London were enrolled in public school. After Zach dies, her father immerses himself further into the church, but leads a mostly silent life at home. London’s mom hasn’t so much as glanced in her direction, much less spoken a single word to her. It was understandable that London would examine her faith and make problematic decisions. As a reader we don’t know what happened to Zach. There is secrecy surrounding his death and London isn’t eager to voice the details.
As you can probably imagine, events in London’s life seemed to be defined by a series of “befores” and “afters.” She struggled with how to move on. Before Zach died, London had an awesome boyfriend, Taylor, who also happened to be Zach’s best friend. After, it takes all of her might to be around Taylor because so many of her memories with him are tied to her deceased brother.
Jesse is the new boy at school. He doesn’t have any idea what happened to London and her family. He doesn’t look at her with the same sad, pathetic look everyone else throws her way. Thus begins the downward spiral as London begins to “date” two boys. She draws closer to Taylor again because he understands and can help her remember. BUT, she enjoys the thrill and sneakiness of being with Jesse. Her struggle to choose one boy was really, really difficult for me to read about. I anticipated everything falling [further] to pieces at the climax of the story. I’m not going to let you know what happened and who (or if anyone at all) she chooses.
The most bewildering part of this story was absolutely London’s relationship with her family. She was acting out, begging for attention from her parents who were so blinded by their grief. Bit by bit, the truth behind Zach’s death is revealed, making the pain and anger the reader experiences along with Taylor even more pronounced. As someone who could connect with the faith her family professed, I did not understand her parent’s actions. I could never imagine abandoning my child in such a way. Her mother was absolutely terrible: I hated her.
For a few reasons (written in verse, deeply emotional story, and cheating aspects) I can see this story being a turn-off to some readers. However, if you enjoy books that make you feel and think (and maybe cry), then you should most definitely read this book. My recommendation for fans of The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson is that you pick this up soon; I read Nelson’s book last year and while wonderful and similar in plot, felt emotionally attached to Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams in a whole new way.(less)
When I read The DUFF by Kody Keplinger, I identified. I felt connected to the main character and really felt like I could...more[Posted on Rather Be Reading]
When I read The DUFF by Kody Keplinger, I identified. I felt connected to the main character and really felt like I could tap into her emotions as she navigated her way through her life’s troubles. I thought I would feel much the same with Kody’s new book A Midsummer’s Nightmare, but I didn’t. I enjoyed the writing and the craziness of trying to figure out if Whitley would get together with her soon-to-be-stepbrother, Nathan, but overall I could not relate to Whitley in the way I expected to.
Whitley’s parents have been divorced for a long time. She lives with her bitter, self-absorbed mother, but she’s always wanted to live with her father. Since that’s not the case, she spends every summer with him. When she graduates, she is looking forward to her last summer with her dad before college – listening to good music, hanging out in the condo and at the beach, and drinking. That all changes when her dad pulls up to a new house where she’s introduced to the woman her dad is going to marry. The woman, Sylvia, is someone she’s never heard of or met before.
To make everything worse, Sylvia’s son, Nathan, is the boy Whitley randomly slept with at the graduation party she attended. How’s that for awkward?
There is a lot that happens in this story – Whitley deals with her issues by randomly hooking up with guys and drinking to extremes. She can’t talk to her parents – her mom is too focused on her own broken heart to see her daughter is struggling, and her dad is trying so desperately hard to make life appear perfect with his new family. Oh, and then there’s all the tension with Nathan. Should they just give into their feelings for one another even though they’re going to be step-siblings?
I felt at times that while the writing was good and Keplinger could tap into the emotions of an 18-year-old really well, it was lacking in some depth. There was a lot of build up and anticipation, but very few pages were dedicated to the story settling and all the aforementioned issues wrapping up. I don’t need for everything to wrap up in perfect little bows – my imagination can wander – but with so many big things, I just wanted more. Whitley’s feelings of invisibility didn’t really come full circle for me.
While I didn’t feel extremely connected to Whitley because of how she wanted to ruin herself to make her family notice her, I did enjoy Sylvia and Nathan’s characters very much. Sylvia was the antithesis of a terrible step-mother. She saw the destruction happening in Whitley’s life and wanted to step in. It was hard for her to navigate the boundary between caring for Whitley but not getting too overly involved. Though it is a little awkward that they were going to be step-siblings, I appreciated Nathan’s character. He was not one to hold back how he felt. While he had his moments of being a little too honest and come across as hurtful, I always felt his intentions were for the best.
I suppose my last observation is that I always knew what was coming next in A Midsummer’s Nightmare. I felt the overall plot points were fairly similar to The DUFF, and I sincerely hope that Keplinger’s books don’t become formulaic. Estelle went to a signing a few weeks ago in New York and told me about the new book Keplinger is working on. This one pertains to a very big issue, suicide, and I think Keplinger has the ability to really push the boundaries and go deep. I hope she does.(less)
An assassin. How is it possible that I just read a book about a female assassin and I loved it? Thi...more[Review originally published on Rather Be Reading!]
An assassin. How is it possible that I just read a book about a female assassin and I loved it? This is so not me, you guys. Maas just killed my perfect track record of avoiding books with castles and horses and kings – and she made me want more. Let me tell you about all the awesome…
Celaena is a badass assassin. The Captain of the Guard, Chaol, and the Crown Prince, Dorian, arrive at Endovier where Celaena is in prison. She was the world’s greatest assassin who was finally captured and sentenced. Upon the very first meeting with Chaol, Dorian, and Calaena, I was in love. She’s tough and sarcastic and inappropriate at the most inopportune times. She doesn’t take crap from anyone and has an overwhelming problem with submission. She gets put in her place when she has to portray a weaker criminal during the King’s competition – she’s forced to pretend to be weak, mediocre, and she balks that she has to hide who she really is.
She must fight for her freedom. The king has summoned assassins, thieves, and ex-guards to train and fight in a competition to become his personal champion. The winner will be granted freedom after serving the king for a given amount of time. Celaena is the only female in the competition – the men she’s surrounded by are disgusting, inappropriate, and completely inferior to her. Who doesn’t like to see a girl triumph over twenty-three guys?
A mysterious murderer is roaming the castle. This person is taking out the champions before big tests and causing chaos. There’s a big game of whodunit as the reader is given glimpses into more than just Celaena, Chaol, and Dorian’s whereabouts. I had a list of people I didn’t trust and wanted so badly to figure out who the killer was. So much suspense!
The world was so vivid. I could picture exactly what her room looked like, where she trained, the lands they traveled through to reach the castle, and had a rich understanding of the glass castle. While I love to fall into the setting of a book, I don’t like being overwhelmed by paragraph upon paragraph of dense description. Maas described the world without me realizing what she was doing — I never felt bogged down in the details, but did walk away wishing I could physically experience the snowy, winter days from within the glass castle.
The third person narrative was very effective for telling this story. I’m accustomed to reading so many first-person contemporary books, but the third person change was refreshing. It gave me the chance to understand more than just the protagonist’s perspective. I had insight to Dorian and Chaol’s whereabouts or actions that let me know things Celaena wasn’t aware of. Maas told the story in a way that still felt very personal and intimate, despite being distanced from Celaena’s every thought.
There’s a love triangle … and I didn’t mind one bit. Dorian is very agressive with his feelings — he’s upfront about how he feels, what he wants. He doesn’t fail to be suggestive or use sexual innuendos to communicate what he desires. He’s known as a bit of a playboy and is accustomed to getting what he wants since, ya know, he is the Prince. Chaol feels that by neglecting his feelings, they won’t exist. How could he, the Captain of the Guard, fall for an assassin? He and Celaena’s mutual hate for one another morphs into a friendly banter. Their friendship is a slow progression. Both boys, clearly, have their strengths and it will be quite entertaining to see who readers favor.
What I hope to learn: I do want to know more about Celaena’s history and what happened to her parents. How did she become involved with the King of the Assassins? There are a few ebooks that tell Celaena’s story prior to where the Throne of Glass begins. Should I read those? I would love to know more about her training and how she came to be the girl I adored so much.
My last words: Celaena is a character I want to spend more time with and I want to know everything about. I can’t wait to see what happens in her future and I am so excited Maas has given me a new world to fall in love with. By the way, I’m totally Team Chaol.(less)
If you think back to your high school days, was there ever a time when it seemed everyone around you ha...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
If you think back to your high school days, was there ever a time when it seemed everyone around you had a boyfriend but you? That’s kind of how Rae feels. She’s not sure she’s relationship material because she’s super picky. Then one magical day, a new boy (Nathan) appears at her school and he’s immediately interested — blatantly staring at her, making sure she knows he’s interested.
While Rae would like to take things a bit slower, her best friends encourage her to take the risk and go for it with Nathan. What her friends don’t know is how badly Rae wants to be loved, how dire her home life is, and how easy it is for her to fall under Nathan’s spell. Her mom is married to a scumbag of a guy because he promised her a better life (that, unfortunately, will likely never come to fruition). He gets fired from his low-paying job and forces Rae to relinquish nearly all of her wages from her job at the floral shop to “help the family stay afloat” (aka: hand over money for his alcoholic ways).
Nathan quickly begins pressuring Rae for more than just make-out sessions. She would rather build a relationship on something more than the physical. When their relationship falls apart, she feels free of Nathan’s constant watchful eye. She finds solace in her job and her newfound friendship with Leo, the boy who works at the coffee bistro next door (…and is easygoing and happy, makes silly movies, and takes Rae on unexpected adventures). Nathan begins showing up in random places, stalking her, and becomes more possessive and threatening.
Falling For You begins in present day where we see that Rae is in the hospital, not doing very well. The exact details of what happened to her are unknown, but we rewind six months to the beginning of Rae’s relationship with Nathan and her step-dad’s downward spiral. The big question is What happened to Rae? There’s lots of speculation on behalf of the reader, but the real heart of the story is seeing Rae’s life, both the highs and the lows, unfold.
For those of you that loved The Day Before (written entirely in verse), don’t fret. Schroeder incorporates poetry through Rae’s personal diary entries and her anonymous submissions to the school’s newspaper. Through the poetry, we’re opened up to a side of Rae that she shares with no one — she is raw and honest, holding nothing back. This was a lovely incorporation that opened my eyes to how necessary writing is for some people as an outlet when they feel they’re all alone in the world.
Full of charming imagery with awesome I-want-to-know-you-in-real-life-characters (I dare you not to love her boss and co-workers!), Schroeder’s Falling For You will make you want to open up your guest bedroom for Rae to give her a safe, loving place to live. You’ll be eager to get to the end of the story to find out what happened to her, but hesitant to finish the story because you won’t want to leave Leo behind.(less)
Imagine putting Dawson, Joey, Pacey, and Jen, the four primary characters from Dawson’s Creek toget...more[Review originally published on Rather Be Reading!]
Imagine putting Dawson, Joey, Pacey, and Jen, the four primary characters from Dawson’s Creek together in a car to complete a scavenger hunt. It’s almost graduation time and those ten hours in the car are when all chaos ensues because if the drama isn’t hashed out right then and there, what other chance will they have before everyone moves on to the next stage of their life?
Dawson’s got eyes only for Joey. (What’s new?) Joey’s in love with someone else (let’s say Jack for right now). Jen’s secretly also in love with Jack. Pacey is harboring secrets of his own.
Dawson’s Creek is my blast from the past of choice because a) I’m currently re-watching it and b) that’s precisely how I pictured Patrick, Mary, Winter, and Des. They’re four highly intelligent students referred to as the Glee Club (though their school doesn’t even have one) who are entering the Unofficial Senior Scavenger Hunt. They want the opportunity to prove themselves to all the students (especially Barbone) who have berated them over the years. The stakes are high and the competition is fierce, but they’re committed. They want that one moment they can reflect upon when they’re older that says they left their mark.
The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life is told from Mary’s point of view. She’s full of tension because losing is not an option and if her parents found out she was galavanting around the town as a participant, she’d be screwed. Feelings for her longtime crush, Carson, intermix with her hopes of winning the hunt. She’s certain he’s going to break up with his girlfriend soon — especially since he’s bestowed so much attention upon her lately. (Yes, the girl lusted after a boy already tied down.)
If only there weren’t further complications.
Patrick wants to corner Mary during the scavenger hunt to express his feelings for her. He wants to move beyond being best friends. Mary also uncovers a secret that Winter has been keeping from her and she’s not sure how to continue on in the competition without exploding. Makes for an awkward ten-hour scavenger hunt, wouldn’t ya say?
Altebrando does a fantastic job at exploring the gamut of emotions we all go through when we graduate. Mary is caught in this awkward place of wanting to make something happen with Carson, but also not wanting to be tied down at all so she can make something of herself and travel the ends of the earth as an international ambassador. She wants to leave her town, but around every corner lies a different memory she’s afraid will escape her over time. She’s seeking closure, but is afraid of moving on. Everything in Mary’s life seems to be a paradox, a Catch-22.
With so many plot lines simultaneously weaving themselves into a big ball of confusion for Mary, Altebrando skillfully balances each issue. None of the plot lines outshines the others and the scavenger hunt still remains a fun, enjoyable journey to experience with these characters. Patrick’s LeSabre car and the items they cleverly pick up throughout the scavenger hunt, I think, are metaphorical for the places they will go, the things they will experience, and their friendship that will bond them together, despite college and moving on.
The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life will jerk you back to those moments in your life where you’ve felt the most out of control – when you weren’t certain what life held for you next. It’s a fun, fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat kind of read that I hope absolutely everyone will enjoy.(less)
You guys know I love contemporary YA books. I big puffy heart love them. One genre I haven’t reviewed...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading!]
You guys know I love contemporary YA books. I big puffy heart love them. One genre I haven’t reviewed since RBR began is thrillers. A little known fact is I used to thrive on thrillers (mostly adult fiction). I went through a phase where I was reading lots of ‘em, but since I dove head-first into YA books, I haven’t read a single one. I’ve told you guys before, but I’m reiterating it now, I like the thrill of the chase — I like to be caught off guard by the author. Boy, oh boy, did Paul Griffin deliver with Burning Blue.
Told from the point of view of Jay, a boy who suffers from seizures and the aftermath of an incident where he peed his pants in front of his high school, we learn about Nicole. She is the girl who has it all: popularity, beauty, smarts, money. She’s not a snobby popular girl, though. She’s nice and kind to everyone. (She’s one of those girls many people would be envious of.) One day as she’s rounding the corner to make it to class on time (after a mini-make-out session with her boyfriend Dave), she is squirted in the face by a bottle of acid.
Half of her face is damaged.
Jay and Nicole bump into one another before their scheduled therapy sessions at school six weeks after the incident. They begin talking and hit it off. Jay leaves that day wanting answers. A little known fact about Jay: he’s a genius computer hacker. He begins breaking all kinds of laws by hacking into the police department’s files and tries to solve the mystery of who did this to Nicole.
Burning Blue is filled with so much mystery, intrigue, and tons of suspense. It’s a story of whodunit — I needed to know who hurt Nicole, but I was fueled to devour the book because I wanted to know the motive. I never knew when a valuable clue was being given or when I was on the right track to guessing who the guilty person was. Griffin comprehensively developed a full cast of characters that constantly had me wondering:
- Who would want to hurt Nicole? - Why? - Did no one see what happened? - Her boyfriend, Dave, was in the hall when it happened. Is he lying about not seeing the incident? - Was Dave involved?
While Jay is our main storyteller, we get glimpses of Nicole through minimal journal entries and a few notes written by one of her therapists. I began to speculate whether or not Nicole could have harmed herself. Did she do this to herself? What would cause a person to inflict this kind of self-harm? (I should mention I also questioned Jay’s fixation on Nicole and finding the villain. Was I reading from the criminal’s point of view?!)
Burning Blue is a complex story, weaving the drama of Jay’s life together with the pressure of Nicole’s. Jay lives with a dad who isn’t around much and his mother passed away. His social life is laughable since his aforementioned seizure incident, which led him to be homeschooled for a year. Nicole’s burn wasn’t the only complication in her life. Her parents recently split and her relationship with Dave is full of friction since the accident. Oh, and photographers are stalking her so they can make bank on her story.
While I very much enjoyed Griffin’s Stay With Me, I felt he tapped into something completely unique, dark, and suspenseful with Burning Blue. I welcome more of this type of story from him. I highly recommend you pick up a copy as soon as you can so you can experience Griffin’s incredible writing and the insanity of the mystery.
(Also: Don’t forget to read the acknowledgments after you finish Burning Blue. Griffin offers incredible insight about his inspiration for the story.)(less)
You know those books you see pop up a TON on review blogs? You read incredible reviews for the book...more[Review originally published on Rather Be Reading!]
You know those books you see pop up a TON on review blogs? You read incredible reviews for the book and add it to your TBR list on Goodreads, but somehow it takes you months to pick it up?
Yup, that was me with Cinder.
I sincerely wish a blog had blatantly stated SKIP EVERYTHING ELSE AND READ THIS NOW. I absolutely loved Cinder that much. So, this is me telling you to stop what you’re doing and read Cinder immediately.
Fairy tale retellings are a popular thing right now. It’s such a great way for us big kids to relive the stories we used to adore as children, but with a shiny new twist on things. Cinder was precisely that for me – unique and artistic, fresh, and oh-so-good.
Meyer took a lot of creative liberties and didn’t follow the original Cinderella to a T. It’s set in the future and our beloved Cinder is a cyborg, a human that’s been “fixed” by having a foot and an arm replaced with engineered, metal ones. Her step-mother is as atrocious as ever, but the circumstances are different. Cinder is adopted into the family by her step-father (who does, as in the original, pass away). She’s one of the best mechanics in town and undertakes as much work as she can to provide the cushy life her step-mother has grown accustomed to.
Cinder is a mere sixteen years old, but she’s tough and unbreakable. (I suppose having a wretched step-mother can callous you.) I loved her hard core attitude and the way she fumbled over her words when she was in the presence of Prince Kai when they first met. Kai isn’t your stereotypical arrogant/conceited/egotistical prince. He’s a little quirky, very funny, kind and tender-hearted. He was so sweet and immediately had my heart swooning.
Part of the brilliance of Cinder was that the entire cast of characters felt so fully developed. I connected and sympathized with Cinder, but my love wasn’t just for her. All the layers of Kai were peeled back, allowing us to see him for more than just a prince. (I wrote a list of moments I adored with him: when his father passes away, when Cinder arrives at the ball, quiet moments with her in the elevator, and meeting Cinder for the very first time at the festival.) But Meyer didn’t stop the amazingness with the primary characters. She gave Cinder an opinionated, original robotic friend, Iko and the sweetest, most innocent younger step-sister, Peony. Iko and Peony helped show us more than Cinder’s abrasive, distrusting side.
Oftentimes, I dislike when I can guess where a plot is headed (I like to be outsmarted by the author). Something I’ve learned to really like about Meyer’s writing is that she gives her readers just enough subtle hints without spoiling it entirely. Instead of feeling let down that I guessed the ending, I felt a rush as my suspicions were confirmed because I felt like I knew something Cinder didn’t know. I do think Meyer is intentional in the little breadcrumb hints she leaves along the way – she builds anticipation by allowing us to know things and be surprised when the truth is revealed to the characters.
I could go on and on about my love for Cinder, but I hope you’ll take my word for it and pick it up soon. You’ll want to be prepared for the sequel, Scarlet, to come out in February! (This time we get to meet Little Red Riding Hood!)(less)