Adelle (Dell) is an obese girl who has lost everything – her father (to an affair), her softball team (she’s b...more[Originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
Adelle (Dell) is an obese girl who has lost everything – her father (to an affair), her softball team (she’s been cut because she can no longer play well due to her continuously increasing weight), her mother (to working too much and having a pill addiction), and is soon to lose her best friend, Cara (to the popular crowd). The only light amidst all the darkness is her baby sister, Meggie, who she helps care for after school, and the food she continues to sneak behind her mother’s back.
Dell is bullied at school and neglected by both parents. No one listens to her or asks how she is. She tries to deflect the ridicule of her peers and join in on the laughter, but inside she’s a girl breaking into a million pieces. She makes self-depricating jokes to make people laugh with her instead of at her, but she continues to turn to food to take the focus away from her pain. Many, many times I just wanted to say Put the food down. Don’t make jokes about yourself. Don’t care what they think. She needed someone to let her guard down with.
Dell has a crush on popular boy, Brandon, and there’s a very awkward (and disturbing) situation that happens with him. This was the point that I began to realize that Dell’s story wasn’t going to be a happy one. With no one to turn to and gossip spreading like wildfire about her, Dell’s downward spiral begins. No one ever takes the time to uncover her side of the story — not even Cara, who chooses to believe what the popular girls say about Dell. (There were bits of this twist in the story that sometimes had me wondering how they could believe the rumors, but I think it’s important to remember that people will believe what they want to hear. And teenagers don’t always make the most logical, sensible decisions.)
Empty is a fast-paced, absorbing story. It was a very difficult read for me because it’s most certainly not about a girl who learns how to cope and seek out help. I feel I must emphasize that this is not a happy story. (If you want a realistic, happy-ending story about an obese girl, read Skinny.) I feel, however, that my expectations for Empty were a bit skewed upon reading the summary of the book, or maybe I assumed this would be about a girl with anorexia or bulemia, but that wasn’t it at all. It’s full of sadness and grief, and ultimately, loss. It’s about being unloved, depression, and the affects of bullying.
K.M. did a phenomenal job tapping into the mind of a very lonely, dejected girl. So many people are facing different forms of bullying each day and we’re allowed to witness the huge risk K.M. takes by showing us the detrimental effects of that on a person’s life.(less)
There have been a few times in my life when I’ve read a book and pieces of the story felt like they cou...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
There have been a few times in my life when I’ve read a book and pieces of the story felt like they could have been written by me. That’s precisely how I felt about One Pink Line in its entirety. Please allow me to explain.
We meet Sydney as she’s studying for her last round of college finals before graduation in 1991. While she’s prepping for her Spanish test, she realizes it’s been 8 weeks since she had her last period. She throws the books and notes aside, rushes to a Walmart, and quickly purchases a pregnancy test. She’s hoping for one line to say she’s not pregnant, but two appear.
We jump back in time to 1987 to just after Sydney’s high school graduation. She goes to her best friend Taylor’s house for a graduation extravaganza and meets the boy she’ll dote over for the next four years, Ethan. Ethan is kind and loving, smitten with Sydney, and not at all concerned that her family isn’t in the same financial bracket or social sphere as his. It’s unfortunate that they meet the summer before she leaves to college when she’ll be heading off to Purdue and he’ll head back to Kentucky again.
They vow to make their relationship work, but time and distance causes strain. Sydney makes one lapse decision after an iffy conversation with Ethan. Eight weeks later she finds out she’s pregnant. There’s a lot of speculation, on behalf of the reader, because we’re left in the dark as the story bounces back and forth between Sydney and Grace’s stories about who Grace’s father is. Just as we make strides with Sydney, we shift to see the effects of those decisions on her daughter.
One Pink Line is difficult to categorize because it bridges young adult, new adult, and adult fiction. We see snippets of Sydney in high school (with a very particular mother who obsesses over every detail), college (with a crew of four tight knit friends), and as an adult woman in the working world (with a stickler of a boss named Midge who isn’t happy about Sydney’s pregnancy). Grace is introduced to us as a young pre-teen who is piecing together the facts that her dad is not her biological dad. We experience her growing up and questioning so much about her life - What does her real dad look like? What traits did she inherit from him? Why has he chosen to not be part of her life? Why doesn’t her mom want to share more information about him?
When I read the chapters about Grace, I identified in a deeply personal way. I don’t know my own biological father; he skipped town (thankfully — he’s a terrible man who did terrible things to my mom) before I was even born. Despite knowing what a scumbag he is, it’s never stopped the questions. I wonder if my kids will inherit recessive genes from him that I don’t know about. Growing up, I mostly wondered why I wasn’t good enough for him and why it was okay for him to flee and not bear any of the responsibility. Sydney’s chapters made me realize what a brave, wonderful, and strong lady my mother is. It put the struggles she must have faced into perspective for me and I understood why she never told me more. I knew all I needed to know.
Their story hit me hard and spoke to deepest parts of my heart. My favorite gem of the story was Grace’s stepdad. (Though I must admit: the whole cast of characters was so beautifully and thoroughly explored. Silver did a fantastic job of developing the family and friendship dynamics from major all the way down to secondary characters.) Grace was constantly reminded that despite not knowing her biological father, she had someone who loved her so much. Someone who would always be there for her. Grace’s hesitation for seeking out her biological father was not wanting to hurt her stepdad. I understood that more than words can say. Despite my own curiosities, I would never want my stepdad to feel less than an ounce of the appreciation that he should. I would never want to hurt him or make him feel unloved.
With great references to 90s style and life without a cell phone, we get a glimpse into Sydney’s life as she bravely chose to have a baby without the support of the father. With only a few moments of over-explanation, the story moves quickly and will have you breezing through the pages so you can piece together Sydney and Grace’s history. One Pink Line is a fantastic story about how one decision can change the course of more than one life.(less)
From the first chapter, I like to be drawn into the world – I want to feel so connected that it seems...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading!]
From the first chapter, I like to be drawn into the world – I want to feel so connected that it seems impossible to put the book down. When a book makes my heart pound and my pulse race, that can only mean I’m feeling intensely invested.
The Forsaken immediately caught my attention and I was full of anticipation for what was to come.
Alenna lost her parents to a government invasion of her home when she was ten years old, leaving her orphaned. At sixteen, she undergoes a government mandated test to make sure she’s compliant and won’t cause any trouble. Anyone found troublesome is sent to The Wheel — an island where the average life span is 18 years old. Alenna is put under for the test, and the next thing she knows, she’s waking up on The Wheel.
She finds herself with one other person, David, and they’re quickly surrounded by the drones. The Wheel is divided into sectors ruled by the drones (scary teens who wear capes, paint their faces, and blindly follow a masked man called the Monk) and the villagers (a “normal-ish” group who tries to make the best of their bad situation). Alenna is rescued by a villager while David is overtaken by drones. This is as far as I’m going to get into the story because I don’t want to risk spoiling any of the surprises.
Alenna, as a character, was initially very weak. Pre-exile, she tried to fly under-the-radar, hoping to avoid standing out. She never quite felt like she belonged anywhere and was kind of a loner. The island is the first place where she connects with other people her age. Coincidentally, people who also felt the very same thing. As she learns to navigate the island, she forms friendships with a few characters that give her more reason than her survival to fight for a way off the island. And she maybe (just maybe…) falls in love for the first time.
One of the most fascinating aspects of The Forsaken was the comparison between the drones and the villagers. It was like a comparative study on the effects of what can happen when you’re thrown into a life or death situation. Do you seek survival and civilization or do you become corrupt and lose all sense or normalcy since you’re going to die anyway? The drones cling to the hope of the Monk and the villagers attempt to build an equal(ish) community where everyone has their role.
The Forsaken was a surprising mix of a lot of my favorite things — sci-fi, a dystopian setting, and elements that made me reminisce other favorite books (The Host by Stephanie Meyer and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins). Please don’t misinterpret my comparison to insinuate that Stasse’s book is a replication of either of those books; it stands on its own and her ideas constantly caught me off guard. I do believe that if you are fans of The Host or The Hunger Games you should definitely pick up The Forsaken.
Stasse’s writing is gripping from the very beginning. There’s always, always a task or a next phase. Always something to learn. The story is constantly progressing, always moving forward. Stasse’s writing was strong and intelligent, and the dialogue always very intentional. Definitely, definitely check out The Forsaken as soon as you can. I shall patiently wait for the story to continue.(less)
She hears the voice of Skinny who tells her she’s not beautiful, she takes up too much space, no one could love her. After the death of her mother, Ever began eating to recall her favorite memories they had together, most of which involved delicious treats. Ever is afraid to lose that part of herself so she sneaks Snickers bars into the bathroom stall at lunch or bags of M&Ms to her bedroom after dinner.
After a conversation with her step-sister, Briella, and an embarrassing moment in front of the entire school, she revisits a website she randomly stalked where gastric bypass patients or soon-to-be patients shared their struggles. With the support of her family, Ever decides to undergo the surgery in hopes of losing the weight, which could mean Skinny’s voice inside her head would finally go away, she might attract the attention of her long-lost best friend (Jackson) again, and she would maybe find the courage to try out for the school musical.
Ever’s voice was authentic and so honest. Skinny whispers lies to Ever that feed her insecurities. I, even at 27, struggle with the little voice inside my head that tells me I’m not beautiful and I don’t look good in my clothes. Skinny’s voice was a real eye-opener for me because I saw how hard it was for Ever to distinguish the lies from the truth. Her insecurities led her to believe things about her peers that weren’t true at all; it made her feel distanced, secluded, and so alone. I couldn’t help but wonder how many times my own self-doubts have gotten in the way of meeting amazing people or doing something because I was afraid of embarrassing myself.
Ever’s support system was pretty fantastic. Her best friend, Rat (yes, a so-very-unfortunate nickname), was a geeky boy who poured over the details of her surgery and did his best to make sure she was healing and progressing properly. He was by her side when she went under and when she got home with a chart to document her evolution. He creatively incorporated a way to tap into Ever’s emotional state by having her select a Broadway song to match her mood each week.
Rat was one of my favorite people, but I also felt a pull toward Briella from the very first pages and hoped she was more than the judgmental girl Ever labeled her to be. Ever’s dad was a tough cop, but I enjoyed his vulnerability and that the loss of his wife wasn’t glossed over or made better by his remarriage. From Gigi (the crazy-haired girl in her drama class) to Jackson (her childhood crush) to Charlotte (the stepmother who didn’t try to replace Ever’s mom) – every character had their place.
I’ve been through the battle of seeing the scale go both up and down. Each time I’m working to lose weight, I have to get over the voice inside my head that says my work has all been for nothing, that there’s been no physical change. Ever’s weight loss is quite significant and despite her achievement, she has a hard time facing herself in the mirror. She’s afraid to hope for the positive change (always afraid of failure). She struggles with the attention she gets from her peers (Does popular girl Whitney really care about her or does she just want to show off her charity case?) and she has a hard time letting go in drama class because for so long, she wanted to be invisible.
Ever’s story is a beautiful demonstration about how weight loss (or body image issues, in general) aren’t just about the external. The exterior is just a facade; it’s the internal barriers and emotions that must be broken down to accept the change and move forward. It’s not just about a number decreasing on the scale but also the belief that we are good enough, that we’re worth it… that we’re beautiful. Whether you’re 15 or 45 years old, I believe Skinny will speak volumes to you.(less)
As a social worker, Holly’s main focus is mental health patients. To get through her long, long days wh...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
As a social worker, Holly’s main focus is mental health patients. To get through her long, long days where she often feels overworked and under-appreciated, she has her best work buddy, Nick. He’s clever and understands her, and often they are paired up together to visit patients. At home, Holly lives with her supportive, kind, geeky boyfriend Tim. She’s excited for all the things they get to experience together and enjoys spying on her next door neighbors.
Holly balances present day (as a young 20-something) with flashbacks from the past. It’s a bit difficult at first to figure out what’s happening in her life, but I settled into the rhythm of Buzo’s intelligent writing quickly. Holly’s battling a lot of things. She’s still reeling from the death of her father who died when she was 15 years old. Her mother is difficult and their relationship isn’t the best. She feels more connected to her high school best friends than she does to her own family, especially since her mother tends to favor her younger brother, Patty.
To avoid dealing with the past (in which there’s a vague story about a boy named Liam that Holly was in love with for a long time), she throws herself into her work. All of her attention and effort are focused on her job. She’s a perfectionist and feels like she can “fix” everyone else.
But what she doesn’t realize is that she needs to heal.
She’s never allowed herself time to properly grieve any of the big circumstances that have happened in her life. She’s always pushed forward. She pretends that life will just carry on. She struggles with accepting change, especially when she begins to realize that her friendships are a blurry version of what they used to be. But what she wants is for her friendships and the people in her life to stay the same, for no one to ever change. It throws her off kilter when everything begins to shift.
Holly’s story, while a simplistic one, is very realistic. As a 27 year old lady, I could very much relate to what Holly was going through. In my personal life, I’ve absolutely struggled with severed friendships and moving on. I’ve cried on countless occasions over people that I no longer see or talk to because we’ve just grown apart. Change is evil. I also fear a lot of things for the future; I have personally never lost a parent or grandparent, so anytime someone is sick or hospitalized, I freak out and go crazy. My family is very close and I just shut down. Essentially, Holly was so focused on fixing everyone else that she didn’t even realize she had all these barriers built up around her to protect her from anything bad that could happen.
This was my second read by Laura Buzo and while the writing was sometimes a bit abrupt when I was sorting through changes in scenery or flashbacks, I still felt incredibly connected to Holly. I really, really enjoyed reading about someone I could relate to so well. Holly is just an ordinary girl going through ordinary life things. I felt very involved in her well-being, and had such a good grasp on her friends, family, coworkers, and even clients. Buzo did what she does best in Holier Than Thou – she explored the life of someone who’s extremely relatable and told her story in a way that causes you to step back and examine your own.(less)
Kate Elliot is a girl who found her identity when she allowed her friend Annie to give her a makeover....more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
Kate Elliot is a girl who found her identity when she allowed her friend Annie to give her a makeover. Despite her mother’s blatant disapproval over her new gothic look, Kate won’t falter from dressing this way. While nothing ever seems to please her career-driven politician mother, Kate’s behavior and an unknown mishap (the mystery is unraveled throughout the book) eventually lead her to boarding school. She is no longer welcome in her own home and her parents decide she needs more structure; the time away from her family (they hope) will improve Kate’s attitude and allow their broken relationships to mend.
Kate is forced to room with three very different girls — two popular girls and one rule-breaker with a reputation, Mandy. Kate goes through periods of absolute resentment and distances herself completely from the three girls. Mandy eventually breaks the barrier and forces her way into Kate’s life. They’re an odd pair — Kate stands out because she’s got multiple piercings, dies her hair black, and intentionally wears makeup a few shades paler than her skin tone; Mandy wears skimpy clothes and has a reputation for being a bit slutty. Their friendship was one of the most beautiful aspects (other than Harry’s lovely writing) of I’ll Tell You Mine. Their conversations are full of snark and laugh-out-loud funny moments. Their antics (or rather Mandy’s plans) often lead to trouble.
Mandy is honest and upfront about how she’s feeling; she isn’t afraid of the front Kate puts up to dissuade people from befriending her. Mandy seems utterly naive to Kate’s insecurities and solitary ways. As Mandy begins to strip away the walls Kate has built around herself, we get to know Kate in a whole new way. She’s distraught over the events that occurred with her mother. Why does it seem like she’s always messing things up and doing something to irritate her mom? She misses her dad (who understands self-exploration and calls her mother out on her hypocrisy). Her little sister is one of her favorite people in the world; she wants to set a good example for her.
Kate feels stuck between making new friends and maintaining the old friendships; her two best friends (pre-boarding school) Annie and Noah seem to be moving on just fine without her. She’s heartbroken when she learns that Noah is dating someone new. Will he never see that she’s in love with him? Kate goes through many a transformation and the separation from her life outside of school allows everything to shift into focus. She sees what she was doing wrong, how she could be better, and what she could change.
The question is: Will she ever be given the opportunity to prove she’s a different person or will she just continue to mess things up?
I’ll Tell You Mine is a story I didn’t want to end. Pip’s writing is concise and packed with punch, every word very intentional. I connected to Kate on so many levels — struggling to become your own person but feeling like you’re always coloring outside the lines, being a bit insecure about how you look and what you weigh, and wanting that boy you’ve loved for oh-so-long to finally take notice. The friendship and family aspects were so thoroughly explored and impeccably written; I projected more drama into the book by not always trusting Mandy’s intentions or assuming the worst. Time and time again, Pip proved me wrong and restored my faith in her characters.
Pip’s writing is authentic and realistic. She flawlessly developed a story that everyone should devour. There are a few wonderful surprise gems hidden within the pages of I’ll Tell You Mine (possibly including a love story that made my heart go pitter patter). If you’re interested in a story that’s very true-to-life and will sweep you away, definitely take a chance on Pip Harry’s debut novel.
(Thank you very much to Mandee at VeganYANerds for gifting this incredible book to me!)(less)
Ever since I read Harry Potter, I’ve wished I had the opportunity to go to a boarding school when I was...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
Ever since I read Harry Potter, I’ve wished I had the opportunity to go to a boarding school when I was growing up. My little hometown didn’t have anything more than our tiny public school, but I yearned for the strong friendships, the lifelong bonds, and the living away from home experience. (I suppose this is what a lot of people gain by living on campus during college, too, but alas, I didn’t do that either.)
When I saw Viola in Reel Life at my library, I read “boarding school” on the flap and immediately added it to the stack of books in my arms. Viola’s parents are being sent to Afghanistan to to film a documentary; she has no choice but to go to the all girls boarding school her mother attended in South Bend, Indiana while they’re away. Viola, too, loves making films and feels the Midwest won’t be very inspiring considering she’s a NYC girl. How could things compare?
Viola leaves her best friend, Andrew, behind in New York. As a way to stay connected with him, she decides to film pieces of her life so he can join in her misery. She makes little to no effort to mesh with her three new roommates and chooses to be withdrawn and mopey until they confront her. I greatly admired these three girls, Marisol, Romy, and Suzanne, for reaching out to Viola to prove that the experience didn’t have to be as gruesome as she was allowing it to be. They force her to become more involved so she can walk away after the year is over with new friendships and outlooks.
While I overlooked the fact that Viola was only a Freshman when I checked this out, a much younger character than I typically read about, I did enjoy that the focus of Viola in Reel Life was different because of her age. The story was much more about friendship (than romance) and Viola, an only child, stripping away her independency to rely on new friends with very different upbringings and backgrounds. She had a lot to learn about herself, but she gained a new perspective: circumstances are what you make of them. You have to sieze the day and make the best of things.
Viola’s new friends became a sounding board for her as she navigated choppy waters when her friendship with Andrew became strained (oddly enough, right around the time she begins mentioning her first crush). They were her support group when her parents couldn’t make it home for the holidays. They became her film crew when Viola decided to enter a competition. The camaraderie was a definite strength for Viola in Reel Life and I happily reflected back on my days as a mere high school Freshman.
I wasn’t aware Viola was part of a series. I haven’t yet read the follow-up novel, Viola in the Spotlight, but I’ll be placing it on reserve at my library when I need a change of pace and want to take things back to basics — strong friendships, loving families, and innocent, first love.(less)
Every once in a while, a book comes along that’s so different and beautifully written that it sweep...more[Review originally published on Rather Be Reading!]
Every once in a while, a book comes along that’s so different and beautifully written that it sweeps me off my feet and makes me ignore my husband until I’ve completely absorbed it. Sweethearts was just that for me.
If you think back to your childhood, do you have friends that stick out to you that maybe you wish you were still in contact with today? I’m fairly lucky that I’m still friends with a lot from my childhood, but Jenna feels the void of her missing friend Cameron Quick. These two were inseparable as kids – two social outcasts who had no other friends – until one day, when Jenna was nine, Cameron quits showing up to school. He disappears.
Rumors fly around school that Cameron has died. Jenna is forced to believe this is true because her mom does nothing to deny the lie. For eight years, Jenna goes through a transformation: switching schools, moving houses, and becoming a stronger person. Things are going along just fine until Cameron enrolls in her school.
When I imagine the scene where Jenna first sees Cameron, I can’t help but imagine how I would have reacted. I probably would have fallen out of my chair. Jenna and Cameron quietly and privately reconnect. She is filled with lots of questions she wants answered. He’s reluctant to tell her what she wants to hear because there’s something they’re both burying – an event that occurred shortly before his disappearance. Jenna becomes a confused mess – her relationship with Ethan (her boyfriend) becomes disastrous and she withdraws from everyone, needing time to figure things out on her own without the influence of her friends.
Jenna feels as if she’s completely reinvented herself since Cameron left. She never wanted to be called names for being overweight or too sensitive without Cameron by her side. (In fact, Cameron knows her as Jennifer. Jenna is what she calls herself when she switches schools.) She is conflicted because she feels Cameron is the only person who knows the “true” her. Will her friends accept her if they know her secrets and what she used to be like? A sub-plot is Jenna’s relationship with her mother, who for much of her childhood was absent as she worked and put herself through school. Cameron’s appearance forces Jenna to be honest with her mom about the past, about what happened.
My biggest takeaway was from Cameron’s reintroduction into Jenna’s life. Their story is about love and what it can mean to love someone who makes such a profound impact on our lives, even at such a young age. To love even from a distance. To continue to love when the truth surfaces, when life changes us. Jenna and Cameron’s teenage friendship is much more complicated than their childhood one, but I loved seeing two old friends pick back up where they left off.
Sara Zarr is absolutely one of my favorite authors. If you’re looking for a gripping story that is sure to capture your attention, pick up Sweethearts (or any of Sara’s books for that matter).(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)
Let’s take a moment to characterize a few Hollywood starlets that have made magazine covers in the last...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
Let’s take a moment to characterize a few Hollywood starlets that have made magazine covers in the last 10-ish years for their terrible choices:
She SHAVED HER HEAD. By herself. She accidentally married someone in Vegas. Then there was the marriage to KFed. (Oops, she got married again?!) She had a couple kids. She flashed her underwear (or lack thereof) a whole lotta times.
And then she made a comeback and has lived a relatively “normal” life.
She’s gotten in more car accidents than one can keep up with. (How does she still have a license?) Someone could diagram her privates blindfolded because she’s so not careful when getting out of cars. She’s always in trouble for drinking and drugs. Always. As in, hello, jail time.
LiLo has not learned her lesson yet. The girl is still gettin’ in trouble.
So why am I giving you a breakdown of two Hollywood troublemakers? Because I need you to relate when I explain that Lexington, the main character in 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, is a Hollywood drama-seeker. She’s Lindsay and Britney’s bookish cousin. She’s spoiled, bratty, and overly obnoxious in the beginning of the book. All she wants is to inherit money from her dad when she turns 18 so she can live a comfortable, posh life and never have to depend on him again.
The problem with this flawless (*eye roll*) plan?
She can’t stay out of trouble. After she crashes her brand new, very expensive car into a convenience store, her dad makes her work 52 jobs – one for each week of the year – in order to gain her inheritance. Oh, poor Lexington.
I greatly admire Brody’s ability to turn unlikeable Lexi into a character I could relate to. She wasn’t someone I would even want to know in the beginning of 52 Reasons. Her attitude was very woe-is-me despite all the amazing things she had in her life. The one downfall was the lack of a relationship she had with her father. All of her magazine headlines were a cry for his attention. I appreciated the complexity of Lexi and her father’s relationship; I mostly thought the book would be a humorous display of Lexi’s failed attempts to work normal jobs.
While Lexi certainly didn’t fail to deliver lighthearted, funny moments, the jobs didn’t outweigh the underlying story of the abandonment Lexi felt after her mother died. Lexi learned to keep most people at a distance, except for her two best friends. While I didn’t trust that they would stick around when things got tough for Lexi, I was happily surprised that they weren’t the shallow girls I anticipated they would be.
There is a bit of a love interest, though I’ll be honest and say the relationship between Luke and Lexi doesn’t take center stage. Luke is hired by Lexi’s father to make sure she actually completes each of the jobs. Immediately, there air is thick between Luke and Lexi because she feels he’s her babysitter and he thinks she’s a spoiled brat. They say opposites attract, and boy, these two are certainly different in every way.
I hope you’ll enjoy 52 Reasons to Hate My Father as much as I did. I’m very much looking forward to checking out more of Brody’s work. (Isn’t that the best feeling when an author you like has more books to keep ya reading?!)(less)
[Please note there will be spoilers for Cinder. If you haven't read it yet, don't read beyond this poin...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
[Please note there will be spoilers for Cinder. If you haven't read it yet, don't read beyond this point!]
Cinder was classified as A Book Magan Should Have Read Sooner. Much sooner. Thankfully upon finishing, I was able to dive right in to Scarlet. (Recommendation: Reading these back-to-back was flawless so if it’s been a while for you, do a refresher so you can remember all the details).
We meet Scarlet right away — her grandmother is missing. Law enforcement doesn’t believe she’s been kidnapped. They close her case because they want to believe that her grandmother chose to leave. They allude to suicide, but Scarlet knows better. Things seem super sketchy, right?
If you’re nervous about what happens to your favorite Cinder characters and you need answers + more Prince Kai, never fear. Cinder is still locked in prison and she’s just found out she’s Princess Selene. She desperately needs to escape before she’s taken back to Luna. The only way out is to ask another prisoner, Thorne, for help. Unbeknownst to Cinder, Thorne becomes her sidekick. He is comical, quirky, and despite being a nuisance 99% of the time, he proves he’s quite useful when he needs to be.
Ultimately, Cinder and Scarlet’s stories begin to interweave and this is where Marissa Meyer blows your mind. At times, the pacing seemed a bit slower than Cinder was, but I was still very engaged as a reader. I wanted to how/when/where Scarlet and Cinder’s stories would intersect. Kai was more of a peripheral character for me (I always, always want more Kai); he’s confused about Cinder. Did she use her glamour to persuade him to trust her? Did she manipulate him? He’s frustrated that Queen Levana has forced him to make abrupt decisions. Ay, yi, yi — Queen Levana — detestable woman!
What remains to be one of Meyer’s most striking storytelling tactics is how she alludes to details and lets her readers in on secrets before the characters have fully come to realize them. She continues to give clues that we can use to figure out what’s going to happen next, but I must say… Wolf confused the heck outta me. Scarlet is a Little Red Riding Hood retelling so naturally, I refreshed my memory because I wanted to know what to expect of Wolf. I didn’t want to fall in love with a character I was only supposed to hate! But oh, no! Meyer took my heart on a roller coaster ride and while I had a few suspicions about him from the very beginning, I still didn’t know whether or not to love him. He was dark and mysterious, carrying around lots of baggage. (If you like brooding boys, brace yourselves, girls!)
Scarlet was very much a — Who do I trust? / What’s happening in this world? / How does this piece together? / Where do things go from here? book. I feel like I have a grasp of what Meyer intends to do in the grand scheme of things, but I cannot wait to see what she does with the characters we’ll be introduced to. Believe me, guys, Scarlet is awesome. Remember how you felt about Cinder? Multiply that awesomeness by a million.(less)
Oh, friends. I’m trying so hard to gather my thoughts and compose myself (and my words) after finishing...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
Oh, friends. I’m trying so hard to gather my thoughts and compose myself (and my words) after finishing Days of Blood and Starlight. What a beautiful, wonderful, incredible book by Laini Taylor. I’m going to try to be as spoiler-free for this book, but I will mention a few things from Daughter of Smoke and Bone because I just don’t see a way to properly write this review without doing so.
Laini’s writing is so different, so unique; though her story isn’t at all like Harry Potter, I do feel her character development and world building feels much like what we’ve read and loved by J.K. Rowling. For this very reason, when I first began reading Days of Blood and Starlight I realized I would need to go back and refresh my memory on the final details of book one in the series. I re-read approximately the last third of the book and I’m so glad I did. Here are a few refreshers for you if you need them:
SKIP THE BULLET POINTS IF YOU HAVEN’T READ DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE!
+ Karou puts the pieces together and realizes she is the resurrected, human version of Madrigal. Madrigal was a Chimaera that fell in love with a Seraphim, Akiva. Seraphim and Chimaera are enemies and are at war with one another. Madrigal was publicly beheaded for her relations with Akiva. + Brimstone, the resurrectionist, gave Madrigal life in the human world as Karou. + Karou learns that Akiva is responsible for burning hand prints on portals and for killing Chimaera (we’re uncertain if this includes Brimstone, Issa, and Yasri at the end of book one). + Though Karou and Akiva were falling in love again, once she knows the truth about his mission, she leaves him in search of another portal.
There are a lot of unknowns going into Days of Blood and Starlight. We mostly see Akiva’s perspective in the beginning because he’s unsure of Karou’s whereabouts and if she’s even alive. He’s brokenhearted and helpless. The nature of this book is heavier and more melancholy because our lovers are separated and their world is in the midst of a devastating war. My hopeless romantic self had a hard time processing how Karou and Akiva’s relationship could ever be rekindled, if at all.
While most of book one took place in the human world, our setting fluctuates a lot between there and the Seraphim/Chimaera world. Laini blew my mind by continuing to develop the story further by so incredibly crafting the details of the war. While still told from third person, expect to fluctuate a lot between characters: Akiva, Ziri (a Chimaera who long ago crushed on Madrigal), Jael (the Seraphim Emperor’s cousin with a nasty face scar), Silverswords (guards that protect the Emporor), etc. Very minor characters are given their moment and the impact of this was great. I found myself reeling from the gamut of emotions because of some of these unexpected scenes. The changing point of view only added to the well-roundedness of the story and enhanced my reading experience.
For whatever reason, I was not able to read through Laini’s work at breakneck speed (though not for lack of wanting to). With both books, I felt the need to tread slowly and really take in all the details. This allowed me to wallow in some of the events so much so that I felt like if I walked outside, I might be stepping into their world.
It’s not often that I feel a middle book in a series is as fulfilling as (or even better than) the first book. Friends, I am here to declare that I feel even more dedicated to Laini and her beautiful story. Expect to have your heart broken a few times, to fall in love with characters that were only on the perimeter in the first book, to be in awe of Laini’s imagination, and to feel empowered by the time you read the final words of Days of Blood and Starlight.(less)
In the vast sea of trilogies and series, it’s often hard to find a series that stands out from the crow...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
In the vast sea of trilogies and series, it’s often hard to find a series that stands out from the crowd. Under the Never Sky was a great 2012 read, but I was anxious for more answers – I needed to understand the Aether better and I didn’t grasp why there was so much dissension between the Dwellers and the Outsiders. What had stripped these people apart from living as one society?
In Through the Ever Night, Rossi delivers answers in a perfectly timed and beautifully paced story. The world felt so much more complete and whole — quite possibly because of the sheer amount of exploration and travel Aria has to do. In UtNS, I understood Aria’s life as a Dweller within the compound walls, but this time, I began to understand how the Outsiders lived a bit more. (I will add here that I recommend you do a re-read of at least the last 25% of UtNS so you can jump into this book without hesitation. Jamie and Anna recommended I do this and this refresher made the transition to book two seamless.) The Aether storms were more vivid and the Tides compound was easy to picture, from the critical need for more food and supplies to the chilling glances they sent Aria’s way.
Aria and Perry’s relationship (swoon!) felt very or organic and natural. Things weren’t always perfectly easy for them, but Rossi didn’t throw in unnecessary challenges that over-complicated things for them either. Aria and Perry were sometimes forced to make decisions based on what they genuinely thought would be in the best interest of the other person, even if that meant their relationship might suffer through a hiccup. Perry wasn’t always in the easiest position; often he was caught between loving Aria and his duty to the Tides, causing tension and resistance. Many times, I couldn’t help but question how they would make it as a couple when the Tides accepting Aria seemed so impossible.
Thankfully Roar’s character provided some much-needed comedic relief to break up the stressful situations. He stood out in UtNS, being the humorous and dedicated friend to Perry that he is, but now, his role is amplified and we get to see a whole lot more of him. He’s still the silly sidekick, but he and Aria have a friendship built on a few months of being together after Perry leaves to rule the Tides. Roar helped me to understand Aria’s talents more, and I loved the easy way these two communicated with one another. (Never fear – theirs is not a love-relationship; purely friendship. No love triangle here.) Roar’s character allowed us to experience such a gamut of emotions, sometimes not always the cheerful ones expected of him.
There’s so much to love about Through the Ever Night – amazing character development, world building, and a storyline very different than others currently classified as dystopian. I absolutely loved everything about it (except now having to wait for Into the Still Blue). This is a very solid sequel by Rossi that I highly recommend you pick up as soon as possible!
Tomorrow is a day all book readers need to rejoice, rush to the closest bookstore, purchase a copy of J...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
Tomorrow is a day all book readers need to rejoice, rush to the closest bookstore, purchase a copy of Just One Day, and read it in its entirety. I am not kidding, not in the least. This book is probably one of my very favorite books I’ve read … ever.
Forman took me by complete surprise with her previous books, If I Stay and Where She Went. There are moments I still reflect on scenes from those books and find myself daydreaming about the characters. It’s always a bit scary to read something new when an author leaves that kind of impression. Regardless, Jamie and Anna talked up Just One Day and graciously sent it my way.
Within the first few pages, the confused and very structured main character, Allyson, had struck a chord with me. Her life was controlled and micromanaged by overbearing parents who planned every second of her life. It’s not until the end of her tour in Europe that she realizes how little she’s explored because she was too afraid to do something not on the itinerary (meanwhile, her best friend, Melanie, has made new friends and semi-reinvented herself).
When the chance to go to Paris for a day with Willem (a boy she meets through a local production of a Shakespeare play) arises, she pushes her hesitations aside and chooses to be adventurous. Willem is funny, intelligent, good-looking, and has a wandering spirit that’s up for the challenge of showing Allyson the city. Allyson morphs into an alter-ego, Lulu, who is the bold and daring version of herself. The girl that’s brave and doesn’t need to have every moment pre-planned.
Forman’s writing is beautiful and perfect; her prose is spot on. Her descriptions are vivid — painting clear pictures of the places they went, the people they encountered, the sights they saw. Though I may have expected a “touristy” and overly romantic trek through Paris, what I received was so much more than that. Their stops felt very realistic and not overly idealized. I loved that I didn’t receive the postcard description of the city, but experienced two people discovering themselves in a foreign city in a very natural way. Nothing feels forced, cliched, or contrived.
Maybe you’re like me and you assumed that Just One Day would be mostly an epic love story. Forman’s themes are so strong, making me believe that her words could reach a vast audience.
+ JOD is about a pressured, sheltered girl with high demands being forced on her by her parents (Go to med school. Make something of yourself. Collect clocks. Wear these clothes.) and how she struggles to break free of the mold they’ve so tightly cast around her.
+ It’s about the separation and distance we face when we part from our childhood friends to chase new dreams. (How do you remain friends when it seems life is pulling you in two opposite directions?)
+ There’s the sense of change and wanting to chase after something new and different and acting on it, even though (or maybe especially because) everyone expects you to stay the same.
+ It’s about making friends as an adult and how different that can be than the judgmental ways of high school… and how our preconceived notions of someone can be so, so wrong.
There are no words to describe my love/adoration/infatuation for Just One Day. One day can change the course of your life. I wish I could purchase copies for every person on the planet because it has affected me that immensely.
I highly encourage you, friends, to go out tomorrow and purchase a copy of this book. Allow yourself to fall in love with Paris, to seek answers to all the questions surrounding Willem, and to grow and change with Allyson.(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)
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)
For those of you that loved North of Beautiful by Justina Chen, I am so hesitant to write this review....more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
For those of you that loved North of Beautiful by Justina Chen, I am so hesitant to write this review. I, too, loved that book and had extremely high expectations of Return to Me. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same deep emotional connection with the characters, nor did I feel as rooted in the story.
My expectations for Return to Me were much different than the story that unfolded in the pages. I assumed Reb would be struggling to put her life back together while maintaining a long distance relationship and college. Much of the story is internal as Reb tries to answer the ”What will I do with my life now?” question. Her father’s deception causes her to second guess every aspect of her life, which was often frustrating because she realizes how many of her decisions were made to make him happy. She begins distrusting Jackson, her boyfriend, as if her father’s affair has flipped a switch in her. She plays a game of cat and mouse with him as she tries to sort through all of her emotions. Reb’s uneasiness made me dislike her character and hate how she was toying with someone else’s life, much like her father had been manipulating hers.
One of my biggest dilemmas with Return to Me was the quick and abrupt decision-making on behalf of Reb, the main character. One moment she’s completely invested in making her relationship work long distance with Jackson, and the next page, she’s withdrawn and has a completely different outlook. Her actions weren’t always easy to understand, weren’t explained well, and were extremely contradictory. I do understand that a girl reeling from her father’s abandonment would be imbalanced and uncertain, but minimizing the amount of back-and-forth action would have made Reb a more relatable character.
There is also a psychic/intuition/sixth sense element that really detached me from the story. Reb had disturbing visions when she thought about her family’s move, as if she knew something terrible was going to happen. Reb and the women in her family have a way of getting glimpses of the future; her negative feelings were a warning for her father’s unfaithfulness. Oftentimes, Reb would have a vision or a back story would be told that had no context to support the story; this element seemed to justify information that wasn’t necessary and, as a reader, I only felt more confused.
Overall, the story could have been more focused. If the sixth sense aspect of the story had been disregarded, the story would have flowed better and negated some of the unnecessary confusion and complexity. The timing and pacing could have benefitted from more fine tuning and made the story more believable. Though I desperately wanted to love another of Chen’s book, Return to Me sadly wasn’t a hit for me and left me feeling like I should not finished it and, instead, moved on to something I would have enjoyed more.(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)
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)
Is loving someone related to a person’s external appearance, or is it about their innermost being?
David Levithan explores the complexities of love in his new book, Every Day, in which “A” changes bodies like clockwork each night, waking up in someone else’s life and navigating through their day. One day A wakes up in the body of a boy named Justin. Never before had A wanted to take up residence in someone else’s body indefinitely. Justin and Rhiannon’s relationship is complicated and messy; he doesn’t treat her nearly as well as she deserves to be loved. Usually A ensures that the routines of the person’s life remained in tact and he tries to be as unobtrusive as possible, but upon meeting Rhiannon, A wants to give her a day she will never forget, a day Justin never would have. A wishes for a way to stay with her.
A has never told anyone about how he/she changes bodies. A realizes that no one would ever have memories of him. He decides to be honest with Rhiannon, and uses someone else’s body to navigate his way back to her day after day. Understandably, it’s difficult for her to comprehend – Is he the only person like this? Is he just a creeper?
A takes over the bodies of both boys and girls and has no sexual orientation, whether that be male or female. (As you can see above, I referred to A as a “he.” While I don’t feel like I specifically identified A with a gender while reading, I have found it difficult to explain the story without using pronouns.) Rhiannon finds it difficult to see beyond the bodies A inhabited each day to see the person inside. When A is a female, there is a definite struggle for Rhiannon; she knows the body was just a facade and that the soul inside is a remarkable person she connected with perfectly, but there are barriers she has to overcome.
Rhiannon questions how they would ever make it work as a couple. For someone so young, she finds it difficult to grasp what she and A’s long-term future would be like. This is where I feel Levithan shined the most in his writing; he poetically and beautifully describedswhat it is to fall in love with someone. There are complications that Rhiannon and A would face that we all take for granted:
- How will they ever grow old together? - Will they ever be able to wake up in the morning together? - What if A wakes up in the body of someone thousands of miles away – how will they find their way back together?
Levithan takes our every day lives and spins them on their sides. As I read, I became more and more thankful for the simplicity of knowing my husband would be by my side every morning. While I mostly identified with A and the strong desire to be in a relationship, I certainly embraced the drawbacks Rhiannon combated. Levithan left no stone unturned in exploring A’s life and circumstances.
We’re taken through a gamut of different characters as A inhabits different bodies: an obese boy, a bitchy girl, a severely depressed girl, a gay boy. This was one of my most favorite experiences of reading Every Day. Levithan touches on so many different types of people, exploring the contrasting ups and downs of life. The beauty and magnificence of A’s character is in his/her ability to find the uniqueness and goodness of each person (with a few exceptions).
My heart absolutely broke over the impermanence of A’s life — how fleeting it was. A’s life is isolated and lonely. Until Rhiannon, there is no one to move through life with. In a very original way, Levithan had me thanking my lucky stars for the friends I can count on every day — the ones that know the boring, mundane rituals of my life — and my parents whom I often take for granted because they’re my rocks, always here.
I’m not quite sure why I waited to pick up Every Day, but I definitely suggest you move it to the top of your reading pile soon. I need a hard copy on my bookshelves so I can glance through some of my favorite passages when the fancy strikes.(less)
Have you ever read a book where you thought maybe the book was so good you couldn’t do it justice when...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
Have you ever read a book where you thought maybe the book was so good you couldn’t do it justice when you wrote your review? I immediately texted Estelle when I finished Love and Other Perishable Items because I didn’t know how to put my thoughts and feelings into words. Could I possibly convince you that this book is amazing? Buzo’s writing is so incredibly thorough – I’m not sure my review even begins to do it justice. More mature audiences would enjoy this book, somewhat because of content – drinking, sex, drugs, but mostly because it led me to do a considerable amount of contemplating. I recommend this for anyone who enjoys thinking beyond what’s written on the page.
Growing up, I remember being attracted to the older guys — they were wiser, more mature, and could hold a conversation with me that lasted longer than a few minutes. They captivated me and more often than not, my parents didn’t allow me to pursue relationships with said guys because they were “too mature” for me. Womp womp womp.
In Love and Other Perishable Items, Amelia takes a job at a local grocery store. During her training, she’s assigned to a store veteran, Chris, who is to show her the ropes and explain the job to her. A friendship is sparked from the very beginning - despite the fact that Amelia is 15 and Chris is 21. Amelia is a very mature teenager and her feelings quickly develop into lustful ones. Chris admires how Amelia over-analyzes everything – he’s amused and entertained by her. He provides a listening ear for all the things that absorb Amelia’s mind.
Amelia tells the overarching storyline in a mostly chronological sequence of events. Her story is written in first person and composes most of the story, but the interesting addition is how Chris is incorporated. He and Amelia bond over literature and the books she’s given as required reading at school; he is an English major in college. Because he’s a writer, his story is written as a series of journal entries. They are piecer and often fill in the gaps for Amelia’s narration. The combination of getting the larger picture and seeing sub-stories and another character’s perspective provided a comprehensive understanding of the complexities of Chris and Amelia’s relationship.
Chris and Amelia are two observant, albeit sometimes cynical, characters who love dissecting the world and books. Feminism plays a tremendous role in Love and Other Perishable Items. Amelia struggles with her family dynamics – a mother who is constantly worn down and left with little time for herself while her father often seems distant and very self-involved, never lending a helping hand at home. She views their relationship as unfair and struggles to understand the prejudices and responsibilities placed on women. She fights to understand how women have worked so hard to gain independence and equality and yet, we seem more overworked than ever. I, personally, really enjoyed these discussions between Amelia and Chris — it evoked contemplation and reflection upon my own marriage. Did I agree with Amelia and were those things she disliked so much happening in my very own home? (I have to say I’m a lucky gal with a husband who kindly does his fair share of work around the house.)
Chris and Amelia’s relationship is a very complex one. Chris has hesitations because of Amelia’s age and she has hope that he can see beyond the number. Buzo beautifully explores what it’s like to feel like you’ve met your soul mate, but for things to realistically be complicated and impossible. How it feels to fall in love for the very first time with someone who seems so out of reach. I met my husband when I was 16 years old and he was 20. While there were certainly hesitations on my parents behalf, here we are nearly 11 years later (happily married for 8). My personal story gave me hope for Amelia and Chris.
Love and Other Perishable Items is unlike any other young adult book I’ve read this year. In the time since I read this book, the story has marinated and become that much more rich and flavorful. It’s engaging and refreshing, explorative and thought-provoking. As soon as I turned the final page, I wanted to flip to the beginning for a re-read because I wanted to adequately appreciate all the intricacies of Buzo’s incredible writing. (less)