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Category Archives: Book Reviews

[Review] My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzparick

Book: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzparick

Publication: June 14, 2012 by Dial Books (Penguin Teen)

Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary: “One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them…until one summer evening Jase Garrett climbs her trellis and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love and stumble through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first romance, Jase’s family makes Samantha one of their own—even as she keeps him a secret from her disapproving mother and critical best friend. Then the unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself? Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on 13 July, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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[Review] Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Book: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Publication: December 1, 2001 by Sourcebooks Fire

Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary (Amazon): What girl doesn’t want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn’t just surrounded by hot guys, though–she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys and that’s just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university.

But everything she’s ever worked for is threatened when Ty Greeen moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he’s also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan’s feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart’s on the line?

This book sounded so promising and I was so sure that I would absolutely love it. I mean, it’s a football book where the female main character is the school’s quarterback. And look at that cover! What’s not to love?

Unfortunately, while I enjoyed the story overall, I didn’t love the it as much as I had wanted/expected to. Here are my thoughts in list form (sorry I’m running low on creative juices so, you get what you get today!):

What I Liked

  • Jordan. I really did like the main character a lot. She was smart, funny, and one tough cookie. I have mad respect for any girl who can hold her own on a team full of guys.
  • The friendship between the teammates. I liked seeing Jordan interact with both JJ and Carter, they had such a great bond and it proves guys and girls can be friends. They were protective of her, but also let her fight her own battles. It seemed like a perfect
  • Marie and Carrie. I loved how they threw Jordan’s mental image of cheerleaders completely upside down. They both seemed like the sort of girls I’d have been friends with.
  • The relationship between Jordan and her mom. Her mom was so supportive and at every single game and every single practice. I always enjoy seeing active parenting in a YA book.
  • Also, the relationship between Jordan and her brother Mike. I loved that he supported her both in football and when she was having personal issues. It’s good to see siblings get along so well!
  • Football. Have I mentioned how much I love Football? I’m counting down the days until college ball starts back up!

What I Didn’t Like

  • Ty. I didn’t see him as being a believable crush. I guess this is where I need to suspend my jaded adult view of things, but it seemed too sudden and it was all based on the fact that he was hot. I just had a hard time buying it. And I didn’t like the drastic personality changes he seemed to undergo, it was a bit confusing. And worrisome.
  • How the Henry/Jordan thing went down. I just didn’t find it all that realistic for teenagers, aside from the “i’m not speaking to you for weeks” thing.
  • The constant cursing. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I curse enough to make a sailor blush, so it’s not that I’m anti cursing. I just felt it was a bit overused in the book, regardless of how often teenagers actually curse, and it definitely could have been toned down.

All in all the positive outweighed the negative and I enjoyed the read. It’s definitely worth picking up if you love YA contemp with strong female characters. Also, the companion book, Stealing Parker, will be out in October.

 
 

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[Review] For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Title: For Darkness Shows the Stars

Author: Diana Peterfreund

Publication: June 12th 2012 by Balzer + Bray

Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary (Amazon): It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret—one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

My Review: I was simultaneously excited and worried before starting this book. While i adore Diana Peterfreund, her killer unicorns books are absolutely fabulous, I was never a huge fan of Persuasion by Jane Austen which this book is based on (I think my life of Pride and Prejudice made it difficult to love her other novels.)

I shouldn’t have been worried. At all. Diana came through and delivered with a book that immediately found its way to the very top of my favorite books from 2012. A little dystopian, a little sci-fi, a little classic, a little steampunk and a lot of awesome. This may be on my list of all time favorite YA Reads as well.

Elliot is a phenominal character (and I love this name for a girl!), she’s strong, driven and fiercely loyal, but at the same time she is incredibly vulnerable and fragile.  As i got further into the story I was completely unable to put the book down and I frantically flipped pages to find out what was going to happen to Elliot. I was fully invested in the story and Elliot’s well-being and I had to keep reading to make sure that everything would be okay.

The story is beautifully executed, flipping seamlessly between long ago letters exchanged between Kai and Elliot and the events that were occurring in real time. The letters were a fantastic insight into the two when they were children, and it was great being able to see the history they had without being subjected to multiple flashbacks. They also served to make Kai a more sympathetic character, because for a lot of the book he was pretty much a jerk.

The world building was fascinating and complex without being overly complicated. The class structure that was developed added an interesting layer to the plot. The world felt both familiar and strange at the same time, which constantly kept me on my toes and trying to figure out how things would work.

All in all, Diana’s blend of dystopian and science fiction was the perfect complement to Jane Austen’s novel of manners. Austen’s influence gave an entirely new spin on the dystopian genre and in my opinion it was something that I loved to see happen. This is a must read for everyone. I promise you, you’ll enjoy it.

 
 

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[Review] The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead

Title: The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2)

Author: Richelle Mead

Publication: June 12th 2012 by Razorbill

Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary (Amazon): Tough, brainy alchemist Sydney Sage and doe-eyed Moroi princess Jill Dragomir are in hiding at a human boarding school in the sunny, glamorous world of Palm Springs, California. The students–children of the wealthy and powerful–carry on with their lives in blissful ignorance, while Sydney, Jill, Eddie, and Adrian must do everything in their power to keep their secret safe. But with forbidden romances, unexpected spirit bonds, and the threat of Strigoi moving ever closer, hiding the truth is harder than anyone thought.

My Review: Okay, full disclosure before continuing: there will be copious amounts of squealing, arm flailing, gushing and capslock/exclamation point abuse in this review. That is the only way I con properly convey how I feel. Read at your own risk. 🙂

Oh. My. Goodness. This book. THIS BOOK. It’s been quite a while since I finished a book and then immediately turned around and flipped back through in order to reread various sections. There were just some moments that I absolutely adored and wanted to relive one more time before I passed the book off to my best friend.

If you still had any lingering doubts about Sydney as a narrator even after reading Bloodlines, well NEVER FEAR, The Golden Lily crushes them all. I love Sydney and her practical clothes, her vast intelligence, determination, and her courage. She has come a long way since her first appearance Blood Promise, and it’s fascinating to watch her warring emotions between how she feels about her friends, the vampires, and what her Alchemist rules and regulations demand from her. She’s not sure how to feel or if how she feels is right or wrong and I think we’ll see more of this as the series goes on.

Also, her naiveté when it comes to boys and social situations is frickin’ HIALRIOUS! It’s so endearing to watch this calm and logical girl try to rationalize dating and just fail so miserably. As astute as she is, she’s completely baffled and blind when it comes to romantic entanglements. It’s adorably infuriating to watch her, you just want to reach through the pages and shake some sense into her!

So, what we get in The Golden Lily that we didn’t really get in Bloodlines was Dimitri!! Words cannot express how excited i was to see the tall, dark, handsome Russian in a trench coat (does anyone else picture Spike’s Russian cousin or something? Or is that just me? Ahh, just me then…) grace the pages once again. I love watching interactions between Dimitri and Adrian, as it’s vastly entertaining how calm he can remain while Adrian flings zinger after singer his way. And, for all you Rose/Dimitri lovers out there, there’s a moment tucked away that will make you absolutely melt.

The storyline in The Golden Lily had me far more intrigued than I was in Bloodlines, and I was fascinated to see the research they were doing to determine why the Strigoi weren’t able to drink Sydney or Lee’s blood. Other than that I can’t go into too much detail about what happened without spoiling the plot of the book, so you’ll have to take more word on it that’s its all rather thrilling and throws Sydney totally off her game. It’s AWESOME.

Okay, so now that I’ve been good and given my thoughts on the book, let me get to what I’m really excited about. ADRIAN. This book has ADIRAN EVERYWHERE. Words cannot express how much I love Adrian and his snarky ways. He’s my all time favorite book crush (even if in real life I’m not big on binge drinkers and chain smokers, whatevs.) and he’s FANTASTIC. He’s so adorable and OBVIOUS about everything and it’s so cute to watch. Adrian has come a looooong way since the Vampire Academy days and I’m just so proud. He’s all grown up, but still just as smokin’ hot as ever.

And damn, does that boy have some good lines! I warn you, you may melt into a giant puddle of goo. Or maybe that’s just me.

I loved this book more than I’ve loved any other book in quite a while. It had me at Anna and the French Kiss levels of giddiness, which is saying something! If you’re a fan of Richelle Meade’s Vampire Academy and haven’t gotten around to this spinoff, what are you waiting for? Go get Bloodlines and The Golden Lily NOW!

 
 

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[Review] Surrender by Elena Johnson

Title: Surrender

Author: Elena Johnson

Publication: June 12th 2012 by Razorbill

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Summary (Amazon): Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi.

     All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn.

     Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque…. 

My Review: 

I was interested in reading Surrender because I just had to know what happened with Vi and Zenn and Jag after the events of Possession, even though that novel . So, I was pretty disappointed to hear that they would only be background characters in the second book in Elana’s trilogy. But I think she did a good job of introducing two new main characters and still showcasing the ones who were the initial draw.

I’m a little conflicted with how I feel about this book so let me break down The Bad, The Good and The Great:

The Bad: I spent a lot of the book entirely confused about how the Insiders operated and weren’t caught. For a place that in the first book had such strict rules and procedures, the characters we meet seem to get away with an awful lot. I understand that there were people helping them to get away with things, but over all it just didn’t feel all that plausible to me. I mean, Gunner was far too reckless and got away with far too many things for me to believe were possible in this place with no freedom.

I’m still not entirely sure who was on what side, who was helping who and who was really the enemy. I mean, I know who The Big Bad is (or at least I’m sure, with this series it’s definitely not crystal clear),but beyond that there was a lot of back and forth and things that didn’t quite fit. I wanted more insight on some of the characters to decide what they were doing and what their motives were and I was left feeling unsatisfied overall.

Also, I’m still not clear on how the ending happened. Has anyone read the book? I may need to bounce some ideas off of you!

The Good: The strong friendship between Raine and her match Cannon was sweet to witness, you could tell that they really did care for each other even if they weren’t romantically involved. However, their friendship and match was also one of the few things that made Raine vulnerable to her father, which doesn’t bode well for anyone involved.

Gunner was a great addition to the book and I think he was the perfect foil for both Zenn and Raine. I would like to know more about Gunner’s past and how his mother and father play into everything that is currently unfolding. Gunn is the character I am more interested in seeing how his future plays out.

And Vi and Raine had some fantastic scenes together, it was interesting to see Vi be the one who was able to get through to Raine when no one else could. I’m a big fan of YA books not displaying two girls as enemies or competition, there’s so much of that on television that it’s good to see these two working together and supporting each other.

The Great: I liked getting to see Raine’s power and how it affected her. Everyone else we’ve seen has a power and can use it, but they usually don’t suffer consequences from using it. I thought it was fascinating to see a different side of these powers and see why someone honestly didn’t want to use them. I though Raine was an excellent character, even if she was a bit under developed. As much as I liked Vi in Possession, I think I like Raine even more!

Overall, Surrender was a vast improvement from Possession yet I still felt it was lacking in many ways. But if you like dystopian fiction this trilogy is worth taking a look at it. And even though I wasn’t 100% satisfied, I’ll still be sticking around to read the third book and see how this all ends.

 
 

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[Review] Miracle by Elizabeth Scott

Book: Miracle by Elizabeth Scott

Publication: June 5, 2012 from Simon Pulse

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Summary (Amazon): Megan is a miracle. At least, that’s what everyone says. Having survived a plane crash that killed everyone else on board, Megan knows she should be grateful just to be alive. But the truth is, she doesn’t feel like a miracle. In fact, she doesn’t feel anything at all. Then memories from the crash start coming back.

     Scared and alone, Megan doesn’t know whom to turn to. Her entire community seems unable—or maybe unwilling—to see her as anything but Miracle Megan. Everyone except for Joe, the beautiful boy next door with a tragic past and secrets of his own. All Megan wants is for her life to get back to normal, but the harder she tries to live up to everyone’s expectations, the worse she feels. And this time, she may be falling too fast to be saved….

My Review: I honestly don’t know what I was expecting when I started reading Miracle. This was my first Elizabeth Scott book and all I knew her was that she writes contemporary YA fiction.

Miracle was a fascinating read. There’s really no other word for it. It’s all too easy to see how Megan’s trauma could go overlooked in the wake of her survival from the crash. Her parents are too blinded by their relief at the fit that she’s alive to notice that Megan hasn’t been able to re-adjust to life after the crash. It’s understandable, but it was still heart wrenching to see Megan suffering and see that her parents don’t realize that she’s hurting. I couldn’t help but feel angry at her parents throughout most of the book for being so oblivious.

I had a hard time understanding the other characters as well. Her best friends were quick to welcome her home and wanted to believe she was the miracle they all though that she was. But when it become obvious that Megan was acting completely different that she had before, they got angry at her rather than try to help. I felt that they were too wrapped up in their lives and wanted everything to be exactly the same, they weren’t able to understand their friend had been through an ordeal beyond their experience.

The characters of Margaret and David del the most real to me. They both understood that something was different with Megan, however they both reacted and dealt with it differently. Margaret with the understanding of a women who has seen far too much in her life and David with all the maturity of a ten year old boy. David’s reactions made me smile even when he was being infuriating because I felt that Elizabeth Scott capture the character of a put out younger brother perfectly, he understood that there was something wrong with Megan but he didn’t understand what or how to deal with it.

The book moved at a quick enough pace, but I felt that overall the plot was a bit disjointed. It felt like the disjointedness was doing intentionally to help the reader understand what Megan was experiencing, however it felt like there was something missing to really drive that point home. I’d have preferred a bit that was a bit longer and had a more fleshed out story and characters. There was so much potential in this story and overall it fell flat for me.

I’m glad I got a chance to read Miracle, but I’m not so sure if I’ll be rushing out to buy any of her older books. Anyone want to give me some reasons why I should? Have you read Miracle and want to share your thoughts on it?

 
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Posted by on 12 June, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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[Review] Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Book: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Publication Date: March 22, 2011 by Philomel

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

How I got it: Picked it up at Barnes and Noble on a whim because the cover captivated me

Summary (from Amazon): Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously-and at great risk-documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.

Review: I started this book on a lazy Saturday afternoon, think I’d read for a little bit before starting dinner. I ended up not moving from the couch until I turned the last page, tears streaming down my face. It was a gripping, heart-wrenching, and completely beautiful book.

I’ll admit that I initially picked up this book at B&N because I thought for sure it was a book that focused on the Holocaust (and I’m sure you’ve realized by now that I’m a sucker for Holocaust stories). It turned out that it wasn’t a Holocaust book, rather it was the story of a girl displaced for her home in Lithuania by the Russians. The history nerd in me was rather horrified that I didn’t know enough about this incident, but this book was a great gateway into learning.

If you’re familiar with any Holocaust fiction, this is very much in the same vein and as a result it’s an incredibly powerful story. You’ll fall in love with the character of Lina from the very first pages, after all she’s just a normal girl in an extremely abnormal situation. She uses her passion for her art to try and remain connected to her family and the outside world, which it’s a risk as she could be killed if her art work is found but Lina adamantly refuses to give up her art. I love watching her commit this simple act of a quiet rebellion every time she places pen to paper, it shows that not all rebellions have to be lot or direct.

Once Lina learns exactly what is happening to her family, you see her filled with a fierce determination to survive and to help everyone around her do the same. Even though she is by far one of the youngest in her group, it’s obvious that Lina is more aware than the adults around her. And as her story unfolds you’ll find yourself hoping with every fiber of your being that she will survive this torture and be allowed to return to her home in Lithuania.

The story is also peppered with other memorable characters, all who contribute to the moving tapestry that is the “work relocation” program that so many Lithuanians faced. Her brother, who is so young and innocent that you can’t help but feel encouraged; Andrius, the handsome, yet infuriating 17 year old boy that Lina meets on the train; the bald man, who from the beginning is sure that they will all die and repeats this loudly and often; Lina’s mother, the picture of a calm and strong women, someone whom Lina aspires to be like.

If you enjoy historical fiction or, like me, consider The Diary of Anne Frank to be one of the most moving books you’ve read, this is a must read to be added to your list.

 
 

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