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Book Review: 10 Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have)

Title: 10 Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have)

Author: Sarah Mlynowski

Publication Date:  7 June 2011

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: Harper Teen

Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary (from Barnes & Noble): 2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house – parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn’t have. If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn’t jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although maybe “opportunity” isn’t the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: “Lied to Our Parents”). But she and her housemate Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up “Skipping School” (#3), “Throwing a Crazy Party” (#8), “Buying a Hot Tub” (#4), and, um, “Harboring a Fugitive” (#7) at all is kind of a mystery to them. To get through the year, April will have to juggle a love triangle, learn to do her own laundry, and accept that her carefully constructed world just might be falling apart . . . one thing-she-shouldn’t-have-done at a time.

My Review: This was a fun and lighthearted read that was perfect as a “end of the semester celebration read” that provided an escape from the heavier graduate school reading. It’s not heavy handed or overly dramatic, it accomplished it’s task of providing me with a decent escape when I needed it.

Sarah Mlynowski created a perfect voice for April, it felt and sounded like she was 1/3 teen, 1/3 scared young girl  and 1/3 young adult. That is exactly the voice you expect from a 16 year old girl still trying to navigate through those awkward late teen years.

The book was both smart and funny and it was full of authentic and real characters. I often found myself laughing out loud at lines I felt could have been pulled from the mouths of my friends and I as teenagers. However, in a few spots I found myself rolling my eyes at the ridiculousness and implausibility of the situations that were often imposed upon April. I occasionally found myself exasperated at how immature and demanding April could be, but that’s exactly what most adults would expect from a sixteen year old. Especially one who is now living on her own and is trying to prove her maturity.

At points I had a hard time with the flashbacks as though they did help move the plot along they appeared to randomly that they succeeded in jarring me out of the natural rhythm of the story. I felt that these could have been better organized and written more fluidly into the story as they information they displayed provided valuable character building information.

Overall I enjoyed Sarah’s writing style and definitely plan to check out other books she’s written whenever I’m in need of an escape from my reality!

 
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Posted by on 29 July, 2011 in Book Reviews

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten “Awww” Moments In Books

It’s Tuesday again and over at The Broke and the Bookish that means it’s time for another Tuesday Top Ten! This week’s topic is your Top Ten “Awww” Moments In Books (those cute lines, charming actions, kisses, or any other sentimental moment that made you say “AWWW!”. This was so difficult to chose from but I think I finally managed to narrow it down!

1. The last chapter of Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery. The scene where Gilbert asks Anne if she has any unfulfilled dreams, and he tells her that he persists of dreaming of a life with her. This line makes me “aww” every single time:

 “I don’t want sunbursts and marble halls. I just want YOU. You see I’m quite as shameless as Phil about it. Sunbursts and marble halls may be all very well, but there is more `scope for imagination’ without them. And as for the waiting, that doesn’t matter. We’ll just be happy, waiting and working for each other — and dreaming. Oh, dreams will be very sweet now.”

2. The scene at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when you see Ron and Hermione kiss for the very first time. It was a moment almost 7 books in the making and I just about dropped my book in glee when it finally did. (not that we didn’t all know it was coming, but seriously let me have this one).

3. The scene in Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins between Anna and St. Clair on top of Notre-Dame. Part of the feeling from this scene comes from the setting and part from the dialogue between the two characters. But it’s definitely aww-inspiring.

4. The very last chapter of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. I don’t want to ruin that for those who haven’t read it, but I think it was perfectly done and not overly mushy. Just the right amount of “aww” for Katniss.

5. The scene in Vision of the Future by Timothy Zahn where Luke Skywalker proposes to Mara Jade. In a way it had been building for years and through countless novels, but it still seemed to come flying out of the left galaxy and stun the reader. I think I shouted out a “YES!” in the middle of my high school classroom when I read it.

6. In If I Stay by Gayle Forman, the scene where Adam is sitting by Mia’s bed and telling her that he’ll do whatever she needs, whatever she wants, if she’ll just stay. That made me aww through my tears which I wasn’t sure was possible before!

7. In Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead I found myself “awwing” uncontrollable during the scenes with Rose and Dimitri. The connected between the two of them was far too strong and it was incredibly sweet at the same time.

8. In The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley pretty much any scene between Cecily and Little John. Everything Robin McKinley writes is delightful and amazing and this re-telling of the Robin Hood legend is certainly no exception.

9. The ending of The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullamn. The scene between Lyra and Will is so touching and so pure and innocent. I adored this trilogy and everything about it.

10. The scene between Fire and Brigan in the little green house in Kristin Cashore’s Fire. It’s so sweet and something you’ve been waiting to hear for the entire novel.

I’m sure at some point in the future I will write a top ten list that doesn’t involve something from the Harry Potter series. Possibly. Maybe. Probably not. I shouldn’t kid myself.

 

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Book Review: Crush: 26 Real-life Tales of First Love


Title:
 Crush: 26 Real-lifeTales of First Love

Author: Andrea N. Richesin

Publication Date:  May 24, 2011

Genre: Anthology/ Essays

Publisher: Harlequin

Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary (Amazon): Twenty-six bestselling authors return to the teenage bedrooms, school hallways and college dorms of their youth to share passionate essays of love lost and found and lessons learned along the way. Whether heartbreaking or hilarious, their soul-baring honesty reminds us to keep reaching for true love wherever we can find it and for as long as it takes. Their intimate reflections will fascinate and move any reader who remembers her first love.

My Review: In this collection of essays 26 authors revisit their own lives and memories in order to the story of their first love. For anyone who is looking for a trip down memory lane and a chance to return to those blissful moments of first love, the giddiness of a crush and the heart wrenching feeling of that first breakup, this book will be your guide. These stories examine what it means to fall in love, develop a crush, and to eventually be crushed by love.

As everyone knows, there are precious few things that are more consuming someone’s first love, or even their first crush. These 26 authors beautifully and uniquely capture the feelings and emotions that you experience during that momentous event. While this anthology gives you 26 unique perspectives (in each author’s own unique voice) on a first love or a crush there is still something about that experience that remains universal and relatable to almost everyone.

The emotional responses that this book created in me were as varied as the stories and authors themselves. I found myself alternating between tears, nostalgia, love, utter embarrassment, understanding, laughter, anger and regret. In each story there was almost always a single line, phrase or situation that reminded me of a crush or a relationship I’ve experienced somewhere along the way. It was so relatable I found myself wondering if some of these author’s hadn’t witnessed parts of my own live and decided to add them in for detail.

When I finally closed the book around midnight I found myself still unable to sleep and I was drawn to my journals from my high school years and college years. In those old sewn together composition books the tale of my first love lies sandwiched in between the marbled covers. I found myself re-living my own unique first love experience late into the night, that story too drew tears from an old wound that felt fresher than ever last. Maybe someday I’ll feel confident enough to write that out for the world to see, but for now it’s still too fresh and too painful.

This book was draining, it was emotional, it was raw, it was insightful, it was thoughtful, it was fresh and most importantly it was so completely real and true. It invoked a strong reaction in me the way I always hope a book I pick up will. I definitely recommend this to anyone and everyone, it will touch you no matter what.

 
 

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Book Review: Graceling


Title:
 Graceling

Author: Kristin Cashore

Publication Date:  October 1, 2008

Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy

Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books

Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary (from Barnes & Noble): Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

My Review: Graceling is Kristin Cashore’s début novel and with it she certainly makes her presence known in the world of YA lit and fantasy. Her fantasy world is a place of corrupt kings and lords, special gifts, political intrigue, danger and love. All of these elements are expertly woven together to create a compelling story, realistic characters and setting to vivid you can practically feel the mountains. The novel’s pace is pitch-perfect, moving slowly when the situations call for it and speeding up when the elements of danger arise.

While this book has many traditional fantasy elements incorporated into it Cashore has managed to make the novel feel free and entirely new. She leaves her own stamp on this genre and it is not once that will easily be forgotten. Her writing style allows her to use each detail she drops to create the overall picture that allows readers to develop a greater understanding of the overall story.

I’m partial to novels (especially YA novels) that feature a strong female character and Katsa is one of the best I have seen, powerful, fantastic and well-rounded. Watching her evolve from King Randa’s “thug” and “personal killer” who tortures and kills on his command into a person of her own who stands and fights for what she believes in gives the readers an incredible journey to follow. From the moment she bursts on to the page she is breathtaking, daring and independent and as the story evolves so does she, exposing her vulnerability, heart and courage.

This book is an absolutely must read and I’m now finding myself anxiously awaiting the release of Bitterblue, the third installment in this “trilogy”.

 

 

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Book Review: Fire

Title: Fire

Author: Kristin Cashore

Publication Date:  January 25, 2011

Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy

Publisher: Firebird

Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary (from Barnes & Noble): It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her. Exquisitely romantic, this companion to the highly praised Graceling has an entirely new cast of characters, save for one person who plays a pivotal role in both books. You don’t need to have readGraceling to love Fire. But if you haven’t, you’ll be dying to read it next.

My Review: Fire is an outcast in her world as her vibrant and unnaturally reddish gold hair is an indication of her monster heritage (as well as a reminder of her father) and her dangerous powers of mind control. Those in her world either fear her and want her to the point of destruction and so she stays safe and almost alone in her northern home.

Meanwhile the kingdom around her is at war as King Nash and his brother Prince Brigan fight to keep it from being overthrown by their enemy lords. Both the King and the Prince distrust Fire due to her father’s influence over their father and the tragedy and havoc they both caused the kingdom before their deaths.

Kristin Cashore has created a fascinating world full of strange creatures, strange powers, and a land teeming with political tension. At the heart of the story is Fire who is truly a well deserved female lead. She is strong, empowering, and fiercely independent, yet she makes her empathy and her struggles known as well. It’s endearing and painful to watch her struggle through reconciling who she is with her father’s horrible legacy. She is determined and desperate to not make the mistakes he did and to not succumb to her powers in a way that would destroy those around her as he did.

Fire is a character that is so clearly likable and relatable that you find yourself entirely wrapped up in her story. The plot is satisfyingly complex and multi-layered without feeling loose or too crowded. The book is entirely full of fluffy bunnies as it does deal with death and loss, but it does so in such a way that feels optimistic and the right thing to do. This book absolutely gives Kristin Cashore a place in the ranks of some of the best YA fantasy authors and she certainly deserves it. I was hardly able to put the book down after hitting the halfway mark and I found myself staying up entirely past my bedtime in order to get to the end! 

 
 

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Book Review: Lock and Key

Title: Lock and Key

Author: Sarah Dessen

Publication Date:  May 14, 2009

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: Speak

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Summary (from Barnes & Noble): Ruby is used to taking care of herself. But now she’s living in a fancy new house with her sister Cora—a sister she hasn’t seen in ten years—and her husband Jamie—creator of one of the most popular online networking sites. She’s attending private school, wearing new clothes, and for the first time, feels the promise of a future that include college and her family. So why is she so wary? And what is Nate— the adorable and good-hearted boy next door— hiding behind his genial nature? As Ruby starts to see, there’s a big difference between being given help, and being able to accept it. And sometimes, in order to save yourself, you’ve got to reach out to someone else.

My Review: This book is classic Sarah Dessen. You’ve got the headstrong girl with a fatal flaw (in this case it’s that she can’t trust anyone), you’ve got the handsome boy (in this case one with a secret) and a love story that happens despite all the odds. I’m definitely not saying I don’t enjoy Sarah Dessen’s novels it’s just that I do seem to know exactly where they will end before they do. However, while I do know how and where the book will end most of the fun in reading a Dessen novel is discovering how the characters will get there.

This book did not disappoint with the drama and insecurities that a teenage girl at a new school and in a new life faces. It was interesting to watch Ruby go form being so independent and barely making it by to actually putting herself into her schoolwork and her job. It was a nice feeling to watch her slowly make friends and begin to feel comfortable in this life where she wasn’t faced with constant hardship.

While I know the focus of the book was on Nate and Ruby’s relationship I was far more drawn into the relationship between Ruby and her older sister Cora. The idea that their mother purposefully keep them separated was heartbreaking and cruel, yet at the same time made me understand her mother’s character far more than I would have otherwise. Honestly, I think I would’ve preferred this book without the romance and the intrigue had it just focused solely on the sisters relationship and how they slowly built it back up and began to consider each other family again. I think that book would’ve had a much stronger storyline and would created a much stronger emotional reaction from me.

 

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Book Review: Just Listen

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Title: Just Listen

Author: Sarah Dessen

Publication Date: April 6, 2006

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Summary (from Barnes & Noble): When Annabel, the youngest of three beautiful sisters, has a bitter falling out with her best friend—the popular and exciting Sophie—she suddenly finds herself isolated and friendless. but then she meets owen—a loner, passionate about music and his weekly radio show, and always determined to tell the truth. And when they develop a friendship, Annabel is not only introduced to new music but is encouraged to listen to her own inner voice. with owen’s help, can Annabel find the courage to speak out about what exactly happened the night her friendship with Sophie came to a screeching halt?

Review (caution, spoilers ho!): I picked up the book from a used book store mostly because I’d been hearing about how amazing of a YA author Sarah Dessen was and how true to life her characters were. Well, after skipping over her books at both Borders sales and random jaunts through Barnes and Noble I decided it was finally time to see for myself if she lived up to the hype. Dessen definitely breathes live into the characters, teenagers and adults alike, causing the reader to become invested in both their well-being and their lives.

Annabel comes across the pages as a real teenage girl (side modeling career aside) and it’s easy to understand why she ignored things the way that she did. Most 16-year-old girls don’t have the maturity or wish to confront something as life changing and traumatic as she did, hell most grown women would have issues confronting it! Dessen does a wonderful job slowly developing the friendship and more that arises between Owen and Annabel, at no point does it feel forced on contrived.

One thing I felt Dessen did extremely well was in nailing the mean girl mentality with the character of Sophie, it’s not over the top or overdone it’s almost pitch perfect. Her ultimate fall from grace at the end of the novel felt realistic and occurred without any of the over the top dramatics that so often go with these occurrences in YA novels. You almost feel bad for her, but secretly you know that’s exactly what you wanted to happen.

I think this book was definitely worth the read and it made me curious to read other Sarah Dessen books. After all with summer around the corner I need to invest in some quality poolside reading material!

 
 

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