Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Best of the Bunch: August 2011

Best of the Bunch is a meme hosted by Lyrical of Lyrical Reviews, where we highlight our favorite read from the past month--our "hot pick, top read, must-put-it-on-your-reading-list-immediately book."

This was a hard decision because with only a few exceptions, I loved all the books I read this month. But since I can only pick one, my favorite read for August was "Heist Society," by Ally Carter (read my review here). It was exactly what I was hoping it would be--a witty, hilarious adventure with great characters. It's one of those books I can (and did) recommend to anyone, regardless of their age or genre preferences. It's for sure going on my list of favorite books. I'm so excited to read the sequel, "Uncommon Criminals," because I've heard it's just as good.

Runners up:
-"Between Shades of Gray," by Ruta Sepetys (my review)
-"Chime," by Franny Billingsley (my review)

Waiting on Wednesday: In Honor

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight books we can't wait for.

In Honor, by Jessi Kirby
May 8, 2012

Summary from GoodReads:
Honor receives her brother's last letter from Iraq three days after learning that he died, and opens it the day his fellow Marines lay the flag over his casket. Its contents are a complete shock: concert tickets to see Kyra Kelly, her favorite pop star and Finn's celebrity crush. In his letter, he jokingly charged Honor with the task of telling Kyra Kelly that he was in love with her.

Grief-stricken and determined to grant Finn's last request, she rushes to leave immediately. But she only gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn's best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn't seen him in ages, thanks to a falling out between the two guys, but Rusty is much the same as Honor remembers him: arrogant, stubborn. . . and ruggedly good looking. Neither one is what the other would ever look for in a road trip partner, but the two of them set off together, on a voyage that makes sense only because it doesn't. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn--but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?

ROAD TRIP!!! Need I say more? And I love the cover (in spite of the headless girl, even). Mostly I just really, really want her outfit. And the car. But anyway, I haven't read Kirby's "Moonglass" yet, but I've heard good enough things about it to want to give both it and Kirby's new book a shot.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review: Heist Society

Heist Society, by Ally Carter. The summary:
When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the Louvre . . . to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria . . . to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own--scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving "the life" for a normal life proves harder than she'd expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster's art collection has been stolen, and he wants it returned. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat's dad needs her help.

Kat’s solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's (very crooked) history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.
Okay, guys. I know you’ve all been raving about this one for a while, but why did no one sit me down and say, “Dude. READ THIS BOOK!” Because, seriously, reading Heist Society totally made my day. Possibly my week. Or even month, really. It was everything I want in a book right now: intrigue, humor, awesome friends, a kick-A heroine, a swoony love interest (well, love interest for me, even if Kat’s still in denial) . . . *sighs*

Let me start of by mentioning how much I adore Kat, the main character. She’s smart and strong and witty, but still totally relatable. And how awesome is it that she’s 15 an running her own heist society, planning to rob one of the best art museums in the world? And lest you think, “Hmmm . . . stealing. I don’t know how I feel about that,” I’ll just point out that despite being raised a thief, Kat has a fairly solid set of values and even tried to leave the family business--she’s only back now to get her father out of trouble.

And Hale. Oh Hale. If things don’t work out between you and Kat, I’m totes available. Don’t let our eight-year age difference stop you--everyone always tells me I look 16 anyway. But seriously, Hale is the best. Because A) he’s hot, B) he’s rich, C) he’s witty, D) he’s always there for Kat, E) he’s generous, F) he’s smart . . . and I could go on, but I think you get the general picture. I’m really not sure why Kat is in denial about her feelings for him when he’s obviously the best boyfriend material out there. And can I just say that Hale is the PERFECT privileged rich-boy name? Well played, Ally Carter.

I love all the traveling in this book. I’ve never been out of the country, so I adore books where the characters are always jet setting off to foreign countries. And this book’s got Italy, France, England, and Austria . . . so I was happy as a clam (what does that saying even mean, btw?). And to make thing even more awesome, not only does this book have foreign countries, it has intrigue and adventure and hijinks in foreign countries, which is even better.

My favorite scene? Marcus, the butler, in a wheelchair pretending to be Hale’s crotchety great-uncle. I about died laughing. “I loathe women in trousers!”--enough said.

So do I really need to say it? I recommend this book times infinity. I already ran out and bought the sequel, “Uncommon Criminals,” so please excuse me while I go read that now.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mini-Review: Abandon

Mini-reviews are where I write about books that I want to mention but am either too lazy or too busy to write a full-length review for. I say what I thought about the book in 5 sentences then share a quote I liked from the book.

Abandon, by Meg Cabot. The summary:
Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.

But now she's moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid.

Only she can't. Because even here, he finds her. That's how desperately he wants her back. She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away... especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.

But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.
First of all, I’ve read like 95 percent of the books Meg Cabot’s written, so I like I'm qualified to say that “Abandon” isn’t like any of her others; it’s . . .darker? and not as funny. And I didn’t think Pierce was especially likable as a main character--I seriously couldn’t understand the reasoning behind why she did half the stuff she does; not to mention her flashbacks were a frustratingly slow way to learn what was really going on. And John (the love interest) . . . I feel like I could like him, except he’s not in much of the book--and when he is, he’s injuring people or fighting with Pierce. And why is he so into her anyway?--they’ve spent a cumulative total of like two hours together. Basically, this book wasn’t really my thing, but I don’t know if it’s because it’s a paranormal (a genre don’t tend to like), or if it’s because the book legitimately wasn’t as good as Cabot’s others.

The quote:
Did you see a light?

That’s the first thing everyone wants to know when they find out I died and came back. It’s the first thing my seventeen-year-old cousin Alex asked me tonight at Mom’s party.

“Did you see a light?”

No sooner were the words out of Alex’s mouth than his dad, my uncle Chris, slapped him on the back of the head.

“Ow,” Alex said, reaching up to rub his scalp. “What’s wrong with asking if she saw a light?”

“It’s rude,” Uncle Chris said tersely. “You don’t ask people who died that.”

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In My Mailbox (7)

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, where we show off the books we got this week.

From the library:
-Dark Road to Darjeeling, by Deanna Raybourn
-Forgotten, by Cat Patrick

Given to me:
-Deerskin, by Robin McKinley

-Siren, by Tricia Rayburn

Purchased by moi:
-Heist Society, by Ally Carter
-Uncommon Criminals, by Ally Carter
-Hourglass, Myra McEntire
-Moonglass, Jessi Kirby
-Small Town Sinners, Melissa Walker
-The Last Summer (of You & Me), by Ann Brashares
-By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead, by Julie Anne Peters
-Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Moral of the story? I need to stay far, far way from the Borders going-out-of-business sale. I have zero self control there.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Book Blogger Hop (7)

Book Blogger Hop
Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jen at Crazy for Books.

“Non-book-related this week!! Do you have pets?”

I live in an apartment complex where pets aren't allowed, so I don't have any. I do have a plant though! But my parents have an Australian shepherd and two cats--one of which is my favorite cat, like, ever, and she sleeps on my bed when I'm home at my parents'. Someday I'll finally move to an apartment that allows pets, and you'd best believe I'm totes getting a cat when that happens!

These are my parents' cats when they were kittens six years ago. So it's an old picture, I know, but aren't they adorable?

Follow Friday (8)

Follow My Book Blog Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

Q. In books like the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) series the paranormal creature in question "comes out of the closet" and makes itself known to the world. Which mythical creature do you wish would come out of the closet, for real?

Ha. I actually had a conversation exactly like this with my 9-year-old niece not that long ago. Her answer was a pegasus. But I'm not a huge fan of paranormal, so I'm pretty happy with the fact that mythical creatures don't exist. But if I had to pick one, I'd say unicorns. Cuz they're like horses . . . only cooler. Great explanation, eh? But actually, I think it would be awesome if unicorns like that little pet one in "Rampant" existed. Not the whole "they'll kill you unless you're a virgin part"--that would probably suck. But I really thought that little unicorn was adorable. Kinda like a goat only more affectionate. And with a horn.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review: It’s Not Summer Without You

It’s Not Summer Without You, by Jenny Han. The summary:
It used to be that Belly counted the days until summer, until she was back at Cousins Beach with Conrad and Jeremiah. But not this year. Not after Susannah got sick again and Conrad stopped caring. Everything that was right and good has fallen apart, leaving Belly wishing summer would never come.

But when Jeremiah calls saying Conrad has disappeared, Belly knows what she must do to make things right again. And it can only happen back at the beach house, the three of them together, the way things used to be. If this summer really and truly is the last summer, it should end the way it started--at Cousins Beach.
Gah!!! I just finished the book (book 2 in the Summer series), and I practically need to do some deep breathing exercises or something. Because I’m seriously freaking out. Hallelujah that book 3 is already out. Idk how the heck I could handle it if it wasn’t. Because man oh man do I want to read that book so badly! Whew. Okay. Trying tame the fangirl gushing and write a calm review . . .

So when I finished the first book (The Summer I Turned Pretty) a few months ago, I was like, “Hey, this was a good book. Good summer read, etc. etc. Maybe I’ll track down the rest of the series.” I wasn’t, like, totally in love with it or anything--I just enjoyed it and that was that. And then came this book. I have no idea when I became so invested in these characters. Belly. Conrad. Jeremiah. Can I be their friend? And hang out with them at the summer house and go to the beach and get tan, and I’ll secretly hate Belly just a little for having BOTH brothers in love with her, and she’ll hate me a little for taking some of their attention off her, but overall we’ll have good times?

But man was this book was love-triangle city. Which usually annoys me big time, but for some reason I can handle it in this book. Instead of making me roll my eyes, the whole “will it be Conrad or Jeremiah” thing had me on the edge of my seat. Probably because I am totally 100 percent on Team Jeremiah. I know, I know. Everyone who loves this series is always swooning over Conrad. And at the end of the first book, I was like “Well, I like Jeremiah better, but I can see why Belly likes Conrad.” But in this second book, I fell completely out of love with Conrad. He’s a total jerk. And everyone makes excuses for him--his mother just died, he’s sensitive, he’s hurting--but the fact remains, he’s still being a jerk. Especially to Belly. Jeremiah on the other hand is happy and thoughtful and funny WHILE STILL BEING HOT. So for most of the book it drove me completely crazy that Belly was still so in love with Conrad when he was basically being mean to her.

And honestly, Belly kinda annoys me. I mean, I like her and she’s totally easy to relate to, but she’s so obsessed with Conrad and so possessive of both the boys, even to the exclusion of her family and other friends. Half the time, I just want to be like, “You don’t own these boys, Belly. Take a step back.” The other half of the time I want to remind her that she’s 16 and a little too young to be so sure that Conrad is THE ONE. But even though she sometimes gets on my nerves, I still love her to death--which says something about Jenny Han’s skill as a writer, I think.

I was really happy with the way the book ended. Seriously. And then I turned the page and found out there was another chapter (can it be called a chapter if it’s a paragraph?) called “A couple of years later.” And after reading that . . . well let’s just say there’s no way I’m not reading the third book. As soon as possible.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Shatter Me

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight books we can't wait for.

Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi
352 Pages, HarperCollins
15 November 2011

From GoodReads:
Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old-girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.

I want this book SO BAD!!! And all the pre-release reviews have been awesome, which only makes me want it more. Can I just have it now? Pretty please?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mini-review: Hex Hall

Mini-reviews are where I write about books that I want to mention but am either too lazy or too busy to write a full-length review for. I say what I thought about the book in 5 sentences then share a quote I liked from the book.

Hex Hall, by Rachel Hawkins. The summary (from GoodReads):
Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.
To be honest, I don’t have that much to say about this one: I didn’t love it as much as I hoped, but I didn’t dislike it as much as I feared; it was just kinda middle of the road, neither good enough nor bad enough to make a lasting impression. I did like Sophie, though; I thought she was entirely likeable, and I loved her sarcasm. But overall, the book felt, I don’t know, short?--like there wasn’t enough time to really develop the characters and storyline. And honestly, her relationship with Archer bugged me--not from her side (because who hasn’t had a crush on an unavailable guy?), but what the heck was he doing flirting with her when he had a girlfriend? But anyway, the book was fine, but I don’t think I’ll be reading the sequel.

The quote:
She unlocked the door and pushed it open. “Welcome to The Twilight Zone!”

The “Holy-crap-that’s-a-lot-of-pink” Zone would have been a more accurate description.

I don’t know what I was expecting a vampire’s room to look like. Maybe lots of black, a bunch of books by Camus . . . oh, and a sensitive portrait of the only human the vamp had ever loved, who had no doubt died of something beautiful and tragic, thus dooming the vamp to and eternity of moping and sighing romantically.

What can I say? I read a lot of books.

But this room looked like it had been decorated by the unholy lovechild of Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Review: Click: An Online Love Story

Click: An Online Love Story, by Lisa Becker. The summary:
Fast approaching her 30th birthday and finding herself not married, not dating, and without even a prospect or a house full of cats, Renee Greene, the heroine of Click: An Online Love Story, reluctantly joins her best guy pal on a journey to find love online in Los Angeles. The story unfolds through a series of emails between Renee and her best friends (anal-compulsive Mark, the overly-judgmental Ashley and the over-sexed Shelley) as well as the gentlemen suitors she meets online. From the guy who starts every story with "My buddies and I were out drinking one night," to the egotistical “B” celebrity looking for someone to stroke his ego, Renee endures her share of hilarious and heinous cyber dates. Fraught with BCC's, FWD's and inadvertent Reply to All's, readers will root for Renee to "click" with the right man.
The storyline of this book intrigued me as soon as I read the summary. The idea of chronicling Renee’s journey as she went on all these dates with guys she met online had potential for a fun story. And the author definitely came through on that front. There were PLENTY of cringe-worthy dates, and they definitely gave me flashbacks to some of the worse blind dates I’ve been on. But there were enough normal dates that it didn’t feel like the book was an exaggeration. I haven’t done any online dating, but the book gave me a portrait of online dating that I could believe. And I liked how it didn’t feel like the author was either condoning or condemning dating online--her approach was judgment free.

The book’s written as emails from Renee to her friends and the guys she dates. I know some people aren’t fans of this form, but I’ve liked it ever since I read Meg Cabot’s “The Boy Next Door.” Sometimes in this type of book, the emails or letters can feel unnatural, but I think the author did a good job at keepin’ it all believable. The only issue I had with it is the same problem that a lot of books like this face: working the characters’ backgrounds into the emails in a way that’s believable while still providing the reader with the necessary info. I felt that sometimes the way the book handled this was a little clunky and obvious, but it was never bad enough to turn me off.

For the most part, I liked the characters in the book. I don’t think Renee and I would be BFFs in real life, but she definitely could be, like, a co-worker that I grab lunch with sometimes. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with Renee, we were just too dissimilar for me to really connect with her. I liked Renee’s friends well enough--the emails from Shelley made me smile quite a few times. But I did feel like her friends tended to be stereotypes--one’s the anal, repressed friend; one’s the judgmental, insecure one; one’s the witty, promiscuous one--and they never really left those molds. I would have liked to get to see that there was more to the friends than just their surface characteristics.

Overall, if this book were my date (I’m keeping with the dating thing, SEE?), I’d say we had a good time--the conversation flowed relatively well and there weren’t any awkward moments--but at the end of the night, we decided to just be friends. So ladies, this book’s out there and available! Maybe it’s YOUR perfect match.

Received for review.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

In My Mailbox (6)

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, where we show off the books we got this week.

Purchased by moi:
-Divergent, by Veronica Roth
-Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray
-Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White
-Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
-Charmed Thirds, by Megan McCafferty
-Just Listen, by Sarah Dessen

With the exception of "Charmed Thirds," I've already read all the books I bought this week. But I stopped by the Borders going-out-of-business sale yesterday and couldn't resist buying some of the books that I'd borrowed from the library but was dying to own.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Blogger Hop (6)

Book Blogger Hop
Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jen at Crazy for Books.

“What’s the LONGEST book you’ve ever read?”

The longest book I read was "The Far Pavillions" by M.M. Kaye. It's 960 pages of saga about an English boy born in colonial India and raised by native Indians, who ends up joining the British Army and falling in love with his childhood sweetheart, who is about to marry some prince . . . dun dun DUN! I actually read it when I was 13 or 14. I can't decide if it's awesome or sad that I read longer books in middle school than I do now. Now, I usually don't read books over 450 pages because I just don't have the patience. And technically, I didn't finish it, since I stopped about 50 pages from the end. I have no idea WHY I did that! You'd think after reading the fist 900 pages, I could make it through the last 50, but apparently not.

Follow Friday (7)

Follow My Book Blog Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

Q. If you could write yourself a part in a book, what book would it be and what role would you play in that book?

I would love to be in a Sarah Addison Allen book. If you haven't read anything by her . . . um, why haven't you? Her books are this perfect blend of character development and romance, with a touch of impish, wistful magic. Just thinking about her books makes me sigh in contentment. They really are practically perfect in every way. So, yeah, I would want to be a character in one of her books--because I would get A) the South, B) a hint of magic, C) awesome friends and/or family, and D) a perfect happily ever after. I don't know what else I could want.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mini-Review: Mostly Good Girls

Mini-reviews are where I write about books that I want to mention but am either too lazy or too busy to write a full-length review for. I say what I thought about the book in 5 sentences then share a quote I liked from the book.

Mostly Good Girls, by Leila Sales. The summary:
It’s Violet’s junior year at the Westfield School. She thought she’d be focusing on getting straight As, editing the lit mag, and figuring out how to talk to boys without choking on her own saliva. Instead, she’s just trying to hold it together in the face of cutthroat academics, her crush’s new girlfriend, and the sense that things are going irreversibly wrong with her best friend, Katie.

When Katie starts making choices that Violet can’t even begin to fathom, Violet has no idea how to set things right between them. Westfield girls are trained for success--but how can Violet keep her junior year from being one huge epic failure?
I’ll start off by saying that “Mostly Good Girls” is HILARIOUS; it’s probably one of the funnier books that I’ve read recently. I totally loved Violet and Katie’s friendship, and I think the author captures the casual banter between friends perfectly. However, I didn’t feel like the story progressed much further than funny--it never really achieved any depth. I think the whole thing with Violet’s friend Katie making bad decisions was supposed to provide the aforementioned depth, but in reality the book ended up reading more like a girl’s diary; it was very “day in the life.” So if you’re looking for a hilarious, light read, I definitely recommend this book—just don’t expect it to be much more than that.

The quote:
A lot of Harper Woodbane guys come to Westfield dances, so it’s also a great opportunity for Scott Walsh–watching expeditions. I don’t see nearly enough of him, because I can never think of a credible reason why I should be in his vicinity. (“Heyyy, Scott! Fancy running into you here . . . on the tennis courts . . . at Harper Woodbane . . . a school that I do not attend.”) In fact I hadn’t seen him since our ice cream date three weeks earlier--and by “our ice cream date” I mean “that time he and I and four of our friends went to get ice cream and Scott said my name approximately once.” Now that Scott had my number, I kept hoping he’d text me again. He could even text me by accident, like if he was trying to reach someone else whose first name starts with V. That would be fine too. That’s how unpicky I am.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Probability of Miracles

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight books we can't wait for.

The Probability of Miracles, by Wendy Wunder
Razorbill (December 8, 2011)
336 pages

From Amazon:
Dry, sarcastic, sixteen-year-old Cam Cooper has spent the last seven years in and out hospitals. The last thing she wants to do in the short life she has left is move 1,500 miles away to Promise, Maine--a place known for the miraculous events that occur there. But it's undeniable that strange things happen in Promise: everlasting sunsets; purple dandelions; flamingoes in the frigid Atlantic; an elusive boy named Asher; and finally, a mysterious envelope containing a list of things for Cam to do before she dies. As Cam checks each item off the list, she finally learns to believe--in love, in herself, and even in miracles.

A debut novel from an immensely talented new writer, The Probability of Miracles crackles with wit, romance and humor and will leave readers laughing and crying with each turn of the page.

When I saw this on The Scholarly Owl's WoW a couple weeks ago, I immediately knew I wanted to read it. It sounds like something Sarah Addison Allen (aka one of my all-time-favorite authors) would write. It's got that contemporary-with-a-touch-of-fantasy thing going on, which I totally love. SOOO excited for this one!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review: Chime

Chime, by Franny Billingsley. The summary:
Briony has a secret. She believes her secret killed her stepmother, destroyed her twin sister’s mind, and threatens all the children in the Swampsea. She yearns to be rid of her terrible secret, but risks being hanged if she tells a soul. That’s what happens to witches: They’re hanged by the neck until dead.

Then Eldric arrives--Eldric with his golden mane and lion eyes and electric energy—and he refuses to believe anything dark about Briony. But he wonders what’s been buried beneath her self-hatred, hidden in Rose’s mangled thoughts, and whispered about by the Old Ones. And Briony wonders how Eldric can make her want to cry.

Especially when everyone knows that witches can’t cry.
I think this book has been flying under the radar, generally, and I have no idea why--it’s pretty fantastic. I loved everything about it, really. But rather than going on and on (and on and on) about why I LOVED this book, I’m just going to list off the top few reasons I adored it.

-The setting--It took me a while to figure where and when this book was taking place, but as far as I can figure, it takes place in 1920s rural England in an area called the Swampsea, which is a dangerous marshy area filled with the Old Ones. The Old Ones are folktale creatures like witches and brownies and Dark Muses and Boggy Mun and Mucky Face. Because of the folktale aspect, the time period sometimes felt older than the 1920s, but then they’d mention automobiles or electricity, and I’d be like, Oh yeah. Long story short, I’ve never read a book with a setting like this. I think it may have some steampunk elements, but I’m not up enough with the genre to be sure. So I’ll just stick with the setting being crazy awesome.

-The writing style--The writing in this book isn’t the typical straightforward YA style. It’s more . . . literary? Stylized? I’m not sure what the word I’m looking for is, but basically, the writing in the book rocked my socks. Don’t get me wrong, I like clear, straightforward writing as much as the next person, but sometimes I crave something a little more creative. Which this book definitely had. Here’s a sample from when Briony is meeting Eldric for the first time:
“Please allow me to introduce my daughter Rosy.”

Rosy? Honestly, Father, there you go again, putting on your pretty mask, playing at the game of Perfect Family. We are not the sort of people who go in for pet names.

“How do you do?” Eldric smiled. He had golden lion’s eyes and a great mane of tawny hair. […]

How could I bear it, Eldric living with us, this non-child, this boy-man? I’d have to keep on my Briony mask. I’d have to keep my lips greased and smiling. I’d have to keep my tongue sharp and amusing. Already, I was exhausted.

“And you?” said Eldric. After a heart beat of silence, I glanced up. Eldric was looking at me, this golden London boy, looking at me with amber eyes. “What am I to call you?”

“You may call me Briony,” I said, “which makes it awfully convenient because so does everyone else.”

After a hiccough of silence, Eldric laughed. Then so did the others, except Rose. And me, of course. I don’t have much laughter left.
-The humor--This book was fairly dark at times, what with Briony’s constant self-hatred and guilt and confusion. So it was a constant surprise to me how funny the book was. Briony and Eldric are both so quick and clever, and any time they were together, their conversations were just so witty. I loved their Bad-Boys Club and their speaking in fake Latin and Eldric teaching Briony boxing and just everything about them together. Which leads right into the next thing I adored about the book:

-Eldric--SA-WOON. That’s Eldric in a nutshell. He’s so happy and giving and full of life that you just can’t help but adore him. Briony is brooding enough for the both of them, so I was glad that Eldric wasn’t dark and mysterious as well--that would have been too much. Instead, he’s this glowing ball of light. Or, as Briony says, if Eldric were an invention, he’d be electricity. He kinda reminds me of Joe from “The Sky Is Everywhere,” by Jandy Nelson, which, as we all know, is a very good thing.

My only quibble with the book is that it was a little predictable. Not plot-wise, but I could tell what the truth was about the stepmother and about Briony’s powers by halfway through. So I started getting a little frustrated towards the end, because I was like, “Why doesn’t anyone see the truth! It’s so obvious!”

But overall, a REALLY good book. I’m not entirely sure what genre it falls into. Paranormal? Fantasy? Steampunk? All I know is that I enjoyed it mucho. So basically . . . go read it!

And p.s., I KNOW I already included a super long quote, but I have to share this one too. It just makes me smile and further cements my love of Briony and Eldric:
“We could have a club,” I said. “A bad-boy club.”

Eldric embraced this idea with proper bad-boy spirit. “It must be secret, of course. We’d need a secret handshake.”

“And a secret language,” I said. “We’ll speak in Latin, so no one will understand.”

Except Father, and who talks to him anyway?

“Here’s the problem with Latin,” said Eldric. “It’s so very secret, I can’t understand a word. Being expelled takes a toll on one’s Latin.”

“Oh, not that sort of Latin, not the ordinary sort,” I said. “It’s the difficult sort of Latin no one speaks anymore. But I’m sure you know it already. It comes from rarely attending to one’s lessons. Here, tell me what this means. Fraternitus.

“Fraternity?” said Eldric.

“Very good,” I said. “And what does fraternity mean?”

“Brotherhood?” said Eldric.

“See you do know the difficult Latin. What does this mean? Bad-Boyificus.”

“Bad boy,” said Eldric. “You’re right. I did learn the difficult Latin back in my perhaps not-so-misspent youth.”

“And Fraternitus Bad-Boyificus?”

“Bad-Boys Fraternity,” said Eldric. “No, I mean club. Bad Boys Club! We’ll need an initiation, of course.”

Monday, August 15, 2011

Review: Where She Went

Where She Went, by Gayle Forman. The summary:
It's been three years since Adam's love saved Mia after the accident that annihilated life as she knew it . . . and three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Julliard's rising star and Adam is L.A. tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock start status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future-and each other.
“Where She Went” is the sequel to “If I Stay,” and usually I’m not big on sequels, but this one had been getting good reviews and it had an awesome cover--and let’s face it, I judge books by their covers ALL the time. I had read “If I Stay,” like six months ago, and since I’m absolutely terrible at remembering details of books past a week after I’ve read them, I really had no remembrance of what went on in the book besides the basic storyline and that I didn’t like the it as much as I wanted to. So going into “Where She Went” I was a little skeptical, but basically I was a blank slate.

That said, I ended up thoroughly enjoying the book. It’s not often that I find books that I like with male main characters--for some reason, I usually prefer female leads. But I really liked Adam. And honestly, I’m not entirely sure why I did, since he’s bitter and withdrawn. I guess it’s because since it’s from his perspective, I got to see WHY he was acting that way. I mean, I have no idea what it’s like to be so crazy famous that you have paparazzi following you all the time, but Adam is written well enough that even though I can’t connect with that lifestyle, I could connect with him.

And speaking of well written, this book totally is. I absolutely love the author’s style. It’s simple but so, so powerful. And because of that, the emotions in the book come across crystal clear. I could feel Adam’s frustration and sadness and anger, practically like they were my own. This was honestly one of the best books I’ve read in a while in terms of writing believable emotion. Here’s an excerpt to show you what I mean. It’s from the beginning, when Adam runs into Mia for the first time in three years:
My first impulse is not to grab her or kiss her or yell at her. I simply want to touch her cheek, still flushed from the night’s performance. I want to cut through the space that separates us, measured in feet--not miles, not continents, not years--and to take a callused finger to her face. I want to touch her to make sure it’s really her, not one of those dreams I had so often after she left when I’d see her as clear as day, be ready to kiss her or take her to me only to wake up with Mia just beyond reach.

But I can’t touch her. This is a privilege that’s been revoked. Against my will, but still.
I only had one problem with the book, and I can’t really decide whether it’s a major or a minor issue. But I couldn’t stand the way Adam’s happiness was so dependent on Mia. It’s like when she wasn’t in his life, he didn’t have a life, and I just think that’s kind of . . . I don’t know. Pathetic, I guess. I understand that he loved her, but really, the whole time I just wanted to shake him and tell him to find closure for himself rather than waiting for Mia to give it to him.

But generally, this was a fantastic book. Although I can’t remember much of the first book, I think it’s safe to say that I liked this one better. At least, it’s already sticking with me more than the first one did, so that’s probably a good sign.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Book Blogger Hop (5)

Book Blogger Hop
Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jen at Crazy for Books.

“Let’s talk crazy book titles! Highlight one or two (or as many as you like!) titles in your personal collection that have the most interesting titles! If you can’t find any, feel free to find one on the internet!”

Just glancing at my bookshelf, the title that jumps out at me the most is "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society," by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

Other titles that catch my eye are

-A Certain Slant of Light, by Laura Whitcomb
-The Girl Who Chased the Moon, by Sarah Addison Allen
-The Sky Is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson
-This Gorgeous Game, by Donna Freitas

Those ones aren't too crazy, I guess, but I think they're definitely memorable titles, and the books themselves are ridiculously awesome for sure.

Follow Friday (6)

Follow My Book Blog Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

Q. How has your reading habits changed since you were a teen? or If you are still a teen what new genres are you in love with currently?

Now I read YA fiction, like, non-stop, but when I actually was a YA, I didn't read it at all. It's probably because my hometown library didn't have a good YA selection--they had Sweet Valley High, and that was about it. So I read Sweet Valley High, of course, but I mainly read classics, mysteries, and romance novels. Actually, I think 99 percent of the classics I've ever read, I read when I was 16 or 17. So I guess in a way it's good that my library didn't have much in the way of YA--I would've read way less of the classics otherwise. I think it's funny, though, that when I was a teen, my taste in books was more adult, but now that I'm an adult for real, I read teen books way more than anything else.

Review: Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray. The summary:
The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program--or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan--or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.
Everyone’s been talking about this book. Seriously, EVERYONE. And generally the responses have been really positive, but there were also quite a few who were on the fence about the book. So of course, I had to read it to see for myself. And here’s pretty much exactly how my responses went: 1) Hmm…this writing style isn’t what I expected, 2) But hey, this could be pretty funny, 3) Ug, how am I ever going to like these girls--they’re all total spazzes or totally bitter, 4) How much longer IS this book?!?, 5) Wait. I’m actually starting to like these girls, 6) Whoa. That’s totally not where I thought the plot was going, 7) This is ridiculously clever!, 8) HAHAHA, 9) These girls kick total A, 10) I don’t want this book to eeeeeennnddd!!!

So as you can see, the book grew on me. A lot. It took me until about halfway to really get into it, but once I did, I was sold. Because the girls aren’t anything like they seem at first—they turn out to be real people with actual issues, not just annoying beauty queens. And the plot—OMGsh. It just gets crazier and crazier and more and more awesome. And I really loved the commercial breaks and the footnotes. I’m not gonna lie—you know I would totally be watching half the shows they mention, like “Patriot Daughters (Tuesday, 9:00 P.M. EST), The Corporation's drama chronicling the lives of three teen girls during the Revolutionary War as they fight the British, farm the land, and take off their clothes to secure America’s freedom.” Also there are sexy British pirates in this book. So, you know, score!

But this book is more than just fun and games. It’s got some moments of really great insight. Here’s one of my favorites:
She snuggled closer and threaded her fingers through Jen’s, holding fast. There was more truth and hope in that one gesture than in all the things that had come before. These were the moments that kept you going, Jennifer thought. When you looked up to the sky and cried, “Why?” sometimes the sky shrugged. Yet other times it answered with the warm assurance of linked hands. “Sorry,” it whispered on the wind. “Sorry for all the pain and loneliness and disappointment. But there is this, too.”

It was enough.
This book is an obvious social satire, but I really appreciated that the author, while trying to get us to think about how society views women and how we view ourselves, doesn’t ever imply that being “girly” is a bad thing. It’s more like, women can kick A and do it while embracing their femininity.

The only thing that bugged me about the book was that at times it felt like the author was just working her way down a list of teen issues: Friends? Check. Relationships? Check. Sexuality? Check. Disabilities? Check. Insecurities? Check. It’s not that I minded that the books tackles all these issues, it’s that at times it just seemed so obvious what the author was doing.

But overall, a fantastically fun and outrageous book that gets you thinking about women’s role in society. And wanting to spend some time on a tropical island. And finding ways to turn your beauty products into weapons.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Chain Reaction

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight books we can't wait for.

Chain Reaction, by Simone Elkeles
320 pages
August 16, 2011

From Amazon:
Luis Fuentes is a good boy who doesn’t live with the angst that his big brothers, Alex and Carlos, have always lived with. Luis is smart, funny, and has big dreams of becoming an astronaut. But when he falls for the wrong girl, Luis enters a dark world he’s never known, and just when he thinks he’s got life all figured out, learns some disturbing news about his family that destroys his positive outlook on life. Will that Fuentes bad boy streak come out with a vengeance and lure Luis to live on the edge like his new girlfriend and his own father?

Continuing all the steamy romance of the first two books, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Simone Elkeles gives fans one more satisfying taste of the irresistible Fuentes boys.

You'd better believe I'm excited for this one. I loved Elkeles's two previous books about the Fuetes brothers, so I can't wait to see what happens with Luis, the youngest brother. One of the things I love most about these books is that they don't try to be anything they're not--they're straight up YA romance and proud of it. Holla!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review: Lady Julia Grey series

We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming . . .

I mostly read YA, with the occasional chic lit thrown in, but every once in a while I like mix it up a little. So recently I started the Lady Julia Grey novels, by Deanna Raybourn. And can I just say they are AMAZING. I finished book three last night, and I'm already wanting to re-read it. And I'm really not one for series, so the fact that I'm so into this one shows ya how much I adore them.

They're mysteries that take place in Victorian England, centering around Lady Julia Grey--a strong, independent, freakin' awesome woman who inevitably ends up getting involved in the cases of a certain brooding private detective named Nicholas Brisbane. These books are just so witty, you guys. Julia and her eccentric family just make me smile over and over. And Brisbane . . . swoon city. Three-fourths of the time I was almost ready to write him off for being so frustrating and secretive and cold, but then he'd do or say something that'd make me want to clutch the book to my chest and sigh his name longingly.

There are currently five books in the series (as far as I know): Silent in the Grave, Silent in the Sanctuary, Silent on the Moor, Dark Road to Darjeeling, and The Dark Enquiry. Like I said, I just finished book three, and I seriously can't wait to read the two I haven't yet. So if you like period novels or mysteries or clever, witty writing, try these books. Seriously. I mean, just try reading these opening sentences from Silent in the Grave without getting sucked in:
To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.
See? Told'ja.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mini-Review: Between Shades of Gray

Mini-reviews are where I write about books that I want to mention but am either too busy or too lazy to write a full-length review for. I say what I thought about the book in 5 sentences then share a quote I liked from the book.

Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys. The summary:
In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina's father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.

Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they 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, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?
I was a hot mess when I finished this book--I cried for literally the entire last 1/4. And usually I hate books that make me cry, but “Between Shades of Gray” was just so painfully beautiful, I couldn’t help but love it; I think it appealed to the part of me that was addicted to books about the Holocaust in middle school. And the Holocaust comparison if fairly apt, I think, as the book tells the story of the horrific things Lina and her family endure in a Soviet prison camp. Before reading this book, I honestly had no idea things were so terrible in the Soviet Union in the 1940s--I mean, I knew Stalin wasn’t exactly a great guy, but I didn’t have a clue that he was responsible for the deaths of 20 MILLION people, or that he forced entire segments of the population of the Baltic States (Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia) into labor camps in Siberia, all so nothing would hinder the spread of the Soviet Union. If nothing else, read this book for the history lesson it provides--it’s a painful one, but one that everyone should know about.

The quote:
Sometimes kindness can be delivered in a clumsy way. But it’s far more sincere in its clumsiness than those distinguished men you read about in books. . . . Sometimes there is such beauty in awkwardness. There’s love and emotion trying to express itself, but at the time, it just ends up being awkward. . . . Good men are often more practical than pretty.
And if you’re not going to read the book (or even if you are), watch this video. The author gives an overview of the incredible history behind the novel:

Ruta Sepetys discusses her upcoming novel, Between Shades of Gray from Penguin Young Readers Group on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In My Mailbox (5)

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, where we show off the books we got this week.

From the library:
-It's Not Summer Without You, by Jenny Han
-We'll Always Have Summer, by Jenny Han
-Abandon, by Meg Cabot
-Heist Society, by Ally Carter
-Stay, by Deb Caletti

One I'm most excited for?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book Blogger Hop (4)

Book Blogger Hop
Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jen at Crazy for Books.

What is the one ARC you would love to get your hands on right now?

Okay, I know I just posted about Lola and the Boy Next Door in my Waiting on Wednesday post, but I can't help listing it again. I REALLY REALLY want to read this book, and I would practically sell my first-born child to get my hands on an ARC. (Good thing I don't have a first-born child, eh? I could just imagine THAT conversation: "Now remember that Mommy loves you. It's just that there's this book I really want to read . . ." That child would be in therapy a while for sure.)

Follow Friday (5)

Follow My Book Blog Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

Q. Talk about the book that most changed or influenced your life (was it a book that turned you from an average to avid reader, did it help you deal with a particularly difficult situation, does it bring you comfort every time you read it?).

For me, it's the Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingles Wilder. I read them in 5th grade at the same time my friend was reading them, and although I was already a big reader by that point, it was my first experience reading a book then really talking about it. I remember reading from those books each night then being so excited to go to school to talk to my friend about what had happened in the story.

After that, it was like a whole world opened up for me--a world where I didn't only get to read books, I could talk about them too. I was super shy growing up, but talking about books with my friends was something that I felt confident doing. It helped me learn that my opinions were just as valuable as everyone else's.

Since then, I haven't been able to shut up about books. Seriously. I'm quiet when it comes to any other subject, but mention a book I've read, and I can't help it--I HAVE to talk about it.

Review: Revolution

Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly. The summary:
BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want--and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages--until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.

Jennifer Donnelly, author of the award-winning novel A Northern Light, artfully weaves two girls’ stories into one unforgettable account of life, loss, and enduring love. Revolution spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart.
I’ll admit I was a little intimidated by “Revolution”--it’s pretty long (almost 500 pages), and historical fiction has always been hit or miss for me. Honestly, I was planning on just skimming it and then not reviewing it. But you guys, as soon as I started reading it, basically from the first sentence, I got sucked in. I’m always a sucker for stories where the character feels guilty about something they did, but the reader only finds out what it was bit by bit. And oh man, did this book have that. From the start you can tell Andi is beating herself up hard core about the death of her brother, but you don’t get the whole explanation until almost the very end. Although, honestly, Andi is maybe a little too messed up about what she did. I’m not saying she doesn’t have the right to be, but her hurt and depression and guilt were overwhelming for me at times and made it hard for me to connect to her.

The story is split basically in half between Andi in the present day, and Alexandrine in the French Revolution. I wasn’t sure how much I would like all the historical stuff, but it actually turned out to be completely fascinating. Although I didn’t connect much to Alex either, the events she was involved in were so interesting that I didn’t really notice that I wasn’t really bffs with her. I thought I knew most of what went on in the French Revolution, but boy was I wrong--there was some crazy horrible stuff that went on on both sides that I had no clue ever happened. The historical explanations read a little like a history lesson at times, but since I was interested in the subject, that didn’t bug me.

The only major issue I had with the book was towards the end. I can’t really say much about it without giving spoilers, but I’ll just say that the book has a little paranormal kick at the end that I didn’t see the point of. It’s meant to help Andi resolve her issues, but really, I don’t see how what happens could let her finally get over what’s messing her up.

Overall, I’d say if you like historical fiction, “Revolution” will probably be a book you’ll enjoy. Otherwise, I don’t think the characters have quite enough charisma to carry you through. But I could be wrong--after all, I didn’t think I’d like it but I did.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Lola and the Boy Next Door

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight books we can't wait for.

Lola and the Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins
384 pages
September 29, 2011

From Amazon:
For budding costume designer Lola Nolan, the more outrageous, the outfit--more sparkly, more fun, more wild--the better. But even though Lola's style is outrageous, she's a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins move back into the house next door.

When the family returns and Cricket--a gifted inventor and engineer--steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

I know practically everyone else is waiting for this one too, but still, I'm so freakin' excited. I loved "Anna and the French Kiss" so so much, and the pre-release reviews I've read for this one have all been pretty favorable so far. I don't like the cover, but I I don't really care at this point since I can hardly wait to read it!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Review: Summer of My German Soldier

I’ll admit that I was totally wrong about what “Summer of My German Soldier,” by Bette Greene, was going to be about. Well, I mean, based on the title, I knew it was obviously going to be about summer and a German soldier. And the summary didn’t help clear up matters much. Here it is:
The summer that Patty Bergen turns twelve is a summer that will haunt her forever. When her small hometown in Arkansas becomes the site of a camp housing German prisoners during World War II, Patty learns what it means to open her heart. Even though she’s Jewish, she begins to see a prison escapee, Anton, not as a Nazi—but as a lonely, frightened young man with feelings not unlike her own, who understands and appreciates her in a way her parents never will. And Patty is willing to risk losing family, friends—even her freedom—for what has quickly become the most important part of her life.

So based on that summary, I was totally predicting this book was going to be soap-opera city. Girl falls madly in love with a German POW, but they can never be together because, hello, he’s a German POW. And to a certain extent, that is what the book was about. BUT it was also so much more. Way much more.

So first of all, since Patty is 12 and Anton (the POW) is 22, there isn’t any hard-core romance going on (thank goodness—that would be disturbing). This is Patty’s first love, and it’s innocent and pure and desire-free. And I’m pretty sure Anton just loves her as a sister. Hopefully. The book’s not really clear on Anton’s feelings, since it’s in first person from Patty’s perspective, but I’m guessing since Anton is such an awesome guy, he’s not going to be sketchily in love with a 12-year-old. And seriously, Anton is fantastic. He’s a German soldier who doesn’t want to be one because he’s a scholar—a med student actually. He’s polite and funny, and he sees Patty for the strong, beautiful girl she is.

But more important than Patty’s pseudo-romance with Anton, are her relationships with her family and with her housekeeper/nanny, Ruth. Her parents are not good people—her mother’s emotionally abusive, and her father is emotionally and physically abusive. And it’s hard to read about. Because the author doesn’t spare you the scenes where Patty’s dad beats her or where her mother needlessly criticizes her yet again. Patty’s only refuge is Ruth, and Ruth is even more fantastic than Anton. Because while Anton helps Patty feel better about herself for the few days he knows her, Ruth has spent years being everything to Patty—mother, friend, confidant, protector, advisor. Although Ruth is “just” the household help, she’s Patty’s real family. Ruth totally rocks, to put it mildly.

And Patty herself—there’s a girl who deserves more friends (and a better life, really) than she has. She’s curious and spunky and so, so resilient. She’s not perfect—she can lie like nobody’s business and is annoying at times—but, man, talk about a girl who can rise above her crappy circumstances. The book doesn’t have a tied-with-a-bow ending, but I’m okay with that, because hard books shouldn’t have easy endings anyway.

So, really, go read this book. It does take more than a bit of an emotional commitment, but it’s probably good to go through the emotional wringer once in a while.

Teaser Tuesday: Between Shades of Gray

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

-Grab your current read
-Open to a random page
-Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
-BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
-Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Between Shades of Gray, by Rupta Sepetys
page 27

"Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's life was worth a pocket watch."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mini-Review: Hate List

Mini-Reviews are where I write about books that I want to mention but don't feel the need to write a full-length review for. I say what I thought about the book in 5 sentences then share a quote I think represents the book.

Hate List, by Jennifer Brown

The summary:
Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saves the life of a classmate, but is implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things they hated. The list her boyfriend used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.
I've been wanting to read "Hate List" for a while, but when I finally got a hold of a copy, I was a little nervous to read it, because I wasn't sure how it could adequately deal with such a sensitive subject as a school shooting. But Brown handles it perfectly: she does an amazing job at balancing how much (if at all) Valerie and those around her see Valerie as guilty for the shooting, and how much she is a victim. Brown also does an incredible job at portraying Nick, and how he did this unspeakably terrible thing, but that the shooting wasn't all he was--that he was funny and kind, but his rage overcame those good qualities. And oh my goodness, Jessica is a ridiculously good friend; I don't know how many people would put up with the crap Valerie gives her, but Jessica does, and I love her for it. The only issue I had with the book is that Valerie was supposedly really angsty and angry and bitter before the shooting, but the narrator Valerie seems . . . normal; and I'm not sure if that's supposed to be because Valerie outgrew those qualities after the shooting, or if they just didn't come through as they were intended in the writing.

The quote:
Stupid of me to think I could fit in here, even after all this time. Even with Jessica on my side. See what's real, that's what Dr. Hieler wanted me to do. See what's really there. Well, I could see what was really there now and none of it was good. It was all the same as it was before. Only before I would have written down their names on the Hate List and run to Nick for comfort. Now I was a different person and I had no idea what to do, other than run away.
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