Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: A Midsummer Tights Dream

A Midsummer Tights Dream (Misadventures of Tallulah Casey #2), by Louise Rennison. The GoodReads summary:
It’s the hotly anticipated sequel to the winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, WITHERING TIGHTS – laugh your tights off as Tallulah Casey and her bonkers mates return for a new term at Dother Hall performing arts college. Boys, snogging and bad acting guaranteed!

Yaroooo! Tallulah’s triumphant Heathcliff in ‘Wuthering Heights’ the comedy musical was enough to secure her place at Dother Hall performing arts college for another term. She can’t wait to see her pals again, Charlie and the boys from Woolf Academy and maybe even bad boy Cain…

When an international visitor comes to stay could the bright lights of Broadway be calling? And for who? Find out in the next Misadventures of Tallulah Casey.
Man, am I really starting to adore this series. I LOVED the first book (Withering Tights), and while this one was a little more scattered and repetitive, it still amused me to no end. Tallulah is just so hilarious, with her knees and her owls and her obsession with certain boys. She makes me smile practically non-stop with her ridiculousness. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some heavy, hard-hitting YA, but I also adore the light and fluffy and relatively plotless, especially when it’s as amusing as this series.

I just appreciate that Tallulah and her friends are silly and completely ridiculous and kinda immature but still completely likeable. They act like they really are 14, rather than the wise-beyond-their-years types that tend to crop up in YA. And I love every single person at the school and in town, from the knitting-crazy Dobbins to the over-the-top drama teachers to the womanizing Cain. The author has created a community that is perfectly wonderful (and hilarious) to read about.

So overall, yes, I still recommend this series. While this second one wasn’t quite as good as the first, I still thoroughly enjoyed it and am definitely looking forward to the next book coming out. I think I’ve found a new series to add to my go-to list for when I need to be mindlessly entertained.

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Easy

Easy, by Tammara Webber. The GoodReads summary:
When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup two months into sophomore year. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she's single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life.

Leaving a party alone, Jacqueline is assaulted by her ex's frat brother. Rescued by a stranger who seems to be in the right place at the right time, she wants nothing more than to forget the attack and that night--but her savior, Lucas, sits on the back row of her econ class, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. Her friends nominate him to be the perfect rebound.

When her attacker turns stalker, Jacqueline has a choice: crumple in defeat or learn to fight back. Lucas remains protective, but he's hiding secrets of his own. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.
First of all, I love the genre—new adult. I haven’t read too many from this genre yet, but my positive experience with Easy makes me want to explore the genre some more. There’s something to be said for characters who are a little more mature and developed than the usual 16 year olds I read about. Plus, with characters in college, any drinking and sex there may be doesn’t make me cringe because, well, they’re in college and theoretically mature enough to deal with it.

Jacqueline is an awesome main character. I thought she was quite realistic (and by realistic I of course mean I saw a lot of myself in her). Some really crappy stuff happens to her, but I admire the way she handles herself and her situation. She doesn’t always immediately do the “right” thing, but I could understand why she does what she does in her circumstances, and she always ends up eventually making good choices. (Was that vague enough for you? I was trying to get my point across without spoilers).

I enjoyed her best friend a lot (I just can’t remember her name at this point). I liked that although they were totally different, they had each other’s back and gave unconditional love and support when needed. And I love that her friend signs them up for self-defense classes—if that's not a sign of true friendship, I don't know what is, especially given the situation Jacqueline finds herself in.

Lucas/Landon . . . I like them both. The romance isn’t really a love triangle, so don’t let that turn you off if you usually avoid that kind of thing. And what can I say? Lucas is HOT. For realz, you guys. Ignore the emo boy on the cover, because that kid’s got nothing on Lucas. He’s that reformed bad boy type, which I’m always a sucker for. And he has tattoos. I have a total weakness for hot boys with tattoos. It’s like take a hot boy, give him a few well-placed tattoos, and his hotness factor increases by approximately 67.45 percent. Anywho, he’s really supportive of Jacqueline without getting too unrealistic—he makes some annoying boy mistakes, after all, but he always bounces back from them and stayed in my good graces. Plus, from the beginning you know that Lucas had a really rough past, so getting to slowly uncover the mystery of his life only made me more attached to him.

The only, I don’t know, warning (I guess?) I have about the book is that the making out (and beyond) gets pretty hot and heavy. It was never anything I was uncomfortable reading, but if you’re more sensitive about that kind of stuff, you might want to skip some parts. Because the author definitely does not shy away from describing pretty much everything.

Overall, I really, really liked this book. It was everything I wanted out of a contemporary at the moment, and I can’t think of anything about it that disappointed me.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Light Confessional: The Best Book I Never Read

Here's the thing. I love Jane Austen's "Persuasion." I'm pretty sure it's my favorite Jane Austen story. I love Anne and her strength to grow beyond who she used to be. I admire her steadfastness and loyalty, as well. And Captain Wentworth . . . um, he only wrote what is possibly the most romantic letter of all time. I just really, really like "Persuasion."

Only, I've never actually read the book. I've seen the various film adaptations; I've read summaries and reviews; I've even had detailed conversations about it--but I've haven't ever sat down and experienced the real thing. Is that bad? It's just that I'm not always a huge fan of Jane Austen's writing. Yes, she's witty and insightful and eloquent, but she's got that whole 1800s writing style going on, and I just have trouble finding the effort to fight my way through it. The movies are just so much more easily digestible.

I fully intend to read "Persuasion" . . . someday. Scout's honor. But in the meantime, I'll just keep pretending that I've actually read it when I discuss it with people. Don't tell.

Do you have any books that you love despite never having read them? Or any books you pretend to have read?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Favorites: Junie B. Jones Series

On Fridays I post a little shout out to one of my favorite books and explain why I love it so much. It gives me the chance to fangirl over books I never reviewed on this blog and lets me post about some not necessarily YA books I love.

Which book?
The Junie B. Jones books, by Barbara Park


These short books follow the misadventures and escapades of elementary-school student Junie B. Jones.

When did I first read it?
Possibly middle school, but I think high school.

Why did I first read it?
My mom let us order books from the Scholastic book club sheets, and I think one of my little sisters chose to order a book from the series.

What did I think about it then?
I thought they were hilarious. Junie B. Jones is such a spunky little girl, and she gets into all sorts of scrapes and trouble. My little sisters and I got really into this series, and I think we eventually ordered almost all the books from Junie’s kindergarten years.

What do I think about it now?
I’m really not much of one for children’s books, but I love this series. Like I said before, they’re just so funny. I know some parents criticize the books for Junie’s imperfect grammar, but I think it adds to her character and makes her that much more loveable. My favorite in the series is “Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentine.”

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Review: Awake at Dawn

Awake at Dawn (Shadow Falls #2), by C. C. Hunter. The GoodRead’s summary:
From the moment Kylie Galen arrived at Shadow Falls Camp, she’s had one burning question: What am I? Surrounded by vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, fairies and witches, Kylie longs to figure out her own supernatural identity…and what her burgeoning powers mean. And now she’ll need them more than ever, because she’s being haunted by a new spirit who insists that someone Kylie knows—and loves—will die before the end of the summer. If only she only knew who she was supposed to save. And how…

But giving Kylie the most trouble is her aching heart. Gorgeous werewolf Lucas left camp with another girl, but he’s still visiting Kylie in her dreams. And Derek, a sexy half Fae who’s always been there for her when she needed him, is pushing to get more serious—and growing impatient, especially when Lucas returns. Kylie knows she needs to decide between the boys, and it’s tearing her up inside.

Yet romance will have to wait, because something from the dark side of the supernatural world is hiding in Shadow Falls. It’s about to threaten everything she holds dear…and bring her closer to her destiny.
To be perfectly honest, I probably wouldn’t have found the motivation to keep reading this series if my sister hadn’t given me a copy of the second book. It’s not that the first book was bad by any means, it’s just I’m not big on series, and the first book, while being enjoyable, didn’t really grip me.

But, I don’t know, I kinda got into this second book. I think it’s because Kylie’s finally accepted her supernatural-ness in this one, so she’s not annoyingly walking around going, “I couldn’t possibly have supernatural powers,” despite all evidence to the contrary, like she was doing in the first book. Plus, in this book I found Kylie’s developing powers pretty interesting and got more invested in her quest to find out what she is. I also thought this book was a little more humorous than the first, which is always a good thing, and I loved Socks, her kitten-magically-turned-skunk.

The love triangle still gets on my nerves though. I have not been in the mood for love triangles recently, and I just cannot bring myself to care whether Kylie ends up with Lucas or Derek. But I do love the romance between the two camp leaders, Holiday and Burnett. I would totally read a book just about those two because I think they’ve got great chemistry together.

Overall, this series is turning out to not to be half bad. I mean, it’s definitely no Vampire Academy, but by halfway through this second book, I found myself getting into the story more than I thought I would.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Read my review of the first book, Born at Midnight, here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review: Saving June

Saving June, by Hannah Harrington. The GoodReads summary:
Harper Scott’s older sister has always been the perfect one so when June takes her own life a week before her high school graduation, sixteen-year-old Harper is devastated. Everyone’s sorry, but no one can explain why.

When her divorcing parents decide to split her sister’s ashes into his-and-her urns, Harper takes matters into her own hands. She’ll steal the ashes and drive cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going, California.

Enter Jake Tolan. He’s a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession and nothing in common with Harper’s sister. But Jake had a connection with June, and when he insists on joining them, Harper’s just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanour and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what she needs.

Except June wasn’t the only one hiding something. Jake’s keeping a secret that has the power to turn Harper’s life upside down again.
Starting out, I wasn’t that thrilled by this book. I mean, there wasn’t anything wrong with it, it just wasn’t clicking with me. Harper was more standoffish and abrasive than I was expecting, and on top of that, the whole thing with her sister’s suicide was fairly depressing.

But happily, it didn’t take too long for me to change my mind about the book. True, Harper stays standoffish and abrasive, but as she starts to deal with her sister’s death, she opens up a little more, and I felt like I could better understand where she was coming from. And I came to appreciate that Harper’s a little more bad-A than most YA contemporary MCs—it ended up being quite refreshing, actually.

I really liked Laney, Harper’s best friend. To be honest, I feel like the slutty best friend is a little overdone in YA contemporaries, but Laney stood out to me for her loyalty to Harper and her resolve to stand by her even when Harper’s being a total bitch (I really did try to think of a nicer word, but, nope, that's the most accurate),which she is for, like, three-fourths of the book.

Now Jake Tolan . . . there’s a boy I could swoon over. He gives off that reformed bad boy vibe, which is all too appealing, and he’s totally hot to boot. But more than that, despite being fairly moody himself, he’s honest and doesn’t BS his way around. And did I mention that he’s really hot?

The only problem I had with the book was Harper’s age. She’s 16, but I felt like there were a lot of more mature elements to the story (drinking, smoking, sex, etc.) that I would’ve been more comfortable with if she were even just 18. I mean, I know teenagers even younger than 16 deal with that stuff all the time, but for my own peace of mind, I would’ve liked it if she were a little older.

Overall, I ended up really liking this book. A large part of that may be because of that hottie Jake, but I think the story itself does a good job at balancing serious, heavy issues with the fun road trip aspects. I’d definitely read something else by this author.

Rating 4 / 5

Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: Saving Francesca

Saving Francesca, by Melina Marchetta. The GoodReads summary:
Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastians, a boys' school that pretends it's coed by giving the girls their own bathroom. Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an an impossibly dorky accordion player. The boys are no better, from Thomas who specializes in musical burping to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can't seem to stop thinking about.

Then there's Francesca's mother, who always thinks she knows what's best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, alone, and without an inkling who she really is. Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life and—hardest of all—herself.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I’ve read this book before. But after reading “The Piper’s Son” a while ago, I realized that I had virtually no recollection of what happened in Saving Francesca—for some reason it hadn’t stuck with me. So I decided to read it again. The fact that this book is by Melina Marchetta is an obvious indicator that it’s fantastic, but I think I found it more fantastic (fantastic-er?) this time around. It clicked with me more.

One of the things I love best about this book is Frankie’s group of friends. You wouldn’t think they should even like each other (and at first they don’t), but somehow they fit together perfectly. And despite all the teasing and the craziness and the immaturity, they’re there for each other when it matters. And the same thing goes for Frankie’s family—they fight and yell, but at the end of the day, they love each other, despite their frustrations.

Frankie, herself, is an immensely likeable character, and I really enjoyed watching her struggle to come into her own and figure out who she is outside of her family and old group of friends. Her mom’s depression hits Frankie hard, but she keeps going—even when she feels like her world is coming to an end, and I love her honesty and her slowly reemerging passion for life.

To be honest, I still don’t get Frankie’s relationship with Will. I mean, they don’t actually spend that much time together—at least not enough to satisfy me that they know each other well enough to have feelings for each other. And yet, despite this, Melina Marchetta of course manages to write the scenes they do have together in a way that gets the butterflies going in my stomach.

Overall, a great book, obvs. If you’re in the mood for a solid contemporary that’s got some serious emotional heft, I think this one is for you.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Favorites: The Sky Is Everywhere

On Fridays I post a little shout out to one of my favorite books and explain why I love it so much. It gives me the chance to fangirl over books I never reviewed on this blog and lets me post about some not necessarily YA books I love.

Which book?
The Sky Is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson

YA contemporary

Summary? (from GoodReads)
Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life - and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.

When did I first read it?
A couple years ago (read my original review here)

Why did I first read it?
It was a recommendation from a blog, I believe.

What did I think about it then?
I immediately fell in love with how beautifully written the book was. Honestly, if this book were written in any other style and voice, I doubt I would like it as much as I do. Something about the author’s way with words pulls the whole story together and captured my attention. Plus, Joe just makes me happy. He’s no dark and brooding love interest. He’s happy and exuberant and uncomplicated—not unlike Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door.

What do I think about it now?
Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person I know who absolutely adores this book. Everyone I recommend it to is always like, “It was good, but…” and then usually they mention how much they disliked the love triangle. I’ll admit that it’s a little weird that Lennie, the main character, is making out with her dead sister’s boyfriend when she knows she’s interested Joe, but because of the way the book’s written, it’s never bothered me. Lennie’s confusion and sense of loss are practically palpable, and it’s so obvious that she’s spending time with Toby as a way to try to stay connected to her sister. So I can understand her actions, even if I don’t agree with them.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Review: A Northern Light

A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly. The GoodReads summary:
Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown entrusts her with the task of burning a secret bundle of letters. But when Grace's drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers that the letters could reveal the grim truth behind a murder.

Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, Jennifer Donnelly's astonishing debut novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.
I’ve wanted to read this book ever since I read “Revolution” by this same author. I thought she was a talented writer and storyteller and wanted to see what else she could do—the fact that this book was a Printz Honor Book only made me more intrigued.

And I was pretty happy with what I got.

It takes place in 1906 in the Adirondacks (aka northeastern New York), in a small rural town—a setting which was simultaneously fascinating and depressing to read about. Fascinating because I’ve never read anything with that setting, so everything was fresh and new to me. Depressing because Mattie and a lot of her neighbors live in poverty, so watching them struggle just to lead a basic existence was pretty rough for me. The setting proved to be such a great narrative tool, though, because while you want Mattie to be able to leave and live a bigger life, at the same time you can totally understand why it doesn’t seem possible for her to do so.

Mattie herself was easy to sympathize with, maybe because she loves books and words so much. She’s one of those characters that you can’t help but root for as she tries to balance her sense of responsibility for her family with her own desires and dreams. There is a bit of a romance in the story, but it’s not your typical YA type—it’s a little more bittersweet. Oh, and can I just say hallelujah for a YA with a completely platonic male friend?

The only thing that bugged me about the book was the way it skipped back and forth between the past and the present. It wasn’t done in an especially clear way, so when I got to a new chapter I was constantly confused about which time I was in. I think the problem was that the two time periods were only four or so months apart, so there wasn’t that much to delineate them.

Overall, a perfectly lovely book. I did feel like there were a few unresolved issues and that the author took the easy way out with some things, but still, it’s definitely a book worth reading.

Rating: 3.5 / 5
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