Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bookish Anticipation #48

Bookish Anticipation is a feature I do every once in a while to spotlight future releases I'm excited for. It was inspired by Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday. You can check out more of my Bookish Anticipation posts here.

Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally
Release date: July 7th 2015
Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.
But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?

Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn
Release date: June 9th 2015
When nearly killing a classmate gets seventeen-year-old Sadie Su kicked out of her third boarding school in four years, she returns to her family’s California vineyard estate. Here, she’s meant to stay out of trouble. Here, she’s meant to do a lot of things. But it’s hard. She’s bored. And when Sadie’s bored, the only thing she likes is trouble.
Emerson Tate’s a poor boy living in a rich town, with his widowed mother and strange, haunted little brother. All he wants his senior year is to play basketball and make something happen with the girl of his dreams. That’s why Emerson’s not happy Sadie’s back. An old childhood friend, she knows his worst secrets. The things he longs to forget. The things she won’t ever let him.
Haunted is a good word for fifteen-year-old Miles Tate. Miles can see the future, after all. And he knows his vision of tragic violence at his school will come true, because his visions always do. That’s what he tells the new girl in town. The one who listens to him. The one who recognizes the darkness in his past.
But can Miles stop the violence? Or has the future already been written? Maybe tragedy is his destiny. Maybe it’s all of theirs.

A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery
Release date: July 17th 2015
When high school senior Kelsey's identical twin sister, Michelle, dies in a car crash, Kelsey is left without her other half. The only person who doesn't know about the tragedy is Michelle's boyfriend, Peter, recently deployed to Afghanistan. But when Kelsey finally connects with Peter online, she can't bear to tell him the truth. Active duty has taken its toll, and Peter, thinking that Kelsey is Michelle, says that seeing her is the one thing keeping him alive. Caught up in the moment, Kelsey has no choice: She lets Peter believe that she is her sister.
As Kelsey keeps up the act, she crosses the line from pretend to real. Soon, Kelsey can't deny that she's falling, hard, for the one boy she shouldn't want.

After Hours by Claire Kennedy
Release date: June 16th 2015
Isa, Xavi, Peter, and Finn know that a job at the high-end Waterside Cafe isn't just about waiting tables. It's about the gossip, the hook-ups, the after-hours parties and, most of all, it's about Tips.
Tips--the high-stakes game based on dares. Whoever completes the most dares wins the collected money. A sum that could change a wasted summer into a Summer to Remember.
Isa is the new girl with an embarrassing secret, and as long as she stays on top of her game, she sees no reason why anyone could ever find out.
Xavi will do anything for the money...absolutely anything.
Peter, Xavi's stepbrother, has been in love with her for years, and he thinks the game is the perfect time to confess his feelings.
Finn is in the game just for the thrill. He has enough tips coming in to keep him happy...even if those tips come with some conditions.
From seduction to stealing to threats, the dares are a complete free-for-all, and only the best can win.
The sophisticated Waterside Cafe is anything but classy behind the scenes...and things are about to get dirty.

Paperweight by Meg Haston
Release date: July 7th 2015
Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. In her body. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert.
Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at mealtime, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid.
Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn't plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she too will end her life.

Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel 
Release date: June 30th 2015
Ever since Sarah was born, she’s lived in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Scarlett. But this summer on Cape Cod, she’s determined to finally grow up. Then she meets gorgeous college boy Andrew. He sees her as the girl she wants to be. A girl who’s older than she is. A girl like Scarlett.
Before she knows what’s happened, one little lie has transformed into something real. And by the end of August, she might have to choose between falling in love, and finding herself.

What releases are you anticipating this week?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Review: White Lines by Jennifer Banash

Title: White Lines
Author: Jennifer Banash
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release date: April 4th 2014
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Bought
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Seventeen-year-old Cat is living every teenager’s dream—she has her own apartment on New York’s Lower East Side and at night she’s club kid royalty, guarding the velvet rope at some of the hottest clubs in the city. The night with its crazy, frenetic, high-inducing energy—the pulsing beat of the music, the radiant, joyful people and those seductive white lines that can ease all pain—is when Cat truly lives. But her daytime, when her real life occurs, is more nightmare than dream. The sounds of the city grate against Cat’s nerves, she shrinks away from human touch, and can barely think the words “I love you” even when she feels them. Having spent years suffering her mother’s emotional and physical abuse, and abandoned by her father who’s found happiness in another woman, Cat is terrified and alone—unable to connect to anyone or anything. But then someone comes along who makes her want to stop escaping her life and actually live it, only she’ll need to summon the courage to confront her demons and take control of a life already spinning dangerously out of control. Both poignant and raw, White Lines is a gripping tale and the reader won’t want to look away. 
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I was really excited to read White Lines simply because it sounded different from any book I've read before. Cat sounded different from the standard shy, quiet contemporary YA MC. And even though I've read books on drug abuse before, none of them have been in this club-life context. White Lines did turn out to be different from the contemporary YA I usually read, and I did really enjoy the plot and idea. But sadly, I had some issues with the execution, which prevented me from loving White Lines as much as I'd hoped I would.

My favorite element of White Lines is definitely Cat. She obviously makes some bad decisions, but I found her easy to relate to and feel for. Her family situation is seriously messed up, and with what she's been through, I don't see how you wouldn't feel for her. Reading from her POV can be frustrating at times, with her horrible decision-making and the way she closes herself off from anyone that cares about her, but I found her downward spiral to be portrayed in a realistic and relatable way.

I also really loved the worldbuilding, if you can call it that. Even though we know it's causing problems for Cat, the world of exclusive clubs and drugs is intriguing and fascinating to read about. My only question is how they keep having these long, important conversations over the pounding music at the clubs they go to...

I had kind of mixed feelings about the secondary characters. My favorite character is probably Giovanni, Cat's best friend within the club scene: at first, he seems like the stereotypical gay best friend who just gives fashion advice, but we get more insights into his own life and issues later on. Sara, Cat's best friend outside the world of clubs, seemed kind of bland to me, to be honest; she seemed a little like a plot device, simply there because we needed someone to play the role of continuously telling Cat to stop messing up her life. Alexa, the popular girl that randomly befriends Cat and ends up getting sucked into the club scene as well, is an intriguing character, but I wish her own issues that are hinted at throughout the novel had been explored in some more depth. Julian, the love interest, is an interesting character, too, and I liked reading about his backstory. But I didn't think his relationship with Cat is quite strong enough to carry the plot.

Jennifer Banash's writing is very distinct, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. It's very descriptive and ornate, and there's times when her writing is beautiful and evokes just the right emotions. But at times, I felt like it was a little over-the-top: sometimes, the details of the descriptions distracted from the story a little bit. 

One of my main issues with White Lines is the pacing, which just seems off at times. Sometimes we get long descriptions of each scene, and at other times, the story will just randomly skip from one scene to another. This especially happens in the scenes set during the day, which might be intentional because most of Cat's life happens during the nighttime. But there are important scenes during the daytime as well, especially between Cat and Julian, that sometimes get cut short, which seems strange considering the romance is such a large part of Cat's recovery. Banash also uses a lot of backflashes to show what happened in Cat's past: most of these are interesting and important for the story, but they're included at kind of random times. During a conversation, there would just be a random backflash, which got kind of annoying and ripped you out of the story. I couldn't tell which parts of this were intentional, but the pacing just seemed a little off to me.

The ending was way too optimistic for me. Cat simply quits clubbing and cocaine, with no mention of addiction. Her issues with her mother aren't even mentioned anymore, while her relationship with her father is suddenly perfect. Similarly, Cat's romance with Julian is suddenly perfect, without really working through the issues they had earlier. The climax of the novel is well-done, but after that lowpoint in Cat's life, we don't really see the development or character growth she goes through; we more or less just get an epilogue of what happens after. Considering this resolution is kind of what the novel works towards, I found it very disappointing we didn't get to explore Cat's recovery in more depth.

Sorry this review is all over the place; I just have very mixed feelings about White Lines. I loved the idea, and I did enjoy Cat's character and her world but I had issues with the writing and execution, and especially with the ending. I do somewhat recommend White Lines for its originality, just lower your expectation a little when it comes to the technicalities.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday #36: Books on My Spring TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish with a different topic for a top-ten list each week. You can find out more about it here.

This week's topic is: Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR List

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman
The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider
Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu
The Devil You Know by Trish Doller
Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

What spring releases are you most excited for?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review: Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes

Title: Liars, Inc. 
Author: Paula Stokes
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: March 24th 2015
Pages: 368
Genre: Young Adult contemporary mystery
Source: Edelweiss - I received a free eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell lies to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts a business providing forged permission slips and cover stories for the students of Vista Palisades High. Liars, Inc. they call it. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?
When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.
Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit? 
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I love the idea for Liars, Inc.! YA murder mysteries are one of my favorite genre, and I especially love ones written from the POV from a character trying to prove they're innocent. And there is no doubt that Liars, Inc. is a well-done mystery; the mystery storyline is very sophisticated, and I loved the characters. So while there were a couple of things that bothered me about the plot, I really enjoyed this novel.

I really loved the characters in Liars, Inc. Max is a refreshingly authentic male MC, and I really connected with his voice. He can act really dumb at times and gets himself into a lot of unnecessary trouble, but he's an endearing character nonetheless. His background is fascinating and plays into the story in interesting ways, but I wish we had seen a bit more of it in his personality. Max's parents died when he was young, he was put into the foster system but ran away and lived on the streets for a while, was caught and put back into the foster system, and was finally adopted by the family he lives with now. I really liked reading about this interesting background, but I wish we had seen the effects of his rough childhood a bit more in his personality: he acted very naive at times, for someone who has lived on the streets and grown up very independently.

Speaking of Max's background, I absolutely loved his family! His adoptive parents are great people and very present in this story; I loved reading about Max's struggle between loving his adoptive parents but being unable to truly consider them his parents, after all he's been through. They have three more adoptive children, for which this book gets major diversity brownie points: there's Amanda, Max's eleven-year-old sister who has cystic fibrosis, and the parents recently adopted two Korean babies as well. I loved Amanda and her relationship with Max, and just generally really enjoyed reading about the relationship dynamics within the whole family.

And then there's Parvati, Max's girlfriend. I've read a couple of reviews saying they didn't like Parvati, but I for one loved her. She's a total badass, and the gender roles are pretty much reversed in her relationship with Max: she's the initiator and she's the one who coaches Max on how to handle the bad guys. She's rebellious and confident, and she spreads a very in-charge, sex-positive attitude that I loved. Oh, and the book gets more diversity brownie points for Parvati being Indian and integrating her background into the story without making it a central plotpoint. A lot of other reviewers had issues with her secrets and lies that are revealed later on in the story, and yes, what she did isn't the most morally sound. But I think what's revealed works really well with her character: it makes perfect sense with her tough-girl facade and attitude. 

While I loved the characters, I have some mixed feelings about the plot and mystery. Overwhelmingly, I was very impressed with the fast-paced plot; regardless of my smaller issues, I couldn't put the book down because I needed to know what would happen to Max next. The story behind Preston's disappearance is very complex, to say the least, and the whole mystery is very sophisticated. But I couldn't help but be a little disappointed by the resolution at the end. There are just too many plot twists and revelations and the very ending, which results in a bit of an info-dump; in the scene at the end that should be the height of suspense, we get a long-winded speech about the perpetrator's motivations. The backstory is very complicated, which can be a good thing, but only if it's integrated into the plot bit by bit, and I think a bit too much of that happened at the very ending, making it a bit overwhelming for the reader.

There's another smaller thing that really bothered me about the whole story, and that's the fact that, to me, the entire idea of Liars, Inc. (the group, not the book) had absolutely no point. The group could have just been left out of the book entirely, and the mystery would have made just as much sense. Plenty of people would provide an alibi for a friend trying to sneak away from his parents; you don't need to be a group that provides alibis in order to do that. Liars, Inc. is brought up again and again, but I just didn't see the point of it at all; it's an interesting concept but has nothing to do with the main storyline, so I felt like the whole first part of the novel was kind of pointless.

I had some smaller issues with the plot, but I really enjoyed the mystery, and the unique characters are what really made Liars, Inc. stand out for me. Regardless of how much I'm criticizing, the truth is that I couldn't put the novel down. So if you're looking for a sophisticated mystery with fully-developed characters and you're not too picky about the details, I definitely recommend Liars, Inc.!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Bookish Anticipation #47

Bookish Anticipation is a feature I do every once in a while to spotlight future releases I'm excited for. It was inspired by Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday. You can check out more of my Bookish Anticipation posts here.

The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrmann
Release date: May 12th 2015
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets We Were Liars in this thought-provoking, brilliantly written, and totally original realistic contemporary debut about three teens who must deal with the consequences of spells cast on them in the wake of their classmate’s sudden death.

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
Release date: May 26th 2015
Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter. She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I've Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of makes it so amazing.

Tiny Pretty Things by Sonia Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton
Release date: May 26th 2015
Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette's desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

The Notorious Pagan Jones by Nina Berry 
Release date: May 26th 2015
Pagan Jones went from America's sweetheart to fallen angel in one fateful night in 1960: the night a car accident killed her whole family. Pagan was behind the wheel and driving drunk. Nine months later, she's stuck in the Lighthouse Reformatory for Wayward Girls and tortured by her guilt—not to mention the sadistic Miss Edwards, who takes special delight in humiliating the once-great Pagan Jones.
But all of that is about to change. Pagan's old agent shows up with a mysterious studio executive, Devin Black, and an offer. Pagan will be released from juvenile detention if she accepts a juicy role in a comedy directed by award-winning director Bennie Wexler. The shoot starts in West Berlin in just three days. If Pagan's going to do it, she has to decide fast—and she has to agree to a court-appointed "guardian," the handsome yet infuriating Devin, who's too young, too smooth, too sophisticated to be some studio flack.
The offer's too good to be true, Berlin's in turmoil and Devin Black knows way too much about her—there's definitely something fishy going on. But if anyone can take on a divided city, a scheming guardian and the criticism of a world that once adored her, it's the notorious Pagan Jones. What could go wrong?
Joyride by Anna Banks
Release date: June 2nd 2015
It’s been years since Carly Vega’s parents were deported. She lives with her brother, studies hard, and works at a convenience store to contribute to getting her parents back from Mexico.
Arden Moss used to be the star quarterback at school. He dated popular blondes and had fun with his older sister, Amber. But now Amber’s dead, and Arden blames his father, the town sheriff who wouldn’t acknowledge Amber's mental illness. Arden refuses to fulfill whatever his conservative father expects.
All Carly wants is to stay under the radar and do what her family expects. All Arden wants is to NOT do what his family expects. When their paths cross, they each realize they’ve been living according to others. Carly and Arden’s journey toward their true hearts—and one another—is funny, romantic, and sometimes harsh.

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider
Release date: May 26th 2015
At seventeen, overachieving Lane finds himself at Latham House, a sanatorium for teens suffering from an incurable strain of tuberculosis. Part hospital and part boarding school, Latham is a place of endless rules and confusing rituals, where it's easier to fail breakfast than it is to flunk French.
There, Lane encounters a girl he knew years ago. Instead of the shy loner he remembers, Sadie has transformed. At Latham, she is sarcastic, fearless, and utterly compelling. Her friends, a group of eccentric troublemakers, fascinate Lane, who has never stepped out of bounds his whole life. And as he gradually becomes one of them, Sadie shows him their secrets: how to steal internet, how to sneak into town, and how to disable the med sensors they must wear at all times.
But there are consequences to having secrets, particularly at Latham House. And as Lane and Sadie begin to fall in love and their group begins to fall sicker, their insular world threatens to come crashing down. Told in alternating points of view, Extraordinary Means is a darkly funny story about doomed friendships, first love, and the rare miracle of second chances.

What releases are you anticipating this week? 
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