Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This or That with Jessica Lee Anderson (Calli Blog Tour)

This This or That interview is part of The Teen Book Scene's blog tour for Calli by Jessica Lee Anderson. you can find out all about the tour here. Make sure to visit all the other stops if you'd like to know more about Calli!

General This or That Questions: 

Summer or winter?

Summer, but not so much this summer in Austin since the heat has been unrelenting (it is 107 as I type this)

Vanilla or chocolate?
Vanilla shakes, chocolate candy

Cats or dogs?

Day or night?

Coffee or tea?

Movies or TV shows?

Outdoors or indoors?

Bookish This or That Questions:

Hardcover, paperback or e-book?
E-books, but hardcover novels signed by the author

Reading or writing?

YA or adult fiction? (for reading, not writing)
YA all the way!

Typing on the computer or traditional writing on paper?
Typing on the computer at home, traditional writing on paper when I’m writing outside of the home

Thanks for the great answers!

Make sure to visit all the other stops of the blog tour, and keep your eye out for Calli, which will be releases September 13th 2011!

Calli by Jessica Lee Anderson
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Fifteen-year-old Calli has just about everything she could want in life—two loving moms, a good-looking boyfriend, and a best friend who has always been there for support. An only child, Calli is excited when her parents announce that they want to be foster parents. Unfortunately, being a foster sister to Cherish is not at all what Calli expected. First Cherish steals Calli’s boyfriend, then begins to pit Calli’s moms against one another, and she even steals Calli’s iPod. Tired of being pushed around and determined to get even, Calli steals one of Cherish’s necklaces. But this plan for revenge goes horribly awry, and Cherish ends up in juvenile detention. Isolating herself from her moms, her boyfriend, and even her best friend, Calli wrestles with her guilt and tries to figure out a way to undo the damage she’s caused. When her moms are asked to take on another foster child, Calli sees an opportunity to make amends for her past mistakes.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Publisher: MTV Books and Pocket Books
Pages: 213
Release date: February 1st 1999
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Library
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.

First sentence:
August 25, 1991
Dear friend,
I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that person even though you could have.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I'm stupid for having waited this long to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I'd heard it's amazing, but it never really appealed to me. I know it's pretty ridiculous, but I don't like "old books." I like books that take place now. Since this takes place twenty years ago, I considered it "old" and didn't think I'd like it. I didn't get what it's about, nothing except that it's a coming-of-age story, which isn't all that special. Neither of those was a problem, though - I rarely noticed it takes place twenty years ago, lots of it could happen now, too; and not having one set topic is one of the things I enjoyed about this book. Even though it deals with loads of serious topics, it's not an issue book. I really liked not knowing what the main topic is and discovering more and more about Charlie's issues along the way.

When I first started reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower and saw it's written in a series of letters to an anonymous friend, I thought the format was kind of strange. It only took me a few pages to get into it, though, and I ended up really liking the format. It felt like Charlie was addressing me, much more than with a traditional narrative. I felt like I was the anonymous friend and wanted so badly to write back to Charlie.

The writing is amazing, so insightful and touching. What I mean isn't that the writing is flawless, it's more how the style and Charlie's voice shine through perfectly. It's raw and honest, so real I could imagine Charlie telling me all of this. Charlie is just such a great character. I felt for him and wanted to somehow help him throughout the book. His feelings are so raw and so relatable. I can't even express how I feel about Charlie - I just love him.

One thing I thought was weird, though, is Charlie's friendship with Sam and Patrick. He's a freshman, and a pretty immature and not exactly outgoing one at that, but he's friends with all these seniors. How does that work?

I could talk about all of the issues Charlie has, but I don't really want to. If you haven't read The Perks of Being a Wallflower yet, you should have the same reading experience I had, not really knowing what those issues are. I'll just say that what Charlie has to go through is heartbreaking and shocking and had me crying several times while reading.

My reluctance to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower was not justified at all - this book really is as great as everyone else has said it is. I got this at the library, but will have to buy my own copy to re-read and keep on my favorites' shelf. I know most of you have already read this, but for those who haven't, I really recommend it!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In My Mailbox #26

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren where you can talk about the books you bought or received this week.

So this week I got...

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

The plot sounds pretty average to me, but I've heard so, so much about Anna and the French Kiss that I'm excited to finally read it!

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
(Amazon / Goodreads)

At age eleven, Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother. At fourteen, she ran away from boarding school, only to be tracked down and brought back by a mysterious stranger. Now seventeen, Taylor's the reluctant leader of her school's underground community, whose annual territory war with the Townies and visiting Cadets has just begun. This year, though, the Cadets are led by Jonah Griggs, and Taylor can't avoid his intense gaze for long. To make matters worse, Hannah, the one adult Taylor trusts, has disappeared. But if Taylor can piece together the clues Hannah left behind, the truth she uncovers might not just settle her past, but also change her future.

I've heard Jellicoe Road is amazing - it's crazy that I haven't read this yet.

Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott

Abby acepted that she can’t measure up to her beautiful, magnetic sister Tess a long time ago, and knows exactly what she is: Second best. Invisible.
Until the accident. Now Tess is in a coma, and Abby’s life is on hold. It may have been hard living with Tess, but it's nothing compared to living without her. She's got a plan to bring Tess back though, involving the gorgeous and mysterious Eli, but then Abby learns something about Tess, something that was always there, but that she’d never seen. Abby is about to find out that truth isn't always what you think it is, and that life holds more than she ever thought it could...

I was so happy to have won this in a giveaway on Elizabeth Scott's site. I love Elizabeth Scott, and this one sounds amazing (I read the first few chapters in the back of another one of her books and loved it.) My only problem is that this is hardcover, and all my other Elizabeth Scott books are paperback... I'm going to need to get over that. Anyways, I'm excited to read this one!

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Review: Forget You by Jennifer Echols

Title: Forget You
Publisher: MTV Books
Pages: 292
Release date: July 20th 2010
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Why can't you choose what you forget . . . and what you remember? 
There’s a lot Zoey would like to forget. Like how her father has knocked up his twenty-four- year old girlfriend. Like Zoey’s fear that the whole town will find out about her mom’s nervous breakdown. Like darkly handsome bad boy Doug taunting her at school. Feeling like her life is about to become a complete mess, Zoey fights back the only way she knows how, using her famous attention to detail to make sure she’s the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect girlfriend to ultra-popular football player Brandon. But then Zoey is in a car crash, and the next day there’s one thing she can’t remember at all—the entire night before. Did she go parking with Brandon, like she planned? And if so, why does it seem like Brandon is avoiding her? And why is Doug—of all people— suddenly acting as if something significant happened between the two of them? Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her. Controlled, meticulous Zoey is quickly losing her grip on the all-important details of her life—a life that seems strangely empty of Brandon, and strangely full of Doug.

First sentence:
Every strong swimmer has a story about nearly drowning.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I loved Jennifer Echols's Going Too Far, so I had high expectations for Forget You. I really wanted to like Forget You, but lots of things about this book just didn't work for me.

My biggest problem is probably the main character, Zoey. I couldn't really relate to her or understand her choices most of the time. I never felt like I really knew her and couldn't feel for her for the most part. Being able to relate to the main character is really important to me, so not getting Zoey's character made it hard for me to enjoy Forget You.

A few of the storylines didn't work for me, although maybe that's because I couldn't connect with Zoey. First, Zoey's relationship with Brandon didn't make sense to me at all. Yeah, they're friends before they hook up, but that doesn't change that they only hooked up once. Zoey knows he's a player, and for me it was obvious that this had just been a one-night-stand. Zoey, however, assumes they're boyfriend and girlfriend now, even though they don't talk at all during the week following their hook-up. She gets all clingy and jealous when Brandon gets closer to another girl. Even though that's stupid, in my opinion, it's not what I minded most. My real problem is that Zoey feels guilty for doing anything with Doug and keeps telling Doug that they can't be together because Brandon is her boyfriend. It seemed a little like they just needed some kind of conflict in order not to have the relationship between Doug and Zoey immediately work out, so that storyline just didn't make sense to me.

Another storyline I didn't really like is the one about Zoey's mother. I think it's a good idea, but in my opinion, the reader never got to know enough about the mother, her mental illness, how it developed, how it affects Zoey, etc. It could have added a lot to the main plot, if it had been explained more, but like this it didn't do anything for me.

What I really liked about Forget You, though, is the romance. Zoey and Doug have such great chemistry. I always found myself looking forward to scenes with these two. Everything about Doug and the way he treats Zoey is just so adorable. I love how the whole concept of Zoey not remembering what happened made this romance unique.

I did not like Forget You as much as Going Too Far, so if you haven't read either of them, I'd definitely recommend reading Going Too Far first. I didn't connect with Zoey, and that made it hard for me to get into the story. Then again, whether or not you connect with a character is different for every reader, so who knows whether it'll work for you. Either way, the romance aspect of Forget You is great, so if you like romances with unique concepts, Forget You is a worthwhile read.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review: Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott

Title: Perfect You
Author: Elizabeth Scott
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 282
Release date: March 25th 2008
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

 Goodreads description:
Kate Brown's life has gone downhill fast. Her father has quit his job to sell vitamins at the mall, and Kate is forced to work with him. Her best friend has become popular, and now she acts like Kate's invisible. And then there's Will. Gorgeous, unattainable Will, whom Kate acts like she can't stand even though she can't stop thinking about him. When Will starts acting interested, Kate hates herself for wanting him when she's sure she's just his latest conquest. Kate figures that the only way things will ever stop hurting so much is if she keeps to herself and stops caring about anyone or anything. What she doesn't realize is that while life may not always be perfect, good things can happen - but only if she lets them...

First sentence:
Vitamins had ruined my life.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Elizabeth Scott is turning into one of my favorite authors! I can't believe I hadn't read any of her books before this year. There's something about her writing - it's just so easy. I know that's not really a way to describe writing, but I don't know what else to call it. It's just so graceful and flows so nicely.

Kate's world is easy (that word again) to get lost in, and she's so easy to relate to and feel for. She's just such a normal girl, and in this case I mean normal as a good thing. She feels things everyone feels, in one way or another. Even though I didn't agree with all of her choices (actually, a lot of them are pretty stupid), I understood her and felt for her. Her character growth is described so well - I love that this isn't just romance but more about what Kate goes through and how that changes her as a person. But I have to admit, she is pretty whiny. If you're easily annoyed by whiny characters, this book probably isn't for you.

The secondary characters, though, I really disliked. I don't mean that they're not well-writen - they are, they're all fully-developed and realistic characters - I mean that I didn't like them as people. I constantly wanted to shake them and make them stop making such stupid decisions. Her dad is so frustrating. I mean, sure, it's okay to want to pursue your dream - but selling vitamins at the mall and making absolutely no money? I just don't get how he can justify that his wife needs to work two jobs and that he wants to take the money his son earns just so that he can keep selling vitamins instead of going back to his office job. The mom frustrated me too, even though she's a sympathetic character. I was annoyed by how she couldn't stand up to her husband and say enough is enough, when her husband is making no money even though he could and is going over their decided budget to buy something as useless as video games. Anna, though, is the character I wanted to shake the most out of all of them. How could she just abandon her best friend like that, and then, when she needs Kate, expect her to be there for her but leave when Anna's new friends could see her? And I wanted to shake Kate, too, to make her see that she deserves better than Anna.

With that out of the way, I did like some of the characters. Even though he's not someone I'd like in real life, Todd, Kate's older brother, is so much fun to read about. His relationship with Kate and the way they fight is just adorable. It's actually a pretty normal brother-sister relationship, and I don't know what it is about them, but I just thought the way they treat each other is really cute. And then there's Will. (Weird, that sentence is also part of the synopsis...) I can't think about Will and Kate together without smiling - the two of them are just so adorable. I can't think of anything else to say about them, other than the way they interact is so funny and cute and just makes me want to hug this book.

The ending is perfect - not too happy to be unrealistic, but not too sad and depressing, either - it matches the hopeful and sweet tone of the novel perfectly.

I love this whole book. No, it's not the most deep and important book I've ever read, but it's sweet and insightful and portrays teenage life well. It's great how Elizabeth Scott's books can be both original and normal at the same time - the characters are just your average teenaged girl and easy to relate to, but some of the situations they're in are crazy and unusual. I can't wait to read the rest of Elizabeth Scott's novels!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review: Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach

Title: Stupid Fast
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 320
Release date: June 1st 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
My name is Felton Reinstein, which is not a fast name. But last November, my voice finally dropped and I grew all this hair and then I got stupid fast. Fast like a donkey. Zing!
Now they want me, the guy they used to call Squirrel Nut, to try out for the football team. With the jocks. But will that fix my mom? Make my brother stop dressing like a pirate? Most important, will it get me girls - especially Aleah?
So I train. And I run. And I sneak off to Aleah's house in the night. But deep down I know I can't run forever. And I wonder what will happen when I finally have to stop.

First sentence:
This could be a dark tale!

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The cover of this book is really misleading. At first I wasn't interested in Stupid Fast because it looks like a book about sports, which isn't my thing. But Stupid Fast is so much more than that - it's an emotional book about a dysfunctional family. Felton's dad committed suicide when Felton was five, and his mom is struggling with depression. Stupid Fast is mainly about how Felton deals with these family problems, and football is not the most important aspect.

Stupid Fast was hard for me to get into because of the unusual writing style. I can't even explain what's strange about it, it's just...different. After a while, I got used to the writing and enjoyed it, but I still think it's too choppy at times.

Once I got into it, I loved Stupid Fast. Felton is a great character - he's just so likeable! He's awkward in a fun way, and his comments and way of seeing things are hilarious. He's complex and dynamic, and there's just so much to him, lots of which I probably didn't even get reading Stupid Fast for the first time. His voice is honest, original and realistic, and it felt like he was talking to me throughout the entire book. The secondary characters are fully-developed; I could imagine everyone easily - Aleah, Jerri, Andrew, the jocks, all of the characters! I also loved the dynamic and realistic relationships between Felton and all the other characters. Aleah and Felton are adorable together!

Stupid Fast reminded me of a John Green book. I don't mean the story, because that's really different from John Green's books - I just mean the style and the feel of the book. Stupid Fast conveys so many emotions - it's sad and funny and heartwarming and hopeful and honest and raw, all at the same time, just like John Green's books. You're crying one minute, and the next minute you're laughing. That's probably what I enjoyed most about this book - I love when a book can really make you feel something, both good and bad.

***The next paragraph contains spoilers!***
The ending is a little too happy, in my opinion. Of course I want everything to work out for Felton, but I just think it all ties up a bit too nicely to be realistic, with the clichéd moment on the football field and all. Especially the storyline with Jerri seems unrealistic to me - she appears to be totally fine when she gets on the plane, which seems impossible, considering how bad she was doing just a few days before.

This is a great read! Don't be discouraged by the football-topic - I'm not big on sports, but I really enjoyed Stupid Fast. Felton is such a likeable main character, and Stupid Fast is emotional and hilarious at the same time, reminding me of a John Green book. I definitely recommend it!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Review: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Title: Perfect Chemistry
Author: Simone Elkeles
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Pages: 360
Release date: April 21st 2010
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect.
Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.

First sentence:
Everyone knows I'm perfect.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I'm pretty much the last person to read Perfect Chemistry, so writing this review is kind of pointless, but I'm going to do so anyway. I'd heard so, so many great things about this book, so I had pretty high expectations. While I did have some problems with this novel, I loved Perfect Chemistry - it's a hot romance novel!

Honestly, the story sounds really clichéd - the typical good girl/bad boy love story. And while their differences do play an important role, Perfect Chemistry is so much more than that cliché. Alex and Brittany are no clichés - they're fully-developed, complex characters, and I loved both of them. Alex is the poor Mexican gang member, but he's also sensitive, thoughtful, and, well, kind of adorable. Brittany is the spoiled rich girl, but she has problems, too - she needs to take care of Shelly, her sister who has cerebral palsy, and try to convince her parents not to send Shelly to some kind of institution.

I loved these two characters so much, and I could relate to both of them easily. Perfect Chemistry is written from alternating perspectives, and both Brittany's and Alex's voices are great. In my opinion, alternating points of view often don't work out because the voices are too similar, but that's definitely not the case in Perfect Chemistry - the voices are destinct and portray the characters perfectly.

Even more than the characters themselves, though, I enjoyed the relationship between Brittany and Alex - their chemistry is amazing. I love how they're so different on the outside but still have so much in common and are actually really similar. In the beginning, though, I thought the way the romance developed was kind of forced. Alex and Brittany hadn't gotten to know each other yet, so what happened in chemistry shouldn't have been that big of a deal. The focus on chem class is too extreme in my opinion - several times, both of them complain about how strict their teacher is and how terrible the class is, even though (to me) it seemed completely normal. Later on, though, once Alex and Brittany get to know each other, I loved their relationship and how it develops.

What's lacking in this novel, in my opinion, is the writing. It's okay, but there's nothing special or beautiful about it. In particular, I was annoyed by how the author used Spanish in Perfect Chemistry. I don't mind that she used Spanish - it makes sense, since Alex is Mexican - but I disliked the way she used it. It doesn't seem authentic, more like the author wanted to use some Spanish but was too focussed on making the reader understand it - she either said something in Spanish and immediately repeated it in English, or she used sentences like ", everything's bien," "He's got nada to brag about," and "La policía are looking for us," saying words everyone knows in Spanish but the rest in English. While I understand that she wanted to let everyone understand what the characters are saying, that just doesn't seem realistic to me - why would anyone in real life speak like that? I think I would have preferred it if either the whole sentence had been in Spanish (you can probably get what they're talking about from the context even if you don't know any Spanish), or if she'd written the sentence entirely in English and then written something like "...," Alex said in Spanish. Maybe it's just me, but Spanish used like it is in this book (and lots of other books) really annoys me.

Despite my dislike of the writing, Perfect Chemistry is a great romance novel with fully-developed characters. I'm planning on reading Rules of Attraction, the companion novel, soon - even though I'm not sure whether I'm going to enjoy it, since it sounds really similar to Perfect Chemistry...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Review: All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab

Title: All Unquiet Things
Author: Anna Jarzab
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: 337
Release date: January 12th 2010
Genre: Contemporary YA; mystery
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Carly: She was sweet. Smart. Self-destructive. She knew the secrets of Brighton Day School’s most privileged students. Secrets that got her killed.
Neily: Dumped by Carly for a notorious bad boy, Neily didn’t answer the phone call she made before she died. If he had, maybe he could have helped her. Now he can’t get the image of her lifeless body out of his mind.
Audrey: She’s the reason Carly got tangled up with Brighton’s fast crowd in the first place, and now she regrets it—especially since she’s convinced the police have put the wrong person in jail. Audrey thinks the murderer is someone at Brighton, and she wants Neily to help her find out who it is.
As reluctant allies Neily and Audrey dig into their shared past with Carly, her involvement with Brighton’s dark goings-on comes to light. But figuring out how Carly and her killer fit into the twisted drama will force Audrey and Neily to face hard truths about themselves and the girl they couldn’t save.

 First sentence:
It was the end of summer, when the hills were bone dry and brown; the sun beating down and shimmering up off the pavement was enought to give you a heartstroke.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I have no idea why I don't usually read mysteries. I never really look for them, but when I do read one, I almost always enjoy it - I love the suspense and trying to figure out who did it and all of that. And that was my favorite part of All Unquiet Things, too. The mystery aspect is developed really well - it had me guessing the entire time, but I never even considered who actually turned out to be the murderer.

I absolutely loved the writing. It's beautiful, and I love how the author managed to balance focussing on what's important for the mystery while also giving lush descriptions and giving details about the characters.

I loved the two main characters, Audrey and Neily, too. I felt for Neily, who had lost the girl he loved, and for Audrey, who had lost her cousin and best friend, and whose father was charged with her murder. Both are well-developed characters and have destinct voices. I especially loved the relationship between Audrey and Neily. It's so raw and honest, but their relationship is still fun to read about because of Neily's sarcasm. I appreciated that the author didn't use the easy and clichéd idea of having these two fall in love (which I think would have ruined the book), but instead just portrayed their friendship.

I did have some problems with All Unquiet Things, though, and my main problem is Carly's character - I just didn't get her. I think it's because there's too much telling and not enough showing - the reader is told how much Carly changed after being friends with the popular crowd, but we never really see any of that transformation. First she's the quiet girl reading a book alone during lunch, and then she's doing drugs and with the most popular guy in school. Some things about her seemed contradictory - for example, in the beginning, Neily talks about how orderly Carly's room always is, and then later, when they're clearing out Carly's closet, he says that of course her stuff is all over the place because that's Carly. This is just a small example, but there are more important ones that I just can't think of right now. I never felt like I really knew Carly, and that made it hard for me to get into the story.

I'm not sure what to say about the format. All Unquiet Things is written from both Neily's and Carly's point of view, but not in regular alternating chapters. We first get 100-something pages from Neily's perspective, then 100-something pages from Audreay's point of view, and so on. In my opinion, that's too long - I really got into one character, but then the point of view changed, and "I" wasn't Neily anymore but Audrey, or the other way around. That confused me a little, and I think I would have preferred normal alternating chapters.

Another thing I didn't get is the title. What unquiet things? What is that supposed to mean?

I know I said quite a few negative things about All Unquiet Things, but I really did enjoy this novel. 3 stars sounds so negative, but it actually means I liked it, it's just not my favorite book. The mystery, the writing, and Neily and Audrey's characters are great, and this is a great way of connecting mystery with emotion and grief. I didn't get Carly's character, and that made it hard for me to enjoy some aspects of the novel, but maybe you will connect with her, so I do recommend All Unquiet Things, if you're looking for a good mystery or something dealing with grief.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bookish Anticipation #3

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: September 5th 2011

Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it's a civil war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part, Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy's car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend's attention.  Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: she and the other players' girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won't get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don't count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. And Lissa never sees her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling, coming.

My Beating Teenage Heart by C. K. Kelly Martin
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: September 27th 2011

Ashlyn Baptiste is falling. One moment she was nothing—no memories, no self—and then suddenly, she's plummeting through a sea of stars. Is she in a coma? She doesn't remember dying, and she has no memories of the life she left behind. All she knows is that she's trapped in a consciousness without a body and she's spending every moment watching a stranger.
Breckon Cody's on the edge. He's being ripped apart by grief so intense it literally hurts to breath. On the surface, Breckon is trying to hold it together for his family and his girlfriend, but underneath he's barely hanging on.
Even though she didn't know him in life, Ashlyn sees Breckon's pain, and she's determined to find a way help him. As her own distressing memories emerge from the darkness, she struggles to communicate with the boy who can't see her, but whose life is suddenly intertwined with hers.

Going Underground by Susan Vaught

Release date: September 13th 2011

Del is a good kid who’s been caught in horrible circum-stances. At 17, he’s trying to put his life together after an incident in his past that made him a social outcast—and a felon. As a result, he can’t get into college; the only job he can find is digging graves; and when he finally meets a girl he might fall in love with, there’s a whole sea of compli-cations that threaten to bring the world crashing down around him again. But what has Del done? In flashbacks to Del’s 14th year, we slowly learn the truth: his girlfriend texted him a revealing photo of herself, a teacher confiscated his phone, and soon the police were involved.
Basing her story on real-life cases of teens in trouble with the law for texting explicit photos, Susan Vaught has created a moving portrait of an immensely likable character caught up in a highly controversial legal scenario.

Mercy Lily by Lisa Albert
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: October 8th 2011

Mama has slowly been losing herself to MS. After traditional treatment fails, she takes bee sting therapy, administered by Lily, to alleviate her pain. Lily is trained as a veterinary assistant, so she can easily handle the treatments. What she can't handle is what happens when the bee sting therapy fails and it becomes clear that Mama wants to die. One beautiful summer day, Lily's mother asks her for the most impossible thing of all—mercy. They live in Oregon, where the Death with Dignity Act allows a patient to make the decision to end their own life. While navigating first love, friendship, and the other normal worries faced by high school sophomores, Lily also has to choose: grant Mama's request, or cling to Mama's fading life for all it's worth.

Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: October 13th 2011

Once you've been chosen, what step can you take...?
Seventeen-year-old Sara's dream of becoming a star ballerina is challenged when she falls for Remington, an older choreographer. Instead of success onstage, she becomes Rem's muse, which is a future she never considered--and one that threatens to break her heart.

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Release date: September 18th 2011

Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. And Jeremy is hands-down the wrong guy for her to fall for. He is infuriating, arrogant, and the only person who can stand in the way of Carmen getting the one thing she wants most: to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. Carmen's whole life is violin, and until she met Jeremy, her whole focus was winning. But what if Jeremy isn't just hot...what if Jeremy is better? Carmen knows that kissing Jeremy can't end well, but she just can't stay away. Nobody else understands her--and riles her up--like he does. Still, she can't trust him with her biggest secret: She is so desperate to win she takes anti-anxiety drugs to perform, and what started as an easy fix has become a hungry addiction. Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of always doing what she’s told, doing what's expected.

The Predicteds by Christine Seifert

Release date: September 1st 2011

Daphne is the new girl in town and is having trouble fitting in. At least she has Jesse... sort of. He wants to be more than "just friends," but there's something he's not telling her about his past. Something dangerous. When a female student is brutally attacked, police turn to PROFILE, a new program that can predict a student's capacity for drug use, pregnancy, and violent behavior, to solve the case. As the witch hunt ensues, Daphne is forced to question her feelings for Jesse–and what she will do if her first love turns out to be a killer.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review: Breathless by Jessica Warman

Title: Breathless
Author: Jessica Warman
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Pages: 320
Release date: April 18th 2009
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought at The Book Depository
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
When Katie Kitrell is shipped off to boarding school, it doesn't take her long to become part of the It Crowd. She's smart, she's cute, and she's a swimming prodigy. What her new friends, roommate, and boyfriend don't know is that Katie has kept a secret about her past—that her schizophrenic older brother, Will, is quickly descending deeper into insanity. As her lie constantly threatens to reveal itself, it's all Katie can do to keep her head above water.

First sentence:
There's a man feeding the koi in our fishpond because my parents don't want to do it themselves.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

First off, I love this cover! I don't know what it is about them, but I love pictures taken under water - they're creepy and beautiful at the same time. However, I was somewhat disappointed by the actual book.

What carries Breathless, in my opinion, is the writing. Jessica Warman's prose is beautiful, lush; insightful without being melodramatic.

The rest of the novel, however, did not live up to the writing. I didn't really like the characters. While I felt for Katie during her time at home and her problems with her family, she really annoyed me when she's at boarding school. The way she treats other people at school doesn't fit to the way she acts at home. I was annoyed by how conceited she is, thinking she'll get into Yale for sure and always saying she's the fastest swimmer. I also disliked how much Katie smoked and drank without those topics ever really being addressed.

While I liked that the author gave all of the secondary characters unique personalities, I didn't really get their relationships with Katie. I didn't get why Estella, the most popular girl at school, would befriend Katie when she doesn't even get along that well with her most of the time. Drew's relationship with Katie is boring, but I can't really criticize that, since that's the way it's supposed to be. Mazzie is probably my favorite character. She's complex and dynamic, and I like that she had her own problems but was still there for Katie. How close the two are, though, is accentuated a little too much to be realistic.

I'm split on what to say about the family-storyline. It was interesting for me to read about Will's schizophrenia and his episodes seem realistic, but I don't know anything about that kind of thing so I can't really judge that. One thing I do know is that the descriptions of Will are scary, and that makes them seem real. I also liked how the family dynamics and Katie's relationship with her parents changes over the course of the novel. What I didn't like, though, is the explanation for Will's mental illness. Katie repeatedly says that it's their town's fault for making him ill, and that the entire town hated them because they're rich. That, to me, doesn't make sense - they're living in a poor town where people hate them, and they have money, so why wouldn't they move away? I also would have liked to read more about the time between Will's episodes, which the reader doesn't get to see because Katie's at boarding school. That made it hard for me to understand the developments in Will's schizophrenia.

I did not like the ending at all. Maybe it's a personal preference, but I have a problem with  epilogues taking place ten years after the rest of the story. I can't really explain why, but they're almost always corny, and that's the case in Breathless, too. I really would have preferred the resolution to take place right after the rest of the story.

I know, I said almost only negative things in this review, but I still think Breathless is a pretty good read. Despite the issues I had with this novel, the descriptions of Will's mental illness and the family dynamics are great, the writing is beautiul and the characters are fully-developed. I didn't really like the characters, so if you need to connect to the main character to really enjoy the book, like I do, maybe this one isn't for you, but if the topic interests you, it's worth a read.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Review: Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

Title: Invincible Summer
Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 269
Release date: April 19th 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought at The Book Depository
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Noah’s happier than I’ve seen him in months. So I’d be an awful brother to get in the way of that. It’s not like I have some relationship with Melinda. It was just a kiss. Am I going to ruin Noah’s happiness because of a kiss?
Across four sun-kissed, drama-drenched summers at his family’s beach house, Chase is falling in love, falling in lust, and trying to keep his life from falling apart. But some girls are addictive....

First sentence:
Gideon keeps falling down.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Oh, how I've been dreading writing this review... Some aspects of Invincible Summer are amazing, and others, while I know they're well-done, just didn't work for me. Really, I think any star rating would be justified.

One thing I do know is that the cover and synopsis are very misleading. The cover makes this seem like a fun, guilty-pleasure, feel-good, beach-read kind of book, which is not the case at all - Invincible Summer deals with lots of serious topics. Even though I hate writing summaries, I'm going to write my own for Invincible Summer - I don't think you'd get what I'm talking about from just the official description.

Invincible Summer deals with four summers of Chase's life, the summer he turns 14 to the summer he turns 18. Each year he goes to the same beach with his family, consisting of his pregnant mom and his dad, who are struggling with their marriage; Noah, his older brother, who's always running away from the family's problems; Claudia, the younger sister just turning into a teenager; and Gideon, the youngest of the kids, who is deaf. Chase's family always goes to the beach at the same time as another family, consisting of the parents; Bella, who has a crush on Chase; her twin brother, Shannon, who's friends with Chase and has a crush on Claudia; and Melinda. Melinda is kind of hard to explain. Both Chase and Noah have sex with her, and she has some issues of her own but that aren't really addressed until the end. I think that covers it, but I might have missed something - there are a lot of story lines, and, well, I suck at summarizing.

Anyways, for my actual review, I'll start with the good stuff, which is mainly the writing. Hannah Moskowitz's style is minimalistic and sparse, but it's beautiful and amazing, just so... poetic, I guess you could say. That helped convey raw, honest emotions. I also love how all the storylines fit together, making sure there's something in there everyone will like.

I loved the characters in Invincible Summer. Chase is a good narrator and easy to relate to, most of the time. The rest of the characters are fully-developed and complex. Gideon is probably my favorite character - he's adorable. While I didn't particularly like Noah, his way of dealing with things is interesting to read about. I didn't get Melinda's character at first, but later on, when we got to know about her past, I felt like I understood her better and got why she acted so strangely. I love how multi-dimensional the characters are, all with problems of their own that somehow work together. The only character I felt like I never really got to know is Bella - it seemed like she's just kind of there, but the reader never found out too much about her, which I thought was kind of strange.

Some of the reationships, though, just seemed weird to me. The fact that Shannon, who's 15 at the beginning of the book, has a crush Claudia, who's 11 at the beginning, kind of creeped me out. Four years might not be that big of an age difference for adults, but for 15- and 11-year-olds, it's huge. Chase's need for Noah felt a little overdone - I don't think the way that Chase misses Noah when he'd only been gone for a few hours is realistic.

Even though I enjoyed Hannah Moskowitz's sparse style, I would have liked to see some aspects to be elaborated on, for example the relationship between the parents. I don't think the reader got to know enough about how difficult their relationship is before the divorce to understand their reasons - at times it seems like everything's fine, and at other's Chase tells us they're always fighting. One of the parents says that they'd been trying and failing to make it work for 18 years, and that's why they're getting a divorce now. What I'm asking myself is, why did they keep having kids if they thought their relationship wasn't going to work? I mean, if you're fighting all the time and know you're going to break up, why have seven kids? That's only one little thing, but it's something I just thought was kind of strange.

One storyline that didn't work for me at all is the love triangle. Chase and Noah know Melinda is sleeping with both of them (they talk about it with each other, and Melinda complains to both of them that the other one is better in bed), but for some reason, they don't mind. I just don't get how you can not care that your brother's sleeping with the same girl you're sleeping with, and that whole love triange just felt wrong to me. Melinda's 20 or 21, I think, when she sleeps with 15-year-old Chase for the first time, which seems wrong, too. Later on, once the reader finds out what happened to Melinda, I guess you could kind of understand why she would do that, but it still felt weird - I got Melinda's motivations, but I just can't wrap my head around the fact that Chase and Noah don't mind sharing Melinda.

Another aspect I didn't get are the Camus quotes. I guess you could say they're beautiful and deep and meaningful and whatnot, but for me, those parts were kind of boring. I just don't think it's realistic for teenagers to be quoting Camus all the time. Then again, I know Hannah Moskowitz wrote this book in her junior and senior year of high school, at which time she was obsessed with Camus, so I can't really say it's not realistic... but I can say those parts didn't interest me all that much and didn't have the impact they were supposed to have.

The last summer is, by far, my favorite part of this novel. Noah's grief is portrayed so well, and his feelings are raw and heart-breaking. I bawled while reading that part. I'm not sure whether I cried because of the actual book or because it reminded me of some other stuff I've been going through, but either way, it's always good if a book makes you feel something. It actually had me thinking I probably would have liked the book better if it had focused more on the last part and the grief aspect and less on some of the other storylines, like the divorce and the love triangle.

Invincible Summer was a conflicting read for me. The writing, the characters and the emotions portrayed are amazing, and I love the portrayal of family in this novel, as well as the tragedy towards the end. But some story lines are just kind of weird. Despite these problems, I decided to give this book a 4-star-rating becuase, even though some things didn't work for me personally, I know they're actually good and will hopefully work for others. One thing you should know though, is that Invincible Summer is nothing like the cover makes it out to be.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Interview with Arlaina Tibensky (And Then Things Fall Apart Blog Tour)

Today we have Arlaina Tibensky here for an author interview! This iterview is part of The Teen Book Scene's blog tour for And Then Things Fall Apart. You can find out more about the tour here. Make sure to visit all the other stops of the blog tour if you'd like to know more about And Then Things Fall Apart.

Have you always loved writing? Why did you decide to write for teens?

Definitely! I have definitely always loved reading.  I used to read in the outfield during softball games in gym and felt most alive when I was living in the world of a great book.  I think I loved reading so much that writing was what made the most sense for me to do…  I didn’t really make a big conscious decision to write for teens.  I feel that I’m a writer who happens to be enraptured with that time of a person’s life.  All the fiction I wrote before And Then Things Fall Apart that was any good (and got published) had a teen protagonist or was somehow a “coming of age” story. And I’m the world’s oldest teenager, so…

What inspired you to write this novel? How big a role did Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar play for your inspiration?
When I was 15 I was stuck at my grandma’s house with the chickenpox and a typewriter.  The events in the book are not what actually happened to me but I always thought that my chicken pox episode would make an interesting book… One day I made a playlist of my favorite songs, sat down, and started writing as if I were an itchy fifteen year old.  I loved Sylvia Plath when I was in high school and felt that if I made Keek love her too, I’d have a great skeleton to hang the story on.  I also wanted to acknowledge all the spooky smart cool girls the world over who fall in love with Sylvia Plath in high school.  They are my friends.

Can you tell us a bit about the writing process? Do you have any weird writing habits?
The hardest part of writing for me is just sitting down and doing it.  There’s a famous writer whose name I forget who installed a freaking SEATBELT on to his writing chair so he had to literally strap himself in to get some work done.   Me? I drink a lot of coffee from my fancy Nespresso machine. I have to be totally alone.  Before I start I do some kind of meditation to clear my head and focus on creating (which sounds a little insane but it totally works for me!).  And I talk to myself the whole time.

If you could pair the main character, Keek, up with any character from any other book, who would it be and why?
Well, Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye of course.  They would be so in love at first it would be embarrassing and then she would break his heart… There is another new book called Stupid Fast which I love and the main character’s name is Felton.  He, like Keek, is Midwestern, funny, talks to himself a lot and is, perhaps, her soulmate.  Felton <3’s Keek.  I can so see it!

Which character in And Then Things Fall Apart are you most like?
It makes the most sense to say Keek, right?  I mean, we have the most in common and she in many ways is the most like me… But the grandma is a lot like me, Nic is a lot like me, even Matt and Earl the Squirrel are a lot like me. Even Amanda, when I flick on my bitch switch, is a lot like me.  They are all a facet of me, I guess.  I love them all so very much. I really hope that readers out there love them as much as I do!

Thanks for the great interview answers, Arlaina! I loved Felton in Stupid Fast, too, and the idea of strapping yourself to your chair is hilarious.

Make sure to check out all the other stops of the blog tour, and keep your eye out for And Then Things Fall Apart, which has already been released (July 26th).

And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Keek is not having a good summer. She and her boyfriend have just had their Worst Fight Ever (on the subject of her virginity, nonetheless), she’s been betrayed by a best friend, her parents are splitting up, and her mother is on the other side of the country tending to Keek’s newborn cousin, who may or may not make it home from the hospital. Oh, and Keek’s holed up at her grandmother’s technology-barren house with an abysmal case of the chicken pox. In Keek’s words, “Sofa king annoying.”
With her world collapsing around her, Keek’s only solace comes from rereading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and typing on an old electric typewriter. Keek—whose snappy narrative voice is darkly humorous and hysterically blunt—must ultimately decide for herself which relationships to salvage, which to set free, and what it means to fall in love.
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