Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: Rules of Attraction (Perfect Chemistry #2) by Simone Elkeles

Title: Rules of Attraction (Perfect Chemistry #2)
Author: Simone Elkeles
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Pages: 324
Release date: April 13th 2010
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
When Carlos Fuentes returns to America after living in Mexico for a year, he doesn’t want any part of the life his older brother, Alex, has laid out for him at a high school in Colorado . Carlos likes living his life on the edge and wants to carve his own path—just like Alex did. Then he meets Kiara Westford. She doesn’t talk much and is completely intimidated by Carlos’ wild ways. As they get to know one another, Carlos assumes Kiara thinks she’s too good for him, and refuses to admit that she might be getting to him. But he soon realizes that being himself is exactly what Kiara needs right now.

First sentence:
I want to live life on my own terms.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I loved Perfect Chemistry (review), but I wasn't sure whether I'd enjoy Rules of Attraction, since it's pretty much the same story. But Simone Elkeles managed to make these characters different, so I ended up really liking Rules of Attraction, too!

I thouhgt it would be hard to make Carlos different from Alex and Kiara different from Brittany, but that was not a problem - they both work as independent characters. At first I didn't like Carlos and was annoyed by his huge ego, but I grew to understand and love him. His cockyness is pretty funny, actually. When he got into trouble, I got frustrated with him and how he didn't want to let anyone help, but overall I liked him and think he's a good and entertaining character. Kiara, I loved from the start. She's different from the type of characters I usually relate to. She's athletic, loves hiking, knows how to repair cars, and is just generally a tomboy, which isn't me at all. But she's also shy and quiet and stutters, and that part of her made me really feel for her and like her.

Carlos and Kiara's relationship is great. Yes, it's predictable, but I loved how Carlos and Kiara interacted. Their fighting in the beginning is hilarious. I think the switch between hating each other and developing feelings for one another happened too quickly, but after that the ups and downs of their relationship are realistic again. The way they treat each other is just so much fun to read about.

The secondary characters are great too. I loved Kiara's family - Brandon is adorable, and Westford is the perfect dad, definitely the type of parent I'd like to see more of in YA. Tuck is a fun character, too - I loved every scene that included him. And then, of course, there's Brittany and Alex. I liked seeing what happened to them, and I really enjoyed reading about Carlos and Alex's relationship. Their fights are hilarious, but the way they care for one another is sweet. I especially liked seeing how Carlos and Alex influenced one another in their relationships with Kiara and Brittany.

My main problem is the same one I had with Perfect Chemistry - the way Simone Elkeles uses Spanish. 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 said 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 "...," Carlos said in Spanish. That lack of authenticity just really annoyed me.

Another thing I disliked is the ending - it seemed rushed and somewhat unrealistic, and I just generally hate epilogues.

While I think I still liked Perfect Chemistry better than Rules of Attraction - simply because the idea was new, and I liked Alex a little better than Carlos - Rules of Attraction is a great companion novel, and I'm excited for Luis's story, Chain Reaction!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: LoveSick by Jake Coburn

Title: LoveSick
Author: Jake Coburn
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release date: September 22nd 2005
Pages: 240
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance
Sources: Bought
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Ted's drunk-driving accident has ruined his life. It cost him his basketball scholarship, ended his plans for college, and forced him into AA. But just when Ted has resigned himself to his new life, Michael appears. The wealthy father of a bulimic Manhattan rich girl has a tempting proposition. He has agreed to pay for Ted's college tuition, but there's one catch. Ted has to secretly keep tabs on his benefactor's daughter, Erica. A seemingly simple task, with only one minor problem: Ted never expected to fall in love.

First sentence:
John leaned forward and set his Styrofoam cup in between the front legs of his folding chair.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

While there are things I liked and things I didn't like about this book, one thing's for sure: LoveSick is definitely different - different from anything I've read before, and different from what I'd expected. The first thing that surprised me is that this novel is based on a true story. In the beginning, the author talks about how he'd heard about Erica's and Ted's story actually happening and how he'd decided to turn it inot a novel, which is crazy - the idea for LoveSick is just so unlikely, something that only happens in books and movies. (Actually, I didn't find that out only once I read the book, mfay2 had already mentioned that in her review, but I'd forgotten and still think it's an interesting fact.)

What makes this book so different is the super-descriptive writing. Everything is described down to the smallest detail, especially Erica's bulimia. The reader gets to know every step of what she does in meticulous detail - choosing a store to buy the food, choosing what food to buy, buying the food, calculating the calories, organizing the food, choosing a toilet, cleaning that toilet, setting a timer, and so on. I know, this sounds so weird, but it's actually really interesting - that's a way of looking at bulimia I'd never thought about before. For some reason, this style works - it's blunt and crude but somehow fascinating. Even the back of the cover is that blunt. On the back of the book there's a picture of - I'm not even kidding - a toilet. I know, it's weird and disgusting... but for some reason, I love it.

I also loved that this book takes place in college. Why are there so few books about college students? As a high school senior, reading about college life would be really interesting to me, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. So I was really happy to see this book deals with college life.

Another thing that makes this book unique are the e-mails and chatroom discussions in between the different passages. At first, I didn't get the point of those e-mails, and found them kind of boring, but later on, I loved them. I especially liked reading the sessions Erica has with her therapist. The two play chess online for Erica's sessions and talk about, well, everything. There's just something about those conversations - they're so real, and I just loved them.

While I really liked some aspects of LoveSick, there are things I disliked, too. The plot is only okay, in my opinion - it's very predictable, and only at the end did it get really exciting. I found the characters to be somewhat underdeveloped - for the most part, Ted is defined by being alcoholic and Erica by being bulimic, and we don't know that much more about them. Despite reading from both of their perspectives, I didn't feel like I knew them all that well. The fact that they're defined by alcoholism/bulimia and don't have many other characteristics made it hard for me to relate or connect to either one of the characters. And the secondary characters... well, there are no real secondary characters, except for Erica's father and Charles, the ones who 'hire' Ted. I would have liked to know a little more about some of the other college students, and I found it somewhat unrealistic how Ted and Erica almost only spent time with one another and didn't get to know many other people. That being said, I did love Ted and Erica's relationship - the way they talk to and treat each other made me smile.

Despite those negative aspects, I do recommend LoveSick if you're in the mood for something different and unique. While I don't think the descriptive and blunt style will work for everyone, it definitely worked for me!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

In My Mailbox #35

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.

I didn't buy any books this week, but I got a few from NetGalley:

Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Willa's secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.
Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”—known to everyone as the Glitterati—without them suspecting a thing is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.
The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her: evening the social playing field between the haves and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan.
But when the cops start investigating the string of thefts at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could Aidan wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?

I love the idea for Pretty Crooked, and it sounds like a cute, fun read!

dancergirl by Carol M. Tanzman
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Ever feel like someone's watching you? Me, too. But lately it's been happening in my room.
When I'm alone.
A friend posted a video of me dancing online, and now I'm no longer Alicia Ruffino. I'm dancergirl. And suddenly it's like me against the world—everyone's got opinions.
My admirers want more, the haters hate, my best friend Jacy—even he's acting weird. And some stalker isn't content to just watch anymore.
Ali. Dancergirl. Whatever you know me as, however you've seen me online, I've trained my whole life to be the best dancer I can be. But if someone watching has their way, I could lose way more than just my love of dancing. I could lose my life.

This one sounds great, in a creepy kind of way!

Incarnate by Jodie Meadows
(Anazon / Goodreads)

Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are suspicious and afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?

Jodi Meadows expertly weaves soul-deep romance, fantasy, and danger into an extraordinary tale of new life.

Normally, Incarnate would be a little too out there for me, but that cover convinced me - it's gorgeous! And who knows, maybe it'll be a nice change of pace to read something more along the lines of dystopia/paranormal instead of the contemporary I usually read...

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Guest Post: Author Book Picks by Hannah Harrington (Saving June Blog Tour)

Today we have Hannah Harrington here for a guest post on her favorite books over the years! This post is part of The Teen Book Scene's blog tour for Saving June by Hannah Harrington. 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 Saving June!

I’ve always been a voracious reader! I was one of those kids who would get in trouble for reading during class instead of studying math, and it even drove my mother—an avid reader herself—to the point of exasperation sometimes. Here are some of my favorites from throughout the years:

Age 5: My mother used to read the Little Critter books by Mercer Mayer to me every night, and we had a lot of them. They were the first books I learned to read. My favorite was Just For You, where Critter keeps trying to do nice things for his mother but of course they never turn out right. I always loved the illustrations, too.

Age 10: In fourth grade, we read The Giver by Lois Lowry in class, which in retrospect is a little surprising since while it is a book targeted at younger readers, it does have some heavy content for a bunch of ten-year-olds. It was the first story I’d read that had such an ambiguous ending. I was used to tidy conclusions with everything wrapped up nicely, and I remember how startling it was to have this big question mark, leaving Jonah and Gabe’s fate up for interpretation—something that frustrated a lot of my peers, but I really loved how much it challenged me to think at that age. It also kick-started my love for dystopian novels, and is still one of my favorites.

Age 15: I read a lot of young adult fiction at this age, but the book that stands out to me most is Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty. I wasn’t much like Jessica Darling as a teen, but I did identify with her in at least one way—I’d recently moved from my hometown to a new town for high school, leaving my best friend behind, and we would write long emails to each other similar to Jessica and Hope’s correspondence. Since I was going through the exact same thing, it really made me connect to the story. And who doesn’t love Marcus Flutie? He was a refreshing love interest—a bad boy but not really that bad, wore ironic hipster t-shirts before it was all the rage, was flawed but someone you could root for, and very charming. The voice of the novel was so engaging and funny and heartbreakingly teenage at times; I must’ve read my copy ten times that year.

Age 20: My favorite book at age twenty was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which I actually read during my senior year of high school for a literature class. I’d always been a voracious reader, but no other book had hit me on such a visceral level. It horrified me, it made me cry, it absorbed me completely. I was torn between wanting to fly through it and wanting to stretch out the experience as long as possible, because you can never replicate a first read. Literally the second I finished it, I spent about ten minutes just staring into space absorbing it all, and then promptly turned back to page one and read it all over again.

Thanks for the great guest post, Hannah!

Make sure to check out the rest of the tour stops, and keep your eye out for Saving June, which has already been released. It's a truly amazing book - you can read my review here.

Saving June by Hannah Harrington
(Amazon / Goodreads)
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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles

Title: Lessons from a Dead Girl
Author: Jo Knowles
Publisher: Candlewick
Release date: October 9th 2007
Pages: 215
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Leah Greene is dead. For Laine, knowing what really happened and the awful feeling that she is, in some way, responsible set her on a journey of painful self-discovery. Yes, she wished for this. She hated Leah that much. Hated her for all the times in the closet, when Leah made her do those things. They were just practicing, Leah said. But why did Leah choose her? Was she special, or just easy to control? And why didn’t Laine make it stop sooner? In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laine is left to explore the devastating lessons Leah taught her, find some meaning in them, and decide whether she can forgive Leah and, ultimately, herself.

First sentence:
Leah Greene is dead.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

First off, I love the cover of Lessons from a Dead Girl. I've gotten kind of bored of covers with a pretty model but not much else, and this is a really good alternative - it's incospicuous but creepy, in a good way, just like the actual book.

This book is really different than I thought it'd be. I thought it was going to be about Laine dealing with Leah's death, and struggling to understand what happened when they were kids, but most of the story takes place before Leah's death - basically, the first and last chapters take place after Leah dies, and the rest shows us everything that happened before, starting in 5th grade, when they first became friends. If I'd known how much of the book focusses on Leah and Laine at such a young age, I think I would have been more reluctant to read Lessons from a Dead Girl, just because I like books about protagonists who are roughly my age. But I actually ended up enjoying the book the way it is - reading so much about Leah and Laine's past gives the reader a much better insight into both of the characters and into how their friendship works.

I loved Laine. I felt for her throughout the book - reading about what she has to go through, at such a young age, is heartbreaking, epsecially since we read about it from young, innocent, sweet Laine's point-of-view.

Leah... Oh, Leah. I wanted to feel for her, too - I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but she has some major issues, and what she has to go through is terrible, too. But I still couldn't really feel symapathetic towards her because what she does to Laine is so terrible. She traumatized Laine - she can't trust anyone, always afraid that if she were to become friends with another girl, she might do what Leah did. And even later, when Leah and Laine aren't friends anymore but still see each other occasionally, Leah is just such a bitch, always tormenting Laine about what they did, as if it were Laine's fault and not Leah's. I couldn't muster any sympathy towards Leah, but maybe that's because we only got to read from Laine's perspective - reading about Leah's thoughts and feelings and what made her do what she did would have been fascinating, but Lessons from a Dead Girl is Laine's story, not Leah's.

***This paragraph contains mild spoilers!***
One thing I disliked about Lessons from a Dead Girl is how it made what happened out to be Laine's fault, too. Maybe it's just because we read everything from Laine's point of view and she feels guilty about Leah's death, but a lot of the book talks about why Laine didn't try to stop Leah, or why Leah didn't try to stop Sam, the guy who abused Leah when she was younger. While of course that's something you should think about, too, I didn't like the way it was portrayed, Leah saying that there was some part of them, the victims, who liked what the abusers did to them. Obviously, I'm no expert, but that can't be right. I disliked how that puts part of the blame on the victim, which I think is just wrong. Maybe that's just my impression, though, since for the most part, Lessons from a Dead Girl has a positive message.

The plot, while horrifying, is great. It's fast-paced, and the book was hard to put down. I really like the idea of the "lessons" - each chapter begins with one "lesson" Leah taught Laine. I don't know what it is about this book, but it all feels so real, like it could have happened to anyone which makes it all the more disturbing. The writing is great, too, and the matter-of-factly way Laine describes what she had to go through is heartbreaking.

This book is a very hard read, but definitely worth it. The concept is something I've never heard about before, but it's fascinating. It's a heartbreaking story, but I definitely recommend Lessons from a Dead Girl, and I'll definitely read more by Jo Knowles in the future.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: Lie by Caroline Bock

Title: Lie
Author: Caroline Bock
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin                     
Release date: August 30th 2011
Pages: 224
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Seventeen year-old Skylar Thompson is being questioned by the police. Her boyfriend Jimmy stands accused of brutally assaulting two young El Salvadoran immigrants from a neighboring town, and she's the prime witness. Skylar is keeping quiet about what she's seen, but how long can she keep it up?
Jimmy was her savior. When her mother died, he was the only person who made her feel safe, protected from the world. But when she begins to appreciate the enormity of what has happened, especially when Carlos Cortez, the victim's brother, steps up to demand justice, she starts to have second thoughts about protecting him.
Jimmy's accomplice, Sean, is facing his own moral quandary. He's out on bail and has been offered a plea in exchange for testifying against Jimmy. Sean must decide whether or not to turn on his friend in order to save himself. But most importantly, both must figure out why they followed someone like Jimmy—someone who bullied people and advocated violence against others—in the first place.

First sentence:
I should be in calculus, reviewing for the final, not at the police station.

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I was so, so excited to read Lie. The cover is gorgeous, and I love the idea - what could get someone to commit such a terrible crime is fascinating, and I thought Skylar's conflict of what to do about it would be too. I really wanted to like this book, but I just couldn't get into it.

What first surprised me is the high number of points of view. I thought it would just be alternating perspectives, switching between Skylar and Sean, but there are ten different points of view. In my opinion, that's just too many. What annoyed me about the points of view isn't really the mere number, though, it's the way the perspectives are done. Most of these characters aren't even real characters, more like plot devices, the only purpose of their passages being to give more information about the main characters. Basically, all of them (except for the brother and mother of the hate crime victim, of course) talked about how they're a good person and how it's not their fault while expressing totally racist ideas. That just really upset me.

The characters are flat and have no real personalities. There is no showing, only telling. I don't usually mind telling all that much, since I'm a lazy reader, but in Lie, that was too extreme, even for me, since it's seriously all telling. That made it basically impossible for me to get to know and relate to the characters. And what I did know about them, I didn't particularly like. I especially hated Lisa Marie - she's a terrible friend. I keep thinking of a scene in the beginning, talking about how Skylar didn't want to go out or do anything right after her mother died, which annoyed Lisa Marie, who compared it to how she was only sad for a day when her dog died. How could you possibly compare those two things? That made me dislike Lisa Marie, right from the start. Skylar is a character I think I could have related to and felt for, especially about her mother's death, but we get to see almost none of her grief, or any feelings, for that matter, and she's underdeveloped too.

This book should have made me feel for the characters and understand why they acted they way they did, but it just didn't work. Throughout the entire book, I just thought the whole thing was so, so wrong. I should have gotten why people followed and looked up to Jimmy, but he seemed like an ass to me the entire time. Everybody always said 'beaner-hopping' was just for fun, but... really? I can't imagine how no one could say anything against that, and how they couldn't see what was wrong with hurting hispanic immigrants for fun every weeked. The way they justified it, saying they were keeping the town safe and protecting it from immigrants and helping, doesn't even make sense - how does beating up people help anyone? I just never understood their reasoning, and since that's the main part of the book, it didn't really work for me.

The plot is... well, not too much happens, and the whole plot is really slow. The ending is another thing that frustrated me, since it says so little. I would have liked a stronger positive message to make up for the homophobic way of thinking of almost all of the characters.

I really wanted to like this book, but choppy writing, characters I couldn't relate to and too many different perspectives made it hard for me to enjoy. I don't particularly recommend Lie, unless the topic is something you're really, really interested in.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In My Mailbox #34

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.

It was my birthday this Friday, so I got a few bookish things:
Faking Faith by Josie Bloss
After a humiliating "sexting" incident involving a hot and popular senior, seventeen-year-old Dylan has become a social outcast—harassed, ignored, and estranged from her two best friends. When Dylan discovers the blogs of homeschooled fundamentalist Christian girls, she's fascinated by their old-fashioned conversation themes, like practicing submission to one's future husband. Blogging as Faith, her devout alter ego, Dylan befriends Abigail, the group's queen bee. But growing closer to Abigail (and her intriguing older brother) forces Dylan to choose: keep living a lie or come clean and face the consequences.

I love books about alter-egos - there's just something about pretending to be someone you're not that fascinates me. And I'm interested in how the author will handle the religion-theme, so I'm excited to read this one!

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.

If I'm being honest, Arlaina Tibensky's And Then Things Fall Apart (review) convinced me to buy The Bell Jar - And Then Things Fall Apart is awesome, and The Bell Jar plays a really important role in it, so I figured I'd have to read this one too!

Mercy Lily by Lisa Albert
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.

I love the idea for this one, and it sounds like an emotional and powerful read!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
(Amazon / Goodreads)

With his first foray into teen literature, acclaimed author Sherman Alexie packs a punch in this absorbing novel about a Native American boy searching for a brighter future. At once humorous and stirring, Alexie's novel follows Junior, a resident of the Spokane reservation who transfers out of the reservation's school -- and into a nearby rich, all-white farm school -- in order to nurture his desire to become a cartoonist. Junior encounters resistance there, a backlash at home, and numerous family problems -- all the while relaying his thoughts and feelings via amusing descriptions and drawings. Having already garnered a National Book Award for Young Adult Literature, this moving look at race and growing up is definitely one to pick up.

I feel like everyone but me has read this one, and I've picked this one up at the book store countless times, so I decided it's time to finally buy a copy of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian!

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
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.

This one sounds right up my alley, and I'm really excited to read it! I have to say, though, I prefer the US cover to the UK one. What do you think?

One Day by David Nicholls
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Emma and Dexter meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year that follows?

This one isn't YA, but it still sounds like an interesting read!

I also got a finished copy of Saving June by Hannah Harrington because I loved it so much. I'm not putting the cover and description in this post because I had it in an IMM post before when I got it on NetGalley, but you can read my review here.

And I got a new bookshelf for my birthday! My old bookshelf has been full for a while, and I have stacks of books all over my room, so it was definitely time for a bigger one. I haven't set it up yet, but I'll show you guys a picture when I get around to setting it up!

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bookish Anticipation #7

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: May 8th 2012

Taylor's family might not be the closest-knit – everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled – but for the most part, they get along fine. Then they get news that changes everything: Her father has pancreatic cancer, and it's stage four – meaning that there is basically nothing to be done. Her parents decide that the family will spend his last months together at their old summerhouse in the Pocono Mountains.
Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven't actually gone anywhere. Her former summer best friend is suddenly around, as is her first boyfriend. . . and he's much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.
As the summer progresses, the Edwards become more of a family, and closer than they've ever been before. But all of them very aware that they're battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance – with family, with friends, and with love.

Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: March 13th 2012

Willa's secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.
Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”—known to everyone as the Glitterati—without them suspecting a thing is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.
The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her: evening the social playing field between the haves and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan.
But when the cops start investigating the string of thefts at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could Aidan wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?

In Honor by Jessi Kirby
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: May 8th 2012

Honor receives her brother's last letter from Iraq three days after learning that he died, and opens it the day his fellow Marines lay the flag over his casket. Its contents are a complete shock: concert tickets to see Kyra Kelly, her favorite pop star and Finn's celebrity crush. In his letter, he jokingly charged Honor with the task of telling Kyra Kelly that he was in love with her.
Grief-stricken and determined to grant Finn's last request, she rushes to leave immediately. But she only gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn's best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn't seen him in ages, thanks to a falling out between the two guys, but Rusty is much the same as Honor remembers him: arrogant, stubborn. . . and ruggedly good looking. Neither one is what the other would ever look for in a road trip partner, but the two of them set off together, on a voyage that makes sense only because it doesn't. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn--but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: March 1st 2012

Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny.
Things start out great - her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.

Thou Shalt Not Road Trip by Antony John
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: April 12th 2012
When sixteen-year-old Luke's book, Hallelujah, becomes a national best seller, his publisher sends him on a cross-country tour with his unpredictable older brother, Matt, as chauffeur. But when Matt offers to drive Luke's ex-crush, Fran, across the country too, things get a little crazy. Luke thinks he's enlightened, but he really needs to loosen up if he's going to discover what it truly means to have faith, and do what it takes to get the girl he loves.

The List by Siobhan Vivian
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: April 2nd 2012

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn't matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.
This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, "pretty" and "ugly." And it's also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.

When You Open Your Eyes by Cecily Conway
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: March 20th 2012

Tessa is in love with Lucien, the son of a European diplomat. He's French and sexy and artistic. With him, she realizes how naive and American she is, and just how alive she can feel.
But Tessa’s father forbids her to see Lucien. So they meet in secret, which makes their relationship feel all the more exciting.
The harder Tessa falls for Lucien, the more volatile he becomes. Suddenly it’s not just their relationship that’s breaking the rules—Lucien knows no boundaries. And Tessa must figure out how far she’ll go for Lucien…before there is no turning back.

This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: June 19th 2012

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up.
As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, everyone’s motivations to survive begin to change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life–and death–inside.
When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: January 3rd 2012

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances... a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.
So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life...and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.
It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review: Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Title: Saving June
Author: Hannah Harrington
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 336
Release date: November 22nd 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: NetGalley - thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for providing a free eGalley of this book.
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
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.

First sentence:
According to the puppy-of-the-month calendar hanging next to the phone in the kitchen, my sister June died on a Thursday, exactly nine days before her high school graduation.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

On the surface, you could say Saving June is about Harper coping with her sister's suicide. But for me, that wasn't the most important part - it's about so much more. It's not really about grief, or the road trip, or her relationship with Jake, it's just about being alive. I know, that sounds so corny, but that's what this book was like for me - every line made me happy to be alive. The plot isn't what made this book work, it's just an overall feeling - something you can't put your finger on, something that's just there.

That's not to say the plot wasn't good - I love the whole idea for this book. It has all my favorite topics - I don't know why, but grief just really fascinates me, I'm a sucker for romance, and road trips make everything better (I've never been on one, but I just love the feel of them). Combine those three, and it's basically guaranteed I'll love the book. And I love the idea of bringing June's ashes to California - I can't explain why, but there's just something so peaceful about it.

Harper is one amazing character. She could be (and has the right to be) wallowing in grief, but she's sarcastic and so much fun to read about. That's not to say she's not emotional and kind of all over the place - of course she has those moments too. But for the most part, she's quirky and entertaining. There are loads of books out there about girls whose older sister dies (by the way, why is it always the older sister? No other siblings ever seem to die in contemporary YA...), making the younger sister feel so inadequate compared to her older sister. I'm glad Harper's not like that - her view on things is really refreshing.

The secondary characters are great too. I loved Jake - he's a fully-developed and complex character. He's swoonworthy but flawed enough to be realistic. The relationship between Harper and Jake is so realistically slow I kept wanting them to just kiss and get it over with, and when I want the relationship to move faster, that means the pacing is just right. Laney is a great character, too - she has her own problems but is always supportive to Harper, and it's the same the other way around. It's so nice to read about a good, functioning friendship for once.

The writing is amzing and flows so well. I can't even explain why, but every line of this book is beautiful. I love how the writing is complex and beautiful but still fits Harper's voice perfectly. Hannah Harrington's words carry so much meaning - I laughed and I cried while reading this book, and several times I just had to stop and think.

Another thing I liked about Saving June is the music. I'm not even that into music, but for some reason I love reading about it, and I love when books include playlists, like Saving June does - it makes me feel even closer to the story.

This is one amazing book. The writng, plot and characters are great, and it conveys a beautiful, life-affirming message, despite the dark topics. I'm going to need to buy a finished copy once it's released, and I can't wait to see what Hannah Harrington comes up with next!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 372
Release date: December 2nd 2010
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance
Sopurce: Bought
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:

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.

First sentence:
Here is everything I know about France: Madeline and Amélie and Moulin Rouge.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I've been in a huge reading slump lately, but I think Anna and the French Kiss has finally gotten me out of it! Whatever I read, I was feeling kind of underwhelmed, but with Anna and the French Kiss, it was finally fun to read again! So, first of all, thanks for that, Stephanie Perkins!

What made me fall in love with this book is Anna. Usually, it's the guy character that makes me love a romance novel, but in Anna and the French Kiss, I really loved Anna. She's not the typical protagonist. Well, in a way she is, but she's really different, too - there's just something special about her. She was so easy to relate to. (Although, that might just be because we're in kind of similar situations right now. No, sadly I'm not in Paris, but I also like a guy who has a girlfriend and says he'll break up with her but, well, doesn't.) I can't even explain why, but I could imagine Anna perfectly, and I felt all of her feelings. Her voice is great - Anna's way of thinking and talking is unique and loads of fun.

That's not to say I didn't love St. Claire - he's adorable! He's the perfect literary character - dreamy and swoonworthy but not so perfect it's unrealistic. His relationship with Anna is so... wow. The ups and downs are so realistic, and you can't help but root for them to end up together.

The rest of the characters are great, too. I loved Mer and Bridge and Toph and Josh and Rashmi and all of them - they're just so realistic! How realistic everything is is probably my favorite part of this book.

I liked the writing, too. There's a lot of dialogue and almost no description, which I'm not usually a fan of, but for some reason it worked. The dialogue is real, and especially the way Anna talks is so much fun to read about.

There is one thing I didn't like all that much about this book, though. The descriptions of the School of America seemed kind of unrealistic to me. I've been to these kinds of schools (not in Paris, sadly, but in general), and I don't think the descriptions of how small the school is, having only one teacher per subject and all, are realistic. Sure, this school is fictional, but still - it seemed a little like the author hadn't done her research on international schools well enough, which is something that always bugs me.

I don't have much more to say about this book. (Since I haven't been reading, I haven't been reviewing either, and I'm out of pracitce.) But Anna and the French Kiss is adorable, one of the most fun and realistic romances I've ever read. If you haven't read it yet (although you probably have - it seems like I'm the last one to read this), you definitely should, and I'm super-excited for the companion novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

In My Mailbox #33

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.


Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories
(Amazon / Goodreads)

You are not alone.
Discover how Lauren Kate transformed the feeling of that one mean girl getting under her skin into her first novel, how Lauren Oliver learned to celebrate ambiguity in her classmates and in herself, and how R.L. Stine turned being the “funny guy” into the best defense against the bullies in his class.
Today’s top authors for teens come together to share their stories about bullying—as silent observers on the sidelines of high school, as victims, and as perpetrators—in a collection at turns moving and self-effacing, but always deeply personal.
Everyone who's read Dear Bully talked about what a powerful book it is, and it sounds like it will be an emotional read!

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
(Amazon / Goodreads)

When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.
But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.
I know, they're cliched and so cheesy, but I love Nicholas Sparks's novels, so I'm excited to read Safe Haven. By the way, would anyone be interested in a review for this one? I'm not sure whether I should review, since it's not YA, but I know a lot of YA readers also read Nicholas Sparks...

A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell
(Amazon / Goodreads)
Cora Bradley dreams of escape. Ever since her reckless older brother, Nate, died in a car crash, Cora has felt suffocated by her small town and high school. She seeks solace in drawing beautiful maps, envisioning herself in exotic locales. When Cora begins to fall for Damian, the handsome, brooding boy who was in the car with Nate the night he died, she uncovers her brother's secret artistic life and realizes she had more in common with him than she ever imagined. With stunning lyricism, Sandell weaves a tale of one girl's journey through the redemptive powers of art, friendship, and love.
A Map of the Known World sounds right up my alley, and I've heard great things about it!

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Guest Post: Author Playlist by Megan Bostic (Never Eighteen Blog Tour)

Today we have Megan Bostic here for a guest post on the music that played an important role in her debut novel, Never Eighteen! This post is part of The Teen Book Scene's blog tour for Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic. 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 Never Eighteen!

Music is a big part of my life, and usually plays a supporting role in the stories I write. Austin, my protagonist, is a big fan of indie music. I think I chose indie, because it’s evocative and always gets me in a writing mood. Also, Austin, to me at least, is an intellectual character with moments of profound reflection, and it just seemed to be a good fit.

I originally had song lyrics in the novel, but it was too hard to get permissions. Some songs in the novel I name by title, but some I just allude to. Here is the playlist for Never Eighteen:

* I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie: This is the song that upsets Kaylee that is played on their way to Seattle.

* New Slang by The Shins: Austin mentions this song as one he’d like as a musical doorbell.

* Bull’s on Parade by Rage Against the Machine: Jake’s favorite song.

These next four songs I wanted to use lyrics from to start each section of the book:

* Soul Meets Body by Death Cab for Cutie

“I want to live where soul meets body
And let the sun wrap its arms around me
And bathe my skin in water cool and cleansing
And feel, feel what it’s like to be new”

* All Possibilities by Badly Drawn Boy

“All the colours are changing in my eyes
Your hopes are all fading, that will never do
You're seeing the world through cynical eyes
I'm seeing the world through the eyes of somebody new”

* Where the Moss Slowly Grows by Tiger Army

“Embrace this joy, this pain
Don't miss this chance, it will not come again
You mean more than you may ever know
Don't linger where the moss slowly grows”

* Sometime After Midnight by The Airborne Toxic Event

“And so there's a change...
in your emotions
and all of these memories come rushing
like feral waves to your mind
of the curl of your bodies
like two perfect circles entwined”

* Love’s Labour Lost by The Less Deceived: I found this song while making a video trailer as a contest entry. I wasn’t supposed to use it after the contest ended, but I loved it so much, I found the band and asked their permission. Watch my trailer to hear it.

* Weighty Ghost by Wintersleep: This comes in toward the end of the book. Austin asks Kaylee to listen to it. It’s a beautiful song.

If reading this post made you curious about the trailer (like it made me), you can watch it here:

Make sure to check out all the other stops of the tour, and keep your eye out for Never Eighteen, which will be released January 17th 2012.

Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic

I had the dream again. The one where I’m running. I don’t know what from or where to, but I’m scared, terrified really.
Austin Parker is never going to see his eighteenth birthday. At the rate he’s going, he probably won’t even see the end of the year. But in the short time he has left there’s one thing he can do: He can try to help the people he loves live—even though he never will.
It’s probably hopeless.
But he has to try.
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