Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Review: Stolen (A Letter to My Captor)
Author: Lucy Christopher
Publisher: Chicken House Ltd.
Pages: 301
Release date: May 4th 2009
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought at The Book Depository
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back?
The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don't exist - almost.

First sentence:
You saw me before I saw you.

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I'm split on how to rate this book. I love the idea - it's interesting and unique, an important story. The format (writing this in the form of a letter to Ty) is a great idea, too. I thought it would be hard to read, considering Gemma is addressing Ty, but that wasn't a problem - I got used to the format quickly. For some reason, though, I just couldn't get into Stolen.

The beginning of Stolen, in my opinion, is too slow. Not the very beginning, when Ty kidnaps Gemma - that part is still interesting. But then, in the next 100 pages or so, nothing happens. Of course I understand the development couldn't have started right away - obviously Gemma couldn't develop feelings for Ty right after he captures her. I don't know how you could solve that problem, but that part bored me to no end. So many things happen every day and are described every day, and I think that could have been shortened a bit. The extensive descriptions of the desert are a bit too detailed in my opinion, too.

Later on, the plot picks up, but I still had problems with the characters and the writing. I didn't get the style. I can't explain what it is, but I just didn't like the writing. Maybe becuase this isn't really a novel, it's a letter, but I still thnk it should be written like fiction.There's nothing special, beautiful, or insightful about it, which I think really would have helped the story.

For me, the characters are hard to understand. At first Gemma is easy to relate to. She reacts how anyone in her situation would react - she's scared and angry. But I just didn't get her feelings for Ty, probably because I didn't like Ty. I know he was supposed to grow on me, and I was supposed to feel for him. I did enjoy finding out about his past, but it just wasn't enough to make me understand him or justify what he does. Except for very few scenes, he just stayed the sick abductor, in my mind. What he does is crazy: he stalked a girl for six years, followed her everywhere since she was ten years old, and kidnaps her to bring her to the desert, where he wants her to live with him, alone, and to love him. I just couldn't get over that, even after finding about what happened to him as a child. I still don't get why he would want to force her to live with him in the desert, if all he wanted was company and love.

That made Gemma's character hard to understand, too. Her feelings for Ty, in my opinion, develop too quickly. I know I'm completely contradicting what I said earlier about the beginning being too slow, but I wanted that middle part, where Gemma's feelings change, to be elaborated on more. Like this, as far as I understand, there are only three stages: 1. she hates him, 2. she admints he's hot, and 3. she loves him. That just isn't enough for me to understand their relationship.

I also would have liked to know more about Gemma's life at home. Her relationship with her parents, with Anna and Ben, with Josh - I didn't feel like I got any of them, really.

I feel bad for giving Stolen only two stars, since I really do love the idea. However, I had problems with almost all aspects of the execution, mainly becauseI didn't understand Ty or Gemma's feelings for him. That made the whole book kind of hard for me to get through. But I've read other reviews saying they were able to relate to them and feel Gemma's inner conflict, so decide for yourself whether this is a book for you!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Title: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Pages: 344
Release date: May 4th 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance
Source: Bought at The Book Depository
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Amy Curry thinks her life lucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew—just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn’t seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she’s coming to terms with her father’s death and how to put her own life back together after the accident.
Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road—diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards—this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself.

First sentence:
I sat on the front steps of my house and watched the beige Subaru station wagon swing too quickly around the cul-de-sac.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Reading this book was so much fun. I've never been on a real roadtrip, but I love reading about them. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour made me want to find a real-live-Roger and go on a road-trip across America immediately, stopping everywhere they did! I just love the whole idea for this novel, combining the physical road trip with an emotional journey.

The two main characters are probably what I liked best about this novel. Amy is so easy to relate to and understand, even though you don't know her whole story from the beginning on, and Roger is the perfect male lead. What made them so special, though, is their chemistry. Their romance is positively swoon-worthy, but I love how realistic it still is. I thought their romance would have seemed forced, since they only really know each other for a few days, but the development of their relationship is somehow really natural. Amy's character growth is remarkable - again something I wouldn't have though possible because of the short time we read about her. It's great how she develops and manages to deal with her issues in such a short time while still seeming realistic.

I also loved the pictures, maps, playlists, notes, etc. - I was kind of wary of that (what's so interesting about a receipt?), but I did end up enjoying that aspect - it really helped convey the roadtrip feel. The guide to road trips at the back of the book is adorable, too

The writing, however, is flawed. It's not terrible, but it's not really noteworthy, either. I would have liked some more insightful narrating to match the great idea and protagonists of this novel.

One thing I thought could have been elaborated on more are the secondary characters. While I loved Amy's relationship with her dad (that whole storyline is heartbreaking), I never really got her mom and Charlie. Their roles seemed kind of strange - at one point of the novel, Amy says her mom always keeps out of arguments, then later she's described as the one who always takes charge. Charlie is supposed to be the favorite of their parents, perfect and smart and all of that, while Amy's always second place, then later Amy says she can't cause any trouble because Chalie causes enoguh trouble for the both of them. To me, that just doesn't make sense, so it was hard for me to understand or relate to her problems with her family. I would have liked to know more about the situation at the beginning and how her relationship with her mother and brother changes along with Amy's character growth.

Despite these problems I had with the novel, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour is a great read. If you're a fan of road trips, you should definitely read this one - it conveys the feeling perfectly. I also recommend it if you're a fan of realistic character growth and romance. Now I just need to check out the songs on Roger's playlists!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

In My Mailbox #20

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...

Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
(Amazon / Goodreads)

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....

I've heard great things about this author, and her Twitter presence is awesome, so I'm excited to read this one (despite the embarrassing cover)!

Breathless by Jessica Warman

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.

I don't know what it is about them, but I love book covers with water. Just... wow! Breathless sounds right up my alley!
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
(Amazon / Goodreads)

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.

The plot sounds only average to me, but I've heard so much about how great these books are, so I'm excited to see whether Perfect Chemistry lives up to my expectations!

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Midsummer's Eve Givaway Winner

Thank you for entering my Midsummer's Eve Giveaway, everyone! 209 people entered, and with all the extra entries I got a total of 448 entries! Chosen by, the winner is...

#430: Lisa M.

Congrats! She chose Before I Die by Jenny Downham, and I hope she enjoys it as much as I did!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review: The Lipstick Laws by Amy Holder

Title: The Lipstick Laws
Author: Amy Holder
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 240
Release date: April 4th 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought at The Book Depository
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
At Penford High School, Britney Taylor is the queen bee. She dates whomever she likes, rules over her inner circle of friends like Genghis Khan, and can ruin anyone's life with a snap of perfectly manicured fingers. Just ask the unfortunate few who have crossed her. For April Bowers, Britney is also the answer to her prayers. April is so unpopular, kids don't even know she exists. But one lunch spent at Britney's table, and April is basking in the glow of popularity. But Britney's friendship comes with a high price tag. How much is April willing to pay?

First sentence:
Sitting near Darci Madison on the school bus is enough to put anyone with woman-sprout issues over the edge.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I've been dreading writing this review - I just don't know what rating to give The Lipstick Laws. At times it is cute and fun, at others it's annoying and even kind of ridiculous, and it just went back and forth between the two for me.

***The next paragraph sort of contains spoilers, but since the whole book is very precictable, I don't think it's anything you wouldn't know after reading the first few chapters. Still, you have been warned!***
The plot is nothing new - invisible girl becomes popular, falls out with the popular girls, gets revenge and, in the end, realizes it's not worth it. However, the idea of the Lipstick Laws and the Lipstick Lawbreakers is fun, making the novel stand out.

The writing is pretty good. It's not spectacular, but the tone is sweet and heartfelt and fits the plot perfectly. I really enjoyed the humor in the story, that had me laughing out loud.

I'm split on what to make of April. At times she's easy to relate to. Even though the reader knows it's not good for her, you can understand her wish to be popular. Her addiction to "bosom-sculpting" is a fun quirk. Sometimes, though, her immaturity annoyed me to no end. Other than April, Britney and maybe Delvin McGerk, the characters are underdeveloped. I would have liked to know more about the backstories of the Lipsitck Lawbreakers, and the Lipstick Lawlords, too.

This is probably the shortest review I've ever written, but I just don't have all that much to say about this book. It's nothing special and it's predictable, but I know I really would have enjoyed it had I read it two or three years ago, so maybe I'm just getting too old for these books. For the younger set of YA readers, this could be a sweet and funny read. In the end, it's exactly what you'd expect from a book with this cover - decide for yourselves if that's good or bad.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop! This giveaway hop is hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and you can find out all about it here.

Now on to my giveaway!

Like with my previous (non-author-sponsored) giveaways, one winner will win their choice from the books I've given a 4- or 5-star rating since my last giveaway (see list below).

Monday, June 20, 2011

Review: Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

Title: Cracked Up to Be
Author: Courtney Summers
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 214
Release date: December 23rd 2008
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought at The Book Depository
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Perfect Parker Fadley isn’t so perfect anymore. She’s quit the cheerleading squad, she’s dumped her perfect boyfriend, and she’s failing school. Her parents are on a constant suicide watch and her counselors think she’s playing games…but what they don’t know, the real reason for this whole mess, isn’t something she can say out loud. It isn’t even something she can say to herself. A horrible thing has happened and it just might be her fault. If she can just remove herself from everybody—be totally alone—then everything will be okay...The problem is, nobody will let her.

First sentence:
Imagine four years.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Courtney Summers is incredible. Her writing took some getting used to for me - it's like nothing I've ever read before. While reading Some Girls Are and Fall for Anything, I was still kind of freaked-out by how depressing her novels are. But I think I've gotten used to her style. The prose is so sparse, it makes everything, especially Parker's emotions, that much clearer. Despite using so few words, the writing is somehow  still vivid - you feel like you're right there with Parker. The style is unique and amazing.

No one can get into the head of a depressed teenaged girl like Courtney Summers can. It's simply amazing how she portrays Parker's emotions and makes me understand them. Parker's a great character. She's such a bitch, and if I met her in real life I'm sure I'd hate her. Somehow, though, and I have no idea how, Courtney Summers made me love Parker. I didn't just tolerate her, I absolutely loved her. I feel bad for it, but her crazy, mean, bitchy, sarcastic responses no one I know would have the guts to say out loud had me laughing throughout the novel, despite the solemn topics. Her pain is so raw and honest, you can't help but feel for her. I wanted what's best for her before I even knew her attitude is justified.

The secondary characters are great as well. I especially liked reading about Chris and Jake - they're just so cute. All of the characters and their relationships with Parker are fully-developed, and I love how the history Parker shares with Chris, Evan, Becky, etc. supports the main plot.

I also enjoyed the mystery aspect of Cracked Up to Be. In the beginning, I though it was obvious what had happened to Parker, but I was totally wrong. I don't want to give anything away, but I never could have guessed what actually happened. I loved the flashbacks - it's incredible how the author managed to include these in the main story so seamlessly. It's great how the reader can slowly see what happened to her unravel.

I kind of already mentioned this, but I'm going to say it again: What this novel made me feel is incredible. It had me laughing about Parker's snarky, sarcastic comments one minute and depressed about the whole thing the next. It's great how Courtney Summers included so many issues in Cracked Up to Be (alcohol abuse, depression, suicide,... and there's more but I don't want to give anything away) without turning it into a preachy "issue" book.

***This next paragraph contains somewhat spoiler-ish information, but nothing about the big secret.***
I was extremely disappointed by the ending. Of course there isn't going to be a quick solution for any of this, but I wanted to see Parker work through her problems. The ending is basically just "I'm going to see a shrink, and I hope I get better." I would have loved to see Parker really deal with her issues and find out if and how she resolves them, but the novel just ends there. That would have probably been the most interesting part, so I'm kind of mad the book didn't continue to show that part of Parker's story.

Another thing I dislike is the cover. To me, it makes it seem like Cracked Up to Be is going to be a fun book about popularity and cheerleading - you know the type. While popularity is sort of part of this novel, I don't think that cover does Cracked Up to Be justice.

All in all, this is an amazing read. If you haven't read anything by Courtney Summers, you really, really should - her writing is incredible and unique, just like her characters. I didn't like the ending of Cracked Up to Be, but I still definitely recommend it! Oh, and does anyone know if Courney Summers has a new book coming out anytime soon? I need more of her writing!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

In My Mailbox #19

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...

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

All Meg has ever wanted is to get away. Away from high school. Away from her backwater town. Away from her parents who seem determined to keep her imprisoned in their dead-end lives. But one crazy evening involving a dare and forbidden railroad tracks, she goes way too far...and almost doesn't make it back.
John made a choice to stay. To enforce the rules. To serve and protect. He has nothing but contempt for what he sees as childish rebellion, and he wants to teach Meg a lesson she won't soon forget. But Meg pushes him to the limit by questioning everything he learned at the police academy. And when he pushes back, demanding to know why she won't be tied down, they will drive each other to the edge -- and over....

I hate to say it, but I have not yet read anything by Jennifer Echols. I know it's superficial, but I didn't want to buy books with such embarrassing covers. But now I've gotten over myself, so I'm looking forward to seeing whether her books are as great as everyone says they are!

Say the Word by Jeannine Garsee

The world expects perfection from seventeen-year-old Shawna Gallagher, and for the most part, that’s what they get. She dates the right boys, gets good grades, and follows her father’s every rule. But when her estranged lesbian mother dies, it’s more than perfect Shawna can take. Suddenly, anger from being abandoned ten years ago is resurfacing along with Shawna’s embarrassment over her mother’s other family. As she confronts family secrets and questions from the past, Shawna realizes there’s a difference between doing the perfect thing and doing the right thing.

I'm not sure what to make of the cover, but it still sounds right up my alley!
The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face. But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him. Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

I've seen this one around loads of times, and it's supposed to be great! I hope it lives up to my expectations!

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Review: Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott

Title: Stealing Heaven
Author: Elizabeth Scott
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 320
Release date: June 1st 2008
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought at The Book Depository
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreards description:
My name is Danielle. I'm eighteen. I've been stealing things for as long as I can remember.
Dani has been trained as a thief by the best there is—her mother. They never stay in one place long enough for Dani to have real connections, real friends—a real life. But in the town of Heaven, everything changes. Suddenly, Dani must question where her loyalties lie: with the life she's always known—or the one she's always wanted.

First sentence:
My first memory is staring into a window into a house that isn't mine.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In a review quote on the back of the book it says that Stealing Heaven is "an addictive book about a real world that feels like a fantasy," and that's exactly true. I love the idea for Stealing Heaven - Dani's life is crazy, something none of us could imagine.

You might think it's predictable from reading the description, and some other Elizabeth Scott novels definitely are (Bloom, Something, Maybe), but the plot is full of surprises. The plot is compelling, perfectly-paced and fun. But because of Elizabeth Scott's great, vivid writing, this is much more than a quick, fun read - it's also insightful and moving.

I thought it would be hard to relate to Dani since her situation is so different from the reader's, but it only took me a few chapters to understand her. After that, she's easy to relate to. The problems she has because of their stealing aren't exactly things I've dealt with myself, but I definitely felt for her. Her situation is actually pretty sad - she's closed off from the world, can't really communicate with anyone other than her mother because they don't want to be noticed by anyone. I don't think I could live with that. Reading about Dani is still loads of fun, though - her personality is great, and I loved her sense of humor.

The other chracters are well-written and fully-developed too. I absolutely loved Greg. Making Dani fall for a cop is a perfect idea for this novel. The way Greg believes in Dani and sticks with her despite her bitchiness in the beginning (because, well, he's a cop and she's a criminal) is just so sweet. The romance is one of my favorite parts of this novel. The way it develops is so natural and realistic, but still sweet and swoon-worthy. You couldn't help but root for the couple. Alyson is a great character too. While I could never really warm up towards Dani's mother, her character is also well-written and understandable.

***This next paragraph contains mildly spoilerish information!***
My one problem with Stealing Heaven is the ending. I can't even really explain what I dislike about it, though. How it ends is great - not too happy, not too sad, just right. What I mind is the way the ending happens - in my opinion, it's just too fast. I think Dani's decision should have been elaborated on much more. Some more explanation would have been useful - I didn't get how Dani's and Greg's relationship ends up - Dani and her mom leave town, etc., and suddenly Greg's there too. That seemed a bit forced to me, just wanting to have a happy ending for Dani and Greg (not that I mind happy endings for such cute couples, but still!).

Despite my disliking the ending, this is a great, original read, both fun and insightful! Other than Living Dead Girl, it's my favortie Elizabeth Scott book since it's not as predictable as some of her others. I definitely recommend it!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bookish Wishlist #2

Sing Me To Sleep by Angela Morrison
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Beth has always been “The Beast”—that's what everyone at school calls her because of her awkward height, facial scars, and thick glasses. Beth's only friend is geeky, golden-haired Scott. That is, until she's selected to be her choir's soprano soloist, and receives the makeover that will change her life forever. When Beth's choir travels to Switzerland, she meets Derek: pale, brooding, totally dreamy. Derek's untethered passion—for music, and for Beth—leaves her breathless. Because in Derek's eyes? She's not The Beast, she's The Beauty. When Beth comes home, Scott, her best friend in the world, makes a confession that leaves her completely torn. Should she stand by sweet, steady Scott or follow the dangerous, intense new feelings she has for Derek? The closer Beth gets to Derek, the further away he seems. Then Beth discovers that Derek's been hiding a dark secret from her …one that could shatter everything.

The Life of Glass by Jillian Cantor
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Before he died, Melissa's father told her about stars. He told her that the brightest stars weren't always the most beautiful that if people took the time to look at the smaller stars, if they looked with a telescope at the true essence of the star, they would find real beauty. But even though Melissa knows that beauty isn't only skin deep, the people around her don't seem to feel that way. There's her gorgeous sister, Ashley, who will barely acknowledge Melissa at school; there's her best friend, Ryan, who may be falling in love with the sophisticated Courtney; and there's Melissa's mother, who's dating someone new, someone Melissa knows will never be able to replace her father. To make sure she doesn't lose her father completely, Melissa spends her time trying to piece together the last of his secrets and finishing a journal he began one about love and relationships and the remarkable ways people find one another. But when tragedy strikes, Melissa has to start living and loving in the present as she realizes that being beautiful on the outside doesn't mean you can't be beautiful on the inside.

What Happened To Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
(Amazon / Goodreads)

In the past two years, Mclean Sweet has moved four times. At each stop, she assumes a new persona, but it never quite works. Whether she's an effervescent cheerleader or an intense drama queen, nothing can permanently dispel the turmoil and rage at her mother since her parents' divorce. Sarah Dessen's novel about a teenager and her restaurant manager father captures the vulnerability that young people often experience after the dissolution of their family. A compelling story; strong characterization; and with a touch of romance.

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
It's hard finding beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming, but 14-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it's not her mother's pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild-girl Mandarin Ramey: 17, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin.
When they're united for a project, they form an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town's animal-head trophies, and searching for someplace magic. Grace plays along when Mandarin suggests they run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds plaguing their badlands town.
Because all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin's unique beauty hides a girl who's troubled, broken, and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, no friendship can withstand betrayal.

You Against Me by Jenny Downham
(Amazon / Goodreads)

If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge, right? If your brother's been accused of a terrible crime and you're the main witness, then you banish all doubt and defend him. Isn't that what families do? When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her at a party, his world of work and girls begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the crime, but says he didn't do it, her world of revision, exams and fitting in at a new school begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide. Brave and unflinching, this is a novel of extraordinary skillfulness and almost unbearable tension. It's a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all it's a book about love - for one's family and for another.

The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy
Three sisters. One life-changing summer. Calla loves summer because summer means Duncan. They’ve been best friends for years, but Calla has never worked up the nerve to tell him how she really feels. This summer, the summer before college, is Calla's last chance. iolet isn't much of a rule breaker in real life. But this isn't real life, this is summer, and Violet is determined to make the most of it. Besides, a little sneaking out never hurt anyone. And sneaking out with James is 100% worth the risk...even though James is completely off-limits. Daisy has never been the sister that boys notice, but when sparks fly with Joel at the first bonfire of summer, it seems so easy and right. So why is being his girlfriend so complicated?

Grace by Elizabeth Scott
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Grace was raised to be an Angel, a herald of death by suicide bomb. But she refuses to die for the cause, and now Grace is on the run, daring to dream of freedom. In search of a border she may never reach, she travels among malevolent soldiers on a decrepit train crawling through the desert. Accompanied by the mysterious Kerr, Grace struggles to be invisible, but the fear of discovery looms large as she recalls the history and events that delivered her uncertain fate.

Moonglass by Jessi Kirby
(Amazon / Goodreads)

I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now, I've thought maybe my mother drowned in both.
Anna's life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It's bad enough that she has to leave her friends and her life behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love- a place awash in memories that Anna would just as soon leave under the surface. While life on the beach is pretty great, with ocean views and one adorable lifeguard in particular, there are also family secrets that were buried along the shore years ago. And the ebb and flow of the ocean's tide means that nothing- not the sea glass that she collects on the sand and not the truths behind Anna's mother's death- stays buried forever.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: But I Love Him by Amanda Grace

Title: But I Love Him
Author: Amanda Grace
Publisher: Flux
Pages: 264
Release date: May 8th 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought at The Book Depository
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
At the beginning of senior year, Ann was a smiling, straight-A student and track star with friends and a future. Then she met a haunted young man named Connor. Only she can heal his emotional scars; only he could make her feel so loved — and needed. Ann can't recall the pivotal moment it all changed, when she surrendered everything to be with him, but by graduation, her life has become a dangerous high wire act. Just one mistake could trigger Connor's rage, a senseless storm of cruel words and violence damaging everything — and everyone — in its path.
This evocative slideshow of flashbacks reveals a heartbreaking story of love gone terribly wrong.

First sentence:
I lie in pieces on the floor.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

First off, I love the cover of But I Love Him, and I love the whole thing with the heart made of sea glass. It's so beautiful and sad at the time, just like the book.

Even though the topic is fascinating, I was weary of reading But I Love Him because it's written chronologically in reverse. I didn't think it'd be possible for the reader to understand Ann's and Connor's relationship if you don't get to see how it started out in the beginning, and I didn't understand how there could be any real progress if the novel starts out at the lowest point of the relationship. But I had nothing to worry about. Writing this chronologically in reverse is actually pretty genius.

 Even though whe didn't see the "happy" beginning of Ann's and Connor's relationship until later, I could really understand Ann from the first page on, which I didn't think would have been possible. The writing is amazing. So vivid and beautiful, I felt like I was right there with Ann. I felt her struggle, hoping she'd just leave him and not let him treat her like that, but also wanting her to give Connor another chance and help him work out his problems so they could live happily after. I was just as torn as Ann was while reading But I Love Him. It made me understand abusive relationships so much more - it all just seems so real, so scary. I never knew before what something like that can do to a person, but Ann's broken-ness is utterly believable.

Connor is a great, complex character too. Even though I hate myself for it, I could understand him, too, at least to some extent. No, nothing can justify what he does to Ann, but I still felt for him because of his past - after all, he is a victim, too. I also enjojyed the whole storyline with Ann's family. The subtlety with which Ann's father's death and its effect on Ann and her mother was handled is great and added a whole other dimension to the novel. I felt Ann's pain of losing her father and somehow losing her mother, too.

You might think it's strange to have how Ann and Connor met and started dating and all of that at the end of the book, but it's not (at least it wasn't for me). I really enjoyed that part. There's just something so heartbreaking about reading their innocent romance, knowing what will happen later on.

***The next paragraph contains spoiler-ish information!***
I do have one problem with this novel, though. I have no idea how you could change this, since like I said, I like the idea of the chornologically reverse order, but that made it basically impossible to have any type of solution for Ann's situation. I don't mean solution as in "this is what Ann has to do, and now everything will be perfect", since obviously there is no solution like that, but I would have liked to know more about Ann's decision, and what happens afterwards. I would have liked to see how Ann's mom helps her, and how she lives on after her decision.

Despite the lack of resolution, But I Love Him is a great book, and an important book, really making you understand the issue of abusive relationships, an issue I, for one, would like to read more about in contemporary YA. It's so well-written it makes you understand and feel for each of the characters, even when you don't want to. You should definitely read it!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

In My Mailbox #18

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...

When It Happens by Susane Colasanti
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Sara and Tobey couldn't be more different. She is focused on getting into her first-choice college; he wants to win Battle of the Bands. Sara's other goal is to find true love, so when Dave, a popular jock, asks her out, she's thrilled. But then there's Tobey. His amazing blue eyes and quirky wit always creep into her thoughts. It just so happens that one of Tobey's goals is also to make Sara fall in love with him. Told in alternating points of view, Sara and Tobey's real connection will have everyone rooting for them from the minute they meet!

I've heard great things about this author, and the cover is adorable!

Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Star basketball player Chelsea "Nitro" Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college-and everyone's admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.
As a graduation present, Chelsea's dad springs for a three-week summer "boot camp" program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she's immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who's haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain-or finally heal their heartbreak?

I loved A Blue So Dark by this author, and while Playing Hurt sounds really different, I'm sure I'll enjoy it too!

By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Daelyn Rice is broken beyond repair, and after a string of botched suicide attempts, she’s determined to get her death right. She starts visiting a website for “completers". While she’s on the site, Daelyn blogs about her life, uncovering a history of bullying that goes back to kindergarten. When she’s not on the Web, Daelyn’s at her private school, where she’s known as the freak who doesn’t talk. Then, a boy named Santana begins to sit with her after school while she’s waiting to for her parents to pick her up. Even though she’s made it clear that she wants to be left alone, Santana won’t give up. And it’s too late for Daelyn to be letting people into her life…isn’t it?

This one has been on my wishlist for ages. The cover is great, in a very creepy, mesmerizing way (look at the girl's eyes!).

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Review: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Title: Sweethearts
Author: Sara Zarr
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Pages: 224
Release date: February 1st 2008
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought at The Book Depository
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also each other's only friend. So when Cameron disappeared without warning, Jennifer thought she'd lost the one person who would ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she is popular, happy, and dating—everything "Jennifer" couldn't be. But she still can't shake the memory of her long-lost friend.
When Cameron suddenly reappears, they both are confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken.

First sentence:
A dripping faucet.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow. I really enjoyed Once Was Lost and Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, but this one blew my mind. There are so many beautiful messages in this book, so many emotions it evoked, I don't even know where to start. The description sounds only okay, at least for me, and I probably wouldn't even have read it had I not previously read a Sara Zarr novel. But it's so much more than the synopsis tells you. I don't even know how to explain it, it's just more.

The writing is great, like in Once Was Lost and Story of a Girl. Beautiful and vivid, it creates such a rich atmosphere, sad and beautiful and hopeful at the same time.

I loved the characters in this novel. Jenna is such a relatable character, so complex and dynamic. So is Cameron, but both are still utterly realistic characters. Their relationship is... I don't even know how to describe it - I don't think any word could do that relationship justice. Their bond is stronger than any relationship I've read about, as far as I can remember. Since this story is about Jenna and Cameron, the other characters aren't as fully-developed, but they're still realistic and easy to imagine. I especially like Alan's character.

Generally, I do not like preachy books, but I still want novels to have some kind of message. That's really hard to balance, but Sara Zarr does so perfectly. So many serious topics (child abuse, bullying,...) are addressed, and the story sends such subtle messages just by showing what Cameron and Jennifer have been through, without becoming a preachy "issue book".

What I loved most about Sweethearts are the emotions it evoked in me. No, it's not the most tragic story I've read, but there's just something about the writing and the depiction of raw emotion that had me feeling every single thing Jenna felt. Especially the scenes written from a young, innocent Jennifer's point of view are heartbreaking. I bawled while reading the last 20 pages or so, even though it's not really a sad ending - it's actually pretty hopeful. But there's just something so heartbreaking about Jenna's and Cameron's story, I was crying so hard I couldn't see the letters anymore by the end of it.

My one problem with Sweethearts (and this is really just a teeny-tiny problem) is how often Jenna talked about how much homework she has. Yeah, that's part of teenage life, but it's not exactly something interesting to read about, so it annoyed me how often that's mentioned. But like I said, that's petty and probably the smallest problem I've ever had with a book, not even really worth mentioning.

Obviously, I highly recommend Sweethearts! I loved all of Sara Zarr's novels, but this one is my new favorite. An absolutlely fantastic book - with great writing and characters, and evoking amazing emotions. Everything about Sweethearts is simply beautiful.

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