Monday, July 30, 2012

Review: The Raft by S.A. Bodeen

Title: The Raft
Author: SA Bodeen
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release date: August 21st 2012
Pages: 231
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: NetGalley
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Robie is an experienced traveler. She’s taken the flight from Honolulu to the Midway Atoll, a group of Pacific islands where her parents live, many times. When she has to get to Midway in a hurry after a visit with her aunt in Hawaii, she gets on the next cargo flight at the last minute. She knows the pilot, but on this flight, there’s a new co-pilot named Max. All systems are go until a storm hits during the flight. The only passenger, Robie doesn’t panic until the engine suddenly cuts out and Max shouts at her to put on a life jacket. They are over miles of Pacific Ocean. She sees Max struggle with a raft.
And then . . . she’s in the water. Fighting for her life. Max pulls her onto the raft, and that’s when the real terror begins. They have no water. Their only food is a bag of Skittles. There are sharks. There is an island. But there’s no sign of help on the way.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Going in with basically no expectations, I was pleasantly surprised by The Raft. It isn't perfect, but it's a good read with an unusual type of story for contemporary YA, and I'm glad I picked it up.

I'd have thought that this might get a little boring, Robie just sitting on that raft for days without much happening, but that is so not the case - The Raft is fast-paced and action-packed. Robie has to deal with loads of different dangers, and it never gets boring. Those parts almost didn't read like contemporary, since you usually only get that much life-or-death danger and fast-paced action in dystopians, paranormal, etc. I was fearing for Robie's life throughout the book.

Nature plays a very important role in The Raft. There are those dangers for Robie, but there are also scenes where Robie just observes the nature she encounters on the raft and on the island. That might sound boring, but it wasn't, at least not to me. Those scenes have a slower pace than the survival ones, but I still really liked them, because they're not something you read about every day. Those scenes kind of made me love and hate nature, at the same time.

The twist is what I liked best about The Raft. There were some things I didn't like in the beginning, that didn't make sense or didn't seem realistic to me, but it all worked with that twist. I never saw it coming, and it changed everything about how I looked at the story. The unexpected twist is what made it all woth it, to me, despite the issues I had with other aspects of the novel.

I'm not sure what to make of Robie's character. She's not always likeable because she does get kind of whiny, and there were times I was annoyed by her crying all the time and wasting resources and being too much of a wimp to, you know, do something. But in a way, I feel that I can't judge her for that - what she has to go through is terrible, and I doubt I'd be strong and rational all the time if I went through something like that.

Max's story, I didn't care for much, to be honest. If it were just his story, I would have really liked reading about everything we find out about his background and his past. But as a small part of this novel, I didn't really see the point; it didn't add all that much to the story, to me.

I would have liked to know some more about the emotional aspect of all of this. I didn't feel like the reader got to see the full psychological impact of what happens; I wanted to know more about how a disaster like this can change a person.

If you're looking for a deep exploration of the emotional aspect of disaster or for great character development, The Raft pobably isn't for you. But I enjoyed The Raft simply for what it is - a fast-paced survival story. It won't be going on my favorites shelf, but it was a quick read that kept me flipping the pages.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

My New Treasures #11

My New Treasures is a weekly feature here at Paperback Treasures to showcase all the books I received over the previous week. I do not take credit for this idea.

No vlog this week because I didn't get any physical books - not that that's a bad thing, after last week's huge haul. I got one ebook from NetGalley, though:

Skinny by Donna Cooner (Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon)

What books did you get this week?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Review: Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian

Title: Not That Kind of Girl
Author: Siobhan Vivian
Publisher: Scholastic
Release date: September 1st 2010
Pages: 322
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance
Source: Bought
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Natalie Sterling wants to be in control. She wants her friends to be loyal. She wants her classmates to elect her student council president. She wants to find the right guy, not the usual jerk her school has to offer. She wants a good reputation, because she believes that will lead to good things.
But life is messy, and it's very hard to be in control of it. Not when there are freshman girls running around in a pack, trying to get senior guys to sleep with them. Not when your friends have secrets they're no longer comfortable sharing. Not when the boy you once dismissed ends up being the boy you want to sleep with yourself - but only in secret, with nobody ever finding out.
Slut or saint? Winner or loser? Natalie is getting tired of these forced choices - and is now going to find a way to live life in the sometimes messy, sometimes wonderful in-between.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

You know those books that you just love getting lost in? Where you can't put your finger on what makes the book so amazing, but you know for sure it's good? Yeah. That's what Not That Kind of Girl was like for me. There's no one thing about this book that's incredible, but it all just works so well. The story sucked me in from the first page on, and I just loved reading this book.

Siobhan Vivian's writing flows so nicely. It's not the most beautiful or expressive style I've ever read, but it's easy, the kind of writing that makes you get lost in the book. I didn't even notice the time passing while reading Not That Kind of Girl - I wanted to read a chapter or two, and when I looked up again, I'd read a hundred pages.

Natalie is a great character. I didn't like her for most of the book - some of her actions and the way she thinks made me so mad! I didn't love her as a person, but I loved reading from her POV. There's just something about her character that's so compelling. I loved reading about how she develops over the course of the story. That goes for Natalie's friends, Autumn and Spencer, too! I didn't love either of them as people, but I liked reading about them and seeing how they grew from beginning to end.

And then there's Connor. I loveloveloved Connor. Now that I think about it, I'm not even sure why - he's not the most complex or interesting love interest. But, much like with this whole book, there's just something about him that made me love him so, so much. I always found myself looking forward to their secret meet-ups in the barn - those scenes are seriously hot. I love how subtlely (is that a word?) hot the romance is in Not That Kind of Girl. It's not overly descriptive, but the amazing chemistry between Natalie and Connor made their scenes hot and swoonworthy, even when they weren't doing anything. I loved these two together!

I shouldn't have waited so long to read this book! What kept me from reading Not That Kind of Girl is the cover. But after reading the book... I don't hate it anymore! I still don't love it, since I'm just not a fan of covers with people kissing (or close-ups of faces in general), but I don't mind as much. It works well with the story, and that's really what's most important about book covers!

The ending is the only thing I didn't love about this book - it's a little too abrupt, in my opinion. It seems like all the issues wrap up a little too nicely in the end, and I would have liked some more time for that to happen naturally. The way it is, the ending seems a little forced. But maybe I just wanted the book to keep going!

Really, that's all there is to it. There's no one thing that makes this book incredible, but it's just so good. It's an addictive read with a style that's easy to get lost in. It's pure fun - perfect feel-good reading!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Judging Books By Their Covers #5: Beach & Ocean

Judging Books by Their Covers is a feature I do every once in a while to showcase some book covers. Each post, I choose one category and some book covers that fit into that category, and talk about whether or not I like those covers. You can read some earlier posts in this feature here.

The links will take you to the Goodreads pages.

Today's category is: Beach & Ocean!

Moonglass by Jessi Kirby
Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

That Summer by Sarah Dessen
Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen
(and some more Sarah Dessen books)

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
The Summer of No Regrets by Katherine Grace Bond

Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman
Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler
Raw Blue by Kristy Eagar

The Story of Us by Deb Caletti
Stay by Deb Caletti
(and some more Deb Caletti books)

I'm kind of split on these books. I love how the beach-theme conveys such a summer-y feel and screams cute contemporary. And some of these, like Moonglass, Second Chance Summer, and The Story of Us, are really, really pretty. But I'm not a fan of all of these - I don't like the ones with bikini'd people, like Jersey Angel, The Summer of No Regrets, and Invincible Summer, because, well, I don't want to be seen in public with a book like that! In the end, the cute summer-y-ness (I know, great word) wins out, though, because I just love summer books!

What do you think of book covers showing the beach and the ocean?

If you have a type of cover you'd like me to feature on one of these posts, let me know!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Title: Out of My Mind
Author: Sharon M. Draper
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Release date: March 9th 2010
Pages: 295
Genre: Contemporary MG/YA
Source: Won from MaryAnn from Chapter by Chapter - thanks!
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon
Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom—the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged, because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she’s determined to let everyone know it…somehow.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It makes me sad how few YA books there are about people with disabilities. There's Girl, Stolen about a blind girl, and Five Flavors of Dumb, about a deaf girl, but Out of My Mind is the only YA (or MG? not sure as what to classify this) book I can think of that's about an MC with disabilities as severe as Melody's. And Out of My Mind has shown me that we desperately need books like this one.

It was fascinating to read about someone with cerebral palsy, to see what everyday life is like for them. I feel bad about it, but to be honest, I haven't given it much thought how difficult every little thing must be for someone with a condition like Melody's. It was interesting to see what Melody has to struggle with, but also how those struggles can be dealt with. But Melody is so much more than her disability - I grew to love her as a person. Sharon M. Draper nailed her voice - it is so real, I felt like I'd known Melody all my life. She perfectly balanced Melody's struggles because of her disability with Melody just being Melody, an incredibly strong 11-year-old girl.

What's best about Out of My Mind is how many emotions it evoked in me. It made me sad for Melody, of course, but it also made me hopeful and just happy to be alive. And it made me angry at all those people who don't treat Melody with the respect she deserves - I know I won't look at a kid in a wheelchair the same way I would have looked at him before reading this book.

The family storyline is really well-done. Seeing how this affected the family was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, somehow. I also loved reading about Melody's special needs classmates. I would have liked to know even more about them, but I kind of don't mind that we don't, since this is Melody's story.

I don't even know what else to say. This is an important book, and I know Melody is a character I won't soon forget. Read it - you won't be sorry.

Do you know any more books about a character with disabilities?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Review: Hooked by Catherine Greenman

Title: Hooked
Author: Catherine Greenman
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release date: August 9th 2011
Pages: 276
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
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Thea Galehouse has always known how to take care of herself. With a flighty club-owner mom and a standoffish, recovering-alcoholic dad, Thea has made her own way in her hometown of New York, attending the prestigious and competitive Stuyvesant High School. But one chat with Will, a handsome and witty senior, and she's a goner—completely hooked on him and unable to concentrate on anything else. Always worried that she loves Will more than he loves her, Thea is pleasantly surprised when their romance weathers his move to college and Will goes out of his way to involve her in his life. But then, Thea misses a period. And that starts Thea and Will on a wild ride that neither of them could have possibly prepared for. When they decide to keep the baby, their concerned parents chip in what they can to keep Will in school and give both teenagers a comfortable place to raise their child. But when a freak accident leaves Thea shaken and threatens to upend their little family altogether, Thea is forced to turn to the last place she would have chosen for comfort: her stiff, uncompromising father.
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

This books really makes me wish I wasn't too lazy to read the first few pages of books before buying them. After reading about a page, I was almost positive that this book would not be a good read for me. And it wasn't - the book frustrated me to no end.

Hooked starts out describing how Thea meets Will and how their relationship develops. And from the beginning on, their relationship didn't work for me. Thea and Will are the definition of insta-love; they meet, and bam - they're in love. There's no chemistry, nothing they have in common, nothing they really talk about - they're just in love, or so we're told. From what we see, their relationship is mainly physical - and I don't mean that it's addressed as an issue how most of it is physical; that's just the way it is. I didn't like Will at all - he didn't seem "handsome and witty" to me, he just seemed creepy. I know, that sounds mean, but I just got creepy vibes from him. Thea got very dependent on Will, which is another pet-peeve of mine. She has no other interests and stops caring about school - it's all about her boyfriend. And again, something like that not being addressed as an issue but just being, you know, there, frustrates me.

I thought Thea was an okay character at the beginning - she's a little boring, but not terrible. (Well, except for the fact that she doesn't wash her hair. I'm sorry, but... ew.) Once Thea finds out she's pregnant, she really started frustrating me. The most basic thing you'd expect from a teenage pregnancy book would be that it discusses the different options there are for people in that position, right? But that's not really the case in Hooked. First, Thea is supposed to get an abortion, but she doesn't go through with it, and then she wants to keep the baby. Her keeping the baby is fine, and necessary for the story, but it bugged me how she didn't even consider adoption. We're pretty far removed from Thea's character throughout and don't get too much insight into her thoughts, so maybe that's why, but I felt like we got no information whatsoever about why she decided to keep the baby.

In the book's defense, I did like the family set-up; it's very unique. I wish Hooked had focused more on that, since I think Thea's parents could have been very interesting to read about. But the story focuses on Thea and the baby, so we didn't get to explore the one storyline I would have been interested in.

The pacing is a little strange. There are weird time jumps, and I just cannot understand the reasoning behind why some scenes are so detailed while others aren't. I mean, that's normal - there are always a few scenes that the author describes in detail and then some passages summarizing the time in between; that's how novels work. But how the author decided which scenes to describe in detail and which ones to skip made no sense to me. For example, the scene of the birth, which I'd consider important and a rather dramatic scene, is shortened to one small paragraph, while there are descriptions of Thea's crocheting that are pages long, which bored me to no end. I'm sorry if this sounds offensive, but it felt almost like the reasoning behind the pacing was to minimize action and drama and to maximize my boredom with the description of things that I just didn't care about, like Thea's crocheting.

Towards the end, the book does get a little better. I liked reading about how Thea tries to support the baby, and the issues she faces as such a young mother. But those were just the last 30 or 40 pages or so, so they couldn't save the book for me.

There are quite a few things that frustrated me about Hooked, but they alone don't explain my dislike for this book. Hooked just... GAH! It made me want to rip my hair out; it made me so angry, and I'm not even sure why. Maybe it's that often, when I'm not liking a book, I'm enjoying not liking that book. Does that make any sense? I don't know, I often just like thinking about why I don't like a book. And in Hooked, I didn't even have that - I just wanted it to stop. I kept wanting to stop reading; I finished the book, but really just because I'm weird and have this thing about needing to finish every book I start.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday #17: Most Vivid Settings

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

The links will take you to my reviews, if available.

This week's topic is: Top Ten Most Vivid Worlds/Settings in Books

This week is going to be hard for me, since this question caters more to people who read paranormal, dystopian, etc. and not contemporary like I do. I'm not gonna take the easy way out, though, choosing the ten-ish dystopians I've read, or anything like that - I think contemps can have some awesome settings, too, so I'm gonna try choosing only contemps on this list!

1. Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

I've never gone backpacking across Central America, but after reading Wanderlove, I kind of feel like I have. The descriptions of the scenery are so vivid, they made me want to drop everything and go over there immediately. Even though I'm totally not the spontaneous-backpacking-goer type.

2. Bunheads by Sophie Flack

Dance is a whole world I know nothing about. (Well, unless watching So You Think You Can Dance counts...) But Bunheads totally made me feel like I was right alongside all these professional ballet dancers! It all just feels so real. Also, I LOVE BOOKS SET IN NYC!!!

3. Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff

It really does feel like Steve Brezenoff created a whole world with Brooklyn, Burning, even though it's contemporary. Life as a street kid is not exactly something I can imagine easily, but Steve Brezenoff brought me so much closer to this life I know nothing about. Also, I STILL LOVE BOOKS SET IN NYC!!!

4. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King

The setting in Please Ignore Vera Dietz is very... normal, but that's what makes it so special. I can't think of a book that has a more honest, real portrayal of life in a wrong-side-of-the-tracks kind of town.

5. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Can I go to Paris? Pretty please? Anna and the French Kiss makes me want to go so bad. Oh, and if you could get St. Clair to walk along the Seine and go to weird old awesome movie theaters with me, I wouldn't complain, either...

6. Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

This book is set on a SAILBOAT. How many kinds of awesome is that? More than I can count, that's how many. I love books that make me want to go places and do stuff. (Even if I never end up doing any of them...)

7. Anything by Sarah Dessen

I'm pretty sure Colby is paradise. You get an adorable beach town and even more adorable fictional boys! Who could resist?

8. The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy

I've never been to summer camp, but The Summer of Firsts and Lasts makes me wish I'd gone, so bad. 

9. Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Dude. This book doesn't even take place in Afghanistan, but I still felt like I was there. The flashbacks in Something Like Normal were enough to let me imagine what it's like.

10. Any book set at the beach

Yeah, I'm kind of cheating here. But I love ALL summer-y, beach-y settings; I can't just choose one! My favorites would be Moonglass by Jessi Kirby, Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler, and the Summer series by Jenny Han. I love how all of those books can make me feel like I'm right there, at the beach... I just love summer books!

That ended up being easier than I'd thought! Yay for contemporary settings! (Also, what is it about Top Ten Tuesdays that make my inner caps lock maniac come out? Okay, probably the fact that I get to talk about ten awesome books in each post. But still.)

What are some of your favorite CONTEMPORARY book settings?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy

Title: The Summer of Firsts and Lasts
Author: Terra Elan McVoy
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: May 3rd 2011
Pages: 423
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon
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.
 Violet 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?
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Summer of Firsts and Lasts was kind of hard to get into, for me. There are three different POVs, and with each narrator comes a set of friends and love interests, which was a little hard to keep track of at times. In the beginning, I kept checking back to see whose POV I was reading from because I couldn't keep the sisters' personalities straight. The way all three of the girls see themselves is very different from how they're seen by their sisters. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since that's how it is in real life (in my excperience), but it made it even harder to keep the sisters straight. To add to that, the girls have these nicknames that are kind of weird, and it was difficult to remember which nickname belonged to which of the sisters.

Once I'd spent some time inside all of their heads, though, I did like the characters; I conneced with each of them in a different way. Calla is the one I'm probably most similar to - because we're the same age, but also just because of our personalities. I know some people will be annoyed by how Calla keeps hoping beyond hope that Duncan likes her as more than a friend, but I personally could easily relate to that. I got her perfectionist ways and how she feels like she always needs to be nice to everyone - again, some people will be frustrated by that, but it worked for me, because I'm kind of like that too. Daisy, the youngest sister, is like the little girl inside of me I don't like to let people see. I got her insecurities because, well, I used to be her, when I was her age. Her character growth is probably the biggest, out of the three, and I loved reading about how she found her strength. Violet is the one I'm least like - she's the kind of confident I wish I was but know I never will be. But still, I enjoyed reading from her POV, because every once in a while I need to read about someone who is completely different from me.

I have to admit, the plot is very, very slow. It's less like fast-moving world of fiction and more like real life, in that way. I personally didn't really mind, but I know this will alienate a lot of readers. If you can't take a slow-moving plot and need action all the time, I'm pretty sure The Summer of Firsts and Lasts will make you go crazy. Terra Elan McVoy's style is very understated - there are few ornate descriptions that'll make you marvel at their beauty, but that's okay. The author let her characters do most of the talking, let the reader get to know the characters' voices instead of her own style, and I personally really liked that.

I loved the whole camp atmosphere! I've never been to camp, but The Summer of Firsts and Lasts makes me think I missed out on something important. I loved the together-ness and the spirit of it all - it doesn't feel exaggerated or forced, but it's always there.

The romance is okay. I liked the non-romance between Calla and Duncan because like I said, I get it. Daisy and Joey are interesting to read about, too, because their awkwardness is so real, and again reminded me so much of myself at that age. Violet and James, though, didn't really work for me. I don't want to spoil anything, but their attraction to one another felt forced and I didn't feel any real chemistry. Their relationship moved much too fast for me to really enjoy these two as a couple.

But, in a way, I don't even care about whether the romance worked, or whether I liked the characters as individuals, or about the writing or the plot. For me, The Summer of Firsts and Lasts isn't about any of that - it's really about the relationship between Calla, Violet, and Daisy. And the sister dynamics are really well-done. These three make me wish I had a sister. I love how they fight but are always there for each other when it counts. The more I think about it, the more I appreciate this unique setting to showcase this sister relationship, since there are already so many sister stories out there that take place at home or whatever - the camp aspect gave the sisters' relationship a unique twist.

This book is not for everyone - I can definitely the slow-moving plot and some of Calla's and Daisy's character traits frustrating some readers. But for me, this book was just what I needed. I didn't love it as much as Being Friends with Boys - the first Terra Elan McVoy book I read - but I really did like it. The Summer of Firsts and Lasts is a cute summer read and a unique sister story.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My New Treasures #10

My New Treasures is a weekly feature here at Paperback Treasures to showcase all the books I received over the previous week. I do not take credit for this idea.


Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield (Amazon | Goodreads)
Never Enough by Denise Jaden (Amazon | Goodreads)
The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder (Amazon | Goodreads)
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta (Amazon | Goodreads)
A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley (Amazon | Goodreads)
Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sara Mlynowski (Amazon | Goodreads)
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (Amazon | Goodreads)
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (Amazon | Goodreads)


Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally (Amazon | Goodreads) (thanks, Miranda!)
Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley (Amazon | Goodreads) (thanks, Jen!)
A Long Way from You by Gwendolyn Heasley (Amazon | Goodreads) (thanks, Jen!)


When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman *German* (Amazon | Goodreads)
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce *German* (Amazon | Goodreads)
Finding Sky by Joss Stirling *German* (Amazon | Goodreads)
The Confidant by Hélène Gremillon *German* (Amazon | Goodreads)
Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt *German* (Amazon | Goodreads)
A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias *German* (Amazon | Goodreads)
Ada liebt *German* (Amazon | Goodreads)
Und alle so yeah! *German* (Amazon | Goodreads)
Hannes by Rita Falk *German* (Amazon | Goodreads)
Fünf *German* (Amazon | Goodreads)
Nachricht von dir *German* (Amazon | Goodreads)
Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert (Amazon | Goodreads)
Nothing But Trouble by Rachel Gibson (Amazon | Goodreads)
This Is Water by David Foster Wallace (Amazon | Goodreads)
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (Amazon | Goodreads)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Review: What She Left Behind by Tracy Bilen

Title: What She Left Behind
Author: Tracy Bilen
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: May 1st 2012
Pages: 236
Genre: Conemporary YA; mystery
Source: Bought
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon
Sara and her mom have a plan to finally escape Sara’s abusive father. But when her mom doesn’t show up as expected, Sara’s terrified. Her father says that she’s on a business trip, but Sara knows he’s lying. Her mom is missing—and her dad had something to do with it. Each day that passes, Sara’s more on edge. Her friends know that something’s wrong, but she won’t endanger anyone else with her secret. And with her dad growing increasingly violent, Sara must figure out what happened to her mom before it’s too late…for them both.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

While reading the book, I really liked What She Left Behind. The mystery aspect is really well done, and I enjoyed trying to figure out what happened alongside Sara. Especially the last 50 pages or so are gripping - the suspense is so high, I couldn't put the book down. If you look at What She Left Behind as a mystery, it's a very good book. It had me terrified, like a good mystery should.

Sara's dad is a total psychopath. The physical abuse he puts his family through is so strong it's scary, but what really terrified me is the mental aspect - he is completely crazy. Sara's brother Matt died a few months ago, but the dad basically pretends (or really believes?) that Matt is still alive. He talks about him as if he were still there, he gets mad when Matt isn't home for dinner or when the chore he told Sara Matt should do doesn't get done. And he expects the rest of his family to pretend, too - it's gotten routine that the father asks why Matt isn't home for dinner, and Sara tells him he's at play practice, or whatever Matt would have been doing that day if he were still alive. When someone doesn't play along, he gets even more violent. And that's just one example - Sara's dad is a delusional psychopath, and he is terrifying.

But even though I liked the mystery and thought that the dad's character was very well-written, something about this book didn't sit right with me. I think it's how much it focuses on the mystery, the violence and the thrill, instead of discussing the issue of domestic abuse. I'm not saying it should have been preachy or anything like that - of course not every book needs to have a strong message to be a good book. But I think because of the focus on the mystery, the emotional aspect falls short. Books dealing with abuse are really interesting to me - it's fascinating to get into the mind of someone who's being abused, to try to understand why they don't leave the abuser or go to the police. And that part isn't really addressed in What She Left Behind - it's set after Sara and her mom decide to leave, so it makes sense we don't get as much insight into why they wouldn't leave, but I still would have liked to know some more about what made them stay all those years. What She Left Behind is really just the story of Sara trying to save herself and her mother from her father - not the story of dealing with the emotional aspect of abuse.

I also didn't like the romance. It's a classic case of insta-love. Even though Sara's mom is missing, she immediately falls for Alex, the bad boy/football player, when he starts persuing her, for whatever reason. This, along with the dreaded 'I think I'm in love with you' three days after their first conversation, had me rolling my eyes at any scene that included Alex. Not to forget that this romance is developing while Sara is under duress because her mother is missing and her father is growing even more violent.

The thing we discover about Matt towards the end seemed kind of random to me. I don't want to spoil anything, but I just didn't see the point of that revelation, or how that made any difference in Sara's grieving process.

If you're looking for a thrill and a good mystery, I do recommend What She Left Behind. But if you go into it expecting a story about domestic abuse and what it means for the victims, like I did, you will be disappointed - the complete lack of emotion or emotional development concerning both her abusive father and Sara grieving her brother ruined that aspect for me.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Series Review: Summer Trilogy by Jenny Han

Titles: The Summer I Turned Pretty, It's Not Summer Without You & We'll Always Have Summer
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Add to Goodreads: Book 1 | Book 2 | Book 3
Purchase from Amazon: Book 1 | Book 2 | Book 3

Goodreads description for The Summer I Turned Pretty:
Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer--they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

For some reason, I didn't review The Summer I Turned Pretty and It's Not Summer Without You when I first read them, so I'm just going to review them along with We'll Always Have Summer. This is a review of all three books, but I might talk about the third one a little more, just because that's the one I read most recently and have the most memory of. But don't worry, no spoilers even if you haven't read any of the books in this series!

I love these books so much, plain and simple - there's just something about them. I love getting lost in Jenny Han's writing! It flows nicely and reads so quickly - none of these books took me longer than two hours to read, since they're almost impossible to put down.

The characters are what's best about this series. It took me a while to get used to Belly, but she grew on me. I don't agree with all of her decisions, but I love her nonetheless. And Conrad and Jeremiah. Oh, Conrad and Jeremiah... *insert major swooning here* I love both of these boys so much - I can't even begin to explain what amazing characters they are. I loved the secondary characters, too - there's a strong family storyline, and I loved reading about Belly's mom and Susannah and even Steven. And I loved Belly's best friend Taylor! 

Seeing these characters develop over the course of three books is great. In We'll Always Have Summer, I liked seeing how much Belly had grown up, as well as the rest of these characters. I especially liked reading about them at college, because, well, I just love when books are set at college!

Another thing that's great about these books is the beach setting. I always love when books are set in beach towns, and the atmosphere in the Summer series is so well-done! I really felt like I was there at the beach alongside the characters, and I'd give anything to go to Cousins.

The Summer books evoked so many emotions in me. They made me happy, sure, but they're not only fun romances - they definitely have some depth, too. I tore up multiple times because of the pure feeling these books convey and all the love I have for the characters. I cry while reading books about grief and stuff like that all the time, but I don't remember ever having cried this much about a love story.

These books are the epitome of summer. I've read a book in the Summer series each summer for the last three years, and I really do believe there'll be something missing next year, when there are no more of these books for me to read. If you haven't read this series yet, what are you waiting for?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bookish Anticipation #17

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

Return to Me by Justina Chen Headley
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: January 15th 2012
Three months before Rebecca Muir is set to begin college, her father reveals a secret that tears the family apart: he is leaving them.
In an instant, Rebecca’s life crumbles—she has to rely on her mother now, when her whole life she’s been her father’s girl; she’s not sure she can trust her high school boyfriend; and her carefully planned-out life suddenly feels all wrong.
Reb’s journey takes her across the country and back, and is for anyone who has experienced uncertainty or betrayal. This book will inspire readers to overcome life’s challenges and come out triumphant on the other side.

The Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: January 8th 2012

In this modern-day suburban town, one percent of all fatalities come about in the most peculiar way. Deaths—eight-foot-tall, silver-gray creatures—send a letter (“Dear So-and-So, your days are numbered”) to whomever is chosen for a departure, telling them to wrap up their lives and do the things they always wanted to do before they have to “depart.” When sixteen-year-old Gabriela receives her notice, she is, of course devastated. Will she kiss her crush Sylvester before it’s too late?

The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: January 8th 2013
Lizzie wasn’t the first student at Verity High School to kill herself this year. But the difference is, she didn’t go quietly.
First it was SLUT scribbled all over the school’s lockers. But one week after Lizzie Hart takes her own life, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it—in Lizzie’s own looping scrawl. Photocopies of her diary show up in the hands of her classmates. And her best friend, Angie, is enraged.
Angie stopped talking to Lizzie on prom night, when she caught Lizzie in bed with her boyfriend. Too heartbroken to ask for an explanation or to intervene when Lizzie got branded Queen of the Sluts and was cruelly bullied by her classmates, Angie left her best friend to the mercy of the school, with tragic results.
But with this new slur, Angie’s guilt transforms into anger that someone is still targeting Lizzie even after her death. Using clues from Lizzie’s diary and aided by the magnetic, mysterious Jesse, Angie begins relentlessly investigating who, exactly, made Lizzie feel life was no longer worth living. And while she might claim she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, her anguish over abandoning and then losing her best friend drives Angie deeper into the dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull herself back out.

All the Broken Pieces by Cindi Madsen! 
(Amazon Goodreads)

Release date: December 11th 2012
Liv comes out of a coma with no memory of her past and two distinct, warring voices inside her head. Nothing, not even her reflection, seems familiar. As she stumbles through her junior year, the voices get louder, insisting she please the popular group while simultaneously despising them. But when Liv starts hanging around with Spencer, whose own mysterious past also has him on the fringe, life feels complete for the first time in, well, as long as she can remember.
Liv knows the details of the car accident that put her in the coma, but as the voices invade her dreams, and her dreams start feeling like memories, she and Spencer seek out answers. Yet the deeper they dig, the less things make sense. Can Liv rebuild the pieces of her broken past, when it means questioning not just who she is, but what she is?

Survivng High School by M. Doty
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: September 4th 2012
Freshman Emily Kessler needs perfect grades, a rigorous training schedule, and record-breaking swim times. She survives by limiting her fun to lunch with her best friend Tina and the rare Friday-night sleepover. But when she starts to fall for Twin Branches High's heartthrob, and secrets about her sister, Sara, start to surface, Emily begins to question the strict path her life is on. Maybe there is more to high school than just studying and swimming. But if she breaks a few rules, will she survive the consequences?

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: April 2nd 2013
A broken-down camper at the Obed Scenic and Wild River National Park - dubbed the Hundred Acre Wood - is the only home fifteen-year-old Carey has ever known.
Sure, coping with a bipolar mother on meth is no picnic, but beneath the sun-dazzled canopies of Hickory and Walnut, Carey's violin transports her from their bare-bones existence in the same way her little sister, Jenessa, finds comfort in her stash of second-hand Pooh books.
Life is dependable that way, until Mama goes into town for supplies and vanishes off the face of Tennessee, sending social services in her wake with a one-way ticket back to their father - a stranger in an even stranger world.

17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: March 21st 2013
Seventeen-year-old Lauren is having visions of girls who have gone missing. And all these girls have just one thing in common—they are 17 and gone without a trace. As Lauren struggles to shake these waking nightmares, impossible questions demand urgent answers: Why are the girls speaking to Lauren? How can she help them? And . . . is she next? As Lauren searches for clues, everything begins to unravel, and when a brush with death lands her in the hospital, a shocking truth emerges, changing everything.

Chasing the Skip by Janci Patterson
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: October 2nd 2012
Ricki's dad has never been there for her. He's a bounty hunter who spends his time chasing parole evaders—also known as "skips"—all over the country. But now since Ricki's mom ran off, Ricki finds herself an unwilling passenger in a front-row seat to her father's dangerous lifestyle.
Ricki's feelings get even more confused when her dad starts chasing seventeen-year-old Ian Burnham. She finds herself unavoidably attracted to the dark-eyed felon who seems eager to get acquainted. But Ricki thinks she's ever in control—the perfect manipulator. Little does she know that Ian isn't playing their game by her rules.

Crash by Lisa McMann
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: January 8th 2013

Jules lives with her family above their restaurant, which means she smells like pizza most of the time and drives their double-meatball-shaped food truck to school. It’s not a recipe for popularity, but she can handle that.
What she can’t handle is the vision. Over and over, Jules sees a careening truck hit a building and explode... and nine body bags in the snow.
She has no idea why this is happening to her or if she’s going crazy. It hardly matters, because the visions are everywhere--on billboards, television screens, windows--and she’s the only one who can see them.
But it’s not until the vision starts coming more frequently, and revealing more clues, that Jules knows what she has to do. Because now she can see the face in one of the body bags, and it's someone she knows. Someone she’s been in love with for as long as she can remember.

I know, I know - so many non-contemps on this list! I don't know what's going on with me, either. They just sound so good! Anyways, what upcoming releases are you anticipating?
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