Friday, August 31, 2012

Review: Kiss Crush Collide by Christina Meredith

Title: Kiss Crush Collide
Author: Christina Meredith
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release date: December 27th 2011
Pages: 313
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance
Source: Sarah
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What Leah did—only she really shouldn’t have—one hot night at a country club party.
What Leah has—only she really shouldn’t have—on the guy with the green eyes, the guy who is not her perfect boyfriend, the guy who does not fit in her picture-perfect life, the guy her sisters will only mock and her mother will never approve of. Not in a million years.
What happens when everything you always thought you wanted—having cool friends, being class valedictorian and homecoming queen—runs smack into everything it turns out you really do want.
Kiss. Crush. Collide.
For Leah and Porter, summer is only the beginning.
My rating: 1 out of 5 stars

To be fair, it's my own fault for reading this book despite the reviews it'd been getting. I'd heard only terrible things about Kiss Crush Collide, and yet I read it anyways, so it's not like I wasn't warned. But, yeah, it really is terrible - it felt like the author made each decision thinking about how she could most piss me off. I'm sorry, I know that sounds rude... but that's how I felt. I almost never take notes while reading, but I have two full pages of notes about what I didn't like about this book because there's so much to dislike! It was even kind of fun to see how many more ways this book (and the main character) would find to piss me off - that's the only reason I finished the book at all, really.

Let's start with our main character, Leah. She alone could have made me hate this book. Leah is the most bratty character ever. She's rich and beautiful and popular and perfect, and she takes it all for granted. She's fully aware that she gets everything she wants without having to work for any of it. Characters that just sort of float through life always bug me, but Leah pissed me off even more because, despite having the perfect life, she complains and whines all the time. (Also, who refers to their boobs as their "goodies"!?) I guess a main character like that would be okay if she showed some character growth, but Leah does not. The situation at the end is the exact same as the beginning, except now she knows Porter.

The family storyline didn't work at all the way it should have. The whole story relies on Leah being forced to be someone she's not by her parents. But... I didn't see it. Sure, Leah's mom is a bitch, but the parents didn't seem that controlling to me. Nobody really tells Leah she has to do the exact same things her sisters did; she just can't imagine doing anything else. She doesn't consider any other options, and instead complains when people can't tell her apart from her sisters. I didn't even get why Leah thinks her parents would not approve of Porter. He works as a valet, so I thought it was because he doesn't have money, but that's not true. He's stinking rich, just like Leah. I don't even know why he's working as a valet. And yes, their relationship isn't exactly traditional (meaning, they get to second base without even knowing the other's first name), but the parents wouldn't have to know that.

Speaking of, I did not like the relationship between Leah and Porter. Porter might have been an okay guy, but we don't really know much about him, and him being with Leah means he can't really be a great person, either. The way their relationship develops is strange. It moves fast, then slow, and their encounters don't even make sense. There is no connection between the two; what they do is almost only physical. I didn't even see a real difference between Shane, Leah's boyfriend, and Porter, other than Leah not being put off by the idea of hooking up with Porter. It isn't even mentioned that what Leah and Porter are doing is cheating until page 214. How can it take someone 214 pages to realize that they're cheating on their boyfriend!? And even then, Leah doesn't think that's wrong - she says it "just happened." And the issue of cheating is never really addressed. Okay, Leah's boyfriend is a tool, but still. Cheating? Not cool. It also bugged me how dependent Leah is on Porter - she's trying to escape her (supposedly) controlling family to be who she wants to be, only she's being controlled by someone else now. And that's not mentioned as an issue, either, that's just how their relationship works.

The pacing is very strange. There are so many flashbacks! And not in a way that would make sense, showing what happened earlier in Leah's life or anything. It just tells the story, talking about what's happening this evening, and then there's a flasback to this afternoon. And from that flashback, there's a flashback to this morning. That might make sense once, but it's like that  all the time, and I didn't see the point. That kept tearing me out of situations and dropping me in another one, and then going back, and what!? The whole thing just confused me and wouldn't let me get into the story.

And, to top it all off, there are loads of details in this book that don't match. I know most books have a few of those, and when there's just a few, I don't mind. But in Kiss Crush Collide, there are so many! For example, Leah's sister Freddie is about to go to France for a year. She's been in AP French for all of high school, and she's supposedly some kind of genius at French. Freddie's practicing French in a few scenes, and she's always practicing how to conjugate verbs. And, well, if you're fluent in a language, why are you learning how to conjuage verbs!? You'd learn that in the first few lessons. Also, Leah and Porter are constantly making out while driving. How does that work!? Another example would be Leah's lifeguarding job. The pool hours make no sense whatsoever! Sometimes she opens the pool at 1 PM, sometimes early in the morning, and sometimes not till 6:30 PM. The closing times vary from 5 PM to 9 PM, and not because weekdays/weekends or anything that makes sense. I know, these tiny things don't really make a difference, but there were so many of them that they bugged me. And I know I might be crazy for writing all of that crap down, but like I said, my main entertainment while reading was trying to find as many things wrong with Kiss Crush Collide as possible.

Valerie was the only part of the story that was tolerable. Sadly, she doesn't play too important a role. I would have loved to read a book about her instead!

I'm sorry, I know I'm kind of bitchy in this review. But Kiss Crush Collide pissed me off more than I can remember ever being pissed off by a book before. (Except for maybe Jersey Angel.) The book itself is not something I enjoyed, at all. But like I said, it was kind of fun to spend the whole time finding as many flaws as possible, and it's my own fault for reading a book I knew I'd hate. Obviously, I wouldn't recommend Kiss Crush Collide. (Also, if you stuck with me for this long - thank you! I know the review got out-of-control long. But there's just so much to hate!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Burn for Burn by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian

Title: Burn for Burn
Authors: Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release date: September 18th 2012
Pages: 368
Genre: YA
Source: NetGalley
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Lillia has never had any problems dealing with boys who like her. Not until this summer, when one went too far. No way will she let the same thing happen to her little sister.
Kat is tired of the rumours, the insults, the cruel jokes. It all goes back to one person – her ex-best friend – and she's ready to make her pay.
Four years ago, Mary left Jar Island because of a boy. But she's not the same girl anymore. And she's ready to prove it to him.
Three very different girls who want the same thing: sweet, sweet revenge. And they won't stop until they each had a taste.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I love both Jenny Han's and Siobhan Vivian's earlier books, but I was a little worried about this one, since it's classified as paranormal and not contemporary, like both authors' previous books. But I had nothing to worry about! Really, Burn for Burn reads a lot more like contemporary than anything paranormal. There are a few hints at some supernatural powers, and I guess that'll be explored more later on in the series, but for the most part, Burn for Burn is contemporary. That might be disappointing to people who prefer paranormal books, but I, as a contemps-lover, appreciate that it takes place mainly in the real world.

Burn for Burn is so much fun. Really, that's the only way to describe it. It's not deep or meaningful, but it's just so entertaining to read. Jenny Han's and Siobhan Vivian's styles are both great, and they work really well together. I'd love to know who wrote which parts - whether each of them wrote one character and they shared the third one, or what - since I honestly couldn't tell. The writing on both parts flows very nicely, making this a quick read. It's not too descriptive or ornate, but it makes it so easy to get lost in the story.

I'm not sure what to make of the characters. I didn't exactly like them or agree with their decisions, and each of the girls frustrated me at some point, but I didn't even care, for some reason. They're just fun people to read about! Especially Lillia and Kat have some serious sass and attitude, which made it hard for me to feel for them, but made them all the more entertaining characters. The same thing goes for the secondary characters - a lot of them are bitchy and mean, but that just caused for more drama and fun reading. In the beginning, I had some trouble keeping track of who's who, because of the varying POV and the large set of secondary characters, but I figured it out after a while.

At first, I was a little worried about the whole revenge thing, since it seems kind of... wrong, but I ended up really enjoying it. Again, I didn't agree with the characters' choices, per se, but I still couldn't wait for them to get revenge because it caused for so much fun reading. Burn for Burn is the perfect guilty pleasure read - you know you shouldn't be enjoying this because it's all so wrong and mean, but you can't help it. I loved Kat's and Mary's storylines, but I found Lillia's a little weak, to be honest. Her reasons for wanting revenge didn't seem as strong as the other girls', and I kept thinking something about what she'd heard would turn out not to be true, making me feel kind of bad for the guy she gets revenge on.

Burn for Burn is a quick and very entertaining read. If you go in expecting something meaningful, expecting it to be discussed whether or not the revenge these girls try to get is wrong, you'll probably be disappointed, but I didn't mind. This book is pure fun; total brain candy. I can't wait for the next book, even if I'm dreading the part where the supernatural stuff takes over.

Who are two authors you would love to see team up and write a book together?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Teenage Garage Sale by Corrine Jackson (If I Lie Blog Tour)

Today we have Corrine Jackson here for a guest post! This post is part of The Teen Book Scene's blog tour for Corrine's debut, If I Lie.. You can find out all about the tour here. Make sure to visit all the other stops if you'd like to know more about If I Lie!

Teenage Garage Sale Post

A Teenage Garage Sale post is basically just a post on what kind of things we’d find if Corinne were to have a garage sale of items from her teenage years.
Imagine a table on the sidewalk in San Francisco. Next to the table is a pink fluorescent poster board sign that reads“GARAGE SALE” in poorly written black Sharpie, which is odd since technically I don’t have storage space in my garage or a permit to sale things out of my garage. To be accurate, let’s call this a “CRAP-THAT-DOESN’T-FIT-IN-MY-TINY-APARTMENT SALE” and hope I don’t get a ticket for holding an illegal sidewalk sale. Back to the table… It is loaded down with junk from my teen years.

NKOTB cassette tape – If you don’t know the acronym, you don’t have the right stuff to own it. Move on.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer VHS – I’m talking about the 1992 movie and not the TV show. Luke Perry. PeeWee Herman's minute long death scene. Hell yeah.
Button-fly Levis – Mom once told me that my legs looked long in these. I am short, so I treasured these babies until I wore them out. It’s possible she fibbed.
Cheerleading uniform – Could the skirt be any freaking shorter? Geez, was my butt hanging out, and I didn’t know it? And yes, the material is wool. My coach liked how the pleats stayed pleated even though it was itchy as heck.
Box of romance novels – Wait. Give those back. Those aren’t for sale, after all. It’s my prerogative to change my mind.
Stack of Seventeen magazines – Ah! I used to flip through the pages, imagining myself a writer. I even sent in a short story, and they sent me my first rejection. I wonder what happened to that story?
Hair Chopsticks – A French twist my senior year? Really? Was I trying for the “matron of the year” award? At least it wasn’t a scrunchie. No wonder I cut my hair off.

How much am I charging? Well, at a family yard sale, my brother-in-law told us that if someone approaches you, sending you into a blind panic, you should just yell, “DOLLAR!” So…


Thanks for the great guest post, Corrine!

Make sure to check out the rest of the tour stops, and keep your eye out for If I Lie, which will be released on August 28th.

If I Lie by Corinne Jackson
(Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon)
Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town.
Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Title: My Life Next Door
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Release date: June 14th 2012
Pages: 395
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance
Source: Bought
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The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen year old Samantha wishes she was one of them… until the day Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. Jase can sense that his beautiful neighbor is missing something in her sterile home, and as the two fall fiercely in love, his family makes her one of their own. But when the bottom drops out of Sam's world, which perfect family will save her–and will her perfect love survive?
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Ever since I first heard about it, I just knew this book would be fabulous. I'm not even sure why, since the description doesn't sound that special, but I'd been getting "Read me! I'm awesome!" vibes from My Life Next Door. Add to that the gorgeous cover and all the swooning reviews it's been getting, and I was sure I was in for something special when I opened the book. And while I did have a few smaller problems with the story, the characters and everything the book ensure My Life Next Door is going straight to the favorites shelf.

Huntley Fitzpatrick's style is great. It's not overly ornate or the most beautiful writing I've ever read, but it's perfect for this story. Her writing made it so easy to get lost in the story; it made the characters come to life. It's the kind of writing that reads incredibly quickly; you don't even notice the time passing while you're reading because you're so absorbed in the story. If I hadn't been reading together with Racquel, I probably would have read My Life Next Door in one sitting - it's that kind of book.

The characters are what make this book so special. The cast of supporting characters is relatively large, but that doesn't mean any of them are underdeveloped. With 8 kids, I thought I'd have trouble telling the Garretts apart, but that is not the case at all. Jase is swoonworthy, the perfect love interest. Racquel criticized that Jase is too perfect, but I didn't really see it that way - I couldn't get over how much I loved him. And George - oh, George. He is the single most adorable kid the (fictional) world has ever seen. I know it's easy to get a lot of people to love little kids as book characters, so me loving George might not mean that much. But even though I'm not always convinced by little-kid-cuteness, Huntely Fitzpatrick totally got me with George. Those two characters are the obvious choices, the ones everyone will love, but that doesn't mean the rest of the Garretts are any less interesting. Alice, Andy and Patsy are all made of awesome, and I would have loved to see even more of Joel. Each member of the Garrett family, including the parents, has a distinct personality - they feel less like fictional characters and more like people I know in real life. Then there's the non-Garrett secondary characters, out of which my favorite would have to be Tim. In the beginning, I was fearing him to be some kind of stock character, the necessary bad-boy-ish, "show the kids how drugs can mess up your life" kind of character, but that is so not the case. Tim has his own story to tell, and I love that he got to play such an important role in My Life Next Door because he is complex and awesome and I just loved reading about him.

The only character I wasn't completely in love with, sadly, was Samantha. She's not a bad character, but she felt a little flat to me. I wanted her to show more emotion, more personality, in quite a few scenes. I get that's kind of the point, but her Little Miss Perfect attitude annoyed me a little. Sam is beautiful, smart, always does the right thing, and has an endless number of talents, including being a great swimmer, knowing everything there is to know about astrology, and having a way with the younger Garretts. I want characters to have flaws, to show weaknesses and insecurities, and I didn't get that from Samantha. That's not to say I didn't like her at all - I didn't have huge issues with her, and it didn't take much from my overall reading experience. But I didn't love Sam like I wanted to.

I've heard a few people say they didn't like the big twist, but I for one loved it. I did not see it coming at all, and the set-up is definitely original. I love how this twist put all of Sam's relationships to the test - it was great to read about how each storyline was affected by this. I especially liked Sam's relationship with her mom during this time - it had felt a little flat to me in the beginning, but the problems they have towards the end of the book really made me understand their relationship.

One storyline I did not like as much is Sam's friendship with Nan. I can't say too much about that without spoiling anything, but I really wish that would have been developed more. The changes in their relationship felt drastic and a little unrealistic to me, and I would have preferred a more subtle and nuanced way of developing the issues these two have.

But despite all those other storylines, My Life Next Door is, at its heart, a romance. I hadn't read a straight-up romance for a while, and this book definitely filled that void. In the beginning, I was fearing insta-love - I found it a little strange how Jase and Sam had been neighbors for so long without ever seeing each other, and how suddenly, when the story starts, they see each other all the time. But once I got over that, I loved Sam and Jase together - I was so wrong for thinking it was insta-love in the beginning. The way the author developed Sam and Jase's relationship is honest and real, and I loved watching their feelings for each other grow.

I know I said quite a few negative things in this review, but really, that's not really what I felt while reading. What I felt was that super-awesome-book-feeling - you know, the one where you're just so happy while reading because a book is exactly the way you want it to be? That feeling is what really stuck with me and made this book so special. I'm sad to have to say goodbye to these characters - I keep hoping for an announcement that there will be companions to My Life Next Door, that Alice, Joel, Andy, Tim, and all the rest of them will get their own stories. But either way, I loved this book, and I'll be reading whatever Huntley Fitzpatrick publishes next, whether it includes these characters or not.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review: Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Title: Girl, Stolen
Author: April Henry
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Release date: September 28th 2010
Pages: 213
Genre: Contemporary YA; mystery
Source: Bought
Find out more: Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon
Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, their car is being stolen--with her inside! Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others. But once Griffin's dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes—now there’s a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn’t know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price?
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Ever since hearing about the unique set-up of Girl, Stolen, I've been wanting to read this book. The whole idea of a guy stealing a car without knowing there was a girl in the back is genius, and I love where the author took it from there.

Then there's the fact that the main character is blind, which makes me so, so happy. I am so glad to finally be reading a book about someone with a disability, without that disability being the main subject of the book. I love how in Girl, Stolen, Cheyenne's disability is just a part of who she is, one aspect of the bigger plot. We need more books like that, in my opinion.

April Henry sure knows how to write a great mystery - the suspenseful atmosphere is so well-done. I wasn't expecting all of it to be so dangerous - Griffin's dad, Roy, sounded like a bad guy, yes, but I wasn't expecting him to be that evil! Girl, Stolen surprised me with its life-or-death danger, for both main characters. The fast-paced plot had me flipping the pages, and towards the end, I literally couldn't stop reading. I was terrified for both of our main characters ad that fear kept my heart pounding throughout the book.

But, even if the idea is what makes Girl, Stolen unique, the characters are what make it all come together. I really liked Cheyenne and her history was very interesting to read about. Resourceful is the word that comes to my mind when I think of her, though I have to admit that word wasn't my idea but stuck with me from Todd Strasser's blurb. Anyways, all the things Cheyenne comes up with in order to save herself are fascinating.

My love for Cheyenne, though, is nothing compared to my love for Griffin. Oh, Griffin... He's terribly misguided by his *insert expletive of choice* father, but he's strong and has a good heart. I felt bad about it, since he's sort of the bad guy in this story, but a happy ending for Griffin was even more important to me than a happy ending for Cheyenne. Therefore, I was a little disappointed by how much the ending focuses on on Cheyenne's story instead of Griffin's. Either way, I loved these characters.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Cheyenne and Griffin. I was dreading some kind of romance between the two, and I'm glad the story doesn't go there. The relationship between Cheyenne and Griffin develops naturally and in a very honest and real way. Their connection is subtle, and I very much appreciate that no unrealistic ideas of romance were forced on the story.

Girl, Stolen is the perfect balance between suspenseful mystery and solid character development. I loved it even more than The Night She Disappeared, probably because this plot is a lot more original. I can't wait for more mysteries from April Henry!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: Stay by Deb Caletti

Title: Stay
Author: Deb Caletti
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: April 5th 2011
Pages: 313
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
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Clara's relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it's almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is—and what he's willing to do to make her stay.
Now Clara has left the city—and Christian—behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won't let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough....
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Everyone seems to love Deb Caletti, but when I read my first Caletti book, The Queen of Everything, maybe two years ago, I was not impressed. Actually, that's an understatement - I hated the book with a passion. And ever since then, I've been Deb-Caletti-traumatized. But because everyone kept insisting that Deb Caletti was great, I finlally complied and gave her another chance, this time with one of her newer books. I had my doubts when I started Stay, but I ended up really enjoying it!

Deb Caletti's writing is gorgeous. I don't know what happened - either Deb Caletti grew immensely as a writer since her debut, or I used to be incapable of understanding what good writing means. Either way, I loved the writing in Stay. The prose is very descriptive, but not in a way that would get boring; just in a way that will make you stop at the beauty of the words, the cleverness of the expressive metaphors, and the feelings they evoke in you. I know comparing a contemporary YA author to Sarah Dessen is as uninventive as you can get, but Deb Caletti's writing really does have a Dessen-esque quality to it.

What's best about this book, asides from the gorgeous writing, is the atmosphere. There's a creepy, scary feeling to this story - even though there's no real danger for 90% of the book, there's an underlying feeling that it could all come crashing down in a minute. Despite Stay being mainly a story of character development, it had me on the edge of my seat with the suspense of whether Christian really will find Clara.

Abusive relationships are always a difficult topic, since you have to strike a delicate balance between explaining what a threat the abuser imposes and showing the reader why the MC would stay with him, but Deb Caletti handles it masterfully. Despite knowing the outcome, I couldn't help but understand Clara's attraction to Christian. It feels wrong to say this, but I really did like these two together in the beginning. It's hard to understand what goes on in the mind of the abused, but Deb Caletti made me understand where Clara is coming from. Of course I don't agree with her choices, but I felt each of Clara's emotions, and in turn got her reasoning and her need to stay with Christian. That's not to say it's all harmless - Christian is a very threatening character. He's not physically abusive, but the mental games he plays are somehow even scarier. You can't help but want to know what he's capable of, how far he will go. Christian is an intriguing character, and I would have loved to know even more about him and his past, how it came to be that he is the way he is.

Family also plays an important role Stay, and I really enjoyed that storyline. Clara's mom died a long time ago, and there are some secrets and mystery surrounding her death. Clara now lives alone with her dad, whom I loved - such a fun character! The father is definitely unique, and I really enjoyed the father-daughter relationship. The family friends are great characters, too - some very unique personalities.

The only storyline I didn't love is the romance. The whole idea that Clara would need a new guy to get over what happened with Christian didn't sit right with me. Finn seemed like a very bland character to me - he has some interesting history, but that is never really explored. I didn't feel the connection between Clara and Finn. You know I love romance, but the scenes between Clara and Finn are the ones I least enjoyed, and I really don't think this book needed the romance.

I'm not a fan of the last few scenes - the ending is a tad too melodramatic for me.

Still, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Considering my hate for The Queen of Everything, Stay has definitely been a huge improvement. Deb Caletti really impressed me with her writing, and I'm glad I gave her another chance.

Are there any authors you didn't love at first read but grew on you when you gave them a second chance?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: Butter by Erin Jade Lange

Title: Butter
Author: Erin Jade Lange
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release date: September 18th 2012
Pages: 272
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: NetGalley
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A boy everyone calls “Butter” is about to make Scottsdale High history. He’s going to eat himself to death live on the Internet – and everyone will watch.
He announces his deadly plan to an army of peers and expects pity, insults or even indifference. Instead, he finds morbid encouragement. When that encouragement tips the scales into popularity, Butter has a reason to live. But if he doesn’t go through with his plan, he’ll lose everything.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I'm going to be honest here. I struggle a lot with sizeism. Even though I've learned, rationally, that size and health are not directly related, and that overeating is an eating disorder like any other, I still struggle. The idea that thin equals healthy, and that fat people are lazy and just need to stop eating so much and just try to be healthy were instilled in me so much while growing up that it's really hard to let go of them. I'll know that my thoughts are really mean and problematic, but I just can't turn that inner voice off, telling me that obesity is the obese person's fault.

So my attitude meant that Butter and I didn't connect right away - in the beginning, I'll admit I was a little grossed out by how much he eats and by how he insists that it's not his fault. But after a while, he grew on me. As the story progresses, we get to see behind the facade, to read about his insecurities and all his troubles, and those did make me feel for him. It was eye-opening to see how every single aspect of his life is affected by his weight. His character growth is tremendous, and towards the end, I really grew to love Butter. Butter is a great character; so much more than what he seems to be. I just wish we'd gotten to know some more about his past, about how he turned into this 400-pound kid.

But even if I hadn't connected with Butter, I would have kept reading, because the concept makes this book impossible to put down. The whole idea is morbid and disgusting and just wrong - and completely intriguing. I was disgusted and horriefied, but I couldn't stop reading; I needed to know whether Butter would actually go through with it. There's an underlying sense of tension and fear of what Butter will do, the knowledge that there is no way this could end happily, that had me on the edge of my seat throughout.

I love the secondary characters. With one exception, none of them are black and white. They all make mistakes and none of them are really innocent in this whole thing, but you could always see where they're coming from. Even the characters I would have loved to hate, I couldn't, because you could see that they're not terrible people; they just make some bad decisions.

I'm not the best to judge, but I do think Erin Jade Lange handled the difficult topic of child obesity with great tact and grace. Her portrayal felt very honest and real, and I love how it never got preachy. There are so many ways this book could have preached about obesity or about bullying, but it doesn't - it just tells a story. I wasn't a huge fan of the ending - a little too happy for my taste - but in a way, I get it, because a darker, more pessimistic ending would have been really hard to take.

Butter is, at times, horrifying and, quite frankly, disgusting. (Seriously, the scene describing how Butter got his name made me want to never eat again.) But it also tells a hopeful, honest, beautiful story. There are scenes that'll break your heart, and there are scenes that'll put a smile on your face. It's not an easy book to read, but I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday #19: Best Books I've Read Since Starting Blogging

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 Books I've Read During the Lifespan of My Blog

This week is HARD. How am I supposed to choose just 10 of the awesome books I read within the last one and a half years!? Okay... Deep breath... Here we go.

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

This book has turned into my standard answer to the impossible-to-answer question of "What's your favorite book?"

2. Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff

I wish more people knew about this one! It is awesome; subtle and just good.

3. Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr is amazing, and this is my favorite of her books. The sobbing mess it can turn me into is so worth it because of the beautiful writing.

4. How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

How to Say Goodbye in Robot is pretty much the same thing as Sweethearts, to me, just in a more personal way. If that makes any sense at all....

5. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King

Oh, this book. I don't even know what to say. It's just stunning.

6. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Same goes for this one. I'm an idiot for not seeing its beauty on my first try and having to reread the first half to make it to the end, which is just brilliant.

7. Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield

I just read this one, so it might just be because it's fresh on my mind, but wow, I love this book so much! It's sophisticated and atmospheric and gorgeous and mysterious and perfect.

8. Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz

This book is my messed-up-ness in book form.

9. Split by Swati Avasthi

Why have you not read this book!? You should; it's all kinds of awesome.

10. Hold Still by Nina LaCour

Another one I didn't love at first but grew on me after a while! I'm so happy this is going to be a movie soon!

Basically, I just want to say "So good. Looooved it." about all of these. They're awesome, and you should read all of them!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Blogger Confessions #14

Book Blogger Confessions is a new meme hosted by All-Consuming Books and For What It's Worth. You can find out all about it here

Every second week there is one topic that has something to do with book-blogging that you can discuss on your blog.

This week's topic is: Have you ever loved a book that you know is not a great literary gem? Maybe it's filled with spelling errors, tired cliches, and is utterly cheestastic but you loved it anyway. How do you handle that as a blogger who is used to critical thinking and analysis? Do you pretend you never read the book - never to be reviewed or added to your Goodreads shelf? Do you write a review but maybe apologize and make excuses as to why you enjoyed it or are you bold and proud of any book you enjoyed? Conversely - have you read a classic, that is considered a literary gem but you just didn't get it? Are you embarrassed to admit that or do you review it anyway?

That happens to me ALL THE TIME. I've read so many books that I know are of little to no literary value but I just enjoyed reading. The most recent example would be The Selection by Kiera Cass. Objectively, I could see that it is pretty terrible. It is cheesy and makes no sense and the characters are flat and everything about it is terrible. And it was pretty hard to turn off my critical-thinking brain that was making lists in my head of all the bad stuff I could include in my review. But somehow, I did manage to tune all of that out, and then, I kind of loved it. A lot of the technical stuff is bad, but it's a fun read, and that's what matters most, to me. I ended up giving it 3 stars.

It happens the other way around, too. To be honest, I haven't read many classics, but there've been lots of books that I could see, objectively, were good, but I didn't connect with. Like Paper Covers Rock by Jennifer Hubbard. I could see that the writing was good, and that there was so much hidden depth in the book, but I didn't work for me. It was just too weird and felt like too much work for me, which is why I didn't enjoy it, even though I can see, objectively, that it's a good book. I ended up giving it 2 stars.

That might seem wrong, and I do feel a little bad about it, but I think it's justified. I don't give ratings or write reviews about whether or not a book is good; I have no business deciding that. I review and rate based on whether or not I liked a book - that's the only thing I can really judge. And if I enjoyed a cheestastic book and did not like one of more literary value, then I think it's fine to give the cheestastic book a higher rating.

At least, that's how I deal with it in the blogging world. In the blogging world, I'm proud of liking the books I like and disliking the books I dislike - I feel like the blogging world gets it, you know? In the real world, though, I'm not that open about what books I like. I'd be kind of embarrassed to say I loved a book that I know the other person would hate, with good reason, or to say I didn't get a book that is supposedly so great. In the real world, I just say something non-commital or something.

How do you deal with loving a "bad" book or hating a "good" book?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Review: Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett

Title: Confessions of an Angry Girl
Author: Louise Rozett
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Release date: August 28th 2012
Pages: 304
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: NetGalley
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon
Freshman Rose Zarelli has rage issues.
First of all, her father lost his job, took work as a contractor in Iraq...and never came home.
Second, she likes the wrong guy and his super-intense, scary cheerleader girlfriend is now her nemesis.
Third, her fashionista best friend, Tracy, is suddenly infinitely cooler than she is—and talking about losing her virginity. (What?!)
Rose is ahead when it comes to studying for the PSAT, but she’s so far behind socially that she might as well be moving backward. She needs Tracy’s help choosing the right clothes, she likes all the wrong extracurricular activities, and she can’t even make a decision about which photo of her father to put on the memorial website she’s making (and hiding from her adolescent-shrink mother).
With her brother away at college and her mother always locked in her office with her messed-up teen patients, Rose struggles to get through each day without inflicting bodily harm on anyone.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I usually go for older YA, and I was a little worried I wouldn't like Confessions of an Angry Girl because the MC is fourteen. I generally can't relate to fourteen-year-old girls because, well, fourteen-year-old-girls are the most annoying species on earth. So my expectations for Confessions of Angry Girl were pretty low. I wasn't even sure I wanted to read it, but I'm so glad I gave it a try because, guess what? I loved it!

Like I said, fourteen-year-old girls aren't my favorite type of people, but I'm making an exception for Rose. Rose is AWESOME - there's no other way to put it. Sure, there are a few times where I wanted to roll my eyes at her naiveté, but those times were far outweighed by the times I wanted to highfive her and ask her to be fourteen-year-old me's best friend. Rose is snarky, cynic, sarcastic, hilarious, sassy, and attitude-y (why is there no adjective for attitude!? this is ruining my sentence!) - everything I love about an MC. Even though she's fourteen, she... she gets it. But not in a way that would make her unrealistically wise for her age, or anything like that - you can definitely tell she's fourteen. Just in a way that made me love her so much.

The humor is what's best about this book. Really, I love any book that can make me laugh, and I had to laugh out loud all the time reading Confessions of an Angry Girl. Louise Rozett's writing style and Rose's snarky humor work so well together, and Rose gets herself in the most ridiculous, hilarious situations. But again, not in a way that'd be unrealistic - the messed up situations she gets herself into are so real! Really, all of those situations are ones fourteen-year-old me could have gotten herself into. Only, I wouldn't have known to say those awesome, snarky things Rose says about them.

But Confessions of an Angry Girl isn't just fun and games - there is definitely some serious stuff thrown in there, too. One of the scenes about Rose's grief even made me tear up - and what's better than a book that can make you laugh and cry!? The balance between the humor and the more serious issues is perfect - it never gets too heavy, but it doesn't get crazy or unrealistically ridiculous either.

I don't know what else to say; I just loved this book so much. It makes me so happy when a book can completely take me by surprise, like Confessions of an Angry Girl did. I definitely recommend it if you're looking for a light, fun read that also has a little substance. I'd recommend it even if you prefer older YA, since I loved Rose despite her age. I can't wait to get back to Rose's hilarious voice in the next book in the series!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Random Mini Reviews

My reading has been all over the place this summer. I interned at a bookstore, where they gave me lots of books that made up quite a bit of my summer reading. But, most of these are in German, and a lot of them are adult books. I'm not going to be writing full reviews for any of these, since this is a YA blog, and because it feels weird to review books that I read in German, since translation may have been a part of why I liked or disliked the books. But it feels wrong to not acknowledge these somehow - I've gotten used to stating my thoughts on books in one way or another. Soo I've decided to do mini reviews! These are the random books I've been reading over the summer (minus the ones that don't exist in English) and my brief thoughts on them.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking to save someone else's life.
Surprisingly good! I wasn't expecting to like this one, since it's about a 60-something-year-old guy, and when I read adult, I tend to go for the younger MCs.  I did end up liking this one, though. Very well-written and such a unique idea! Some parts in the middle get a little boring, but I especially liked the last part, when the secrets and the bad stuff start coming out. A very refreshing read for me! 4 out of 5 stars

Finding Sky by Joss Stirling
When English girl Sky, catches a glimpse of bad boy Zed in her new American high school, she can't get him out of her head. He talks to her with his thoughts. He reads her mind. He is the boy she will love for ever. Dark shadows stalk her past but a new evil threatens her future. Sky must face the dark even if it means losing her heart.
Ugh. No. I'll admit that the translation was part of it, because the translation is pretty terrible. But the story itself didn't work for me, either. The first part is all annoying 14-year-old MC ("Does he LIKE me!?"), insta-love, and a love interest that is, essentially, Edward Cullen 2.0. (Or 100.0. Whatever.) Then starts the paranormal stuff, which, again, is the Cullen family minus the bloodsucking. I only liked the very last part, when we start to find out about the MC's past and get to explore her character. 2 out of 5 stars

The Confidant by Hélène Grémillon
Paris, 1975. Sifting through the letters of condolence after her mother's death, Camille discovers a strange missive sent by someone she does not know. She thinks it is probably an error. But then, every Tuesday, a new letter arrives, recounting a tale of two impossible loves, four broken destinies, until the final dénouement destroys everything in its inevitable path. Little by little, Camille begins to piece together the puzzle and is shocked to realise that this story has a direct bearing upon her own life.
Alternating Camille's story and the mysterious letters from the unknown correspondent, Grémillon transports us to the years between 1939 and 1943, a fascinating time in French history, to tell a powerful story of friendship and secrets between women, of surrogacy, passionate love, jealousy, revenge and reconciliation.
Loved this book SO MUCH! Nothing makes sense at first, and I loved slowly putting the pieces together. It is weird and dark and AWESOME. Jellicoe Road meets adult historical, sort of. Just really, really good. 5 out of 5 stars

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
This is a book about a brother and a sister. It's a book about secrets and starting over, friendship and family, triumph and tragedy, and everything in between. More than anything, it's a book about love in all its forms.
Hmm... Not sure about this one. The writing is incredible - every page has a sentence so beautiful it'll just make you stop and read it over and over again. But I was kind of underwhelmed by the plot. There are so many issues that are never really addressed or resolved, and that made it kind of hard for me to get invested in any one of the storylines. The fact that very large parts of the MC's life are just skipped over made it even harder to connect with her, and I found myself a little confused as to what part of her life we were reading about when. Still, it was worth it for the gorgeous writing. 3 out of 5 stars

A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias
The author of "Fearless" delivers his first novel in 13 years, an autobiographical and devastatingly raw appraisal about what it means for two people to spend a lifetime together.
I really liked the first half, when the chapters alternate between the two meeting and the last few weeks before Margaret's death. But in the middle, it kind of went downhill for me; the way Enrique's cheating is handled did not work for me at all. I started feeling removed from the story when it started switching between so many different parts of their lives. 3 out of 5 stars
(I'm showing the German cover here because the one for the English edition is ugly and I really like this one. Hehe.)

Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt
July 1964. Chartwell House, Kent: Winston Churchill wakes at dawn. There’s a dark, mute “presence” in the room that focuses on him with rapt concentration. It’s Mr. Chartwell.
Soon after, in London, Esther Hammerhans, a librarian at the House of Commons, goes to answer the door to her new lodger. Through the glass she sees a vast silhouette the size of a mattress. It’s Mr. Chartwell.
Charismatic, dangerously seductive, Mr. Chartwell unites the eminent statesman at the end of his career and the vulnerable young woman. But can they withstand Mr. Chartwell’s strange, powerful charms and his stranglehold on their lives? Can they even explain who or what he is and why he has come to visit?
This book is so weird, in the best way possible. The whole idea is crazy, and I didn't think I'd like it that much, to be honest, just because it sounded so out there. But I'm so glad I gave it a try - it totally works! The writing is great, making this weird, impossible stuff somehow seem possible, and making this a very entertaining, surprisingly lighthearted read. 4 out of 5 stars

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
At Westish College, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league until a routine throw goes disastrously off course. In the aftermath of his error, the fates of five people are upended. Henry's fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz realizes he has guided Henry's career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life. As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets.

I loved some storylines but did not like a few others. And there was too much baseball for me - I was confused and bored by most of the baseball scenes. But there was still something about this book - it's very readable, if that makes any sense. I just really liked reading it, whatever the reason. 3 out of 5 stars

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want--husband, country home, successful career--but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she felt consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place. Following a divorce and a crushing depression, Gilbert set out to examine three different aspects of her nature, set against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.
Really liked this one! Elizabeth Gilbert's style and voice are great; entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time. The middle part was a little too spirituality-focused for me, though. 4 out of 5 stars

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

***No summary because of spoilers - this is the sequel to Eat Pray Love.***

I didn't like this one quite as much as Eat Pray Love, simply because the topic doesn't interest me as much. Marriage is just not something I'm really concerned with, yet, so some parts were boring for me. But some of the stuff was still really interesting to learn about, and I still love Elizabeth Gilbert's style. 3 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review: Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie

Title: Personal Effects
Author: E.M. Kokie
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release date: September 11th 2012
Pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: NetGalley
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon
Seventeen-year-old Matt Foster thought that if he could only get his hands on his brother’s stuff from Iraq, he'd be able to make sense of T.J.’s death. He wasn’t expecting T.J.’s personal effects to raise even more questions about his brother’s life. Now, even if it means pushing his dad over the edge ... even if it means losing his best friend ... even if it means getting expelled from school ... Matt will do whatever it takes to find out the truth about his brother’s past.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I think I would have loved this book even more if I hadn't read it right after Something Like Normal - the books deal with very similar topics, and nothing can compare to my one true love, Something Like Normal. That being said, I really enjoyed Personal Effects!

Matt is a compelling narrator. It's impossible not to feel for someone with a family situation as messed up as his! His mom, who had some mental health issues, left the family when Matt was young, and died shortly after. His dad has always been abusive. Then his brother dies in combat. If that's not enough for one person to have to deal with, I don't know what is! I didn't always relate to Matt or fully understand him, just because he's so different from me, but I did feel for him, and I loved reading about him. Matt's voice is great - very authenticly male.

I really enjoyed EM Kokie's writing style. I can't put my finger on what it is about the writing - I wouldn't call it beautiful and it's not too descriptive or ornate, but there's just something about it. The writing sucked me in, and that's what it all comes down to, isn't it? EM Kokie's style made it easy to get lost in Matt's world. The writing is understated for the most part, letting the reader focus on Matt and his story, but then there are parts that'll make you stop and, you know, feel. The author has a keen eye for realistic dialogue, and the pacing was perfect. I just loved it!

Some people might find the plot predictable - re-reading the synopsis, I guess you might have been able to tell what TJ's hiding. But I didn't figure it out beforehand, and I loved finding out more about TJ's past! Maybe some parts and clues are a little too convenient, but I didn't even care, because the journey they sent Matt on is so amazing.

I also loved the romance. I'm a huge fan of the classic best-friends-turning-into-more storyline, even if it is overdone. But I don't think it'd matter if you don't tend to love those kind of storylines, since the fact that it's from the guy's POV adds something new and original, even if it's an idea we've read about a hundred times from the girl's POV. There is some serious sexual tension in Personal Effects - the scenes between Matt and Shauna are hot! Like, really really hot. I loved these two together, but I also appreciate that the romance didn't turn into the main focus of the novel - this is still just Matt's story.

The family storyline is very well-done. The whole set-up is unique and definitley intriguing. I would have liked to know even more about the family background - about the mom and how Matt dealt with her death, as well as the dad's history and why he is the way he is. But in a way, I get why the author decided to focus on Matt dealing with the more recent loss of his brother.

I'm loving this trend towards these war-focused stories! I'm not even sure why, since it's not something I'm all that interested in in real life, but it definitely causes for some good stories. This is hard to talk about without spoiling anything, but Personal Effects also has a political element, which, surprisingly, I enjoyed. Don't let that turn you off - when I read fiction, I'm not looking for news or politics or anything like that, either. But in this case, it works really well with the story.

Personal Effects is a great debut novel with a refreshing style and realistic characters. It balances the different aspects of the story perfectly, seamlessly transitioning from serious to light and back again. I loved it, and I'll be on the lookout for future books by EM Kokie!
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