Monday, July 29, 2013

Review: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Title: The Beginning of Everything
Author: Robyn Schneider
Publisher: Katherine Tegen
Release date: August 27th 2013
Pages: 330
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: BEA - I received a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon
Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.
No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.
But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes?

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The Beginning of Everything is the kind of book where I just don't know what to say - I didn't care for it one way or the other. There were a couple of good things and a couple of bad things, but nothing that would make me want to declare my love for the book or complain about it, either. It's just very... meh.

The characters are very average. Ezra is an okay main character - he's easy to relate to, but he's nothing special. Cassidy is a little too cliched for me to really like her. Toby is a fun secondary character, but he doesn't play a big enough role to have really made an impact. None of them are bad characters, but I didn't develop any real emotions towards any of them and couldn't get myself to really care what happened to them.

I'm torn on what to make of the romance storyline. Cassidy's character had a lot of potential, but she turned out to be too much of the manic-pixie-dream-girl cliche for me to like her; she's trying way too hard to be different. Still, I liked reading about the relationship between Ezra and Cassidy in the beginning - it develops slowly, in an honest and realistic way. But I wish we had gotten to see more of Ezra growing as an independent character instead of just in relation to Cassidy; especially the family storyline could have used some more exploration. I always hate when a book uses romance - or another person in general - to supposedly fix what is going on in somebody's life, and that is definitely the case in The Beginning of Everything.

Another storyline that bugged me is the whole popularity thing. That's generally not a storyline I'm fond of, so this is more of a personal preference than something wrong with the novel. But the whole 'I'm-no-longer-Mr. Popular, poor-me' thing and the way that Ezra blames all of his issues on the accident just frustrated me. Especially because it's mainly in his head; if he tried, he could still have parts of his old life back.

Even if a lot of the story didn't work that well for me, The Beginning of Everything still has one thing going for it, and that is the writing. Robyn Schneider's writing is what kept me turning the pages: when I was having issues with the story, Robyn Schneider's absorbing writing style would pull me in again.

The Beginning of Everything is a very mellow story - no one set issue, just one person's story. A lot of the time, these understated types of books work for me, but this one just didn't; there was just something preventing me from connecting with the story. I'm still planning on checking out Robyn Schneider's future works, though, because I really enjoyed her writing style.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Interview & Giveaway with Ivy Sinclair (Bittersweet Junction Blitz)

Today we have Ivy Sinclair here for an author interview and a giveaway! This post is part of the blog tour for Bittersweet Junction, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours


Describe Bittersweet Junction in one sentence.
Fate gives two former best friends a second chance at romance, if they overcome old misunderstandings and deceit.
Give a quick blurb about the book and why readers would enjoy it.
Bittersweet Junction picks up with the main characters, Julia Belle and Ben Miller, five years after high school graduation. Julia left the small town of Benton Hill right after graduation because she was faced with some grown-up kind of decisions that she couldn’t make. Ben, one of Julia’s childhood best friends, was left confused and hurt after her departure. Julia’s sister Clary lures Julia back to Benton Hill under false pretenses, and that’s when Julia realizes it’s impossible to outrun the past.
I think what readers will enjoy most about this story is the way that Julia and Ben eventually overcome the obstacles in their path to have a shot at their happy ending. I found it very satisfying to write, and I believe that will resonate with readers.
How did you come up with the idea for Bittersweet Junction?

I’ve had several ideas for stories that revolve around the idea of a five year high school reunion. The idea for Bittersweet Junction started there, although in the end, there is no actual high school reunion in the book. That wouldn’t have been a good enough reason to drag Julia back to Benton Hill.
If Bittersweet Junction were made into a movie, who would you want to play the main characters?

I’ve thought a lot about this. I could see Emma Roberts playing Julia and Chris Pine, with his gorgeous blue eyes, would make the perfect Ben. Emily Browning would play Julia’s little sister Clary, and Max Thieriot would round out the casting as Mike.
When did you begin writing?

I started writing the summer between sixth and seventh grade. I kept all of my teenage angst in a journal and experimented with poetry as well. I think that helped me start finding my writing voice.
When did you first think, wow I have made it as a writer?
My senior year of high school I won a state newspaper award for a piece of hard hitting journalism in the school paper. It was an article on how a teacher in a local junior high had gotten in trouble for showing an R-rated movie in the classroom. The day I received my award, I knew that writing was part of my life’s journey.
Do you have any special rituals you do when you sit down to write?
I usually have an idea of how many words or chapters that I want to get written that particular writing session. It helps to have a goal because I am easily distracted.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers out there?
Take an active interest in reading about what’s going on in the publishing industry today so that you can make informed decisions about your writing destiny. The landscape of publishing is changing faster than anyone could have imagined, and it affects all of us.


As part of the blog tour, the author is offering one ebook copy of Bittersweet Junction. Open internationally until August 3rd.  Enter using the form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Make sure to check out all the other stops of the tour, and keep your eye out for Saving Ben, which has already been released.

Bitterswet Junction by Ivy Sinclair
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon
Best friends once, lovers never, yet an attraction that can’t be ignored.
Five years ago, Julia Bell walked away from her life the moment her high school diploma was in her hand. She left her family and friends behind to start over and escape the chokehold of small town life in Benton Hill. But an urgent call from her little sister brings Julia back to her hometown wholly unprepared for what awaits her.
Ben Miller was always the nice guy. Just before high school graduation, he stepped out of that role hoping to capture the heart of the woman he loved. Instead, in quick succession he lost the girl, and the future he worked so hard to achieve.
Even though Julia and Ben are drawn to each other, echoes of the past block them at every turn. Secrets are exposed, and reality needs to be dealt with if they can ever hope to move past the bittersweet junction that ripped them apart.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

Title: If You Could Be Mine
Author: Sara Farizan
Publisher: Algonquin
Release date: August 20th 2013
Pages: 256
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: BEA - I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon
Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.
So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.
Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This novel had so much potential. A gay girl in Iran, a country where homosexuality is illegal, needing to decide whether or not to have sex reassignment surgery in order to be with her secret girlfriend, as being transsexual, unlike homosexual, is accepted and supported by the government? Such a unique and fascinating concept. And the topic really is interesting; it’s what kept me turning the pages. The execution, though, turned out not to be as great as I’d hoped, and I had a number of problems with the novel.

My main problem is the relationship between Sahar and Nasrin. I heard the author speak at BEA, and she said something about how, at its heart, If You Could Be Mine is a love story, and that’s precisely what was missing for me. The novel starts out with Nasrin’s engagement, and that is when their relationship starts to go sour. In order for me to have invested in their relationship, for me to feel for Sahar in this situation, I would’ve needed to know more about the time before this – Nasrin isn’t always the most likeable character, and I understand that this effect is intended, but in order for the reader to care about their relationship and understand why Sahar has feelings for Nasrin even when she is acting like an annoying, spoiled brat, we would’ve needed some more flashbacks to their past and how their relationship developed. Sadly, the way it is, I wasn’t emotionally invested in their relationship, meaning that I couldn’t relate to large parts of Sahar’s struggle. I also wish there would have been a deeper engagement with the actual issue at hand, what it would be like to live in Iran as a homosexual – it is never really addressed how Sahar would deal with being homosexual, even if she cannot have Nasrin.

Throughout the novel, I never quiet understood Sahar’s reasoning. When Nasrin’s parents
announce that they have found a husband for her, Sahar decides to have sex reassignment surgery so that she, instead of the man who has asked for Nasrin’s hand, will be able to marry Nasrin. However, she never explains to the reader (or herself) how exactly that would work – does she think that Nasrin’s parents would accept her, a transsexual-to-be, as Nasrin’s partner? Their obsession with all things relating class and status, as well as the treatment of Parveen, Sahar’s transsexual friend, makes this unlikely. SLIGHT SPOILER: For example, when Nasrin’s fiancée finds out about Sahar’s plan, she is devastated and says her plan will no longer work, which I didn’t understand – how did she expect to keep it a secret after the surgery? I found it especially confusing that Sahar never even asks Nasrin whether she would marry her if she were to get a sex change and just assumes that this plan would work. I understand that this is at least in part intentional, to show how naïve Sahar’s love for Nasrin has made her, but like I said, I wasn’t emotionally invested in their relationship, so their love did not seem strong enough to me to justify such decisions.

I always love books set in different cultures; I love how reading can let you explore parts of the world you’ve never been to. So when Sara Farizan talked about how she wrote this book in part to give American readers a deeper understanding of Iranian culture, to show that it is not a terrible place with rules that seem crazy to the Western mind, but also a place where normal people live normal lives, I was looking forward to reading about this culture. Sadly, this statement did not match up at all with the feeling I got from the novel. To me, the presentation of Iran’s culture seemed preachy, and written very much from a Western standpoint. Maybe the issue is that the author used too much telling and not enough showing – instead of showing us what it is like to live in this culture, she told us that “In Iran, bla bla bla.” That wording especially annoyed me because it is coming from a first-person narrator who has lived in Iran all her life – I feel like, if she were simply telling her story, instead of trying to explain this culture to a Western audience, this would’ve been integrated into the novel in a more subtle way. I would have preferred a “Let me tell you my story, which happens to be set in another culture” approach, instead of a “Let me explain to you my culture” one, if that makes any sense. I also thought it was strange what a negative view of Iran is conveyed, with one character needing to flee the country. I just found the whole cultural aspect of the novel disappointing.

One aspect I really liked, though, were the secondary characters. I enjoyed reading about Parveen, the transsexual who first inspires Sahar to contemplate sex reassignment surgery, and all the other characters she introduces Sahar to. I also liked the family aspect – Sahar’s mother died a long time ago, causing her father to fall into a deep depression, and I really liked the developments in their relationship. My favorite part was probably the story of Ali, Sahar’s gay cousin, who has become an important part of Iran’s underground culture. I wish we would’ve gotten to know more about him, and seen Sahar interact with this community more, as this could’ve let us see how Sahar deals with her sexuality asides from her love for Nasrin.

Despite my high hopes for the novel, If You Could Be Mine did not meet my expectations. I still commend the author for writing about an issue that has gotten so little attention, but it wasn’t explored enough for me to really like the book. The romance part of the novel didn’t work for me, and sadly, that turned out to be the main focus – I just would have preferred to see the issue of Sahar’s sexuality and homosexuality in Iran to be explored more, and I would have preferred a different way of presenting Iran’s culture. Still, I think the novel is worth reading, if just for the unique topic.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bookish Anticipation #26

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.

Afterparty by Ann Redisch Stampler
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: January 7th 2014
Emma is tired of being good. Always the dutiful daughter to an overprotective father, she is the antithesis of her mother -- whose name her dad won't even say out loud. That's why meeting Siobhan is the best thing that ever happened to her...and the most dangerous. Because Siobhan is fun and alluring and experienced and lives on the edge. In other words, she's everything Emma is not.
And it may be more than Emma can handle.
Because as intoxicating as her secret life may be, when Emma begins to make her own decisions, Siobhan starts to unravel. It's more than just Dylan, the boy who comes between them. Their high-stakes pacts are spinning out of control. Elaborate lies become second nature. Loyalties and boundaries are blurred. And it all comes to a head at the infamous Afterparty, where debauchery rages and an intense, inescapable confrontation ends in a plummet from the rooftop...

Dead Ends by Erin Jade Lange
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: September 3rd 2013
Dane Washington is one suspension away from expulsion. In a high school full of “haves,” being a “have not” makes Dane feel like life is hurtling toward one big dead end. Billy D. spends his high school days in Special Ed and he’s not exactly a “have” himself. The biggest thing Billy’s missing? His dad. Billy is sure the riddles his father left in an atlas are really clues to finding him again and through a bizarre turn of events, he talks Dane into joining him on the search.
A bully and a boy with Down syndrome makes for an unlikely friendship, but together, they work through the clues, leading to unmarked towns and secrets of the past. But they’re all dead ends. Until the final clue . . . and a secret Billy shouldn’t have been keeping.
The Paradox of Vertical Flight by Emil Ostrovski
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: September 24th 2013
On the morning of his eighteenth birthday, philosophy student and high school senior Jack Polovsky is somewhat seriously thinking of suicide when his cell phone rings. Jack's ex-girlfriend, Jess, has given birth, and Jack is the father. Jack hasn't spoken with Jess in about nine months—and she wants him to see the baby before he is adopted. The new teenage father kidnaps the baby, names him Socrates, stocks up on baby supplies at Wal-Mart, and hits the road with his best friend, Tommy, and the ex-girlfriend. As they head to Grandma's house (eluding the police at every turn), Jack tells baby Socrates about Homer, Troy, Aristotle, the real Socrates, and the Greek myths—because all stories spring from those stories, really. Even this one. Funny, heart-wrenching, and wholly original, this debut novel by Emil Ostrovski explores the nature of family, love, friendship, fate, fatherhood, and myth.

The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: December 31st 2013
Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who's always done what she's supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.
Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.
One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.
The Vow by Jessica Martinez
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: October 15th 2013
No one has ever believed that Mo and Annie are just friends. How can a guy and a girl really be best friends?
Then the summer before senior year, Mo’s father loses his job, and by extension his work visa. Instantly, life for Annie and Mo crumbles. Although Mo has lived in America for most of his life, he’ll be forced to move to Jordan. The prospect of leaving his home is devastating, and returning to a world where he no longer belongs terrifies him.
Desperate to save him, Annie proposes they tell a colossal lie—that they are in love. Mo agrees because marrying Annie is the only way he can stay. Annie just wants to keep her best friend, but what happens when it becomes a choice between saving Mo and her own chance at real love?

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: January 7th 2014
Meet Sloane Emily Jacobs: a seriously stressed-out figure-skater from Washington, D.C., who choked during junior nationals and isn’t sure she’s ready for a comeback. What she does know is that she’d give anything to escape the mass of misery that is her life.
Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player from Philly who’s been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she’s playing the worst she’s ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over.
When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself.

Anywhere But Here by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: October 15th 2013
Ever since his mom died, Cole just feels stuck. His dad acts like a stranger, and Lauren, his picture-perfect girlfriend of two years, doesn’t understand him anymore. He can’t ditch his dad, so Cole breaks up with Lauren. She doesn’t take the news very well, and Cole’s best friend won’t get off his case about it.
Now more than ever, Cole wants to graduate and leave his small, suffocating town. And everything is going according to plan—until Cole discovers the one secret that could keep him there…forever.

 Premeditated by Josin McQuein
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: October 8th 2013
A week ago, Dinah’s cousin Claire cut her wrists.
Five days ago, Dinah found Claire’s diary and discovered why.
Three days ago, Dinah stopped crying and came up with a plan.
Two days ago, she ditched her piercings and bleached the black dye from her hair.
Yesterday, knee socks and uniform plaid became a predator’s camouflage.
Today, she’ll find the boy who broke Claire.
By tomorrow, he’ll wish he were dead.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Title: Where She Went
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release date: November 4th 2010
Genre: Young Adult contemporary romance
Source: Bought
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon
It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.
Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future-and each other.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Am I really the only one who doesn't love these books? Unlike the rest of the world, I did not love If I Stay. I didn't think it was a bad book, but I didn't connect with it emotionally, and I didn't particularly like the characters. But because of the rave reviews, I decided to buy a copy and give it a try, hoping I would like this one better than If I Stay. Sadly, though, I ended up having the same problems with Where She Went that I had with its predecessor.

Like in If I Stay, I didn't love Mia and Adam, and I didn't connect with the story emotionally. Adam just seemed melodramatic to me. How he's still hung up on Mia three years after they broke up is presented as romantic and sweet and all of that, and I can see how some readers might see it that way. But it just seemed overdone and, well, kind of creepy to me. I don't mean to sound insensitive, but... really? I wanted to slap him and tell him to get over himself.

Mia, I didn't love, either. Her character did not make any sense to me in this novel. I don't want to spoil anything, but her reasoning.... just, what?? It seemed ridiculous to me. Her going back and forth seemed volatile, and I just didn't get it. 

The ending didn't work for me. Concerning Adam and Mia's relationship, I found it unrealistic and unfitting to the rest of their story. And concerning Adam and his music, I found it very disappointing. Adam's problems in the music world were the one part of the novel that I enjoyed reading about, so the way the ending simplified all of those issues bugged me.

I feel kind of bad about it, but I just can't love these books the way everyone else does. I don't think they're bad books, I just didn't connect with the characters or the emotional aspect of the story. I'll still be reading Gayle Forman's new book Just One Day since I already own a copy, but maybe I'll just have to accept that I don't connect with her books the way everyone else seems to do.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge | Days 4-10

The 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge is hosted by April from Good Books and Good Wine, and you can find out all about it here

Soo, I've been failing at this challenge. Partly because I've been travelling and without Internet and partly because I'm lazy. But I really do like these ideas for posts, so I'm going to try to catch up and do the last couple of topics.

Day 4: What's the last book you flung across the room?

I don't think I've ever actually flung a book across the room. I'm obsessed with keeping my books in perfect condition, so throwing a book across the room would hurt my soul more than the book itself. There's a couple that have gotten dangerously close, though, and one of them is Kiss Crush Collide by Christine Meredith. It felt like this book was written with the sole intent of pissing me off. The main character is a spoiled brat, the romance storyline is solely physical because neither character has a personality, the fact that this romance occurs while the main character is still going out with another guy is not an issue, the details of the story don't match up, and on and on and on. I can't express my anger towards this book; it was just one big ARGGGH.

Day 5: Recommend a tear jerker.

Tear jerker, yay! I cry at everything, so there's quite a few books I could talk about here. But the book that has made me cry more than any other is Jo Knowles's See You at Harry's. Jo Knowles's writing is always atmospheric and raw and heartbreaking - I'm pretty sure I've cried reading all of her books. And See You at Harry's especially killed me. I can't talk about the actual plot a whole lot because that would spoil it, but it's about a family dealing with a tragedy, and it's heartbreaking and honest and horrible and amazing and just perfect. If you want a book that'll make you bawl your eyes out, this one is definitely it.

Day 6: Describe how you shop for books.

That depends on whether I buy books online or in an actual store. When I buy books online, I choose them carefully and consider how much money I should spend. I usually go through my wishlists and lists of recent releases to decide on a couple of books I want, and then I look at reviews to decide which ones I end up buying. When I go into a bookstore, I am no longer capable of rational thinking. I go into the YA section and start seeing books I want and just piling them on. Once I have a stack of books that I will never be able to afford, I go through them again and settle on which ones I actually want, but I still end up buying too many and spending too much money. Seeing the actual books in bookstores just makes it so much harder to say no...

Day 7: Talk about your blogging quirks.

- I NEED to write my review right after I finish a book - I don't let myself start the next book till I've reviewed my last read. The only exception is when I'm travelling; then I take notes on what I'm going to say in my review and start my next book, and write my actual reviews for all of them when I get home. That already kind of freaks me out - I don't understand how bloggers who are like 10 reviews behind do it, because I forget everything about a book basically as soon as I start the next one.
- When I buy or receive a book and feature it on My New Treasures, I immediately format my review for the book by creating a post with the cover image, description, and all the details I have at the top of my reviews. I don't even know why; it just makes me feel more organized, even if it means I have way too many drafts of reviews of books that I might never read or review.
- I almost never buy books from Amazon, but I use their wishlists to keep track of books. I have a bunch of separate lists, like one for books I want that have already been released, one for books that haven't been released yet, one for books where I'm waiting for the paperback release, one for books that I want finished copies of, one for books I'm planning on featuring in a Bookish Anticipation post, and so on. I know most people use Goodreads for stuff like this, but I like Amazon because you can add a note, and I always put the book's release date as the note.
- I can never start writing my review until after I've settled on a rating. I know I should get my thoughts down first and then base the rating off of that, but more often than not, I choose the rating first and let that determine the overall tone of the review.

Day 8: Quick! Write 15 bullet points of things that appeal to you on blogs.

1. Personality. 
2. A nice design with a font that's easy to read.
3. Discovering new books instead of just seeing reviews of books that everyone is reading.
4. Interacting with readers and responding to comments.
5. Enthusiasm and passion.

(Sorry, I'm too lazy for more than 5...)

Day 9: Why do you blog about books?

I love talking about books, and I don't know enough people in real life to discuss books with because barely anyone I know reads YA - connecting with other readers will always be the #1 reason to keep blogging. But even if there wasn't a single person reading my blog, I still love writing reviews and such because it makes me think about what I'm reading - I like trying to figure out why I liked or disliked something, and blogging has taught me so much on reading critically.

Day 10: How do you choose what book to read next?

Honestly, what I read when has very little to do with the actual content of the books - I try not to read two similar books in a row, but that's really it; the rest is outside factors. One big one is the release date and when I have to have a review up. Another one is format: I read paperbacks when I'm going somewhere and hardcovers and ebooks (no ereader, so I have to read on my computer) when I'm at home.

Wow, those were a lot of topics in one post - had a lot to catch up on! Let me know your answers to any of the questions in the comments!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #24: Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

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.

This week's topic is: Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

1. Terra Elan McVoy

I love Terra Elan McVoy's writing - there's just something about it that makes it so easy to get lost in her stories, all of which I've loved.

2. Natalie Standiford

How to Say Goodbye in Robot is one of my favorite books of all time, and Natalie Standiford is amazing.

3. Anna Jarzab

I don't know if Anna Jarzab belongs on this list because she's getting so much attention for her newest novel Tandem, but I wish she would get some more recognition for her earlier contemporaries All Unquiet Things and The Opposite of Hallelujah, because they're so, so good.

4. Margie Gelbwasser

Both of Margie Gelbwasser's novels, Inconvenient and Pieces of Us, are amazing, in a dark, messed-up way. I get that they might be a little too dark for some readers, which explains why they haven't gotten too much attention, but still, I would love for more people to have read them.

5. Jo Knowles

Oh, Jo Knowles. I've read and loved each of her books, and Jumping Off Swings is one of my all-time favorites. I really don't know why more people haven't read them.

6. Steve Brezenoff

Both Brooklyn, Burning and The Absolute Value of -1 are so good, and I wish Brezenoff's books (and literary YA in general) would get some more recognition.

7. Laura Wiess

Laura Wiess's writing is amazing - I loved Such a Pretty Girl! Again, her books might be too dark for some people, but I wish more readers would give her a try.

I could only think of seven authors for this list, but oh well. What authors do you wish would get some more recognition?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Title: Pandemonium (Delirium #2)
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: February 28th 2012
Pages: 375
Genre: Young Adult dystopian
Source: Bought
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon
The old life is dead. But the old Lena is dead too. I buried her. I left her beyond a fence, behind a wall of smoke and flame.
In this electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium, Lauren Oliver sets Lena on a dangerous course that hurtles her through the unregulated Wilds and into the heart of a growing resistance movement. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I love Lauren Oliver and I loved Delirium, so of course I was beyond excited to read Pandemonium. (Don't ask why it took me so long to get to this, then. Blame... life.) And while Pandemonium is different from Delirium in a lot of ways, I really enjoyed this one, too!

I just reread my review of Delirium, and I talked about how much I loved the slower pacing of the first novel in this series. In some ways, Delirium feels more like a contemporary than a dystopian - which I, as someone who reads contemporary almost exclusively, really appreciated. Taking that into consideration, I should have enjoyed Pandemonium a lot less than Delirium - the pace is a lot faster with a lot more action, and it reads more like a "typical" dystopian novel. I liked it like that, too, though - it felt like a natural transition of the series. So while I enjoyed both novels, I liked them in really different ways.

What hasn't changed in Lauren Oliver's books, though, is her beautiful writing. I don't even know how to describe it. Her writing works well with the slower pace and emotionally-heavy scenes in Before I Fall and Delirium, but it doesn't fall short in the action-packed in Pandemonium, either. The pacing is great, and Lauren Oliver's writing kept me on my toes throughout the novel. 

One thing I'm still not sure about is the format. Pandemonium uses alternating chapters, switching back and forth between two times in Lena's life, the Then and the Now. I get that this is used to heighten suspense, and it works - I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to find out what happens in both storylines, especially because the chapters tend to end on cliffhangers. But I still don't think that was necessary. It's confusing at first, and later on, I thought it was kind of strange that there is still a part missing between the end of the Then and the beginning of the Now. I also found it strange to write one book in the series in this format without the others ones using a similar one.

I don't want to give anything away, but I was a little disappointed by the ending. I saw it coming from the very start, and I kept hoping Lauren Oliver would have thought of something less predictable, a more original way to hook readers at the end, but alas.

Despite those smaller issues, I really enjoyed Pandemonium. It's a lot faster-paced than Delirium, which I'm sure worked better for a lot of readers than the slower pace of Delirium. I didn't love Pandemonium quite as much as Delirium, but it was still a great read! Now I just need to get around to reading Requiem...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: All I Need by Susane Colasanti

Title: All I Need by 
Author: Susane Colasanti
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Release date: May 21st 2013
Pages: 240
Genre: Young Adult contemporary romance
Source: BEA - I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon
Skye wants to meet the boy who will change her life forever. Seth feels their instant connection the second he sees her. When Seth starts talking to Skye at the last beach party of the summer, it’s obvious to both of them that this is something real. But when Seth leaves for college before they exchange contact info, Skye wonders if he felt the same way she did—and if she will ever see him again. Even if they find their way back to each other, can they make a long-distance relationship work despite trust issues, ex drama, and some serious background differences?
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I was so excited to read All I Need. I saw Susane Colasanti speaking about it at the Teen Author Carnival and got to meet her at BEA, and she was great. And All I Need sounded like the perfect summer read. But it didn't end up working for me - the characters annoyed me, and their relationship was too instalove-y.

The story starts out with Skye and Seth meeting at a beach party at the end of summer. They see each other, and instantly know they're soulmates. Yup. Finally, a novel with instalove. I've been trying to find one. Anyways, they spend two perfect days together being soulmates-y and whatnot, but never exchange phone numbers or, say, last names. So when Seth has to leave a couple of hours early and doesn't show up in the morning to say goodbye, they have no way of contacting each other. Very unfortunate. Both Skye and Seth spend the next year moping, unable to move on from their epic two-day non-relationship. And of course, they look for each other in their beach town the next summer, and then fall in love again. The novel proceeds to describe their long-distance relationship and the non-obstacles they face.

I'm sorry for sounding so incredulous of their love and whatnot. But really, that was the problem, for me - I just didn't buy into their relationship. Call me heartless, but I found their feelings for each other melodramatic, and I never saw enough of anything between them that would justify them getting so serious about each other. (Serious enough for Skye to decide to go to college in the same city as Seth instead of going to a better school she got into. Don't get me started on how much that bugged me.) No one thing is fully explored; the novel just kind of follows Skye's and Seth's relationship, and I didn't see the point. I appreciate that the author tried to cover such a long time period, but that meant that so much time was skipped that I didn't see their relationship develop in a natural way. I also feel like the point of such a long time period would be to see the characters grow over time, but they didn't seem to change a whole lot.

Speaking of the characters and character growth... ugh. These characters annoyed me to no end. Skye is in love with the idea of love, and basically centers her whole life around that. She is whiny and annoying and does not act her age, at all. Seth is slightly better, but it also bugged me how hung up he is over some ex that broke his heart a million years ago, causing him to no longer believe in love. I just wanted to shake him and tell him to get over himself. Together, Skye and Seth are even more annoying - they bond over their pretentiousness and opinions on how much society sucks and how much they miss the good old times, then go on to call Seth's roommate, who does basically the same thing, pretentious and annoying. Point being, I wanted to slap both of these characters throughout the novel.

Susane Colasanti's writing flows nicely, and All I Need is a quick read, so that's something. But I couldn't get myself to care about the story because nothing is ever fully explored, and the characters and romance annoyed me to no end. I think I'll still give Susane Colasanti another try, though, since so many people seem to love her - any recommendations which of her books I read next?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bookish Anticipation #25

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.

Tandem by Anna Jarzab
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: October 8th 2013
Sixteen-year-old Sasha Lawson has only ever known one small, ordinary life. When she was young, she loved her grandfather's stories of parallel worlds inhabited by girls who looked like her but led totally different lives. Sasha never believed such worlds were real--until now, when she finds herself thrust into one against her will.
To prevent imminent war, Sasha must slip into the life of an alternate version of herself, a princess who has vanished on the eve of her arranged marriage. If Sasha succeeds in fooling everyone, she will be returned home; if she fails, she'll be trapped in another girl's life forever. As time runs out, Sasha finds herself torn between two worlds, two lives, and two young men vying for her love--one who knows her secret, and one who thinks she's someone she's not.
Fire with Fire (Burn for Burn #2) by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: September 3rd 2013
Lillia, Kat, and Mary had the perfect plan. Work together in secret to take down the people who wronged them. But things didn’t exactly go the way they’d hoped at the Homecoming Dance.
Not even close.
For now, it looks like they got away with it. All they have to do is move on and pick up the pieces, forget there ever was a pact. But it’s not easy, not when Reeve is still a total jerk and Rennie’s meaner than she ever was before.
And then there’s sweet little Mary…she knows there’s something seriously wrong with her. If she can’t control her anger, she’s sure that someone will get hurt even worse than Reeve was. Mary understands now that it’s not just that Reeve bullied her—it’s that he made her love him.
Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, burn for a burn. A broken heart for a broken heart. The girls are up to the task. They’ll make Reeve fall in love with Lillia and then they will crush him. It’s the only way he’ll learn.
It seems once a fire is lit, the only thing you can do is let it burn...

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: October 1st 2013
After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.
Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: September 17th 2013
Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: September 13th 2013
While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: September 10th 2013
In Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? Open her heart to someone? Or will she just go on living inside somebody else’s fiction?

Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: September 17th 2013
The world is living in the shadow of oncoming disaster. An asteroid is set to strike the earth in just one week’s time; catastrophe is unavoidable. The question isn’t how to save the world—the question is, what to do with the time that's left? Against this stark backdrop, three island teens wrestle with intertwining stories of love, friendship and family—all with the ultimate stakes at hand.

The Cutting Room Floor by Dawn Klehr
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: October 8th 2013
Life in the Heights has never been easy for seventeen-year-old Riley Frost, but when she's publicly dumped and outed at the same time, she becomes an immediate social outcast at her high school. So Riley swears off romance and throws herself into solving the shocking murder of her favorite teacher, Ms. Dunn.
Riley turns to her best friend, budding filmmaker Desmond Brandt, for help. What she doesn't know is that Dez has been secretly directing her life, blackmailing her friends, and hoping his manipulations will make her love him. When his schemes go too far, Dez's web of lies threatens to destroy both of their lives.

Pirouette by Robyn Ravati
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: November 8th 2013
Identical twins Hannah and Simone meet at summer dance school Simone was raised to be a dancer, but she hates performing. Hannah loves nothing more than dance, but her adoptive parents think it's just a hobby. When the two girls meet at Candance summer camp, they realize they're identical twins. Then they decide to switch places for the three weeks of camp. As the girls learn about each other, a new plan develops. Since Hannah and Simone are from the same city but live in different suburbs, they decide to swap places at home. Yet fooling their friends and family is more challenging than either girl expected, and they're both burdened by the weight of their lies. How long can Hannah and Simone keep pretending? What will happen when the truth is revealed?
Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always by Elissa Janine Hoole
Add too Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Release date: November 8th 2013
Cassandra fears rocking the family boat. Instead, she sinks it. Assigned by her English teacher to write a poem that reveals her true self, Cassandra Randall is stuck. Her family's religion is so overbearing, she can NEVER write about who she truly is. So Cass does what any self-respecting high school girl would do: she secretly begins writing a tarot-inspired advice blog. When Drew Godfrey, an awkward outcast with unwashed hair, writes to her, the situation spirals into what the school calls "a cyberbullying crisis" and what the church calls "sorcery." Cass wants to be the kind of person who sticks up for the persecuted, who protects the victims the way she tries to protect her brother from the homophobes in her church. But what if she's just another bully? What will it take for her to step up and tell the truth?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...