Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Review: Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas

Title: Dangerous Boys
Author: Abigail Haas
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
Release date: August 14th 2014
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult contemporary mystery
Source: Bought
It all comes down to this. Oliver, Ethan, and I. Three teens venture into an abandoned lake house one night. Hours later, only two emerge from the burning wreckage. Chloe drags one Reznick brother to safety, unconscious and bleeding. The other is left to burn, dead in the fire. But which brother survives? And is his death a tragic accident? Desperate self-defense? Or murder ...? Chloe is the only one with the answers. As the fire rages, and police and parents demand the truth, she struggles to piece the story together - a story of jealousy, twisted passion and the darkness that lurks behind even the most beautiful faces ...
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I read Dangerous Girls over two years ago, and even though I have the worst memory when it comes to books, it's still been stuck in my head as one of my all-time favorite psychological thrillers. So to say that I had high expectations of Dangerous Boys would be an understatement. And while I didn't love it quite as much as Dangerous Girls, Dangerous Boys is another captivating psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat!

Like in Dangerous Girls, I was really impresses by the pacing and the structure of Dangerous Boys. It switches back and forth between then (when Chloe first meets Ethan and Oliver), the end (the scene at the burning house), and now (when Chloe is at the hospital, piecing things back together for the police). Usually, when a novel switches back and forth like that, there will be one part that's a lot more suspenseful and fun to read about, and one part you just kind of have to get through to get to the other. But that's not the case here; I absolutely loved all three parts! The scenes in which Chloe first meets Ethan are more innocent, but that part becomes suspenseful, too, when she meets Oliver and things start to get out of hand. The three elements of the story are woven together seamlessly, and I'm very impressed by how well this pacing and structure works.

The characters are hard to explain; talking about whether I related to them or liked them would be kind of irrelevant because these characters aren't supposed to be likable. All of them are complex, intriguing, well-crafted characters, and that's all that matters. Chloe is hard to understand at times because she changes so much over the course of the novel. The scenes in which she seemed the most human, to me, were the ones with her mother; Chloe's mother suffers from severe depression, and Chloe is constantly torn between staying in town to take care of her and leaving the small town she grew up in and live her dream of going away for college. This is tough to read abut at times but made Chloe a lot more real to me. Ethan isn't a character I liked all that much - he's very smothering, the "you'll always be mine"-type of guy - but like I said, whether I liked him is irrelevant because his role works really well in the novel, and that's all that matters. Oliver, I really wasn't sure what to make of - he's definitely a complex and intriguing character. I never felt like I really understood him, but you're not supposed to. I just wish the relationship between him and Chloe had developed a little bit slower in order to make their connection a little more realistic. I also wish the character of Ethan's and Oliver's mom had been developed a little more throughout the novel, since she does play a more important role in the end. Regardless, all of these characters are well-written and complex, and that's what makes this story so intriguing.

The reason I didn't love Dangerous Boys quite as much as Dangerous Girls - even though it's close - is that the ending didn't knock me off my feet the way the ending of Dangerous Girls did. The ending of Dangerous Girls, I never saw coming, so when I found out what really happened, it made me rethink everything I had read before that. And sadly, Dangerous Boys doesn't have an ending like that; the clues were a lot more obvious this time, and I already knew more or less what had happened, even if the details aren't revealed until the end. Rather than packing it all in the ending, Dangerous Boys has twists and surprises throughout the entire novel, which makes for a captivating and suspenseful read.

To be honest, I don't think anything I've written really does Dangerous Boys justice; it's the kind of book you just have to read for yourself. If you like psychological thrillers, or any kind of books that will have your heart beating faster as you turn the pages late into the night, you should definitely pick up both Dangerous Girls and Dangerous Boys. I really hope Abigail Haas publishes more YA psychological thrillers, because they're some of the best I've read.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Author Interview: Courtney Summers (All the Rage Blog Tour)

I'm so excited to have one of my favorite authors, Courtney Summers, here for an author interview today! This interview is part of the blog tour for her newest release, All the Rage.

1. How has writing All the Rage been different or similar from writing your previous novels?
All of my novels have been challenging to write in their own ways but All the Rage was one of the most difficult books I’ve ever written. My writing process isn’t the tidiest, but it’s a little more straightforward than All the Rage’s turned out to be. I’d been working on it since around 2009/2010 and I’d set it aside for my other books. When St. Martin’s acquired it in 2012, it went through about six drafts before it was done. It took a while to figure out exactly how I wanted to tell it. It was all worth it in the end, though! I’m very proud of this book.
2. As an advocate for sexual assault survivors, I'm always excited to see authors whose books I enjoy take on this topic. What message would you like readers to take from All the Rage regarding sexual violence? What were some of the difficulties of writing about such a sensitive topic?
I want someone who picks up All the Rage to be angry about rape culture and victim blaming by the time they’ve finished it. I want them to keep the conversation about both going—because we need to keep talking about it if we want anything to change. I hope they will also want to raise awareness and advocate for survivors, like you do.

All the Rage was difficult to write because when you’re writing about rape culture, about victim-blaming, about the lack of support and justice for survivors, you want to be very conscious of what you’re contributing to the larger conversation—you want to make sure that you’re treating the subject sensitively and carefully. This creates a lot of pressure for a writer, but it’s a very necessary pressure.
3. If you had to pair up your main character from All the Rage, Romy, with the main character from any of your other books, who do you think she would get along with best?
Oh, wow! That’s a great question. I almost think Eddie from Fall for Anything—she’d get along with Romy best. I think they’d balance each other out. :)
Thanks so much for stopping by Paperback Treasures on your blog tour!
Thanks for having me on your blog!

Make sure to check out all the other stops of the blog tour, and keep your eye out for All the Rage, which was released April 14th. Here's what it's all about:

All the Rage by Courtney Summers
The sheriff's son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything-friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy's only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn't speak up. Nobody believed her the first time-and they certainly won't now-but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women in a culture that refuses to protect them.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Review: Finding Paris by Joy Preble

Title: Finding Paris
Author: Joy Preble
Publisher: Balzer & Bray/HarperTeen
Release date: April 21st 2015
Pages: 272
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Edelweiss - I received a free advance eGalley of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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Sisters Leo and Paris Hollings have only ever had each other to rely on. They can't trust their mother, who hops from city to city and from guy to guy, or their gambler stepfather, who's moved them all to Las Vegas. It's just the two of them: Paris, who's always been the dreamer, and Leo, who has a real future in mind--going to Stanford, becoming a doctor, falling in love. But Leo isn't going anywhere right now, except driving around Vegas all night with her sister.
Until Paris ditches Leo at the Heartbreak Hotel Diner, where moments before they had been talking with physics student Max Sullivan. Outside, Leo finds a cryptic note from Paris--a clue. Is it some kind of game? Where is Paris, and why has she disappeared? When Leo reluctantly accepts Max's offer of help, the two find themselves following a string of clues through Vegas and beyond. But the search for the truth is not a straight line. And neither is the path to secrets Leo and Max hold inside. 
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Finding Paris really took me by surprise. I was expecting a thriller-like storyline of Leo searching for Paris along with a cute romance. But Finding Paris is so much deeper than that. It starts out as a sweet, fun contemporary, but it gets darker as the story goes on; it focuses a lot more on family issues than I had been expecting. Rather than a romance and mystery, I got a very dark, emotional family story, and I loved it!

I loved the characters in Finding Paris. Leo is a pretty standard contemporary YA main character, but I related to her and felt for her. Max is probably my favorite character: his backstory is fascinating and makes him a complex and intriguing character; I would love to read a companion novel from his perspective. I could see how you could complain that Leo and Max's relationship is a little instalove-y, but I think it works: they do fall for each other within a span of a couple of days, but it makes sense considering they're in such an intense situation. I also really admire how Joy Preble handled the later developments in their relationship, considering both of their pasts and issues. I didn't like Paris quite as much as Leo and Max: she's a bit of an enigma, and her reasoning for all of this is a little ridiculous. Her and Leo's relationship is still very strong, though. One character I wish had been explored more is Leo and Paris's mom; her motivations and role in the family's issues aren't always clear.

Joy Preble's writing style is very distinct; I'm not really sure how to explain it. It's very sparse, almost exclusively showing and no telling. That means you don't always know everything that Leo is thinking, and what is happening isn't always explicit. There were times I wanted to dig deeper into Leo's thoughts, but for the most part, it really works; the sparseness makes it hit you so much more when a little detail reveals how deep Leo's scars run. The style might be sparse, but that doesn't mean it won't make you feel anything; I laughed during the lighter parts in the beginning, and I bawled at the end because the story conveys such strong emotions.

I'm still not sure what to make of the revelations at the end of the novel. I saw a part of it coming, but the final reveal still left me breathless. The build-up of the suspense is expertly done, and the reveal is very dramatic. What I have mixed feelings about, though, are the emotional implications of the reveal. I sort of felt like this reveal was too big and dark to be made in the last couple of pages, since that didn't leave a lot of time for the implications to be explored, since this is an issue that needs to be handled very seriously. But, with the little time left in the novel, it is handled really well. It works with Joy Preble's writing style, which addresses the issue in a thoughtful manner without being explicit about it. I do think this is handled well and works with the story, but I could see how some readers might take issue with such a big reveal at the very end of the novel.

Finding Paris was very different from what I was expecting, but in a good way; it's a lot more serious and psychological than the description lets on. With a unique writing style and memorable characters, Finding Paris is both suspenseful and emotional. I definitely recommend it!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Author Interview: Janet Gurtler (The Truth About Us Blog Tour)

I'm so excited to have Janet Gurtler here for an author interview today! Her newest book, The Truth About Us, just came out last Tuesday.

1. Without spoiling anything, could you tell us what was your favorite scene to write in The Truth About Us?
Well, I don’t want to spoil things, but there’s a scene late in the book that takes place on the beach that I really enjoyed writing. :) There may be kissing.
2. If you had to pair up your main character from The Truth About Us, Jess, with the main character from any of your other books, who do you think she would get along with best?
That’s actually really hard to think of! Jess is going through some “things” in this book and has a lot of growing up to do. By the end of the book, I think I’d most like to see her hanging out with Jaz from If I Tell. I think they would be really good for each other. Different people with different backgrounds, but they have a lot of core similarities and I think they’d mesh together well.
3. What comes easier for you, description or dialogue?
By far, dialogue flows easiest for me. When I’m writing a first draft I usually write dialogue and I’ll write, “description here” to fill in later. I like doing description but it takes me more thought and for me getting the characters and the story flow out comes from the dialogue and I build the scene later.
4. How do you go about naming your characters?
These days I often use psych sheets from my son’s swim meets. Psych sheets have all the competitor’s names. The names are all modern and popular names of kids around the same age as my characters. There’s some great names out there I still want to use.
5. For any aspiring writers out there - what's the best writing advice you've ever received?
Keep writing. That’s the best advice. Keep writing and be persistence. Okay, also find some craft books on writing that really speak to you and use them to write write write.
6. I've liked all of your books, but my favorite one would have to be How I Lost You. I know I'm terrible for asking this, but which one of your published books would you say is your favorite?
Thanks for that! How I Lost You thanks you too. I would have to say that Who I Kissed is my favorite published book. It was personal to me and really emotional to write because my son has peanut allergies, and I “may” have shed lots of tears while writing it. I actually felt awful for Samantha, the main character even though she caused one of my worst nightmares. She had a lot on her plate to deal with.

Thanks so much for stopping by Paperback Treasures on your blog tour!

Make sure to check out all the other stops of the blog tour, and keep your eye out for The Truth About Us, which was released April 7th. Here's what it's all about:

The Truth About Us by Janet Gurtler
The truth is that Jess knows she screwed up.
She's made mistakes, betrayed her best friend, and now she's paying for it. Her dad is making her spend the whole summer volunteering at the local soup kitchen.
The truth is she wishes she was the care-free party-girl everyone thinks she is.
She pretends it's all fine. That her "perfect" family is fine. But it's not. And no one notices the lie...until she meets Flynn. He's the only one who really sees her. The only one who listens.
The truth is that Jess is falling apart – and no one seems to care.
But Flynn is the definition of "the wrong side of the tracks." When Jess's parents look at him they only see the differences-not how much they need each other. They don't get that the person who shouldn't fit in your world... might just be the one to make you feel like you belong.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Review: Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

Title: Things We Know by Heart
Author: Jessi Kirby
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: April 1st 2015
Pages: 304
Genre: YA contemporary romance
Source: NetGalley - I received a free advance eGalley of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.
Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn't want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they're connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake. 
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I've loved Jessi Kirby since her debut, Moonglass - all of her books are beautifully written and emotional, and Things We Know by Heart is no exception. Yes, the premise is somewhat staged and melodramatic, but it's right up my alley, and I loved the emotional trainwreck that is most of the novel. Even though I had some issues with a couple smaller things, I absolutely loved Things We Know by Heart - it has convinced me, yet again, that Jessi Kirby is one of my favorite contemporary YA authors.

I loved Quinn from the beginning on. I've read some reviews complaining they didn't like Quinn because they didn't agree with her decision to contact Colton against his wishes, or because they found her to be too mopey. I can definitely see where they're coming from, but for me, it worked - her grief is written in such a palpable way that I couldn't blame her for these bad decisions. Yes, she has been grieving for over a year and still hasn't remotely moved on, but this is acknowledged throughout the novel, and it makes sense, knowing her motivations. Jessi Kirby wrote Quinn's grief in such a relatable way that I felt for her and never even questioned her decisions.

Colton is an amazing character, too. His backstory is fascinating, and his personality shines through in their "perfect days," which I loved reading about. I also loved Quinn's family; Ryan, Quinn's sister, is my favorite, and I loved the scenes between the two of them. Trent is the only character that I found to be a bit underdeveloped; considering he (or his absence) is such a large part of the story, I wish we could have gotten to know him a bit better. In a way it makes sense, since the novel is set more than a year after his death, but considering that Quinn's grief is the motivation for this whole story, I wish we had learned more than just how the two of them met.

Jessi Kirby's writing, and the emotions it conveys, are what's best about Things We Know by Heart. The writing is beautiful and has so many deep, quote-worthy comments, but it's never so ornate that it would distract from the story. The way her words make you feel is always what's best about Jessi Kirby's books - with the amount of tears I shed, I really shouldn't have been reading this in public. I cried for Quinn's loss and for what Colton has been through, but I also cried at the beauty of their story. It's such a cliche, but Things We Know by Heart is actually the kind of book that will break your heart and put it back together again.

Even though I loved the story, I did have some issues with the message: Things We Know by Heart kind of insinuates that the only way Quinn can move on from her boyfriend's death is by finding a new guy. I wish her recovery hadn't been quite as focused on the romance, that maybe her reaching out to her past friends had also played a role in it. Her relationship with her sister Ryan does help her recovery, but especially the ending is very much focused on the romance. I also wish the novel had included more of a discussion on whether Quinn and Colton's connection is really between them or if it has something to do with their connection, which could have worked as one explanation as to why the romance plays such an important role in Quinn's recovery process.

But these smaller issues are nothing compared to how much I loved the majority of the novel. With an original idea, relatable, complex characters, and evocative writing, Things We Know by Heart gave me all the feels. I love Jessi Kirby more with each book she publishes. If you're looking for an emotional but uplifting read, definitely give this one a try!

Friday, April 03, 2015

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Isla and the Happily Ever After
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton
Release date: January 1st 2014
Pages: 352
Genre: YA contemporary romance
Source: Bought
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Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I absolutely loved Anna and the French Kiss, but I was a little disappointed by Lola and the Boy Next Door, so I lowered my expectations for Isla and the Happily Ever After. Luckily, though, Isla and the Happily Ever After exceeded all my expectations! It is a bit melodramatic at times, but it totally works. Even though I had some smaller issues, I loved the characters and I was so emotionally invested I was crying and laughing throughout the novel, and that's all that really matters.

It took me a little while to get into the relationship between Isla and Josh. Isla is a good character and very relatable, but she seemed kind of like the standard contemporary YA MC. Josh seemed a bit too perfect in the beginning, in my opinion, and just the whole storyline of them getting together after Isla had been crushing on Josh for years just seemed a little cliched to me. But over the course of the novel, Isla and Josh get a lot more complex, both individually and in their relationship, as both of them show their flaws and the relationship has its ups and downs. These flaws are what really made their relationship work for me, and once we got to see those is when I became really emotionally invested. During the last 50 pages, I would just go back and forth between crying sad and happy tears because the feels were so real.

I actually think I loved the secondary characters more than I loved the MCs. Kurt is an amazing character, and I loved his relationship with Isla - it always makes me happy when YA actually includes platonic guy-girl friendships, and Isla and Kurt's is a particularly good one. I also loved Isla's sisters and how their dynamics develop over the course of the novel; I especially enjoyed Isla's revelation about her issues with her younger sister Hattie and how those are resolved later on. The colorful cast of secondary characters really made this novel come together.

I know a lot of readers always love seeing the characters from previous companion novels, but it felt a bit forced in Isla and the Happily Ever After. Sometimes it works naturally, like when all companion novels are set at the same school, but the reunion scene in Isla and the Happily Ever After with everyone coming back to Paris felt a little over-the-top to me. It also drew more attention to how perfect all these characters are, which bothered me a little, even though I know including Anna and St. Claire and Lola and Cricket is kind of necessary for this series.

Even though it took me a while to get into it, I really loved Isla and the Happily Ever After. I might have had some smaller issues with the novel, but just the amount of tears I cried while reading is proof that Stephanie Perkins was successful in making me fall in love with these characters and become emotionally invested in their relationship. If you're looking for a good YA contemporary romance, I would definitely picking up this series, if you haven't.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

New Releases April 2015

New releases:

Lies I Told by Michelle Zink: April 7th
The Truth About Us by Janet Gurtler: April 7th
I Am Her Revenge by Meredith Moore: April 7th

First There Was Forever by Juliana Romano: April 14th
All the Rage by Courtney Summers: April 14th
City Love by Susane Colasanti: April 21st

99 Days by Katie Cotugno: April 21st
Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby: April 21st
Finding Paris by Joy Preble: April 21st

Lying Out Loud: A Companion to The DUFF by Kody Keplinger: April 28th
Invincible by Amy Reed: April 28th

New in paperback:

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: April 2nd
Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally: April 7th
What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick: April 7th

Boys Like You by Juliana Stone: April 7th
Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt: April 14th
Art of Secrets by James Klise: April 21st

Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu: April 21st
Every Last Promise by Kristin Halbrook: April 21st
Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson: April 28th
Tease by Amanda Maciel: April 28th

What April releases are you most excited about?
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