Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (109)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week I am waiting on The Ruby Circle by Richelle Meade (2/10/15):

Description on Goodreads:
The epic conclusion to Richelle Mead's New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series is finally here...

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.

After their secret romance is exposed, Sydney and Adrian find themselves facing the wrath of both the Alchemists and the Moroi in this electrifying conclusion to Richelle Mead’s New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series. When the life of someone they both love is put on the line, Sydney risks everything to hunt down a deadly former nemesis. Meanwhile, Adrian becomes enmeshed in a puzzle that could hold the key to a shocking secret about spirit magic, a secret that could shake the entire Moroi world.
Why I’m Waiting:
Um…why wouldn’t I be waiting? The only sad thing is this will be the last one! I can’t imagine this universe coming to a close. Tell me, she’s writing another side series! Any way, I the last book of course ended with a cliffhanger. I’m so excited to see how things work for Sydney and Adrian. And I’m beyond ready to see the Alchemists gets what’s coming to them. Please let this happen. Again, the cover is kind of terrible, but at least the covers are all consistently terrible. And there could be no cover for these books that would make not want to read them (and that is saying something coming from me).
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Summary (from Goodreads):
Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she's made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy's novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the 'Afterworld' to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved - and terrifying - stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.
I think this book is genius. Pure genius. I don’t think it’s for everyone. It is certainly for YA bloggers and those really familiar with the YA world. It’s not something I could easily recommend to a teen. It’s more for the teen or adult who is obsessed with YA, and already has a tight relationship with the YA universe on Twitter and Goodreads.
It did take me a week to read (which is a very long time for me). And it took me a little while to fully understand all that Westerfeld was doing with this. He wrote a book about a teen main character writing a YA novel. It was super cool being able to read so much of the YA novel the character was writing –the chapters alternated between the contemporary YA writer and the paranormal romance the YA writer was writing. At first I liked the book within the book better than the contemporary parts. And then I liked the contemporary parts better, and even went as far as to question why Westerfeld’s book within the book was so lame… But then it all finally clicked.
This book does all you would expect it do (well), but then it also does so much more. This entire book was one, giant take on the YA world. And I feel like its just layered in satire, sarcasm, and wit. The somewhat boring paranormal romance book (within the book) wasn’t boring because it was bad. It was boring as a comment to the formula of all YA paranormal romance books. What Westerfeld has written in regards to opening chapters, plot devices, romance, etc in this book is his commentary on YA books in general. A lot of his commentary is harsh, and a lot of it is amazing.
Top that off with publishing parties, actual scenes at BEA(!), YA drinks nights, book tours, and ARCs, and readers are welcomed to look into this crazy, growing industry window that Westerfeld has created. I loved how realistic it all was. I loved seeing how agents, publishers, and other book business people looked from the inside. I liked that Westerfeld didn’t dumb anything down or explain what things like NaNo WriMo or BEA were; he just assumes you know.
I loved all the scenes when the YA writers helped each other with their writing. I loved the LGBT elements. I loved the Manhattan, coming of age setting. I loved Darcy’s little sister, and I loved all the elements of Darcy that highlighted how young she was. I loved that no one cared that Darcy drank at all the parties. And I found all the scenes on the book tour to be so beyond entertaining. (Did anyone else think there was a character who’s supposed to be John Green?) There were moments when I seriously questioned how Westerfeld was allowed to publish this –all of the moments were Wow ones where I was impressed. His take on the publishing world was fresh, honest, and fascinating.
I feel like this book is to book fans what Behind the Music is for music fans. We get all the behind-the-scenes moments of YA book writing. We also get satire and jokes. And they are only jokes YA people would get. Also, layered throughout it all are amazing writing tips. There are so many do’s and don’ts of book writing in here (in a very sly, non-obvious way). Compile all these great things together, and it’s hard to read this book and not want to just dive into writing something of your own.
I know there have been differing reviews for this book, and I know this makes me sound kind of cocky; but, I kind of believe that the people who really didn’t like this probably didn’t get it. And this book is not for everyone. I’m having a little trouble adequately describing all that this book accomplishes. Just know it accomplishes so many things.
Afterworlds is one of my favorite books of the year. YA bloggers, don’t be turned away by mixed reviews. Read it. Then talk to me about it? I’m dying to discuss it with people. Really, I was blown away. This is so a 10/10.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (108)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week I am waiting on The Fall by Bethany Griffin (10/7/14):

Description on Goodreads:
She has spent her life fighting fate, and she thought she was succeeding. Until she woke up in a coffin.

Ushers die young. Ushers are cursed. Ushers can never leave their house, a house that haunts and is haunted, a house that almost seems to have a mind of its own. Madeline’s life—revealed through short bursts of memory—has hinged around her desperate plan to escape, to save herself and her brother. Her only chance lies in destroying the house.

In the end, can Madeline keep her own sanity and bring the house down? The Fall is a literary psychological thriller, reimagining Edgar Allan Poe’s classic The Fall of the House of Usher.
Why I’m Waiting:
I loved this author’s other YA Poe retelling. And I super love the original The Fall of the House of Usher, so I cannot wait to see what Griffin has come up with for this creepy story. I’m not the biggest fan of the generic, creepy cover, but what can you do? This seems like the perfect book to read on a dark, rainy autumn night.

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland

Summary (from Goodreads):
For Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.

Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t.

When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.

But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on--most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits--that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.

A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.
This wasn’t what I was expecting. I was anticipating a nice, easy, light-hearted beach read. I took it to the beach with me (near where the book takes place, kind of). It was a little deeper than I wanted at the time, but I did enjoy it.
I was not the biggest fan of the main character. She was both a little too na├»ve for my liking and too aware of how everyone else thinks. Though, I guess the latter would make sense for a teenager, though maybe not to this extent. However, sometimes I love a good YA where I don’t immediately fall for the main character. Cricket is a character I grew to love by the end. She grew up some by the end, like all good YA main characters do in summer books.
I also never liked the best friend. She was awful to Cricket. Loosing a parent does not give someone the excuse to become an awful human being. I just don’t feel like there can be an excuse for the way Cricket’s supposed best friend treated her. On the other hand, this again was super believable and brought me back to middle school when girls would pick up and then drop friends like in style and out of style accessories. And I never want to sound like the person who goes, well the girl being bullied deserved it because she was really ignorant and stupid to all the signs. But, I did find myself wanting to slap Cricket in the face a few times because, hello!
I also feel like the romance could have been written better. I feel like it was pretty instantaneous. I wish I could have seen more of the two characters acting as friends first. I wanted it to build slowly. Instead, it felt a bit like the main character was taking any way she could to continue to attach herself to her friend’s life and family. So, while I hated how mean the best friend was, I could also continue to understand her anger. Neither girl was all too great (Cricket because she was blind to way too many things and Jules because she was terribly mean).
I loved all the side characters. I found the hotel staff where Cricket worked to be wonderful. I like that she found her own life for herself on Nantucket. I liked that her internship with the writer led to her mother’s history on the island. I completely immersed myself in the world of Nantucket. The author knows how to write a setting; that’s for sure. And I loved Cricket’s relationship with her mother.
I’m interested in seeing how the island affected Cricket later (in Nantucket Red). And while there were a lot of things that weren’t my favorite here, I did still get completely lost and hooked on this book. I do wish the teens were a tad bit nicer. And I wish I got more time with Cricket’s other friends. But all in all, I give it a 8/10.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Good Week in Books (85)

I had another nice, little book week. I received two finished books for review (Thank you, Macmillan!). One book is a middle grade I was thinking of buying (and have actually already bought for my library). And the other is a YA by an author I actually haven’t read yet, but have been meaning to give a try.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Drickwillow Place
by Julie Berry
Firebug by Lish McBride
How was your week in books?

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

Summary (from Goodreads):
The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.
So, I know this has mixed reviews. And while I understand a lot of the problems some people have with this book, I still loved it. I read it in one sitting. It was just what I needed at the time –a good, action packed dystopia. A lot of comparisons can be made to Wither by Lauren DeStefano, so if you didn’t like that series, you might not like this book. I kind of think it’s a mixture of Wither and The Selection. Side note: did the main character really need to have purple eyes? I seriously think more book characters have interesting eyes than actual people and it’s another connection that can be made to Wither.
It’s another dystopian world where women have the short end of the stick, particularly women who can reproduce. When girls become women, their blood is tested to see if they will be able to become serrogates for the royalty. Violet is one of the “lucky” ones who gets taken from her family, forced into a facility with other girls and is trained in using magic. Then all the lucky girls get auctioned off like slaves to the highest bidders. And then they are expected to birth children to the wealthy women of the Jewel, who either can’t or aren’t allowed to give birth themselves.
This book is loaded with politics, caste systems, and characters forced to sacrifice their freedom and their bodies to the wealthier classes. I liked Violet a lot because she doesn’t fall for the pretty dresses and the fancy food. She knows she is a slave. This is only emphasized more and more as the book goes on and her mistress forces her to do things like wear a collar and leash when they go out in a public.
I found this crazy, insane concept to be fascinating. This cruel world wasn’t exactly like other worlds I have read about before. It was both interesting and terrifying to see how many ways the wealthy could take away people’s humanity. The surrogates were also used as pawns in the ultimate chess game, and many of them ended up murdered by other wealthy houses.
I was hooked on the story from page one. The only thing I wasn’t the biggest fan of was the romance. I felt like it was a little rushed, and a little instant. And I am sort of exhausted with all our strong female main characters being incredibly intelligent except in regards to anything revolving men. Seriously, I feel like Violet was too smart for things to escalate to where they did. Why do our girl main characters have to be romantically dumb? Can we change this theme?
Any way, I read this super fast. I found the world both terrifying and fascinating. It was fast-paced, filled with action, and dealt with some interesting notions of slavery. I was not a fan of the romance, but I still really enjoyed this one. I give it a 9/10.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

Summary (on Goodreads):
On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.
First, I have to say this: this author is in high school??? I was a little blown away by the awesomeness of this novel. And normally when publishers compare books to other YA masterpieces, I’m super skeptical.  This was compared to If I Stay, Before I Fall, and 13 Reasons Why, and for once, I agree with the publishing company. I would definitely compare it to those three novels. I might even think it’s better than those three novels.
Like Lauren Oliver, Zhang wrote about a girl that is not easy to like. She wrote about a popular mean girl, who did terrible things to other people. But, like with Jay Asher, she also wrote about why this character came to the point in her life where suicide seemed to be her only option. Zhang wrote about Liz’s decline and depression. And the reason why I see it being compared to If I stay is because all the doctors and family member grieving over Liz’s not quite dead yet body, are all under the impression that Liz is strong enough to pull through –that it’s up to her to pull through her unconscious broken state because she wants to live.
I found this book to be remarkably strong and spot-on in regards to bullying and growing up. I had tears at several different moments of this book. I unfortunately found myself relating to many moments of kids being cruel to each other. I think one of the saddest elements to the whole story was that no one saw how deep Liz had fallen. Liz didn’t want anyone to think her suicide was a suicide. She planned it well –planned it to look like an accident. She even planned it to be on the same day that her father died, so her mother would only have one sad, mourning day of the year (instead of 2). And I guess that’s how readers know (before we even get to learn about who Liz is as a person), that the girl means serious business. She plans her suicide in advance.
I loved the whole concept of this book. I kind of loved that the main character wasn’t a good person (who just happened to be depressed). It would have been a totally different story if Liz wasn’t a mean girl. And I guess a part of me always loves the books about the villains and the bad guys. I like learning why people become who they are. I think it’s one of the reasons I love the show, Once Upon a Time. I love learning the back stories for the evil queens (and even Captain Hook). And we certainly learn how Liz becomes who she is, leading up the moment when her car crashes.
I even loved the main character, meanness and all. I felt sorry for her. I felt sorry for all the kids she picked on. And I felt so unbelievably sorry for everyone who grows up in a world where teachers and mentors turn a blind eye on what happens in schools, and where girls need to throw up what they eat to be able to work in clothing stores at the mall, and where girls like Liz never get in trouble for the drastic problems they cause.
It was so hard for me to grasp that the author was only in high school, and yet she has such a sad, yet clear understanding of the world and how tragic it can be. I know the writing style isn’t for everyone. It’s told from an unknown, omniscient narrator’s point of view. I kind of loved it this way. I loved getting to see how other characters dealt with their pain and their grief (especially the mom and the two best friends). People have commented on having no clue who it is, but I kind of guessed who the narrator was immediately. Still, this did nothing to make me like the book any less.
All in all this book was a fresh take on depression and teen suicide.  And while it will most definitely keep being compared to other books in its genre, it also clearly is it’s own. I haven’t really read anything that accomplishes what this book does. My eyes were glued to the pages, and I read it in less than a day. I highly recommend it and give it a 10/10.