Thursday, January 11, 2018

Always and Forever Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Summary from Goodreads:
Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks…until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?
This is what I said on Goodreads as soon as I finished this book: “Finishing this series was like taking a deep contented sigh after finishing a hot drink on a cold day. Maybe I need to track down everything this author has ever written. Really, so much love for this!”
I took my time reading this one. Aka: I didn’t finish it in one sitting or one day even. I think it took a few days. I just really didn’t want this to end. I was also super nervous going into the book because I was so afraid of what the “unexpected news” would be. I was also a little weirded out by how much time had passed between this book and the second one.
I am clearly way too involved in this story. But, I am also so surprisingly pleased with the way it all ended. I thought there’d be no way this book can be both believable and have the ending I was hoping for. I was wrong. It can definitely accomplish both.
I loved how much more developed Peter and Lara Jean’s relationship was. They both had definitely grown up a lot since the previous book. I loved that Peter’s ex and Josh were barely even mentioned much at all. And Lara Jean just seemed so much more confident and strong. The decisions she had to make and the way she came about making them felt so genuine. I loved her road trip with Chris and how that helped her make up her mind. I loved her need to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie. And I even loved watching Lara Jean and Kitty be the mature sisters and help teach Margot to want their father’s happiness.
Margot was kind of a snot, but in a believable way. I just wanted to slap her a couple of times. But, Lara Jean’s wisdom eventually got through to her. I loved how Margot handled things at the bachelorette party. Watching Lara Jean get drunk for the first time weirdly reminded me of Anne of Green Gables, a book this series has quoted in the past. Oh, and I love that Peter read books for Lara Jean. He read all of the Harry Potter books!
I never stopped being nervous that they would break up. I know how seriously Lara Jean takes her older sister and her mom, who both made clear that you don’t want to be crying over your high school boyfriend in college. And the suspense of that drove me crazy and kept me reading into the late hours of the night.
All in all, this was amazing. The characters have come a long way –especially Lara Jean. I wish there were more books in this series. Yet, I also love how things ended. I definitely need to track down more Jenny Han books.  And I know this will be a series I will read over and over again. I give this one a 10/10.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday (250)

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 Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente (4/3/2018):

Description on Goodreads:
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Eurovision in an over-the-top science fiction spectacle from bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente, in which sentient species compete for glory in a galactic musical contest—where the stakes are as high as the fate of planet Earth.

A century ago, the Sentience Wars tore the galaxy apart and nearly ended the entire concept of intelligent space-faring life. In the aftermath, a curious tradition was invented—something to cheer up everyone who was left and bring the shattered worlds together in the spirit of peace, unity, and understanding.

Once every cycle, the civilizations gather for Galactivision—part gladiatorial contest, part beauty pageant, part concert extravaganza, and part continuation of the wars of the past. Instead of competing in orbital combat, the powerful species that survived face off in a competition of song, dance, or whatever can be physically performed in an intergalactic talent show. The stakes are high for this new game, and everyone is forced to compete.

This year, though, humankind has discovered the enormous universe. And while they expected to discover a grand drama of diplomacy, gunships, wormholes, and stoic councils of aliens, they have instead found glitter, lipstick, and electric guitars. Mankind will not get to fight for its destiny—they must sing.

A band of human musicians, dancers, and roadies have been chosen to represent Earth on the greatest stage in the galaxy. And the fate of their species lies in their ability to rock.
Why I’m Waiting:
I need this book in my life. This just sounds so ridiculously amazing. It sounds epic and hilarious. I know it will be smart too because this author is one of the smartest out there. I adore her other books. I also love sci-fi. And I love humor. I know this will have to be an amazing mixture of those two things. It’s already being compared to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I must get my hand on this one. I must.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, January 8, 2018

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Summary from Goodreads:
Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.

She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.

When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I've Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.
I am so lucky to read these books with the whole series being out. Waiting between them would have been torture. They are just so good. Jenny Han just has this magical YA writing charisma. Like, I could not put them down or stop looking at them or stop thinking about them. I devoured this second installment in one day. And then I moved on to book 3 immediately.
Currently, I’m going over the events of both books in my head all over again because when you read them like I did, they blend together a bit. I fell so hard for Peter in the events of this book. I loved Lara Jean with Peter. I love how he stood up for her. I love how honest they are with each other. I love their banter. I just seriously shipped them in this book even more than I did in book 1.
This book was also a bit darker than book 1 for me. There was some seriously Veronica Mars type cyber bullying going on that was rather difficult to read about and not cringe over. I may have even shed a tear or two because of it. And I may have shed another tear or two when stuff went downhill for the couple. However, I felt like the downhill element was totally believable, given the situation.
And I know people probably hate him, but I loved John Ambrose McClaren too. The scene with the two of them in the snow was just beyond adorable. I kept thinking of that moment in Beauty and the Beast when the two “lovebirds” are throwing snowballs at each other. He was just so sweet and charming. I love what he added to the story and the confidence boost he gave Lara Jean. I feel like for a long time that Lara Jean just didn’t feel good enough for Peter. She continued to compare herself to his ex. And having the interest of two guys seriously boosted her confidence (as it would for any girl). But, I also know the poor guy just didn’t stand a chance. And I love how honest Lara Jean is to both guys. She tells Peter everything. And John knows it all too.
I also love watching Lara Jean’s and Kitty’s relationship strengthen. I guess this started happening in book 1, but I love where they are at in this book. There’s less bickering and more mutual respect and love. I loved watching the two of them try to find someone for their dad. And I loved getting more of the prodigal daughter’s relationship with everything too. Margot definitely made it interesting.
I also seriously loved the focus on Lara Jean and her best friend Chris. I love their friendship. I love how different they are from one another, but how this doesn’t matter. They have each other’s backs in a way that felt almost sisterly –like Chris is just another Song girl.
I ate this book up like a bag of Cape Cod potato chips (no kidding, those are the best chips in the world). I give it a 10/10. I only wish there was a fourth book to look forward to.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Ms. Marvel, Volume 8: Mecca by G. Willow Wilson

Summary from Goodreads:

An enemy from Ms. Marvel's past resurfaces and begins targeting those closest to Kamala. As the world around her is spinning out of control, it becomes clear that this time there's something more sinister at work...Kamala's no stranger to fighting for what's right, but in facing down this challenge, everything she is will be called into question. Not just as a super hero, but as a human being.
I am a big Ms. Marvel fan. Ms. Marvel has restored my love of comic books. I love the mixture of classic super hero story with YA coming of age drama. And this installment has plenty of this mixture, with the added bonus of present day politics.
There’s a definite an X-Men vibe here with a government group rounding up people with abilities and people who are different. But, there’s also serious current day political events being mirrored –with racism, laws against immigrants, and the theft of human rights. I love how the writers were able to translate this all into comic book form.
And I love Kamala even more for standing up against such hatred. She fights for what’s right, even when it seems as though the whole world is against her. I think she learns a lot about people and herself in this installment. And I’m really hoping this storyline will result in her mending her friendship with Bruno.
I also love the role family plays in Kamala’s story. At first, I felt like they were a plot device used to hold her back, but now, they are the spark that keeps her fiercer. I love their support of her. And I love her relationship with her brother. It’s both sweet and believable with their bickering.
All in all I give this installment an 8/10. It would be higher, but I felt like that one part with the train just took way too long. I love these comics though and I can’t see where the brave writers take things next.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Sun Kissed by Jenny McLachlan

Summary (from Goodreads):

Kat can't believe her family is sending her to Sweden for the summer. But without her friends Bea and Betty, or even a phone signal, can Kat make it on her own?

In a land of saunas and summer sun, Kat soon realizes she has nowhere to hide. It's time to let go of what she thinks people want her to be, so she can embrace who she really is. Especially if she's going to win the heart of the cute Swede Leo.

Kat soon finds that when you're surrounded by phosphorescence and wonder it's easy to sparkle. Or maybe you only shine when you're true to yourself.
These books were meant to be fun, short, fluffy reads to end off my reading year. And they were just that. This installment might even be my favorite so far. Again, I read it in one sitting. They are rather short books, so this isn’t some remarkable feet. But, still.
I wasn’t expecting to love Kat like I loved Bea and Betty. Kat was the not so good friend of book 1. She’s the one who sided with the bully and even still defends the bully. I was expecting her character to be the weak link. I was not expecting to love her so much. In a way, she’s not as dedicated as Bea or as tough as Betty. She’s certainly not as fierce as the mean Pearl. But, she is entirely her own person. And I loved every girly moment.
I loved watching her see the positive side of things. She did some serious growing up in Sweden. And I’m a sucker for a book where the girl travels for the summer and learns some things about herself (Can you say Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants?). I came to see Kat as a strong, girly fighter who refuses to back down from a challenge.
I also loved the romance here. I love how innocent it was. I mean the two lovebirds barely even touched –but their relationship was sizzling.  The sense of humor from the previous books was still there. So were my favorite characters (via letters). I also loved Kat’s aunt and all the quirky people on the island who she grew to love.
All in all, I loved this book. I cannot wait to get Pearl’s story. I love reading stories that explain why people are the way they are, and I have a feeling Pearl will have a lot of stories like that. If you’re looking for something, fun, flirty, and light this is your series. There’s a strong emphasis on family and girl friendships. There’s always romance too. I give this one a 9/10.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Best Books of 2017

What an amazing year this has been for YA books. I know I probably say something like this each year, but this was a tough year limiting my favorite books to 10. There were so many great books this year. So many brave, political, diverse, and thought-provoking books too. Let’s keep this up, YA book world. 

My rules for this list are how they have always been:
1) Each book listed has come out this past year.
2) Each book is YA or Middle Grade
3) I have read the book in 2017

I am going to start at the top with number 1, and make my way down to my number 10 book of the year. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! May 2018 bring just as many, if not more wonderful books into the world.

1) In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan (Review / Rating: 10/10)
This book seriously does not have enough love. It didn’t make it to the Goodreads awards or the Book Shimmy Awards. And not enough people seem to know about it. I’ve already re-read it since my first reading. I loved it. It had the best ship in it, ever. It’s fantasy at its best, with killer characters, loads of sarcasm and wit, a bisexual main character, feminist elves, and lots of magic and mayhem. Seriously, if you read my blog and trust my judgment at all, please read this.

2) The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Review / Rating: 10/10)
This was probably the most political and thought provoking read I’ve had in years. And it’s certainly up there as being one of my all time favorite YA books. I have a crazy itch to re-read it now as I’m talking about it. I couldn’t put this story down. It’s important, timely, and honest. And it’s also just a super addicting story.

3) Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu (Review / Rating: 10/10)
I’m taking this from my review: I love that this book focused so highly on friendship. It didn’t matter what social circle, racial group, or religion these girls belonged to. They all could relate to what Viv was angry about. All girls can relate. And watching all these different girls from various backgrounds come together, stand together, was such a powerful thing. And it was probably the strongest message from this book overall: the power of girls working together is mind blowing and fierce.

We’re finally at a point in time where YA literature is reflecting the current political atmosphere. People want to read books where the little guy wins, where women can start a revolution and succeed, and where small successes can mean the world. Sure, we will always need distraction and YA generates some of my all time favorite distraction. But, lately, I’ve been feeling this mass need of something else: hope. Hope for a future with less sexism, racism, and hatred. This book is powerful, and I think all girls (and guys too) should read it.

4) Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk (Review / Rating: 10/10)

This was another beautiful story written by the wonderful Lauren Wolk, one of my new favorite middle grade writers. She’s up there for me with Kate DiCamillo and Katherine Applegate. She just has a way with words. Her books are unique and beautiful. I want to re-read this one too! I guess you know a book is good, when I want to go back to it so quickly. This is a book for people who love good writing, and love a good mystery. It’s also good for the historical fiction fans and those who love a good ocean setting.

5) The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (Review / Rating: 10/10)
It’s weird that I have not just one, but two historical fiction books on this list! I’m not generally a huge fan of historical fiction, but wow, was this a good one. It was loaded with great characters, plenty of wit and snark, lots of adventures, and an amazing European backdrop. I also had the pleasure of meeting the author in Boston this past year, and she seems like such a cool person. The sequel is one of my most highly anticipated books of 2018.

6) The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo (Review / Rating: 10/10)
This was another beautifully written book. It’s also a book of several stories (redone fairy tales), and it was a pleasant surprise for me to fall so in love with each dark retelling. It may seem like a weird book to read around the holidays, but it’s actually perfect for that –not to mention the retelling of the nutcracker story. I’ve given this book as a gift to someone already. It’s also filled with beautiful correlating illustrations. It’s just a pure, magical book to read and look at.

7) Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (Review / Rating: 10/10)
Ahhh. I missed John Green. His books always give me the feels, and this one didn’t disappoint. I loved his depiction of mental illness. I loved his characters and I loved the super strange mystery in the backdrop of it all. I devoured this book, and I know I will have to read it again soon.  And here’s a lovely quote from it: “You remember your first love because they show you, prove to you, that you can love and be loved, that nothing in this world is deserved except for love, that love is both how you become a person, and why” (285).

8) Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray (Review / Rating: 10/10)
You didn’t think I’d pass up on mentioning my favorite author during a year she came out with a book, did you? She’s the best. Again, here’s a book with phenomenal writing. Her writing is probably the best of any of the books on this list. When I described it to someone at work, I explained it as a mixture of X-Men, Downton Abbey, NYC flappers, murder mysteries, ghost stories, and Harlem poetry. Weird list there, I know. But it seriously is all these things and more…And it’s written like a piece of classic literature. And to top it all off, there was a major plot twist to end all plot twists. I’m still in shock, and dying for the next book.

9) Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare (Review / Rating: 10/10)
I’ve been a big fan of this author since I was an actual young adult. And the thing about Clare is that her writing improves with each new book she writes. I will never tire of the world of the shadowhunters. And these new books and characters are just spectacular. As I mentioned in my review, “All in all, I was impressed with this volume. I loved the politics. I loved the character growth. I loved re-visiting old friends. I loved getting to know new friends. The action, especially at the end, was beyond crazy. There’s also this depth to the characters and sadness to them that wasn’t there with the generation before them. These main characters are already survivors of so much war and loss. And knowing more is coming for them, is just so intense and hard to read, but also addicting.”

10) Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills (Review / Rating :10/10)
As I said on Goodreads recently, “Emma Mills is Magic. Like if Sarah Dessen and Stephanie Perkins had a YA love child, it would be her. My heart melts just remembering what I put down." I loved this book. This book is YA contemporary at its finest. There’s just something about it that un-put-down-able. This is another author that gets nowhere near enough praise. I hope more people give her books a go. They are all good.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (249)

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 Spill Zone 2:The Broken Vow by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland (7/10/18):

Description on Goodreads:
All hell breaks loose in the second volume of New York Times–bestselling author Scott Westerfeld's visionary graphic novel duology.

Three years ago an event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie, forever changing reality within its borders. Strange manifestations and lethal dangers now await anyone who enters the Spill Zone. Addison got close enough to the Spill Zone to touch it, literally. She survived the encounter, but came back changed.

It turns out she's not alone. North Korea has its own Spill Zone, and a young man named Don Jae is the only one who made it out alive. Alive, but changed. Now Addison, Don Jae, and, curiously, a rag doll named Vespertine, share an unholy bond and uncanny powers.

From Scott Westerfeld, the inspired imagination behind the New York Times bestsellers Uglies and Leviathan, comes The Broken Vow, the second volume of our highly anticipated new graphic novel series.
Why I’m Waiting:
I recently finished the first book in the series, and it was awesome! It was one spooky, fun, suspenseful graphic novel. And I cannot wait to see where things go in book 2. I have so many unanswered questions. I need to know things!
What are you waiting on this week?