Monday, December 30, 2013

Best Books of 2013

It seriously does not feel like that much time has passed since I did my Best Books of 2012 post.
I also cannot believe how many posts I have made on this blog since I started it…I number all the posts I write and save them by their numbers, and today marks my 450th blog post! This is crazy. I had no idea that I would be blogging this long or that I’d fall in love with this whole book blog world.
Any way, there were a lot of great books this year. My rules for this list is how they have always been:
1) Each book listed has come out this past year
2) Each book is either YA or middle grade (though normally middle grade books don’t make the cut for me for this list…this year there’s one!)
3) I have read the book in 2013 (not later or earlier). And it doesn’t matter if other books in the series have come out earlier.
I am going to start at the top with number 1, and make my way down to my number 10 book of the year. And of course because I’m me and have so much trouble making up my mind, there will also be three honorable mentions at the bottom. Happy New year! I hope 2014 brings just as many, if not more, wonderful books to talk about.
1) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (Review / Rating: 10/10)

So, I definitely think 2013 has been the year for outstanding YA contemporaries. There have been a few books this year that I have not been able to stop raving and talking about. And at the top of the list is of course this book. I have not read any other YA book that has delved so deep into the world of fan fiction. I feel like there is an enormous base of fans that Rowell was the first to directly write a book for. This book spoke to my introverted book nerd self. And it spoke to my inner Potter love. And I can’t stop talking about this book. I’ve already given it as a gift to multiple people. It’s unique and the main character is not like every other YA main character. If you have not read this book yet, what’s the hold up?
2) These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Review / Rating: 10/10)

This book was so awesome that I’m shocked to not have read more reviews for it. Side note: it’s my favorite book cover of the year too. This book had everything, literally: sci-fi setting, slow-building yet sizzling romance, survivalist plot, Titanic-type ship crash, a dark almost supernatural twist, and some of the best world-building I’ve seen this year. On top of that were the crazy, suspenseful interviews woven between the chapters. This was one of those books that I prolonged reading because I didn’t want to be finished with it. In fact, I’m still kind of sad that it’s over.
3) Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by K.G. Campbell (Review / Rating: 10/10)

This is my first middle grade book to make the cut (and it’s number 3!) I do mix in middle grade with YA because I kind of consider them on the younger spectrum of the YA audience (and I consider New Adult on the older spectrum of the YA audience). This is another one of those books that I have just not been able to shut up about it. I have recommended it over and over again, and I’ve only just finished it. Thinking about the story now is making me laugh out loud. How many books do you know that can make you laugh just thinking about them? It was a great story, with fantastic characters, and some pure amazing humor.
4) Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (Review / Rating: 10/10)

I have never had two different books written by the same author on my top 10 list before. This was my first Rainbow Rowell book. I remember finishing this book, and going “Wow. I hope this author keeps writing.” Thankfully, I did not have long to wait for her next book. I got Fangirl at BEA, where I remember the publishers speaking at an event and saying, “You think you love Rainbow Rowell now, after Eleanor and Park. You don’t even know. Wait till you read Fangirl.” The publishers were right, of course. This book is number four, whereas the other is number one. However, this book is so fantastic too and I absolutely cannot think of one bad thing to say about it. It’s hands down my favorite YA romance of the year. And it had to be on my list too.
5) Poison by Bridget Zinn (Review / Rating: 10/10)

This was my favorite fantasy book of the year. I was craving a great fantasy read after my contemporary binge, and I got one. This is another book that had me laughing out loud right away. It had over-the-top humor, an amazing, kick-butt main character, magic, a tracking pig, princesses, poison masters, and non-stop adventures. What more can you ask for? 
6) This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales (Review / Rating: 10/10)

This book gave me goose bumps. It was such a strong, powerful story that seriously took on the topic of bullying. It was loaded with great music. There was also some romance, some family drama, and plenty of growing up. It’s the coming of age story of someone who above all else needs to fit in somewhere. And this is definitely a book that you will have a hard time leaving. It sticks with you. Every now and then something happens that keeps me thinking about it. I have recommended this one all over the place too.
7) The Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare (Review / Rating: 10/10)

There were a lot of series endings this year too. This was my favorite ending. I rarely feel this happy at the end of a series. And I particularly have loved this prequel series. I liked it even more than I liked Clare’s original series. There was just something magical about this underworld/Victorian/steam punk/supernatural London setting. The characters, the triangles, the mystery, and the suspense in these books didn’t hurt either. And for once I remember being extremely happy with the epilogue at the end too. Here’s hoping her other series has a great ending too…
8) The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey (Review / Rating: 10/10)

I remember thinking this book was so much more intense than the summary made it seem. Sometimes book summaries come off as super cheesy and if it weren’t for the increasing supply of good reviews, I don’t think I would have read it. But, I’m so glad I did. I loved this main character. She was strong like all dystopian main characters, but she was also so real –she had memories and realistic problems and I remember just relating to her completely. This may have also been the scariest book for me this year. Some of it was legit terrifying, and I’m dying for the next installment.
9) The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (Review / Rating: 10/10)

Maggie Stiefvater has magical writing super powers. She has the ability to get you lost in her words like almost no other YA writer today. She got me to like characters I thought I’d never like. And more than that she got me to care for characters like I would close friends. I literally felt like I was catching up with old friends when reading this sequel. Her characters are beyond real; they’re people you’re close to. And this book had everything in it: magic, family drama, humor, love, supernatural elements, adventure, mystery, and friendship. And behind everything is this overwhelming dark background where you know things won’t end well, but you can’t stop reading because it’s just too good to ever stop.
10) The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen (Review / Rating: 10/10)

This is one of my favorite Sarah Dessen books so far. I’ve been reading Sarah Dessen since before I went to high school. Her books are kind of the quintessential summer books for me. Summer isn’t really summer without the beach and a Dessen novel. And while I’m extremely different from most of Dessen’s main characters, I always manage to relate to them on some level, particularly this main character. I love that she was willing to give her dad a chance after such disappointment from him. And I love that there was finally a romance that wasn’t about finding your soul mate in high school. It was more about realizing that life is full of many roads, boys, decisions, and changes and it’s okay to not have everything go exactly as you thought they would.
Honorable Mention 1: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terril (Review / Rating: 9/10)

This was a book that totally took me by surprise. I was not expecting this level of violence and suspense. I remember being the edge of my seat for my entire reading of this one. Between the humungous twists, the time travel, the saving the world, and the crazy characters, this was definitely a book that needed to be mentioned on my list. I hope to see more by this author.
Honorable mention 2: Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan (Review / Rating: 10/10)

This was my favorite sequel of the year. The first one was my number one favorite book of 2012. Brennan has the character writing skills of Stiefvater. But add in some humor and a bit of ridiculousness and you get my friends from these books. The sizzling romance doesn’t hurt either. This book was loaded with drama and supernatural plot devices. But more than that is the overall amazing gothic writing style of a writer that sometimes just puts me in awe. Some of the best YA dialog and certainly some of the best YA dark humor I have read are in here too.
Honorable Mention 3: Requiem by Lauren Oliver (Review / Rating: 10/10)

This was another fantastic series ending. People seemed to have mixed reactions to how things ended, but I absolutely loved this series end. One of my favorite things about Lauren Oliver was that I never knew what she would write next. I couldn’t call everything a head of time in these books, and this was just so refreshingly amazing. On the other hand, you had no idea who would survive (kind of like watching The Walking Dead). This last book was just so spot-on for how I think dystopias should end. Oliver is another writer to inspire goose bumps.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Prettiest book covers giveaway!

There have been a lot of great book covers this year. Tomorrow, I’ll post my to ten YA books of 2013. But Today, I wanted to talk about my favorite book covers. These are my top five favorite YA book covers for books that came out in 2013:

1)These Broken Stars
by Amie Kaufman And Meagan Spooner
2)Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts
3)This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
4)The Elite by Kiera Cass
5)Across a Star-swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

To celebrate pretty covers, I am giving away my top two favorites: These Broken Stars (one of my favorite books of 2013) and Tumble and Fall (a book I still haven’t read yet):

This giveaway is for US FOLLOWERS ONLY. I am giving away 2 books I already own, and can’t afford to ship internationally. Though, I will have another giveaway for all my followers soon. There will be one winner. And the winner has 48 hours to respond to my email before I will choose a different winner.

Happy New Year! And good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by K.G. Campbell

Summary from Goodreads:
Holy unanticipated occurrences! A cynic meets an unlikely superhero in a genre-breaking new novel by master storyteller Kate DiCamillo. It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry—and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart. From #1 New York Times best-selling author Kate DiCamillo comes a laugh-out-loud story filled with eccentric, endearing characters and featuring an exciting new format—a novel interspersed with comic-style graphic sequences and full-page illustrations, all rendered in black-and-white by up-and-coming artist K.G. Campbell.
Sometimes it takes a few reminders for to me to read someone’s recommendation. I actually first learned about this book at BEA when I attended an author session with this author. It sounded funny at the time, but I guess I was more interested in hearing what DiCamillo had to say about her books that I had already read. Still, something stuck with me about this book, because I pre-ordered it for my library. I had all the good intentions of reading it eventually, but then I forgot about these intentions until a coworker picked it up and told me I absolutely couldn’t leave work without checking it out.
So, I did. And wow. This is a phenomenal middle grade book! I absolutely loved it. I loved the main character, who refers to herself as a cynic. Though, I think she sees herself as a cynic in large part because of her over the top mother, who is a professional romance novel writer. I found it hilarious that the mother didn’t qualify what Flora was reading as literature. Flora is obsessed with a particular comic book.
And this comic book not only brings forth an extensive vocabulary for our young main character, but it teaches her so many other wonderful things about survival, about creativity, and about dreams.
Any way, the book is mostly about Ulysses, a squirrel that gets accidentally vacuumed up by a neighbor. After his removal from the vacuum, it is discovered that he has super powers. He’s super strong, he can fly, he can understand humans, and best of all he can write (poetry)! Not everyone sees the squirrel as a superhero, and while Flora becomes skilled at convincing some people what the squirrel is capable of, there are others who appear to by more cynical than the cynic.
In the background of the comedic super her story is some more serious stuff about divorce, homesickness, and abandonment. And while this stuff is there, it in no shape or form ever overshadows the jokes about squirrel poetry, attacking cats, giant donuts, ugly lamps, and horsehair sofas. I was literally laughing out loud throughout my entire reading experience. Even the characters were laughing out loud for long periods of time.
This book is loaded with interesting characters who each add their own element to the story. Flora is just so smart and loyal to her super hero squirrel that you can’t help but love her. Between the poetry-reciting neighbors, the father who introduces himself every few minutes, the romance writing mother, the boy who pretends to be blind as a result of a traumatic experience he won’t talk about, the mean waitress, the evil cat, and a scary experience in the woods, this book was never dull.
Most of the book reads as a normal narrative, but pieces of it are told in graphic novel/comic book style illustrations. And I’m not sure what had me laughing more: the words or all the images of the bald squirrel (a lot of his fur was vacuumed up) typing on a typewriter and flying after enemies.
I don’t want to say too much more because part of this book’s magic was in its surprises. Just know it’s so creative. There’s a lot of emphasis on the power and importance of words. There’s plenty of humor and amazing characters. I recommend this one to middle grade fans. I recommend it to YA fans. I recommend it graphic novel fans. And I pretty much think anyone who picks this up, would like it. It so gets a 10/10 from me.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally

Summary from Goodreads:
They’re from two different worlds.

He lives in the estate house, and she spends most of her time in the stables helping her father train horses. In fact, Savannah has always been much more comfortable around horses than boys. Especially boys like Jack Goodwin—cocky, popular and completely out of her league. She knows the rules: no mixing between the staff and the Goodwin family. But Jack has no such boundaries.

With her dream of becoming a horse jockey, Savannah isn’t exactly one to follow the rules either. She’s not going to let someone tell her a girl isn’t tough enough to race. Sure, it’s dangerous. Then again, so is dating Jack…
So, I have a Miranda Kenneally addiction. I have read all of her books this year. And now I almost don’t know what to do with myself. I have to wait a long time for more. This wasn’t my favorite of her books, but I did still super enjoy it. If anything, it was nostalgic for me in that it reminded me of a show I was once obsessed with. Don’t judge me, but it very much reminded me of Wildfire (from ABC Family), and while to some people, this would sound like an insult, from me this is a compliment.
Like the star of the show, the main character here comes from very little money. She works with horses, dreams of being a jockey, and does what she can to support her family (aka: her dad, her dad’s pregnant girlfriend, and her future sister). Savannah knows that life is hard and because of her past experiences, doesn’t really ever pretend, hope, or dream for life to get much better. Her mother passed away years ago from cancer. And because her family didn’t have health insurance, her father is in incredible debt.
Savannah doesn’t even think of college as a possibility until the wealthy son of the ranch owner talks about it. She’s never been in love. And all she really wants to do and knows she likes to do is hang out and exercise horses. I like that Jack kind of inspires her to want more for herself. And I like that she refuses to have anything less than a relationship with Jack, even though she is like dying to touch him all the time.
Family is so important in this book and it was interesting to see both Savannah and Jack willing to give up so much of their happiness and themselves to help their families. It was a little weird to see Savannah’s father act so anti-college at first. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a parent respond to further schooling that way. But, I guess in this situation it made sense. I also liked seeing Savannah make friends at her new school and learn not to jump to conclusions about people, no matter what they looked like or what the rumors said.
Kenneally’s main characters always have something to learn about making assumptions about people. And I like this element to what I’m now seeing as her formula for good contemporaries. I also really liked the relationships of the side characters who worked for Jack’s family. There’s a lot of quirky jokes about Jack learning laundry. And it was fun to see all the differences between Jack’s world and Savannah’s.
Why was this one not quite as good as the others? I almost found it a little too formulaic. I like that her other books always had something that surprised me a little bit. They all had some deeper element to them that surprised me. And this book just wasn’t very deep. It was her fluffiest story so far. And fluffy isn’t always a bad thing. I did like the show Wildfire, remember?  I just guess I was expecting a little bit more. I know what this author is capable of and this wasn’t quite up to par with the previous one for me.
I did read this in one sitting. It is by far the least religious of the books (which was nice too). The characters were fantastic. The romance was sizzling. There’s lots of horses and racing, which added a lot of suspense to the story. I just don’t think it had quite as much depth as Kenneally’s other works. I give it an 8/10.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Magic Under Stone by Jaclyn Dolamore

Summary from Goodreads:
For star-crossed lovers Nimira and Erris, there can be no happily ever after until Erris is freed from the clockwork form in which his soul is trapped. And so they go in search of the sorcerer Ordorio Valdana, hoping he will know how to grant Erris real life again. When they learn that Valdana has mysteriously vanished, it's not long before Nimira decides to take matters into her own hands—and begins to study the sorcerer's spell books in secret. Yet even as she begins to understand the power and limitations of sorcery, it becomes clear that freeing Erris will bring danger—if not out-and-out war—as factions within the faerie world are prepared to stop at nothing to prevent him from regaining the throne.
I really enjoyed the first book in the series, and I wanted to see how Nim and Erris would work in this sequel. I also wanted to learn more about the political turmoil of the world and see if some of my many questions would be answered.
I am so glad that I did not give up on this author because she finally, in this sequel, relinquished a little world building. In her previous books, I always felt like so much was left out of the setting. And this was particularly hard for me because the worlds Dolamore creates are always so fascinating.  It’s like going out to dinner with someone who orders dessert, but specifically does not order two spoons –and then only budges and lets you taste the cake after much persuasion. But that one tiny smidgen of chocolate does nothing to satisfy your dessert appetite that you didn’t even know was there.
But finally, with this book, I felt like I had my half of the dessert. I got to know characters I wished I got to know better in the first book (like the not-so-crazy wife that was locked away). I had a lot of questions answered. I also was finally able to learn more about Erris’ family and the people now ruling the fairy court. And I also finally got to see how a relationship between a girl and an automaton could work.
The relationship pretty much didn’t work. Erris was always upset. He was upset about his family. He was upset to make Nim wind him every day. He didn’t want to need so much help. He wanted to spend a lot of time being alone and sad and nostalgic. And Nim, because of this, felt not wanted. And while their relationship was rather disappointing for me because I was hoping for more sizzle, it was also kind of refreshing to see a YA romance have serious flaws.  It was like a real relationship. I was shipping for the relationship to work and for Nim to talk some sense into the depressed Erris, but it was kind of nice seeing them have to work so hard for it to work.
I also loved Ifra, a new character! On top of the eminent war, the fairy feuds, the automaton story, the magic spells, and the annoying new fairy niece, there’s also the addition of Ifra, the genie’s story. Ifra’s life seemed so horrible. He had to do what others wished and was eternally bound to people who made him do terrible things, like commit murder.
I was not so interested in the spoiled niece character (who of course falls in love with the genie). I feel like the spoiled younger sibling/cousin/niece character is really overdone. And I know I’ve mentioned this before, so I won’t go too much into it. But seriously, can authors use a different stereotype character? I find this one so stale and annoying.
I like that it’s Nim that has to do all the saving. I love that Nim learns magic. And I love Nim’s strong female friends who help her accomplish what needs to happen. I found the similarities between a cursed fairy and a genie to be so interesting. And I really think Ifra added to the overall magic of this world. I also loved all the letters. Nim has kept in touch with characters from the previous book, and I loved seeing how everyone was doing.
The ending didn’t quite make sense to me. I’m glad certain things ended they way they did. However, I just don’t feel like the way things resolved made sense.  A certain evil  character has one short conversation with the genie (that wasn’t really that  important sounding), and then changes his mind about all he’s worked his whole life to do…It was a little too convenient to be plausible. And I think what bothered me the most about it was that it seemed like a cop out, like the author just got tired of writing and decided she needed to come to an ending much sooner than could possibly happen if any action occurred at the end. A lot more could have happened at the end that would have made this story unbelievably good. Instead, it just kind of ended after this not-very-believable conclusion of sorts.
I love what the author finally accomplished with her world building. I loved reading about the struggles between Erris and Nim, making their whole romance seem so much more real. I loved the girl power in this one. I loved the new characters (minus the annoying niece), and the return of the old characters. I wish Erris were a little more likeable. And the ending was kind of terrible. There was a lot of build up for something that we never got to see. I give it an 8/10.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (75)

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 Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong (4/8/14):

Description on Goodreads:
In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.
Why I’m Waiting:
I am a huge Kelley Armstrong fan. Not only have I been reading her books for years, but I have also been getting reluctant readers into her books for years! She’s has such a great ability to write all things supernatural. And I love how she always combines so many paranormal elements to the things she writes. She tends to write strong, kick butt girl main characters too, which always helps. And I can’t wait to read a new series with new characters and new kinds of magic. Also, I’d probably purchase any YA with her name on it at this point.
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg

Summary (from Goodreads):
From the fantastic author of The Lonely Hearts Club and Prom & Prejudice comes a story of all the drama and comedy of four friends who grow into themselves at a performing arts high school.

Emme, Sophie, Ethan, and Carter are seniors at a performing arts school, getting ready for their Senior Showcase recital, where the pressure is on to appeal to colleges, dance academies, and professionals in show business. For Sophie, a singer, it's been great to be friends with Emme, who composes songs for her, and to date Carter, soap opera heartthrob who gets plenty of press coverage. Emme and Ethan have been in a band together through all four years of school, but wonder if they could be more than just friends and bandmates. Carter has been acting since he was a baby, and isn't sure how to admit that he'd rather paint than perform. The Senior Showcase is going to make or break each of the four, in a funny, touching, spectacular finale that only Elizabeth Eulberg could perform.
This is my first Elizabeth Eulberg book. I have heard/read wonderful things both about her writing and about her as a person. I have been reading a lot of YA contemporaries lately. And I’ve been noticing a trend: a lot of them end with an important lesson learned. And pretty much all of the ones I’ve read recently end with if not the happiest ending ever, at least an ending loaded with closure.
And sometimes that’s what I want to read. I like people getting closure, even though this not necessarily realistic. And I certainly am not one to complain about a happy ending. I just kind of think the best YA contemporaries are the ones that do this “lesson learned” thing without being too preachy and or too cliché. And while I super enjoyed reading Take a Bow, I kind of found it to be rather cliché.
I did read it in one sitting (pretty much 2 hours, this morning). So I was into the story. It was dramatastic. And I wanted to see who would end up with who. And who would get into the senior showcase. And who would get into Julliard. And Eulberg definitely has the drama thing in the bag!
I also loved getting to see the competitive side of high school. I feel like pretty much all of the other YA contemporaries that deal with competition in high school, either involve competition in something supernatural, something athletic, or something about snagging a guy. I don’t really recall ever reading about students competing artistically or even academically, which is kind of sad. Because not all competition happens on the track, or the football field, or in the locker room. My classmates and I were rather competitive academically (granted I was in an honors program), but still. It’s nice seeing a different kind of competition in YA.
That being said, all the lessons learned in this book about which friends you can trust, being confident in yourself, listening to those who care about you, etc. are all things I have read about a million and one times, and I was kind of hoping to see different kinds of problems with this different kind of competition and setting. And if I couldn’t get different problems, then I’d at least expect different ways of handling, solving, and even experiencing the problems than what I have seen before. But nothing was really that different.
The most redeemable character is Emme, the one character that doesn’t seem to be hurting anyone else, yet nothing about her surprised me. I felt like I already met her before. She was kind of like a mixture of Julia Stiles in Save the Last Dance, Bella in Twilight, the main character in Coyote Ugly, and a bunch of different main characters by Sarah Dessen combined. I wanted to like Ethan because he mostly was a good friend. But, I never really got over his cheating on his last girlfriend so many times. And he was not as redeemable to me as he should have been. Sophie is evil incarnate and I kind of wanted her to have more closure than she did. If every other character is already getting their life lessons out of the way at the same time, and resolving things, couldn’t the bad character have learned something too? I’d like it to be all or nothing, I guess. Couldn’t she have taken something away from the past year?
I actually think my favorite character was Carter, the ex-star. I loved that he finally realized that the reason he was so unhappy was because of himself, and no one else. I think his lesson was the most unique out of the four. And I love how he came to this conclusion with the help of one decent person, Emme.
The drama was addictive. The setting was lots of fun. The competition was intense and refreshing in a way. The characters and the problems were a little too cliché for my tastes. And I think the book could have been a lot stronger with more interesting characters like Carter. This gets a 7/10.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Poison by Bridget Zinn

Summary (from Goodreads):
Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she’s the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.
So, I knew reading a book with this as its tagline: “Can she save the kingdom with a piglet?” could go one of two ways. Either it would be silly and unique or utterly cheesy and terrible. Thankfully, it was the first one. This book shocked me in its humor.
I seriously don’t think I have laughed this hard in a YA novel since the last Louise Rennison book (which at least I know about and can prepare ahead of time to never read in public, and embarrass myself). This little gem came with me to work, to read during lunch and I was laughing out lout in front of librarians, who thankfully, just wanted to know what I was reading.
I don’t really recall laughing this much in a fantasy book ever, with the exceptions of Princess Bride and Stardust. This book had a lot of absurd, embarrassing, hilarious moments that really added so much more voice to an otherwise rather formulaic plot. Though, I loved the formulaic plot too. Sometimes a girl just wants to read about another girl saving a kingdom.
I also loved the piglet! Apparently there’s certain special pigs that can be used for tracking people. And Kyra puts the pig to use immediately in finding the princess she needs to kill. And while at first having an extra mouth to feed is a hindrance on Kyra’s plans, she comes to slowly love her tracking pig.
I like that the book treated potion making like science. It was not really considered magic; it was a science that people (with no magical ability) could train to do, and it was a respected and difficult field to go into. And of course, Kyra is the only girl. And on top of that she is the kingdom’s foremost expert in her field. Kyra is smart, brave, and fast on her feet, which is handy when the whole world is out to get you.
I liked that nothing was simple with the princess. Kyra’s memories of her friend made the princess become a real person. And made the whole story/situation that much harder to take. I also found how characters viewed witches and those born with magical talent, very interesting. There’s witches, magical creatures, giant dogs, piglets, gypsies, thieves, potioners, and a million chase scenes.
I loved that nothing was as it seemed. So many key characters were pretending to be other people, and this added to the overall humorous absurdity. I absolutely just couldn’t stop laughing when I read about Kyra meeting the new love interest for the first time. I can’t write it down and ruin it. It was just so unbelievably hilarious, and I wish I was reading that scene at home and not in front of coworkers, but what can you do?
I’m glad this book is a Stand Alone, and I can add it to my challenge for the year, but I’m also sad that there won’t be more. And the saddest thing of all was reading the author bio at the back and realizing that this genius writer passed away, so there won’t be any more wonderful stories to look forward to. I am so glad though that I came across this. YA is definitely a genre that needs more laughs. Add the laughs to a strong, kick-butt main character, a funny love interest, an anti-wedding princess, scary evil spells, great characters, a magical world, and a well developed plot and you get one pretty remarkable novel. This gets a 10/10.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Good Week in Books (64)

I did a little Amazon shopping this week. I was craving the newest Miranda Kenneally book. Also, I need a certain sequel and a certain last book in a series.  And there was a little bit of a sale going on…I also received one for review (thank you, Hyperion).

Racing Savannah
by Miranda Kenneally
Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King
Rogue by Gina Damico
Deception by C.J. Redwine
The Broken Stars by Alice Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Since I already have These Broken Stars (an ARC signed by both authors), I think I’ll have a giveaway for the finished copy soon.
How was your week in books?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

Summary (from Goodreads):
Nimira is a foreign music-hall girl forced to dance for mere pennies. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing with a piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new and better life. In Parry's world, however, buried secrets are beginning to stir. Unsettling below-stairs rumors swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry's involvement with a league of sorcerers who torture fairies for sport. Then Nimira discovers the spirit of a fairy gentleman named Erris is trapped inside the clockwork automaton, waiting for someone to break his curse. The two fall into a love that seems hopeless, and breaking the curse becomes a race against time, as not just their love, but the fate of the entire magical world may be in peril.
I’ve owned this book for a long time (years), before getting to it. The story always seemed super interesting to me (steam punk, fantasy, fairies, romance, and a kind of Nutcracker-sounding element to it). Also, I love that the girl on the cover isn’t the same white girl that is on every YA book. I think what prevented me from getting to this sooner was the fact that I was not a huge fan of the author’s mermaid book (which I read a couple of years ago).
I remember not being sure if the author was dumbing herself down for a YA audience or not. Her writing style is just very abrupt, and I remember feeling a little cheated out of not getting more details about the really interesting world she created. So, I went into Magic Under Glass rather cautiously. It has been recommended to me by other bloggers, and now a co-worker/fellow librarian. And well, I tend to take both blogger and librarian book recommendations rather seriously. And I’m glad I do.
I did end up enjoying this one more than the previous book I had read. I also came to learn that I don’t think the writer is trying to sound a certain way to appeal to young readers. I just think she has a very abrupt writing style. Again, she creates this amazing world. There’s magical councils, singing shows, fancy balls, magical spells, and fairies. The story of the defeated fairy royal line made me think of Russian historyy and the missing Anastasia. The magical council (that was both very powerful and easily manipulated) made me think a little of Harry Potter. And of course the enchanted automaton had me thinking of the ballet, the Nutcracker. So many good ingredients to make a story!
I still feel a little cheated. Like, I want to know so much more about this incredible world that I was able to get in this one book. Like when did the human/fairy animosity begin? Why did so many humans agree to the wall? Why was the council so easy to manipulate? And then there’s things about the characters that I wish I knew more about. Like why does everyone think keeping a wife in an attack is an acceptable solution? Why was the wife so okay with Nim? How could that many people not know the wife was alive? And once everyone got along together toward the end, why couldn’t Hollin Parry and his wife resolve things too?
I also was not a fan of Hollin Parry. It seemed like he was always looking for more than just singers to sing along with his doll. He came off as this rich, wife shopper, who didn’t care that he was already married…And everyone was so sympathetic toward him. Like really? I also was never a Mr. Rochester fan, so I guess it would make sense for me not to like this character.
And the love Nim has for Erris kind of came out of nowhere. I don’t want to call it insta-love because it did develop over time. I just don’t see how it did. They were never truly capable of meaningful conversation because Erris couldn’t really speak. I get why Nim felt sorry for him and wanted to save him, but I’m not quire sure when this turned into being in love with him, nor even really how one can fall in love with a doll you can’t talk to or learn about in any kind of depth. Maybe if more was said between them or if Nim had more time in the house away from the wife shopper, I’d think it was a little more possible.
I think all my problems though come back to the same thing. There just wasn’t enough. I loved the world. I loved the characters (even the bad ones). I could have loved the romance. And I could have loved the story more, if there was a little more background to it. I am interested in seeing where things go in the sequel, and I do want to read the sequel to see if some of the blanks are filled in and if more depth is given to such a richly fantastical world. The author doesn’t have my favorite writing style, but I did really enjoy her story. This gets an 8/10.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Summary (from Goodreads):
It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer.

She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.
I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting with this novel. I still need to read Sepetys’ first novel (and I plan to do so soon). I guess I was ready to take in a flashy, high stakes New Orleans drama, starring the confused daughter of a prostitute. And while in some cases, that’s what this book was, in other cases, this book was so above and beyond any of my expectations.
I loved the main character. How can you not love a girl who feels most at home at a bookstore, so at home that she sleeps there as a child? She’s taken in by the owner when she’s 12! She’s given her apartment above the shop in payment for working at the store. And of course Josie is intelligent. She reads a million books and has dreams of college and a life outside the whorehouse that her mother works for, and that she cleans up at.
And while the book is layered with Cinderella type themes (Josie is even referred to as Cinderella), and Josie gets the bookstore apartment, nothing is easy or fairytale-like. So many men ask Josie when she will start lifting her skirts. There’s murders, mobs, robberies, and all of the interesting stuff I was expecting. But it’s also sad, hard, and sometimes tough to read.  And the image of New Orleans that this author paints is so powerful. She writes about the setting in a way that you wish all authors do. She’s not overly descriptive, but you just feel like you can literally see everything; it’s like you’re there in the 1950’s.
On top of all the action and Josie’s dreams are the serious mother issues. Josie is constantly picking up her mother’s messes (both literally and figuratively). She cleans her room when she leaves. She pays her debts. She tries to talk her out of sticky situations. She lies for her to her boss. She lies for her to the cops. And no matter what she does for her, she always ends up loosing. And while I can see how Josie would hope to have a better relationship with her mother, part of me just never got this part of the story. A huge, critical part of the plot happens toward the end with her mother disappointing again. And I wasn’t disappointed. As soon as Josie said something to her mom about a certain watch, I knew it would happen. And for such a smart girl, it was a little hard for me to see her so blind to her comment. How many times does her awful mother have to disappoint her, before she realizes not to tell her mom where she hides things?
On the other hand, I loved her other mother. The one she’s not related to –the madam, Willie. And I guess it says something when people genuinely seem to care for the loud, tough madam more than they ever do for Josie’s’ real mother. Willie kind of reminded me of a mixture of Sue from Glee, the adoptive mother from The Book Thief, and Mrs. Weasley from Harry Potter. She’s a tough businesswoman on the outside, but on the inside, she gives Josie birthday presents, attends her high school graduation, and does everything in her power to prevent her from becoming a prostitute. Yet, there’s this divide between Josie’s real mom and her non-related mom. Why couldn’t Josie ever go to Willie with her problems? And why would she ever lie to her about her actual mother?
There were definite mommy issues going on here. And that’s kind of what fueled the story and all of it’s mystery. But, it’s clear from the beginning who really cares for Josie and why Josie is the way she is. I loved the side characters, even the prostitutes. I loved the hearing about the bucket of items Josie would find in the mornings. I loved the side story with the murder and the mob connection. I loved the bookshop and the owners, even though one was suffering from mental illness. And most of all I loved the overwhelming sense of family you got from those around Josie. Her world was seedy; there’s spies, thieves, gambling, prostitution, and so much else, yet everyone in the French quarter looked out for each other too.
I enjoyed getting lost in this book and it’s setting. I enjoyed getting to know Josie, and I kept hoping for her to succeed, to get an acceptance letter. I did feel like the ending was a little too easy.  A certain character dies (and it’s sad) but it’s also a little convenient. It allows for other things to take off. And while I’m happy for certain happy endings, I felt like it was a little out of the blue and definitely all happened too soon. I also love the topic of this story and how Sepeteys wasn’t afraid to write it like it was for a YA audience. I have become a fan of this author’s writing ability, and I look forward to reading her other work. This gets a 9/10.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Every You, Every Me by David Levithan

Summary (from Goodreads):
In this high school-set psychological tale, a tormented teen named Evan starts to discover a series of unnerving photographs—some of which feature him. Someone is stalking him . . . messing with him . . . threatening him. Worse, ever since his best friend Ariel has been gone, he's been unable to sleep, spending night after night torturing himself for his role in her absence. And as crazy as it sounds, Evan's starting to believe it's Ariel that's behind all of this, punishing him. But the more Evan starts to unravel the mystery, the more his paranoia and insomnia amplify, and the more he starts to unravel himself. Creatively told with black-and-white photos interspersed between the text so the reader can see the photos that are so unnerving to Evan, Every You, Every Me is a one-of-a-kind departure from a one-of-a-kind author.
I was really hoping to love this one as much I loved other books by Levithan. It came highly recommended to me from a friend, so I had relatively high expectations. It just wasn’t really my thing.
The writing in it was still, as always, superb. Levithan has this super cool, flowing, almost Fight Club type stream of consciousness thing going. The whole book is told from Evan’s point of view, and it definitely reads like the mind of a teenage boy. I wasn’t sure what to think of all the words with lines through them. Eventually, I came to enjoy it. It was just Evan’s voice, his way of thinking, and his way of being who he was. I came to accept the unique writing style as part of the main character’s true voice.
I also enjoyed the photographs. It’s not often that YA books demonstrate any kind of art besides writing. The only thing I can sort of compare this to is Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The photos in this book weren’t quite as irregular and creepy; yet, they had a definite spooky factor. I also like that I wasn’t told what exactly went down with Ariel until the end. This allowed for me to have all sorts of crazy guesses. Like was she dead? Is there some supernatural haunting happening? Did Evan somehow kill her? Did she run away? Did she kill herself? All of my guesses were rather dark. The character did keep saying how much life sucked though.
I also was also super into the mystery. I needed to know what happened. I needed to know who the stalker was. And I super needed to know the main character wasn’t crazy (again with a Fight Club reference). So, I did end up reading it in one sitting. This is also due to the fact though that it’s a super short/super fast read. And well, I couldn’t sleep, and I get a lot of reading done when I can’t sleep.
So, why wasn’t it my thing? I never really liked any of the characters that much. I never got to know any of the characters. I was never sure if I could trust the main character, and when I finally learned what happened, I never actually felt that much empathy for anyone because I never grew to like them. I was also kind of hoping there’d be a different conclusion.
I particularly didn’t come to know, like or understand the girl. I get that mysterious is a particularly alluring quality to guys, but she never seemed that mysterious to me. She just seemed kind of damaged.
And one of the things I never really got about Looking for Alaska was the “mysterious” girl character who came off as damaged, who has the boys in love with her. And I’m not saying that I can’t like a damaged character. I’m just saying there’s something missing. There’s not enough of the character for me to see besides her mental illness to know her. And without knowing her, I never liked her.
Evan, I at least felt bad for. It sucks to have no one believe you when you are the victim. And it sucks to feel alone and feel that no one understands you. But again, I didn’t know much about Evan besides these things. And I kind of wish I had more back story on him too.
I need more character development. And I need more empathy for characters to fully get into and appreciate a book. However, I found the unique writing style to be fantastic. I also think the photographs added a darker depth to the story (and maybe more writers will start using them?). And the suspense was spot-on. I give it a 7/10.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (74)

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 Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins (4/8/14):

Description from Goodreads:
Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him--and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.
Why I’m Waiting:
I have been waiting for this author to come out with more books! I absolutely adored the Hex Hall series. And I super enjoyed her spin-off. And now, there is something completely new and I am more than excited for it’s release. The book sounds like something right up my alley. And I know there will be humor, romance, and magic. Also, despite a lame-o cover, I’d probably buy any book written by this author.
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Things I can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally

Summary (from Goodreads):
Companion to Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker.

Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt--with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy…
I have officially jumped on to the Miranda Kenneally bandwagon. Seriously, I didn’t think the writer could get any better after Stealing Parker, but she did. And this is the most religious book yet. For starters, this is no book about a girl athlete. Though, the main character does enjoying running more than I ever will (and did used to play soccer before she damaged her knee). This book is kind of more about religion than anything else, and I still found it be wonderful.
The main character was probably even harder for me to like than Parker initially was. This main character is a member of Parker’s “evil” church, except for her, the church is not, nor ever has been evil or wrong. She is such a devout believer in her church that she refuses to go to the counselor sleepovers at the beginning of each week of the over night camp she works in. She feels strongly that boys shouldn’t sleep in the same room as girls.
She views fraternities as cesspools of sin. She judges everyone (from how short certain shorts are to whether or not someone will most likely be going to hell for certain behavior). And it’s so hard to like a main character who has so much judgment. Though, I came to love her nearly in the beginning. Not because of what she thinks of people, or how her church brought her up to behave, but for what she does for a friend.
Kate was supposed to be a councilor with her best friend, Emily. But Emily, even though she went to the same church as Kate, and used to have many of the same ideals, changed. She slept with her boyfriend of 3 years, got pregnant, and then asked for Kate’s help in getting an abortion. And Kate makes it known throughout the whole book what she thinks about abortion. And what she thinks about pre-marital sex. But, the reason why I couldn’t help but like her any way, is the fact that she helped her friend do something she really didn’t believe in herself.
Yes, she and Emily aren’t even on speaking terms for practically the whole book. And yes, Kate hates herself for helping her friend –thinking about the baby who could have been. But, she still helped her.
While a huge component of the book is Kate falling in love, and Kate getting to the point where she’s thinking about sex, and feeling so guilty for all the things she told her best friend. Another huge component of the book is the battle between doing what you think is right and doing what might be right for someone else.
I think Kate would have reconciled with her friend a lot earlier if it were not for the fact that her friend was doubting her faith. Emily seemed to loose faith when her parents kicked her out of the house, forcing her to get multiple jobs to be able to go to college.  A lot of this has to do with the church that was so mean to Parker too.
And while the book takes place at an overnight camp, and there’s plenty of happy things like songs on guitars, dates to Chili’s, declarations of love, and new friendships (with Parker and Will!), there’s this undercurrent of guilt that Kate constantly places on herself. She blames herself for the abortion –thinking if she didn’t take Emily to the clinic, it wouldn’t have happened.
I loved watching Kate fall in love and begin to understand Emily more and more. I loved watching her learn to accept people’s differences. She and Parker seemed such unlikely friends, but they balanced each other out. Their friendship allowed for Kate to see herself differently. She grows to stand up for herself. She becomes confident in who she is and what she believes. But she also grows to get that not everyone sees things the same way as she does, and this doesn’t make them any less right.
I like that there was actually something in YA that dealt with abortion. There are so many YA books and movies and shows that deal with teen pregnancy, but I have never read or seen anything where the teen girl actually goes through with an abortion. I like that this book went to a place I haven’t seen anything else for teens go. And I liked that it was serious, with serious consequences, and that it affected a lot of people. I think what I liked the most though was the overall message that everyone is different and one person’s truth isn’t everyone else’s, and that is okay. And how can I not like a book for dealing with faith, when Kate can’t not like someone for seeing things exactly how sees them?
I also super loved the author’s acknowledgements page at the end, and I felt such a need to share this:
“With this story, I want to show you (teenagers) that your beliefs matter –no matter who you are or where you come from. Your opinions matter. You matter. To me, nothing was scarier than understanding that my truth wasn’t everyone else’s truth. It took a while, but I discovered that’s okay –it’s better if I do things I want to do and believe what I want to believe. I hope you find your truth.”
This so gets a 10/10 from me.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hover by Melissa West

Summary (from Goodreads):
On Earth, seventeen-year-old Ari Alexander was taught to never peek, but if she hopes to survive life on her new planet, Loge, her eyes must never shut. Because Zeus will do anything to save the Ancients from their dying planet, and he has a plan.

Thousands of humans crossed over to Loge after a poisonous neurotoxin released into Earth's atmosphere, nearly killing them. They sought refuge in hopes of finding a new life, but what they became were slaves, built to wage war against their home planet. That is, unless Ari and Jackson can stop them. But on Loge, nothing is as it seems...and no one can be trusted.
I loved the first book, Gravity. And after that ending, I was highly anticipating this sequel. I knew it would take place on a different planet (the planet of the people Ari has been training her whole life to fight). And I was excited to see it. Also, I was super interested in seeing how things would go down with Jackson.
I kind of wish I actually got to see and learn more about the aliens and their planet. I kept getting glimpses from Ari’s new training as a soldier for her “enemy.” And there were so any interesting aspects. I loved the healers and I wish I got to know them better. I loved the way the alien society was divided by people’s skills –kind of like a the factions of Divergent mixed with a communist society, with a fascist dictator.  But, again, I felt like the world building was minimal –and I never truly feel like I got to see it.
The love story improved drastically. I love that it took a very long time for Ari to forgive Jackson. And because she didn’t jump right back into the into the insta-love romance with him, she was able to learn more about him as a person. She was able to see similarities they shared and differences that bugged her like crazy. And I fee like she actually had time to get to know him, which I wish she did in the first book, but still, it was nice to see.
The bad guy was pretty bad. He beat up his own mother, routinely. He enslaved humans that were supposed to be rescued. He was planning on setting up other humans to work as a shield against the humans of earth. He killed people with pleasure, in public. And he really had it in for Jackson. There’s death, torture, rebellion, and so many kick-butt dystopian elements. I literally couldn’t put the book down. I kept wanting Ari to rebel. I kept shipping her and Jackson. And I seriously wanted Zeus, the evil dictator, to go down.
I think I liked the first book more though, despite it’s insta-love. I liked the world-building in the first book. And I liked the sci-fi elements. For some reason, this book felt less sci-fi and more dystopian, even though it takes place on another planet…I guess it could all go back to the lack of world-builing here. There was so much about the planet that I never learned and never got to see. And I understand some of this is intentional and maybe there will be more on this in book 3, but still. I really think a little more sci-fi world building would have made me like this book more than book 1. Because the plot in this one has definitely been intensified since book 1.
All in all though, this book was suspenseful, fun, rebellious, and full of some sizzling YA romance. I give it a 7/10. And I am looking forward to book 3.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally

Summary (from Goodreads):
Red-hot author Miranda Kenneally hits one out of the park in this return to Catching Jordan's Hundred Oaks High.

Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?
I’ve been having a bit of a reading binge…I really want to hit my goal for the year, and I kind of read two books in a row yesterday. Needless to say though, it is so easy to binge-read when you’re reading Miranda Kenneally.
It took me a while to read her stuff because despite a lot of positive reviews, the religious backdrop for all of the stories was a little off-putting for me. I’m not saying I won’t read books with religion in them (it would be impossible to do this); it’s just a lot of times these books make me feel uncomfortable, or preached to, and I really like to read for fun and for escape, and not for over-the-top lessons or high moral purposes, which can sometimes happen.
However, I love reading about powerful girl main characters who aren’t afraid to do things, like play football with guys or star in softball games. And I did enjoy Kenneally’s first book Catching Jordan. So, I put some stuff aside, and dived into Kenneally’s other work. And I am so glad I did. Her books aren’t about religion so much as they are about growing up and believing in yourself.
And this book didn’t actually paint the church, or at least Parker’s church in the best light. Parker’s mom left her family (to be with a woman), and Parker’s church pretty much treated Parker and her family terribly because of this. Parker’s best friends (from school and church) left her when she needed them most. Apparently the church Parker went to, taught everyone that it’s not good to spend time with sinners.
And poor Parker then has to deal with the rumors that she is just like her mom. And her sort of over-the-top rebellious response to this is to give up a sport she loves to play, loose weight, and make out with almost any boy that wants to. She’d rather be known as a slut, then a lesbian.
And while it took me a while to like Parker because she seemed to agree with her church about her mother –she refused to speak with her at all after she left– I grew to love her because she is so capable of learning and loving despite all the pain she’s been through.
And of course, I eventually learn that she’s not really mad at her mother for being gay, but she’s mad at her for leaving. And while I didn’t agree with any of Parker’s coping mechanisms, particularly the one that involved hooking up with a teacher (!), it still all rang as true for me. I could see a teen girl resorting to this. And Parker is so genuinely a good person. The more I read, the more I kept hoping for her to realize things and get healthier.
Despite her evil church, she doesn’t loose faith. She just finds another church –one that accepts people’s differences instead of punishing people for them. And despite how mean her old friends are to her, she never really does anything mean back to them. Part of her feels she deserves what she’s getting because it’s like how can so many people (so many people who she’s spent her whole life with) all be wrong, and her (just one person) be right? And while you see Parker at these all time lows, you also see her slowly climb back to herself. She gets to know a friend of her best friend better. And she starts to see that she can be herself again.
This book dealt with some serious stuff. There’s a lot about homosexuality (with her mom and a friend), there’s inappropriate relationships, there’s faith and there’s doubt, there’s bullying, and there’s love. And throughout it all, I never felt preached to. I never felt like the book was telling me to believe a certain way. Instead, it really seemed as though the author was saying: everyone believes differently and that is okay. It was more about believing in yourself. And I loved this.
I loved watching Parker grow as a person. I loved her relationship to baseball and her relationship with her friends. I loved how she was there for her friend who came out of the closet, even though she was going through a rough patch with her mom’s situation. I loved her growing relationship with Will. This was just such a fun feel-good book that covered a lot of issues, and I loved every second of it. It gets a 10/10 from me.