The Ward by Jordana Frankel| Book Review

The Ward by Jordana FrankelBook Title/Author: The Ward by Jordana Frankel
Publisher/Year
: Katherine Tegen Books – April 30th 2013
Genre: YA Dystopian — I don’t know quite how to categorize it.
Series: Yes — it’s the first book in a series.
Other Books From Author: None.

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I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

 

Manhattan has been washed out and street racer Ren lives in the Ward, the part that still remains of the underwater city, and risks her life racing to make money to take care of her sister Aven who suffers from the Blight — a horrible disease that came about because of pollution for which there is no cure. When the government asks Ren to go on a mission to find freshwater she puts herself in danger at the prospect of having more money to take care of Aven but what she finds is beyond what she could have ever imagined initially and pulls her into a mystery that could have a significant impact but deadly consequences for her.

This was one of my most anticipated books for the season because of the interesting premise, but I have to be honest, I was overall very disappointed and frustrated with this book. It had SO MUCH POTENTIAL but I spent the majority of the time either confused or frustrated or skimming over parts due to the world building and  the way some things were written — which was really sad because I was so excited and some good friends LOVED it. Within the first 100 pages I was ready to put it down because it wasn’t doing anything for me but I kept going and eventually I was hooked on the storyline and wanting to find out what the heck was going on but I was still weighed down with the same problems the whole way through.

One of the biggest problems for me was that I just couldn’t picture the world at all which is pretty rare for me. I go to NYC frequently so in my head I constructed what I thought an underwater city would look like but there were paragraphs of descriptions and I just really had a hard time SEEING it. There were also times that I just could not envision a specific scene, like a racing scene or an action scene, and it just completely drew me out of the action a lot of times because I felt frustrated that I couldn’t follow along with what was going on. I would read over paragraphs and literally have no clue what happened or feel like I missed something and then I’d read over it again but still felt lost. This is not a problem I typically have — the writing just felt kind of shaky and scenes felt kind of jumbly to me.

The other issue I had was that I didn’t understand the world. I’m a patient reader so I know I’m not going to GET a world right away and I’m good at suspending disbelief but the world building just lacked for me. We got once sentence of WHAT happened that made NYC under water and a little bit of explanation for what the Blight was but that was about it. I couldn’t understand WHY people were still living there if the city flooded? I kept thinking that people wouldn’t be inhabiting this place if something like this really happened so I couldn’t understand the circumstances in which people were living here still and I didn’t see any explanation in the text. I felt frustrated with a lot of questions that didn’t get answered. Part of that could be because maybe they became irrelevant to the plot? I think I expected more of a post apocalyptic sort of novel where we’d get a good sense the world but instead we were plunked into the story in a world with little explanation. I think we aren’t super far into the future but then I see a reference to 2054 and then I see references to boundaries and things that are supposed to be States and they aren’t like our world but we aren’t given any insight to why things were different now. What happened? I could buy it if I understood any of it. There was just A LOT there and little foundation.

Obviously I kept reading  because the plot did really start to get good and I just wanted to know ALL OF THE THINGS. There were some great twists  and a total magical sort of element that I didn’t see coming at all. There were betrayals and secrets and I was genuinely interested because it all became very entertaining. I loved that Ren was badass and a fearless racer with all the guys. I liked her enough and rooted for her and sometimes she made me laugh.  Other times she really bothered me but overall she was a good character. I loved how she cared so much for her “sister.”

 

While action-packed and thrilling with a really fresh and unique world, The Ward by Jordana Frankel unfortunately ended up just not doing it for me. It had a lot of potential but the world-building didn’t live up to what I imagined and the writing seemed kind of shaky and jumbled making A LOT of scenes hard to visualize and made the setting not quite as interesting as it could have been. I’m really sad about this because I was SO looking forward to it and many friends really enjoyed it but, unfortunately for me, the problems I had with it pulled me out of the story A LOT and I often felt frustrated or confused which severely put a damper on my enjoyment of the plot which really went in some interesting directions and kept me furiously turning the pages at points.  I probably will not be reading the sequel unless I hear that the things that bothered me got better because, like I said, the story DID interest me enough.

 

The Ward by Jordana Frankel review

 

Don’t just listen to my opinion! My friend Alexa said The Ward by Jordanna Frankel was “a pretty fantastic debut novel” and Rachel recommends it as well!

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one??  Heard of it?  If you’ve read it, did you enjoy it? Was I just the only one who could not visualize a lot of scenes that happened or the setting in general? I mean, I honestly would read paragraphs 2 or 3 times and still not feel totally clear and that is NOT USUAL for me. What did you think of the more magical twist that came up in the novel? I initially was not down with it but then it became interesting.

Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Out of the EasyBook Title/Author: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Publisher/Year
: Philomel Books – February 2013
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Series: NO!
Other Books From Author: Between Shades of Gray

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I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

It’s New Orleans in the 1950’s and Josie desperately wants to get out of the Big Easy and away from the lingering black cloud of her mother’s reputation of being a prostitute at the local brothel that is run by the infamous Willie Woodley and has basically been a second home to Josie. As she works hard at the bookstore and cleaning up the brothel after nights of debauchery, she dreams and devises her plans to get out until a wealthy man, who makes an impression on Josie, is found murdered and foul play is suspected. Unable to let it go, Josie tries to figure out what happened to this man and  finds herself caught in the underbelly of the Big Easy and at risk of losing her dreams of going to college and hurting the ones she loves.

Ok. You know how much I rave about Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys but after reading Out of the Easy I can officially declare that she is one of my favorite historical fiction authors ever! I will read anything she writes. Out of the Easy, like Between Shades of Grey, had that easy and smooth transportable quality to it. I’ve never been to NOLA but Ruta so easily makes me feel like I’m ambling around the French Quarter in the 1950’s. I just love the way she is able pull back the curtain to allow me to peer into this life I’ve never experienced — whether I’m in Siberia starved to death or trying to grow up in the French Quarter with your mother’s reputation like a lingering cloud above your head.

The best thing about Out of the Easy,  obviously besides Ruta’s storytelling abilities, is the characters.  Gosh I just loved so many of them! I feel like  I haven’t read a book in a while where I felt like the majority of characters, upon closing the book, were just clamoring to get out and linger in my heart a while longer. She writes those kind of hearts-are-beating, blood-flowing-through-the-veins characters that are just so alive. And the baddies? Well they are of the blood boiling variety. You hate them with a fierce passion (her mom and Cincinnati mostly) and, I don’t know about you, but I got this intense desire to pistol whip them.  WHERE DID  THAT COME FROM? Those mobsters wore off on me apparently. I just loved Josie and her determination to get out of the French Quarter and not become like her  mother. She was noble and genuine, a little rough around the edges in all the right places, and so many things broke my heart in this story because of my complete love for her. I love Willie and her “nieces”, Cokie (oh that man!), Patrick and Charlie and sweet Jesse. Oh I just love all these characters so hard. They created this beautiful little family and I felt like I was apart of it when my heart would ache with the heartbreaking parts and soar during the heartwarming parts. My heart was basically on fire.

My only complaint was that at times the plot dawdled for me. This is definitely more of a character driven novel and I loved that but at certain points I just wasn’t really sure where the book was going and there were just a lot of threads of story there and some just seemed to sort of come undone for me — like a stray, wispy piece of hair coming out of my ponytail.  I will say that if you are looking for the emotional  gut punch of Between Shades of Grey, Out of Easy isn’t that. In Between Shades of Grey, I felt everything with intensity and felt like I learned about a heartbreaking history I never knew and I felt changed. It’s more subtle with Out of the Easy — I can’t say I really saw a piece of history that took me by surprise — but the characters and their stories just creep up on you until you find yourself choking back a surge of emotion at times.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys was a fantastic story that I’ve anticipated for a while — little bit of mystery, little bit of romance, mother-daughter issues and the struggle of a girl to reach for her dreams even if they might seem impossible. Don’t come looking for the sort of gut punching emotion you may have experienced in BSAG but be prepared to fall in love with some amazing characters and be immersed into their lives slowly but surely and emotions will make their way into your throat before you even realize your choking them back. It’s hard to talk about the plot because sometimes I felt like I was doing that stutter-step “which way are you walking” dance you do when people are walking towards you because I just felt the plot was meandering a bit but Ruta pulled it together nicely at the end to make me not care about that. And really, the characters drove this story for me.  It’s a great story and I’m so glad to have experienced it.

 

For Fans  Of: YA historical fiction for sure, character driven novels where you have to remind yourself that the characters are not real, a darn good story that isn’t always LOUD and action-y

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Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? If you’ve read it what did you think? How much did you LOVE THE CHARACTERS?? Who was your favorite? Did anyone else feel like the plot was going in a few different directions? Curious to if you prefer BSAG or Out of the Easy? They were just two totally different experiences for me as I said above!

The Ruining by Anna Collomore

The Ruining by Anna Collomore - YA new release 2013Book Title/Author: The Ruining by Anna Collomore
Publisher/Release Date
: Razorbill – February 7th 2013
Genre: YA Thriller
Series: No
Other Books From Author: None — The Ruining is her debut title.

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I received this from Penguin in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

 

Annie can’t wait to leave home after she graduates high school — there’s too many things that haunt her there. She’s lined up a nanny job with a picture perfect family across the country where she’ll also attend her freshman year of college. Immediately she gets along great with the Cohens and she absolutely adores the wife, Libby, who seems like a sister to her. It doesn’t stay perfect for long — Libby starts snapping on her and accusing her of things she knows she didn’t do (like staring flirtatiously at her husband). The job becomes more demanding and Libby seems to go from hot to cold easily and Annie finds her privacy suddenly stripped away when the door is taken away because Libby thinks it’s broken and needs to be repaired. Annie finds herself struggling to keep up and on Libby’s good side but has a hard time staying afloat as she becomes more and more suspicious of Libby and also haunted by her past.

I have beyond complicated thoughts right now about The Ruining. My whole brain is just feeling like it’s in a post night out drinking haze where I’m like “How did I get into bed with my shoes still on, the key still in the door and why did I call Pizza Hut 50 times?” My brain is just reaaaaaching to find some clarity here so I can tell you about this book and my thoughts on it but the book was complicated. It’s complicated further by the fact that I can’t say TOO much or I will spoil it for you because it’s the kind of book that really relies on the element of the MindWTFery…like most psychological thriller type books.

The first 50-75% of this books was flipping fantastic for me! I was intrigued by Annie’s new life as a nanny and immediately I kept getting little pricks of “something isn’t right here!” within this picture perfect family and giddily awaited the potential MindWTFery. As the story progresses, my mind went into overdrive trying to figure out if the things that were happening in the story were real or if Annie was  crazy. I pretty much changed my theory every chapter as things escalated. Sometimes I thought Libby was a psycho and then other times Annie’s reactions to things were so extreme and then I would feel all suspicious of the family again….all to sit there and think, “I really have no idea because at the end of the day Annie seems like she could be a pretty unreliable narrator and now I feel crazy because I’m in her head.” The suspense was perfect and clever because you never felt completely sure what was going on and things just got crazier and crazier.

The part that really keeps from me RAVING, in the way I thought I would as I breezed through the first 75% of The Ruining, was the ending! It was a huge letdown. Friends, I am a HUGE lover of a good mind-you-know-what. I relish in them and am a psychological thriller junkie. And normally I never see it coming. And remember all those theories I told you I came up with? There were some I never wavered from because I felt so strongly about them and, honestly, a lot of them seemed so obvious. I kind of figured I would be wrong about them. But then unfortunately I was right about all of them. Admittedly, I DO guess things in books and movies but it’s quite rare in a really good psychological thriller that I do. I walk away stunned with the ending and my head spinning and this was not the case.

But not only did the actual ENDING let me down but the way the ending WAS just killed the mood. Through the first part of this book I was very on edge and feeling everything — that tension of truth and not truth was intense. But then the ending and the revelations were just so dull, rushed and anti-climactic. It wrapped up so quickly and without much oomph ( I wish I could explain more but I don’t want to give it away). Revelations were just sort of told rather than experienced and I kept thinking, “that’s all?” all the way up until the end. Resolutions happen very behind the scenes and we aren’t a part of it like we were in the beginning. I get WHY because of what’s happened to Annie but it just, for me personally, was a let down to how Anna Collomore had me feeling before.

Random but this also reminded me of a movie or something that I CANNOT for the life of me think of!

My feelings on The Ruining are so complicated. I very much enjoyed the ride of feeling like I couldn’t tell what was real or who was the crazy one in this story. I knew SOMETHING wasn’t right. The tension was perfect that I flew through. But then the ending…the execution and the conclusion of that last quarter of the book were just such a let down for me that I can’t really rave about this book as much as I would have had it stayed on par with what I came to expect or would have hoped for it. I’m a huge fan of the MindWTFery and maybe because I’ve read and watched so much of those psychologically jarring books/movies that I was hoping for something more WOW. It was pretty much the most obvious things and the storytelling  became dull compared to how fantastic it was before. If you are new to psychological thriller type books, I’d say you might like it compared to someone who has read a lot of them.

 

For Fans  Of: psychological type thrillers, MindWTFery, suspense, books dealing with mental illness, people who don’t mind a bit of predictability

Get Another Opinion: The Quiet Concert loved & gave it four stars!

The Ruining by Anna Collomore

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Did you enjoy it/not enjoy it? Heard of it? If you have read it, did you find that your theories were right in the end? And what did you think about Owen? Because honestly he seemed charming but towards the end I was getting some controlling vibes. ALSO, have any of you ever been loving a book but then the end of the book is a complete let down for you?  Anybody have any good psychological thriller recs? I’m talking Fight Club-ish. :)

Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

7488244Book Title/Author: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Publisher/Year
: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Paranormal
Series: Yes, Unearthly is book 1.
Other Books From Author:  Hallowed (Book 2) & Boundless (book 3 — out tomorrow!)

Amazon| Goodreads | @cynthiahand |

I purchased this at a Dark Days tour!

 

 

 

 

 

As Clara’s teenage year ushered in the normal teenage issues, for her, she also learned that she’s actually an angel blood — half human, half angel — as is her mother and brother. Being half angel means that she’s fully human but she’s got some superhuman abilities and the angel blood in her can manifest certain angel characteristics such as being able to fly or having her “glory” manifest. She also learns that while she’s here on earth she’ll start to learn her purpose through a series of visions. When she finally gets a vision of a boy and a fire, the family picks up and moves to Jackson Hole, Wyoming where they believe to be the location of her visions. She starts school and comes face to face with the boy from her visions — Christian — and she starts to get to know him better and tries to figure out her purpose and what he has to do with it. She knows that Christian is her purpose but she gets distracted when cute cowboy Tucker comes into the picture as Clara is awaiting the day when the scene from her visions will come true. Will she be able to fulfill her purpose? Or will her own free will get in the way?

 

 

Ok, guys. You know me. I’m picky with paranormal and rarely read it so I was a little bit nervous about this one because ANGELS? I was skeptical to say the least AND the dreaded love triangle signals were there for me with all the TEAM TUCKER or TEAM CHRISTIAN declarations I’d see in reference to this series. And you know my feelings on love triangles. They have to be really well done for me to enjoy them! All that being said, I’m happy to report that I devoured and LOVED Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly! I’d definitely say it’s one of my favorite paranormal YA’s that I’ve read and I’m just not sure any other Angel series will ever top this one.

I will say that starting out I was really nervous because it was reading a wee bit young for me (as a 27 year old woman) and, though I was enjoying the story from the start, I was getting nervous about some of the borderline eyerolly descriptions of how a guy smelled or how someone’s hair looked or how she described the social statuses at school with things like “Haves” and “Have Nots.” I was nervous that it was just going to be a book full of these kinds of cliches but thankfully it was not like that AT ALL! The story really shook those things off early on and became this intense must-read-in-a-single-sitting kind of read that I was wholly absorbed and invested in invested in the characters and especially Clara’s purpose. The angelology was so interesting and I loved as we learned more and more about the angel world through what Clara knows and then putting the pieces together even more, right alongside Clara, through Angela and Clara’s mother. I thought Cynthia Hand’s storytelling was incredible and she really knows how to place tension, action, twists and BIG OL’ SHOCKERS while still having really great characterizations and worldbuilding. Very evenly paced sort of book and the WOW moments are of the heart thumping variety.

Let me tell you how much I loved Clara! It was so refreshing to read a book where the female was the paranormal/supernatural one rather than chasing around some OMG-SO-HOT character just because “there’s something different about him.” She was strong and independent and such a realistic teen girl with her crushes and insecurities. I loved watching her grow in both her angel abilities and as a human and I just REALLY loved her.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ROMANCE. I know you all are just sitting here like “OMG TUCKER OR CHRISTIAN ALREADY??” The dreaded love triangle ended up one of the BEST EVER and I’ll hint towards the fact it gets even better in Hallowed. It’s so WELL DONE that I can’t stop gushing about it. Both Tucker and Christian are fully fleshed out characters — none of that cardboard crap — and they are both genuinely great catches — no douchenuggets here! The love triangle isn’t superfluous and it is so interconnected to the story. I saw an image once that said “if you took the love triangle out of THG you’d have a story about a televised fight to the death and if you took the love triangle out of Twilight you’d have a book about a girl moving to a town where it rains a lot” and this is SO SO TRUE. Cynthia Hand provides a love triangle that isn’t just THERE and is so important to the story that you really couldn’t take it out but if you did you’d still have an actual story. Both Christian and Tucker make sense. Christian’s the guy from her vision and he’s a good guy so naturally she starts crushing on him and then moves to more powerful feelings because of how interconnected her destiny is with him. And Tucker’s the guy who clearly is crushing on her despite his school boy teasings and whom she really gets to know through conversation and hanging out and then falls for him. He’s the one she falls for freely and naturally. It’s this amazing tension of this destiny and fate versus the free will and Tucker and Christian so aptly help illuminate this struggle.

So the answer to your question: I’m Team Tucker though by the end of Unearthly Cynthia throws that CURVEBALL at you that made me start wavering a bit at who would be better for her and make the most sense. I love his rugged cowboy appeal and his heart and his hardworking nature. I love the scenes where they are swimming in the river or fishing on the boat — just so sweet and carefree and lovely. AND THE BARN SCENE. OH THE BARN SCENE.

With gorgeous Wyoming as a backdrop, Cynthia Hand will mesmerize you with her irresistible story of angels, love, destiny and free will. The angel world she’s built is fascinating as we grow into Clara’s knowledge of the angel world, her powers and what her visions mean and how she will handle her purpose. Hand knows how to create tension, amongst incredible characterization, and you’ll find yourself wanting to finish this all in one gulp and she delivers jaw dropping moments at the right moment. With one of the best love triangles ever, Unearthly left me swooning, re-reading the sweet moments and ultimately, by the end, wavering with if I was Team Christian or Team Tucker. Romantic tension in the best way!

 

For Fans  Of: BETTER angel books, swoonworthy boys, kissing books, paranormal without all the dramatic and annoying cliches, a love triangle that doesn’t make you want to jump off a cliff

unearthly-cynthia-hand

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? Are you Team Tucker or Team Christian?? Let it all out!!

 

Before I Blogged I Read: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

There’s a lot of books I read before I started this blog in June of 2010 and I figured it might be fun to spotlight those! They won’t be an actual review because OMG YOU GUYS THAT WAS SO LONG AGO but I’ll just note a few things about it, if I enjoyed it and what my Goodreads rating was. So thus “Before I Blogged I Read…” was born. Because you know…I’m so original with my names for things.

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The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

(Amazon | Goodreads )
Rating: I gave it 3.5 stars on Goodreads

1. It’s an adult book — general fiction, I guess you would say, but definitely leans towards a mystery. The main character receives a letter from a very famous author in England. She’s a secretive recluse who always tells tall tales to journalists who want to write about her and she’s asked the main character, who owns a book store and writes amateur biographies,  to write her biography. She agrees to, after being intrigued by one of her novels she has at her shop, and spends her days with the eccentric author and learns some very dark things of her past. Very twisty and turny!

2. I remember really enjoying it and, though it started slow, the suspense started to build and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and I had so many different ideas in my head for how it was going to end but TOTALLY not what I thought. I also recall it being rather dark!

3. It has a very Gothic feel to it and was very atmospheric in that way.  Definitely recommend for fans of Bronte and Austen!

4. Definitely one of those books about people who love books as the main character is a bibliophile.

I definitely am now in the mood to re-read it because I can’t remember specific details and it’s killing me! haha

Have any of you read this one? Did you like it/not like it? Can you recommend any other really great Gothic feeling literature that I might also like? Let me know if you like this new series or not!

Review: Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook

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Book Title/Author: Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook
Publisher/Year
: HarperTeen January 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: Nope!
Other Books From Author: None — debut!

Amazon| Goodreads | @kristinhalbrook |

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 Zoe and Will have seen their fair share of hard knocks — more than the average teenager. Zoe’s mom passed away and she lives with her alcoholic father who  hits her. Will has been bounced around  from foster home to foster home and is constantly in trouble. Will convinces Zoe to run off with them  so they can get away from their lives and start a new future together. The two head out of town, high on their love for one  another, and find themselves not prepared for what lies ahead when they are on the run from the police & their past. 

UGH I am sad times infinity that I have to write this review. This was one of my most anticipated books of 2013 (a Bonnie & Clyde story — heck yes!) and I was so happy when it showed up in my mailbox but, unfortunately, this book just didn’t do much for me personally.

The good?  I welcomed a book about different characters — no girl next doors, popular cheerleaders, shy and gorgeous girls who don’t know  how amazing they are or bad boys who really aren’t that bad, the popular stud,  etc. etc.  The characters of Nobody But Us are two teens who have seen their share of hard times and their relationship seems to be, to them, that one bright spot at the moment. Zoe lived with her alcoholic father who has abused her and Will has jumped around in foster care — they are both genuinely broken, a bit damaged and so very vulnerable. Will wants to save Zoe and take her out of this situation but his tendency to explode and use violence against others in the story makes Zoe a little bit fearful of him sometimes.  These weren’t cookie cutter characters by any means. I really rather liked Zoe — her POV was my favorite because some of the things she thought were really so wise & beautiful but I struggled with why she made such dumb decisions when it came to Will. I wanted for her to speak up more and to see how unhealthy their relationship was.

I was also kind of skeptical of the whole “Bonnie  & Clyde” reference because I thought maybe the storyline would wimp out a little bit but OH NO they become outlaws very literally. They get into some crazy situations complete with high speed chases & stolen money. There was a lot of action for sure in this book that made it pretty quickly to read. So I was at least happy that it wasn’t watered down on the “on the run” storyline. It was drama central in this book — bad decision after bad decision tumbling into one another until the very dramatic conclusion that I didn’t expect at all but I think  I was ok with.

However, I expected something incredibly heartwrenching & would require a bucket for my tears (I mean, they compared it to If I Stay and, well, Kleenex stayed in business because I read and loved that book) but I just cared too little and when I did start to care a little bit about them as individuals it was too late — and for the romance — never hit a point where I cared.  I felt like the whole time I KNEW the reaction I was supposed to be having to this “tragic romance” and story but I never really found myself feeling it in a REAL, in-the-depths-of -my-soul kind of way. It was like the time I dated this boy I should have been excited about dating because I crushed on him forever but when I dated him I just felt like I was going through the motions and pretending I felt things that I knew I should have felt; that I knew he felt. That’s how I felt about this book. I KNEW the characters and their story should have pulled at my heart and I should have felt indescribable pain to my heart during parts of this story but I only felt little pricks of sadness and tragedy — mostly at the ending. Also, like my issues with Pushing The Limits, I found their love very eyerolly to me and, in this case, very unhealthy.

I think I was supposed to be rooting for the romance? (I wasn’t)  I don’t know? As the reader, we see this is a really dumb series of bad decisions that they are making. WE know that. We know that this is all very risky and that their relationship is unhealthy and that it’s not going to end well. I even felt like Zoe did know what they were doing was dumb, because she really was so smart, but I don’t know why she just went along with it — I guess because she loved him that much?. A lot of what they did was irrational and stupid but was I supposed to be gentle with my judgement in that because we all know that as teenagers we make crazy, rash decisions that are very emotional based? I mean,  I think a lot of their actions and their crazy, exacerbated feelings for one another were part of being so young and in love but I just felt so confused if I was supposed to identify with it or feel sad because of how tragic it all was, etc. I just think my heart was supposed to be somewhere it wasn’t in this novel.

I think a lot of people will enjoy this novel, I do, but I just wasn’t one of them. I welcomed different characters who truly had seen the  hard knocks in life, I enjoyed the dramatic, wild ride that we were taken on but, in a novel where it seemed so integral to connect with the characters and FEEL something about their tragic love, I just wasn’t there. I mean, I had high expectations considering it was compared to If I Stay by Gayle Forman but I just never found my heart in this novel — just little pricks of sadness and tragedy; mostly at the end. I didn’t ever feel anything for the romance  nor root for them (though I’m still unsure if we were meant to or if we were just supposed to feel a sense of tragic  love destined to fail but still root for a happy outcome anyways).

For Fans Of: Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry (which I loved the story for WAY more despite not LOVING this book like others did), Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, books with bad boys, complicated romances, books with troubled  characters

 

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Review: The Darlings Are Forever by Melissa Kantor

Book Title/Author: The Darlings Are  Forever by Melissa Kantor
Publisher/Year
: Hyperion 2011
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: Yes — The Darlings In Love
Other Books From Author: If I Have A Wicked Stepmother, Where Is My Prince?, The Breakup Bible, The Amanda  Project, Girlfriend Material, Confessions of a Not It Girl

Amazon| Goodreads | Melissa Katnor’s Website |

I checked this out from my wonderful library. LIBRARIES ARE COOL, y’all!

 

 

Jane, Victoria and Natalya have always be best friends — they do everything together and have been through everything together. They’ve always had one another by their side through the years at their tiny private school so the girls are nervous as they begin 9th grade at different high schools without each other in Manhattan. They vow to still be as close as they’ve always been and not grow apart but as they begin to navigate their new lives they struggle with balancing their friendships plus all the new things life has thrown at them. Jane feels the pressure of trying to land a leading role at her performing arts high school and figure out a crush she shouldn’t have.  Natalya lands herself a spot at an extremely prestigious school with some of the wealthiest families but she tries to fit in with the popular girls without letting on that she’s a scholarship student and not actually rich. Victoria tries to blend in at her new private school — which is hard to do with her dad running for office & her sister’s legacy at school. As the girls navigate boys, peer pressure, fitting in and making friends, they realize trying to keep the closeness of the Darlings in tact is harder than they realized.

I don’t know about you all but sometimes I just wander the library and pick up something I’ve never heard of and give it a try. I picked this one up on a whim, thought it sounded fun and cute and checked this baby out! What a pleasant surprise this was! It was very reminiscent of The Sisterhood of The Traveling pants in that it was a very friendship oriented book (YAY!) with romance and general high school pressures weaved in. It was cute and fun and not really over the top — lots of realistic situations and a little bit of drama (especially with a dad who is in the political spotlight and one of them who is falling for a teacher sort of figure — I’ve totally had a crush on a younger teacher in high school. LISTEN, his ass looked mighty fine in those Banana Republic pants he wore). I can’t say it was particularly a standout or a favorite but it satisfied my need for something fun and light as I’d been reading lots of darker type stuff that weighed heavy on my mind.

It definitely was a bit of a younger novel being that they are starting out their 9th grade year so I’d keep that in mind for you older readers. However, I really enjoyed reading about each of the girl’s transitions into their new high school lives and the issues they faced. I really loved their friendship and rooted for them to stop taking each other forgranted and figure out how to balance their friendship and their new friends and love interests. To be honest, I really enjoyed watching them grow on their own and have to be courageous and bold without one another. I really loved Victoria’s storyline the most I think — but a lot of that was how sweet her romance was!

I had mentioned how this book made me want to find a close-knit group of girlfriends and it’s true — the loveliness of their friendship and how they worked through all the changes in their lives made me want to go all “GIRL POWER”! Speaking as a girl who has had a hard time keeping relationships with my gal pals, it was such a wonderful story to read as they come to terms with their changing lives and try to find out where their former besties still fit in. Such a relatable plot! And I LOVED how the girls were always trying to reach out and do things that they were afraid of doing and I feel like that’s such a good message no matter what age you are! It’s easy to let fear take over and continue to do the same things because you feel complacent. They had a motto they said but I can’t recall what it was and unfortunately the book is back at the library!

 

 

The Darlings Are Forever was such a fun book about friendship, growing up and living boldly despite how much things scare you. Definitely a great book if you love books about enduring friendships between a VERY close group of young girls — a la Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I loved the ups and downs of the girl’s life in New York City as they try to navigate through their new high schools without each other while they face many normal pressures! A pinch of drama, some cute romances and a big feeling of girl power made this such a fun read!  It felt a little young to me at times, being that I AM 27 years old, but it was still totally fun and I would think that younger readers of YA would LOVE this one especially! Won’t say it was a favorite but it was the kind of fun, light read I needed! Definitely recommend to younger YA readers!

 

For Fans Of: The Sisterhood of the Traveling pants-esque stories, books about friendship, cute & fun reads with not too much angst

The Darlings series Melissa Katnor

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? Which girl did you like to follow the most? Did YOU have a close knit group of girl friends/or do you still? Any other good friendship type books you’ve read and enjoyed?

Review: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Book Title/Author: Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Publisher/Year
: Dutton Juvenile – January 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: Yes — Just One Year is out Fall 2013
Other Books From Author: If I Stay, Where She Went, Sister’s in Sanity, You Can’t Get There from Here: A Year on the Fringes of a Shrinking World

Amazon| Goodreads | @gayleforman

I received this from Penguin who was generous enough to provide me with a review copy in an exchange for an honest review. As always, this did this not sway my opinions in any way. Pinky promise!

 

As part of her graduation present, Allyson Healy and her best friend are spending a few weeks on tour in Europe. By taking one little risk, she ends up meeting Willem, an actor in a fun, underground Shakespeare troupe, who intrigues her with his free spirit and passion. By saying yes and taking a chance on spontaneity as Lulu, her more adventurous self, she finds herself having a life-changing day in Paris with Willem — who she discovers has disappeared without a goodbye. She returns home heartbroken and with questions about what that day meant and becomes determined to figure out who she is and escape the predictable little box she feels trapped in.

Oh Lord. Gayle Forman. You know my insane love for her books If I Stay & Where She Went so naturally this was one of my most anticipated reads for 2013. I tried to approach reading Just One Day as if it was written by somebody else because, you know, it’s hard not to fangirl automatically for your favorite author. But, alas, I could not do that because the things that make a Gayle Forman book, well, a Gayle Forman book, just crept up as I was reading. It’s the little pitter patters in my heart she is able to create or the fact that by the next page she is able to slice and dice my heart and makes it hurt so real.

Exhibit A:

It’s the amazing characters that you just want to spend more time with and care so much about (and oh my goodness — the minor characters are fab — Dee, Giant, etc). It’s the ability to make me feel every emotion so vividly. So, suffice it to say, this book was nothing short of amazing! I can’t say whether or not I liked it more/less than If I Stay/Where She Went because they make me feel something entirely different for different reasons but it is 100% what makes Gayle’s books my favorites. THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITES EVER!!

This story was amazing — one of the best stories of self discovery that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. I just relished in the details and the little moments that happened throughout their day and could relate as someone with an adventurous spirit. The day just sounded perfect and I think that’s what made a certain part even more excruciating.  The spark between those two was something special and magical to me. Willem, like Adam in If I Stay/Where She Went says the simplest of things that just make my heart melt.

Exhibit B (Oh my heart !)

And yes, the travel was delightful, the romance was super swoony but I really enjoyed watching Allyson figure out her way to being the self that incorporated the parts of “Lulu” that she loved after she returned from Paris. I LOVED that this wasn’t a quick transformation — it was little pieces and Gayle Forman used the utmost even pacing — and it wasn’t about finding herself for the sake of the boy though he made a lasting impression on her & still held answers for her. It was one single day, of doing something extraordinary, that helped her eyes be open to what COULD be — that she wasn’t okay with just being content and doing what was always expected. It was some of the best introspection I’ve read it a while and her journey of self discovery was one that hit home for me — a lot of things that have been weighing heavy on me lately were things that Allyson was thinking through. I have to be honest when I say it’s the type of novel that made me want to be a little more bold and say yes more often. It made me realize I’d made some right decisions that I was scared were wrong. So I really felt invested in Allyson’s journey because I really felt it — as I’m sure it will resonate with most readers in a way. I just know that personally these are some similar things I’ve been dealing with and talking about with my husband.

And the ending! Oh the ending! The Mayans better not be right because I NEED to read Just One Year!

 


Just One Day was one of the best books I’ve read this year and has even more secured Gayle Forman as one of my all time favorite authors. Just One Day made me feel a multitude of feelings — in the same way If I Stay/Where She Went made me! It’s everything I wanted and hoped for the moment I heard about this book — the travel was to die for, the adventures stirred up an insatiable want for my own adventure, the romance just made my heart pitter patter yet simultaneous burst out of my chest and Allyson’s story of self-discovery was honestly one I just really needed to read right now. Introspective and full of feelings, Just One Day will no doubt be another win for those previously familiar with her work and will take hostage those who’ve never had the pleasure of reading a Gayle Forman novel. Prepare your hearts, friends.

 

For Fans Of: Gayle Forman (obviously), amazing character development, feeling ALL OF THE FEELINGS, traveling stories, books with older protags (college aged what uppp), books that must might make you think, straight up amazing contemporary YA

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it (I’m sure you have!!)? What did you think if you have read it? Did you feel all of the feelings???

Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Tiger Lily By Jodi Lynn AndersonBook Title/Author: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Publisher/Year
: HarperTeen 2012
Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairytale Retelling
Series: No.
Other Books From Author: Peaches series, Loser/Queen, May Bird series

Amazon| Goodreads | @jodilynna

 

 

 

We all know the Disney version of Peter Pan with Wendy, Tinkerbell, the lost boys, Captain Hook. It’s a favorite! Tiger Lily is basically a prequel to the story of Peter & Wendy that we know and revolves around Tiger Lily — Peter Pan’s first love. Told from the perspective of Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily gives us the story of how Peter Pan and Tiger Lily meet and how they fall in love in the face of an impending marriage to the town jerk, dangerous enemies on the island and the arrival of the English girl Wendy Darling.

This was perhaps one of the most unexpected reads of the year and possibly one of the most underrated. I honestly was so surprised by it. I read it during a majorly huge reading slump 2 months before the wedding & I just was so surprised by how moved I was by this.  I thought it was cool that it focused on Tiger Lily, a character I never got a sense of in the Disney movie, and I was just expecting a cute little retelling that was swoony and fun. I wasn’t expecting to feel ALL OF THE FEELINGS. I’m just saying…by the ending I was a hot mess. Seriously, there was gut-wrenching sobby feelings that stung deep down. Whew, I’m getting all emotional thinking about it and it’s been a couple of months since I read it.

I’ll say that it was slow moving in the beginning but I quickly found myself diving right in and wanting to know what happens to Tiger Lily and Peter Pan and the story was just so beautiful and magically told. Unlike jumping into most stories without having any previous knowledge of the world, most of us are familiar with Neverland and the basics of the story but Jodi Lynn Anderson makes you rediscover the allure & magic in Neverland but makes it a bit darker of a story and a world than we know. I just thought Neverland became even more of a real place in my mind and I rather like the visual Jodi Lynn Anderson created compared to my memories of the movie’s version of Neverland. I’ll say I didn’t understand a little bit of the whys to who didn’t age and who did and how all that worked but I was so swept up in the story and the romantical tension that I was like WHATEVER IT’S MAGIC.

And the way the characters are written? JUST WOW. Tiger Lily was a character who my heart just broke for and I just wanted to hug her. Peter Pan and the Lost Boys were just as broken as I’ve always thought them to be and Jodi Lynn Anderson really brought that out for me and I got a deeper sense of their brokenness. I thought Tinkerbell was interesting and I thought it was cool to have her as the narrator as she observes everything that goes down. Sometimes it was kind of confusing because I didn’t understand how Tinkerbell knew  what Tiger Lily was thinking sometimes and some of those deeper emotions I felt from Tiger Lily I was surprised that I could get that from not being directly in Tiger Lily’s brain! OH AND TIGER LILY’S DAD IS AWESOME!

 


Tiger Lily was such an overwhelmingly moving book that I didn’t see coming at all! I couldn’t believe that I had tears running down my face by the end and my heart felt like someone had taken a hacksaw to it. What a gem this book was for me! I was just expecting a fun retelling but it really was much more of a magical, bittersweet and deeply emotional story for me. Definitely an underrated book that came out this year! It takes a little bit to get into at first but I couldn’t believe how incredibly invested I was by the end.

 

For Fans Of: Fairytale Retellings, Peter Pan, love stories that move you, magical stories

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think if you have read it? Did you feel your heart being ripped out toward the end? WHAT ABOUT DURING THE LETTER??? I’m new to retellings so please give me some other recommendations for fairytale retellings!

Review: Skinny by Donna Cooner

Book Title/Author: Skinny by Donna Cooner

Publisher/Year: Scholastic 2012
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: No.
Other Books From Author: The World God Made (children’s picture book)

Amazon| Goodreads |Donna Cooner’s Website

 

 

 

Ever is a fifteen year old girl who weighs over 300 pounds. She’s the girl who can’t fit in the desk at school or who can hear her thighs rubbing together. She already knows what everybody thinks of her — her dad, his wife, her stepsisters, the kids at school and her childhood crush — because of the voice, Skinny, who lives in Ever’s head telling her just how disgusted people are with her. After an incident at school Ever decides she is going to undergo gastric bypass surgery so that she can get rid of Skinny for good and become healthier, show everyone how talented of a singer she is in the school musical and get her childhood friend and crush, Chase, to look at her the same way again. The one constant who has been with her through it all has been her friend Rat who helps Ever try to change her life after the surgery.

I’m not going to lie — I didn’t know what to expect with this one but I’m so glad I read it. Even if you haven’t struggled with weight to the extent that Ever has, I feel like it’s not hard to relate to this novel. I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to connect with Ever at first but I quickly realized I could. My struggle with weight was different (I was too skinny and got made fun of for that  up until high school where I become a little more normal weight) but I still agonized over my body. Every day. I saw all the flaws. I can’t imagine what Ever must have gone through. But mostly what I most related to was that voice of Skinny inside Ever’s head. The one telling you that you weren’t smart enough, not pretty enough, not cool enough, not talented enough. It just made me really connect with Ever because I know how unwavering and unrelenting that voice can be. I was really happy I connected with her because it made me super invested in her journey.

Ever was an interesting character. You easily could feel bad for her because of how she got made fun of and because of things that happened but at the same time there were points were I didn’t at all. There were times when I just wanted to smack her and be like OMG ARE YOU BLIND?? As a reader you could see just how much “Skinny” had made her bitter and disillusioned and even selfish. You’ll feel frustrated with her sometimes but I think we all can relate to her to some degree. There were moments of definite heartbreak for me — the school assembly scene or just even the moments when she realized how much her life was going to change post-surgery. I rooted for her through it all — that she’d lose weight, that she’d get the guy, that she’d make real friends and show everyone her amazing voice. As an aside, I LOVED the characters of Rat and Briella!

Her journey — both physical and mental — after the surgery was one that I was so invested in. While it may seem like a dream come true to lose all that weight, there were a lot of things that she had to give up and it was hard. I appreciated that Skinny just didn’t “go away” — that she had to realize that as much as this process was physical it was also even MORE mental than anything. You really grow to love Ever and how she starts to reveal her true self — the one that we saw a little bit through her old memories and some of her humorous commentary. There are still moments in her journey where you know she’s not quite there mentally because she is caring too much about the physical changes and all that it has brought her. It truly was a battle and I didn’t want to put the book down. Sometimes I think it did ring a bit predictable and follow the type of teen makeover story you see in so many movies but it was super compelling nonetheless.

My one qualm with Skinny by Diana Cooner was that, while it didn’t portray this surgery as this magical and easy solution because she clearly had to work at it, I just struggled that it seemed like it was her first real solution. The book talks about how she had tried to lose weight but, to me at least, it just felt like it was some half-hearted attempts rather than really seeking some HUGE lifestyle revamp with the help of professionals and work at it consistently. Maybe that’s just me but that’s the impression I got from where she was at up until the event that led to her getting the surgery — eating bad food, eating big portions, no exercising, just really being content with herself. I wanted some other options more explored. I just don’t want teens to think that it’s the BETTER option than exercise and diet/lifestyle changes that should be really the first thing you try. Obviously that might not work for all but this is such a SERIOUS and extreme surgery so I was kind of hoping that it would talk more about the root of her issues too (obviously her grief was a large part of it & then it just spiraled into an emotional coping mechanism). Especially with her being so young.

Skinny by Donna Cooner was a really good read dealing with self image and that nagging voice inside of your head that whispers all of the things that makes you self conscious or feel like you aren’t good enough through the story of Ever — an extremely overweight teenager who undergoes gastric bypass surgery. Ever is easy to connect with in her highs and lows and I found myself easily immersed  in her journey. I do have some reservations with how she so quickly went to gastric bypass and how her situation is portrayed (explained above) but ultimately it was a really good read with a main character dealing with something that I haven’t encountered too often.

 

You May Also Like: She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb; Food, Girls & Other Things I Can’t Have by Allen Zadoff, Teenage Waistland by Lisa Pazer

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think if you have read it? Did you connect with Ever? Did you find that you wished that they would have explored her other options or address the emotional component to the reason why she became that obese like I did?

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