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.

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

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.

How My Summer Went Up In Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski | Book Review

How My Summer Went Up In FlamesBook Title/Author: How My Summer Went Up In Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Publisher/Year
: Simon Pulse – May 7, 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary/Realistic Fiction
Series: No!
Other Books From Author: None

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

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

 

Rosie finds out that her boyfriend cheats on her and then he flaunts the girl in her face. The next thing she knows her ex’s car is on fire and she’s got a restraining order and, in trying to talk to him, is facing stalking charges. Her parents decide, to keep her from getting in any more trouble before the court date, to send her on a road trip across the country with their next door neighbor Matty, the sorta geeky boy next door, and his two friends. As the miles start to grow in between her and the situation at home she’s itching to get back and fix things and win him back — at all costs.

I’m really conflicted on this one. On one hand, especially as my gym read, How My Summer Went Up in Flames was precisely what it was supposed to be — a fun summer read with some entertaining and absolute LOL moments, some romance and a road trip! I read through it pretty quickly,  it was very enjoyable and I was always excited to pick it up — as excited as one could be excited  on a treadmill. But on the other hand, there was so much about it that irked me & pulled me out of it but it seems to probably just be a ME thing from all the rave reviews I’ve seen. All of my feelings are very all over the place… a lot of “I liked this BUT at the same time I didn’t.”

There were some really awesome parts of the road trip — some fun moments and also some self discovery moments where I wanted to hug Rosie. But on the other hand, this road trip was a lot like being stuck in the car with your annoying little sibling who keeps kicking the back of your seat — it makes it a little less enjoyable. Rosie was miserable for most of this road trip because she didn’t WANT to go and was all angsty about her ex boyfriend. That was hard for me to relate to because umm ROAD TRIP? The answer is enthusiastically ALWAYS. But whatever, I could go with it. But it was hard to actually ENJOY the road trip part of it because Rosie made 75% of it miserable because of her bad attitude. I’d be into the flow of their adventure and then she would pull me right out of it. LUCKILY, the boys and a sweet girl we meet along the way more than made up for it. They kept me reading during the moments when I thought I might push Rosie out of the car if I could. I seriously LOVED the boys. They were my favorites. I was really relieved in the moments when Rosie was ENJOYING the road trip and growing.

The romance! Ok, so there were some really swoony and cute parts. There were. The tension was written very well and I was so waiting for some kissing because of all the tension. But here’s the thing…throughout the book I felt like there was some MOMENTS where it felt like she liked or felt some maybe possibly confused feelings with each one of the guys in the car which I found weird considering everything that just went down with a breakup. I can’t explain it but there were parts where maybe they were goofing off and it seemed like there was tension with one guy or she’d be like “hmm he’s really kinda cute” and made me think, “OH is she going to go for him now?” There’s one kinda more OBVIOUS guy but there were just these weird moments I can’t explain without telling you. And then there’s a guy who comes into the picture and is suddenly smitten with her as well and the whole time I was confused as to WHY because there wasn’t much through the story where we saw any reason why she was so desirable or special.

Luckily there WERE parts where I felt like Rosie shined and I was like “Yeah,  I like this girl a lot — she’s feisty and can be fun and I GET her. “  In those moments, I could see through the grumpy exterior and feel like I was getting to know who Rosie was and saw why people wanted to be friends with her — like how she talked on the phone to her dog or stood up for a friend. But, by the end, I still don’t think I quite got who she was or felt like I understood her though I feel like I was starting to.

 

Unfortunately, for me, How My Summer Went Up In Flames didn’t stand out. It had its moments and generally was entertaining and fun — the perfect type of summer read when you are craving something light that will take you no time to breeze through because it’s paced really well. I loved the secondary characters but there was a lot about the main character and her storyline that irked me and pulled me out of this romp across America. She had her moments where I was like,  “Girl, you rock!”  but never moved past that. It wasn’t that I DIDN’T like How My Summer Went Up In Flames but I just didn’t love it though I know SO many are going to not even notice the things that annoyed me. I did appreciate how realistic it was and that it wasn’t totally romance centric but it just never made me FEEL anything more than, “Ok, that was fun.” I will say that I will be picking up her next book Famous Last Words because I think she writes fun contemporaries.

 

how-my-summer-went-up-in-flames

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one??  Heard of it?  If you’ve read it, did you enjoy it? Was I the only one who was drawn out of the story for these things?

 

 

ALSO I don’t listen to a ton of country music but this song and video are HILARIOUS and Miranda is awesome and it totally reminds me of this book in ways as it talks about the “crazy” some of catch during a break up. Even a reference to matches :P

Cinder by Marissa Meyer | Book Review

Cinder by Marissa MeyerBook Title/Author: Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Publisher/Year
: Feiwel & Friends 2012
Genre: YA Science Fiction – Futuristic Fairytale Retelling
Series: Yes!
Other Books From Author: Scarlet (Book #2 Lunar Chronicles series)

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

I borrowed this from my library!

 

Set in a futuristic China where a deadly plague is devastating the population and both humans and androids co-exist, Cinder is a talented mechanic and also a cyborg pretty much indentured to her wicked stepmother and two stepsisters after her father, who saved her though she has no recollection of it, passed away from the plague.  She finds herself face to face with Prince Kai, who has just taken on a lot of responsibility and is trying to stave off a war with the Lunar People, when he requests her services to fix his android and finds herself seeing more of him and feeling some sort of spark but she can’t let him know what she is even though it seems their futures are tied together as Cinder learns more about her past.

I’m probably the last person in the world to read Marissa Meyer’s Cinder — a futuristic retelling of Cinderella complete with cyborgs, evil stepmothers and a dreamy Prince — so I don’t know that this review is going to persuade anyone to read it because y’all already have! So how about you all just rejoice with me that  I loved this book?

I love when I put off a book and ignore it because I think it’s not my thing and then I absolutely am proved wrong and quite enjoy it. That was the case here, my friends. I mean, I enjoy some science fiction and retellings and fantasy but cyborgs? Really? So not a me thing. But Marissa  Meyer makes my preconceived notions go right back out the door where they came from.  All “SEE YA..don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out, you beastly preconceived notions.” Her re-imagined story of Cinderella breathed new  and exciting life to a very beloved fairytale from my childhood but still had the bare bones Cinderella storyline that made me fall in love with the story in the first place. It was like visiting that best friend from elementary school when you are all grown up — gone is the toothy grin and the pink jellies and overalls but somewhere in that grown up exterior you can still make out that same playground playmate you spent many great years romping around with and throwing rocks at boys with. Familiar yet wholly new.

While Cinder started out a little slow for me because of my side-eying of the whole cyborg thing, I quickly grew enraptured by the world full of robots and cyborgs that living amongst humans but as second class citizens. The plague with the  unknown origins and the Lunar people from the moon were equally fascinating and kept me riveted. There was so much about the story that I just couldn’t wait to be revealed. I got a really great sense of the world though, being set in “New Bejiing” in China, I would have wished I felt that part of the setting more. The futuristic sense I got but I would have loved a little more of a sense of the Chinese culture. Beyond my love for the world, I really fell hard for Cinder’s story. It wasn’t hard to feel for her. She was a cyborg — half human and half robot — treated like crap and living with a stepmother who resented and hated her every day. You could feel her struggles to retain her humanity but that overwhelming reminder that she’s just NOT fully a human by the world’s standards was palpable. As the story progresses, her story weighs even heavier and heavier on my heart as blows are dealt and shocking revelations – -for Cinder & not so much for me — are made known and add so much more dimension to the story.

As I alluded to in the last sentence, I’ll say that I totally called almost every big revelation and twist and thought they were obvious but I didn’t find that it detracted from my overall enjoyment in this case because I don’t know that it relied on that element of shock. I kept reading with a sense of urgency to see if I was right and then, when I was, to see what the implications of that revelation would mean for Cinder.  I think these revelations, while not surprising for me, set up a lot for book 2 and I cannot wait! I also hope maybe we will learn more of the background of the Lunar people and maybe some more explanation about the cyborgs and how they became because there seemed  to be little detail in  that  and only the groundwork seemed to be laid. Despite the fact these twists and revelations weren’t a shock to me, I thought Meyer wrote it in a way where you could FEEL it so intensely along with Cinder despite any inklings you had.

And to end this ramblefest…can we talk about the characters?? What phenomenal characters! I loved Cinder obviously but Prince Kai was to die for. He was strong but still had uncertainties as he has to make big decisions that affect his people immensely. I could feel his struggle. And he was sweet. So very sweet. I loved Iko — Cinder’s robot sidekick. I smiled every time Iko was on the page. The familiar wicked stepmother and stepsisters could have been lackluster because we know those characters from the fairytale but rather I actually thought they were brought to life and felt very real to me. And OH PEONY. That is all.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer’s made me a believer in a futuristic, science fiction fairytale retelling and I can’t wait to get Scarlet from the library to continue on with this fantastical adventure and continue Cinder’s story which goes so far beyond that of the Cinderella tale. Meyer’s takes the bare bones of Cinderella and, while familiar, adds depth and dimension to it and it feels like a new story with a futuristic world where there are robots and cyborgs, evil queens from the Moon, a deadly plague with unknown origins and a heroine whose story doesn’t just end with that typical fairytale happy ending. I can’t wait for what lies ahead in Cinder’s story. While the revelations seemed pretty obvious to me, I could FEEL those bombs drop for Cinder and think the things she learns take this story into some interesting directions.


Recommends For: People who like fairytale retellings that are truly unique but pay homage to the original, futuristic stories with cyborgs and robots, a pretty fast paced read (minus the start for me)

 

Cindery Marissa Meyer review

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one??  How did you feel about it? Did you enjoy it or not so much? Was anyone else going into this one thinking it wouldn’t be for them but were pleasantly surprised? Did the revelations surprise you or did you figure them out? Does anybody else wish we really got to feel the Chinese culture a little more? I was so excited about that because it’s not a setting I encounter a lot.

Also Known As by Robin Benway | Book Review

13132661Book Title/Author: Also Known As by Robin Benway
Publisher/Year
: Bloomsbury – February 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary (with a mystery/spy twist)
Series: Unknown for now. I’ve heard that it is.
Other Books From Author: Audrey, Wait! and The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

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

 

Since Maggie has been a young girl she’s been cracking the codes to safes and picking locks as she apparently inherited the spy gene from her parents who are international spies taking down serious baddies around the world. She’s never stayed in one place for too long and has never gotten a chance to be with her peers but her latest mission sends her into the trenches of high school for her most important mission yet — a mission that relies solely on her. She must act the part of a high school student of a fancy private school in New York City while trying to get close to Jesse Oliver — the cute boy who will get her the information she needs from his dad. She must maintain her cover while navigating the foreign world of high school — meeting friends, handling classes and talking to guys — as she realizes that it’s not as easy to look at people as “just a job” when it gets personal.

 Also Known As was my latest gym read. This was a problem. Why you ask? Because pretty much the whole time I had a stupid grin on my face while reading it. Will confirmed this one day when he asked me if the book I was reading was funny because every time he looks at me I’m smirking. Also Known As, like Robin Benway’s novel Audrey, Wait!, made me smile a lot because of the snappy dialogue and a loveable cast of characters (also: the adorable romance). It was impossible for me not to smirk with this wildly entertaining teen spy story. Truly though it was a fun read whilst on the elliptical because it was incredibly fun and easy to get into — I swear I heard James Bond music in my head during some parts.

This is my first teen spy novel I’ve ever read and it was a beyond fun plot — a teenage spy has to go undercover in high school (somewhere she’s never been with her undercover, on the road life style) and integrate and hone in on her subject that she needs to get closer. That subject just happens to be a cute boy. You know the sorts of shenanigans that are bound to happen with that sort of plot and Also Known As didn’t disappoint with Maggie’s thrilling yet fun mission full of mishaps and danger. It definitely had more of a light, fun feel rather than a dangerous feel but you always knew the stakes were high for Maggie and her family.Definitely an older Spy Kids kind of feel but better!

I loved Maggie’s badassness throughout the novel but loved the way she had to assimilate into high school — a completely foreign world to her in contrast to her safe-cracking and lock-picking in cities around the world and bringing down serious baddies of the world. Before in her missions she didn’t feel any sort of human connection — she was in and she was out. With this big mission, not only was it hard to get down the whole high school thing, but she had to get to know her subject firsthand and I really loved her struggle with getting to know these people and still treating them as just a mission. You could really feel how conflicted she was as she juggled the lies and the feelings and the expectations of her parents and their bosses.

As much as you’d think this would be a fast, breakneck plot-based novel (I mean, a crimesolving teen spy), it was really driven very much by Maggie and the fabulous cast of characters. The friendship between Maggie and Roux was refreshing and Roux made the best sidekick ever. Maggie and Jesse’s complicated relationship was engaging and delightful even though you know it’s going to get messy when Jesse becomes a real person to Maggie and not just a subject. Jesse is incredibly sweet and a refreshing and, if you love the nice guys in YA, you are going to fall head over heels for Jesse. I also really loved the adults in the novel — Maggie’s parents and Angelo. I loved that it was a family affair and that their family had to learn to adjust to Maggie being a “normal” high school student for this mission.

Like Robin Benway’s Audrey, Wait!, Also Known was completely charming and fun as we watch a young spy’s transition to being a high school student for her latest mission while trying to crack the case by getting to the subject’s cute teenage son. It was a fun, crimesolving romp through high school and the city streets of the Big Apple but the shining star is Maggie and her growth and the delightful cast of characters involved. COULD NOT STOP SMIRKING while reading it on the elliptical because of the snappy dialogue, the grin-inducing situations and an adorably complicated romance. I mean, she’s a SPY and he’s the target. You know it’s going to get messy. I really enjoyed this one though I still think Audrey, Wait! is my favorite of the two I’ve read from her.

For Fans Of: teenage spy stories, snappy dialogue, a good balance of a crime-solving plot and character development, Spy Kids if they were a bit older, Veronica Mars (ok not SO like it bc nothing could ever be VMars but sort of with the witty nature and the balance of high school life and her detective life)

 You May Also Like:   The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter, The Heist Society series by Ally Carter, The Squad series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

 

Also Known As by Robin Benway

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one??  How did you feel about it? How awesome was Roux?? I think she is a new favorite secondary character. Have you read any other really good spy stories? Do you also think it could be a fun movie?

Review: Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (No Spoilers!)

13104080Book Title/Author: Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi
Publisher/Year
: HarperTeen 2013
Genre: YA Dystopian
Series: Yes, read my review of  Shatter Me — book 1 in the series!
Other Books From Author: Shatter Me (book #1 in series)

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

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

** Some spoilers for Shatter Me (book 1) may be lurking around here **

We pick up where Shatter Me leaves off and Juliette, Adam and Kenji have escaped the Reestablishment and are underground at Omega Point. Juliette is trying to learn the strength of her abilities and power and learns more about the gifts of all the other people who are at Omega Point. She realizes that the freedom isn’t all that she thought it would be and that simply loving Adam isn’t as easy as it sounds with the power that brews inside her. The Reestablishment is still reeling from Juliette’s escape and will stop at nothing to find her and silence the spirit of a resistance they’ve only heard about.

“There was too much kissing in this book.” — SAID NO ONE EVER. Seriously, Tahereh Mafi. You upped the sexy in this book. I had to fan myself quite a few times even if I didn’t always LOVE what was going on. I wish there was an award for good kissing scenes because Tahereh has a whole arsenal of them in Unravel Me that proves why she would win this award. As much as I enjoy swoon and kissing and romance, I don’t know that I’ve ever started a review out talking about the kissing nor have I devoted an entire paragraph in a review to it. But, here we are. You need to know it.

So Unravel Me. WOW. What an incredible follow-up to Shatter Me — it was sexy, daring, gripping and certainly didn’t lack in excitement.  I really enjoyed learning more about this underground resistance and watching Juliette trying to learn how to fit IN with other people and come to terms with her abilities. There are some explosive moments in this book and I was constant state of being riveted and then completely blindsided by THINGS — aka a huge twist that is a BIG deal and a certain chapter that definitely changes the course of this series.

I love the way all of these characters are written. Tahereh isn’t afraid to lift the curtain and make us see characters in a different way — even if it makes us have conflicting feelings. Juliette becomes my least favorite character in this series — she is whiny and acts stupidly sometimes and just has way too much self loathing going on…but at the end of the day I’m still rooting for her to realize her own strength and feel comfortable in her skin. I love Adam but he becomes stale for me this time around and I’m left wondering what is so special about him but I STILL LOVE HIM SO MUCH and want Juliette to be with him when she can sort her damn feelings and emotions. Kenji doesn’t really change but just becomes my ALL TIME FAVE and so incredibly awesome! And Warner…oh Warner. He is so complex. I got that feeling from Shatter Me and most of my suspicions were true in terms of there is something else within him and that he probably had a hard childhood that hardened him. I’ve never had such polarizing feelings towards a character. I will say, I am NOT a person who switched to Team Warner but I do understand him more and believe he can be redeemed but not quite on board with a romance (because ew he was her captor and he has done some beyond horrible things and is manipulative). I believe there is more to him but could not even entertain anything romantical. But HOLY EFF, Tahereh. I have never ever before seen such a passionate switch of teams by readers and an even more passionate resounding HELL NO by others.

The emotions she brings to Unravel Me just astound me — I seriously felt a myriad of things. Things I never knew I felt. It was kind of like how after you work out or do a new workout and the next day your muscles are so sore because you are using muscles you’ve neglected or barely worked out but never realized. That’s how my heart felt — these deep aches and soreness from places in my heart that have rarely seen the light of day. It’s amazing the kind of emotions I felt reading this book — sadness and aching and anger and longing and ALL THE FEELS. My heart was a volatile organ while reading this and I just always felt I was on the brink of uncertainty.

An amazing sequel to a book that captivated me from the start.  Suffice it to say — my mind is reeling and in complete and utter awe of Tahereh Mafi and everything about this series — the realness of the characters, her exquisitly unique writing style that just captivates you, the KISSING, the depth of emotions she unearths and the risks she is just willing to take. If you haven’t read Shatter Me, get on it so you can experience things that your heart might not experience every day — including being smashed to pieces, writhing in agony and possibly this polarizing feeling when it comes to the boys in this series.  I love that I could hate characters or be frustrated by them and even be opposed to the direction that the story was going but I still undoubtedly loved this book and BELIEVED it wholly.

 

 

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one??  Heard of the series?  If you’ve read it, did you enjoy it?? Are you Team Adam or Team Warner? EXPLAIN YOURSELF IF YOU ARE TEAM WARNER!! Did anyone else just fall in love with Kenji?? I OH SNAPPED when he told Juliette off basically. ALSO, did you see the REALLY BIG SHOCKING TWIST COMING?? I did not. At all.

Review: Requiem by Lauren Oliver (NO SPOILERS)

Requiem by Lauren Oliver Book Title/Author: Requiem by Lauren Oliver
Publisher/Year
: HarperTeen March 2013
Genre: Dystopian YA
Series: Yes. It is the last book in the series — Delirium is book 1 and Pandemonium is book 2.
Other Books From Author: Before I Fall, Liesel & Po, The Spindlers

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

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

Requiem picks up a few days after Pandemonium ends. Alex has joined Lena’s group and things are tense between them and with Julian and Lena struggles with her feelings and the coldness of Alex towards her. The group is in the wilds and trying to figure out where the best place for them to go next as the Wilds become more dangerous. Things are also tense between the resistance and the government and the regulators are stepping up their attempts to silence the Invalids and a fight is brewing. Requiem alternates between Lena and the dangerous Wilds and Hana who is cured, matched up and getting ready for her wedding — to the powerful mayor of Portland.

I’m almost ready to sob as I write this. This is not at all what I wanted for the ending of a beloved series that I’ve raved about. I did not want to write anything less than a glowing review. But alas, Requiem just completely was a let down for me personally. I feel like you are going to either LOVE this one or HATE it. So…let’s get into it.

There were some great things about Requiem. I loved the alternating chapters between Lena and Hana — this contrast between cured and uncured and the life within the walls and the life outside the walls in the Wilds was intriguing and just perfect. It was such a great contrast and I honestly really enjoyed Hana and her perspective and she became my favorite  to follow. The other thing? I was not sold on Julian in Pandemonium but in Requiem I just completely fell in love with him. I did. He grew and adapted to the Wilds and he was just a sweetheart. I loved getting to know him more. And as always, Lauren’s writing is exquisite. She knows how to write it all — tension (Alex and Lena..AHH. That tension was thick), tender moments and HUGE scenes where you can’t turn the page fast enough. I was happy to be back in this fascinating world that Lauren Oliver has created and snuggled in with her beautiful writing.

Let’s talk about the two things that let me down. The second one being the biggest factor.

1) The storyline of Requiem itself: I have to be honest…it took me quite a bit to get into this one. I was bored and almost put it down which was strange because I couldn’t read the first two fast enough. I guess I just expected a bit more action as we are left finishing Pandemonium feeling breathless from the events happening between the resistance and DFA. We could tell it was getting more and more tense and the air was charged with danger. You could tell something big was going to down. For the first half of this book, that feeling was lost on me. Lena and her crew are just moving around trying to find a place to go and, yes, there are THINGS that happen but I never felt that sense of OH MAN SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN until halfway through or so. The suspense and that constricting feeling in my chest because I know something big was going to happen…just NOT THERE. And Lena. I really loved her through the series but really just was bothered by her in this one. I know LOVE is a crazy thing and it doesn’t always make sense but I just don’t love how she treated Julian. That’s all I’m going to say. And truly, Hana’s chapters were way more interesting to me than what was going on with Lena and company.

2) The ending: I just can’t even process. Let’s just start out with the fact that this book ends with one of the most beautiful paragraphs I have ever read. It was lovely. I just wish I wasn’t so mad so that I could have enjoyed it more. So I’m reading and I’m noticing the thinning of pages in my right hand and thought about where we were in the story and I honestly thought I MUST be missing pages. There is NO WAY that this could wrap up with this many pages left. The ending was rushed for me. It was like FINALLY things are happening but it all went so fast. And then we get to the ending and I’m like ARE YOU SERIOUS? THIS IS HOW IT ENDS? Really?? I’m not one of those  people who needs a happy ending nor needs the author to do EXACTLY what I want…but I needed something from this. There was little resolution, I had so many questions and it was just rushed. I was not satisfied at all for a series I loved with my whole heart and was so invested in. I knew that Lauren would take risks but this is not what I had in mind when I think of what a brilliant writer she is. I mean, yes, there was truth to the ending and you felt a little bit of hope that they will have the chance to choose love in all of its messy glory and that maybe things will change…but just no…I didn’t FEEL anything. I felt gypped and was not feeling fond of Lena at the end.

All in all, Requiem was pretty much a disappointment for me which is sad because I LOVED this series so hard and recommended it so often. It kind of taints the series for me now between the less than exciting plot, how Lena acts in Requiem and a rushed ending that didn’t seem like much of an ending at all for people who devoted so much time to loving this series. I’m not a person who needs a happy and perfect ending or for the author to do what I want but I just expected something more to be honest. If you had lukewarm feelings for this series as it was, I’d say just ask someone what the ending is. If you have loved the series through and through, I say finish it and I will be crossing my fingers you feel more satisfied than I did with this book. I AM DEVASTATED RIGHT NOW. But that last paragraph was BEAUTIFUL. Oh, and Hana pretty much ROCKS my world.

 

Other Series You May LikeUnder the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (Through the Ever Night – book 2- was AMAZING!), Matched by Ally Condie, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Eve by Anna Carey

requiem-lauren-oliver

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? What did you think or am I just the odd man out who was disappointed?? I am just so, so sad because I expected to be blown away. What did you think of the ending? Did it work for you?

The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes | Book Review

The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly BackesBook Title/Author: The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes
Publisher/Year
:  Candlewick 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No.
Other Books From Author: None — debut novel

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

I bought this for book club!

After being exiled by her parents to Paris to be an au pair for the summer, part of the damage control they wanted to do after Paige is involved in a drunk driving accident with her friends, Paige comes back to Iowa to start school and everything has changed — her best friend is still having physical problems from the accident and is angry, her boyfriend seems to be spending a lot of time with her best friend and blowing Paige off and her sister pretty much hates her and lets her know what an entitled brat she thinks she is. This was supposed to be the perfect year where she and her friends made homecoming court but she sees it is a lot different now when she’s being ignored by her friends and suspects her boyfriend is cheating. She is forced to deal with truth and what is inside her head when she takes a creative writing class and the teacher inspires her to write the truth and find out who she is when the popular and pretty facade is stripped away.

Here’s the thing. I started this book at 11:30 at night and didn’t put it down until I finished it at 4am. I honestly couldn’t put it down. I just had to know all the whys and hows of the car accident, hoped that Paige would change and just a general interest in the plot itself. The writing itself was fantastic and I found the pacing to work well for me personally but I found myself really frustrated for most of the book — mostly the ending.

Let’s start with the good — honestly the plot is engaging enough and the characters, while excruciatingly frustrating, ring authentic and real for the first part of the book. Paige is a downright SNOT but you keep hoping that you’ll find some sort of redeemable quality in her that will make her change a little bit and honestly though she was whiny and selfish and totally self centric..there was a part of me that could relate to that because I feel like that’s how I was as a teenager. EVERYTHING that happens was like “but why don’t people see why I’m the victim here?” or like really super paranoid — but let’s be honest…I’ve been there. People’s actions might make me think they are mad at me or are about me in some way — when really they aren’t at all. I get it.

There is that Real High School Vibe I got for most of the book and I appreciated that, while frustrating, the characters were flawed and seemed to have dimension. There are some really awesome characters, too, that happen to NOT be in her little circle of friends (Ethan, Shanti, a certain teacher and her sister). I thought the unraveling of the night of the car accident was done really well — it wasn’t like HEY THERE IS A MYSTERY HERE but just so subtly inserted. I also really enjoyed how writing was a huge part of this book and part of Paige’s journey because writing has always just been such a healing and beautiful thing for me.

Now for what FRUSTRATED ME. True, I really despised Paige and thought she was annoying, whiny and selfish and your typical mean girl. But I can overlook that sometimes. Unfortunately, for me, this was a little too predictable. I pretty much knew how the accident went down. I knew she was going to be the “mean girl who is redeemed and changes her whole life” kind of girl. Which who doesn’t love a good Mean Girls story but the thing is…I didn’t buy it. Not at all how it went down. I applauded the authenticity in Paige’s character that she was a biotch for most of the book but then suddenly she becomes preachy and perfect and I just didn’t buy that ALL OF THE THINGS that happened or the conversations she had (also read: a boy) changed her that completely. I just didn’t and I think, with this book, either you are going to buy it or not. I fall on the “did not” side and therefore the end just didn’t ring as true to me as the rest of the book.

I don’t want to give much away so I’m not going to elaborate but I really have to feel an authentic change in my heart. I think she was headed towards it but the end was rushed and crammed so many things in, and made other characters even more repulsive, to make her look like the ultimate Redeemed Character that it just didn’t do it for me. ALSO so annoying that she acts like she does and gets what she wants in the end. I didn’t buy that quick of forgiveness in the end.

 

The Princesses of Iowa is that novel that I probably would have loved more in high school (because you know..I’m that creepy 27 year old lady reading it now being all crabby about it) but I do applaud the fact that rather than only focusing on Mean Girls and social hierarchies it dealt with a lot of other  issues — drunk driving, abuse, homophobia.  Unfortunately, while the writing was good and the plot held my attention enough, I just became increasingly frustrated with the ending and didn’t buy that Paige truly changed that much and was annoyed with how preachy and holier-than-thou she became so quickly — all from some things that happen and conversations with a boy. Paige is a character who you’ll love to hate but I did see something real in her — just wished her growth would have been a little bit more realistic for me at the end. I just don’t think she truly deals with things in the end and still gets what she wants.

 

For Fans  Of: Mean Girls stories, books set in the high school landscape dealing with social status and other HS issues, books that are for the most part not DARK or gritty but still deal with issues like drunk driving, homophobia, abuse, etc, contemporary YA fans who don’t have to LOVE the protag to like a book (because seriously Paige is hard to handle sometimes),

princesses-of-iowa

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? I don’t really have a problem with this but I know others do (with this book specifically)..can you loathe the main character and still LIKE a book? Like there are books that I straight up love but have horrid main characters. Did you find Paige’s transformation to seem real or was it just me?

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

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

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

out-of-the-easy

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!

Review: Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Keuhnert

Ballads of Suburbia Stephanie KuehnertBook Title/Author: Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Keuhnert
Publisher/Year
: MTV Books 2009
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No
Other Books From Author: I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

I purchased this book with my own cash money back in the day!

 

 

It’s the 90′s in Oak Park, IL — a suburb of Chicago — and teenage Kara just wants to fit in. She’s always been an outcast but she’s always had her best friend Stacey by her side. When Stacey moves away right before high school and they slowly drift apart, Kara internalizes her pain by cutting herself. When she meets new student Maya, who is confident and cool, she eagerly accepts her invitation to meet up with some friends at Scoville Park where a new side of the suburbs awaits her. Finally feeling like she could be accepted, she starts going to their parties, smoking weed, drinking and meeting guys. She discovers that some of her friends in the group have started a notebook called Stories of Suburbia — containing crazy newspaper clippings of things that happened in suburbs amidst their own handwritten stories about their lives. The only rule is that you can’t read everyone else’s stories until you write your own — a task that Kara doesn’t get a chance to do before she suddenly flees Oak Park at the end of her junior year.

Wow! I’ve had Ballads of Suburbia on my shelf unread since I bought it when I first started blogging in summer of 2010! WHY did I not read this one before then?? It was really a fantastic book– raw, gritty and powerful in both its story and the emotional impact it had on me as it weaved together this story of family, heartbreak, losing control and then making the choice to regain control amidst the chaos.

The book begins by Kara coming home for the first time in four years and being reunited with her friend Stacey. It was quick to grab my attention because we aren’t told the whole of why she has left Oak Park but we understand how hard it is for her to return but how important it is so that she can move forward. You get the sense she was in a lot of trouble before she left and I immediately was invested in wanting to piece together the story of how everything spiraled out of control from that beginning part.  The rest of the story unfolds by Kara telling her story, her ballad that she’s finally able to write, and interspersed in the book are the “ballads” of some of the more main characters she spends time with and are central to her own story whom have written in the notebook — which I found to be so touching to get to know some of these characters more and really added to shaping them to these real, fleshed out characters.

This was definitely a darker, more gritty read. Don’t go into this looking for something light and for happy endings for all — because there aren’t for everyone. There’s a lot of drug use (heroin, ecstasy, coke, acid) as it’s pretty central to the lives of the kids she meets in Scoville Park.  A lot of them have really rough pasts and your heart can’t help but break as they are numbing a lot of it in different ways and trying to cope the best they can. As much as obviously their shared drug use was dangerous, I felt little pieces of hope in this small moments where they were there for each other and were the family and the support that they never had — which, to me, is a lot of what brought them together.ballads-of-suburbia-review

What I LOVED about this book, besides the heart and soul of the story, is that the drug use was NOT used as this preachy thing and this books was NOT an “issuey” book (which I totally DO love) but sometimes it’s incredibly powerful to read a story where it’s not an issues type novel and the drugs are just part of their life. It’s clear, as you’ll read, that there are consequences to some of their more reckless behavior but I never felt like there was this preachiness to it and I loved that.  The story was told and not hindered by a “hugs not drugs” message but told freely and powerfully — giving me a glimpse of lives I’ve never lived but that I know are true for some. Face it, this story is a reality for some and I’ve seen it effect the lives of family and family friends. Ballads of Suburbia TELLS a story that shows a side of growing up and being a teenager that is a scary and heartbreaking reality for some and it’s not one that is always addressed.

Ballads of Suburbia is a book will take you out of your comfort zone a bit with it’s gritty and dark exterior but will move you greatly with the heart and soul in Kara’s story and the ballads of her friends. Their stories are heartbreaking and tragic but there were small little glimmers of hope amidst some really heavy stuff. Stephanie Keuhnert will wow you with this intense story that, on the outside, could seem like a story about kids who do drugs but it soars far beyond that and never ventures into preachy. It’s a story of kids you may or may not have known that are looking to be accepted, learning how to deal with the hand they’ve been dealt and making the choice to finally take control and figure out the way their story is going to go — for better or for worse. The story is so real that I could feel that feeling of spiraling out of control or the weight of the problems and I couldn’t shake these characters. AT ALL.

 

For Fans  Of: grittier books, a darker YA book that you don’t often get to see, a YA book dealing with drugs without being preachy, books set in the 90′s (or those who can remember when MTV was pretty much ALL music), fans of books that integrate music, characters that jump off the pages

ballads-of-suburbia

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? If you’ve read it before, what did you think? Did you enjoy (that seems like a weird word in this case) like I did or feel differently? I want to know! Have you read any other books that deal with drugs that aren’t issuey or preachy? Not that I have a problem with “issues” books, but I’m just finding it rare in YA to see a story integrate drugs without it being preachy. It was nice to see the clear consequences and effects in this book without the author really preaching and to just TELL a story that shows a side of growing up and being a teenager — one that is scary & heartbreaking. Your thoughts?

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.

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

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. :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...