Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: Aberrant by Ruth Silver

Author:  Ruth Silver
Publisher: Patchwork Press, 240 pages
Publication Date:  April 28, 2013
*Received from publisher through NetGalley

From Goodreads:
In the future Dystopian society of Cabal, the government instills equality for all and offers its citizens the perfect system. There is food, shelter and jobs for everyone. The one requirement is to follow the rules without question, including the government's match in marriage and "The Day of the Chosen", a lottery that randomly selects families to conceive children as natural means hasn't existed in generations. Following her eighteenth birthday, Olivia Parker accepts her requirement to marry her childhood best friend, Joshua Warren, and is eager to start her work assignment and new life when it all comes abruptly to an end as she's arrested and thrown in prison. The only crime committed, her existence. Olivia is unlike the rest of the world born not from "The Day of the Chosen." The truth haunts the government and puts her life in grave danger as one simple fact would destroy the perfect system. 

With Joshua's help, Olivia breaks free of prison and is forced on the run. Together they set out to find the promised rebel town in search of a new home and new life together. Their situation seems less than promising as they reach the town of Haven. New rules and customs must be adhered to in order to stay. Leaving would mean most certain death in the large expanse of the Gravelands. Time is running out as the government mounts an attack to destroy Olivia and bury her secret with her. Thrown into a world unlike their own, they must quickly adapt to survive.

Maybe I've read too many dystopian lately, but this book just seemed like a mishmash of different ones (Matched, Divergent, The Hunger Games).  And there were a lot of things that just didn't make sense to me.  No one can conceive a child without medical help anymore, but apparently what that means is that no one has sex, and, in fact, Joshua doesn't even know what a kiss is.  What?  And Joshua and Olivia have to hike for a long time to make it to Haven, but then Joshua's mom is already there and the explanation doesn't make sense. Why not let Joshua and Olivia get there the same way?  And the rebel city is luxurious, with a lot of different food, fine clothes, etc.  Why would the rebel city have all of this and the government city not? And why would the government allow these cities to exist?  It's not like they're hidden.  And everywhere they go, the people are absolutely horrible!  If I were them, I'd be running back to support the government.

I liked Olivia as a character, she's feisty, curious, and doesn't have any doubt about her feelings for Joshua (which was refreshing).  And no love triangle (although I'm worried one is being set up for future books).  Joshua, on the other hand, is very back and forth about his feelings for Olivia, at least in the beginning.  One minute he acts like he really likes Olivia, and is happy about their "marriage" and the next minute he's not.  That was a bit annoying.  And he goes from not even knowing what a kiss is to being very flirty and making sexual innuendoes almost constantly. Additionally, the dialogue just didn't seem realistic, especially given they've been best friends for thirteen years.  Just have a conversation with each other!  Instead you get a lot of quips and jokes.  

The book was fast-paced, full of action, and entertaining, but in the end, I had too many issues with the plot.  These things are often hit or miss and in the end, this was more of a miss for me.

Posted by:  Pam

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Book Review: Countdown by Michelle Rowen

Author:  Michelle Rowen
Publisher:  Harlequin Teen, 336 pages
Publication Date:  October 1, 2013
*ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley

From Goodreads:
3 seconds left to live. Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped.

2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game.

Kira Jordan survived her family's murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis.

1 reason Kira will never, ever trust Rogan. Even though both their lives depend on it.

Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira's psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan's secrets prove evermore deadly, Kira's only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can't escape.


Fast-paced and action-packed, this book hooked me from the very beginning.  Kira wakes up in complete darkness and finds out she's chained to a wall in a room and she's not alone.  She's been kidnapped and is now part of a game where she and her partner, Rogan, have to complete six different levels in order to win the game.  If they lose, they die.  This is an underground reality game where the rich pay a lot of money to watch.  And this part of it isn't really that far-fetched to me.  People watch animals fight, there are fight clubs, and reality tv shows are so popular, it's almost the next logical step.  Obviously there are going to be comparisons to The Hunger Games, but other than that premise (teenagers part of a game to the death) it's really quite different (and this book was first published as an adult novel in 2008, the same year that The Hunger Games was published, and then revised to be a young adult novel).

Kira and Rogan have a very short amount of time in each level to complete whatever it is they have to do to get to the next level (sometimes five minutes, other times thirty minutes).  They both have implants and basically if they don't complete the level in the time allowed (and the time is counting down) their heads explode.  On top of all this, Kira learns very early that Rogan is there because he is a murderer (Kira is a thief) so even though her gut tells her that he's not a bad guy, she's still uneasy to be paired with him.  Given that time element, I was on the edge of my seat, frantically flipping through the pages to find out what was going to happen next.  

To be honest, the tasks they had to complete in each level were not that difficult and the world-building was a bit lacking. I really wanted to know more. There was a plague that wiped out about 60% of the planet and most people fled the cities, but then apparently you have some city called the Colony, which is supposed to be the perfect city where the rich live.  But there are rich people who don't live there.  And the government is never really mentioned.  Who's in charge?  So I definitely had questions that weren't answered.

Kira is a great heroine.  She's smart, a bit sassy, and she has a good heart, even though she had been living on the streets for a couple of years.  Rogan...I loved him.  He's not perfect by any means (although of course he's swoony), with events occurring in his past that he has to learn to live with, but I loved his interactions with Kira.

Part dystopian, part paranormal, and part sci-fi/technology, it's compulsively readable.

Posted by:  Pam

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (13)

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!  It is hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Pam's Weekly Haul
From the library:
From NetGalley:

Friday, September 27, 2013

Mini-Reviews: College Novels

I absolutely loved my time in college and now I'm a professor so I really enjoy reading books that depict college life.  Here are three books that I've read recently that are set in college:

Sophomore Switch
Author:  Abby McDonald
Publisher:  Candlewick Press, 304 pages
Publication Date:  March 10, 2009

From Goodreads:
Take an administrative snafu, a bad breakup, and what shall heretofore be known as "The Hot-Tub Incident," and you’ve got two unprepared sophomores on a semester abroad. For American party girl Tasha, an escape to Oxford may be a chance to ditch her fame as a tabloid temptress, but wading Uggs-deep in feminist theory is not her idea of a break. Meanwhile, the British half of the exchange, studious Emily, nurses an aching heart amid the bikinis and beer pong of U.C. Santa Barbara. Soon desperation has the girls texting each other tips — on fitting in, finding love, and figuring out who they really are. With an anthropologist’s eye for detail and a true ear for teen-speak, exciting new novelist Abby McDonald has crafted a funny, fast-paced, poignant look at survival, sisterhood, and the surprising ways we discover our true selves.

Cute fast read.  It's a story about figuring out who you are, who you want to be, how to fit in, friendship, feminism, and romance.  There's party girl Tasha who is more serious than people give her credit for.  And then there's serious Emily, who is starting to realize that having everything planned out may not be the best way to live and that she needs to loosen up a bit.  The author does a great job of creating two unique characters and you feel like you get to know them since each chapter alternates between Emily and Tasha's POV.  Even though the girls are both sophomores, since they have switched schools there's still that adjustment period and both of them trying to figure it all out.  I enjoyed reading about the girls trying to fit in (definitely a culture shock), and I also liked both romantic interests.  Emily and Ryan...initial dislike turning into that!  One of the guys acts in a pretty horrible way at one point which I thought was a bit inconsistent for his character, but I admired the way the girl handled it and I admire the author for having it end that way for that particular couple (I know this is a bit vague but I don't want to give anything away).  There's character development for both Tasha and Emily, a growing friendship between them that I enjoyed, and both girls were believable and relatable.  Fun book!

Author:  Rainbow Rowell
Publisher:  St. Martins Press, 433 pages
Publication Date:  September 10, 2013

From Goodreads:
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I absolutely loved this book.  Rainbow Rowell is a fantastic writer.  Great dialogue, interesting characters, and the book just made me smile.  College can be a difficult time for some students, especially the beginning, and the author definitely captured some realistic moments of college life in this book.  Not knowing where to go, not feeling that comfortable with dorm life, your roommate, etc.  

Cath was a unique character (maybe a bit too unique), and I did like her, although she frustrated me a lot of the time (Just go to the dining hall already!)  And the fact that she was in college but really had no desire to meet new people and didn't even seem that interested in her classes.  All she wanted to do was write fan fiction.  So, a little different.

Levi...oh Levi.  I loved him, then I was quite mad at him, then I was hopeful again.  He was what Cath needed.  I could just picture him smiling all the time. Wren was such a great character, and Reagan as well, I sort of wish we had some chapters from their POVs.  My only complaint is that the MC (and Wren) were portrayed as such extremes.  If you don't drink or party, you're practically a shut in and if you do drink and party, you're basically an alcoholic.  There is a happy medium to college life that's barely portrayed (although you get the sense that Levi, Reagan, and Jandro fall into that category).

Still, a fabulous book that I wholeheartedly recommend.

The Ivy (The Ivy #1)
Authors:  Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur
Publisher:  Greenwillow Books, 312 pages
Publication Date:  August 31, 2010

From Goodreads:
Congratulations! You have been admitted to the most prestigious university in the world. Now what are you going to do?

Callie Andrews may not have money or connections or the right clothes, and she may have way too many complications in her love life, what with

the guy she loves to hate ...

the guy she'd love to forget ...

the guy she'd love to love ...

and Matt
the guy she really should love ...

all vying for her attention.

But she has three fantastic roommates (best friends or her worst nightmare?) and a wholesome California-girl reputation (oops) and brains and beauty and big, big dreams.

Will it be enough to help her survive freshman year at Harvard?

I really enjoyed this book.  The authors went to Harvard and it shows.  They even include real professors (Professor Sandel's Justice class is actually pretty famous).  I loved the different characters and thought the authors did an excellent job describing them in such a way that I could picture them.  None of them are perfect, they are all flawed in their different ways.  Callie makes some really poor decisions, let me tell you.  They make mistakes as they navigate their way through their first year of college (actually the book ends before Thanksgiving).  They do normal college things (go to classes, get drunk, study, hang out, hook up, join different clubs, try and join Harvard Final Clubs--sort of like sororities and fraternities) and I appreciated what a realistic portrayal of college life this book gives.  The dialogue is so natural and evokes the way people talk in real life while at the same time revealing the personalities of the different characters.  I had no idea this was a series so be warned that the book ends in a cliffhanger (which is a bit unusual for a contemporary YA).  I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.  A highly recommended read.

Posted by:  Pam

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book Review: The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

The Lost Girl
Author:  Sangu Mandanna
Publisher:  Balzer & Bray, 432 pages
Publication Date:  August 28, 2012

From Goodreads:
Eva's life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination—an echo. She was made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her "other," if she ever died. Eva spends every day studying that girl from far away, learning what Amarra does, what she eats, what it's like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.

But sixteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything and everyone she's ever known—the guardians who raised her, the boy she's forbidden to love—to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive.

What Eva finds is a grief-stricken family; parents unsure how to handle this echo they thought they wanted; and Ray, who knew every detail, every contour of Amarra. And when Eva is unexpectedly dealt a fatal blow that will change her existence forever, she is forced to choose: Stay and live out her years as a copy or leave and risk it all for the freedom to be an original. To be Eva.

From debut novelist Sangu Mandanna comes the dazzling story of a girl who was always told what she had to be—until she found the strength to decide for herself.

I loved this book, even though I did struggle a bit with the premise (parents basically wanting a replacement child).  What was even more astonishing was that the child knows about her echo since she has to write about her life so that if the echo has to step in and take her place, she can.  That seemed so awful to me and Amarra obviously hated the idea of her echo and what it meant.  

This was a beautiful, deep, complex book dealing with many issues, including loss, grief, what it means to be human, and what it means to be an individual.  Eva is an incredible character.  She's strong, a bit sassy, and just desperately wanting to be a normal, real girl, able to live her own life.  Instead she has to be Amarra.  The whole process of her being an echo is very mysterious, but it somehow involves taking parts of Amarra, which means she's connected to her and even dreams about her life sometimes. This makes it even more difficult for Eva to be an individual, to be herself.

The secondary characters are memorable, including Sean, a Guardian who is just a year older than her (he took over for his father when he died); Minna Ma, who has raised her; Erik, another Guardian; Ray, Amarra's boyfriend, and Lekha, a friend from Amarra's school.  I wish Sean would have been a bit more fleshed out, but he is still a wonderful love interest and the scenes between them are so sweet.

The way Eva is treated by certain people (and betrayed) is just heartbreaking, especially by people who have obviously gotten to know her, which means they can see that she thinks and feels and is not some monster.  

The ending...ambiguous.  After I finished the book I went to the author's website and apparently she meant the book to be a stand-alone, but may write a sequel depending on how well it does.  What?!  So basically that means she left it open just in case.  And that if there is not a sequel, we decide what happens.  I have to say, I'm not happy about that.  Other than that, loved loved loved this book.

Posted by:  Pam

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Avalon by Mindee Arnett

Waiting on Wednesday features upcoming releases and is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Author:  Mindee Arnett
Publisher:  Balzer & Bray, 432 pages
Expected Publication Date:  January 21, 2014

From Goodreads:
A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.

Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they're damn good at it. Jeth doesn't care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents' ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he'll go to get the freedom he's wanted for so long.

Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon's cult hit show Firefly.

Why am I waiting?  I love a good sci-fi and I love Joss Whedon and Firefly!

Posted by:  Pam

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Best Sequels Ever

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

These are in no particular order.

1.  Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas.  This might be one of the best sequels I have ever read.  Amazingly, even better that Throne of Glass.
2.  The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin.  Loved this sequel so much.  Definitely messes with your mind.
3.  The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead.  I really enjoyed Bloodlines, but each book in this series gets progressively better.
4.  Frostbite by Richelle Mead.  I thought Vampire Academy was just ok, but I got sucked into this series when I read Frostbite.
5.  Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare.  This book did not suffer from middle-book syndrome AT ALL.  Loved it.
6.  Scarlet by Marissa Meyer.  What an incredible sequel.  Focused on different characters but still brought the stories together.
7.  City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare.  City of Bones was good, but each book in this series just gets better and better.
8.  Unravel Me by Tehereh Mafi.  I'm still Team Adam, but for an author to take a villain like Warner and make him a viable romantic interest...that takes talent.
9.  Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken.  This book may even be better than The Darkest Minds.
10.  Onyx and Pure by Jennifer L. Armentrout.  Both of these books are the second in the series (Lux and Covenant), and they just get better and better.

Posted by:  Pam

Monday, September 23, 2013

Book Review: 15 Minutes by Jill Cooper

15 Minutes
Author:  Jill Cooper
Publisher: Self-published, 234 pages
Publication Date:  June 15, 2013

From Goodreads:
I have 15 minutes to save my mother’s life….

15 minutes is all the Rewind Agency gives you in the past, but for Lara Crane it’s enough time to race through the city, find her mother, and stop her from being killed in a mugging that happened over ten years ago.

But that’s not how it happened. The story she’s been told all her life is a lie and when Lara takes a bullet meant for her mother, her future changes forever.

The love of her life acts like a stranger. Her simple life is replaced with a giant house, glamorous clothes and a new boyfriend. 

Except someone knows her secret. And he will try to stop her at every turn as she races against the clock to unravel a dangerous conspiracy.

15 Minutes is an edgy high octane YA thriller that can be described as Back to the Future meets Inception where the people Lara trusts change in an instant. She is in a timeline she doesn't understand, and is about to make one fatal mistake as she faces an enemy so familiar, he’s family.

I love time travel books and this one is fantastic.  The book hooked me from the very beginning.  It starts right in the middle of the action, with Lara about to go back in time to stop her mother from getting killed.  The rest of the book is about Lara having to deal with the consequences of that decision.  Everything changes, and not necessarily for the better.  Can she trust the new people in her life?  Can she trust the people who she trusted in her old life?  

There are a lot of twists and turns, non-stop action, and some romance.  The story never drags.  The author does a good job with the complexities of time travel, although toward the end it gets a bit confusing and I'm not sure if it was consistent.  There are also some parts where you're not sure what's real and what's not.  The ending felt a bit rushed, and then when you think everything is all finished, the ending gives you one final twist.  An exciting new series...I can't wait for the next one!

Posted by:  Pam

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Book Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Author:  Holly Black
Publisher:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 432 pages
Publication Date:  September 3, 2013

From Goodreads:
Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

This book hooked me from the very beginning.  Holly Black's world of vampires is dark, twisted, and unique.  I know it sounds ridiculous to say that a vampire book is realistic, but the way humans reacted to vampires rang so true.  The fact that we would have reality shows about vampire hunters, the fact that people would watch live feeds from Coldtown where the vampires were seen as celebrities. I can so see that happening.  And people traveling to Coldtown in the hopes of being turned.  Again, I can see that happening.  

Tana is an incredible character.  She's strong, caring, and forced to adapt and figure out a way to survive.  What she does in the beginning, saving Aidan and Gavriel, tells you about the type of person she is.  And Gavriel...swoony, dangerous, on the edge of madness, he's a fantastic character.  There were so many amazing secondary characters that I wish this book was part of a series so that we could get to know them better (I know I know, I complain about how no books are stand-alones and now I'm complaining that this book is not a stand-alone).  But I really do want to read more about this world.

And I loved the way they struggled to understand vampirism.  "There's something easy about the idea that vampirism is some kind of disease--then they can't help it that they attack us, that they commit murders and atrocities, that they can only control themselves sometimes.  They're sick; it's not their fault.  And there's something even easier about the idea of demonic invasion, something forcing our loved ones to do all manner of terrible things.  Still not their fault, only now we can destroy them.  But the third option, the possibility that there's something monstrous inside of us that can be unleashed, is the most disturbing of all.  Maybe it's just us, us with raging hunger, us with a couple of accidental murders under our belt.  Humanity, with the training wheels off the bike, carrying down a steep hill.  Humanity, freed from the constraints of consequence and gifted with power.  Humanity, grown away from all things human."

Even if you're sick of vampires, I would recommend this book.  My only complaint is that it is left a bit open, and my understanding is that it is meant to be a stand-alone.  I really just want to know what happens to...can't say anything more or it will spoil it.  But I guess we're supposed to end up believing that, no matter what, things work out.  I guess.

Posted by:  Pam

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (12)

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!  It is hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Pam's Weekly Haul

From the library:
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Moonglass by Jessi Kirby

Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston
3:59 by Gretchen McNeil
The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas
Letters to Nowhere by Julie Cross
Adorkable by Sarra Manning


From NetGalley:
Countdown by Michelle Rowen

Sheri's Bounty of Books
I finally set up an overdrive account on my kindle and can now access ebooks and audiobooks through my local library. This week I started with two audiobooks that I hope will motivate me to exercise since that is prime listening time!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Dearly Departed by Lia Habel

Friday, September 20, 2013

Discussion Question: Do You Review All the Books You Read?

Do you review all the books you read?  If not, about how many reviews do you write compared to the books you read?  If you don't review a book, why not?  Is it because you didn't like the book?  Or is it just a time issue?

I've been reading an average of almost a book a day since January, and I'm definitely not writing a review for each book I read.  Sometimes I feel guilty about it because I feel like if I read a book, I should review it.  But then I'll tell myself that I'm writing a lot of reviews and so if I don't review every single book, that's fine.  And for me, there's no reason for it.  There are books I absolutely loved that I didn't review, like Lola and the Boy Next Door.  

One thing I have done that's helped is to write mini-reviews.  I'll group books together that I've read, either by the same author or in the same genre.  I posted one today for all three Kody Keplinger novels, and I just drafted one that I will post in the next few weeks about novels set on a college campus.  They're about one paragraph each and just hit the highlights.  Sometimes I think that might be better than writing a full-blown review anyway (I wonder if people actually like reading the really long reviews?).  

Anyway, I'm just curious about whether you review all of the books you read (and hopefully the answer is no so I don't feel guilty!)

                         Posted by:  Pam

Mini-Reviews: Kody Keplinger Novels

A Midsummer's Nightmare
Publisher:  Poppy, 304 pages
Publication Date:  June 5, 2012

From Goodreads:
Whitley Johnson's dream summer with her divorcé dad has turned into a nightmare. She's just met his new fiancée and her kids. The fiancée's son? Whitley's one-night stand from graduation night. Just freakin' great.

Worse, she totally doesn't fit in with her dad's perfect new country-club family. So Whitley acts out. She parties. Hard. So hard she doesn't even notice the good things right under her nose: a sweet little future stepsister who is just about the only person she's ever liked, a best friend (even though Whitley swears she doesn't "do" friends), and a smoking-hot guy who isn't her least, not yet. It will take all three of them to help Whitley get through her anger and begin to put the pieces of her family together.

Filled with authenticity and raw emotion, Whitley is Kody Keplinger's most compelling character to date: a cynical Holden Caulfield-esque girl you will wholly care about.

The book starts off with Whitley waking up, hungover, next to a guy who she had sex with the night before but she doesn't remember his name.  He asks for her phone number, but she says no.  It was a graduation party, she's off to the University of Kentucky in the fall, and she's going to spend the summer with her dad, like she always does.  But this summer is different, because she finds out her dad is engaged to some woman she's never even heard of, and the cute guy from the night before is her son.  So they are living together this summer.  Talk about awkward.  Hooked me from the very beginning.

This book was a fun read even though it was dealing with some serious issues.  Whitley definitely goes through ups and downs over the summer. Whitley never got over her parent's divorce, she has a pretty sad life at home (her mom basically doesn't care what she does), and she deals with her problems by partying and drinking a lot (which does not make her happy).  Although Whitley isn't that likable, she is relatable and her voice is honest and fresh.  I liked Nathan, who is such a good guy and when you find out about that night with Whitley from his POV...awww.  Highly entertaining and enjoyable.  The ending wraps everything up a bit too neatly (and I'm still curious how everything is actually going to work), but hey, it's fiction!

Shut Out
Publisher:  Poppy, 273 pages
Publication Date:  September 5, 2011

From Goodreads:
Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it's a civil war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part,Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy's car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend's attention

Then Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: She and the other players' girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won't get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don't count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. But what Lissa never sees coming is her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling...

A bit of a silly premise (a sex strike because the girls of football players and soccer players are sick of the rival between the guys), but a fun read.  I enjoyed seeing Lissa take charge of her life and figure out it was ok to be who she was (a bit of a control freak and unsure about sex).  In fact, it was refreshing to have all of the girls bond and discuss sex in such an honest way.  There are some serious messages here about slut-shaming and double standards when it comes to guys and girls.

Cash...what a sweetheart!  Cute, sexy, soccer playing, nice literature-loving guy who works in a library part-time to help out his family because money is tight...does a guy like that exist in high school?  And the dad in this book is nice and supportive, such a change of pace.

Publisher:  Little Brown/Poppy, 280 pages
Publication Date:  September 7, 2010

From Goodreads:
Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face. 

But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Bianca and Wesley both seemed so real, with faults and issues and problems.  Bianca was a bit whiny and cynical, but she was still likable and relatable and I was definitely rooting for her.  And Wesley.  An obnoxious jerk, and not in a good way.  I really disliked him (every time he called Bianca "Duffy" I just cringed and wanted to smack him), but he really started to grow on me and by the end, with the note and then the letter, I was saying aww.

The Duff deals with serious issues, such as sex, alcoholism, and low self esteem.  Since it was written in the first person, I could never get a sense of what Bianca actually looked like.  Kody Keplinger should be applauded for writing such a funny, honest, readable, and entertaining book.  I really enjoyed it, and the fact that it was written by a teenager just amazes me.

Posted by:  Pam

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Review: Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan

Authors:  Andrea Cremer and David Levithan
Publisher:  Philomel, 358 pages
Publication Date:  May 7. 2013

From Goodreads:
Stephen has been invisible for practically his whole life — because of a curse his grandfather, a powerful cursecaster, bestowed on Stephen’s mother before Stephen was born. So when Elizabeth moves to Stephen’s NYC apartment building from Minnesota, no one is more surprised than he is that she can see him. A budding romance ensues, and when Stephen confides in Elizabeth about his predicament, the two of them decide to dive headfirst into the secret world of cursecasters and spellseekers to figure out a way to break the curse. But things don’t go as planned, especially when Stephen’s grandfather arrives in town, taking his anger out on everyone he sees. In the end, Elizabeth and Stephen must decide how big of a sacrifice they’re willing to make for Stephen to become visible — because the answer could mean the difference between life and death. At least for Elizabeth.

I really felt for Stephen.  It's been about a year since his mother died and she was the only one in his life.  So he's been completely alone, with no one to talk to.  He spends his time mostly in his apartment, reading or watching TV, and then the rest of the time he wanders around, the city listening to other people's conversations but having absolutely no interaction at all. So sad.  Then one day he sees Elizabeth, who has just moved into the apartment down the hall, and she sees him.  The only person who has ever been able to see him. They feel an instant connection, which is a little bit annoying, but there's so much insta-love in YA these days, I just  I could definitely understand it from his side.  I mean, come on, this girl is the only person who can see him.  He doesn't even know what he looks like and when he finds out, it's just so emotional.  “There is no way to describe how I feel. This is something I've never known. She has told me something I've never known.” 

The whole book is pretty emotional.  It's told from both Stephen and Elizabeth's POV (I'm assuming David Levithan wrote Stephen and Andrea Cremer wrote Elizabeth).  I have to admit, I enjoyed Stephen's POV a bit more for some reason.  It may just be his character was so sympathetic.  I've read some reviews that were really anti-Elizabeth, but I wasn't.  She is tough and a little less sympathetic, but she obviously cares for Stephen and would do anything to help him.  And then she finds out something about herself that makes her very important to the overall story (I won't spoil it for you by telling what it is).  

Laurie is a great character and provides much needed comic relief.  “News flash," he says. "I'm gay, not a witch. Gay and witch is Dumbedore, and last time I checked, he was still just a guy in a book.” 

The world of spellseekers and cursecasters was an interesting one.  What the cursecasters can do is frightening.  I wish the spellseekers could do more and there are hints at what is to come, but the problem is whether there will be another book.  The ending partially resolves some things, but others are left wide open.  It would have been so easy to wrap it up, too.  So if there is not another book, that really just makes me angry.  

Posted by:  Pam