Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Review of To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1) To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

(Summary from GoodReads) 

When I read Jenny Han’s summer trilogy, I knew that I didn’t mind Han’s writing too much, but that I simply hated the plot of that trilogy.  I grabbed To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before when it was super cheap on Kindle and read it on my phone over the course of a few months.  Lara Jean’s story is utterly adorable, even if it’s not going to top my favorites list anytime soon.

I immediately got a strong sense of who Lara Jean is. Han nails the dynamic between three sisters.  From the very first page the reader could easily get a sense of the pecking order in Lara Jean, Margot, and Kitty’s relationship, and you could see how they each interacted with their father.  It was nice to see their Korean heritage incorporated into the novel.  While elements of their storyline bordered on predictable, it didn’t matter because the sisterhood was so well written.  I will say that aside from the interests Han told us Lara Jean had (like scrapbooking) and her love interests, sometimes it felt like Lara Jean didn’t have a major personality outside of her family.   However, her relationship with her sisters gradually started to grow, which was great.

I think that over the course of the sequel, Lara Jean will come into her own, and I hope that for her that means more than finding romance.  That said, while the romantic plotline was cute, I didn’t feel super invested in either of the love interests.  I know that my opinion of the love interests doesn’t change whether or not this book is objectively enjoyable for a teen audience, but it would have helped me enjoy the story more.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a cute contemporary romance, it just wasn’t a standout for me.  However, a lot of bloggers have enjoyed this one more than me, and I think teens will enjoy the storyline and the love interests.  Definitely pick this one up if you want a quick and charming contemporary novel about romance and family.

Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Review of Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns Who is the real Margo?

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew...

(Summary from GoodReads)

When I read Looking for Alaska and The Fault In Our Stars, I adored both of them.  If I were to reread them both of them again today, I think life experience would cause me to feel differently.  Paper Towns has been on my radar since I started blogging in 2010 and I was motivated to pick it up when an adaptation of it was released in 2015.  Once I finished this book I finally understood why people tend to think of John Green as overrated.  If you don’t mind a mediocre road trip story featuring the pursuit of a manic pixie dream girl with some clever details, you’ll definitely enjoy this one.

I didn’t find either Quentin or Margo that fully fleshed out as characters.  Green excels at writing a history for them, and those parts of the story were good.  Margo isn’t necessarily supposed to be a character that we know a lot about, and Quentin is romantically interested in her more for nostalgic reasons.  I had a crush on the same person all four years of high school, and tried to pursue it, but it never went anywhere, so while I understood, I didn’t find it particularly interesting.  It was realistic, but I didn’t care whether or not Quentin and Margo wound up together.  I liked Radar a lot, but also found myself side-eying parts of his story.

The plot of this story was mildly amusing, though one road trip book about a white privileged high school male may be enough to last me a lifetime.  Sure, Quentin wants to live life more fully.  Sure, Quentin seems to think some of the people around him are kind of fake.  The case of manic pixie dream girl is all too real.  These themes probably sound familiar because they’re in a lot of young adult books, and I just fail to see what Green does to put a new spin on them.  His prose is lovely and from a literary perspective, he incorporates fascinating facts and concepts into his story.  While this was fine, I just don’t feel like anything made up for the serious case of MPDG.

A colleague of mine told me after I finished this that it was her least favorite of Green’s books, and I can see why.  I understand how some teens could read encounter this book and feel like they’ve never read anything like it before.  Paper Towns is not a bad book, but it didn’t do a thing for me as a reader.

Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Review of Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Wild Awake Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:

1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen:

1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.

Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy.

(Summary from GoodReads)

As you guys know, Wild Awake was one of my favorite books that I read in 2015.  I took it on vacation when my family and I went to Acadia National Park, and I’m really glad that I took it on vacation.  Even though I read the book relatively quickly and things kept happening, the story still had kind of a slow, syrupy feeling. 

When Kiri gets a phone call that a stranger has things that belonged to her sister, Sukey, who died five years ago, she goes to get it, and starts to learn about parts of her sister’s life and her city that she hasn’t seen before.  She also happens across a boy named Skunk who fixes her bike for her.  Kiri had expected to spend all summer practicing piano, which she is extremely gifted at, and playing in a band with her friend Lukas, who she may also have a crush on. As all of this is happening, she essentially goes through a mental break. Readers who have struggled with mental illness or know someone who has gone through it will probably see Kiri’s struggles and feel a sense of familiarity, sometimes in an uncomfortable way. 

In a lot of ways, Wild Awake is a serious story about mental illness and about finding closure. However, it’s also a story about a summer of falling in love and new experiences and new people.  I love reading about Kiri and her love interest because it was clear that it was a relationship that felt good for both of them.  Smith’s prose is absolutely stunning and makes every emotion that Kiri feels extremely raw.

Smith’s debut is a book that I want to revisit over and over again.  I want to revisit it for the gorgeous writing, to think about how Kiri transforms over the summer, about the relationship that Kiri and her family have with Sukey. Wild Awake is a fantastic novel and one you should pick up  if you haven’t already.

Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Review of The Devil You Know by Trish Doller

The Devil You Know Eighteen-year-old Arcadia wants adventure. Living in a tiny Florida town with her dad and four-year-old brother, Cadie spends most of her time working, going to school, and taking care of her family. So when she meets two handsome cousins at a campfire party, she finally has a chance for fun. They invite her and friend to join them on a road trip, and it's just the risk she's been craving-the opportunity to escape. But what starts out as a fun, sexy journey quickly becomes dangerous when she discovers that one of them is not at all who he claims to be. One of them has deadly intentions.

A road trip fling turns terrifying in this contemporary story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

(Summary from GoodReads)

I loved Trish Doller’s first two books, Something Like Normal and Where the Stars Still Shine.  When I requested an ARC of The Devil You Know, I thought to myself, “I’m not usually a thriller person, but this is Trish, whose books are amazing.  I might hate it, but I probably won’t hate it.  Right?!”  I tore through Doller’s book because of its engrossing plot, and I fell in love with her exceptional characters all over again.

Like Doller’s other books, The Devil You Know is set in Florida, and as always the setting felt thoroughly drawn, but it was crafted to fit the different moods of this story.  It’s appropriate to call this story a thriller not only because there are moments when you may find yourself quaking beneath a blanket as you read, but also because for Cadie the adventures and new experiences are thrilling for her.   I personally never quite guessed what the outcome of this story was going to be, and I really appreciated the way Doller tied up the story while still leaving a few loose ends.

The characters are what make The Devil You Know truly exceptional.  Cadie doesn’t know precisely what she wants out of her life, but she does know that she has a desire to live it more fully. A lot of what she goes through will be relatable to teens who feel this exact same thing, as well as to a lot of adult readers.  You can feel the chemistry and tensions that she goes through with Noah and Matt on every page, but her experiences with them never detract from her characterization, and it’s always clear that even if Cadie doesn’t know exactly what she wants, she makes her own choices.

The Devil You Know is the perfect book for teens who love thrillers and strong female characters.  I was impressed by every aspect of Doller’s writing and I absolutely loved the way that Cadie’s character is drawn.  As per usual, I cannot recommend Trish Doller and her books enough.

Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review, and I loved it so much that I also purchased a hardcover.

Monday, January 9, 2017

2016 End Of Year Book Survey

Number Of Books You Read: 108
Number of Re-Reads: Two
Genre You Read The Most From: Contemporary

1. Best Book You Read In 2016?
(If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist)

I'm going to be lazy about this--I published a full list already! Check it out here.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. The story has a great plot and fantastic worldbuilding, I was just expecting a different style of prose and less of a romantic ship.  Get it? Ship? Because this book is about pirates? Moving on.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young. I had no idea what to expect going into this book and I absolutely adored it.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

It's probably a tie between the Bitch Planet comics and When We Collided by Emery Lord. I know a lot of people who would love Bitch Planet and When We Collided is beautiful and is an outstanding portrayal of bipolar disorder.

 5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?

My favorite series starter was Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman.  Best sequel was  A Little Taste of Poison by R.J. Anderson. My favorite series ender was definitely The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutksoki, but I also loved both Winter and Stars Above by Marissa Meyer.

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?

Probably Pam Munoz Ryan. I've wanted to read a lot of her books for a while, and I really enjoyed The Dreamer.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Even though I like historical, I often find it very heavy so it falls a bit out of my comfort zone.  The historical novel I read that was most out of my comfort zone was Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez.  It was heavy but absolutely beautiful.

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

All the Rage by Courtney Summers.  I was instantly sucked in and didn't want to put it down until I was done.

 9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Probably any of the Throne of Glass books by Sarah J. Maas or A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?

11. Most memorable character of 2016?

For me this is easily Arin from The Winner's Kiss.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?

The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan and Peter Sis

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?

With Malice by Eileen Cook had me thinking a lot about gender and privilege.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read? 

Definitely The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan and Peter Sis. It's been on my TBR since 2012.

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016? 

It felt as if his smile became hers.  His secret, too.  The day itself: the satin sky, a speckled yellow feather that spiraled down on a breeze to catch in Javelin's mane.  She held all this inside her the way a jewel holds light.
-Marie Rutkoski

All night long, I dare the stars to outlast me.
-Emery Lord

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016?

My longest was Winter by Marissa Meyer.  The shortest was probably the novella Homecoming by Claire LeGrand.

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

Easily Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

Jest and Cath from Heartless, Arin and Kestrel from The Winner's Kiss, always Cress and Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Roshar with everyone from The Winner's Kiss.  Also the relationship that Ada and Jamie have with the caregiver Susan in The War That Saved My Life.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

When We Collided, each book I read by Marissa Meyer, All the Rage.

21. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I loved it so much more than I expected.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?

Jest from Heartless

23. Best 2016 debut you read?

Sadly, I didn't read as many debuts as I would have liked this year.  That said Of Fire and Stars by Audret Coulthurst was fantastic.  Caraval by Stephanie Graber was also a great debut but it releases later this month.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

This is a tough one! For fantasy I loved the worlds in Heartless and Caraval, and I loved how vivid the setting of Ready Player One is.  My favorite historical setting was Texas in Out of Darkness, and I thought Emery Lord did a great job of crafting the setting of When We Collided.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Definitely Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon. It's just so feminist and often.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?

I probably came the closest with Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas.  Apparently 2016 was not the Year of the Tears.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

For me this would have to be A Little Taste of Poison by R.J. Anderson.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?

Probably Illuminae, because of the formatting.  However, I thought that Audacity and Out of Darkness both explored historical settings/circumstances that we don't see as much of in young adult fiction.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Parts of The War That Saved My Life made me furious and were super upsetting to read.  Paper Covers Rock made me roll my eyes and wish that the whole story was more unique.

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2016?

I've been truly terrible about reading blogs this past year.  However, I have recently discovered Aentee's Instagram which I love.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2016?

My review of Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, which was written when the book was still fresh in my mind.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

I've been so behind on reviews lately that I pretty much stuck to those.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

That is a hard one.  I had a really great time at NoVa Teen Book Festival as well as that Public Library Association Conference which I attended in April. My boyfriend at I also did two panels at AwesomeCon, DC's comic convention, and that was a lot of fun.  I'm counting that here because comics.
Seth and I as stormtroopers

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016?

I got to see Victoria Schwab, Marie Rutkoski, and Morgan Matson, and those were all great events.
Me and Morgan Matson

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

Catching up on reviews was tough, but so was trying to read when I was attempting NaNoWriMo.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

My review of Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton got quite a few views and comments.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

I would have liked to see my review of The List get a few more views.

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

Seth and I had a few days after Christmas free and I used one of them to drag him around to some of my favorite bookstores in the Twin Cities.   He found Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore and we decided to wander in. It was absolutely amazing and we both wandered out with new books in hand.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

My goal was to read 105 books and I read 108!

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?

 2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)?

3. 2017 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Right now 27 Hours by Tristina Wright is topping my list.

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2017?

Despite having not read Gemina yet, the third book in the Illuminae Chronicles, as of right now.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2017?

6. A 2017 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

Monday, January 2, 2017

Top 12 Books of 2016

2016 turned out to be a busy year.  I spent a lot of this fall worrying about the election, and then mourning the results once they happened.  I tried to do NaNoWriMo and failed.  I wound up traveling a lot around the holidays, especially since my grandfather passed away one week before Christmas.  I got a lot of reading done, but not as much as blogging. I'm gradually starting to get my GoodReads in order and catch up on reviews.  While I do that, here are some of my favorite books from the past year.

1.) Winter by Marissa Meyer

2.) When We Collided by Emery Lord

3.) All the Rage by Courtney Summers

4.) The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

5.) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

6.) Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood

7.) Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young

8.) Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

9.) Audacity by Melanie Crowder

10.) Heartless by Marissa Meyer

11.) Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

12.) Caraval by Stephanie Graber


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