Monday, July 30, 2012

serafina67 is the best

This was maybe the third time I've read serafina 67 *urgently requires life* straight through, cover to cover. It's long been my favorite go-to YA book; in terms of how I feel about the book, it's like the You've Got Mail of YA novels. It's an instant mood-booster, a wonderfully cute and compelling story, full of characters I love.

And this time around there was a bit of a different outlook reading it. Though I still love the book so much, I read it this time with the identity of the "mystery person" in mind. This is a plotline that, while it's important to the story, doesn't really become a thing until well, well into the story. However, reading the book with the identity in mind made me notice things I hadn't before -- warning, vague-ish spoiler-ish things below:

UK cover/title
-- like the fact that serafina, at times, is woefully ungrateful and wrapped up in herself. And that what the mystery person does is creepy, yes, but also stems from the best of intentions (and is sort of weirdly sweet, even while being woah creepy invasion of privacy) and realistic. I could easily see how something like this could get out of hand quickly.

and end spoilers!!

I love serafina. I love her story and the way she comes to grips with things, the fact that she wants to be happier and be a better person but so often fails and finds it difficult to get up again. (But she does get up again, and I think that's the important thing.) Her family story here is so real and so wonderfully written. The love story as well is one of my favorite YA couples, and the story with her best friend is something I can relate all too well to (eerily so, actually). Serafina still reminds me of myself, especially her craziness. And the whole story, still, is written so well, with all the different subplots fitting together so, so well.

Plus, I finished rereading this while waiting in the dentist's office. It was probably the only thing that held me together. So thanks for that, Susie Day. :)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Wanting: Books Uncovered

Right now my Goodreads "wanting" shelf has exactly 75 books on it. Some of these have been out for a while, some are recent releases, and some are upcoming. Some are so far in the future they don't even have covers yet, and right now those are the ones I'm going to focus on. So, here are five books I'm looking forward to that don't even have covers yet -- and the reasons I'm so eagerly waiting on them.

1. The Moon and More, by Sarah Dessen
I can depend on Sarah Dessen for emotional, well-written contemporary YA and for that reason she's pretty much a Must Buy author for me. This one (according to the GR description) features a summer romance with an aspiring filmmaker (why have I not read anything like this before?). And it's Sarah Dessen -- have I mentioned this yet? So you just know it's going to be good.
pub date: may 2013

2 & 3. Just One Day and Just One Year, by Gayle Forman
Love! Travel! Gayle Forman! I am so, so excited. Considering how much I loved If I Stay and then Where She Went, hopes are high, but I have no doubt that Gayle Forman is able to pull it off. I got to hear Forman talk a little about these upcoming books at an event for Where She Went and it made me even more excited for their publication.
pub dates: january 2013 & 2014

4. Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins
Do I really need to explain this one even? It's the last companion novel to ANNA and LOLA and with how well Stephanie Perkins writes teen love & emotions I just can't wait for what this story will hold. Also, though I originally wasn't to keen on the covers of Perkins' books, they've since grown on me and now I love them and cannot wait to see what the cover of this one will be.
pub date: 2013

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Half-Year Favorites of 2012: The Characters

Day Two ~ The Characters
(Day One ~ The Books, can be found here.)

1. best female protagonist: Juliette, from Shatter Me. Okay, here's the thing: I just freakin' love Juliette, just like I love nearly everything about Shatter Me (except, of course, for Warner. I loathe Warner, which makes me nervous for the rest of the series). Still, Juliette is far and away my favorite thing about the book - she's inwardly strong despite being so, so broken down by those around her and the things that she's done. She's just awesome.

2. best male protagonist: Felton Reinstein, from Nothing Special. Oh, Felton. He's such a talented, crazy, often self-absorbed (though trying not to be) guy. He's often pretty oblivious as to what's happening around him, although once he catches up he charges full-steam ahead to fix the situation and take care of those he cares about, often awkwardly apologizing for his own mistakes in the process. Plus, Felton's voice (like Juliette's) is entirely original and completely makes the book.

3. best couple: Josie Brant and Peter Maxx, from Fangirl. (Note that this was a tough category and there were two other couples that I really loved, but both of them are spoilerish.) AH. These two are so cute and embody the whole angst of crushes so, so well. I feel a little bad continually raving about this book when it's not out for months yet, but seriously. So adorable.

4. who i want to be best friends with: Felton Reinstein, from Nothing Special. Partly this is because Felton reminds me quite a bit of myself and partly it's because he's so flipping hilarious. I would love to just sit around and hang out with him; it would be great.

5. who i fell in love with:

6. best villain: The killer from And Then There Were None. I can't say this character's name, but the way s/he orchestrated the murders was completely brilliant and creepy.

7. best character twist: Alright, answering this one without spoilers is difficult so instead of saying who, I'm just going to say what book she's from. She's one of the main characters in The List and if you've read the book I'm sure you know who it is, but the ending of this just blew me away. Not only was it smart and unexpected, but it made the entire novel that much more heart-wrenching.

8. best kick-ass female: Amy, from A Million Suns. Amy totally takes control in this second novel in the trilogy. She steps up, goes after what she wants, and is determined to uncover the mysteries surrounding Godspeed, even if Elder doesn't want her to. Exceptional.

9. best kick-ass male: Dylan, from How to Save A Life. There are many, many points in this novel where everyone is pretty much acting crazy bananas. But Dylan is always the calm voice of reason, which I absolutely love. He's unflinching in his honesty, but also in how much he cares about those that he's close to.

10. character that broke my heart the most: Ack. Another one that's potentially a spoiler. But whatever, this one I'm just going to up and say, so if you haven't read Sisterhood Everlasting, maybe skip this one. Because ohmygoodness Tibby. Why? WHY WHY WHY??? This is up there with the ending of The Luxe series in terms of confusion, sadness, and anger.

11. favorite animal award: Hum, from The Summer I Learned to Fly. I never ever ever thought I'd love a rat, even a fictional one. But this book proved me wrong and I don't quite know how, but it definitely happened.

12. best young adult parents award: Hazel's parents from The Fault In Our Stars. Hazel's mom and dad are so fantastic that even if the rest of the book were awful (which, it isn't) it would still almost be worth reading it just for her parents. They're loving and stable and there for her even when she's being a brat. They walk that fine line between overbearing and crazy lenient, and they react to Hazel's illness the way real (awesome) parents would. Ah, I love them.

13. favorite sibling relationship: Jonathan & Telemachus, from Adios, Nirvana. There were so many good ones for this category and I feel almost like a cheater choosing these two, since the entire book is about Jonathan dealing with Tele's death. But the way he reacts to his twin brother's death shows so clearly how incredibly close the two boys were and it's painful to read. But it's also beautiful because there's so much love between the brothers.

14. favorite friendship award: Jimmy and Frankie, from Saving Francesca. There's a solid group of friends at the center of this story, but Frankie (Francesca) and Jimmy stand out to me because there's nothing romantic between them but they have such a weird, unexpected friendship that really works. At one point in the novel Jimmy says that he's "not really into the F-word--" (meaning friendship)-- "with people," and I think that's sort of the best. When you don't really have many friends or you're not good at having friends or whatever, but then you find someone you feel comfortable enough around and that you like enough to actually call your friend.

15. best and worst character names: First for the best. Hudson Avery, from Bittersweet. This name has the perfect amount of uniqueness without going completely overboard. Plus the first and last works really well together and I absolutely love unisex names (or even boys' names) for girls.
And now, sadly, for the worst. Alex Patrick, from The Rivals. I know I just said that I like boys' names for girls, but there are two notable exceptions and I apologize if you're a girl with either one of these names. And the first one is Alex. (The second one I won't say because I don't need to offend any more people that I already have.) And pairing it with Patrick? It just so doesn't seem to fit Alex's character.

16. best love triangle: I almost answered this one. I almost did. But the truth is that while some books I've read so far this year have technically had love triangles, none of them fall into that classic angst who-will-she-choose dilemma; it hasn't been the fuel for the story and it hasn't even really been a big deal in the books. So if you have any great love triangle books, please recommend them! (Because I like love triangles in fiction, I really do.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday Ten: Vivid, Offbeat Settings

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is vivid settings/worlds. I've decided to focus on realistic settings that are just a bit out of the norm: either different cultures, cities, or times. And here are ten of the best from books I've read in the past two years (which, btw, is about the length of time I've been using Goodreads).

1. Bunheads
Sophie Flack
The culture of the professional ballet world is portrayed so in-detail and vividly in this story of a young dancer in the Manhattan Ballet Company. 

2. Okay For Now
Gary D. Schmidt
This is a book I thoroughly enjoyed that's set in a small town of the 1960s -- think Mayberry-ish. The town is so engrossing, so perfectly written. 

3. Past Perfect
Leila Sales
This cute contemporary YA love story is set in a historical reenactment village -- if that's not original I don't know what is. And the characters get super into their historical roles, which I loved.

4. Shine
Lauren Myracle
Oh, this one is painful. It's a story set in a tiny, backwaters, drug-ravaged town and the culture of this is done so well that it's scary to read.

5. Mostly Good Girls
Leila Sales
Set in an elite all-girls private school, this setting may not be as out there as some of the others, but the high school scenes, teenage friendships and dynamics, and the atmosphere of the school is written so so so incredibly well. 

6. The Real Real
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus
Set behind-the-scenes of a Laguna Beach-ish reality show (yeah, this is going back a whiles, I know), the setting here is really interesting for anyone interested in the story behind reality TV.

7. Anna and the French Kiss
Stephanie Perkins
Paris, duh. Written so well that all I wanted to do was eat bread and chocolate. Enough said.

8. The Help
Kathryn Stockett
The deep south (wealthy white and poor black) of the 1960s. I can't speak to the historical accuracy of this (although, I think it is) but the world is amazingly vivid and great.

9. Miss Fortune Cookie
Lauren Bjorkman
Although this book doesn't come out until November of this year, the Chinatown setting is so awesome. Cute and with the culture seamlessly woven into the characters and story.

10. The Summer of Firsts and Lasts
Terra Elan McVoy
For someone (ahem, me) whose entire experience with summer overnight camps has been through books, movies, and television shows, this book and its setting at one of these camps was so incredibly interesting.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

All The Books - July 21, 2012

I'm a little surprised that I only read one book this week, especially considering that The Help is actually a fairly fast read -- mostly because it's all but impossible to put down. My friend had told me that it's even better than the movie, and she was right. Since this isn't a YA book I won't be reviewing it on the blog, but it's one that you should read if you haven't already: the voices of Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny are distinct; the story is greatly captivating; and the writing is more than solid. I so enjoyed it.

This one (a sort-of retelling of Romeo and Juliet) has been on my radar for quite a while. Though I'm not so much a fan of the cover (weird, bland, almost-kissing), the story itself sounds really intriguing. Plus, check out the paperback cover -- is it not so much better?)

Ah, I love the cover for this anthology. Having read a few of the stories in the book I'm not really sure how well the cover fits (the book is quite a bit darker, in my opinion). Still, this cover is totally eye-catching and awesome.

I was so excited to see the cover for Scarlet, Marissa Meyer's sequel to Cinder. I love the red cape (Red Riding Hood!) and like how it matches the Cinder cover.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: Small Damages

Beth Kephart
Kenzie the (pregnant) American girl has been sent to Spain. Seville, where she will have the baby and then give it up to the Javier and Adair, just like her mother arranged. Because nobody, aside from Kenzie, her mother, and her boyfriend Kevin is supposed to know she's pregnant. But Kenzie, still mourning over the death of her father, angry at her mother for sending her away and her boyfriend for not coming with her, is slow to trust those around her in Spain, including the boy who takes care of the horses (Esteban) and the heartbroken woman (Estela) who is teaching her how to cook.

This is the first Beth Kephart book I've read and now I'm wondering why I didn't listen to Khy (from Frenetic Reader) ages ago when she told me I'd love Kephart; here is a writing style that seems tailor-made for me as a reader. The story is character-driven with gorgeous, lyrical descriptions and details that make you feel like you're there, in Spain, with Kenzie. I've read quite a few YA books dealing with the topic of teen pregnancy and this one stands out from the rest merely for the fact that the plot isn't concerned with setting up how everything happened or taking us through the character's reactions. The book opens with Kenzie in Spain, on the way to the home she'll be staying in. Because she was determined to have the baby, her mother made the decision for her to let other's adopt it; her mom set everything up so that nobody would know about Kenzie's pregnancy, so it could be dealt with and moved on from the same way she's dealt with and moved on from the death of Kenzie's dad. The first-person narration is unique here because Kenzie isn't telling the story to some unknown audience, but to her unborn baby who she already knows and loves.

It's touching and more than a little heartbreaking to join Kenzie as she deals with the position she's been forced into (Spain), her pregnancy, and the loss of her dad. This book manages to handle some very -- dare I say it? -- cliche YA topics without ever feeling run-of-the-mill. Kenzie's story is her own and not a copy of anyone else's and it's written beautifully.

On the other hand, however, there were moments in the last third of the book where I felt it moving too slowly, and at the end of the story there are still question marks attached to some of the book's most important questions. And while I don't love books that end too neatly, Small Damages went too far in the opposite direction: I wanted more answers than I got. For readers who love a more literary style of writing and slow-moving stories, this is one I'd definitely recommend, with the caveat that for me the ending was somewhat disappointing and confusing.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review: 52 Reasons to Hate My Father

Jessica Brody
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
(requested) ARC sent by the publisher
I thoroughly enjoyed the first Jessica Brody book I read (My Life Undecided) and was excited to read her newest novel, about the spoiled daughter of a billionaire. After crashing her car into a convenience store, Lexington Larrabee is forced to work 52 minimum-wage jobs (one a week for an entire year) before she can get access to her $25 million trust fund. It's a predictable redemption story as Lexi goes from arrogant, entitled little rich girl who doesn't know how to turn a vacuum cleaner on, to more of a real person.

While the story itself, and all of Lexi's daddy issues are obvious from the start, the set-up here is clever and Lexi's voice is funny. The girl is a total trainwreck, at least in the beginning, but she's an entertaining trainwreck whose issues stem from her nonexistent family life -- mostly the fact that her dad is rarely ever in the same room as her. In fact, he's hired a college intern to keep tabs on her throughout her 52 jobs. This leads to the requisite "opposites attract" love story, which never quite gains enough chemistry, compatibility, or emotion to make me feel invested in it. Luke (the intern/crush) is a bland character. In fact, this is one of the book's biggest problems: there's never enough weight to the emotions or characters (apart from Lexi) to make an impact. Side characters, like her new friend Rolando and her ex-boyfriend, enter and exit without making much of a splash. This book, despite its large cast of characters, is very much about Lexi's personal journey as she learns what hard work means and deals with her family problems. And while her working adventures were often hilarious and always entertaining, the more emotional parts of the story -- not just her romantic life, but more importantly her relationship with her distant father -- never quite clicked for me. This may be because the conclusion is fairly obvious from the start of the novel and the getting there took away from the parts of the book I truly enjoyed.

52 Reasons to Hate My Father perfectly fits what it appears to be: a quick and entertaining read. Brody's writing is always entertaining and though this book isn't exactly a comedy, it often reads as one.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Half-Year Favorites of 2012 - The Books

Last year around this time Nomes over at inkcrush posted a three-part "faves of twenty-eleven (so far)" survey that I participated in here, here, and here. This year she's not going to be doing it, but I am, and I'm using her end-of-the-year book awards as a template (you can see them here), which means there'll be five days of this instead of three. Yay!

Day One ~ The Books:

1. favorite book so far: Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi. Something about this book. My goodness. I can't quite explain why I love it so much (or I could, but it would make me sound like a crazy person), but Juliette, Adam, their story in this book... it's just so good, and Mafi's writing amazes me in the best way. I don't love everything that happens in this book and am so, so nervous for the series as a whole but I still love it so. incredibly. muchness.

2. most powerful book: Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech. I expected this book to be good, even great, because it is a Sharon Creech novel after all. But I didn't expect it to be so absolutely powerful. Profound, simply-written, heart-stirring. All the best things. Everyone should read this book because I don't even know how to explain how truly powerful (in the best sort of way) it is. 

3. brilliantly funny: Nothing Special, by Geoff Herbach. The protagonist in this book, Felton Reinstein, is one of the best narrators. Nothing Special isn't a comedy, but Felton's way of seeing the world and interpreting things makes it even funnier than many comedies.

4. best ache-y, heartbreak-y, tearjerker book: Sisterhood Everlasting, by Ann Brashares. I can't say much (or anything, really) about the sadness in this book without spoiling it but suffice to say Brashares succeeded in making me cry and be so angry about how the book went.

5. most beautiful story: Graffiti Moon, by Cath Crowley. It may be because I'm such a sucker for stories that take place over short periods of time or at night, and this one happens during one night, but whatever the reason, there's such beauty to Graffiti Moon. It's a story all about art and love and even that just that fact is beautiful.

6. delicious rainy day comfort read: Bittersweet, by Sarah Ockler. I think it's the combination of winter, a diner, and  Hudson's wonderful friends and family that makes this book so perfect for a rainy day read. In fact, I just decided: I'd like to take an afternoon reading this book and drinking a frozen hot chocolate while it rains -- or, I mean, at least while it's gloomy out.

7. adrenalin-fueled, unputdownable award: A Million Suns, by Beth Revis. I feel that this needs no explanation, right? I mean, it's solid sci-fi that I just couldn't stop reading.

8. beautiful prose award: Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi. This is the sort of book where I want to underline all the words because they are just so excellent and beautiful.

9. most atmospheric & vivid setting: The Disenchantments, by Nina LaCour. One of the big things that makes this the best road trip book I've read is the fact that each place the characters stop at is so vivid. It's not the first book you might think of because it's set in shady, backwater towns instead of, say, Paris or New York, but these backwater towns are written with amazing attention to detail and realism.

10. i-so-want-to-go-there award: Bittersweet, by Sarah Ockler. The diner in this book (Hurley's) is the sort of place I'd love to pull up a seat at. But beyond that Hudson's story and the people around her are the people I'd love to be around for a while. The hockey boys. Her family. The people at the diner. I'd love to pull a blue-ski-do and jump into this book, please.

11. most original & imaginative: Cinder, by Marissa Meyer. Cinderella reimagined as a sci-fi story with robots and aliens? Um, yes please.

12. best under-appreciated, hidden gem book: Life is but A Dream, by Brian James. I honestly don't think I've even seen this book in stores, which is such a shame as it's all kinds of creepy, mysterious, pretty, and on top of that a really solid story and exploration of mental illness. I want more people to read it.

13. i-had-no-idea-i-would-love-this-so award: Fangirl, by Ken Baker. I'm really sorry this isn't out yet, as I want everyone everyone to read it. It's so adorable, such a perfectly sweet little gem of a story. I picked it up at ALA mostly because the premise was pretty awesome (a popstar falling in love with a fangirl -- whaaat?) and while I expected it to be a fun read, I wasn't expecting to fall so head-over-heels for it the way I did.

14. most haunting story: Unwind, by Neal Shusterman. The whole idea behind this book (read it on the Goodreads page because I can't really explain it but basically teenagers can be "aborted" sort of, as long as every part of them is donated to someone else so they're "technically" still living) is weird enough, but there's one chapter in particular -- and if you've read it I'm sure you know what one it is -- that is so totally haunting. It makes me shudder.

15. outside my comfort zone, but gosh how i loved it: And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie. I don't read crime novels. And it's not like I won't, but so often they just don't appeal to me and I don't really "get" the writing and they're creepy. But this? It's probably the first whodunit I've read and it made me want to explore the genre further. Now I get why Agatha Christie is one of the greats.

16. series that i'm loving: A Million Suns, by Beth Revis. (The Godspeed trilogy.) AH! Such great sci-fi. I'm waiting impatiently for the conclusion to this incredible, awesome series. A Million Suns just blew me away.

17. book i'm recommending most often: Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech. I know it's an older one, but I've already had my mom read it and now I've passed it on to my dad. It's a book that I really think everyone (EVERYONE) should read. And yes, this means you. Get on it.

18. completely awesome premise award: The List, by Siobhan Vivian. There are always quite a few awesome premises, but in this case The List just takes the cake. I mean, a story told by the prettiest and ugliest girl in each grade at the same high school? LEGENDARY. And so well done by Siobhan Vivian.

19. would make the best movie: Bittersweet, by Sarah Ockler. And by "best" I mean this is the movie I'd personally love the most. A sweet, winter-flavored romantic comedy with cupcakes, hockey, ice-skating, and an overly-smart younger brother? MAKE IT HAPPEN, MOVIE PEOPLE.

20. want to reread already: Fangirl, by Ken Baker. You guys, this is the last book I read and I already want to reread it, if only to make all kinds of doodle-y notes in the margins. That's how much I love it. (I actually have the book in a basket by my bed and the last few days I've been re-skimming it, making little notes, etc. I love it.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday Ten: Books For People Who Like If I Stay

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is "books for people who like [x book]." I chose If I Stay, so for the most part, this list is going to read as a roundup of the best grief YA. But really, it is all based around books I think would be stellar if you love If I Stay.

1. Where She Went
Gayle Forman
Let's get the most obvious out of the way first: if for some reason you've read If I Stay but not its sequel Where She Went, get on that. This book is just as (if not more) emotional and powerful as the first as the story of Adam and Mia continues, this time told from Adam's POV.

2. Looking for Alaska
John Green
This book is similarly centered around life and death in a very big way as it explores life, death, suffering, and all those big-ticket items. I'm pretty sure you've all read it already.

3. The Fault in Our Stars
John Green
Oh, another John Green book! And another book that considers big-ticket themes in a big way. As with If I Stay there's a sense of loss from the very beginning and while Hazel has no choice in her life/death, the way she handles her disease and her future death in regards to those she loves reminds me a lot of Mia in If I Stay and the struggles she has to deal with.

4. Adios, Nirvana
Conrad Wesselhoeft
This is one of the biggest read-alikes for If I Stay, in my opinion. It's different from other books on this list because music is such a huge part of the story -- just as it is in If I Stay. It's similarly beautiful and heartbreaking. I recommend you read it.

5. Before I Fall
Lauren Oliver
Alright, this is another huge read-alike. The main character is dead, or almost, or something like that. She's a bit in-between, same as Mia, and even at this late stage in her life she's trying to make the best choices possible. Beautiful. Powerful. Heartbreaking. Amazing. so many feelings.

6. I Now Pronounce You Someone Else
Erin McCahan
I realize that this one, a book about a teenage girl planning her wedding, is notably different from the others on the list. But there's a feeling to If I Stay that, to a certain degree, I Now Pronounce You Someone Else also shares. Both Mia and Bronwen are so in love and both of them are hugely influenced by family. Also, the writing is just great.