Saturday, August 24, 2013

All the Books (August 24, 2013)

The much-anticipated You Look Different In Real Life, by Jennifer Castle. You can find my review here; unfortunately, though I liked the book, I didn't like it as much as I wanted to. Hopefully at some point this next month I'll get to where I'm actually reading more than <1 book a week, but right now it just doesn't seem to be happening.
Somewhat surprisingly, neither of these interesting-sounding books are contemporaries. A Matter of Days is a post-apocalyptic, disease-has-killed-everyone story of survival with a crazy simple premise. And Anna Jarzab's Tandem is sci-fi dealing with alternate universes. ALTERNATE UNIVERSES. Sign me up.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

review: you look different in real life

You Look Different in Real Life was definitely one of my most anticipated books this year. I had high hopes, high expectations for this incredibly interesting story of a girl (along with four of her classmates) whose life has been, every five years, the subject of a documentary along the lines of the British Up docu-series. (As a side note, I love this series and highly recommend it; many of the films are on Netflix and well worth watching.)

Justine, who has always been the viewers' favorite, is sixteen and facing the third film (Five at Sixteen), but this time she's dreading the camera's intrusion in her life. She's not who she thought she'd be by now, and although she professes to hate the movies and cameras, she also doesn't want to disappoint. This idea of not being who she wanted to be by sixteen is oner that I wish had been explored more in-depth, instead of given only a few lines of space, because it's a really interesting idea to me. Who we are and who we want to be. And, when the whole thing is captured on film for the world to see, how much harder is it? I wanted more of that, which ended up being my big problem with the book; it's full of so much stuff that the really interesting bits ended up buried with the more dramatic plots were what took center stage.

Despite the fact that Justine is the narrator and main character, there are four other important characters in this book, and each of them has their own stories and journeys that the book follows. Unfortunately, many of these stories seemed superflous and not every character shone the way I think they were probably supposed to. Kiera especially seems to be the fifth wheel here; although the big thrust of the main plot comes from her actions, her character is never clearly defined and her storyline seems both too dramatic and too convenient to really have an impact. A few of the events and storylines felt a bit shoehorned in to me: Kiera's story, Felix's (incredibly obvious) twist, Justine's sudden need to film everything when just pages ago she'd hated the cameras. Like I said, there was a lot here, and much of it didn't seem to work.

Which isn't to say the book as a whole didn't work, or that I didn't like it. Because I did. Despite how convenient many of the plot points felt to me, the characters' commitment to each other, even though they didn't all get along day-to-day and even though there had been some pretty big rifts in their friendships, shone through. From the moment the camera crew is back in their lives there's a sort of under-the-surface solidarity between the five docu-stars, almost an us versus them attitude that went far in establishing these characters' lives and relationships. It's Rory (Justine's ex-best friend, who has been diagnosed with Autism since the last film) in particular that brings this unity to the forefront; she sticks with the other four even when it would be so much easier, for so many reasons, to just not. Her matter-of-fact way of stating things is incredibly refreshing in a story where there's so much that goes unsaid.

This is a solid contemporary YA, though not without its faults. To be perfectly honest I think that my issues with it may stem from the fact that it was just a bit more plot-driven than I wanted or was expecting, which is probably going to work for a lot of readers.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

All The Books (August 17, 2013)

Alright, it's sad, but I haven't finished any books this week.

I absolutely loved Diana Peterfruend's first classic reimagining in a sci-fi setting, and I'm really super excited for this one as well. It's a reimagining of The Scarlet Pimpernel, which I haven't read -- but I hadn't read Persuasion either, so that's fine -- and if it's anything like For Darkness Shows the Stars I know it's going to be incredible.

This week the library was having an insane book sale and I managed to get all three of these for under $2, which is most excellent. They aren't books I felt like I needed to buy (although you can probably tell I'm in a bit of a Elin Hilderbrand phase lately), so I'm fully okay with setting them on my shelf where they'll sit until I have nothing else to read.

The title and cover for the third book in the Shatter Me trilogy was revealed -- yay, Ignite Me looks so gorgeous! To be honest I still haven't read Unravel Me (and am not sure if I will, honestly -- when I reread the first book I was surprised by how dark it was and how much I hadn't noticed on my first read). But I loved Shatter Me so so so so much the first time I read it that I'm thinking I may wait until all three are out and then read some reviews and see if I want to read the entire series. I'm super conflicted about these books, to be honest.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tuesday Ten: Books Set Outside of the USA

This week's theme from The Broke and Bookish is "Ten Books With X Setting," and I'm choosing to showcase ten awesome books set outside of the United States. In cases where the books were originally published in another country (hello, Austrailia, land of incredible writers!), I tried to include the foreign title and cover.

1. What Alice Forgot
Liane Moriarty
This Aussie-published novel about a woman who gets a bump on the head and forgets the last decade of her life isn't setting-heavy, but it is set in Australia and it is absolutely wonderful. It's amazing. One of those rare books that I stayed up all night long reading. (Honestly I think I finally forced myself to go to sleep around four in the morning, then woke up at 7-ish and finished the book.)

2. Jellicoe Road (On The Jellicoe Road)
Melina Marchetta
Another Aussie book (you'll notice a definite trend in this post), Jellicoe Road was published originally as On the Jellicoe Road in Australia and unlike What Alice Forgot, the setting plays a huge role. It's another amazing, incredible, I-love-it-so-much book. There must be something in the water down under.

3. Tiger Lily
Jodi Lynn Anderson
Set in Neverland, Tiger Lily is a truly original, awesome take on the tale of Peter Pan. A love story, it tells us, but not like any you've heard. True, that. 

4. Love and Other Perishable Items (Good Oil)
Laura Buzo
Here's Australian book number three. The tagline on this Australian cover says, "A Novel of First Love and Second Thoughts," and that sums up Love and Other Perishable Items/Good Oil so well. The tale of a teenage girl who falls in love with her older coworker isn't nearly as tawdry as it sounds; instead it's well-written, angsty, and impossible. Though I had some conflicted feelings on this one (in spite of how amazing it is, it also has the one thing I really, really hate in YA novels), in the end I can't leave it off this list.

5. Mothership
Isla Neal & Martin Leicht
Set in space. Space! And, oh, it's everything you ever wanted a space-set YA novel to be.

6. Anna and the French Kiss
Stephanie Perkins
Sigh. Paris, Etienne, Anna. You knew this one was coming up, right? In related news: I need that paperback edition in my life.

7. serafina67 *urgently requires life* (Big Woo: My Not-so-secret Teenage Blog)
Susie Day
A UK-set book! Woo! This, my favorite YA novel of them all, is pure pure pure awesome and so wonderfully non-American. *huggles*

8. How I Live Now
Meg Rosoff
Okay so I think this is the original cover for the UK-set (yep, a second one!) How I Live Now. A weird, uneasy, hilarious novel.

9. Bloomability
Sharon Creech
Switzerland! Boarding school! If this list were ranked according to my love for these books, Bloomability would be way up near the top instead of down here at the bottom.

10. Code Name Verity
Elizabeth Wein
Various parts of Europe. Come on, we all love Code Name Verity.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Thoughts on the How I Live Now Trailer

Let's talk about this.

Yep, it's a trailer for the movie based on Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now. And I have some thoughts, so let's get started.

First of all, calls the movie a "doomsday thriller," which is not exactly (or at all) how I ever thought of the book. I mean, yes, I guess it is, but I don't think of explosions and running for your life when I think of HILN. I think of Daisy and Piper eating poisonous mushrooms and Edmund, and the other cousin, the one who doesn't ever talk. I think of how weirdly surreal the whole story is.

Which is what the trailer is missing. From the trailer, this movie looks wholly modern-day and bright and vivid and colorful while I think of the book in muted colors.

There are certain things I'm hoping they don't erase for the movie (her eating disorder and the fact that Edmund is her cousin for two -- those were both really big, really important parts of the novel), and other things that I'm not convinced will translate. I think one of the biggest things that made the book work so well for me was that it was from Daisy's POV. I mean, this is a book that deals with some really really really dark and strange stuff -- war, incest, anorexia, hallucinating because of eating poisonous mushrooms -- but Daisy's personality and attitude make it... not better exactly, but different. Because we're in her mind, we know that she knows how messed up things are and isn't completely off her rocker (mostly though, mostly). In a movie, I don't know that they'll capture that. There are certain lines in the book, certain things Daisy thinks -- her reaction to the soldier being surprised at her cousins smoking and her fervent big-sister-type love for Piper, for instance -- that were just so perfect. How will that fit in a movie? And, if the movie is going to be a "doomsday thriller," will they even try?

Thoughts/expectations for the movie?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

All The Books (August 10, 2013)

This week I read my second Elin Hilderband book, Barefoot. I liked the book a surprising amount, especially considering I disagreed with almost every decision that almost every character made and didn't much care for the characters (with the notable exception of Vicki, the mother with cancer). Based on this book and The Island I think I can say that Hilderbrand's books, for me, are reliably fun and really well-written; I just hope I like the characters and their choices more in the next book I read from her.
I haven't been on Goodreads much this past week, so I didn't add anything new to my wanting list.

Now that I have a J-O-B, I finally let myself buy some new books. You Look Different In Real Life has been on my list ever since I heard about it and I'm so so so excited to finally get to read it. And Such A Rush has such a great premise, so I'm really hoping I end up liking it. It was 75% off at Hastings, so of course I had to buy it; there really was no choice.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tuesday Ten: Books I Want Answers About/Sequels To

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is "ten books I wish could have had sequels." But the thing about this topic is that I rarely wish for this. So much of the time I feel like the book that was written was the story that deserved to be told, and maybe adding a sequel would have taken away from the experience. (Of course, then you have situations like If I Stay and Where She Went, in which case the sequel blew my freaking socks off.)

But anyway. Though I don't often wish for sequels exactly, I do often wonder what happens to the characters after the book ends. So here are ten books I want answers about. Oh, and obviously spoilers ahead! Be warned all ye who enter here!

1. Love and Other Perishable Items
Laura Buzo
Come on, do Amelia and Chris end up together or not? I need to know!! 

2. The Rivals (The Mockingbirds #2)
Daisy Whitney
File this under "unfinished sequels." I know there was, at one point, supposed to be three Mockingbird books, and so it makes sense that this second one ended with a bit of WIDE OPEN QUESTIONS, but since no third book materialized I'm left wondering what happens after. What happens to Alex, to the Mockingbirds, to Themis Academy. This is why you should never get attached to series white they're in-progress. Reasons like this.

3. Okay For Now
Gary D. Schmidt
I love endings that are a bit open-ended (but not too much), so I really did like this ending -- at least, if I remember it correctly -- but I still want to know what happens. Long-term, what happens with Doug? With Doug and his family? With Doug and Lili? What happens with Lili? 

4. After the Kiss
Terra Elan McVoy
Again, while I liked the ending here I just still want to know what happens to the characters after, especially with Camille and her Chicago Boy.

5. Fashionista (Bradford #2)
Micol Ostow
And another case of series that didn't get the finish they deserved. I loved the Bradford novels, which use blog posts to tell the story (and, I think, texts/emails too, though it's been quite a while since I've read the books) and was surprised and disappointed when after the second book a third didn't follow. I guess I was the only one who read them?

6. After
Amy Efaw
This book disappointed me because I wanted so much more of the trial and what came after. I really wanted a resolution here and didn't get it.

7. So Many Boys (The Naughty List #2)
Suzanne Young
Really this post should just be called "series I loved that got cut short," because once again we have a fantastic contemporary series that didn't get its final book. I loved Tessa and all her boy/friendship drama and really wanted to see how things played out, especially with the betrayal of her best friend near the end of (I think) this book. BOOK THREE, PLEASE!!

Alright, I know I've only got seven books here but it's surprisingly hard to come up with ten books I want sequels to because, like I said, I generally feel like the story that's told is the one that deserves to be told, and I'm such a fan of stand-alone novels.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Balancing Acts & A Call for Great Chick-Lit

I seem to be on a never-ending quest to find awesome, solidly cute and entertaining adult novels. Chick-lit*, for lack of a better term. I want the book equivalent of a really good romantic comedy; 13 Going on 30 or The Proposal in book form. Honestly, I want the feel of a romantic comedy, but the book doesn't even have to be a romance.

So I found Balancing Acts at a used bookstore. Four college friends meet back up at a 10-year quasi-reunion and reconnect over a six-week yoga class. Cue dream-chasing, unexpected romances, and Big Life Moments. I had such hopes for this one!

Sadly, those hopes were not met. Though the premise of the book was catchy enough, the characters and relationships fell flat for me, with the notable exception of single-mom Naomi, who was the bright light of the book. These four women are remarkably similar to one another - all of the same socio-economic class, working in related fields, most of them with creative dreams they'd put off only to rediscover them throughout the course of the book. Their romances are predictably... predictable, and the friendship that grows between the four of them never felt organic enough to really draw me in.

The odd thing here, in light of everything I've said, is that I actually enjoyed the book. It was entertaining enough, and I was invested enough in these characters stories that I kept with it. I wanted more from the ending, especially Naomi's storyline, but this book was reliably okay. 

But it wasn't the rom-com, chick-lit gem I keep searching for, and I have to ask, for those of you who read more adult than YA: can you recommend some great chick-lit to me?

*Okay, yeah, I know that "chick-lit" is supposed to be not so much a term anymore. But I honestly don't know how else to best describe the type of book I'm looking for. If you know what it's called, let me know!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

All The Books (August 3, 2013)

I know it's been ages since I've done my "All the Books" meme, but here it is again (and hopefully I can keep it up this time!) -- what I'm reading, what I've read, and what I've got in my TBR pile.

(Books I've read this past week)
A post about this book is coming on Monday. I got it at a used bookstore and had high hopes that it didn't quite meet. I'm thinking that readers who love yoga (or have any interest in it whatsoever) might get more from the book than I did.

(Books added to my wishlist this week)

I've been making monthly "wanting" lists, and somewhat amazingly these are the (only) three books from August that really jumped out at at me. The Golden Day sounds pretty and creepy, but I'm hoping not too creepy. Just Like Fate is a twisty, contemporary-with-a-dose-of-sci-fi book that I'm really hoping stands up to how great I really want it to be. And then there's Kelly Fiore's debut novel, Taste Test, which I am just incredibly excited about. Chefs-who-fall-in-love has sounded like a great premise to me ever since I watched an episode of Private Chefs of Beverly Hills years ago. (Because yes, that was a real show that I really watched.) So I'm excited about this one.

(New books I've acquired this week)
I was crazy excited to win a signed, personalized copy of this from Zoe's Book Reviews. It's so right up my alley, so I'm really hoping I love it (but, of course, attempting to go in without any prejudgements. A huge thank you to both Zoe and Daisy Whitney for the book!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Top 10: Favorite Beginnings/Endings of Books

This week's Top Ten topic from The Broke and the Bookish is "top ten favorite beginnings or endings of books," meaning awesome scenes, lines, or just whatever. And yes, I know this meme is supposed to go up on Tuesday, but, uh, HELLO FRIDAY!


Across the Universe, by Beth Revis
The first chapter of Across the Universe is one of the best, most stunning first chapters I've come across. It is perfection. The bad side of that, though, is that you end up holding the whole rest of the book/series to that same impossible standard and it never quite reaches such epic heights. (That said, the whole series is really good. It's just that the first scene, with Amy in the cryo chamber, is flat-out gripping.)

Golden, by Jessi Kirby
Specifically the prologue. Now, I am not normally a prologues kind of person and more often than not I snooze through them, but the prologue to Golden is, if you'll excuse the awful wordplay... absolute gold. So perfect and dreamy and pretty, a great set-up for the mystery that follows.

Twenty Boy Summer, by Sarah Ockler
The opening scene and chapter for this book is so heartbreakingly perfect for the story that follows. The characters -- even (or especially) the one who is quickly killed off -- are so fully formed that it makes what happens near the start of the book even more painful.

Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
This book sets you down right in the middle of Scarlett O'Hara's enviable life as a southern belle and it's such a great set-up (I feel like I'm using the word "perfect" too much in this post) for the rest of the story and the downward spiral of Scarlett's life.

Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson
This is a love story, but not like any you've heard.
This almost-first line sets the tone for Tiger Lily and daaaaang if that's not one of the best lines ever ever ever. Adore.


We'll Always Have Summer, by Jenny Han
Whenever I see people complaining about "love triangles" in YA I always think but, but, the Summer trilogy. Because these three books did it right (as did, you know, the next book/series on this list). We'll Always Have Summer, the last in the trilogy, ended exactly as it should have, with pitch-perfect writing to boot.

Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
This ending was heart-wrenchingly sad, but it was also, to me, the only way the series could end. And, yes, as far as the romance aspect, spot-on for these characters (and, erm, also what I wanted to happen). I'm in complete awe of Suzanne Collins for how she did this book, this huge ending to such a huge series.

Flipped, by Wendelin Van Draanan
This book ends with just the right amount of hopefulness and the turning over of a new leaf. It fits the book and the characters so well.

Alright, this was all I could come up with. Eight books. There are other endings I love as well (the end to Mothership, for instance), but it's hard to really come up with a solid ten so I'll leave it at a solid eight instead.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

55 Reading Questions (31-40)

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
If I truly hate a book, I probably won't post a review of it, but in general I actually don't have a problem with writing negative or critical reviews. I stick to judging the book (not the author as a person), and make sure that I can provide reasons for my opinion, but I think that critical/negative reviews are important for readers trying to decide if a certain book is right for them.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
I think French. I feel like that would just be a really pretty language to read in.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Probably The Hobbit in eighth grade. It was huge and dense and boring and I was just like, seriously?

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
Hmm. I don't know.

35. Favorite Poet?
I don't have a favorite. I like Emily Dickenson and e.e. cummings a lot, so maybe one/both of them.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?

37. How often have you returned books to the library unread?
Very rarely.

38. Favorite fictional character? 
Agent 99. Unless we're talking from books only, in which case I don't know. It's too hard to choose. Maybe Peeta Mellark? Maybe Melanie Wilkes? 

39. Favourite fictional villain?
Seigfreid. But again, if we're talking books only then I don't have an answer for this. Because in general I don't like villains.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
I bring my Bible any time I travel, but as for "fun reading," I'd bring whatever I'm looking forward to reading. I took a trip recently and brought Sarah Dessen's latest, The Moon and More (although that was definitely not a vacation). I'm also likely to bring used books that I don't have to worry too much about whether they get messed up.