Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Anna and the French Kiss review

Goodreads description: Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris-- until she meets Etienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Etienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

 My Thoughts: When John Green said “Anna and the French Kiss is like Maureen Johnson and I had a baby, a French baby,” that was all I needed to hear. Not to mention that most of the story takes place in France, a place I can’t get enough of.

I was immediately sold, but for whatever reason, a good amount of time passed before I finally read it. And an outrageous amount of months flew by before remembering that I hadn’t reviewed it. So unfortunately I’ve forgotten many details about the story. Thankfully I remember some of the more important pieces. I remember liking that Anna and St. Clair became friends before anything else. Because St. Clair is in a relationship, they try to keep their boundaries. I love this for two reasons. For one, although if done well I don’t mind it, I was getting tired of these quick-all-consuming loves in other YA books. This relationship had a good foundation that expanded into something loving yet realistic.

So as their feelings grew, we got to see more of these characters, even the darker parts of their lives.  And we also got to see an Anna that didn’t “belong” to any guy. She’s the girl that hopes know one finds out who her father is. She’s the kind of person that loves movies and gets ecstatic over discovering independent cinemas. We also get to know about St. Clair and the struggles he’s having with his parents and his future. Those are things I don’t think I would have known if any and every thought they had, had been for the other person. How would I know they were complex characters if all I found out about them was that they couldn’t stop thinking about the other person?

Also, and this ties into the all-consuming type love, I’m glad they both wanted to respect St. Clair’s relationship with his girlfriend. Because this is the kind of book that shows you that there is still a life outside two people who like each other. And that what they do still has consequences, especially for those outside of their relationship. It shows that although they might be better together, Anna and St. Clair were whole people before they met. I think that’s important, and it’s a good enough reason to finally read Lola and the Boy Next Door.

Top Ten Books on My Winter TBR List

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
I’ve gone too long without reading it.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
I was horrified when I realized I’d never read a Neil Gaiman book, regardless of the fact that at least two of his novels have been collecting dust on my shelves.

Gone by Lisa McMann
I remember feeling sadness because this series was coming to an end, apparently so sad that I never finished the last book.

Pure by Julianne Baggott
I’ve had this book for so long and have seen enough good reviews in the last few months that I think It’s time to take it off the TBR pile.

Hunger by Michael Grant
I really enjoyed Gone, so I have no idea why I haven’t read books 2-6 (good gracious).

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
The Book Smugglers talked so highly of it. Now that I finally have a copy there are no excuses!

I’d Tell you I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You by Ally Carter
I love the Heist Society series, so it makes sense to read her other books.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Everyone seems to love it.

Ash by Malinda Lo
I think I bought this as soon as it came out, but never got around to actually reading it. It’s time to rectify this situation.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

I know a lot of people via the Internet have been trying to get readers to pick up this series. It does seem highly underrated.

Honorable Mentions:
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
I’ve heard that this is one of the only stories that really can be compared to Harry Potter.

Variant by Robison Wells
This just feels like a ME book if that makes any sense.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
I feel the need to read it again after watching the movie.

Y: The Last Man by Brian k. Vaughan
I just recently got into reading comics. I started reading Private Eye, a digital comic which is also written by Vaughan. I'm hoping I can finish The Last Man soon and acquire Vol. 1 of his other comic series, Saga (maybe a Christmas present?)

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Maze Runner Review

Goodreads: When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he's not alone. When the lift's doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade-- a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don't know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they've closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up-- the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

My Thoughts: I've had this book for at least four years, but it took the reminder of the upcoming movie and a sick day to remind me to read it. And to be honest, I thought it was just OK. It was interesting enough that I'll undoubtedly go see the movie, but it's almost in spite of the book, since I have mixed feelings. If you know anything about The Maze Runner, there's no secret that these guys are in/surrounded by a maze that they can't figure out. There's more to their problematic story than that, but it's already clear that this group of people don't know what's going on. And in turn, the reader doesn't either.

This wasn’t an uncommon way to tell a story, so I was fine with being in the dark along with the characters. But little by little, when parts of the truth began to be revealed, it begged for a huge reveal. It was exciting to know that some of these answers would come by the end of the book. But when I got them, they didn’t seem big enough. Or maybe they were too big. And fantastical books don’t have to be realistic, but these answers didn’t seem realistic for the world Dashner had painted. Either that or I didn’t truly understand the reveal regarding the maze and its purpose.  I think what else didn’t help is knowing that the whole time I’m reading this, I’m thinking of how it would play out on a big screen. And by the end of the story, I became afraid that viewers for the movie might share the confusion I felt for the book. I really hope I’m wrong, because I do want the potential movie franchise to succeed, but I do have my reservations.

I am however, still invested enough to read the second book. Because despite the problems I had with it, it was still fun, interesting, and fast-paced. Not to mention that I have so many unanswered questions. So I can’t not continue with the series. Hopefully The Scorch Trials (and The Death Cure) will help clear things up for me.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Eleanor & Park Review

Goodreads description: Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

My thoughts: After reading a book like Jellicoe Road, it’s seems as if there’s no solution to such a book hangover. That is unless you decide to delve into a story such as Eleanor & Park. I’d made two earlier attempts to start a new book (Ketchup Clouds and The Vile Village) but it was in vain. It took a big girl with a head full of red hair and a half-Asian boy who looks like sunshine to break me from the hold Jellicoe Road had over me. And it actually wasn’t that hard in the end, switching worlds. It probably took me less than a chapter: right after Eleanor sits with Park on the bus for the first time.

It was nice to see two people who didn’t know each other grow into two people who came to need each other. Sometimes, after I realized I’ve grown very close to someone, I wonder how we got there. What I mean is, I wonder how we got from trying to remember each other’s names and getting past the “awkward points” to automatically thinking about the same thing at the exact same time and/or always being together. How did we get so close? Here’s a whole book that takes a couple of strangers and makes them fit so well that any other result would seem ridiculous.

And in this case, Eleanor and Park’s love story is like a bowl of ice cream. It’s great by itself, but what gives it that extra something is everything else, aka the proverbial cherry on top.

- I don’t remember ever having a female main character in a YA book be big. This is so much so that even with my imagination, there was a limit to how she looked in my head. And in fact sometimes I couldn't imagine her at all past the red hair.

- Park’s family and upbringing: Here’s a guy that knows kung fu, not because his mom is Korean, but because his dad loves it. A guy whose parents have basically the same routine every day when they see each other that includes making out. A guy who’s grandparents give him a kiss-me-I’m-Irish shirt every year. Basically his family is made of awesome, and not in a they’re-perfect kind of way, but in a they’re-awesome-because-they-love-each-other-and-they’re-trying kind of way. It was so different from Eleanor’s situation with her family, which in some scenes (especially with her mom and/or step-dad) made my insides go rotten.

This is one of those stories with scenes that warmed my heart right before it was (temporarily) wrenched from my chest. But that made the story accessible and something...living. As a person who doesn't usually have the patience to re-read a book, the writing was so on point that I'd never mind revisiting this world. Basically it made me feel all-the-things! And what’s better than that?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

On the Jellicoe Road review

Goodreads summary: Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham 17, finally confronts her past. Hannah, the closest adult she has to family, disappears. Jonah Griggs, moody stares and all, is back in town. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.

My thoughts: It seemed like a gift and a curse to choose Jellicoe Road after one of the longest book slumps of my life. A gift because it practically yanked me out of my bookless world. A curse because it left me with a book hangover, which in the past has led me to... a book slump.

I was so confused initially: by the sections in italics, the hermit, the cadets, and boys in trees in dreams. It was to the point that I wondered if I should stop reading. That was an option for me because I was tired of books that were just OK or just good. And I couldn't see a book that I barely understood being great. But after the melodramatic version of myself calmed down and pressed on, it became blatantly obvious how beautiful and powerful this piece of writing truly was.

Taylor is this girl with a chip on her shoulder, but to understand where she comes from and what she's gone through, it's a wonder she's done so well. But she has help throughout the story, as she finds out more about the past (hers and others), from friends who aren't "supposed" to be friends. And as their lives begin to tangle into each other's, the sections in italics make more sense. And the idea of friends being your family (or at least a part of it) becomes a deep, recurring theme.

It's amazing how the book that started off slow for me swept me away with its characters, writing, and plot.

Characters: I respect the hec out of Jonah Griggs. I want to date Chaz Santangelo. I want to be best friends with Raffaela. And I want to love Taylor until the pain stops.

Writing: I'm not really a fan of re-reading something (unless it's The Phantom Tollbooth or Shadow of the Fox) but there were so many fantastic passages that I'd be willing to re-read this.

Plot: What seemed annoying at first was a pretty brilliant way to tell a story. As a future screenwriter (hopefully), it definitely encouraged me to "step my game up" as far as storytelling goes.

It's an amazing thing to go from being mildly interested in a story to having to hold back tears during the last few chapters. There is no doubt as to why it won the Printz award, or why there's supposed to be a movie version coming out. The only thing I could hope for after was that I'd find another book that could move me... My review of Eleanor & Park should be up next week.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Sky is Everywhere review

Goodreads summary: Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life - and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.

This remarkable debut is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Francesca Lia Block. Just as much a celebration of love as it is a portrait of loss, Lennie's struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often hilarious, and ultimately unforgettable.

 My Thoughts: This is another book I can't believe took me so long to read. It's sad yet hopeful and realistic in a way I didn't expect. Realistic in a way that caused me to think about the people that have died in my life. And not like a family member who's much older than me, but a friend or a fellow student. It seemed impossible because they were my age. They were my friends but they died and the world kept spinning. Oddly enough, the indescribable feelings I felt in those difficult times seemed a bit more easy to describe (and accept) thanks to this book. 

And what makes The Sky Is Everywhere stand out is that not only does Lennie have to live past her sister's death, but she also has to deal with her weirdly-but-perfectly timed "awakening." She's finally leaving the comfort of her sister's shadow and coming more into her own. But of course, what is living and growing without making mistakes and/or being unsure of yourself?

And let me tell you, Jandy Nelson can write. It's in a way that makes sadness seem poetic but still very real. Especially when Lennie leaves her notes all over town. And if the captivating story or the gorgeous writing wasn't enough, there are these amazing and very descriptive characters:

- A giant hulk of a man for an uncle
- A beautiful guy with full lashes who can bat his way in or out of anything
- A mother/grandmother who's the best "florist" in town

It's just the perfect mixture of complex issues and normal situations that has me adding this to my list of favorite contemporary novels.

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