Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Clara and her family move to Wyoming so she can fulfill her Purpose as an angel.

I will admit I was a little reluctant to pick up this book. The cover made it look a little silly and like just another paranormal romance. However, I was quickly proved wrong by Cynthia Hand's addictive, engrossing story.
I will say a couple things about the story, but I'm going to keep it to a minimum because I don't want to give too much away:
I love Tucker. I don't think I've had a crush on a fictional guy since Holden Caulfield during my freshman year of high school. He is completely perfect and I am super happy that Clara chose to save him, even if it might mean trouble later on.
I also have a prediction for the anxiously-awaited sequel: I think Angela is a Blackwing. It specifically says in the book that Blackwings can make their wings look however they want. Angela can make her wings look all scaley, and although her wings are white like Clara's, I wonder if she can make them change color as well.

This book is an excellent, must-read addition to the emerging angel trend in young adult literature.

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

Tragedy strikes Bridget, Tibby, Carmen, and Lena ten years after the loss of the Pants.

This was a terrible book. I didn't even finish it because I was concerned if I read further I would burn it and have to replace a library book I didn't even like.
DROWNING?!?!?! That is the most un-Tibby like death she could possibly think of. If I had written this book, I would have at least had her be killed by wild animals while filming her own walkabout in Australia. I mean, come on, Ann.
The writing was okay, I guess, but the plot was unnecessarily slow. They spend almost the entire book being sad, which is understandable, but doesn't make a riveting story.
This book made me dislike Carmen, who had been my second favorite after Lena, because all she seemed to care about was calories and maintaining her size zero. Bridget bugged me because of the whole leaving Eric thing. It also didn't seem believable that she would sleep on a bench, but maybe that's just me.
All in all, I would say this book was not worth either writing or reading.

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr


After the death of her father, Jill's mother decides to adopt a baby.

1. The cover is not incredibly relevant to the book and looks kind of corny, in my opinion.
2. "How to Save a Life" is a cheesy title that many people will associate with the song by the Fray. To be honest, every time I looked at or picked up the book, all I could hear was that song.
3. The only book of Sara Zarr's that's really worth reading is Story of a Girl. I've read all of her other books in the hope that one might be as good as that one, but to no avail.
4. What kind of names are Jill and Mandy? Have you ever met a teenager in 2000s with the name Jill? I guess Mandy is appropriate because the character is kind of odd and ditzy, but really? Or maybe I have a subconscious personal vendetta against the name Mandy...

Also try:
Other books by Sara Zarr
Someone Like You by Sara Dessen (also a book about teenage pregnancy, but much better/more interesting.)

How to Save a Life - The Fray (haha)

The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okafor-Mbachu

A fascinating futuristic fantasy set in Africa...

I am actually going to keep my thoughts to myself on this one, because it is so unique and different and special that I don't want to spoil anything. This book will be unlike any young adult dystopian/futuristic novel you have ever read.

Also try:
Not sure what to write for this one, because there are no other books like it.

Shadowy whispers and the earth's heartbea

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

The sequel to the acclaimed If I Stay, written from Adam's point of view.

I absolutely loved this book. I actually thought it was better than the first book, which rarely happens. I liked Adam's narration better than Mia's, maybe because the first book was her just watching everybody after her accident. I felt that Adam's feelings about Mia and his withdrawal from the band was very realistic, and I really liked getting to see how much things had changed between the first books. I was also glad to learn what happened to Mia after she woke up. I was also thrilled when the author talked about a (real!) conductor from Venezuela who started a program that would take kids off the streets and into orchestra, because I learned about him earlier this year. Where She Went is a perfect book for musicians of all kinds.

Our Hearts Are Wrong - Jessica Lea Mayfield
Reason Why - Rachael Yamagata
Oh No - KaiserCartel
World Spins Madly On - The Weepies
Chemistry - Kimya Dawson
When I'm Alone - Lissie
The Man Who Can't Be Moved - The Script

Entwined by Heather Dixon

Princess Azalea and her eleven sisters discover a magic passage in their bedroom.

I'd say this book was cute, but not too much else. Though it is marketed as a young adult novel, it seems more appropriate for preteens or little girls who have the kind of wonderful parents who read aloud to them.

Also try:
Wildwood Dancing (a more grown-up version of Entwined) and its sequel, Cybele's Secret by Juliette Marillier

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

When Mikey's sister is sexually assaulted by Ellie's brother, he vows to get revenge. But as he gets to know Ellie, everything changes...

Truth be told, I was not such a big fan of Before I Die, Downham's debut that got so much attention. However, this book sounded really good so I gave it a chance anyway, and I am quite glad I did. For this book, I recommend setting a block of time aside for yourself to read it, as there are really no good stopping points because the mixture of romance and revenge always has you on the edge of your seat. Good going, Jenny Downham!

Be Be Your Love - Rachael Yamagata

Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

Mythological creatures roam free in an altered post-Katrina New Orleans.

This book was pretty good. I'll definitely read the sequel, A BEAUTIFUL EVIL, set to release in February 2012. The way the author handled the mythology was combined with the re-imagining of post-Katrina New Orleans was very interesting.

Also try:
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

Runs in the Family - Amanda Palmer

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

In a desolate parallel world filled with violence, no one can be trusted...

This was an intense book. I was very impressed with it. First of all, it is a young adult thriller, which there are not too many of, and secondly, it was a WELL WRITTEN thriller. I can probably count on one hand the amount of times that happens.
Admittedly, this book was a tad too violent for me. However, it was still quite excellent. It was really interesting to see how Jack's mind started kind of deteriorating after he was kidnapped, sometimes speaking in first person, and sometimes speaking about himself in third. I also thought the difference between Jack and Conner's reactions to Marbury was intriguing as well. While Jack couldn't stop himself from going back, Conner stayed true to his original desire to destroy the glasses. Great book.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay is a book about loss, love, and music.

I really only read this book because of all the hype about it and its recently-released sequel,Where She Went. This book was indeed quite good, and I simply cannot understand why one version of the cover shows a quote stating "Fans of Twilight will love this book." A) it's not supernatural, B) More importantly, this book is better than Twilight in every single freaking way, most noticeably in the quality of writing, and C) Adam is sooooooooooo much better than Edward.

Also, this is not about the book specifically, but as a musician I think it should be addressed: I for one am sick of reading books about musicians who aspire to go to Julliard. I'm sure it's a great school, but there are many other music schools that are just as good or better than Julliard, such as Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Oberlin Conservatory. I suppose authors use it because it's more widely known, but still, BE ORIGINAL.

However, I do have to say I loved all of the musical metaphors, and how Adam told Mia to "play him like a cello" and then played her like a guitar. Most romantic scene in a book ever.

*possible spoiler alert* I do not think Mia will stay with Adam. I really, really want her to, but I don't think she will. I think she'll live and play cello again, but I think she'll go to Julliard instead of staying with him.

Other than that, pretty good book.

UP SOON -------------------> Where She Went, the sequel, written from Adam's very hot perspective...

Also try:
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
NOTE: includes loss, a lot of love, and clarinet

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

My own personal short 'n' sweet summary:
Angel + Devil = TROUBLE

A few thoughts:

1. Laini Taylor is probably the coolest person ever. I mean, come on; she's got pink hair:

2. Sometimes, when you read a book as good as Lips Touch, you are disappointed when you read something else by the same author. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is not that something else.

3. Laini Taylor uses the best names: Kazimir, Akiva, Karou...don't even get me started. And I'm pretty sure she makes them up, too.

4. This is the first urban fantasy I've read that doesn't take place in New York, so major props to Laini Taylor for that. She has also helped me decide where I want to study abroad in college: Prague all the way.

5. With Taylor's wonderfully vivid descriptions, I think anyone could read aloud from this book and go all Silvertongue (yay for Inkheart references) and bring a chimaera right out of the story!

Basically, READ IT.
Or don't, I guess, and get one of Karou's crescent-shaped knives in your face.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

A brother and sister turn traditional ideas of forbidden love upside down in this novel.

Between the beautiful prose and, shall we say, unusual romance, this edgy book is not to be missed! The definition of a page-turner!

Jar of Hearts - Christina Perri

Also try:
Her and Me and You by Lauren Strasnick

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

My own personal short 'n' sweet summary:
Crazy girl meets crazy town

This is going to be quite brief, because I completely loved this book and don't want to give too much away:
This novel is a perfect blend of horror and romance that is absolutely delicious.

Heads Will Roll - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Are You Hurting The One You Love? - Florence and the Machine
Sweet About Me - Gabriella Cilmi
Sweet - Lex Land

Her and Me and Youby Laura Streisnick

Is Alex dating one twin...or two?

This book was off to a good start. I was very interested to know more about the freaky, creepy relationship between the twins, particularly Adina. I personally love
books with characters who have some sort of mental illness, and I was quite curious as to what Adina's problems were.
However, I really only liked this book while I was reading it, due to the ending, which I will discuss later. I feel like Fred was a pretty bland character. I think Alex as a narrator was unnecessary, and that the author could have written a much more interesting book if it had just been about the twins. Alex and Fred's relationship never went anywhere. Throughout the book, people keep telling Alex about how something Adina did caused Fred's ex to leave the school, yet we never find out what that was and Alex doesn't bother to investigate. I didn't find Alex and Evie's friendship problems particularly i
nteresting. I feel that since the book was written about the twins, it should have been narrated by one or both of them, or just in third person. Alex's story was distracting and unoriginal.
The main thing that I disliked about the book was the ending. I literally looked to see if there were torn out pages because it was truly that abrupt. The author leaves us with no answers. The enigmatic ex remains a mystery, and we never find out what is up with the twins' weird and seemingly incestual relationship, and nothing happens between Fred and Alex that makes that part of the story worth writing or reading.
Sometimes, ending a book with unanswered questions is okay and makes it all the more interesting, but the author has to give the readers enough to be satisfied. All in all, I think the writer needs to learn a little more about the craft so
she can create more dynamic characters and how to end a book mysteriously but not abruptly.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

A plane full of teenage beauty queens crashes on a desert island. Beauty Queenspresents a satiric view of our consumerist society

This is by far the best young adult book I have read all year. Beauty Queens presents us with a satire of our current consumption-driven lives. Libba Bray has created an absolutely hilarious story with completely endearing characters. One of these is a parody of Sara Palin named Ladybird Hope, who evidently does not fit under the “endearing” category. Beauty Queens also speaks to Bray’s versatility as an author; before this, she wrote the Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy, a trio of historical fantasies, and the Printz-Award- winning Going Bovine.

I also admire the way Bray dealt with some other contemporary issues such as sexuality and racism. This book is like Lost and America’s Next Top Model combined, making it a fast-paced romp through the jungle you’re sure to enjoy.

Matched by Allie Condie

Summary from Amazon- For Cassia, nothing is left to chance--not what she will eat, the job she will have, or the man she will marry. In Matched, the Society Officials have determined optimal outcomes for all aspects of daily life, thereby removing the "burden" of choice. When Cassia's best friend is identified as her ideal marriage Match it confirms her belief that Society knows best, until she plugs in her Match microchip and a different boy’s face flashes on the screen. This improbable mistake sets Cassia on a dangerous path to the unthinkable--rebelling against the predetermined life Society has in store for her. As author Ally Condie’s unique dystopian Society takes chilling measures to maintain the status quo,Matchedreminds readers that freedom of choice is precious, and not without sacrifice.--Seira Wilson

When I first started reading Matched by Ally Condie, I couldn’t put the book down. She captured my attention with her beautiful words that contrasted sharply with the cold, strict world she was writing about, and I couldn’t get enough. However, as I read on, my feelings about the book became more mixed. I noticed a lot of similarities between Matched and other young adult novels I have read. For example, Cassia must choose between the boy who was chosen for her and the one she truly loves, just as Mary had to do in Carrie Ryan’s Forest of Hands and Teeth. In addition, the teens are assigned jobs in a manner similar to the method in City of Ember. I also found it ironic that though Cassia doesn’t do what the Society expects her to at the end, she does exactly what I expected her to do. Though I found Matched unoriginal in some ways, I still managed to enjoy it.

The Frenzy by Francesca Lia Block

Summary from GoodreadsLiv has a secret.

Something happened to her when she was thirteen. Something that changed everything. Liv knows she doesn’t belong anymore—not in her own skin, not in her family . . . not anywhere. The only time she truly feels like herself is when she’s with her boyfriend, Corey, and in the woods that surround her town.
But in the woods, a mysterious woman watches Liv. In the woods, a pack of wild boys lurks. In the woods, Liv learns about the curse that will haunt her forever. The curse that caused the frenzy four years ago. And that may cause it again, all too soon.
While Corey and Liv’s love binds them together, Liv’s dark secret threatens to tear them apart as she struggles to understand who—or what—she really is. And by the light of the full moon, the most dangerous secrets bare their claws.
^this summary makes the book sound way more exciting than it actually is

I was so looking forward to reading this book. I consider the Weetzie Bat books to be among my favorites, and have enjoyed everything Francesca Lia Block has put out since that time that I've been able to get my hands on,
until now.

In her most recent works (Blood Roses, Pretty Dead, etc.), the flowing, graceful, magical quality of Block's writing has all but disappeared. I was a bit concerned when Block decided to tackle the highly mainstream topics of vampires (Pretty Dead) and werewolves (The Frenzy) and it appears I was right to feel that way. I expected that her unique voice would make her stories about commonplace fantasy creatures interesting, but I did not discover anything new in either of these books. I also found Liv, the main character of The Frenzy, a bit bland. She did not change throughout the entire novel, something I would expect more from a debut novelist than a seasoned writer. The werewolf part of the story wasn't different enough from everything else on the subject to make me feel anything but disappointment. I'm not sure what the point of having her "family" in there was, because their desires affected none of Liv's decisions. The only thing, really, that I found remotely interesting was Liv's gay friend Pace's relationship with the mysterious Michael. It semi resolves itself at the end, but I would have liked to know much more about it, and would have preferred to read a book about that rather than just another werewolf book.
I miss the old Francesca Lia Block, the one who created quirky, eccentric characters and stories bursting with magic. Where has she gone?

The Ivy by Lauren Kunz with Rina Onur

A fun summer read about one girl's life among the Ivies, complete with boys and diabolical roommates.

Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur may not have succeeded in making me want to go to Harvard, but they did succeed in crafting an entertaining story. The Ivyprovided me with a delicious escape from my humdrum summer, despite the fact that it is about school. The characters were very different from one another, and each added their own unique edge to the story. I am pleased to have discovered this new series, and cannot wait for the next installment. If anyone else feels this way after readingThe Ivy, try Alicia Thompson’s Psych Major Syndrome or J. Courtney Sullivan’sCommencement to tide you over.

I find it particularly interesting that the actual writer (Lauren Kunze) doesn't like her own main character. This is also a collaboration I haven't heard about before; one person provides the ideas and the other puts them into words. So, the question becomes: who's doing the real creating?

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before by David Yoo

Nerdy kid + ex-girlfriend of popular jock = ? 

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before by David Yoo is an entertaining, fast-paced story of first love that will resonate true with many readers. Yoo has managed to make Albert, the story’s socially awkward protagonist, into a loveable character we want to win. Yoo’s charm and wit are what make this love story unique, and I can certainly say I haven’t heard this one before. If you are looking for more heartfelt love stories, check out Elizabeth Scott’s books, particularly The Unwritten Rule.

Words Cannot Describe - Mirah

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Summary from Goodreads - While other teenage girls daydream about boys, Calla Tor imagines ripping out her enemies’ throats. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. Calla was born a warrior and on her eighteenth- birthday she’ll become the alpha female of the next generation of Guardian wolves. But Calla’s predestined path veers off course the moment she saves the life of a wayward hiker, a boy her own age. This human boy’s secret will turn the young pack's world upside down and forever alter the outcome of the centuries-old Witches' War that surrounds them all.

Fans of Aprilynne Pike, Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, and Maggie Stievfaster alike will revel in the discovery of Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade. Though I fearedNightshade was just another story of supernatural-being-falls-in-love-with-mortal, I gave it a shot anyway, and I’m certainly glad I did. Ms. Cremer sucked me into Calla’s dark world easily, and I felt very sorry for anyone who tried to get my attention while I was reading because I was so wrapped up in the story that I barely registered what was going on in my surroundings.

I liked that the structure of the werewolf society was explained so thoroughly because I feel that authors don’t always spend enough time on that in fantasy novels, and that takes away from my enjoyment of the book. I think Nightshade is a very unique werewolf story, and I was pleased that I didn’t notice any similarities between it and other supernatural novels I’ve read. Reading so much takes away from my enjoyment of a book because I can often predict how a story ends. Nightshade, however, kept me on my toes until the final page, though in the end my original prediction was correct. I look forward to reading more of Andrea Cremer’s work, and hope that everyone else is as impressed by her fresh, unique voice as I am.