Saturday, November 29, 2014

Review: Love, Lucy by April Lindner


Love, Lucy by April Lindner
Published: January 27th, 2014
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 304
Genre: Vacation Romance

The best books are the ones that can authentically transport you to different places. You'll find that with Love, Lucy. There are plenty of books that take you to England and France, not as many that take you to Italy. If you loved Anna and the French Kiss, I can guarantee you'll love this one!

Lucy is a likable protagonist who really grows into herself as the novel progresses. There may be points in her interactions with others (namely her parents) where you just want to push her in the right direction, but for the most part you can back her actions. I really loved to see representation of a girl, who is quiet and unassuming on her own, really shine in something like theater. There are stereotypes that you must be loud and musical to be in the performing arts, but Lucy defies that stereotype. 

Jesse remains an enigma for almost the entirety of the book. The reader gets to know Lucy very well, not as much Jesse. Nevertheless, he's still 'dreamy' and fills the role of a romantic interest. This book shined in its side characters: Lucy's roommates, and the overly-kind Shane. 

This book is enjoyable if you love 'vacation flirtations,' college settings, and, of course, romance.

Note: I received an advanced copy from the NOVL newsletter. Thanks so much!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Katy Swartz Appreciation Post

Contrary to what this
picture suggests, the girl
is actually the main character.

You may or may not have read Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout. You may have been wary of the (rather ridiculous) cover and average-sounding synopsis. On the other hand, you may be one of the many people who have read it and loved it. I'm in the latter group. Not only is the story unique while defying many cliche tropes; Armentrout has written one of the most extraordinarily relatable female protagonists yet.

Her name is Katy Swartz. She's stubborn and quick to anger. She flips off people who are rude to her. She has a book blog and she nerds out every time she checks the mailbox to find a book waiting for her. She doesn't wear a bra around the house and her clothes have strawberries on them. She scorns insta-love. 

I loved her from the moment she started to garden.

I don't think I've truly understood how relatable characters can be until Katy came along. Sure, I've said in about a million reviews: this character is so relatable! but Katy takes it to another level. 

Maybe it's the fact that Armentrout knows her audience. Then again, she could have taken Katy in another route and made her hobbies overly nerdy and odd. But she didn't. She made Katy one of us, which is one of many reasons why I love her (and want to be her.) Armentrout made Katy average in a book about aliens.

Katy welcomes Dee into her life with such warmth that I wanted to hug her. In a book about paranormal activity, she doesn't forget the humans and makes meaningful friends out of Lesa and Carissa. These relationships aren't treated as flimsy or transitory. They're developed and live as people do, when they spend time together they're full of happiness, and when they're neglected they whither. Everything in this series has a life of its own including the relationships. 

Moving onto arguably the central part of the book (I mean, it is a paranormal romance.) Daemon Black: the hot and rude alien. In their first meeting, he calls Katy 'kid' and says that she looks like she's twelve. You wouldn't think that this is the start of an epic romance. She proceeds to call him a douchebag, then a dickhead, before flipping him off and going home. Why is this so amazing to me? Because even though she's embarrassed and rightfully pissed off, she held her own. She continues to hold her own throughout the book and their dynamic is not one of a cat and mouse, but more like two very pissed off cats. 

Armentrout drew a line between lust and love. Katy acknowledges that the former is there and that it's just natural chemistry. In my opinion, this is what I believe that a lot of books lack. Lust doesn't have to be developed. It's there or it's not. Love has to be developed and nurtured else that dreaded insta-love comes into play. I mean, I'm not against the idea of love at first sight. But I'm against love at first word when it comes to the books I read.

Daemon almost put me off the entire series when I was reading Obsidian. He was exceptionally controlling and always needed to be put down a peg. I wanted to punch him for trying to control his sister's relationships and being a dickhead to Katy. I was afraid of this book turning into another boy-meets-girl-and-becomes-her-entire-reason-for-existence tale. There were underlying reasons for his negative attitude which are later explained, but that doesn't justify his actions. Katy swoops into save the day because doesn't let him get away with it. She holds him accountable for his actions while still allowing herself to be vulnerable and get to know him. Neither character is one dimensional.

What's important about Daemon and Katy? That they're equals. That they recognize what's between them and understand it. As I write this, I'm only on the second book, Onyx, and my two favorite idiots are, of course, struggling with their relationship. Katy is working on herself and making sure that she can protect herself if things come to pass. 

"I have to be able to defend myself and the people I care about. Because I can't expect you to always be there to protect me. It's not right or fair to either of us" 
(Armentrout 594). 

What's important to Katy is staying true to herself. She's living in a world where aliens exist and live next door. She still finds time to blog and pick up her mail at the post office, and I absolutely love her for that.

I've only seen Kaya Scodelario act in BBC's True Love, but I think she'd play a great Katy!
Look, she's already got the moody gaze down!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins


Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Anna and the French Kiss #3
Published: August 14th, 2014
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 339 

Official Synopsis:

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Charlotte's Review:

Isla and the Happily Ever After was an amazing finish to one of my favorite series. The great new characters of Isla and Josh were explored as well as old ones re-entering the mix. The ending is bittersweet because it is the end, but Perkins managed it all along with wrapping up plot-lines that I'd completely forgotten about. 

My love for Paris exploded when I read Anna and the French Kiss. I'm going to be totally blunt: I don't reread books. I have too many other books I want to read and I'm racing against the clock. But I've reread Anna and the French Kiss many times. On sad days, on rainy days, and even on gorgeous summer days (like today, which I've of course spent inside.) That book is theromantic story for me. Lola and the Boy Next Door was just as dazzling, if not capturing the same level of magic. Getting back to the point, Isla and the Happily Ever After was a return to Anna's original magic and I tasted in it what was raw, awkward and amazing first love. I got the chance to visit Paris and Barcelona this past February, so everything was especially dazzling and real when I dove into Isla and the Happily Ever After (to my mom's annoyance, I kept pointing out random lines to her!)

Isla was real, she was flawed, she was smart, and she could be an idiot at times. I loved her from the first chapter when she acted like a drugged up fool. She loved dresses and turned mousy around her siblings. Being with Josh was a challenge that she took with as much ease as can be expected. The only unrealistic things about her were that 1) were her cheeks not puffed up to the max? and 2) she did not end up applying to any safety schools! I mean really, you gotta have a backup plan. 

After loving Anna and the French Kiss with all my heart, you have to understand how much I was looking forward to having Josh as a love interest. I was not disappointed. The sulky boy from Anna and the French Kiss was transformed and, while still sulky at times, was intriguingly complex. I loved Perkins' description of his art; it felt as if I was seeing it with my own eyes.

The qualms I had with this book were very minor and almost not worth mentioning. Isla and Josh's romance got sappy at points and their sobbing made me doubt the legitimacy. At other times, I felt that the cause of their fights were muddled and unclear in the goings of the plot.

Overall, the ending was absolutely adorable and had me in near tears on a public bus. Not many books can cause me to smile and laugh out loud. Isla is a quirky and lovable read. I can't wait to read whatever Stephanie Perkins writes next!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Meeting Cassandra Clare

On May 27th, I attended Cassandra Clare's launch event for City of Heavenly Fire. My friend and I made the trek to Wellesley, MA to meet Clare and Jodi Picoult (who emceed the event.) What better way was there to celebrate the last book in a beloved series than with an auditorium of fellow readers? 

It's always a little weird when you see your favorite characters come to life in movie adaptations, tv shows, etc. It's just the same way with authors. Seeing Clare was sort of like seeing a fictional character, in a way that's totally un-explainable. The Q&A was way too short, but I soaked up every second of it. 

As my friend and I attempted to start the book in the noisiness of the room, (we had to wait to get the signatures) I noticed just how friendly everyone was. That's the thing that strikes me most about book events, concerts, and midnight premieres: everybody is incredibly lovely. Being around people that share your passion can bring that out. Just the other day when I was in the theatre for The Fault in Our Stars, the same friend and I must have talked to everyone in the room. Wearing matching TFiOS shirts makes you really popular.

Anyway, here are the pictures from the Cassandra Clare event. (I also got Jodi Picoult's signature on several books, some of which we gave to our school library.)

Now I have Aidan Turner's and Cassandra Clare's signatures!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Book Mug Challenge: March 5, 2014

Over at our Tumblr, we've been hosting a new challenge! Write the names of all of your unread books on slips of paper, put them in a mug or some other container, and draw a name to get your next read! Since I'll be finishing Phantom of the Opera soon, I thought I'd use this to decide what to read next.

And it looks like I'll be reading The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin! This book has been sitting on my shelf for ages, so I'm looking forward to finally reading it.

If you have a Tumblr, tag your challenge posts with #book mug challenge and we'll reblog it!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Review: The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez

Summary: When Gaby faked a pregnancy to challenge stereotypes, she also changed her life. A compelling memoir from an inspirational teenage activist.Growing up, Gaby Rodriguez was often told she would end up a teen mom. After all, her mother and her older sisters had gotten pregnant as teenagers; from an outsider’s perspective, it was practically a family tradition. Gaby had ambitions that didn’t include teen motherhood. But she wondered: how would she be treated if she “lived down” to others’ expectations? Would everyone ignore the years she put into being a good student and see her as just another pregnant teen statistic with no future? These questions sparked Gaby’s high school senior project: faking her own pregnancy to see how her family, friends, and community would react. What she learned changed her life forever—and made international headlines in the process.

In The Pregnancy Project, Gaby details how she was able to fake her own pregnancy—hiding the truth from even her siblings and boyfriend’s parents—and reveals all that she learned from the experience. But more than that, Gaby’s story is about fighting stereotypes, and how one girl found the strength to come out from the shadow of low expectations to forge a bright future for herself.

Kim's Review: Whoa. This is probably the most interesting book I've read in a while. I've always been interested in social justice, so I knew I was in for a treat when I started this, but it was so fascinating to read about Gaby's family history and her experiences as she went through her project. It really opens your eyes to how cruel some people can be for absolutely no reason. I loved the message of breaking away from stereotypes and not conforming to what kind of person other people believe you should be.

There's one missing star from this review because of the writing. It could have been a lot better, but most of the time I was too into the story to care too much about it.

If you're looking for a quick yet inspiring read, here's your book. Gaby's story really teaches a lot about stereotypes and opens your eyes to how human beings can treat each other and why.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Review: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Summary: Jill MacSweeney just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends—everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.

Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted—to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?

As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy—or as difficult—as it seems.

Kim's Review: I've been in a bit if of a reading rut for the last month or so; I'm sure any of you avid readers out there know the feeling. As hard as you try, you just can't get into anything. Luckily, this book broke that streak for me.

Zarr's writing is fantastic. It's realistic, emotional, and everything else you hope for in a novel. Not to mention the character development. At the beginning, I was a little annoyed by both narrators, but by the end I truly felt for them and was dying for their stories to end on a happy note. I cannot get over how powerful her storytelling is.

As I got closer to finishing this book, I was getting nervous about how it would end, but it was literally such a perfect ending and I'm so satisfied with it. God, this book is so amazing. Zarr writes with raw emotion and it definitely comes resonates with the reader. This book tugged at my heartstrings over and over again, but I loved every minute of it.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Review: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Summary: Meet Pat. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure a happy ending for him -- the return of his estranged wife Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent time in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat's now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he's being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he's being hunted by Kenny G!

In this enchanting novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat's mind, showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective. As the award-winning novelist Justin Cronin put it: "Tender, soulful, hilarious, and true, The Silver Linings Playbook is a wonderful debut."

Kim's Review: This book was brilliant. Having seen the movie first, I was surprised to find that they are equally amazing. I feel like with such a controversial topic as mental illness, it could have been easy to overdo Pat's character or make his personality over-the-top, but instead the author took a more subtle route and made it easy to understand him without clearly stating it.

I also enjoyed seeing Pat's obsession with football and the Eagles. I can't even put my finger on why, but I just loved that the author successfully made such a minor thing a big part of his life and his story.

I saw that somebody called this book an adult "Perks of Being a Wallflower," and that's probably the most accurate way to describe it. There are so many similarities between Charlie and Pat, and that's probably why I felt like I could get into and relate to this novel so quickly. My only complaint is that some of Tiffany's plot and story seemed a bit unrealistic, but hey, anything can happen!

I strongly recommend this to absolutely everyone, especially if you loved "Perks of Being a Wallflower." Sorry for the short review, I'm writing this during school and running out of time!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

In My Mailbox: January 28, 2014

Sorry for not posting a review this week, but I have been inexcusably slow with my reading lately! Next week for sure. ;)

In the meantime, I'm super excited to show you guys the book I got this week for only five bucks!

Summary: First published in French as a serial in 1909, "The Phantom of the Opera" is a riveting story that revolves around the young, Swedish Christine DaaƩ. Her father, a famous musician, dies, and she is raised in the Paris Opera House with his dying promise of a protective angel of music to guide her. After a time at the opera house, she begins hearing a voice, who eventually teaches her how to sing beautifully. All goes well until Christine's childhood friend Raoul comes to visit his parents, who are patrons of the opera, and he sees Christine when she begins successfully singing on the stage. The voice, who is the deformed, murderous 'ghost' of the opera house named Erik, however, grows violent in his terrible jealousy, until Christine suddenly disappears. The phantom is in love, but it can only spell disaster. Leroux's work, with characters ranging from the spoiled prima donna Carlotta to the mysterious Persian from Erik's past, has been immortalized by memorable adaptations. Despite this, it remains a remarkable piece of Gothic horror literature in and of itself, deeper and darker than any version that follows.

I cannot WAIT to read this! I just saw the musical a couple of weeks ago and I'm obsessed with it - in fact, I'm listening to it as I type this! I'm excited to get to know the original characters, without the revisions Andrew Lloyd Weber made with the musical.

Which reminds me, I should probably pick Les Miserables back up sometime...who am I kidding, I'm only about 20 (out of 1500) pages in!

Any other musical fans out there?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Review: Timeless by Alexandra Monir


Timeless by Alexandra Monir
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 13th 2012 by Ember

When tragedy strikes Michele Windsor’s world, she is forced to uproot her life and move across the country to New York City, to live with the wealthy, aristocratic grandparents she’s never met. In their old Fifth Avenue mansion filled with a century’s worth of family secrets, Michele discovers a diary that hurtles her back in time to the year 1910. There, in the midst of the glamorous Gilded Age, Michele meets the young man with striking blue eyes who has haunted her dreams all her life – a man she always wished was real, but never imagined could actually exist. And she finds herself falling for him, into an otherworldly, time-crossed romance. 

Michele is soon leading a double life, struggling to balance her contemporary high school world with her escapes into the past. But when she stumbles upon a terrible discovery, she is propelled on a race through history to save the boy she loves – a quest that will determine the fate of both of their lives.

Timeless had an enticing set-up, but was poorly executed. 

The romance between Michele and Philip was instant and felt false. I felt nothing towards them as they struggled to remain together. I thought the beginning part of the book was the most interesting, but it was over quick.

Michele's elite family could've been so exciting to read about, but it didn't live up to its potential. Every time Michele went back in time and spooked one of her ancestors, they were like "Oh hey, I need you to do something and let's be best friends." Only one of them was actually distraught to see this kid, and for ulterior reasons. I felt like I was being treated like an eight year old while reading this.

The end left me a little curious, and maybe if I happen upon the second one in the library I'll read it. Otherwise, I don't recommend it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Currently Reading: The Diary of Anne Frank

School has left me with 0 reading time, which unfortunately means no review from me today...however, I would like to share with you the book I'm currently reading, The Diary of Anne Frank!

Chances are, you've already read this book, either as required reading or just for fun. I, on the other hand, am just getting around to it after leaving it on my shelf for the longest time. I'm not too far into it yet, but it's surprisingly not boring, which is kind of what I expected. I wish I had more free time to read it, but I'm hoping to finish it soon!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Review: Unsouled by Neal Shusterman

Summary: The story that began with Unwind continues.

Connor and Lev are on the run after the destruction of the Graveyard, the last safe haven for AWOL Unwinds. But for the first time, they're not just running away from something. This time, they're running toward answers, in the form of a woman Proactive Citizenry has tried to erase from history itself. If they can find her, and learn why the shadowy figures behind unwinding are so afraid of her, they may discover the key to bringing down unwinding forever.

Cam, the rewound boy, is plotting to take down the organization that created him. Because he knows that if he can bring Proactive Citizenry to its knees, it will show Risa how he truly feels about her. And without Risa, Cam is having trouble remembering what it feels like to be human.

With the Juvenile Authority and vindictive parts pirates hunting them, the paths of Connor, Lev, Cam, and Risa will converge explosively and everyone will be changed.

Kim's Review: FINALLY I got to read this book! I have been dying to read it ever since I finished Unwholly, the second book in the Unwind dystology. With most book series, I've found that the plots and writing often lose their power after the first book or two, but Unwind is still going stronger than ever! There are so many things about this book that help make it the powerhouse it is. First off, the entire CONCEPT of unwinding and the society Shusterman has created is creepy as hell. Like, just thinking about it terrifies me. I can't imagine living in it. Shusterman is a skilled writer and makes everything sound believable, not only through his writing and explanations, but through this interesting, creative choice: he starts off each section of the book from a real news article from a valid source, such as the Huffington Post. These articles align with what's happening in the novel and helps show the reader how some of the things happening today are just uncommon or less extreme versions of what he describes in his story. It shows how our society today really is not that far off from the world of Connor and Risa.

Unsouled, as well as the entire dystology, switches point of views often and between many different characters, so you can see things through the eyes of both the "good guys" and the "bad guys." With all these POV changes, it seems like it would be easy to lose track of characters or feel like you don't really know some of them, but somehow Shusterman avoids this; there is little to no confusion.

There was a little love triangle in there somewhere, which I was mad at Shusterman for for a few minutes, but it was brief and wasn't the main plot, so I suppose I can forgive him. :) Another thing that kind of put me off was quite a few noticeable typos/grammar mistakes...I thought that since this series is pretty popular and with a good publisher, it would have been looked at more carefully. Oh well. These were only minor errors and didn't really detract from the overall quality of the novel.

One thing I love about this novel that was different from the other two was that we got more information on the history of unwinding. I loooved reading the flashbacks and how it connected to the ending. Perfect. And oh my god the ending is so...I literally do not have the words to describe it. The Unwind series is one of my favorites of all time, and I cannot recommend it enough. Read it.