Review: We Were Liars // Exciting Mystery and Glowing Romance

By E. Lockhart

Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Community Rating: 3.85

Genre: YA Mystery

Publication Date: May 13th 2014

Format Read: Audiobook

Goodreads Summary: A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.

And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Continue reading “Review: We Were Liars // Exciting Mystery and Glowing Romance”

Review: Red Queen // All I Want are Magical Powers

By Victoria Aveyard

Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads Community Rating: 4.08

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publication Date: February 10th, 2015

Format Read: Paperback

Goodreads Summary: This is a world divided by blood – red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart 

Continue reading “Review: Red Queen // All I Want are Magical Powers”

Discussion: Expectations vs. Reality // Can Hype Ruin a Book?

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with Teacher of YA (check out her blog it’s amazing) about how Select by Marit Weisenberg didn’t seem to get a lot of hype either before or after its release. Instead, it just sort of slid under the radar, despite it being a YA book that I think a lot of people would genuinely enjoy (even you, maybe! read the review here!).  that got me thinking. Had the book been super hyped up before i read it, would I have given it as high of a review?

Hence the title of this post, and hopefully the content, also.

Continue reading “Discussion: Expectations vs. Reality // Can Hype Ruin a Book?”

Review: Select // Had Me Hooked From Page One

By Marit Weisenberg

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Goodreads Community Rating: 3.59

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publication Date: October 3rd, 2017

Format Read: Ebook

Goodreads Summary: Coming from a race of highly-evolved humans, Julia Jaynes has the perfect life. The perfect family. The perfect destiny. But there’s something rotten beneath the surface—dangerous secrets her father is keeping; abilities she was never meant to have; and an elite society of people determined to keep their talents hidden and who care nothing for the rest of humanity. So when Julia accidentally disrupts the Jaynes’ delicate anonymity, she’s banished to the one place meant to make her feel inferior: public high school.

Julia’s goal is to lay low and blend in. Then she meets him—John Ford, tennis prodigy, all-around good guy. When Julia discovers a knack for reading his mind, and also manipulating his life, school suddenly becomes a temporary escape from the cold grip of her manipulative father. But as Julia’s powers over John grow, so do her feelings. For the first time in her life, Julia begins to develop a sense of self, to question her restrictive upbringing and her family prejudices. She must decide: can a perfect love be worth more than a perfect life? 

Continue reading “Review: Select // Had Me Hooked From Page One”

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi // The Cutest YA Romance I’ve Read in a While

By Sandyha Menon

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Goodreads Community Rating: 3.79

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Publication Date: May 30th 2017

Format Read: Hardcover

Goodreads Summary: Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Continue reading “Review: When Dimple Met Rishi // The Cutest YA Romance I’ve Read in a While”

Review: One of Us Is Lying

By Karen M McManus

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Goodreads Rating: 4.07

Genre: YA Mystery

Publication Date: May 30th 2017

Format Read: Audiobook

Goodreads Summary: Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Continue reading “Review: One of Us Is Lying”

Review: The Hate U Give (I’m fangirling so hard right now)

By Angie Thomas

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Goodreads Rating: 4.62

Genre: YA Issues Contemporary

Publication Date: February 28th 2017

Format Read: Audiobook

Goodreads Summary: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. 

Continue reading “Review: The Hate U Give (I’m fangirling so hard right now)”

Discussion: Why Are YA Characters So Young

I just read Strange The Dreamer (or rather, listened, but that’s not the point) and I was so shocked by the fact that Lazlo was 20 YEARS OLD.  He wasn’t a teenager, even though it was a YA book.  And it made me so freakin happy.  I mean, I’m so used to reading books about 14-16 year olds saving the world, so it was a nice change to have someone that was older than me as the protagonist.  When you’re working on your fictional crush list and realize most of the guys are years younger than you, it’s a bit disappointing.  That’s why today I wanted to talk about a problem that I only just recently realized was a problem: young characters in YA.

Obviously, young adult books are meant for teens, so it makes sense that the protagonists are teenagers themselves.  But I don’t understand why there aren’t many upper teens, or 17-21, which is still of an age that teenagers would be able to relate, but is perhaps more realistic to, say VENTURING OFF ALONE TO SAVE THE WORLD.

At 14, I wouldn’t have been able to cook myself dinner, never mind run away (I can’t even drive a car?) in order to spend weeks with the love of my life saving the world.  Speaking of, the romance is also WAY TOO SERIOUS.  Nobody Not many people finds the love of their lives in high school.  So why do all fictional characters find theirs? It also sets up unrealistic expectations for what you will find in high school.  Very unrealistic.  And I think that’s probably bad for kids 11-15 who are reading this and expecting their life to be that grand when they get just a little bit older.

Also, isn’t college still sort of YA? I mean people aren’t a real adult when they’re in college, I know I’m certainly not.  So there should either be more college characters in YA, or a new “fake adult” genre should be started, asap.  Because it’s not fair for those of us who are faking adulthood by going to college to be forced to read about young high schoolers or old adults.  (I’m planning a protest, who’s in?!)

Obviously, the books wouldn’t be as interesting if they weren’t so unrealistically exciting, so maybe there isn’t a problem at all.  I don’t know. I’m having trouble putting this into words, so I apologize for the super short post.

Basically, I just wanted to write about how excited I was to have a fictional boyfriend that’s older than me, and I turned it into a fancy shmancy discussion post to hopefully get more replies and find out about other people’s opinions!!!

so

Edit: I’ve heard that Strange is actually an adult fantasy novel, so oops for mentioning it in the content of YA.  It read a lot like  a YA novel in general, so I assumed.  Also, I realize “YA” is supposed to be 13-19, but there’s no market for 19-25 year olds at all, and since they are still young adults I thought that they should be contained in the YA genre

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Do you think YA should have older characters? Did books give you unrealistic expectations for what your high school experience would hold? Are all of your fictional boyfriends (or girlfriends) wayyy younger than you?

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6 Hot August 2017 Book Releases

I know this post is really late, and so about half of these are already published, but I wanted to make sure I gave all of the August books a chance at fame*.  So, halfway through the month, we’re going to celebrate all of the August releases.  I have to admit, I’m VERY excited about all of these books even though I haven’t read a single one!

*ha, I’m assuming that my blog would help a book sell

Young Adult

Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons, #1)

Wonder Woman, by Leigh Bardugo—  I’ve heard A LOT of hype about this book, and after watching the Wonder Woman movie, I really want to hear this take.  Obviously it’s not quite the same story, but it sounds amazing, and I’ve heard it’s a must read for DC fans!

She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

All Things NewAll Things New, by Lauren Miller– This book sounds TOUGH but really good at the same time.  It could definitely go either way but I feel like it’ll be emotional wreck of a book that I can’t put down.

Jessa has always felt broken inside, but she’s gotten very good at hiding it. No one at school knows about the panic attacks, the therapy that didn’t help, the meds that haven’t worked. But when a severe accident leaves her with a brain injury and visible scars, Jessa’s efforts to convince the world that she’s okay finally crumble—now she looks as shattered as she feels. 

Fleeing from her old life in Los Angeles, Jessa moves to Colorado to live with her dad, where she meets Marshall, a boy whose kindness and generous heart slowly draw Jessa out of her walled-off shell and into the broken, beautiful, real world—a place where souls get hurt just as badly as bodies, and we all need each other to heal.

ALL THINGS NEW is a love story about perception and truth, physical and emotional pain, and the messy, complicated people we are behind the masks we put on for the world, perfect for fans of ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.

Adult Contemporary

The One That Got Away

The One that Got Away, by Melissa Pimentel— This SOUNDS ADORABLE and perfectly romantically fun.  I love “one that got away” stories, and this literally has that title, so why wouldn’t I read it?!?!? It seems like a perfect light read and I’m looking forward to seeing what other people think.

Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren’t.

Ten years later, Ruby’s single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There’s barely time for a trip to England for her little sister’s wedding. And there’s certainly not time to think about seeing Ethan there for the first time in years.

But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can’t help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago? Because there’s nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past . . . The Burning GirlThe Burning Girl, by Claire Messud— I can’t quite tell if this is adult or YA, but Goodreads is telling me adult so we’ll go with it.  Apparently Messud is an amazing author, and this book sounds really emotional and profound which I love.

Julia and Cassie have been friends since nursery school. They have shared everything, including their desire to escape the stifling limitations of their birthplace, the quiet town of Royston, Massachusetts. But as the two girls enter adolescence, their paths diverge and Cassie sets out on a journey that will put her life in danger and shatter her oldest friendship.

Claire Messud, one of our finest novelists, is as accomplished at weaving a compelling fictional world as she is at asking the big questions: To what extent can we know ourselves and others? What are the stories we create to comprehend our lives and relationships? Brilliantly mixing fable and coming-of-age tale, The Burning Girl gets to the heart of these matters in an absolutely irresistible way.

Thriller

Emma in the Night

Emma In The Night, by Wendy Walker— aaaaah you can’t even understand how good this sounds. Dysfunctional family thrillers are my absolute favorite because they’re so twisted and messed up and exciting.  Plus it’s about girls and doesn’t have girl in the title so BONUS POINTS FOR CREATIVITY, WENDY!

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.

The Readymade ThiefThe Readymade Thief, by Augustus Rose— This sounds hecka good, and has a super unique plot, which is something that you don’t find very often in a thriller.  I love the whole idea of it, and the female protag thing is always a bonus for me (although apparently that’s become a bit of a readily repeated trope now that people hate, but ROLL WITH ME HERE)…. and it looks like it’s set up for ROMANCE!

Lee Cuddy is seventeen years old and on the run. Betrayed by her family after taking the fall for a friend, she finds refuge in a cooperative of runaways holed up in an abandoned building they call the Crystal Castle, but the façade of the Castle conceals a far more sinister agenda, one hatched by a society of fanatical men set on decoding a series of powerful secrets hidden in plain sight. They believe Lee holds the key to it all.

Aided by Tomi, a young hacker and artist with whom she has struck a wary alliance, Lee escapes into the unmapped corners of the city—empty aquariums, deserted motels, patrolled museums, and even the homes of vacationing families, but the deeper she goes underground, the more tightly she finds herself bound in the strange web she’s trying to elude. Desperate and out of options, Lee steps from the shadows to face who is after her—and why.

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What books are you looking forward to for this month? Have you read any of the ones I talked about? 

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Review: The Bone Witch (Dramatic Details and an Amazing Plotline)

By Rin Chupeco

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Goodreads Rating: 3.53

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publication Date: March 7th 2017

Format Read: Phone Ebook via Netgalley

Goodreads Summary: The beast raged; it punctured the air with its spite. But the girl was fiercer.

Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

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This is one of those books that takes you a while to get into, but once you do you don’t want it to end.  I think part of the reason for this is that it’s a series (which I didn’t realize when I requested it) and it takes place in a world very, very different from our own, which meant that it required a lot of worldbuilding.  Plus, Chupeco uses a lot of flouncy, descriptive imagery in her writing, which makes me vaguely nauseous at times and reminds me of the reason that I wasn’t a huge fan of Jane Eyre.  It just felt like there were some paragraphs that took FOREVER to read, just to describe a girl’s hua (a type of apparel with Asian roots)

That being said, I still adored the story and gave it 4 stars because the characters were magnificently developed, and the plot was interesting.  It kept me going throughout because I desperately needed to figure out what would happen to Tea.  The book follows her story, so it is sort of a fantasy coming of age novel, which is something that I appreciate.  Plus, there’s elements of (semi-unrequited) romance, evil beasts which must be defeated, and a girl struggling with her identity.  It’s perfect.

While I read, I was reminded a lot of the book “Memoirs of a Geisha” mainly because the life of an Asha, which is what Tea was training to be, is basically like a magic Geisha who at times has to go out and slay beasts.  Since I always found geisha life mildly appealing (don’t judge please) now my main goal in life is to be an asha.  Anyways, back to the review…

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Tea, the MC, was super cool.   And her name is pronounced Tay-uh, which I didn’t know until about halfway through when some minor character had trouble pronouncing her name.  Not only could she use magic to raise the dead, but she was totally badass and a strong character, which made me love her.  There was no “I need a man to save the day” whatsoever in this book, which was one of my favorite parts ever.  I thought Tea was very very well developed and relatable, because you never saw her as just one thing.  From the opening scene, she was this super powerful Asha, but also had some weaknesses, strong family ties, and wasn’t immune to what other people thought of her.  Chupeco made her this incredible female lead while still showing that she was vulnerable, which made me relate to her more than I would have otherwise.  She was also super dynamic, because she went from being somewhat more nervous, frightened girl to someone who wouldn’t take no for an answer, which is exactly the type of progress that I love to see.  And this is only book one.  The fact that it isn’t going to take Tea the entire series to become “tough” is a testament to the writing and makes me wayyyyy more excited to read the next books in the series.

There are virtually no men in this novel except for the love interests, and Tea’s brother Fox, whom she rose from the dead.  I think that made it very women’s empowerment-y because it was women that were teaching and helping Tea “come of age” without the influence of a male role model to help her.

All of the minor and side characters in the novel had strong backgrounds and you could see how they became the people which they are today.  You wanted the best for all of them, especially Mikaela, Tea’s sort-of mentor.

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Hmmmmm…. what can I say here.  The plot was very very good, but at times I felt like Chupeco put the story on hold in order to write overly detailed descriptions.  And I don’t mean there wasn’t a lot of action in parts, because there was always stuff happening, and Tea developing, but there were a lot of paragraphs of description that almost made me ditch the book in the opening parts.  I don’t understand why there had to be so much flouncy detail.  I think part of it was Chupeco wanting to make the reader understand teh worldbuilding aspect better, but the bottom line is that it put me to sleep and caused me to move very slowly through the book, since I just didn’t want to pick it up.  That being said, I felt like it got better– or I just got used to it– as it went along, and the story itself makes it worth pushing through the beginning.

The plot contained flashforwards every chapter or two to Tea on a beach after she has already gone through a lot of her story.  In the whole book, the story lines never intersect, which is weirdly cool.

The ending has a sort of present-timeline plot twist which is confusing to everyone (I think) even if you had guessed that it would come, because Chupeco doesn’t really explain it at all.  That being said, I think it’s coming in the sequel and that we haven’t caught up in the past timeline plot yet.

A lot of this story had a coming of age, geisha training vibe.  I wouldn’t recommend this book if you’re looking for a tale of adventure and defeating monsters.  It’s not that.  It’s more about Tea’s emotions and the way which she develops both as our protagonist and in her feelings and confidence.  I think the next book will have more of a defeat the system feel to it, but this book did not, so bottom line is you won’t enjoy it if that’s what you’re looking for.

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I think I’m going to make a list, because listing is fun and why not.

  1. Tea’s development and the way she was always portrayed as just as strong, if not stronger, than men
  2. Mikaela and the motherly yet all powerful role she played in the book while still having weaknesses
  3. The wordbuilding.  Let me tell you that it was amazing.  Like, so unique and vibrant and real.  You literally wear your heart in a necklace, and have to kill this unkillable monsters called daeva on a yearly basis.  I felt like I was really in the world, and could imagine it just as well as I can my own.  (That’s actually why I put Chupeco in my dream worldbuilding panel, if you were wondering)
  4. Likh’s whole story line was perfect, but I can’t really explain without including spoilers so you’ll just have to trust me on this one.
  5. The plot twist at the end of the past timeline was so so so good
  6. All of the side character’s personalities and yet realness.  Nobody was a one dimensional character, not even the “mean girl”, thank gods for that.
  7. The geisha-ness

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Another list, you ask? Why not, I say!

  1. The excessive description
  2. The romance aspect that wasn’t really going anywhere but just felt like two people who had a crush on each other but neither would admit it but not in the awkward tension kind of way, just in the “we’re too little to be in a real relationship” way
  3. Not much else!

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This whole book drew a lot from Asian culture, and the MC is a PoC, which is great and super rare in the fantasy genre as a whole.  I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on the culture, but I do think that  it made the book more real than it would have been otherwise.

There was a minor character, one of Tea’s friends, who ended up being transgender and coming out over the course of the book, which is really awesome because of how accepted and the fact that Tea never once thought that it was anything out of the ordinary.

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The dark asha (so basically Tea and Mikaela) cut themselves in order to draw their runes in the air, which I’m not really sure is a trigger or not, but I figured I’d include it.

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“I would much rather remain undetected in the shadows than saunter out into the light, with my flaws out for all to see.” (chapter 11)

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Once you got past the over description, the book was really solid, and I’m very excited to read the next books in the series when they come out.  I think the worldbuilding was incredible, and would highly recommend to fans of YA fantasy who don’t mind it being minimally action-y.

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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