Tue, October 7, 2014

Wildlife by Fiona Wood Review

Wildlife book cover

Wildlife book cover

Wildlife
By Fiona Wood
Publication date: Sept. 16, 2014
Poppy, 400 pages
Source: Publisher

During a semester in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sib expects the tough outdoor education program and the horrors of dorm life, but friendship drama and an unexpected romance with popular Ben Capaldi? That will take some navigating.

New girl Lou has zero interest in fitting in, or joining in. Still reeling from a loss that occurred almost a year ago, she just wants to be left alone. But as she witnesses a betrayal unfolding around Sib and her best friend Holly, Lou can’t help but be drawn back into the land of the living.

Fans of Melina Marchetta, Rainbow Rowell, and E. Lockhart will adore this endearing and poignant story of first love, true friendship, and going a little bit wild.

— Goodreads.com description

My thoughts on this one are all over the place, so I’ll just lay ‘em out for you:

– Fiona Wood knows some really big words that I don’t know; or maybe it’s just an Aussie thing?

– Love love love Michael and Sib and Lou — some brilliant secondary characters here.

– But also some brilliantly HORRIBLE characters; Holly is the worst. HATE HATE HATE. So hard to read this bullying and justification and nastiness from supposed friends. At the same time, who can’t relate?

– This book makes me want to go hiking.

– My galley eBook copy didn’t have formatting to help me see there were two points of view…which really messed things up for me. Wildlife got off to a crazy slow start for me because I had to go back and reread after I worked out the two narrators a few chapters in.

– This cover is to die for.

So, really a formatting thing that made this a toughie for me. Plus, it hit a little close to home on the toxic friendship thing. Been there, done that. But it was brilliantly portrayed and the setting was lovely. Pros and cons!

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: aussie, camp, fiona wood, friendship
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Mon, September 29, 2014

Sway by Kat Spears Review

Sway book cover

Sway book cover

Sway
By Kat Spears
Publication date: Sept. 16, 2014
St. Martins Griffin, 320 pages
Source: Publisher

In Kat Spears’s hilarious and often poignant debut, high school senior Jesse Alderman, or “Sway,” as he’s known, could sell hell to a bishop. He also specializes in getting things people want—term papers, a date with the prom queen, fake IDs. He has few close friends and he never EVER lets emotions get in the way. For Jesse, life is simply a series of business transactions.

But when Ken Foster, captain of the football team, leading candidate for homecoming king, and all-around jerk, hires Jesse to help him win the heart of the angelic Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself feeling all sorts of things. While following Bridget and learning the intimate details of her life, he falls helplessly in love for the very first time. He also finds himself in an accidental friendship with Bridget’s belligerent and self-pitying younger brother who has cerebral palsy. Suddenly, Jesse is visiting old folks at a nursing home in order to run into Bridget, and offering his time to help the less fortunate, all the while developing a bond with this young man who idolizes him. Could the tin man really have a heart after all?

A Cyrano de Bergerac story with a modern twist, Sway is told from Jesse’s point of view with unapologetic truth and biting humor, his observations about the world around him untempered by empathy or compassion—until Bridget’s presence in his life forces him to confront his quiet devastation over a life-changing event a year earlier and maybe, just maybe, feel something again.

— Goodreads.com description

My initial reaction as I read: “What!? A kid doing under the table favors for the principal? Yeah right!”

The concept came off as a bit bogus to me to start — truly, how can one kid have that much, well, “sway”? But as we get to know Jesse — and reluctantly like him — my disbelief turned into a certain amount of awe. This kid is influential and street smart and damaged, yeah, but really really smart.

I like that he is so unapologetic about who he is. And he’s a horrible person, but so charismatic and endearing that you like him anyway. As Bridget repeatedly tell him, “I’m determined to like you even though you don’t want me too.”

I feel ya, Bridge. So, for this alone (and bonus points to Mr. Dunkelman and all the other standout secondary characters), I adored this story. A main character who is just a bastard but you love love love him anyway? Amazing.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: friendship, kat spears, male POV, romance
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Mon, September 22, 2014

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang Review

Falling into Place book cover

Falling into Place book cover

Falling into Place
By Amy Zhang
Publication date: Sept. 9, 2014
Greenwillow Books, 304 pages
Source: Publisher

On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.

— Goodreads.com description

Despite the fact that I hated/didn’t remotely “get” the “unexpected and surprising narrator” mentioned in the blurb…this book was quite good overall.

Falling into Place is a fascinating look into depression, suicide and some really, really mean girls. I thought it was so interesting to get into Liz’s brain and see how she came to regret being a major B. Though they were quite flawed, I really enjoyed getting to know some of the people in Liz’s life as well — Kennie and Julia and dear, sweet Liam.

The short chapters made it so readable, but the timeline jumps threw me off at first. Don’t worry — I caught on. I was definitely very impressed by this debut from a writer who is a teen herself. (I KNOW!!! CRAZY!)

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: amy zhang, death, friendship, suicide
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Thu, September 4, 2014

The Jewel by Amy Ewing Review

The Jewel book cover

The Jewel book cover

The Jewel
By Amy Ewing
Publication date: Sept. 2, 2014
HarperTeen, 358 pages
Source: Publisher

The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

— Goodreads.com description

BOOK MATH! The Jewel = The Winner’s Curse (slavery) + Eve (girls forced into surrogacy) + The Selection (really wonky social classes).

Things sort of evened out for me on The Jewel in terms of things I liked I things I didn’t. Let’s break it down…

Things I liked:
– Forbidden loooove
– Annabelle and Raven are AMAZING female friends to Violet

Things I didn’t like:
– Instalove
– Too many evil people! So depressing and scary!

The tie-breaker? A big-ole cliffie that recaptured my interest! Which I think pushed me over to the side of “liked it.” What about you? Do you like any of the books in my “book math”? Will you read this one?

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: amy ewing, dystopian, friendship, romance
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Wed, August 6, 2014

The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg Review

he Lonely Hearts Club book cover

he Lonely Hearts Club book cover

The Lonely Hearts Club
By Elizabeth Eulberg
Publication date: Jan. 1, 2010
Point, 290 pages
Source: From my friend Melanie ages ago and finally reading now! <3

Love is all you need… or is it? Penny’s about to find out in this wonderful debut.

Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating. So she vows: no more. It’s a personal choice. . .and, of course, soon everyone wants to know about it. And a few other girls are inspired. A movement is born: The Lonely Hearts Club (named after the band from Sgt. Pepper). Penny is suddenly known for her nondating ways . . . which is too bad, because there’s this certain boy she can’t help but like. . . .

— Goodreads.com description

Well, I couldn’t keep all of the characters straight to save my life…but The Lonely Hearts Club was so cute that it didn’t overrule my opinion of this great, realistic read.

I loved the girl power message — ladies, you don’t need a man to be happy! I loved to see Penny and her friends come together, to pursue their own interests, to build supportive female friendships and realize that not all men are actually scum! Ha!

Very cute, especially for younger YA readers. Glad a sequel (We Can Work It Out) is coming out in January 2015!

Anna Reads young adult book blog

PS: Read my reviews of other Elizabeth Eulberg books here: Prom & Prejudice, Take a Bow and Better Off Friends.

Posted by: Anna   •   In: elizabeth eulberg, friendship
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