Wed, October 22, 2014

The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris Review

The Fine Art of Pretending book cover

The Fine Art of Pretending book cover

The Fine Art of Pretending (The Fine Art of Pretending #1)
By Rachel Harris
Publication date: Sept. 30, 2014
Spencer Hill Contemporary, 256 pages
Source: Publisher

According to the guys at Fairfield Academy, there are two types of girls: the kind you hook up with, and the kind you’re friends with. Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Reed is the second type. And she hates it. With just one year left to change her rank, she devises a plan to become the first type by homecoming, and she sets her sights on the perfect date—Justin Carter, Fairfield Academy’s biggest hottie and most notorious player.

With 57 days until the dance, Aly launches Operation Sex Appeal and sheds her tomboy image. The only thing left is for Justin actually to notice her. Enter best friend Brandon Taylor, the school’s second biggest hottie, and now Aly’s pretend boyfriend. With his help, elevating from “funny friend” to “tempting vixen” is only a matter of time.

But when everything goes according to plan, the inevitable “break up” leaves their friendship in shambles, and Aly and Brandon with feelings they can’t explain. And the fake couple discovers pretending can sometimes cost you the one thing you never expected to want.

— Goodreads.com description

Well, I can’t relate to Aly on the surface: I am not good at being friends with dudes. I never had a lot of guy friends…only my girl friend’s boyfriends or my boyfriends’ boy friends.

But, you don’t have to be “just one of the guys” to connect to Aly’s plight — trying to get people to notice you in a new, open way is an all-out toughie. So I enjoyed the comedy and romance of watching Aly try to stumble through that.

Important to note: This book is crazy predictable. Also important to note: When I’m in the mood for a book like this, I couldn’t care less about predictability. If you’re feeling critical — ALERT ALERT — this book is not for you.

Anytime I started to think critically about this one I did get irked, as I do with any makeover story (cough She’s All That cough). I mean, if it takes a makeover (looks AND personality) for a guy to notice you, is he really the guy you want? I don’t know.

Regardless, it’s cute. Don’t think too deeply about it, and you’ll have a fun time reading it. But also don’t expect a WOW.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: rachel harris, romance
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Wed, October 8, 2014

Like No Other by Una LaMarche Review

Like No Other book cover

Like No Other book cover

Like No Other
By Una LaMarche
Publication date: July 24, 2014
Razorbill, 352 pages
Source: Library

**A Publishers Weekly Best Book of Summer 2014**
**A Summer 2014 Indie Next List Pick**
**A 2014 Junior Library Guild Selection**
**A Los Angeles Times Summer Reading Guide Selection**
**An Entertainment Weekly YA Novel to Watch Out For**

Fate brought them together. Will life tear them apart?

Devorah is a consummate good girl who has never challenged the ways of her strict Hasidic upbringing.

Jaxon is a fun-loving, book-smart nerd who has never been comfortable around girls (unless you count his four younger sisters).

They’ve spent their entire lives in Brooklyn, on opposite sides of the same street. Their paths never crossed . . . until one day, they did.

When a hurricane strikes the Northeast, the pair becomes stranded in an elevator together, where fate leaves them no choice but to make an otherwise risky connection.

Though their relation is strictly forbidden, Devorah and Jax arrange secret meetings and risk everything to be together. But how far can they go? Just how much are they willing to give up?

In the timeless tradition of West Side Story and Crossing Delancey, this thoroughly modern take on romance will inspire laughter, tears, and the belief that love can happen when and where you least expect it.

— Goodreads.com description

Think of all the books you’ve been told were perfect for fans of Eleanor & Park.

Now think of how many times you’ve been disappointed as a result, when the book doesn’t hold up to those standards.

Now listen up: This book really IS a good “what to read next” pick for fans of Eleanor & Park. Would I lie to you?!

Two quirky but good, kind kids fall in unexpected love. Life circumstances keep them apart. You feel their love and excitement and frustration all jumbled up on the pages. Ahh, forbidden love, you get me every time!

It’s dreadfully romantic and heartbreaking and…well…unsettling, frankly. I could not stop thinking about what happened next, unable to let the characters go. Devorah! Jax! What are you doing right now? I NEED TO KNOW. I have such a love/hate relationship with that feeling. It’s like “Una LaMarche, do you enjoy making me feel so miserable?!”/”Una LaMarche, thank you for making me feel so miserable!”

See? Jumbled. But good jumbled regardless.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

PS: I will say I know nothing about Hasidic Judaism and wonder if having a personal connection to that world would have changed my viewpoint? I’d be curious to hear from someone who read it with more background than me.

Posted by: Anna   •   In: romance, una lamarche
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Fri, October 3, 2014

Atlantia by Ally Condie Review

Atlantia book cover

Atlantia book cover

Atlantia
By Ally Condie
Publication date: Oct. 28, 2014
Dutton Children’s, 368 pages
Source: Publisher

Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

— Goodreads.com description

Ooh! BETRAYAL!

Atlantia, the latest from the author of the Matched series, kicks off with a heavy dose of it when Rio’s twin sister, Bay, unexpectedly chooses to live in the Above (on land), separating them forever.

You see, Rio lives Below aka below land aka an underwater city aka MY CHILDHOOD DREAM. If you only knew how often I daydreamed about this as a kid…

Anyway, immediately you want to dig into this book and uncover all of the secrets of the Below and of Rio’s family, which was a great feeling.

I also adored how Rio’s loneliness really matched the setting’s deep, dark depths — there was a really cool sense of pressure as you read. Oh, and there’s witches and romance and lots of other good stuff.

And another nice thing about this is that it’s NOT a series (at least, as far as I can tell). I know, what? Who does that these days?

On the downside…it’s not a series. By that, I mean it was wrapped up a little too quickly and with too much prothletising and “here is the moral” for my tastes.

Overall, though, I thought it was creative and a good read. And, in the end, I am sooo #TeamAbove. An underwater city is awesome, sure, but ewwwww sea creatures and dampness. No, thank you. Blech.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

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Posted by: Anna   •   In: ally condie, dystopian, family, romance
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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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Thu, September 18, 2014

The Falconer by Elizabeth May Review

The Falconer book cover

The Falconer book cover

The Falconer
By Elizabeth May
Publication date: May 6, 2014
Chronicle Books, 378 pages
Source: Library

Heiress. Debutant. Murderer. A new generation of heroines has arrived.

Edinburgh, Scotland, 1844

Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother.

Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.

But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?

— Goodreads.com description

I don’t even know how to describe this book. Historical Scottish faery steampunk fantasy?

Yeah, like I said: I don’t even know. And here’s the weirdest part: It works.

I had no clue going in this book had anything to do with fae…and if I’d known there was any steampunk I wouldn’t have bothered. But — and I’m still in shock that I’m writing this — it didn’t bother me at all. I know! Who am I?

Aileana was a little too murderous rampagey and she and Kiaran kept an unhealthy amount of secrets from one another…but darn if I didn’t love them both. I got swept up in the Buffy-esque vibe and true uniqueness of the story.

This is one of those reviews that is super hard to write. Intellectually, I had plenty of issues with The Falconer (Such as: Where was the falcon? How can you have no falcon?!). Emotionally, I could not put it down and I’m dying to read the rest of the trilogy. Gahhh!

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: elizabeth may, fairies, fantasy, romance
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