Fri, July 18, 2014

Mini Reviews

So many reviews, so little time!

For some reason, I never got around to doing full reviews on these books, but wanted to share my brief thoughts with you. Thus, “Mini Reviews” (aka, Anna Is Lazy)!

Fixing Delilah book cover

Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler

About the book:

Things in Delilah Hannaford’s life have a tendency to fall apart.

She used to be a good student, but she can’t seem to keep it together anymore. Her “boyfriend” isn’t much of a boyfriend. And her mother refuses to discuss the fight that divided their family eight years ago. Falling apart, it seems, is a Hannaford tradition.

Over a summer of new friendships, unexpected romance, and moments that test the complex bonds between mothers and daughters, Delilah must face her family’s painful past. Can even her most shattered relationships be pieced together again?

Rich with emotion, Sarah Ockler delivers a powerful story of family, love, and self-discovery.

My thoughts: A lovely book, and one I’m sad it took me so long to read! The writing was gorgeous, and I totally cried. Loved the family and friendship dynamics. It’s a contemporary I’d HIGHLY recommend.

Landline book cover

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

About the book:

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

My thoughts: Definitely not the Rainbow Rowell you associate with YA, which is fine by me, but probably not a good fit for actual young adults. It’s a quite dark story about the difficulties of marriage. Her writing is as sharp as ever, but I think you should definitely keep the tone and content in mind!

Sabriel book cover

Sabriel by Garth Nix

About the book:

Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him. She soon finds companions in Mogget, a cat whose aloof manner barely conceals its malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories. As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death—and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny.

With Sabriel, the first installment in the Abhorsen trilogy, Garth Nix exploded onto the fantasy scene as a rising star, in a novel that takes readers to a world where the line between the living and the dead isn’t always clear—and sometimes disappears altogether.

My thoughts: Everyone loves this book, but like Tamora Pierce’s stories, it just didn’t pop for me. I think it’s the type of book I would have ADORED at, say, age 12. But it just came to me too late in life, I’m afraid.

Strange and Ever After book cover

Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard (Something Strange and Deadly #3)

About the book:

In the conclusion to the trilogy that Publishers Weekly called “a roaring—and addictive—gothic world,” Eleanor Fitt must control her growing power, face her feelings for Daniel, and confront the evil necromancer Marcus…all before it’s too late.

He took her brother, he took her mother, and now, Marcus has taken her good friend Jie. With more determination than ever to bring this sinister man to justice, Eleanor heads to the hot desert streets of nineteenth-century Egypt in hopes of ending this nightmare. But in addition to her increasingly tense relationships with Daniel, Joseph, and her demon, Oliver, Eleanor must also deal with her former friend, Allison, who has curiously entangled herself in Eleanor’s mission.

With the rising dead chomping at her every move and Jie’s life hanging in the balance, Eleanor is convinced that her black magic will see her through to the bitter end. But there will be a price. Though she and the Spirit Hunters have weathered every battle thus far, there will be consequences to suffer this time—the effects of which will be irreversible. And when it’s over, only some will be able to live a strange and ever after.

Susan Dennard will leave readers breathless and forever changed in the concluding pages of this riveting ride.

My thoughts: The gothic/steampunk setting for this series never really worked for me. It’s just not my thing. But I like Dennard’s writing and thoroughly enjoy following her on Twitter, so I’m glad I gave it a go. I’m just hoping her next books have a setting/theme/topic a little more appealing to me. It’s not you, book, it’s me!

The Sound of Letting Go book cover

The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Kehoe Ward

About the book:

For sixteen years, Daisy has been good. A good daughter, helping out with her autistic younger brother uncomplainingly. A good friend, even when her best friend makes her feel like a third wheel. When her parents announce they’re sending her brother to an institution—without consulting her—Daisy’s furious, and decides the best way to be a good sister is to start being bad. She quits jazz band and orchestra, slacks in school, and falls for bad-boy Dave.

But one person won’t let Daisy forget who she used to be: Irish exchange student and brilliant musician Cal. Does she want the bad boy or the prodigy? Should she side with her parents or protect her brother? How can she know when to hold on and when—and how—to let go?

My thoughts: I remember adoring the writing, but I actually remember very little of the plot specifics. If you love verse novels, I’d say absolutely read this one. It was quite well done. But because of my fuzziness on the plot, I wouldn’t start here if you’re new to the genre.

Have you read any of these books?

Anna Reads young adult book blog

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Mon, April 22, 2013

The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler Review

The Book of Broken Hearts book cover

The Book of Broken Hearts book cover

The Book of Broken Hearts
By Sarah Ockler
Publication date: May 21, 2013
Simon Pulse, 352 pages
Source: Publisher

When all signs point to heartbreak, can love still be a rule of the road? A poignant and romantic novel from the author of Bittersweet and Twenty Boy Summer.

Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.

Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?

Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong?

Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.

— Goodreads.com description

Hello, The Book of Broken Hearts. Welcome to your new home on my favorites shelf. I think you will be very happy there…

One word: LOVED!

Okay, so, to start: Sarah Ockler should be on your auto-read list. Twenty Boy Summer was “gut-wrenching to read, but beautifully done.”. Bittersweet was “delightful.” So clearly I was already a fan going into this one. But, guys, I have to say: The Book of Broken Hearts is Sarah Ockler’s best book yet.

Jude, an extremely likable and lovely main character, is struggling with her role as her father’s caretaker over the summer. Her mom is busy working and her three older sisters are off living their own lives. Jude is tasked with the very demanding and heart-wrenching job of caring for her dad as he begins to fall deeper into the grasp of early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Stumped as to how to help him, she turns to Emilio to help her restore her father’s beloved motorcycle and give him some focus and hope. Only, Emilio is part of the forbidden Vargas family, filled with boys who have broken her sisters’ hearts.

The family dynamics are beautiful, Jude’s strength and growth is powerful and her relationship with Emilio — gah! If you like “bad boys” with softer sides, you are going to fall straight in love.

Also worth noting about them: Slightly older than your typical YA main characters and struggling with issues well beyond their years, Jude and Emilio made me think of all the new adult novels I’ve been reading lately. Only, where those novels failed for me by overly dramatizing their characters, Sarah Ockler has succeeded in telling this story softly yet strongly. Reading it, I kept feeling like Goldilocks: “Ahhh, now this is JUST RIGHT.”

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: family, romance, sarah ockler
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Wed, November 7, 2012

Waiting on The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to shine a spotlight on upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

The Book of Broken Hearts book cover

The Book of Broken Hearts
By Sarah Ockler
Simon Pulse, 352 pages
To be released May 21, 2013

Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath — with candles and a contract and everything — to never have anything to do with one.

Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle. No one wants to end up with a toaster on wheels, so they hire a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?

Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away — no way would she fall for them. But old warnings fade fast, because Emilio turns out to be the first guy in forever she likes. Really likes. Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…

But what if her sisters were wrong?

Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.

— Goodreads.com description

I WANT TO READ THIS SO BAD. I’m a huge Sarah Ockler fan, and y’all should be, too. Twenty Boy Summer, Bittersweet…these are my type of books!

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: sarah ockler, wow
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Thu, January 12, 2012

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler Review

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler book cover

Bittersweet
By Sarah Ockler

Jan. 3, 2012
Simon Pulse, 384 pages
Source: Publisher

From the author of Twenty Boy Summer, a teen pushes the limits to follow her dreams—and learns there’s a fine line between bitter and sweet…

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances, a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life—and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last….

— Amazon.com description

The galley version of this book had a different cover and a different title, but wow I’m happy they changed it — “bittersweet” is the perfect word for this book. And the cover is simple and sweet. It sort of reminds me of Sara Zarr’s Sweethearts, no?

Hudson’s life is pretty tough — her dad ran off with a She-Elvis, her former best friend hates her, her dream of being a figure skater is long gone and her mom is making her work long hours at the family diner. So, you see where the “bitter” comes in.

But there’s a hockey-playing boy who gets her back on the ice, and her passion for baking cupcakes gets her creativity stirring again, and it’s so so so “sweet.”

I completely enjoyed this book. Bittersweet is a lovely, romantic winter story that made me want to bundle up, spend some time in the snow…then run inside for some hot chocolate and a cupcake. Or two. Or three. A total delight.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: romance, sarah ockler
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Wed, September 15, 2010

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Twenty Boy Summer
By Sarah Ockler
2009, Little, Brown, 304 pages

According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy ever day, there’s a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there’s something she hasn’t told Frankie—she’s already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Beautifully written and emotionally honest, this is a debut novel that explores what it truly means to love someone and what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer.

— Amazon.com description

Oh my, more books on death. Again, I feel I was able to appreciate this book because I knew that was its premise going in. No real shockers after reading the back of the book.

The story starts out with Anna’s (what a great name!) remembrances of falling in love with Matt. Cake fights, sneaking away at night, whispered promises…I really, truly feel for their growing romance and now would like to please, Sarah Ockler, read a version of this book in which he lives. Mmmkay? Thanks. Because Matt = adorable.

Well, but then he died. Which was just shocking even though I knew it was coming and sad sad sad. Frankie and Anna are sent into a funk—but how can Anna grieve for her lost, secret boyfriend when she’s got Frankie to support? Ockler did a beautiful job of letting the readers in on all of the characters’ emotions. She doesn’t just tell you what Anna’s going through…she makes you feel it yourself.

Gut-wrenching to read, but beautifully done.

Plus side: Grief and death are very real issues that everyone has to deal with. The main question here, “What is the statute of limitations on feeling guilty for cheating on a ghost?” Anna writes in her journal to Matt. It’s a version of a question anyone who’s going through a loss has asked themselves. Again, this book just felt very sincere and honest. A good read.

Down side: The entire virginity plotline. I didn’t care for how callous the girls were about it. And then when someone DOES lose her V-card, it’s kinda swept over. I get that, in comparison to Matt’s death, maybe it’s not going to seem like a huge deal. But it IS a huge deal, especially when the girl is 16. It was hardly discussed or thought about or anything after it happened, and that deeply bothered me. NOT for the 12+ crowd that the publisher suggests.

Moral of the story: At the end of grief, once you’ve been truthful with yourself and others about how you feel, perhaps you’ll experience what Anna does: “Calm, I guess. And love. And forgiveness. And closure. A beginning, an ending, and a new beginning.”

Side note: GORGEOUS cover, and the sea glass fits into the story perfectly. Kudos, cover designer!

You might also like:
Oh, I don’t know anything ever by Nicholas Sparks? For your weepy types? I don’t know, I don’t read that…someone ALWAYS dies.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: death, friendship, sarah ockler
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