Thu, September 11, 2014

Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts Review

Zac and Mia book cover

Zac and Mia book cover

Zac and Mia
By A.J. Betts
Publication date: Sept. 2, 2014
HMH Books for Young Readers, 289 pages
Source: Publisher

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this tough and tender young adult novel that’s a lot about love (and a little about cancer).

Winner of the 2012 Australian Text Prize

“When I was little I believed in Jesus and Santa, spontaneous combustion, and the Loch Ness monster. Now I believe in science, statistics, and antibiotics.” So says seventeen-year-old Zac Meier during a long, grueling leukemia treatment in Perth, Australia. A loud blast of Lady Gaga alerts him to the presence of Mia, the angry, not-at-all-stoic cancer patient in the room next door. Once released, the two near-strangers can’t forget each other, even as they desperately try to resume normal lives. The story of their mysterious connection drives this unflinchingly tough, tender novel told in two voices.

— description

I understand why publishers keep referencing The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park in their books’ blurbs — those titles have mass appeal and are sure to capture many potential readers’ attention.

But Zac and Mia have been better served if those books weren’t mentioned in the blurb above at all. Beyond the cancer thing and a title that featured two character names…I didn’t see the connection and don’t feel the comparison to such stellar books did it any favors.

Regardless, there was plenty to appreciate about Zac and Mia.

– I appreciated all the cancer details included — the author clearly did her research and really portrayed how difficult and mundane it is to be stuck inside a hospital.

– Plus, Zac was engaging from the get-go and sucked me right in. I adored his interactions with his mother.

– The book’s structure was great — it moved from a Zac section, to a section that alternated between Zac & Mia, and ended with a Mia-only section. Really creative and it worked well here.

Yet…while I liked Zac, I never connected to Mia. I felt lukewarm and unemotional about their relationship, which was the main focus of the story. Also, I will just vaguely say the end took a turn I feel weird about.

So…hmm. Another one with pros and cons!

Anna Reads young adult book blog

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Posted by: Anna   •   In: aj betts, cancer

Wed, September 10, 2014

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier Review

Ruby Red book cover

Ruby Red book cover

Ruby Red
By Kerstin Gier
Publication date: May 10, 2011
Henry Holt, 336 pages
Source: Purchased

Gwyneth Shepherd’s sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon–the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

— description

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier has been sitting on my shelf for almost four years now, unread. Thanks to your recommendations, I gave it a go and I’m glad I did.

Did I love it? No. It isn’t even my favorite time travel book (that would be Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone). But it was still a quick, easy, enjoyable read.

Gwyneth and her best friend Leslie are delightful — the comic relief they provided came at just the right moments.

I was a bit nervous about the writing when I heard this was translated from its original German, but it was great. The descriptions of the costumes, the buildings and Gwyneth’s trips back in time popped off the pages.

I wish there was a love story (as always)…but crossing my fingers that one comes in the next book in the series. Maybe Gideon? He’s obnoxious right now, but I see promise!

I’ll definitely read more.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

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Posted by: Anna   •   In: kerstin gier, time travel

Tue, September 9, 2014

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall Review

A Little Something Different book cover

A Little Something Different book cover

A Little Something Different
By Sandy Hall
Publication date: Aug. 26, 2014
Swoon Reads, 272 pages
Source: Library

The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out. But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.

Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are ment to be together….

— description

Quirky and so so so adorable, A Little Something Different is just the book I needed to get me in a good mood.

Reading this story felt like being part of a fandom — not only are you, as the reader, rooting for Gabe and Lea to get together, but every narrator (from their families, teachers and friends to a bench and even a squirrel) is rooting for them as well. Now THIS is the way to do multiple points-of-view!

The college setting felt so spot-on it made me want to throw on an ILLINI hoodie and start tailgating. Ahhh, memories.

You guys, this book is a delight on all fronts. When you want a romantic but unique pick-me-up read, this one is a must.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

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Posted by: Anna   •   In: romance, sandy hall

Mon, September 8, 2014

Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson Review

Don't Touch book cover

Don't Touch book cover

Don’t Touch
By Rachel M. Wilson
Publication date: Sept. 2, 2014
HarperTeen, 432 pages
Source: Publisher

A powerful story of a girl who is afraid to touch another person’s skin, until the boy auditioning for Hamlet opposite her Ophelia gives her a reason to overcome her fears.

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. Touch another person’s skin, and Dad’s gone for good.

Caddie can’t stop thinking that if she keeps from touching another person’s skin, her parents might get back together… which is why she wears full-length gloves to school and covers every inch of her skin.

It seems harmless at first, but Caddie’s obsession soon threatens her ambitions as an actress. She desperately wants to play Ophelia in her school’s production of Hamlet. But that would mean touching Peter, who’s auditioning for the title role—and kissing him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter—but the other part isn’t sure she’s brave enough to let herself fall.

Perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson, this debut novel from Rachel M. Wilson is a moving story of a talented girl who’s fighting an increasingly severe anxiety disorder, and the friends and family who stand by her.

— description

I really, really liked this one. In terms of books that deal with mental health, Don’t Touch definitely fell among the best I’ve read.

It’s the type of book that I read with a pit in my stomach. It made me anxious and tense, as it should — that’s exactly how Callie felt throughout the book as she struggled with her OCD and phobia of being touched. As I read, I felt like I was standing on a precipice, that I could fall or jump and the decision between the two could go either way. Again, the tone was a perfect fit for the subject matter and it had a very strong affect on me.

I especially like that, in my amateur opinion, Callie’s mental health issues were handled in a healthy way (therapy, honesty, asking for help) vs. pushed aside with an easy fix. Don’t Touch is a powerful story with a strong message.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

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Posted by: Anna   •   In: mental health, rachel m. wilson

Fri, September 5, 2014

This Week in Review – Sept. 5


what i did

A tour of the Pacific Northwest! The highlight of our Seattle and Portland trips was definitely this gorgeous hike along Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls. The trail was definitely a little LEDGE-Y for my tastes…

photo 1-2

…but the views were spectacular! It was a fantastic trip. Though, I want Voodoo Donuts for breakfast every morning for the rest of my life now. So. Good.

photo 2

links i loved

I thought Emma Approved (essentially Lizzie Bennett Diaries 2.0) was lame when it first started…but I decided to give it another try and am currently tearing through the episodes. It’s weirdly addicting, even though I know (obviously) how it’s gonna end.

books i added to my shelves

In the mail:


Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye by Wendelin Van Draanen
Being Audrey Hepburn by Mitchell Kriegman
Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
Reluctantly Royal by Nichole Chase

Thank you to Knopf, St. Martin’s Griffin, Quirk Books and Avon!

On my Kindle:
Game and Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga
Wildlife by Fiona Wood
Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King
Famous in Love by Rebecca Searle
Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay
Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass
Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff
Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor
The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows (!!!)
Solitaire by Alice Oseman
Lies I Told by Michelle Zink

So many books I’m dying to read…I can’t even. Thank you to Little Brown Books for Young Readers, Delacorte Press and Harper.

From the library:


A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall
One Plus One by JoJo Moyes

I actually hated the last JoJo Moyes book I read for personal reasons…so hoping all the people freaking out about her on the Internet see something I didn’t. Giving her one more go!

books i read

I read two romance novels this week that were bad but I read anyway for some reason and I won’t name here. I didn’t read much this week since I got so sucked into Emma Approved, but with two back-to-back trips, there was plenty of plane/airport reading time to make up for it:

The Falconer by Elizabeth May
Breathe Annie Breathe by Miranda Kenneally (review already up here)
Falling into Place by Amy Zhang
Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

What did you read this week? Hope you all have a great weekend!


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Posted by: Anna   •   In: this week