Tag Archives: Book Review

Grace Reviews: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

 

Grace’s Thoughts

I’m going to be completely honest with you guys: it took me around five months to finish this book. Now, it wasn’t a particularly difficult read and I definitely would not categorize myself as a slow reader, but unfortunately The Night Circus just didn’t draw me in like I hoped it would.

The reason why The Night Circus was such a brutal read for me was because it really is a long 500+ page book of descriptions. Yes, the flowery descriptive writing was incredibly beautiful and enjoyable and gave me a very vivid sense about everything there was about the circus, but there was very little going on beyond all the costumes and circus tents. I was very disappointed that there was so much emphasis on the setting and very little in comparison to the more important plot points like with the competition between Celia and Marco, who have been raised and trained their whole lives to be a victor in a competition that the reader is kept in the dark about for quite some time. Even worse, the competition that the book built up for turned out to be little more than creating different tents and performances and not actual magic dueling. I really wished there was more time spent describing how the competition really worked instead of Celia’s gowns and caramel apples.

There were times where the plot was a little confusing (which might’ve been prevented if I didn’t spread out my reading so much) between the characters and the competition itself. The plot itself continually jumps to different perspectives of different characters at different time periods, which only added to the confusion instead of driving the story forward. As much as I prefer stand alone books to series, it would almost have been better for Erin Morgenstern to have taken the side stories and included them into a companion novel or sequel or something so that the emphasis on the story would have been on Celia and Marco. Speaking of those two, I really hated their relationship; it just felt so forced and mechanical to me and lacked the magic that surrounded them in the competition and circus. The constant jumping around prohibited me from connecting to any of the characters – especially Celia and Marco who are supposed to be main characters – and took away the excitement of certain points because I was either confused as to what the heck was going on or because I just wanted to get through certain parts for the sake of getting closer to finishing the book.

Overall

It’s unfortunate that such a beautifully written book could wind up being so disappointing because The Night Circus really had the potential to be unforgettable. Of course, it was pretty unforgettable for those who really enjoy descriptive writing, but I personally am not patient enough to read several hundred pages before getting to the “meat” of the plot.

2 birds

two-starstwo-stars

Grace Reviews: Not A Drop to Drink by Mind McGinnis

Grace’s Thoughts

Grace is one of the new blog contributors here at YA Booklover blog! You can check out this post to find out more about her.

Did you guys know that 3.4 million people in this world die each year from a water related disease? Clean drinking water is something that many of us in today’s developed world take for granted and probably don’t even think twice about every time we drink, cook, or shower. Water is accessible to us by simply turning on a faucet or by waving our hands by a sink in some super swanky places, but what would happen to civilization if we lost access to that privilege?

Not a Drop to Drink depicts a world where a lack of water is an everyday battle for our protagonist named Lynn. All Lynn knows is the constant worry of watching the water level of her pond drop lower and lower due to lack of rain and the constant threat of strangers desperate to do whatever it takes for some of her vital water. Lynn had grown up tough with her mother, doing whatever it takes to protect their home and pond, even if it meant taking the lives of daring coyotes or people.

Proper world building is absolutely essential for any type of dystopian book to make any sense, and Mindy McGinnis absolutely nails this important aspect. We learn that there was a time before what is known as the Shortage where life was just like ours; worry free with a plenitude of clean water. After the shortage, cities restricted family size and marked up the price of water for their citizens and many flocked to the country where they were faced with even more hardships due to lack of knowledge about how to survive in the wild. Even though Lynn and her mother lived in the Ohio countryside with their own fairly reliable source of water, they still had to spend hours a day purifying their own water due to the fear of cholera that had reemerged and claimed the lives of those who knew nothing about purifying water.

Another aspect of this novel that was so incredibly refreshing was the greater emphasis on family relationships and friendships instead of just romantic relationships. Lynn’s naïveté about romance and men in general was a source of humor in the midst of a survival story, because who wouldn’t be naïve if you had to kill any man who came within a specific range of your only water source? (Lynn’s own neighbor had to give her The Talk at one point,which literally had me laughing out loud!). There was a little relationship thing going between Lynn and another prominent male character later in the story,but there was more emphasis on her relationship with her neighbor Stebbs and with a little girl named Lucy. It was especially heartwarming to watch Lynn transform into someone a little softer around the edges who began to question human character instead of mercilessly shooting people without so much of a second thought.

Not a Drop to Drink is a story about survival without the frills that some other dystopias possess; there were no elaborate rebellions or zombies or genetic mutations that brought civilization crashing down but the simple lack of clean water for everyone. The likelihood of this future made it easy for me to be captivated by the plot and the absence of a love triangle and a strong female character who didn’t need no man to take care of her were major bonuses for me as well. My one and only problem with Not a Drop to Drink is that I felt that the plot dragged a bit in the middle which resulted in what felt like an abrupt ending. I would’ve so much rather have had the ending be less rushed and have not so much “fluff” at some parts that did not really relate to the story line.

Overall

With the rushed ending in mind and new found knowledge about cholera and purifying water, I’d give Not a Drop to Drink 4.5 birds and a strong recommendation to anyone looking for a realistic, no nonsense survival story.

(Awesome water facts courtesy of water.org)

four-half-starsfour-half-starsfour-half-starsfour-half-starsfour-half-stars

Review of Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Published: February 26, 2013
Genre: YA Contemp.
Pages: 328
Source: Bought

 

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under. (Goodreads)

mythoughts
I was really, really expecting to love Eleanor & Park. It has so many of the my favourite things all mashed together: 80s pop culture, a slow-burn romance, and difficult, heart-wrenching moments. I’m having trouble forming my thoughts into proper, coherent sentences, so here’s a list of things I did like and things I didn’t like:

I liked…

  • The setting, time-period wise. Sadly I was born too late to personally experience the neon leotards and huge hair of the 80s, but I’ve watched enough John Hughes movies to have a solid appreciation for the decade.
  • How Eleanor’s character never tried to lose weight or go on a diet. At first I had trouble coming to terms with this, and I wasn’t sure why. I really liked Eleanor’s character, and it didn’t bother me that she was described to be a bit bigger. But I think I was subconsciously wondering throughout the book when she was going to change, and looking back on this thought, I realize it’s probably a reflection of my previous reading and watching experiences. Whenever you read about a heavier character, there’s likely to be a transformation of some kind in their future, or at least an attempt. This simply doesn’t happen in Eleanor & Park, because it’s just not possible for Eleanor given her circumstances. She barely gets enough to eat at home – I doubt her main concern is eating less food. I think Rainbow Rowell explained it best in her series of tweets:

(via Shoot the Wizard)

  • The slow-burning, ugh-why-haven’t-you-kissed-yet-romance. Eleanor and Park are both pretty awkward people, and it takes them an insane amount of time to finally realize they like each other and then do something about. It was a bit torturous, but I loved it. Vaguely reminiscent of the drawn-out, agonizing but incredibly amazing romance of Jim and Pam.
  • The end. Because everything leading up to it was so sudden and intense and such a drastic change from the quiet lull of the first half of the book. The way Rowell ending the book was pretty depressing and devastating, but that very last line gives you hope, and I know it’s a standalone but wow, a follow up would be amazing.
  • The writing. The only way I can think to describe it is “gentle”. It was just really subtle, nothing too in your face, but it also showed the emotions of each character so well, and illustrated each fine detail of Eleanor and Park’s lives. Eleanor’s home life, especially, is depicted so well. There’s always this tension in the air, and you know it could snap at any moment.

I didn’t like…

  • How I didn’t feel a huge connection. Usually when I read a contemporary that I really love, I get so connected to it and everything just feels so EPIC and I end up walking around in a daze after I’ve finished it. Clearly, from the points above, I really liked this book. I just didn’t LOVE it like I was hoping to, and I didn’t feel that totally, all-consuming connection that I get from my absolute favourite contemporaries.

Overall this is a brilliant contemporary. It’s so well written and the characters are developed fantastically. If you are a contemporary fan, I would say this is quickly becoming one of the staples in the genre and it’s definitely worth giving it a read. Even if you aren’t a contemporary fan, I would still recommend it, because you might be surprised by all the emotion and heart in this book.

4.5 birds

Sweet read! Would definitely knock out a few birds for this one!

Review of Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Poison Study (Study, #1)

Poison Study (Study #1) by Maria V. Snyder

Published: March 1, 2007
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 412
Source: Library

Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison…

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear… (Goodreads)

mythoughts2So this was the book that Vy made me read in December for Epic-Recs (find out more about that here). To be honest, I was not sure what I was going to think about this book because I am definitely not a fantasy girl. However, I’m glad Vy pushed this one on me because I was pleasantly surprised by it!

I have to say that I liked the first part of the book the most. I was hooked from the very beginning, and I was shocked at how much I was actually enjoying a fantasy book. The beginning was just really captivating, and I think it does a fantastic job of introducing you to the characters. There was a lot of good character building for Yelena, the MC. Throughout the book you get continuous glances into her past and what made her how she is now. Pretty much everything she does is influenced by her past with Brazell and Reyad, so it was definitely a plus that the author showed us glimpses of her past so we could understand her better.

The magical element was so-so for me. The concept is unique and the ideas are interesting, but personally I just don’t find magical plots all that captivating (unless it’s Harry Potter, obviously). What I did like was that Yelena is a food-taster and is trained to identify poisons. I don’t know, that just seemed really different and intriguing to me. The whole book was pretty fast paced and for the most part kept my interest, even if I wasn’t fully invested in the plot.

The one thing that I absolutely did not get with this book was the romance. This is a bit of a spoiler, so if you haven’t read the book, just skip over this next bit. Okay, so for some reason I just pictured Valek to be like, 30-35 years old. And Yelena is 17-18, right? It just seemed creepy to me, their relationship. I didn’t feel the connection AT ALL, and although it was pretty obvious from the beginning of the book that they were going to end up together, I kept hoping she would meet someone else. Thankfully the romance isn’t a central plot in the book, but I really did not find it to be realistic or appealing.

As for reading the rest of the series, I’m still unsure. I liked this one enough to consider it, but from reviews that I’ve read, it sounds like the series just goes downhill after Poison Study. Also, I don’t know if I can stand any more of that romance. Overall I’m happy that I read this because it forced me to read something outside my comfort zone, and something that had been on my reading list for a while. I would definitely recommend it if you’re a fantasy fan, because it seems to be one of the staples in the YA-fantasy genre.

 3.5 birds

Mhm. Okay. Flip a coin. Heads – bird wins. Tails – it’s mine.

Review of Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Dare You To (Pushing the Limits, #2)
Dare You To (Pushing the Limits #2) by Katie McGarry

Published: May 28, 2013
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 456
Source: Bought

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all….

mythoughtsI’m not quite sure what to say about this book, because my thoughts on it are really mixed. On one hand I really enjoyed the romance, but I also had a lot of issues with the plot and the characters.

First of all, my expectations were high. Pushing the Limits was a book I really really liked, so I expected nothing less from the next in the series (I know it’s not technically a series but…). I have to say that the beginning half of the book really bored me. There was nothing especially interesting going on, or at least I didn’t think so. Yes, the beginning is used to mostly flesh out the characters and introduce their backstories, but I just found it to drag on a bit. I seriously did not like Beth at the start of the book. She is so far away from my personality that I couldn’t relate to her at all, and although it got better by the end of the story, I still had a lot of trouble with her character. I understand that she has huge trust issues, but it made me so mad when she just kept pushing Ryan away. Plus she treated him like crap. He literally followed her around like a lost puppy telling her how he felt, and she just kept saying she didn’t believe him. Seriously, give the poor guy a break.

Also, it bothered me how Beth kept telling Isaiah that his feelings weren’t real. People are allowed to have feelings, Beth, and you can’t dictate what they are!!

So I definitely had some issues with Beth as a character. I thought her backstory was really well done and her character really reflected what had happened to her in the past, but I just could not get on board with her attitude. Ryan was another character that I didn’t really love. He was just so typically jock-ish and his character, while it had one obvious deviation from the cookie cutter jock image, seemed very bland. In fact I had a lot of trouble connecting with the whole book. This may sound odd, but one of the reasons for this was definitely the cultural differences. This book takes place in the South, and it’s evident throughout the whole story. Sometimes a character would say something that sounded so… strange. Like I have never actually heard a person use that phrase in my whole life. And the whole book seems to have a really Southern culture that I frankly did not get. I’m from Ontario, Canada, so I found a lot of things in this book to be very different from my life, and I think that made it hard for me to connect. I don’t know, that might sound stupid. Honestly it’s the first time I’ve ever experienced not connecting with a book because of a geography issue. But the whole time I was reading the book I felt like I was missing out on some big inside joke. I appreciated the Southern culture, I really did, I just couldn’t personally relate to it.

The love aspect between Ryan and Beth was one part of the book that I did like. It was kind of cheesy some times, and a tad bit unbelievable (rain in a jar anyone?), but overall it was an interesting mix of slow building and fast paced. I like seeing Beth finally resolve her trust issues with Ryan, and it was nice to see Beth helping Ryan with some of the issues he had in his life.

Lastly, Katie McGarry definitely has a knack for taking tough subjects and seamlessly weaving them into the plot. This book dealt with a few problems, such as Beth’s mother’s struggle with addiction, and Ryan’s family’s issues around Mark. I would say that while these books aren’t straight up “issue books”, they definitely tackle some real world issues in a realistic way, and not always easy, way.

Overall, I did enjoy Dare You To. Once I really got into the book I was drawn in to the love story, and I think some serious issues were dealt with really well. However, I didn’t like Dare You To as much as I liked McGarry’s first book, Pushing the Limits. I’m still hopeful for Crash Into You, though! Also, as a sidenote, I got to go to one of Katie McGarry’s signings and she is such a kind and sweet person!

 4 birds

Sweet read! Would definitely knock out a few birds for this one!

Review of Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Under Fire
Rose Under Fire
by Elizabeth Wein

Published: September 10, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: ARC from publisher

While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

 

mythoughtsGiven my absolute, totally consuming love for Elizabeth Wein’s other novel (Code Name Verity) it would be an understatement to say that I was excited for Rose Under Fire. Unfortunately I didn’t feel the same love for RUF that I did for CNV. I still thought the book was amazing, but it didn’t quite live up to CNV.

I absolutely love Wein’s writing style, how everything may seem a little disjointed at first but as you keep reading things just come together. She tends to throw you right in this other world and you have to do the figuring out of who’s who and what’s going on. Her writing isn’t fancy and buttoned up, it’s raw and emotional and in the moment.

The characters always play a major role in Wein’s books it seems, and the characters in RUF did not disappoint. I love the friendship that was built up under awful circumstances, and everything they had to do for each other just to survive. It was intense and again, in the moment. But it was also witty and funny and sarcastic, just like friendships are. As for the plot, it drew me in from the beginning. I can’t say that will happen with everyone, I’m just a huge reader of everything WW2. Although, I couldn’t help but compare the plot, the characters, everything, to Code Name Verity. They just seemed so similar… both set in World War 2, both focusing on friendships. And while I love every aspect of these books, and they definitely differ in many ways, I couldn’t help but feel like I was just reading a modified version of Code Name Verity. And for me, CNV was better. The emotion in CNV was so overpowering and consuming, but in RUF, while it was still emotional, I barely shed a tear (and I was bawling when reading Code Name Verity). I know it’s wrong to compare these books because they are separate works and should be seen that way, but when you write two books with this many similarities, I think you have to realize that it’s impossible not to compare them.

I think that if I hadn’t read CNV and just went into RUF not knowing what to expect, I would have loved it a lot more. But the fact that I was comparing both books made me more critical and CNV just did not fully live up to my expectations.

Overall, I did love this book. I completely recommend it if you’re into historical fiction like I am, because it’s really great. Elizabeth Wein writes books you want to savour and read slowly so that you can absorb every last detail, and if you haven’t read one of her books yet, you need to do that ASAP (but I recommend Code Name Verity to start).

PS. I’m sorry this review is so awkwardly written, and I’m sorry I haven’t posted in  so long. I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen to this blog but that’s another post. For now I’m just trying to push forward. Baby steps is becoming my motto.

5 birds

Absolutely adore this book! Would fight dozens of flocks of crazed birds to read it!

Review of This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

This is Not a Test

This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers

Published: June 19, 2012
Genre: Zombie apocalypse meets dark contemporary
Pages: 323
Source: Won

 

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?
mythoughts2“This must be what Dorothy felt like, I think. Maybe. If Dorothy was six scared teenagers and Oz was hell.”
-Courtney Summers, This Is Not A Test
This was my second adventure into the world of Courtney Summers. I was especially excited for this one because of the things I’d heard about it, and because The Walking Dead doesn’t return until the fall so this book filled the zombie-void. While I didn’t love love this book, it was captivating and very enjoyable.Sloane reminded me a lot of the other MC I’d read from Courtney Summers (Cracked Up to Be). She seems to have a theme of tough, snarky girl MCs, although Sloane was also a very dark and troubled character. I really liked the contemporary element, because contemp is my staple and I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed this novel as much had it just been flesh-eating madness. Sloane’s back story was eerie, disturbing, and sad. The dynamics between her, her father, and her sister were written so well… even though these were all memories, not actual scenes. So this part of the story made it feel like a dark contemporary, but the part where they’re hiding in a school, running for their lives from zombies was super intense, and very creepy, but not over the top. It was tasteful, if you can say that about zombies.

I loved the romantic twists. You’ve got 6 teenagers trapped in a school for days, weeks… Something’s bound to happen. Again, that tastefulness was there, but everything was also very emotional, as you would be if that was your last kiss before your throat was ripped out by your used-to-be neighbour. There wasn’t as much action as I had expected, because most of the book takes place in the school. But it’s kind of like the kids are all bottled up, and the tension is just building and building toward the final action. I wished it had happened differently, maybe on the zombie’s terms so that it was more exciting, but there were twists and turns nonetheless.

Courtney Summer’s writing is very blunt and to the point. I love that she doesn’t spend pages and pages on fancy description. She says what needs to be said, even if it’s gritty and tough to deal with, which most of the time her books are.

Overall, this book was really different from what I expected. There’s a very complex contemporary plot line that I loved, and it weaves so well into the zombie apocalypse situation. I definitely recommend this book to fans of contemporary or zombie-ish books. It was action packed and rich with good characters and writing, Courtney Summers style.

 4.5 birds

 

Sweet read! Would definitely knock out a few birds for this one, and then some!

Review of My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next Door

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Published: June 14, 2012
Genre: YA Contemp.
Pages: 394
Source: Library

One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase’s family embraces Samantha – even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself? (Goodreads)

 mythoughts2

So. I just wrote this whole review, was about to press publish, and guess what? The whole thing was gone. Stupid WordPress with it’s stupid settings. So now I’m going to try and type this out from memory (and a lot of fist pounding on the keyboard in anger).

Okay, so, I loved this book. I completely resonated with Samantha, who lives a pretty average, kinda boring life, and is always watching the Garretts and wanting to be part of their fun, messy, crazy life. I’ve always wanted lots of siblings, and when I was little I would watch Cheaper by the Dozen and Yours Mine and Ours on repeat, non-stop. So reading about the Garretts and their crazy and loud family was just so fun for me. I was a bit upset at how lucky/coincidental it was that that the Garretts just happened to have a 17 year old son who just happened to be rather good looking and nice, but I guess it had to happen to drive the book forward. Either way, I absolutely could not put this book down.

Another thing that I really loved about this book was how it dealt with tough issues of substance abuse and family dynamics. Throughout the first half of the book the plot focuses mostly on Samantha and Jase, but underneath that, Fitzpatrick presents, in a realistic and emotional way, the conflicts, tension, and fear that can come about when someone around you is dealing with an alcohol or drug addiction. On top of that, there are the issues between Sam and her mother as well as the life changing incident that happens to Sam. The book went from light, fun, and happy to deep, emotional, and intense within a couple chapters. The variation in Fitzpatrick’s writing showed that she’s easily capable of writing both kinds of stories. A lot of the time you find contemporaries that are summery and fun with heavy undertones, but often those undertones are either overdone or bland. In My Life Next Door, the light parts and the heavy parts were both just as engaging and well written, and it was refreshing to read something with such a well-rounded story line in YA.

Lastly, I’ll just touch on the romance between Sam and Jase. Did I think it was a bit insta-love? Maybe. Did this detract from how sweet and realistic their relationship was? Not at all. I loved how their relationship developed through the book, and how things were just so easy between them. There was one point that I wish had been explained a bit more, but it sounds a bit silly when I say it aloud. See, we are under the impression for most of the book that Samantha has been hiding her relationship with Jase from her mother. But we don’t really know if Jase is aware of this. Does he know that Sam’s hiding their relationship? It seems like something that should matter when you’re dating, if you’re keeping your relationship completely secret from your family. This issue is finally discussed later in the book, but I wish we had known all along what was going on. I know that’s just a dumb little thing, but it bugged me.

Overall, this book was fantastic. I loved everything, from the plot to the characters to the writing, and I can’t wait to see what Huntley Fitzpatrick comes up with next.

4.5 birds

Sweet read! Would definitely knock out a few birds for this one, and then some!

Review of This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

This Is What Happy Looks Like

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

Published: April 2, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher

 

If fate sent you an email, would you answer? When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O’Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds. Then Graham finds out that Ellie’s Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media’s spotlight at all costs?
(Goodreads)

 

mythoughts2I haven’t written a review in weeks, so I don’t know if I even remember how to do this. Sorry if it turns into an awful mess.

To sum it up really quickly: I did not enjoy this novel. I thought it was overly cheesy, kinda boring, and way longer than it needed to be.

I actually really liked Smith’s first novel, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. Mostly because it was fast paced and short – the opposite of This is What Happy Looks Like. Sometimes I talk about “fluff” books – books you read just to fill time and take your mind off things, but basic enough that a trained monkey could understand them. Well this book was like the bible of all fluff books. I found the characters to be dull and much of the plot unnecessary.

Ellie, the main character of the story, was just “meh” for me. I couldn’t relate to her, and I didn’t really care about her. The fight she has with her BFF (I can’t even remember her name) seemed so predictable and pointless (again, I can’t even remember what the fight was about). Then you’ve got Graham – the tortured young actor, estranged from family and friends by his career. Everyone sees him as The Star: Graham Larkin, but wait – what’s that? He’s just a normal guy??? How creative. On top of that whole cliched mess, we then learn a little bit about Graham’s background. Like how he lives in his own private mansion and feels uncomfortable visiting his own home because his parents treat him like royalty and don’t know how to act around him. His mom used to yell at him for leaving dirty laundry on the ground, but now that he’s a movie star she just picks it up without a word and does his laundry for him. Any respect I had for his parents flew out the window at that point.

The romance between Ellie and Graham was cookie-cutter at best. They like long walks on the beach and watching the sunset while holding hands. The only time when I felt the actual emotion was the scene where Ellie has to throw a towel over her face to hide from the cameras (I’m trying not to give anything away, hence the weird description). Props to Graham for stepping up in that scene.

Lastly, I’d just like to focus on the side-plot of Ellie’s dad. In my opinion, this did not need to be involved in the story at all. It added length, sure, but no value. You spend all this time learning about her dad, hearing stories about him, and it seemed to me that it could actually make the book more interesting. Then when the time comes, the big crescendo of the Dad Plot, everything just falls flat. Why spend all this time building up to something only to make it the shortest, most unnecessary scene in the book? On top of that, Ellie just seems fine with the outcome. It was like she was so scared of stirring up the pot that she jumped at the chance to give up on her dad.

Overall, I was not a fan of this book. I guess I see the appeal if you want something super light-hearted and fun, but I just found it boring and overly cheesy. There were a few upsides, like the gorgeous setting and the couple of scenes that stood out to me, but all in all I was really disappointed with This is What Happy Looks Like.

2.5 birds

Not my cup of tea. The birds can have it.

Review of Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)

Shatter Me (Shatter Me #1) by Tahereh Mafi

Published: November 15, 2011
Genre: Young Adult Dystopia
Pages: 338
Source: Bought

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior. (Goodreads)

mythoughts2

I’m pretty late to read this book, seeing as it was one of the big releases of 2011, combined with all the amazing things I’ve heard about it. Unfortunately, for me, Shatter Me was a bit of a disappointment.

For once in my life I took notes while reading, so I can actually pinpoint exactly what I didn’t like about this book. That being said – I didn’t hate this book. Far from it, actually. I’m still giving it 3.5 stars because even though I found many flaws in the book, I have to admit that the story did capture me, and I didn’t wanted to put this book down. It was fast paced, with lots of action, and I’m pretty eager to read the next book. But… if this book hadn’t been fast paced, I think I probably would have DNF’d it simply because I was unhappy with most of the characters and plot.

Let’s talk about Juliette, our main character. In the beginning of the book, she’s pretty damn pathetic, but you can’t really blame her because of where she is, and what her circumstance is. Then she meets Adam, and when you see her try to do that thing called social interaction, it’s clear that she’s not just pathetic, she’s hopeless. Juliette, how are we, the reader, supposed to know your story if you just mumble things incoherently and repeat everything you hear/think/say? Honestly, the first few chapters could have been about a rock named Juliette for all I know. She was basically non-existent. Then finally as the story progresses, we see so many opportunities for Juliette to become a stronger character – but she doesn’t. Okay, so she finally starts talking, but other than that she was just so whiny. Yes, it must be awful to kill everyone you touch, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look in a mirror!  She literally won’t look at herself because she doesn’t want to see the monster that she is (and then plays the part of Extremely Stunned Girl when people tell her she’s pretty). Was this supposed to show how humble/broken Juliette is? Because it just irritated me.

After reading about Juliette, I’m reminded of Katniss. Not because they are alike, but because they’re exact opposites. I longed for a character as strong and kick-ass as Katniss when reading about Juliette. Yes, there is definitely something to be appreciated in a flawed, broken character, but for me, Juliette was just pathetic. For example, there’s a time when Juliette has basically just escaped with her life, and instead of forming a plan or just being thankful to be alive, she starts questioning whether the love interest actually likes her. It was just so trivial and unnecessary that I wanted to shake her. She actually says that she wants this love interest to say explicitly, and I quote, that “we’re together official, exclusively”. Like he hasn’t proven himself with all he’s gone through for you, Juliette? Actions speak more than words, but Juliette is sulking because between saving her life and making out with her, he never stopped to say they were “exclusive”. Are you kidding me?

I’d like to touch on the writing in Shatter Me, because it’s sort of unusual. It involves a lot of strike throughs and numbers, and at first I thought this was an interesting style, but by the end I had grown tired of it. Some phrases, like, “He’s wrong he’s so wrong he’s more wrong than an upside-down rainbow,” seemed like they belonged on Tumblr rather than in a book. But there was also a kind of flow to her words that kept me reading, and sometimes I would read 50 pages without even realizing it because I just kept turning the pages.

A bit of a side note, but do you remember when A Reader of Fictions discovered the extreme prevalence of The Evil Sentence? Well, turns out they were right. There were two times in this book that Juliette either forgot to breathe or was involuntarily holding her breath. Yikes.

Lastly, I want to say that although it seems I have a lot of negative points for this book, I did not hate it. I really loved Adam’s character, and by the end of the book (although I wasn’t really happy with the ending – it was a bit too cliched and convenient for me) I could see that Juliette was finally moving past her sack of potatoes phase and actually becoming a person. I will read Unravel Me, because I think there’s potential for me to like it more than I liked this one, but if the things I’ve heard about Chapter 62 are true, then I will be very, very angry.

 3.5 birds

Mhm. Okay. Flip a coin. Heads – bird wins. Tails – it’s mine.

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