Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - 188

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine for bloggers and readers to see what new books are going to be released soon.

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

22465597New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident.

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late.

In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other. (from GoodReads)

I'm a big fan of Lauren Oliver, so I'll read anything she writes. It doesn't hurt that this novel sounds pretty exciting. Vanishing Girls will be released March 15, 2015

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - 131

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish for bloggers who like to make lists about books.

Top Ten Authors Whose Books I Own the Most Of

1. Cassandra Clare - 9

2. J.K. Rowling - 7

3. Meg Cabot - 7

4. Scott Westerfeld - 6

5. Stephenie Meyer - 5

6. Elizabeth Scott - 5

7. Melissa Walker - 4

8. Libba Bray - 4

9. Ann Rinaldi - 4

10. Carrie Ryan, Suzanne Collins, Ally Carter, Jen Calonita -3

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Also Known As by Robin Benway

Which is more dangerous: being an international spy... or surviving high school?

Maggie Silver has never minded her unusual life. Cracking safes for the world's premier spy organization and traveling the world with her insanely cool parents definitely beat high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. (If it's three digits, why bother locking it at all?)

But when Maggie and her parents are sent to New York City for her first solo assignment, her world is transformed. Suddenly, she's attending a private school with hundreds of "mean girl" wannabes, trying to avoid the temptation to hack the school's elementary security system, and working to befriend the aggravatingly cute son of a potential national security threat... all while trying not to blow her cover.

From the hilarious and poignant author of Audrey, Wait! comes a fast-paced caper that proves that even the world's greatest spies don't have a mission plan for love. (from GoodReads)

I thought this was adorable and had no idea it's by the same author that wrote Audrey, Wait!. The two books are similar in that the protagonist is very funny and snarky, but they're are definitely a lot different.

This book reminded me of Ally Carter's version of a teenage spy, but I think I liked AKA better. I liked seeing Maggie out in the field actually using her skills and handling assignments. The fact that she has to spy on a cute boy that she may or may not have a crush on was hilarious and awesome.

This book was just a super fun read, even if Maggie and Jesse fall in love a little too quickly for my taste. I can't wait to read the sequel!

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from the library

2013/Walker Books/318 pages

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - 187

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine for bloggers and readers to get excited about new books.

Love, Lucy by April Lindner

18460398While backpacking through Florence, Italy, during the summer before she heads off to college, 17-year-old Lucy Sommersworth finds herself falling in love with the culture, the architecture, the food...and Jesse Palladino, a handsome street musician. After a whirlwind romance, Lucy returns home, determined to move on from her "vacation flirtation." But just because summer is over doesn't mean Lucy and Jesse are over, too. (from GoodReads)

Italy and romance? Sign me up! This also sounds a lot like Just One Day by Gayle Forman, which I loved. Love, Lucy will be released January 27, 2015.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer State of Mind by Jen Calonita

Harper Mcallister is a sweet but spoiled freshly minted rich girl whose dad decides she needs a shot of reality. His plan: send her to his childhood sleepaway camp, Whispering Pines. Ziplines, mud, bugs, and bears are not Harper's thing and she'll hilarious have to navigate that world without her iPhone or beloved Twitter account. Can she hack it with the help of some former "Sleepaway Girls"? (from Goodreads)

Sleepaway Girls is one of my favorite books. Not because it's a literary masterpiece but because it has great characters and a wonderful setting. It's such a "summer" book that I reread it every year around this time because I love immersing myself in Camp Whispering Pines. When I discovered that Jen Calonita was writing another book set at Whispering Pines I was ecstatic. While I didn't like Summer State of Mind as much as I hoped, it's still a cute novel.

My biggest problem with this book is that it reads really young, almost MG. The characters are 15, the same age as those in Sleepaway Girls, but they seemed so much younger. Part of that is probably due to the fact that the girls in SG are all CITs and have some level of responsibility at the camp. The characters in SSoM are still campers so they don't have to be as mature as their counterparts. Even so, Harper is tough to root for in the beginning; she's extremely materialistic and a little snobby. Luckily, her time at camp changes her for the better!

I wish we got more time with the original "sleepaway girls" even though this novel is only supposed to be a companion to the original. The exploits of Sam and her crew as counselors would have been so much fun to read about and I wish we got that instead! So while I'm grateful for another visit to Whispering Pines, I definitely like the original better.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: personal copy

2014/Poppy/256 pages.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Panic by Lauren Oliver

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most. (from GoodReads)

I was really excited to read Panic because I love Lauren Oliver and it was marketed as a Hunger Games-esque novel. Though it wasn't science fiction (which I was expecting) I still really enjoyed Panic.

This novel details what the Hunger Games would be like if it was present day and organized by high schoolers. I thought the concept was fascinating and pretty ingenious. The challenges are extremely dangerous and I'd probably never participate, but I can see why teenagers would do it: the prize is $67,000! I thought the tasks were pretty clever if not totally stupid and life-threatening. I still can't believe that the adults/police could never figure out what was going on with Panic, even after participants and bystanders are paralyzed, injured and even killed. If this was the real-world, the police would have figured it out immediately, especially in such a small town. Either way, I was able to suspend my disbelief and still enjoy the story.

I liked the dual perspectives of Heather and Dodge but for some reason couldn't stand reading them in third person point-of-view. Most of the time I don't care about first or third person and couldn't even tell you what I was reading because I don't pay attention to it. But in Panic I did not like the third person - it should have been written in first. I also liked that the romance was unexpected and not clichéd as usual. Heather and Dodge could have benefitted from more character development though. I also thought the last challenge, the Joust, wasn't as exciting as it could have been.

Those are just my nitpickings, but I actually really liked this book and thought the concept was really cool. I can't wait to see what Lauren Oliver writes next.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from the library

2014/HarperCollins/408 pages.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - 130

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish for bloggers who like to make lists about books.

Top Ten TV Shows

1. Bones - I love this show so much that I even wrote a research paper on it for my pop culture class. For those who don't know, it follows a crime-solving duo: FBI agent and forensic anthropologist who can identify bodies by their bones. It's pretty gory but the character development and chemistry between the two leads is amazing.

2. Supernatural - The fact that this show is entering its 10th season blows my mind. I love spooky stories so obviously it's right up my alley, though the relationship between the two brothers though is what makes the show.

3. The Office - I love the humor of this show and the fact that it was still funny even after Steve Carrell left. I miss it so much!

4. House - This was probably one of the first "adult" shows I watched regularly and it's because medicine/human anatomy fascinates me (I wanted to be a doctor for a long time). I also like how each patient is a mystery that House needs to solve.

5. The Vampire Diaries - I pretty much only tuned into this show because Ian Somerhalder is in it (see below: LOST) but it ended up being amazing! It's losing steam now that it's hit 5 seasons but the middle seasons were literally crazy. Twists and turns in every episode!

6. The Colbert Report - I watch this show religiously and never miss an episode! I don't know what I'm going to do when Colbert goes onto the Late Show. Cry a lot probably.

7. How I Met Your Mother - This show is so funny but also has a very unique storytelling method. I love the unreliable narrators and flashbacks that keep it interesting. I also LOVED the finale!

8. LOST - This is the first show I watched on Netflix, though it was nowhere near a binge. What a great sci fi show.

9. Brooklyn 9-9 - There's only been one season so far so I may be jumping the gun but I really enjoyed what I saw and thought it was hilarious! It definitely deserved that Golden Globe.

10. The Twilight Zone - Gotta have a classic on here! I love when SyFy has the New Year's marathon, which is a tradition with my family.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Program by Suzanne Young

In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them. (from GoodReads)

This book was really interesting. Part of me liked to see how a country would adapt to a high level of suicide in teenagers and then another part of me didn't like how depression and suicide was represented. Yes, it's one of those books.

I hate feeling conflicted but I enjoyed this book for the most part while finding other parts problematic. Everyone says that this book is too unrealistic which is true but only to an extent. While suicide isn't contagious the way the flu is, it can occur in clusters. It happened to a high school near me a few years ago where all these students started to commit suicide. Also the fear of going to The Program and having to put on a brave face all the time could be enough to send a lot of teenagers to that extreme. So the level of teens committing suicide is artificially elevated due to that fact. But now that I have a degree in psychology I don't like to see depression/suicidal tendencies represented in this way. I honestly forget what I specifically didn't like but there was something and I don't care enough about this novel to look it up.

I thought the parts where Sloane went through the Program were the most interesting, especially her relationship with Michael (he's referred to by his last name, but can't remember it!). I read this book a few weeks ago, which is why this review is horrible. Anyway, overall the book isn't too bad but if you're really sensitive to these issues you might want to skip it.

Rating: 6 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from the library

2013/Simon & Schuster/405 pages

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

The Pre-Sloane Emily didn't go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn't do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell. But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just... disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try... unless they could lead back to her best friend. Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough. Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a Stranger? Wait... what?

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Um... (from GoodReads)

Review:Doesn't this book make you think of Kelly Clarkson's hit song with the same title? Surprisingly that song wasn't stuck in my head while I was reading Since You've Been Gone. Anyway, I definitely enjoyed Matson's latest novel but it's definitely not her best work.

The beginning of Since You've Been Gone does what a lot of YA novels do: puts the "best friend" on a pedestal while the protagonist berates herself for not being as pretty/outgoing/funny/spontaneous. Every few seconds Emily would talk about how Sloane would act and what Sloane would say and why Sloane is so much cooler than her. It's exhausting for the reader and also frustrating because I'm reading about Emily. Can you imagine having that train of thought in your head every time you interacted with someone from school? Yikes.

However, as Emily makes new friends and becomes more independent, that reliance on Sloane pretty much disappears, thank goodness. Emily actually has a personality that shines! I did think it was weird how Sloane fell off the grid; it's explained at the end and it kinda makes sense but it's also pretty weird.

Morgan Matson is known for her road trips (see: Amy and Roger's Epic Detour) and even this book has a mini one. But, she needs to stop saying that the license plates in Pennsylvania say "You've Got a Friend in Pennsylvania." I live here and they do not!!! I know they did at one point but I even checked and apparently they were retired in 1999. So this is super annoying because it's clear that she visited here awhile ago and for some reason still thinks it's how it is and puts it in TWO books.

Anyway, I did like this book especially seeing Emily make friends and become more independent. But I would have to say her first two novels are even better so if you liked this one you'll love those.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from the library.

2014/Simon & Schuster/449 pages.

Friday, July 4, 2014

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school-that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it's really a school for spies. Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real "pavement artist"-but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her?

Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she's on her most dangerous mission-falling in love. (from GoodReads)

I decided to read this book because I love Ally Carter's Heist Society series and wanted to check out her other work. I still love Heist Society a lot more but this book was pretty cute!

I love the idea of strong female characters which is why I wanted to read this novel (the title is way too long) but this felt like a watered down version of Heist Society. Probably because these characters are still learning how to use their spy skills and Kat and her gang are actually out in the field. But I do love that they attend a secret school to learn how to be spies. What a fun concept and I really enjoyed that aspect.

I don't have too much to say about this book other than it's light and fun. It's definitely for a younger audience but if the older crowd wants to read it there's nothing wrong with that.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult

A handsome stranger comes to the sleepy New England town of Salem Falls in hopes of burying his past: Once a teacher at a girls' prep school, Jack St. Bride was destroyed when a student's crush sparked a powder keg of accusation. Now, washing dishes for Addie Peabody at the Do-Or-Diner, he slips quietly into his new routine, and Addie finds this unassuming man fitting easily inside her heart. But amid the rustic calm of Salem Falls, a quartet of teenage girls harbor dark secrets -- and they maliciously target Jack with a shattering allegation. Now, at the center of a modern-day witch hunt, Jack is forced once again to proclaim his innocence: to a town searching for answers, to a justice system where truth becomes a slippery concept written in shades of gray, and to the woman who has come to love him. (from GoodReads)

Ah, back to the Picoult I know and love. Reading her first ever novel was definitely an experience and it's interesting to see how far she's come and how much better at writing and plotting she is. This book isn't even that new but those 10 years really helped her out.

The main crux of Salem Falls is what happens during a false rape accusation, especially if the accused is already a sex offender. It's unfortunate that this happens to Jack because he's actually a really good guy. I have a slight problem with these stories because it makes it sound like there are all these girls that just want to ruin some poor man's life by accusing him of rape. In reality those statistics are really small but obviously it does and could happen and that's where Salem Falls comes in.

As always, I love the multilayered plot and revolving points-of-view of several main characters. Jodi Picoult is able to expertly weave backstories and flashbacks amid all the action and I'm constantly amazed by her skill. The ambiguity of the ending is both interesting and frustrating. I don't have too much to say about Salem Falls other than that I really enjoyed it and it remains a classic Picoult novel.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from the library

2001/Washington Square Press/434 pages.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all. (from GoodReads)

This is a book that I immediately wanted to reread as soon as I finished it. I wish I owned a copy of it so I could go back and reread my favorite parts. That's how much I enjoyed To All the Boys I've Loved Before.

This story has so many fantastic elements that made me love it: a wonderful family dynamic, an illicit romance, a fake relationship, multicultural heritage, zany best friends, witty dialogue. The list goes on. The concept is super cute but equally hilarious. How mortifying would it be for all the boys you used to like to find out via love letter. Thankfully Lara Jean handles it fairly well. I would be a mess.

I loved the relationships between Lara Jean and her older and younger sisters. That was really the redeeming factor of this novel. The triangle between Lara Jean, Peter and Josh is also expertly written and not at all clichéd.

Can you tell I really enjoyed this novel? I would definitely recommend anyone to give it a chance. The ending is so frustrating but the fact that there is going to be a sequel makes me so happy! I can't have any of that cliffhanger nonsense.

Rating: 10 out of 10!
FTC: borrowed from the library.

2014/Simon & Schuster/368 pages.