April 30, 2013

Review: Some Girls Are

By: Courtney Summers
Published: January 2010 by St. Martin's Griffin
Format: Paperback, 246 pages
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Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard—falling from it is even harder.

Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High... until vicious rumors about her and her best friend's boyfriend start going around. Now Regina's been "frozen out" and her ex-best friends are out for revenge. If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day. She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully. Friendship doesn't come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend... if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don't break them both first.

Rating: 5/5

There's a knot in my gut and now I can't eat. Courtney Summers did this to me. It's not like I shouldn't have expected it. I mean, have you ever read Courtney Summers? If you haven't, I swear to all things holy that we cannot not even be acquaintances until you go pick up one of her books. Start with the first one if you can't decide, Cracked Up to Be.

I'm trying to form my thoughts as I type. I read this in two and a half hours--according to my friend; I didn't even notice the time. I could have missed work because of this book and I wouldn't have even noticed--and the whole time there was a ever-growing mass in my stomach that worked its way up into my chest. Before I knew who Courtney Summers was, I had seen this book, read the description a few times, but never wanted to read it because I worried it bordered on chicklit, which I do not care for. I had convinced myself it would be nothing but a petty mean girl story. But once I started reading Courtney Summers, and after countless reader friends were like, READ THIS NOW, I thought, What in the world am I thinking waiting to read this?

Petty mean girls my ass. These girls, including Regina, stripped back a few layers of my emotion shield. They were so intense, so raw, and just...good god. I could attempt descriptions, but I don't feel my words would come off well. I would make them sound unrealistic, over-the-top, because from the outside looking in, that's what it seems like, but Courtney Summers blew me away with how real these characters felt. They did and said and thought things that in another book by another writer, I would have been like, "Um...are you kidding? You're joking. This...no." With this, I had the same thoughts, but they went more like this, "Oh my god! Are you fucking kidding me?! I can't believe...oh my god. Just...no way. No. Oh my god."

All. The. Feels.

While I had a few moments of wishful thinking when it came to the ending and Regina's parents, Summers had me from the beginning, twisted my organs and then shook me by the spine and said, "I'm going to torture you with feelings of all feels." On one hand, I was hating Regina for things she did before the beginning of the story, and hell, even for things during it. I had the moments of feeling she deserved many of the things that happened to her, but on the other hand, Summers had me feeling so torn and hurt for her. She showed so incredibly well how someone can be so dependent, so cowardly, so...so...screwed up, without a valid reason. Without an excuse. Regina just was. Some girls are.

April 18, 2013

Review: Sweet Peril

By: Wendy Higgins
Published: April 2013 by HarperTeen
Format: Paperback, 374 pages
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Is loving someone worth risking their life?

Anna Whitt, the daughter of a guardian angel and a demon, promised herself she’d never do the work of her father—polluting souls. She’d been naive to make such a vow. She’d been naive about a lot of things.

Haunted by demon whisperers, Anna does whatever she can to survive, even if it means embracing her dark side and earning an unwanted reputation as her school’s party girl. Her life has never looked more bleak. And all the while there’s Kaidan Rowe, son of the Duke of Lust, plaguing her heart and mind.

When an unexpected lost message from the angels surfaces, Anna finds herself traveling the globe with Kopano, son of Wrath, in an attempt to gain support of fellow Nephilim and give them hope for the first time. It soon becomes clear that whatever freedoms Anna and the rest of the Neph are hoping to win will not be gained without a fight. Until then, Anna and Kaidan must put aside the issues between them, overcome the steamiest of temptations yet.

Rating: 5/5

I know what you're thinking. I can read minds, you know. You're thinking, Dear God! Not another paranormal romance! No, no! Because I swear that's what everyone thinks now-a-days. It's as though they automatically rate something low because of its genre based on their opinions of other books in that genre. And paranormal romance has taken that hit the worst, if you ask me.

Anyway, min-rant over. It wasn't planned. Swear it.

For those of you who don't want to read "another paranormal romance," put away your fears and pick up the Wendy's trilogy. And if you're a fan of paranormal romance and you haven't picked up Sweet Evil, go do so now. Right now. You'll fall in love with the story and most of all with Kai, promise. It's kind of impossible not to.

Without spoiling much for anyone who hasn't read Sweet Evil, I will say that Sweet Peril will exceed your expectations! It'll have your heart pounding with excitement and skipping beats from the amount of danger the characters are thrown into and fluttering from the sexy romance, after it's oh so broken, of course. You'll have to console your heart after you're finished reading.

Anna is one sweetheart that definitely grows into her edginess in this sequel, and it's fantastic to see. Her growth is probably one of my favorite parts about the sequel. She stands up for herself, and watching her tap into that dark side of her is so thrilling. It just makes me squee for her upcoming development in book three. Kai is Kai. What else is there to say? I mean, Kai. Also, we got to know more about Kope, which, I don't know if I'm the only one to be shocked at his secret, but O_O right?!

Wendy's writing is so clean and she gives Anna such a powerful voice. The plot kept me so invested. It was full of the romance everyone loves to read, the kind that gives you chills and makes you smile and even want to cry sometimes. But beside that lay the danger and thrill that made me keep turning the page as fast as I could. Wendy takes us to so many places in this book and I loved following Anna as she found other Neph to help fight against the Dukes. This, for me, is one of the many things that sets this apart from other paranormal romances. So many are stuck in school dazes and this keeps Anna's focus on what's most important (though she's still in school, for those who want to argue most important, ahem).

Such a fantastic read! You'll be a fool not to go run and pick this up the second it's released! You still have enough time to pick up Sweet Evil, too. Not that it'll take you more than a day to read. :)

April 4, 2013

Review: 17 & Gone

By: Nova Ren Suma
Published: March 2013 by Dutton Juvenile
Format: Hardback, 354 pages
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Their ends are endless, their stories unknown. These girls are lost, and I'm the only one who sees them.

Seventeen-year-old Lauren is having visions of girls who have gone missing. And all these girls have just one thing in common—they are 17 and gone without a trace. As Lauren struggles to shake these waking nightmares, impossible questions demand urgent answers: Why are the girls speaking to Lauren? How can she help them? And… is she next? As Lauren searches for clues, everything begins to unravel, and when a brush with death lands her in the hospital, a shocking truth emerges, changing everything.

With complexity and richness, Nova Ren Suma serves up a beautiful, visual, fresh interpretation of what it means to be lost.

Rating: 5/5

Holy. Nova Ren Suma, you fucking genius you. Sorry, language censor is down for a bit because I just read a work of brilliance and I'm just in that mode of, Did I really fucking read something so fucking amaze? And yes. Yes, I did.

Let's get one thing straight, right off the bat. I love Nova Ren Suma. I've read her two latest YA's (this and Imaginary Girls) and I'm thoroughly convinced she's one of my top five favorite authors ever. If not in the top three. Yes, top three. Screw the top five. The woman just wrote a book with so little dialogue--dialogue that would probably make up ten pages, if that--that had me so engrossed to the point where my nose is touching the book. She created a narrator who I fell in love with from the get go, who I cared about, and whose mind became my mind.

Suma's writing is, quite frankly, gorgeous. It is just gorgeous. I feel like she could write about the alphabet or the lone rubberband that's sitting off to the side of my computer, and I would drop dead with her beautiful descriptions and characterization. Yes, of a letter or a rubberband. Because she is that good. Here, a paragraph from the opening chapter for those of you who have either A) Never read Suma, B) Don't know if you want to, or C) Just like reading parts of Suma's work at random because you love her as much as I (I picked this one to avoid having to pick and choose a favorite from the middle of the book because this was easier, okay):

Another girl could go today. She could be pulling her scarf tight around her face to protect it from the cold, searching through her coat pockets for her car keys so they're out and ready when she reaches her car in the dark lot. She could glance in through the bright, blazing windows of the nearest restaurant as she hurries past. And then when she's out of sight the shadowy hands could grab her, the sidewalk could gulp her up. They only trace of the girl would be the stripped wool scarf she dropped on the patch of black ice, and when a car comes and runs it over, dragging it away on its snow tires, there isn't even that.
I could be wrong.
Say I'm wrong.
Say there aren't any hands.

Do you see that description, man? Do you see it? Don't tell me you don't already have a tone set for this. I know you do. This book threw me into a sort of state I've rarely been in. Really, I don't think I ever have this deeply with any other book before.

The world...it was such a dream-like world. I felt as if I were floating around in a haze the entire time. Even the snow in my mind looked off, the world surrounding Lauren, too. The memory of it still gives me chills, even more so now that I know what happens. It makes me want to go back and reread, dig for all the signs, see the foreshadowing.

But the plot itself. I'm blown away by its complexity and execution. It had me mesmerized from the get-go. There are few books I have stayed up through the wee hours of the morning to read, and this was one of them. I got halfway through, saw that the clock read after midnight and I said to myself, That's all right, just one more chapter. Thirty-something chapters later, I was closing the book, it was after two in the morning, and I was stuck in Lauren's mind, running over every little detail that happened with the girls and with Lauren, with my heart skipping beats from all the feels it had.

At one point in the book, I began to figure out what was going on and I thought to myself, How did you make this so realistic? Suma clearly did her research and the reality of this story twisted, twisted, twisted my stomach. Even after a dreamless night after reading, I still feel for Lauren, wonder where she's going to go, wonder how life is going to turn out for her. Like Imaginary Girls, this will be one I'll have to reread again in the future. And I have a feeling it'll terrify me even more.

It's hard to say much without giving anything away. I wanted to be as vague as possible because, really, you should read this without any expectations, other than the fact that Suma is goddamn god. And if you still aren't convinced, go to your local bookstore, pick up a copy, and read the first chapter. Your feet will have carried you to the checkout before you even reached the end of Chapter 1. Guarantee it.

April 3, 2013

Review: Code Name Verity

By: Elizabeth Wein
Published: May 2012 by Disney-Hyperion
Format: Hardback, 332 pages
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I have told the truth.

Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.
When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Rating: 5/5

The second I found out about this book, I whipped out the debit card and bought it. It didn't even matter that I had a mini fit over not having the U.K. cover of the book (I mean, look at it...?) and considered hounding my best friend in England to ship me a copy. I mean, that would have just taken too long and this book is too good to wait to be read. So if you have a copy, what are you waiting for? Don't even bother reading this review. Just go read the book first, and then come back afterwards. And if you don't have it yet, if I can't convince you to go get it (order it or in-person bookstore trip, I'm not picky), then I'll slap myself silly.

So, it's been a few hours since I finished and I still have a knot in my stomach. Oh, the feels I got from this. Like, oh my god, I can't believe what happened. I can, but I can't, and then I can again, and it's just an oh my god feeling. I love books that can give me that lump in your chest that makes you unsure of how to feel yet gives you so much feeling at the same time.

The subject matter of this was fantastic and fresh. I salute Wein for tackling it. I double salute her for how she tackled it. At first, I wasn't sure if I'd like the whole written confession/story thing. I thought it might end badly and was worried the execution wouldn't have been good enough to warrant the style. But I couldn't be more wrong. By the third of the way through, I couldn't imagine this story being told any other way. It needed unreliable narrators. I had both girls narrating in my head, could see it as if it were the perfect movie, and it became as though I was truly in their minds.

Truly. Truth. Verity. Oh, the beauty of that symbol throughout this book. The more I sit here, the more I pick out aspects of the novel that just fit stunningly together, creating this symbolic work of art. Not only did Wein craft this well, I fell in love with her writing style in general. Her diction and phrasing, and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't already pre-ordered her next book, Rose Under Fire, that comes out in the fall. She gave me some of my favorite lines from books ever, including, "It's like falling in love, discovering your best friend." My heart does a little flip every time I read/write that line. It's gorgeous.

I very much enjoyed the pacing of this. I know some others thought it was slow in the beginning and/or throughout, but for me personally, I loved it. I'm that type of reader, though. I also loved the believability she gave to Verity's emotions while she was writing. The plot itself, like I said, was incredibly fresh and I found myself wanting so badly to skip ahead. That's when I know the plot is doing it's job; when I want so badly to know what happens and I can't read fast enough.

There was only one part of this book I had a bit of a problem with. There were many times where I didn't quite connect with Maddie. Or rather, didn't quite connect with Verity's memories of and feelings toward Maddie. I got their friendship, I felt their friendship, but not as much as I think I should have. However, thinking back, I find it believable that Verity would have left so much of her and Maddie's close friendship out of her confessions. Then when it was Maddie's narrative, it took a while for me to get into her mind, but maybe that was because I became so attached to Verity that it was hard to come out of her head and fall into another's.

All in all, this is going on my favorites list, pretty darn close to the top. It gave me nearly everything little thing I want from a book (only a little hiccup on the emotional connection level at a few points) and it's one that'll have me thinking about it for days, weeks, months to come. There's not much else you can ask from a book, is there?