Books, Tag, YA Fiction

Burn, Rewrite, Reread Tag

So I haven’t been explicitly tagged for this, but when Haven did this, she technically tagged “anyone and everyone” so I’m technically allowed to do this because it sounds like so much fun. The idea for this tag is, in case you don’t know, to randomize your read shelf, pick the first three books, and list whether you’d burn, rewrite, or reread each of the books on there. So let’s go!

Round 1:

Burn: The Fill-In-Boyfriend by Kasie West – I remember liking this plenty when I read it, but ultimately the main character and all her relationships with people were much to shallow to be believable. Pass for now!

Rewrite: Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger – Can you believe I rated this five stars in 2014? As I remember, the whole book centers around a a rather cheesy romance that I would love to rewrite, but the world-building and main character were super fun.

Reread: The Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan – I haven’t read the Percy Jackson series in…eons. I would love to reread the series and get some insight into my obsessed fifth-grade self. 😉

Round 2:

Burn: Liars, Inc, by Paula Stokes – My review of this was initially very favorable, but I remember little to nothing about this book, which says something about its quality. Rereading my review makes me think that I was young and naive and didn’t understand how game-changing some flaws can be. Nope!

Rewrite: Angel Burn, by L.A. Weatherly – This is really a rather typical angel book, but pretty enjoyable. I’d love to have seen less (or none) of the love triangle, though. Continue reading “Burn, Rewrite, Reread Tag”

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Books

In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan | Review

4 Stars

“What’s your name?”

“Serene.”

“Serena?” Elliot asked.

“Serene,” said Serene. “My full name is Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle.”

Elliot’s mouth fell open. “That is badass.”

The Borderlands aren’t like anywhere else. Don’t try to smuggle a phone or any other piece of technology over the wall that marks the Border—unless you enjoy a fireworks display in your backpack. (Ballpoint pens are okay.) There are elves, harpies, and—best of all as far as Elliot is concerned—mermaids.

Elliot? Who’s Elliot? Elliot is thirteen years old. He’s smart and just a tiny bit obnoxious. Sometimes more than a tiny bit. When his class goes on a field trip and he can see a wall that no one else can see, he is given the chance to go to school in the Borderlands.

It turns out that on the other side of the wall, classes involve a lot more weaponry and fitness training and fewer mermaids than he expected. On the other hand, there’s Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle, an elven warrior who is more beautiful than anyone Elliot has ever seen, and then there’s her human friend Luke: sunny, blond, and annoyingly likeable. There are lots of interesting books. There’s even the chance Elliot might be able to change the world. 

Man, it’s been a while since I read this book (and by a while I mean maybe three weeks), so I’ve had a sufficient amount of processing time to decide how much I liked this book. Let’s get started!

In Other Lands is essentially a version of Harry Potter where Harry, or Elliot, in this case, goes through five years of magic schooling in the course of one book. The story essentially follows Elliot’s journey into the Borderlands and his discovery of the world while making friends and discovering himself.

Now, if I were you, I would have raised an eyebrow immediately at five years of Hogwarts in one book. I mean, if J.K Rowling needed seven books (plus eight movies and a play and an amusement park and five more prequel movies but that’s beside the point), how could Brennan possibly pull it off? Well, dear reader, to that I say you’re right… except in this case.

This book is not really about the Borderlands. It’s honestly not even about magic or schooling, considering how little time the characters spend in actual classes. This is a book about Elliot Schafer, muggle-born wiseass and possibly one of my favorite characters of all time. Elliot’s character is basically what you would act like if you found out about a magical world existing under your nose. He detests quills and parchment and promptly spreads the word about ballpoint pens, laments the lack of technological revolutions, and best of all, is completely against violence Continue reading “In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan | Review”

Books

A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini | Review

4.5 Stars

At once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love.

Propelled by the same superb instinct for storytelling that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history, and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love.

Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them—in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul—they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation.

With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman’s love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love—or even the memory of love—that is often the key to survival.

So this is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while, and when I found out my high school English class was going to read it soon, I said, “Absolutely not,” and read the book super quickly on my own before high school could neuter what I knew was supposed to be a good book. Well, I am glad I did, because A Thousand Splendid Suns was fantastic and heartbreaking, without the high school over-analysis that I know will ruin this for me eventually.

Let me start by saying that this book is well outside my typical genre pool. I’m a sci-fi, fantasy, and realistic fiction reader, and this book mostly belongs to that scary genre hiding in a dark corner, historical. This might have been a reason why I didn’t read this relatively popular book until now, but my arbitrary prejudices were in no way a deterrent whilst actually reading this book.

A Thousand Splendid Suns follows the story of Afghanistan, from the Soviet occupation in the 60s through 9/11 and ends in 2003. This region of the world is foreign in many ways to me, much to my chagrin. Living in the US clearly put me in a bubble where I can name the exact battle where George Washington crossed the Delaware, but not even know that Afghanistan was Soviet controlled for such a huge chunk of time. It’s eye-opening, truly, and the stories of Mariam and Laila thus Continue reading “A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini | Review”

Books

Renegades, by Marissa Meyer (Review)

3 Stars

Fun and enjoyable amidst the recent superhero trend, but moves too slowly to contain any substance.

Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies — humans with extraordinary abilities — who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone… except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice — and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

In recent months, it seems, I have become a giant superhero nerd. I’ve probably watched the trailer for Infinity War about 50 times, and literally wrote a short story about superheroes a month or so ago (don’t worry- my fiction writing is still atrocious enough that it’ll never see the light of day.) So of course, despite the rather daunting length of this large book, I picked it up because I love superheroes, and the Cinder series has always held a special place in my heart.

So imagine my excitement when Meyer immediately introduces us to a large and varied cast of incredibly diverse and fascinating characters. Huge diversity points were awarded right off the bat for Italian-Filipino Nora, bespectacled, dark-skinned Adrian, Adrian’s two super famous dads, and a side character with a disability. There also weren’t any real limits to the types of powers the characters could have, and although Adrian’s power (bringing anything he draws into the real world) made me wonder why there was any conflict in the book (he can give himself literally ANY POWER), I was initially excited to see how powers would bring our characters to life. Also, references to classic superhero tropes may have pushed some readers away, but just made me smile.

This jubilation that existed in the beginning began to become stale after a while. The characters soon grew old, the tropes overused, and I got through the whole book wondering where the villain, plot, or climax was. The entire book was just a long introduction where nothing of substance happened to develop the characters, plot, or world. Instead, we’re left with a cliffhanger and a feeling of betrayal that Meyer would put us through so many pages of anticipation for a big reveal only to leave us with empty promises of deliverance for the next book.

Lackluster plot aside, the characters also lost their shine quickly enough. Adrian and Nora were by far some of the least interesting characters the novel had to offer, simply because their characters were so filled with overused backstories and behavior patterns that they fell flat. Nora is a standard Continue reading “Renegades, by Marissa Meyer (Review)”

Books

Geekerella, by Ashley Poston (Review)

Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic science-fiction series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck and her dad’s old costume, Elle’s determined to win – unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons – before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he has ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake – until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part-romance, part-love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

Welcome back to school, work, and college, everyone! My first week back from break was last week, and I am a bit tired, but ready to begin reading for the new year! I recently fell into a bit of a slump and only read Andy Weir’s The Martian before this one, which I will say is a drastic shift from what I’m about to talk about now: Geekerella.

Geekerella is a pretty by-the-books Cinderella retelling, and while it was enjoyable, cute, and somewhat relatable, it doesn’t necessarily need to exist in the tidal wave of Cinderella retellings in the book world. Ultimately, though, it was a fun bit of fluff where the characters were cute and appealed to something we all have: our inner fangirl.

Danielle, or Elle, is a standard YA Cinderella with her dead father, evil stepmother and stepsisters who think that making her do all the household work isn’t a form of abuse. However, don’t roll your eyes yet, folks. Elle is a fangirl, and a big one. This is the aspect of Elle that was inevitably irresistible. Her character is quite a pushover, yes, but her strong feelings for Starfield and the acceptance she craves from the fandom via the Internet is something Continue reading “Geekerella, by Ashley Poston (Review)”

Books

Anticipated Releases: January 2018

Happy New Year! Can you believe 2017 is over already? It seems to have gone by so fast (probably because we’re all still talking about 2016) but 2018 is going to be great, I know it. It happens to be the year Haven and I graduate from high school (woot!) so we are super psyched and simultaneously terrified. Anyway, here are some books to get your read on this January!

1. Unearthed, by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner – Coming January 9th, 2018

When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying’s advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and Gaia, their former home planet, is a treasure trove waiting to be uncovered.

For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study… as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don’t loot everything first. Mia and Jules’ different reasons for smuggling themselves onto Gaia put them immediately at odds, but after escaping a dangerous confrontation with other scavvers, they form a fragile alliance.

In order to penetrate the Undying temple and reach the tech and information hidden within, the two must decode the ancient race’s secrets and survive their traps. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more their presence in the temple seems to be part of a grand design that could spell the end of the human race…

It’s another Kaufman and Spooner pair up! Cheesy as it was (and I know there were other flaws but whatever), I loved the Starbound series, with its sweet romances and fun characters in sci-fi universes. Therefore I could not be more psyched to read Unearthed.

2. Batman: Nightwalker, by Marie Lu – Coming January 2nd – 2018

Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.

The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list.

One by one, the city’s elites are being executed as their mansions’ security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he’s forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city’s most brutal criminals.

Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce’s only hope.

In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.

Ironically enough, I watched The Lego Batman Movie yesterday, so that’s the version of Batman currently in my mind. Still, Lu is a great author, and Batman is a classic icon, so I’m sure DC fans will be happy. (I love Batman plenty, but will always be a Marvel fan. Apologies! 😉 )

3. Love, Hate, and Other Filters, by Samira Ahmed – Coming January 16th, 2018

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

Yes! More realistic fiction novels tackling controversial real-world issues about race and religion! I’m always a fan of Indian representation (although it’s not always carried out well) and Muslim protagonists are rare but welcome, so who knows? Maybe this book can be the The Hate You Give of 2018.

4. Say You’ll Remember Me, by Katie McGarry – Coming January 30th, 2018

When Drix was convicted of a crime–one he didn’t commit–he thought his life was over. But opportunity came with the new Second Chance Program, the governor’s newest pet project to get delinquents off the streets, rehabilitated and back into society. Drix knows this is his chance to get his life back on track, even if it means being paraded in front of reporters for a while.

Elle knows she lives a life of privilege. As the governor’s daughter, she can open doors with her name alone. But the expectations and pressure to be someone she isn’t may be too much to handle. She wants to follow her own path, whatever that means.

When Drix and Elle meet, their connection is immediate, but so are their problems. Drix is not the type of boy Elle’s parents have in mind for her, and Elle is not the kind of girl who can understand Drix’s messy life.

But sometimes love can breach all barriers.

Fighting against a society that can’t imagine them together, Drix and Elle must push themselves–Drix to confront the truth of the robbery, and Elle to assert her independence–and each other to finally get what they deserve.

Okay, I’ll admit, the blurb wasn’t 100% enticing to me, because as soon as I saw “experimental program,” I was getting these The Program vibes I did not want to get near. However, this is a Katie McGarry book. I have read a great many of these books and she excels at writing awesome contemporary relationships with super angsty teenagers. Reviews are good, so I’m keeping my hopes up!

It was hard to narrow it down, but that’s it! Happy reading!

What are your New Year’s Resolutions? Comment below!

~Liz

Books

More Than This, by Patrick Ness

4.5 Stars

A boy drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments. He dies.

Then he wakes, naked and bruised and thirsty, but alive.

How can this be? And what is this strange deserted place?

As he struggles to understand what is happening, the boy dares to hope. Might this not be the end? Might there be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?

From multi-award-winning Patrick Ness comes one of the most provocative and moving novels of our time.

Patrick Ness is such a popular name nowadays: his Chaos Walking trilogy is lauded by many, and his A Monster Calls made me, and apparently everyone else cry. Therefore, I picked up More Than This rather on a whim, not realizing what it was about at all (because the copy at the library irritatingly didn’t have an inside cover. Why do back covers have to only contain quotes about the book I don’t care about?). As I read it, though, “pleasantly surprised” became a bit of a misnomer, because this book was engrossing, captivating, deep, and had me questioning my existence on every page.

I will say right off the bat that the writing is phenomenal. The prologue to this book is quite literally one of the best beginnings to a book I have ever read, and I had to put down the other book I was reading so I could finish this one in two sittings. The third person perspective also contributed to the mystery and suspenseful atmosphere of the novel, and I’m starting to wonder if I’m beginning to prefer it to first person narration.

The first third of this book is literally just our main character alone trying to figure out what’s happening to him, and although the plot is slow, it’s punctuated by meaning and character depth, and I was not the least bit bored even when nothing was happening.

I loved Seth’s flawed, struggling character. The circumstances surrounding his death are slowly revealed, and his development was beautifully unrushed. The side characters of Tomasz and Regine were also extremely layered and distinct, and I enjoyed every bit of their page time.

There’s not a ton I can say about this book since it’s one of those books where you’re much better off reading it with very little information, as I did. It’s not like there’s some big reveal at the end, it’s just that it’s easier to get sucked into the book without the impediments of prior expectations. When pointing out flaws, I will say that I wasn’t a huge fan of the explanation for Seth’s situation we were (kind of) given, since the entire thing then felt too easy and slightly undermined the themes of existentialism and knowledge that are interwoven into this book. However, Ness does well to overturn explanations often, so the characters can never figure something out completely before their perceptions are shaken again.

This is the first book in a while that I found completely fresh, beautiful, and without romance. More Then This was an amazing ride the entire time and I find myself now clamoring after Ness’s other works.

-Liz