Books, Received for Review

ILLUSION by Nadette Rae Rodgers {RECEIVED FOR REVIEW}

30720968I was recently lucky enough to receive a copy of Illusion in exchange for an honest review. 

“Everybody dreams, everyone has nightmares…but no one dreams quite like Addison Smith. Addison has always had unusual dreams. However, the crazy factor has risen to a whole new level. Still, she doesn’t realize just how unique she is. But one day, Addison wakes up covered in bruises with blood on her pillow, and she realizes that maybe her dreams aren’t so normal after all. Someone or something is causing all of this, but she doesn’t know who and she doesn’t know why. Suddenly the guy of her dreams (literally) becomes the new kid at school and turns her world upside down. Before she knows it, the line between reality and her dream world blurs. What is real? What is just an illusion?” (Goodreads.com)

After eagerly awaiting its arrival in my mailbox, I finally tore through this book at a speed that only a truly great story can draw from me. I’m so glad that Nadette reached out to me, because she has written such an impressive, captivating novel!

My absolute favorite part of Illusion is the very concept of Addison’s intensely real dreams. I have always been fascinated by dreams in general, and I love how this story runs with one simple question: What if our dreams were real? A hidden “world” of dream-wielding is alluded to in this book– not really a place as much as a group of people with the power to control dreams– and I’m excited to learn more about this mystery as the series progresses. This first installment contained just enough information peak my interest and satisfy me for the time being, but I’ll be eagerly waiting until I can find out even more about these dreams.

Additionally, I really appreciated the emphasis on friendship in this novel, particularly between Addison and Cammie. Even though romance is a significant part of the story as well, it’s clear that Addison relies on the support of her best friend in times of need. Friendships are so important– especially during the rollercoaster ride of high school– yet for some reason many authors neglect to highlight these powerful, influential relationships. Besides, it’s completely unrealistic to assume that everyone in a romantic relationship has no other friends. Addison couldn’t have made it through all of the challenges she experienced without the support of Cammie, just like how we all need someone to have our backs when times get tough.

2016-07-14 17.08.14
Via my Instagram 🙂

Due to the nature of this story, the primary romantic relationship has a bit of a twist to it: Zach and Addison are connected through their dreams. At first I was a little wary of their relationship because it seemed to exude an “insta-love” vibe; however, I soon realized that their fast pace made sense within the context of the novel. They’ve practically been inside each other’s minds via their dreams, so it sort of makes sense for them to have such an automatic deep connection. While I do wish there was more depth to their relationship in terms of their personalities, interests, ideals, etc., I still really enjoyed watching Addison and Zach become closer and closer. (Not to mention how romantic and adorable they are!) Hopefully their relationship is further explored in future books.

Finally, the ending of Illusion completely took me by surprise. I had several different theories about how this story would be concluded, but not one of them was entirely correct! Illusion is suspenseful, gripping, and surprising from beginning to end, making it the definition of a “page-turner.” I was confused by the flood of unexpected events that happen all at once towards the ending, but once the details were explained I soon regained a sense of clarity. The novel ends with a dramatic, old-fashioned cliffhanger– my favorite kind of ending!

Overall, Illusion captivated me with its suspense, romance, and discussion of dreams and refused to let me go until the very last page. This is such a fantastic debut novel, and I’m so grateful that Nadette gave me the opportunity to read and review it. Thanks again, Nadette! ❤

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes!

img_0028If you’re interested in learning more about Illusion or its author, feel free to visit the book’s website and Nadette Rae Rodgers’ blog.

What are some great debut novels you’ve read recently? Are you also fascinated by dreams? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Advertisements
Books

BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE by Maggie Stiefvater

blue lily lily blue cover“Blue was perfectly aware that it was possible to have a friendship that wasn’t all-encompassing, that wasn’t blinding, deafening, maddening, quickening. It was just that now that she’d had this kind, she didn’t want the other.”

How Blue feels about her friendships with the Raven Boys is similar to the way I feel about reading other books after reading Blue Lily, Lily Blue: it’s difficult to read something that isn’t as enchanting, well-written, or captivating as Stiefvater’s story. The Raven Cycle has an intriguing fantastical element that is often difficult to find, especially in the formulaic world of algorithms and sales statistics that dictate how and which YA novels should be written. Once again, Stiefvater has crafted another memorable installment in this engrossing series.

The character development in these novels is remarkable. I love the way you can clearly see changes in not only their perspectives and opinions, but their actions as well. For instance, Ronan is not the brutish, nasty, one-sided teen that we were first introduced to in The Raven Boys. He still exudes that tough “bad boy” persona, of course– he wouldn’t be Ronan if he didn’t– but it’s clear that recent events have caused him to mature in a way that only life experiences can. He takes more responsibility for his actions and is only rash, wild, and impulsive some of the time.

In my opinion, Adam is one of the most interesting and complex characters in this series. In this novel in particular he seems to inhabit three distinct spaces: the sparkling, gilded world of Aglionby Academy, his own troubled home life, and the fantastical realm of Cabeswater. Not only must he face obstacles involving the primary plot of the story– that of their quest to find Glendower– but he also has to deal with family problems, financial instability, and the looming question of what life after high school will hold. Stiefvater maintains a careful balance between ordinary dilemmas (college searching, family dynamics, etc.) and magical challenges (creepy caves filled with mysterious singing?). Such a balance adds depth to the story while simultaneously helping the reader to suspend their disbelief and more fully accept the odd occurrences that riddle the world of Blue and the Raven Boys.

Although the Raven Cycle can be considered a fantasy series, I certainly wouldn’t define it as anything “traditional.” Rather than focus on the usual fairies, trolls, and other mystical creatures of fantasy, Stiefvater bursts those boundaries and instead highlights the fascinating legends surrounding ley lines. Before reading this series I knew next to nothing about ley lines, but now I feel as though I could hold a pretty decent conversation about them. It’s refreshing to read about a topic that hasn’t been recycled again and again before, at least in the eyes of recent YA trends.

On top of all of these impressive aspects, Stiefvater also manages to incorporate several important topics into this story, including feminism and privilege. There’s an excellent scene in which Blue chastises a man for “complimenting” her legs, emphasizing that she’s much more than any physical part of her body could ever demonstrate. At first Gansey doesn’t understand why the comment infuriates Blue, a flaw which I actually love. The fact that Blue has to teach Gansey how problematic such comments about women’s bodies are shows that the characters are human. They are not perfect, just as we, the readers, also make mistakes. Speaking of Gansey, I think it’s interesting to think about his representation of privilege on numerous levels. Gansey is rich, white, attractive, intelligent, comes from a reputable family– the list goes on and on. Yet to some extent he recognizes his privilege and attempts to help those less privileged than he is, mainly Adam. But is he really doing all that he can to help those less fortunate than he? Should he be doing more? Is this a valid critique of his character? I applaud this novel for sparking these sorts of questions, for I think they are ones we should be asking more often while reading.

For all of its positive aspects, Blue Lily, Lily Blue did feel like a bit of a transitional installment in this series. While I don’t think it’s my favorite book in the Raven Cycle, it’s certainly an enthralling and gripping read. I can’t wait to read the fourth and final book in this unforgettable series!

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Definitely!

What are your thoughts on Blue Lily, Lily Blue or any of the books in the Raven Cycle? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,
HOLLY

P.S. Interested in reading more of my thoughts on this series? Check out my reviews of The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves.

Books

THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE by Patrick Ness

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness“Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.” 

Congratulations, Mr. Patrick Ness: you’ve done it again. You’ve written a novel that’s managed to simultaneously make me feel sad and happy and deeply understood, a story that is unexpectedly bizarre yet fantastic anyways. The overarching premise behind the story is a brilliant one: the idea that not everyone is a “Chosen One,” that the majority of us live our normal lives the best we can with what we have, but that doesn’t make us any less remarkable. Written with Ness’ signature quirky style and authentic personality, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a novel that every lover of YA literature should read. Here’s why:

+ The characters. Although this story primarily focuses on Mikey Mitchell and his three best friends— Jared, Henna, and Mel (also his twin sister)— there are numerous other characters that have important roles throughout the novel. I can honestly say that each and every character is unique, relatable, and dynamic. They all have interesting pasts and personalities that come into play at different points in the plot, and it’s fascinating to watch them all intersect in different ways. I love how complex the relationships between them are, from the sort of romantic feelings between Mikey and Henna and the platonic friendship between Mikey and Jared to the ever-changing dynamics of the Mitchell family. If I had to choose a favorite character, I would probably pick Mikey’s ten year old sister, Meredith. Meredith is incredibly intelligent and mature for her age, yet she is still a kid at heart. She’s also hilarious!

+ The intertwining story lines. There’s the main story of Mikey and his friends, but then there’s also a story about the “indie kids” fighting off the Immortals. This secondary story is at first only mentioned in snippets at the beginning of each chapter, but gradually it is incorporated more and more into the life of Mikey. It’s such a clever way to illustrate how it feels to be on the outside of the action, to know you’re not the Chosen One. Obviously there aren’t vampires and magical zombie deer in real life, but it’s certainly an effective exaggerated representation of how exciting occurrences can appear form the outside looking in. Moreover, I love how the two story lines seamlessly join together at the end. As a reader you can definitely tell that it’s coming, but I highly doubt that anyone accurately predicts the way in which it actually happens. Needless to say, it’s all completely worth it in the end.

+ The satire. I feel as though YA literature is largely lacking in the satire department. Thankfully, Ness has helped dig us out of that hole! This novel can be viewed as a satire of the YA literature we’ve grown accustomed to reading, in which a specific individual or group of people are chosen to “save the world.” It’s done in a subtle way that is critical while still being humorous, playful, and light-hearted at times. In other words, it’s satire written tactfully. I don’t think an author of typical YA literature would find this offensive or insulting in any capacity; in fact, I think they would find it welcomingly refreshing and perhaps even an inspiration to think a little more outside the box when writing their next work. Plus, reading about Satchel, the many Finns, the Immortals, and the ominous blue light was a blast!

My only critique of this novel is something that’s a bit difficult to explain. While I applaud and greatly appreciate the way he discusses hard and controversial topics in this novel, sometimes it seemed like he was going a little over the top. I understand that he wanted to emphasize that everyday people experience numerous struggles in their lives, but sometimes it felt as though he was trying to cram everything he possibly could into one story. There’s anxiety and OCD, eating disorders, alcoholism, drug abuse, suicidal thoughts, and physical injuries— not to mention the challenge of exploring one’s sexuality without being cruelly judged by one’s peers. On top of all this, there’s also the everyday conflicts that occur between parents and teenagers, especially those who are transitioning from high school to the more independent lifestyle of attending college. When coupled with the fantastical obstacles that the characters face (Jared is 25 percent Cat God?!), these hardships can seem a bit overwhelming all at once. Although it’s impressive that Ness is able to incorporate all of these aspects of life into a story and deal with them all appropriately, it nevertheless felt like a bit too much at times.

Overall, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is yet another example of Ness’ incredible talent as a writer and storyteller. Heartfelt, funny, sad, and inspiring all at the same time, this novel is encouragement to readers everywhere that sometimes extraordinary and ordinary can go hand in hand.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys.

Would I recommend it?: Definitely!

Have you read this book before? What did you think of it? What other books by Patrick Ness would you recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

 

Books

ILLUMINAE by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae

“Miracles are statistical improbabilities. And fate is an illusion humanity uses to comfort itself in the dark. There are no absolutes in life, save death.”

As soon as I saw Illuminae on a shelf in the library I couldn’t resist immediately picking it up. The physical design of this book deserves a thunderous round of applause in itself. Its bright colors, slight shimmer, and layered appearance combine to create quite an eye-catching ensemble. Of course, all of the recent hype surrounding this book certainly made me more likely to pick it up off the shelf and give it more than a quick second glance. At first I was hesitant to read this book because its plethora of positive reviews had significantly raised my expectations; however, now that I’ve read it I can confidently say that Illuminae surely lives up to its praise!

Kaufman and Kristoff wrote this story in such a unique way that it’s almost difficult to accurately explain. The novel is more of a compilation than anything else– of interview transcripts, conversations via instant messaging, official documents, and even graphics. There are very few pages solely of solid text, making this novel of nearly six hundred pages feel like it has half that many. It also helps that the story is action-packed, fast-paced, and exciting from the very beginning. A lot of information is thrown at the reader all at once, which is simultaneously beneficial and detrimental to understanding the story. While being given large amounts of information at certain times is a necessary part of world-building and helps move the plot along, it can also be confusing and overwhelming. There are so many new names to learn, not only of characters but of ships and places and technology as well, that it’s quite easy to get lost. However, even with this seeming abundance of information I still felt as though I didn’t have the answers to all of my questions. I found this frustrating contradiction to be true for the majority of the novel, and the confusion it brought is my only major complaint.

Well, I do have another complaint, but I think it’s more of a nit-picky detail than a definite issue. In the beginning of Illuminae– maybe even on the first page– it mentions that all swear words will be censored from the novel. As the story progresses it’s soon obvious that the swear words are not simply left out or substituted with a different word; rather, they are replaced with a solid black rectangle. From the context of the story it’s clear what word is being censored, which brings me to my other complaint: Why go through all of the trouble of censoring in the first place? Personally, I think that the swear words should have been completely included or not mentioned at all. In this particular case, I feel as though they should have been used. If I can read about people killing each other and dying in numerous terrifying and dreadful ways, then I can certainly handle reading swear words!

Other than these two critiques, I was incredibly impressed by this novel. It is honestly one of the most creepy books I have ever read, to the point where I even questioned whether or not I should read it before going to bed. The mystery behind what is actually happening on the spaceships is the key to the novel’s suspenseful and frightening nature because the reader is never quite sure about what will happen next. My initial impression of what this book would be about– space travel, maybe aliens?– was completely wrong. There are so many different layers to this story that all have their own twist, meaning that the reader is bound to be surprised eventually. If it’s not the first twist that makes your head spin, it will be the next one, or the next one, or the next one– right up until the very last page!

One aspect of the novel that I wasn’t expecting to appreciate as much is the refreshing authenticity of Kady and Ezra’s relationship. The story begins at an interesting point in their relationship (Kady has just broken up with Ezra) and it continues in a reasonable direction from then on. One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to fictional romantic relationships is when they feel unnatural and forced. Fortunately, Kady and Ezra don’t exude those feelings.

Overall, Illuminae is an exciting, addicting, intriguing, and surprising novel that I will not soon forget. Don’t let the hype scare you away– this novel definitely lives up to its praise! I can’t wait for this series to be continued in the future!

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: YES! Especially if they’re fans of young adult fiction or science fiction in general.

Have you ever read this book before? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books, Read for English Class

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

I think that many readers– myself included– fall prey to the common misconception that there are two distinct categories of literature. The first of these categories could be considered “hard literature” (I don’t know if these names already exist– I’m completely making them up on the spot). These are the texts we are often forced to read for literature classes, including the classics that sit on our dusty shelves until we eventually feel guilty enough to pick them up and crack open their stiff spines. An obvious name father opposing category would be “soft literature,” which encompasses those books that we willingly read for pleasure.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsOne of the greatest distinctions between these two categories in our minds is our purpose for reading them. The former, we read to analyze, think critically about, and learn from; the latter, we read to be entertained. While I have never been a resolute believer in this concept, until recently it has had at least a slight influence on the way I read. I didn’t realize this, however, until I was assigned to read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins in my Introduction to Literature class this past semester.

I read The Hunger Games a few years ago and loved it, but I hadn’t read it since then because the end of the trilogy had kind of put a sour taste in my mouth– but that’s a topic for another day. When I read books like this one I tend to view myself as a fan, but my professor was asking us to read this novel as both a fan and a critic. Intrigued, I was eager to experience the story from a different perspective than when I first read it.

What my class found through close reading and thought-provoking discussions was honestly extraordinary. I never imagined that there were such interesting, controversial undertones apart from the obvious themes involving insurgency, the proliferation of the media, and the ignorance of many people in modern-day society.

For example, we talked about how up until the Reaping when she is forced to wear a dress, Katniss does not necessarily have a clear, definitive gender. She hunts with Gale, wears masculine clothing and even takes on the role of the father figure in her house by providing for Prim and her mother. In contrast, Peeta embodies a much more feminine role compared to Katniss. As the son of a baker he is a very skilled cook and painter, both of which are generally considered to be feminine talents. These observations caused some people in my class to wonder whether or not Katniss was actually gender fluid. While I don’t particularly agree with that claim, it is nevertheless very interesting to think about.

Not only did I discover several deeper layers within this story that can be endlessly analyzed and contemplated, but my overall feelings towards the characters also changed in this second reading. When I first read The Hunger Games years ago I was a firm opponent of Peeta for some unknown reason. In my mind Gale was the more suitable partner for Katniss, and perhaps in some ways that is true. However, after having read the book again I have come to really appreciate and admire Peeta. He’s just an average, innocent guy trying his best to survive, and he has to deal with Katniss’ conflicting emotions regarding himself and the Games. People definitely don’t give him enough credit for his cleverness and ability to strategize. After all, he’s the one who furthers their “star-crossed lovers” image, which is essentially what allows them to survive. He also balances out Katniss emotionally, much more so than Gale. So I must admit that I’ve had a change of heart: I now believe that Peeta, not Gale, would ultimately be a better match for Katniss.

Overall, rereading The Hunger Games has reminded me of all the reasons why I loved it the first time around. It’s one of those books that you can’t help but get caught up in as soon as you start reading it. The concept of the story itself is absolutely brilliant, and I was glad to see that it was still able to excite me even though I knew how it would end. While it will never top some of my personal favorite books and series, it is still evident that Suzanne Collins has written a fantastic novel that will surely continue to captivate readers for years to come.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes! To all of my friends! (And maybe even to a stranger or two… it’s SO good!)

What are your thoughts on this book? What do you think about the concept of “hard” and “soft” literature? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

Book Review: HOLD ME CLOSER

Hold Me Closer by David LevithanAuthor: David Levithan

Number of Pages: 200

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

Release Date: March 17, 2015

“Jazz hands at the ready! Tiny Cooper (“the world’s largest person who is also really, really gay”) stole readers’ hearts when he was introduced to the world in the New York Times bestselling book Will Grayson, Will Grayson,co-authored by John Green and David Levithan. Now Tiny finally gets to tell his story—from his fabulous birth and childhood to his quest for true love and his infamous parade of ex-boyfriends—the way he always intended: as a musical! Filled with honesty, humor, and “big, lively, belty” musical numbers, the novel is told through the full script of the musical first introduced in Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

– Goodreads.com

I knew I had to read this book as soon as I discovered it was going to be published. I adored John Green and David Levithan’s novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and I especially loved the fabulous character Tiny Cooper. I really appreciate the fact that instead of needlessly extending the original story, David Levithan found a creative way to bring us more of a beloved character. Although you can certainly read this without having read the actual story, I think knowing the history that all the characters have with each other adds a lot to this companion book.

First, I love the fact that it’s written in the form of a literal musical. It reads like any other script or play that you would read, which added a unique quality to the story that made it even more fun. Songs are included sporadically throughout, and even without music to go along with it they were essential elements to the book. Not only were they cleverly written, but they also had awesome rhyme schemes! Moreover, Tiny’s stage directions and little side notes here and there made everything flow together really nicely, and I could envision what was happening on stage at all times. I haven’t read many plays because I generally don’t like the format as much as I like that of regular novels, but this one posed no issues for me as far as formatting goes.

The musical itself is hilarious! There were parts that genuinely made me laugh out loud, to the point that I had to set the book down and let the giggles come rolling out. It has been a while since a book has been able to make me laugh that hard, so the humor was a welcome surprise. Much of the comedy comes from Tiny Cooper’s flamboyant, dramatic personality, which David Levithan captures perfectly. I felt like I was back in the world of Will Grayson, Will Grayson all over again, which is exactly the feeling I was hoping I’d experience. Levithan is also a really witty author in general, and even though some of his jokes may have been cheesy they were certainly effective!

One thing I really admire about Levithan is the diversity he includes into many of his books. Tiny Cooper is flamboyantly and openly gay, but Levithan makes it abundantly clear through his character that not everyone in the LGBTQ+ community expresses themselves in this way. He emphasizes that stereotypes should not and do not define individuals, no matter their sexuality. What an important message to stress in a Young Adult book!

My biggest critique of this book is that it is a little too short. I would have liked to see a bit more added to the story, especially since Tiny is such a dimensional character with a lot of personality and history. At times it felt like details or plot points were left to the wayside in a rush to get to the grand finale. For example, you get the full story about some of Tiny’s boyfriends but others are just sort of mentioned in passing. Also, it would have been nice to hear more about both of the Wills in the musical since they were important aspects of his life in the original book.

Overall, this is a fun, entertaining read and a great example of a book about accepting and embracing who you are as an individual, including whatever your sexuality may be. At times it was meaningful and thought-provoking, but it was always fabulously fun. The unique format makes it a memorable read- and how can you possibly forget about the amazing Tiny Cooper? Hold Me Closer is the perfect book for when you need that quick pick-me-up on a rainy day.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely! Like I previously mentioned, I would highly recommend reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson first, but I think if you went into this without doing so it would still make sense.

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts on it? What other books by David Levithan would you recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

ARCs, Books

ARC Review: SHADOW SCALE

shadow scale coverAuthor: Rachel Hartman

Number of Pages: 608

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Release Date: March 10, 2015

“The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.

As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?”

– Goodreads.com

***I received this ARC copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

 After several long years, the eagerly awaited sequel to Seraphina has finally arrived! I loved Seraphina, so I certainly had high expectations for Shadow Scale. Although I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book, this sequel was nevertheless a worthwhile read!

Besides Rachel Hartman’s amazing writing style, my favorite aspect of this book is the meticulous attention to detail regarding everything in Seraphina’s fantasy world. Each kingdom has different languages, cultures, and customs that are explained in the story with surprising clarity and ease. I don’t know how the author was able to keep them all straight in her head! The politics of the kingdoms are also quite complicated, as are the backgrounds and personalities of the characters. It’s always apparent when an author really pours their effort into fully fleshing out a fictional world, as is the case with this novel.

Seraphina is a fantastic main character. Not only is she fascinating because of what she is- half dragon, half human!- but she is also a well-rounded, balanced female character. Often times girls are portrayed as either stone cold or soft and fragile, but Seraphina is strong, independent, and compassionate all at the same time. She isn’t afraid to show her emotional side, but she also understands when it is necessary to buckle down and be tough. She has her own interests and passions (primarily music) and although she does have a love interest, she doesn’t require his constant presence in order to function (unlike some female characters in YA fiction…). I really admire the multidimensional young woman that Rachel Hartman has created in this story, and I wish that there were more girls like her in YA fiction.

Speaking of her love interest, I also really liked how romance isn’t an enormous part of this novel. Yes, it is certainly present- and thank goodness, because Prince Lucian is such a great guy!- but it is not really emphasized until the end of the novel when everything is coming to a close. The focus is largely on the action and adventure that Seraphina experiences, which is refreshing to read about in a genre plagued by a need for romantic relationships. Along with her romantic relationship with Prince Lucian, she also highly values her friendships with Glissenda, Abdo, and Orma.

I could go on and on about all of the things I love about this sequel. Jannoula, the main antagonist, was so twisted! You almost sympathize for her because of her tragic past, but at the same time she’s so evil that you can’t really like her. She was such a dynamic, unpredictable character and she added an important element of suspense and drama to this story. Also, I really liked learning more about Seraphina’s mind garden, which reminded me a lot of Sherlock’s “mind palace” in the BBC TV series “Sherlock”. Watching it change over time was very intriguing, and it offered a unique look directly inside of the main character’s mind.

My main complaint is that the first half of this novel had a rather slow pace. Until the twists and turns started happening, it seemed like the story was dragging quite a bit. After that, though, the plot really started to quicken and thicken (yay rhyming!) and I couldn’t put the book down. Moreover, I sort of had an issue with the ending of this book, particularly with what happens in the epilogue. I won’t spoil it, but it seemed out of character for Seraphina to just settle for something that she was so passionate about. Personally, I think she should have insisted that it turn out differently, even though what actually occurred did make some logical sense. She was such a strong character, and I really wanted to see her go after what she really wanted! However, I can see why it would realistically make sense for her to sit back and let things take their course.

Overall, I really enjoyed this sequel even though it wasn’t as amazing as the first novel. I don’t know if there will be a third book in this series, but I really hope so!

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely! I would definitely suggest reading the first book, though, because I think it would be really confusing if you started with this one. This is a great book for anyone who is interested in reading an excellent YA fantasy story that is thought-provoking, action-packed, and unique!

Have you read Seraphina or Shadow Scale? What are your thoughts on either or both of them? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

Book Review: A LITTLE SOMETHING DIFFERENT

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall coverAuthor: Sandy Hall

Number of Pages: 272

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Release Date: August 26, 2014

“The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out.

But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.

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

– Goodreads.com

I was excited to read this book as soon as I learned that it was written from fourteen different perspectives- and not one of them belonging to either of the main characters! Normally I don’t get that excited about your average YA contemporary romance novel, but the quirky twist in this one intrigued me right from the beginning. Besides, it’s hard not to judge this book based on its cover- it’s gorgeous!

The numerous different perspectives came with benefits as well as weaknesses. On the positive side, I learned so much about the lives of several different side characters, which normally doesn’t happen very often in this particular genre. It also helped that many of the characters were really clever and actually pretty funny at some points. My favorites were the bench (yes- a bench with a personality!), the squirrel, Maxine (the waitress at the local diner), and Inga (the creative writing professor). The book flew by so quickly, mostly due to the fact that it changed POV every few pages. As soon as things started to get a little boring, the POV would switch and you’d be thrown into an entirely different person’s mind. It was a little disorienting at first, but once you get to know all of the characters it’s really easy to follow along with everything.

As much as I’d love to say otherwise, there were some downsides to this unique writing style. Primarily, my biggest issue was the lack of connection I felt with Gabe and Lea, the main characters. I know that the whole point of the fourteen perspectives was to not hear directly from the main characters, but I couldn’t help feel like something was missing. It reminded me of why we tend to always focus on the main characters in the first place: because nothing can quite replace the intimacy and effectiveness of a first-person- or even a concentrated third-person- perspective. Also, there were a few characters whose voices and personalities were not as distinct and defined as they could have been. I mostly felt this way with Sam and Casey, Gabe’s brother and best friend (respectively). I could definitely tell that it was a woman trying to talk like a “cool” college guy. I have a teenage brother, and he would never talk the way those guys did in the book. Despite these issues, however, I still really enjoyed the uniqueness of the multiple perspectives.

The story itself was adorable and entertaining, but it was nothing extraordinary or “wowing”. The pace of the romance did feel forced or rushed, and it was actually quite slower than in most stories of this genre. Gave was nice and sweet, but didn’t have that “swoon-worthy” factor that the best fictional male protagonists have. The ending was really cute and concluded the story on a good note- it was open-ended, but not so much that I was left with a bunch of unanswered questions.

Overall, A Little Something Different ended up being just that: a little something different! It was unique and quirky enough to stand out from the usual YA contemporary romance novels,  but the issues brought on by the multiple perspectives prevented it from being really amazing in my eyes. It ended up being an average book in my opinion, but it was entertaining, adorable, and very enjoyable to read nonetheless!

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) 3 out of 5 smileys.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Definitely! Although it wasn’t amazing, it was still really fun and well worth reading!

Have you read this book before? What are your thoughts on it? Know of any other great books told by a bunch of different perspectives? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

Book Review: NICK & NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST

nick and norah's infinite playlistAuthor: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Number of Pages: 183

Publisher: Ember

Release Date: May 23, 2005

“Nick frequents New York’s indie rock scene nursing a broken heart. Norah is questioning all of her assumptions about the world. They have nothing in common except for their taste in music, until a chance encounter leads to an all-night quest to find a legendary band’s secret show and ends up becoming a first date that could change both their lives.”

– Goodreads.com

I’ve debated reading this book so many times over the years, and for some reason I just haven’t committed to it until now. Many of the reviews I’ve read and heard have been mixed, and I guess I was afraid that I would fall under the category of not liking it so much. Fortunately, I ended up really enjoying this book, although I do have a few pieces of criticism to point out.

Let’s start with the many things I did like about this novel. First, I love how it all took place in less than twenty-four hours. It takes a lot of detailed, carefully planned writing to pull off a story like this and prevent it from moving too slowly, and these two authors managed to pull it off really effectively. Also, I thought that the alternating chapters of Nick and Norah’s different perspectives worked very well with the story. Sometimes in books it feels like dual perspectives are unnecessary or irrelevant, but in this case it had purpose and benefited the story. It was especially effective in the audiobook I listened to because there were two different narrators- one for Nick and one for Norah. It actually felt like there were two teenagers telling me the story of this one crazy night, and it helped me to become more invested in what was happening.

Although the plot kept my attention and the story itself was very entertaining,  I couldn’t help but feel as though it was all really corny and overly dramatic. I kept wanting to scream: YOU JUST MET EACH OTHER. LIKE, TWO HOURS AGO. I THINK YOU CAN CALM DOWN A LITTLE. Perhaps it’s just me being cynical, but their tendency to exaggerate and overreact became quite bothersome after a while.

Yet despite my initial negative reaction to the cheesy, dramatic personalities of Nick and Norah, I can’t help but think that maybe it is actually more realistic than it first appears to be. I don’t think the plot is very realistic, but the feelings and emotions of the characters definitely have some truth behind them. Teenagers tend to be crazy and rush things and blow things out of proportion (I’m definitely guilty of this myself) and Cohn and Levithan were absolutely successful in communicating those wild, confusing feelings to the reader through Nick and Norah. Viewing this story from that particular angle helps me to appreciate it a lot more than if I were to simply judge it from a surface level.

Overall, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist was an entertaining, rollercoaster ride of a read. It wasn’t perfect, but I think it’s definitely worth giving it a chance and I’m happy I finally decided to read it. Once again, David Levithan has not let me down!

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) 3 out of 5 smileys.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes, but probably only if they were a fan of contemporary YA romance novels. Otherwise, they most likely would not enjoy it very much.

Have you ever read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

Book Review: MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME

my true love gave to me coverAuthor: various YA authors, edited by Stephanie Perkins

Number of Pages: 320

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: October 9, 2014

“If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME: TWELVE HOLIDAY STORIES by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins.”

– Goodreads.com

Having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit? Well, look no further than this collection of adorable, heart-warming holiday stories!

This collection of stories is great for a number of reasons, but I especially liked the variety that it presents in both the authors and the content. Even though these authors are united by the fact that they have written works in the young adult genre, they write about different topics within that genre. For example, Allie Condie is the author of the Matched trilogy, a dystopian science fiction story, while Holly Black is well-known for her many fantasy novels. Their genre preferences are noticeable in their short stories, which means that each one has a unique little twist to it. I expected them all to be just regular contemporary romance stories, but there were a few that surprised me with their fantasy elements and magical surrealism. There is also a lot of diversity in the content itself, meaning that the settings, characters, and even holidays vary from story to story. There are many Christmas stories, but some focus on other holidays, such as Hanukkah. And then there are those that don’t even revolve around a specific holiday- they simply take place during the holiday season.

I genuinely enjoyed reading all of these stories, which doesn’t usually happen often when it comes to collections of writing. Usually there are a few that I’m only lukewarm about or that I even dislike, but I am happy to say that I was really impressed with all of these! The three that really stood out to me were “The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, “Angels in the Snow” by Matt de la Pena, and “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown” by Stephanie Perkins. I loved the first one because of its fantasy elements, and the other two because of their adorable and really well written romantic relationships. I was surprised when I realized that two out of my top three favorites were written by authors that I have never heard of before- Kelly Link and Matt de la Pena. I’ll definitely have to explore more of their writing in the future!

Overall, I highly recommend this collection of stories, especially during the holiday season! It’s sure to give you that warm, fuzzy feeling inside, even if it’s snowing outside!

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) :0) 5 out of 5 smileys.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely, especially if they’re a fan of one of these authors or the YA genre in general.

Have you read this book before? What did you think of it? Got any book recommendations by any of the authors included in this collection? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY