Divergent [Book Review]

DivergentTitle: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian
ISBN: 0062024027
Pages: 496
Year: 2011
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)
Source: Library
Rating: 4.5/5

Summary:

In Tris’ world, every person chooses his or her place in life – their faction – at sixteen: Abnegation (the selfless); Candor (the honest); Erudite (the intelligent); Amity (the peaceful); and Dauntless (the brave).  Tris grew up in Abnegation but feels the pull of Dauntless. Instead of knowing exactly where she belongs, like everyone else, Tris is torn. The factions are supposed to help society, but is there something darker going on?

My Thoughts:

The premise sounded a little strange to me at first, but Roth did a fantastic job building this dystopian world (set in Chicago). I totally bought into it from the beginning.

YA books are often written with first-person narration. Sometimes I find this annoying (what could be worse than being trapped in a teenagers head?) and sometimes it works for me. But usually the combination of first-person AND present tense does me in. Divergent is an exception. I barely noticed that I was trapped in Tris’ present-tense head because I just wanted more story.

While there are bigger things going on, this is really the story of Tris and how she becomes herself. She is unsure and lost when we first meet her. By the end, she is almost unrecognizable. And there is a TON of action along the way.

And then there is Four. I have a new addition to my fictional YA crush list (this just seems to grow and grow). While I don’t think romance is the most important part of this story at all, I loved his character and the way he and Tris interact. It was more realistic than a lot of those I-loved-him-the-moment-I-saw-him-and-I-never-want-to-be-with-anyone-else-ever romances. Four pushes Tris. He doesn’t patronize her and he always believes in her.

Tris is a heroine. Tris is the kind of girl a young reader can actually look up to, and the kind of girl the rest of us can cheer on. Read Divergent. The hype has been well-deserved.

Others’ Thoughts: S. Krishna’s Books; Fiction Folio; Bookshelves of Doom; Galleysmith;

Buy It Now: Amazon; IndieBound

Ink Exchange [Book Review]

Ink ExchangeTitle: Ink Exchange
Author: Melissa Marr
Genre: Young Adult; Paranormal
ISBN: 0061214701
Pages: 352
Year: 2008
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Library
Rating: 4/5

Summary:

Leslie, Aislinn’s friend at school, lives with her druggie brother and alcoholic father. Sometimes the bills get paid. Sometimes they don’t. And once her brother used her to clear his drug debts. So life kind of sucks. Leslie works at night to save up money for a tattoo – something she feels she must do to take herself back. But Leslie is drawn to a dangerous tattoo. One that will link her to Irial, the king of the faery Dark Court. Aislinn didn’t want Leslie caught up in this world, but now she has no choice.

My Thoughts:

Ink Exchange is the second book in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series. It follows Wicked Lovely in time, but focuses on a different set of characters. Aislinn, Seth, and Keenan are no longer the focus, though they are definitely in the book. Instead, the story follows two characters we met in Wicked Lovely, Leslie (Aislinn’s mortal friend) and Niall (Keenan’s advisor), as well as a new player, Irial (the king of the Dark Court). I thought I would miss our old characters but they are around enough to satisfy any longing I had for them.

I didn’t love Ink Exhange like I adored Wicked Lovely. I felt lost for a lot of the book. I didn’t really understand why characters were doing certain things because I didn’t really understand the rules of the faery world. Maybe I was supposed to feel as confused as Leslie, but I could have used a bit more explanation.

That said, I still couldn’t really put the book down. I wanted to find out what was happening, and the story, though vague, drew me in. Niall as a character – his competing need and inability to get close to Leslie and his struggle to find his place was fascinating and showed the delicate balance of power among the courts. In this sense, I did start to understand their world a little more.

Like Niall, Irial is a complex character. He is the leader of the Dark Court (the one we would probably call most evil – but perhaps it’s just misunderstood?). Yet he longs to find his successor. He has deep compassion for his subjects, and is trying to do anything he can to help them in this new Summer-Winter alliance world. I hope Irial is in the other books, I am looking forward to more of him.

And finally, we have Leslie. Like Aislinn, she is pulled into this world against her will. But she handles it all very differently. Leslie is another character who won’t give up and she gets a pretty kickass ending.

After writing all this, I’ve realized that while the story might be lacking sometimes, the characters are interesting enough to keep me reading. I am very much looking forward to this rest of this series.

Others’ Thoughts: S. Krishna’s Books; Makeshift Bookmark

Buy It Now: Amazon; IndieBound

The Last Little Blue Envelope [Book Review]

Title: The Last Little Blue Envelope
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
ISBN: 0061976792
Pages: 288
Year: 2011
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Public Library
Rating: 4/5

Summary:

When Ginny had her backpack stolen in Greece, she thought that final letter from her aunt was lost forever. Then one day she receives an email from a boy in London who has it. And before she knows it, she is on a plane for part two of her adventure.

My Thoughts:

A few weeks ago I raved about 13 Little Blue Envelopes.  It shouldn’t surprise you that it didn’t take me long to pick up the sequel. I read The Last Little Blue Envelope about as quickly as I devoured the first. And I enjoyed it almost as much.

This time around, Ginny isn’t traveling alone. She has Keith with her. Which could be really romantic if it weren’t for the fact that Keith’s new girlfriend, Ellis, is also part of the gang. Not to mention Oliver, who is essentially blackmailing Ginny.  The gang goes off to Paris, Amsterdam, and Dublin this time where things (surprise) don’t go as planned.

I said I wasn’t thrilled with the romantic aspect of 13 Little Blue Envelopes and that feeling continued for me here. I knew what direction it was going to go and I just kept hoping I’d be wrong.

Thankfully, Ginny and her adventures more than make up for any little issues I have. I recommend both books when you’re in the mood for something light and fun.

Others’ Thoughts: Anna Reads; Reclusive Bibliophile; KellyVision

Buy It Now: Amazon; Powell’s; IndieBound; Book Depository

Wicked Lovely [Book Review]

Wicked LovelyTitle: Wicked Lovely
Author: Melissa Marr
Genre: Young Adult; Paranormal
ISBN: 0061214671
Pages: 328
Year: 2007
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Personal Collection
Rating: 5/5

Summary:

Aislinn, like her mother and grandmother, sees faeries. She tries to ignore them as they pick on humans, who are oblivious to their presence. Until one of them, Keenan, the Summer King, sets his mind on having Aislinn for his long-searched-for Summer Queen.

My Thoughts:

Bear with me. I am talking about faeries. Fey. A lot of you are probably groaning (or you’ve stopped reading by now). But trust me when I say that this book was GOOD. Like really good. Ask my husband. I wouldn’t stop talking about it while I was reading. Although he gave me a look that may be similar to the one you are currently wearing.

Marr does a fantastic job setting up the mythology of the Summer King searching for his Summer Queen. It’s complex enough to be interesting but still possible to understand. As Aislinn gets caught up in the mystery and magic of the fey world, so does the reader. And neither the reader nor Aislinn is likely to escape it by then.

And Seth. Can we talk about Seth for a minute? He’s so crush-worthy. He’s tattooed and pierced in a totally adorable way. And he’s so in love with Aislinn that I was actually a little jealous. Plus he lives in a train. That’s pretty awesome.

This is a series, but I have heard that the other books involve other characters. I want to keep reading but I think I will miss these ones (I’m mostly talking about Seth if we want to be honest here).

Maybe all of you who are going to read this book have already read it. But if you haven’t and you aren’t turned off by the word “faery” then go read it now.

Others’ Thoughts: The Elliot Review; Iris on Books

Buy It Now: IndieBound; Powell’s; Amazon; Book Depository

13 Little Blue Envelopes [Book Review]

13 Little Blue EnvelopesTitle: 13 Little Blue Envelopes
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
ISBN: 0060541431
Pages: 352
Year: 2006
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Source: Personal Collection
Rating: 4.5/5

In 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Ginny, coaxed by her recently deceased Aunt Peg by way of letters, goes on a whirlwind European adventure. From London to Rome to Denmark to Greece, she sees the world while discovering who she is and who her free-spirited aunt really was.

My Thoughts:

This book came to me at the perfect time. I was in the midst of my European adventure when I picked up this book. I read in one evening in Venice and on the train to Vienna. It was a blast reading about Ginny’s travels while on my own.

But, even if you are in the comfort of your own home, I’m pretty sure you will love this book. It is fun and funny. Ginny is lovable, the people she encounters are unique, and the missions she is sent on are interesting. The only thing I would have liked would be more Keith. She has this little romance going on, but I didn’t feel like he was around enough, so it felt a little forced.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, The Last Little Blue Envelope. I know this isn’t the best review. Just trust me and the awesomeness that is Maureen Johnson and read it. Ok?

Others’ Thoughts: Let’s eat, Grandpa! Let’s eat Grandpa! (Punctuation saves lives.); GReads!; KellyVision; Fiction Folio.

Buy It Now: IndieBound; Powell’s; Amazon; Book Depository

The Day Before [Mini-Review]

The Day BeforeTitle: The Day Before
Author: Lisa Schroeder
Genre: Verse, Young Adult
ISBN: 1442417439
Pages: 320
Year: 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: 4.5/5

My Thoughts/Summary:

Ms. Schroeder has done it again. The second I could get my hands on her new novel-in-verse, I found a cozy spot and read the entire thing start to finish. And there was crying.

Amber’s life is about to change in a big way. So she wants one more perfect day to herself. She leaves a note for her family and hops on a bus to the beach. And then she meets Cade. Immediate attraction ensues. Cade and Amber spend a perfect day together. But Cade has some issues himself.

The book is well-written and moving. The words, though few, are jam-packed with emotion. It may not take you long to read this one, but it will stay with you for a long time. I highly recommend this one to you.

[Note: I am using the mini-review format while I am away. Full length reviews will return in July.]

Shift [Book Review]

ShiftTitle: Shift
Author: Jeri Smith-Ready
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 1416994084
Pages: 384
Year: 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Library
Rating: 5/5

Summary:

Note: I am using the publisher’s summary because every time I tried to write one it was super spoilery.

Aura’s life is anything but easy. Her boyfriend, Logan, died, and his slides between ghost and shade have left her reeling. Aura knows he needs her now more than ever. She loves Logan, but she can’t deny her connection with the totally supportive, totally gorgeous Zachary. And she’s not sure that she wants to.

Logan and Zachary will fight to be the one by her side, but Aura needs them both to uncover the mystery of her past—the mystery of the Shift.

As Aura’s search uncovers new truths, she must decide whom to trust with her secrets…and her heart.

My Thoughts:

I loved Shade. But I ADORED Shift. There is some HOTNESS in this one, guys. Once again, I am impressed with Smith-Ready’s bold choices in a YA novel not to shy away from topics that other authors tiptoe around (um, the river?).

The story is interesting, the characters are likeable, the love interests have chemistry, and the world-building is informative without being obvious. What else could you ask for?

This is one of those books I literally couldn’t put down. I read it in one day (a rare feat for little old me) and my husband was constantly teasing me for smiling the whole time. This is just such an enjoyable series (do I really have to wait until NEXT summer for the last book – can someone do something about that please?).

BTW, I came out of Shade clearly on Team Zachary but Shift made me love Logan a little more. I still prefer Zachary (people, the CHEMISTRY) but I get the argument now.

I am having a hard time articulating why I love this series so much. This is not just another paranormal YA romance. I want to make you all read it immediately so that you just get it. And have I mentioned the hotness?

Others’ Thoughts: GReads!; Anna Reads; Makeshift Bookmark; Presenting Lenore

Buy It Now: IndieBound; Powell’s; Amazon; Book Depository

 

Shade [Book Review]

ShadeTitle: Shade
Author: Jeri Smith-Ready
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 1416994076
Pages: 309
Year: 2010
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Library
Rating: 5/5

Summary:

Aura was born shortly after the Shift and, like everyone born after the Shift, she can see and communicate with ghosts. When her boyfriend Logan unexpectedly dies, he continues to stick around in ghost-form and Aura continues to interact with him. Enter Zachary, the cute new student from Scotland and Aura’s new research partner. While Zachary and Aura attempt to uncover the mystery surrounding the Shift, Logan must pursue his wrongful death case so he can move on and avoid becoming a Shade – a dark, scary ghost that cannot move on.

My Thoughts:

This is going to be one of those I-Loved-This-Book-So-Much-And-You-Must-Go-Read-It-Immediately-But-I-Won’t-Be-Able-To-Articulate-Why reviews. You are welcome.

The premise, as I have written it and as the publisher has written it sounds a little ridiculous. But it isn’t, I promise. Smith-Ready did such an excellent job building the world as it exists in Shade that no ridiculousness can seep in. The vocabulary – post-Shifter, blackboxing, shading – fits neatly into the story without sounding forced. The pacing is perfect – I felt like I was leaning forward the whole time anxious for what came next. And there was a great balance between the mystery of the Shift and the love triangle.

And what a unique love triangle. Aura still loves Logan, but what kind of future can they have? Yet acting on her feelings for Zachary will still hurt Logan. I am 100% Team Zachary but you can’t help but feel for Aura as she makes some tough decisions (plus Logan was the singer in an Irish punk band. Hot).

Oh, did I mention that Zachary is Scottish and speaks in an adorable accent (yes, I read his lines in a Scottish accent). I have found yet another character to crush on.

Finally, one thing that I really liked about Shade has nothing to do with the supernatural aspect of the story. Shade treats drugs, alcohol, and sex as a normal part of teenage life. They play a very important role in the plot but it isn’t tackled with reservation like it is in a lot of YA books. Since drugs, alcohol, and sex ARE a normal part of teenage life, I appreciate the frankness with with Smith-Ready approached it.

This book had adventure, intrigue, love, loss, hope, music, and so much more. Please, do yourself a favor and go read Shade now (I owe Jen from Makeshift Bookmark a HUGE thanks for making me read it). And when you are finished, you can read the sequel, Shift, which comes out tomorrow (it took all the self-restraint I possess not to immediately begin Shift).

Others’ Thoughts: Makeshift Bookmark; GReads!; Fiction Folio; Anna Reads; S. Krishna’s Books; Presenting Lenore

Buy It Now: Powell’s; IndieBound; Amazon; Book Depository

Nevermore [Book Review]

NevermoreTitle: Nevermore
Author: Kelly Creagh
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 9781442402003
Pages: 560
Year: 2010
Publisher: Atheneum
Source: Library
Rating: 4/5

Summary:

When Isobel, star cheerleader and star football player’s girlfriend, is paired with all-black wearing, lip-pierced Varen for a school assignment, she groans. But after spending some time with Varen working on their Edgar Allen Poe project she starts to fall for him. She ignores her old friends, breaks up with her boyfriend, and finds herself wrapped up in Varen’s mysterious life where she must enter his dream world (and encounter all of the haunting creatures in it) to save him.

My Thoughts:

My interest in Nevermore began when I was eavesdropping on a twitter conversation between Jen and April (click through for their gushing reviews) where they RAVED about it and lamented its lack of readers. They convinced me to give it a shot and within a few days I was reading it, ready to embrace the awesomeness.

Now, I did not react to Nevermore as strongly as they did. And I really wanted to. I think it was good. Better than good. But not so-amazing-I-am-now-dying-for-the-sequel.

Varen and Isobel have some crazy chemistry. I suspect Varen and anyone might have some amazing chemistry though (me perhaps?) because he is that good of a character. Unfortunately, they don’t act on it for a LONG time so that by the time something happens, it was less the product of great anticipation and more like something I had almost given up on.

Which brings me to the other reason I didn’t love Nevermore. The book itself is LONG. It’s 560 pages. I am not one to shy away from a good, long book, but this one felt unnecessarily long. I found myself getting a little bored during the last 200 pages and that’s where ALL THE ACTION is. Part of me might have enjoyed this book even if it didn’t have the paranormal part – I was just fascinated with the relationship. And I am not just saying that because the paranormal part gave me nightmares. Which it did (probably shouldn’t have read it while Ben was out of town).

That said, I don’t want you all to think I didn’t like it. Because I did. A lot. The creatures Creagh created were fascinating. While the dreamworld was a bit confusing, I think it worked really well – just like a real dream. And the subject matter – both Edgar Allen Poe and lucid dreaming are two topics that I have been interested in for quite some time.* After the I closed the book, I ended up doing some “research” on Poe. Creagh did a wonderful job of working his mysterious death into the novel. Oh, and I loved Gwen – she reminded me a somewhat calmer, definitely more sober Rayanne Graff.

Nevermore is worth the read if it sounds like your kind of book. I am looking forward to the second book, Enshadowed, due out in January. For now, I may just stare at the gorgeous cover of Nevermore and dream about Varen. Don’t tell my husband.

Others’ Thoughts: Anna Reads; The Elliot Review; Angieville; Presenting Lenore

Buy It Now: Book Depository; IndieBound; Powell’s; Amazon

*I took a Psychology of the Consciousness class in college (you know, the kind of class taught by someone who did way too many drugs at Harvard in the 60s) and lucid dreaming was one of the topics we covered. A few students claimed they could do it by the end of the semester. The trick to knowing you are dreaming is that you can’t control lights (turn them on/off) in dreams or read digital clocks. Once you realize you are dreaming, you are supposed to be able to do anything you want. Pretty cool, huh?

Matched [Book Review]

Title: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
ISBN: 0525423648
Pages: 384
Year: 2010
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Source: The Wonderful Jen @ Devourer of Books
Rating: 4.5/5

Summary:

Cassia Reyes is as excited as any teenager in The Society on the night of her Match banquet. But when her match – the person she will marry – is announced, she is thrilled. She has been matched with her best friend, Xander. Yet, when she first inserts the disc with her match’s information on it, she doesn’t see Xander but Ky, another boy she knows from her neighborhood. It is supposed to be a mistake, a joke. She is assured that Xander is her match. But she is drawn to Ky more and more. And as she gets to know Ky, she learns that The Society may not be as perfect as she’s been led to believe.

My Thoughts:

Cassia lives in a world where her meals are designed and prepared for her, her career is dictated by authorities, and her future husband is chosen for her. Medicine ensures that everyone lives to an advanced age and only the “best” entertainment remains. Cassia is happy living in The Society. Matched is reminiscent of older dystopian works. It is a society much like The Giver and as regimented as 1984. Dissenters are banished to faraway lands like The Handmaid’s Tale. Yet Matched stands strongly on its own.

I was captivated from the very beginning. The story starts right away. Cassia’s Match banquet and her grandfather’s final banquet (so heartbreaking) occur within the first 100 pages. The world building is left to be woven in throughout.

Cassia is drawn to Ky early but she maintains her faith in The Society and her feelings for Xander. In a life so controlled and closely monitored, Ky and Cassia’s stolen moments in the woods as they’re hiking build tension. Through them we learn, along with Cassia, more about the world of Matched.

My only complaint is that it seemed like I was reading the same thoughts over and over from Cassia. She would think about Ky. Then tell herself not to think about Ky. Only to think about Ky again. But then again, wasn’t that kind of what life was like as a teenager?

I couldn’t help comparing Matched to Delirium, and, although they are each good in their own way, I think if you liked one, you will enjoy the other.

I am anxious for the next book in the series, Crossed (out in November). I want to know what happens to Cassia and her family and Ky and Xander. But I also want to know more about The Society and how it came about. I highly recommend Matched to any dystopian fan.

Others’ Thoughts: Po(sey) Sessions; The Worm Hole; That’s What She Read; Take Me Away; Helen’s Book Blog

Buy It Now: Powell’s; Book Depository; IndieBound; Amazon