27 June 2014

Review: Noggin

Noggin by John Corey Whaley
Publishing date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

NOGGIN, by John Corey Whaley is a tremendously good book and I’m glad that I had the chance to read it. Without spoiling any plot twists or surprises, I will say a little bit about the story. Our main character, Travis, wakes up five years after having his head cryogenically frozen and now put on another man’s body. This book paints the reader a picture of a boy struggling to find his way in the world, with the love of his life five years older and engaged to another man, and his best friend secretly gay. As the story progresses, Travis finds himself conflicted between his physical age of 16 and all the changes that have occurred around him. As he deals with the fame of being one of two people to have ever survived that experiment, he slowly begins to find himself and realize how much everything has changed around him. One of the reasons that I liked this book so much was because although Travis is far from ordinary, you find yourself empathizing with him and his plight. This book is masterfully written and children 12-16 will find themselves enjoying this great novel. 

25 June 2014

Review: The Art of Lainey

The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
Publication date: May 20, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen

THE ART OF LAINEY by Paula Stokes is about a girl named Lainey during the summer before her senior year of high school. When Lainey's boyfriend breaks up with her, she uses the advice of Sun Tsu's The Art of War to try to get him back. But her fake dates with coworker Micha start feeling more and more real. I really enjoyed THE ART OF LAINEY. The writing was relatable and I feel as though I could have been in Lainey's place. I would recommend this book to fans of chick lit and other young adult romance novels.

20 June 2014

Review: When I Was the Greatest

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
Publisher: Atheneum Books
Publishing date: January 7, 2014

This novel is about 15 year old Ali, his family, his best friend Noodles and his brother Needles, who has Tourette’s Syndrome. I really enjoyed this book- it’s character driven and mostly dialogue which I really like. The characters themselves are all incredibly developed, and I felt as though for most of them I either loved them, or loved to hate them, which is a good thing. I read the book really fast, because the relationships the characters have with each other are so realistic and enticing that I wanted to read it whenever I had any time at all. There is no romance in this book- and to be honest I didn’t miss it. I would recommend this book, highly, to anyone over 12 years old.

19 June 2014

The Fault in Our Stars Movie Review

The Fault in Our Stars is a humorous but poignant tear-jerker that stayed incredibly true to the novel's storyline. Fans of the John Green story about two cancer-stricken lovers who journey to Amsterdam won't be disappointed by the movie adaptation. The movie is clearly an interpretation of the book (unlike movies such as the ill fated Percy Jackson) and while I didn't agree with all the directorial choices, it follows the ideas and beliefs both behind and in the book perfectly. Shailene Woodley (essentially the new Jennifer Lawrence) portrays an adequately matter-of-fact and truthful Hazel Grace, the narrator/main character. Ansel Elgort, on the other hand, presents a fantastic surprise in his adorable and moving interpretation of Augustus Waters. The metaphorically inclined, one-legged love interest completely steals the show with his clever facial expressions and heartbreaking dramatic acting. The movie is not quite as deep as the book, but therein lies the challenge of translating any John Green book to a broader audience via the cinema; it is impossible to be that philosophical without making the movie 8 hours long. Despite that, The Fault in Our Stars is an excellent movie that will have viewers laughing through their tears and I highly recommend it whether or not you have read the book. Note: there is a scene of not so brief partial nudity and sexual implications.

18 June 2014

Review: Since You've Been Gone

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publishing date: May 6, 2014

SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE by Morgan Matson is about the growth of a teenage girl named Emily as she discovers who she is over the course of a summer. Ever since they first met, Emily has been the sidekick to her spunky best friend Sloane, living in her shadow. When Sloane disappears and leaves her a list of 13 daring, embarrassing, and weird tasks to do, Emily bravely attempts all of them with the help of friends like Frank and Dawn that she met along the way, hoping it would lead her to Sloane. This journey will bring her to high highs and low lows, make her do things she never would have done before, maybe fall in love, and make realizations that not all is what it seems.

Morgan Matson is a great writer, but I feel that the book could have been a little more centered on Sloane's list instead of the romantic relationship between Emily and Frank. There aren't that many non sci-fi or fantasy books these days that can successfully pull off having friendship and adventure being one of the main themes. I love the way the author wrote the novel and I definitely plan on reading more of her books in the future.

16 June 2014

Review: The Summer of Letting Go

The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner
Publisher: Algonquin
Publishing date: March 25, 2014

After four years, 16 year old Frankie still blames herself for her brother's death. Suffering from this guilt, Frankie watches as the boy she loves falls for her best friend, and her father and mother start to move on separately. Lost in the mess of her summer, the only thing making her happy is four year old Frankie Sky, the little boy she meets who shares her name, and resembles her brother so closely Frankie starts to question how much she really knows about death and life itself. Extremely intriguing, THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO is full of relatable characters that leap off the pages, and moments that will make you both smile and cry along with Frankie and everyone else who weaves in and out of her life.

13 June 2014

Review: The Nethergrim

The Nethergrim by Matthew Jobin
Publisher: Penguin
Publishing date: April 8, 2014

THE NETHERGRIM, by Matthew Jobin, is an action-packed adventure book about three teenagers named, Edmund, Katherine, and Tom. Although each character is very different from one another, they are best friends. When Edmund's brother is captured by an evil monster named the Nethergrim, the friends set out on a journey to get him back. This book is very action-packed and suspenseful, and once you start reading, it is very hard to stop. The characters in the story feel real and you can relate to what they are feeling. This book resembles The Chronicles of Narnia because of its fantasy style and the time and because of the middle age fighting techniques. I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages because of the action in each page.

11 June 2014

Review: (Don't You) Forget About Me

(Don't You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: June 10, 2014

Skylar lives in Gardnerville, a utopian city where deaths are rare, except during a fourth year, where teens discover their powers and all hell breaks loose. Skylar is trying to find her mysterious sister, Piper, who disappeared during the chaos of a fourth year disaster. This book was amazing and very creative. It was nothing like I have ever read before. The magical city that seemed like a utopia that has disasters showed me that nothing can ever be perfect. I also think that the characters were well developed. The only thing that bothered me was that at the beginning of the story, Skylar took pills that made her forget everything, pills that to me seemed like drugs. There were also a couple confusing scenes, but other than this, I highly recommend this book. Although unrealistic in many ways, (DON'T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME by Kate Karyus Quinn was a book with a creative story and great writing.

09 June 2014

Review: My Last Kiss

My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publishing date: June 10, 2014

MY LAST KISS is the story of Cassidy Haines, a 17 year old ghost who can’t seem to remember how she died. The police ruled it a suicide but Cassidy knows that there has to be more to the story. With only her boyfriend Ethan Keys able to see her, they try to solve the mystery around her death all while trying to keep their love alive. This page turning debut novel by Bethany Neal is a cross between a tragic love story and a murder mystery, perfect for fans of “Pretty Little Liars” and “Thirteen Reasons Why”. Contrary to what the title might have lead you to believe, this story is less about kisses and more about the jealousy and hardships of friendship. Cassidy is often struggling with everyday teenage problems (like forgiving her friends, dealing with her parents divorce and finding herself) making her a very relatable character. Although this book has paranormal aspects, I found that the realistic elements made it a more contemporary novel. MY LAST KISS is filled with twists and turns making it a fun and intriguing novel, great for anyone who enjoys a young adult mystery.

06 June 2014

Review: Summer State of Mind

Summer State of Mind by Jen Calonita
Publisher: Poppy
Publishing date: April 22, 2014

SUMMER STATE OF MIND is about fifteen-year-old Harper McAllister, who is sent off to Whispering Pines summer camp after her parents receive her most recent credit card bill. Harper thinks her summer is ruined when she arrives at camp and realizes that her expensive clothes and shoes wont help her make friends at the Pines. Soon enough though, she steps out of her comfort zone, and begins to fit in. But when Harper accidentally ruins the camp’s chance to be music video stars, she once again becomes an outsider. Will she ever make things right, or will Harper end up right back where she started? Although the book is geared toward a more girly audience, I would recommend it for anybody getting ready to start off the summer! It is upbeat, funny, and an overall easy read. Each character was relatable, and I enjoyed getting to witness Harper’s view about camp changing as her summer went on. This book is perfect for ages 12 and up.

04 June 2014

Review and Author Interview: Free to Fall

We had a fantastic visit from YA author Lauren Miller! Everyone was so excited to sit down and talk about her books, going from screenwriter to author, where she gets her ideas, and any other author tidbits we could squeeze out of her! Read Marilyn's review of Lauren's newest book, Free to Fall, below and stay for the interview we did with Lauren!

Free to Fall by Lauren Miller
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publishing date: May 13, 2014

FREE TO FALL by Lauren Miller is the epitome of a futuristic novel, packed with thrilling suspense and a seemingly perfect romance. Set decades in the future, Rory, your average high school student, lives in a world where technology dictates decisions, and an app known as ‘Lux’ has become the puppeteer of choice and judgment. When Rory is accepted to the Thedan Academy, a prestigious school for the highly gifted, this should be the beginning of her academic success. However, due to unknown past family endeavors, she is stuck in a world of mystery, trying to connect dots that are far from lining up. Rory is placed in the impossible, all odds against her, and as the audience you can only hope she succeeds.

The novel, FREE TO FALL, is an astonishingly clever book with a plot line that will leave you wanting more at every turn of the page. Always expect the unexpected, for this story will continue to shock you, venturing to new and compelling places one could never see coming. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who is looked to be transported into another world of excitement. This book will keep the reader at the edge of their seat ready to tag along in a journey with the main characters themselves. Although the story is a bit of a read, it is hardly noticeable when the reader is so captivated in the book itself, feeling a part of a whole other virtual world. Miller’s novel teaches the reader that trusting oneself is more powerful and reliable than the trust we put into our everyday technology. I would recommend this book for ages fourteen and up due certain content in the story.

Interview with Lauren Miller:

Lauren Miller wrote her first novel, PARALLEL (HarperTeen), while on maternity leave from her law firm job and blogged about it, an experiment she called “embracing the detour” (also the name of her blog). Many people told her she was crazy. When she realized they were right, she told no one and kept writing. Her second novel, FREE TO FALL (HarperTeen), came out this May. Born in NYC and raised in Atlanta, Lauren now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children. You can find her online atwww.laurenmillerwrites.com and on Twitter and Instagram at @LMillerWrites.

Do you think, theoretically, what happens in Free to Fall could happen to us? 
Absolutely. I actually don't think it's so far off. Maybe not the full extent of what is happening in the novel (I won't say specifically so as not to be spoilery), but definitely the reliance on technology for our happiness. Already we trust our apps and devices to tell us which driving routes to take, what songs to listen to, where to eat. We live in a culture hyper-focused on personal satisfaction, and we've come to believe that having things we like and enjoy will make us happy. Most of the apps on our phones are designed with that in mind. So, no, I don't think it's such a stretch to imagine that one of the big tech companies might put out an app like Lux that does it all.

Do you work from an outline or a basic plot when writing books, or just see where the story takes you?
I work from a very detailed outline. Before I begin drafting I know exactly where my story will go. I couldn't write the other way -- I need to make sure I have a story before I start writing one. How do you feel about fanfiction/fanart of your work? I love fan fiction! I encourage it. That's what art is all about, in my view -- starting a social conversation and letting it live on its own, separate from you.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
For me, inspiration typically comes in the form of a question, and my writing becomes my answer to that question. For Free to Fall, that question was "is our happiest life necessarily our best life?" It popped into my head one afternoon after church. Our pastor had been preaching on the Book of James, and in particular the idea that our struggles should bring us joy. As I started thinking about this idea, a story began to take shape in my mind. It just sort of snowballed from there!

Do you ever base characters off of yourself or other people? 
Always. But it's not a one-to-one thing. Every character I've written is a combination of two or three people I know. Basing characters on real people helps ensure that my characters are relatable and authentic. What is the hardest part of writing books? The first draft. The outlining is the easy, crazy, imaginative part for me, and the revising is the part where I get to hone my prose and add all the fun nuances and layers. The first draft, which happens in the middle, is the difficult, ego-shattering part, where I doubt my writing ability pretty much on a daily basis.

Do you write the titles of your books prior to, or after you write them?
It totally depends! With Parallel, the title came to me while I was writing it, and it never changed. With Free to Fall, it took much longer to find a title that fit. The story was almost ready to go to print before we had one that everybody liked. For my newest project, the title came first.

Did you always have a passion for writing and/or know you wanted to be an author?
I have always had a passion for writing, but I didn't know I wanted to be an author until my late 20s. Before then, the idea of writing a book was too daunting. But one day I woke up and realized that if I wanted to make writing my profession, then I would have to actually write something, and so I started writing every day. I've been writing every day ever since!

Anything next in the works? Shh, we won't tell...
Yes! I am working on a standalone novel about a "pretty girl" named Jessa who suffers a freak accident and loses her mind's eye. Although it feels more contemporary than Parallel and Free to Fall, this new story has its own "sci-chic" twist. I'm incredibly excited about it!

And the all important question: cake or pie? 

02 June 2014

Review: Panic

Panic by Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publishing date: March 4, 2014

PANIC, by Lauren Oliver, is a story about an unspoken game played by the graduating seniors during the the summer in a poor town in the middle of nowhere. Heather and her friends compete in this game where the stakes are high and the reward is even higher, but only to some. It is a game where you have to be smart and brave, but not too courageous, because that will elicit consequences which can be deadly. This game changes people; it teaches them bravery, maturity, selflessness, and sacrifice. I loved Lauren Oliver's new book PANIC and how brilliantly she taught valuable lessons on growing up, and learning about what sacrifices to take, and which not to risk, for the greater good of others. The game Panic is not just about the reward, or the courage and macho required to participate; it is a game of wit and dedication, and the characters who go far, are those who are willing to take themselves to the next level. Those who participate develop and mature as they make it through the dangerous levels and come out of it a new person ready for anything the world has to offer, with an understanding of the greater goal.