24 November 2014

Review: Roomies

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
Publication date: December 24, 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman year roommate assignment, she has no idea what she’s in for. Elizabeth’s first email to San Franciscan Lauren begins a strange friendship that not only changes each girl’s summer, but also begins to spark questions that make the girls wonder if they will ever be able to live together. Meanwhile, relationships with family and friends are becoming more difficult each day for Lauren and Elizabeth, and suddenly, the only people they can rely on are each other.

The point-of-view in ROOMIES rotates between Lauren and Elizabeth. Normally, this can become confusing, but each chapter is labeled, making it very clear who is narrating. In addition, I loved how different Lauren and Elizabeth are, yet, both girls are realistic, and anybody reading this book can relate to their fears and insecurities. The authors did a great job of addressing all the questions that come with trying to form a friendship with a person you don’t actually know. Each girl wonders about what the other looks like, whether or not they will get along, and what will happen when they make the big transition from home to college. ROOMIES has a perfect balance of romance, friendship, and family, and I would recommend it to anybody who is a fan of contemporary fiction.

21 November 2014

Review: Made for You

Made for You by Melissa Marr
Publication date: September 16, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins

MADE FOR YOU by Melissa Marr is a modern murder mystery that explores a classic plot through a new and updated angle with just a hint of paranormal. After narrowly escaping her own death at the hands of a psychotically deranged killer, Eva begins a journey to discover the identity of the murderer that has started to kill her friends one by one. After waking up in the hospital after her brush with death, Eva discovers that she now has the ability to foresee people’s deaths by touch. With this newly found skill, Eva and her old childhood friend Nate race to uncover the identity of the murderer before the rest of their friends are killed. She’s on an emotional roller-coaster of grief, adrenalin, romance, and fright that will only snowball to a jumbled mess of emotional confusion as the story goes on.

I have never read a murder mystery book, and it scared me in a way I never thought possible. It was exciting and fast paced throughout, and the anticipation was palpable. I think the author did an amazing job of portraying the emotions and thoughts of each character as the story was portrayed through many different character’s viewpoints. It highlighted the tragic problems affecting our society regarding murder and mental health problems. My greatest problem with the book was Eva's "gift". It was not explained and I don’t think that she reacted realistically when discovering her ability. An idea that had so much potential did not play out in the way I hoped, and it just seemed like an easy way for the author to continue the plot. The murderer’s reveal was not as dramatic as it could have been, nor were there any foreshadowing or hints to who it was, which seemed as if the author did not make a definite decision on the murderer until long after she began to write it. Because of the events of this book, I would rate it ages 14-15+ with a slight trigger warning.

19 November 2014

Review: The Young Elites

The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Publication date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Putnam

In a fantasy world where a disease has swept through the lands, killing many and marking others, those marked are known as malfettos and thought to be sinful. Some malfettos, such as Adelina Amouteru, developed certain abilities after being marked, and are known as Young Elites.

I've never been a particular fan of fantasy novels, if I'm being completely honest; books with completely different worlds never really "clicked" with me-- so you could say I was going in to THE YOUNG ELITES slightly apprehensive. For the most part, it was the same as it always had been-- the fantasy world of THE YOUNG ELITES did not particularly draw me in; it was rather the book's protagonist, Adelina, that kept me reading. Rarely have I ever kept reading a book solely for the main character-- in fact, this may be the first time I've done so. Unlike most main characters, Adelina doesn't seem to always make the right choice... And her intentions aren't always the purest ones, either. Contrary to the typical "Mary Sue" main character, who can do no wrong, Marie Lu has written Adelina with the capacity to make the wrong decisions-- and to feel the consequences and impact of them. It was refreshing to read about a more in-depth protagonist, and the fact that Lu can concoct such a detailed character highlights her exemplary writing skills. I'd recommend this book to anyone ages 12-17 who are bored and done with the typical Mary Sue heroine, and want a more twisted and intricate protagonist.

17 November 2014

Review: Famous Last Words

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender
Publication date: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Point

FAMOUS LAST WORDS will keep you on your toes the whole way through! It’s about a girl named Willa who has just moved to Los Angeles (bonus creepiness points when murders in the book take place in your actual city!). Her stepfather is a famous Hollywood film director, and he owns the most beautiful and grand house in the Hollywood Hills. The house once belonged to a famous movie star who apparently killed herself many years ago. Willa has to balance fitting in at her private school, with visions of drowning girls and unexplained noises in the night. Someone- or something- is trying desperately to get her attention. Willa begins to connect her, shall we say, “visitor,” with a serial killer stalking young actresses in LA, and must piece together everything that’s happening before it’s too late.

I found this to be a mysterious read in a fun setting that was totally believable and interesting. The characters are super fun too, mostly because they’re all so unique to one another. I also really appreciated that the author didn't save everything important until the last chapter! When everything started to get really crazy and intense, there was still about 50 pages left. I also liked the combination of a murder mystery with ghosts and the unknown. Keep in mind, this book is not for the squeamish! It’s a little creepy…not going to lie I had to read it in the day time. For 12 and up, or frankly anyone who thinks they can handle it!

14 November 2014

Review: Stranger

Stranger by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith
Publication date: November 13, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile

The book, STRANGER, by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith, is very exciting and suspenseful. The book switches between points of views, and although it could sometimes be confusing, it helped show the ideas that the characters were forming. The different views allowed more insight into the characters' lives.The plot is also a great idea. The story takes place in what is known as Los Angeles to us, but is now, generations later, Las Anclas. The main character in the story is a man named Ross Juarez, who has brought an ancient artifact into Las Anclas, and people are chasing him down to get it. This story has a great mix of suspense, action, and deceit. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes action-packed thrillers.

12 November 2014

Review: I'll Give You the Sun

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Publication date: September 16, 2014
Publisher: Dial

I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is the emotional journey of two twins who grow apart and find their way back together. Jude and her brother Noah are completely different, but still share an incredibly strong bond as children. Jude is an extroverted social butterfly and Noah is a reclusive artist, but they are inseparable as children. A few years later they have completely switched places and they rarely talk to each other. Neither feels whole without the support of a twin, but family tragedy, jealousy, secrets, and unfinished stories keep them from healing and forgiving. After struggling through the issues that keep them apart, the twins finally get the courage to accept both each other and themselves.

I found this book incredibly poetic and beautifully written. The plot alternates between present day and flashbacks to weave an intricate story with twists and turns I didn't see coming. The author does a good job of making sure the transitions between past and present tense are clear and not confusing. I also liked the character development throughout the book and the author did a very good job distinguishing between the different voices of the twins, who alternate in telling the story. I do think that the internal monologues of the characters could have been condensed because they made the book feel overly long and sometimes the plot dragged. There is some content regarding sexuality and I would recommend this book for 15+ readers.

10 November 2014

Review: Trust Me, I'm Lying

Trust Me, I'm Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer
Publication date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte

TRUST ME, I'M LYING by Mary Elizabeth Summer is the epitome of an adventurous mystery, packed with action, riddles, and a heated love interest. Julep Dupree may seem like your average sophomore attending the prestigious private school of St. Agatha, but this is far from the truth. This average school girl persona is only one of her many disguises. This of course is common for a con artist like herself and a skilled grifter. But when out of the blue, Julep comes home to a ransacked apartment and a missing father, her world is turned upside down. She must now use the con artists skills her father taught her to solve the clues left blatantly behind. Julep Dupree must now manage the chaos in her life, upgrading from harmless school scams, to finding her missing father before its too late.

TRUST ME, I'M LYING is a remarkably clever book that will have the reader playing detective from start to finish. With an unexpected plot and an array of hidden clues, Summer’s book is bound to intrigue. Manipulation, deception, and trickery are hefty tools used in the story to add to the great suspense. The novel manages to keep a fast paced rhythm throughout the story, never failing to be eventful or thrilling. This well sought out mystery is packed with riveting action and a hint of romance to appeal to a large range of crowds. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who can appreciate a good mystery and challenging riddle. Summer does an outstanding job giving her character, Julep, a both youthful soul, but wise and intelligent outlook on life. As the reader, you will find yourself growing attached to the main character and experience her journey first hand. I believe this book is appropriate for ages twelve and up.

07 November 2014

Review: The Walled City

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Publication date: November 4, 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown

THE WALLED CITY is a lawless, run down town filled with violence and vagrants, ruled by the feared Brotherhood. Jin stays invisible, always trying to stay safe and keep a secret. Dai is trying to attain a well-protected object before the clock runs out. Mei Yee was sold into a brothel in the Walled City two years ago and is losing hope on gaining her freedom. How will these three teens come together to race the clock and escape the lawless labyrinth?

THE WALLED CITY has become one of my favorite books. The plot line is extremely unpredictable and suspenseful, and I thought that the many conflicts introduced and solved throughout the book were very creative. It was fascinating to me to find out that the Walled City in the book was, in fact, a real place in China. I thought that the personalities of all the characters were extremely relatable and accurate, and that the story was well-developed. Although this book is very well written, I do feel as though the conflict in the end dragged on a little longer than necessary. Other than this, though, the book is a must read. I would definitely recommend this book for ages 13 and up, as there is some violence and a few sexual references.

05 November 2014

Review: Talon

Talon by Julie Kagawa 
Publication date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

TALON is a young adult fantasy novel set in a world of mythical creatures, bordered by a false sense of normalcy. The human society in which this story is based gives the book a relatable edge, but still provides the escapism of a wonderfully created alternate world filled with dragons. I love the story sculpted by Julie Kagawa. It brings the glory and impressive nature of dragons to a world that we can relate to and enjoy. The mystery and excitement of the characters and relationships in the world of TALON make it irresistible to put down. I love reading books such as Eragon, and other novels with fantastic worlds that really capture your attention, and this book really does that. It takes a teen dragon out into society for the first time to discover that the world is not exactly as she expected.

03 November 2014

Review: Snow Like Ashes

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Publication date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Sixteen years ago, The Kingdom of Winter was conquered, leaving its citizens as slaves to The Spring Kingdom. Now the Winterians’ only hope is the eight surviving refugees. Among them is Meira, an orphan-soldier, and her best friend and future king, Mather. Meira takes it upon herself to try and help her kingdom, but when a mission doesn't go as planned, Meira comes to realize that her destiny is not, and never has been, her own.

Sara Raasch kills it with her debut novel SNOW LIKE ASHES. It was by far the best fantasy book I read in long time. Raasch reminded me once again why I love reading so much. She captured me within the page of the book and not once did I feel bored. I had a lot of trouble putting this book down, and when I did, I found myself struggling to not reach for it within the next second. SNOW LIKE ASHES is a fresh, new book in the YA fantasy world full of original characters and ideas. I would recommend this book to any fantasy junkie looking for something new and different. Ages 13 and up.