contemporary, young adult

Book Review: Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn

breathing underwater by alex flinn

Title: Breathing Underwater
Author: Alex Flinn
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 304 pages, Paperback
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
To his friends, popular and handsome sixteen-year-old Nick Andreas has led a charmed life. But the guys in Nick’s anger management class know differently. So does his ex-girlfriend Caitlin. Now it looks like the only person who doesn’t realize how far from perfect Nick’s life has become is Nick himself.

Review:
This book is scary. Not in a thriller, horror movie kind of way but in a real life, this could happen to me kind of way. I originally read this in some life course everyone at my high school was forced to take. The class was supposed to give you morals and lessons for life. Honestly I hated the class and thought it was a waste of time which means I totally dismissed this book. Oh, how I regret that.

This is a book I think everyone needs to read in high school and I’m sad it’s not apart of every high school curriculum. Despite dismissing the book, I still carried the lessons with me through school and learned to recognize when guys were being abusive to me.

This book is also scary because it puts you in the shoes of an abuser and makes you see his side of things. Makes you sympathize with Nick. I understand where he’s coming from even if he’s wrong and in the end I like Nick. He realizes he’s wrong and what he’s done.

I can’t really say more than this on the book. It was such an emotional read. This time around I read it in on 4 hour sitting, tearing through page after page. By all means, if you have abuse triggers don’t read this. But I think everyone should at least try. To learn the signs of an abusive relationship and be able to recognize if you or a friend is in one.

contemporary, romance, young adult

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Length: 448 pages, Special Edition Hardback
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life–and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Review:
This was a reread for me. I originally read it in January of 2014. I had some spare time while driving from Illinois to Minnesota to visit my Grandma on winter vacation. I read it basically in a day then and I did this same this time around as well. I just can’t ever seem to put it down once I start. When I did have to put it down, I was thinking about when I could start reading it again.

Cath isn’t my favorite character but I also love her for that. She kind of annoys me and I feel like she needs to grow up but that’s part of what makes this novel so good because she does grow up and you get to watch it happen.

The side characters are amazing even when annoying. Levi is sweet but a bit naive and kind dense. I love the relationship between Cath and her roommate and I love seeing how Cath’s relationship with Wren has shifted over the years.
I think the book also holds a lot of good lessons about growing up, love, fandom, and thoughts about shunning those who “don’t” read. Things that a lot of people should read about and try to understand more of.

I love this story as much as the first time I read it and I’m glad I got the chance to reread it.

contemporary, young adult

Book Review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnsono

Title: 13 Little Blue Envelopes
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 368, Paperback
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Inside little blue envelope 1 are $1,000 and instructions to buy a plane ticket.

In envelope 2 are directions to a specific London flat.

The note in envelope 3 tells Ginny: Find a starving artist.

Because of envelope 4, Ginny and a playwright/thief/ bloke–about–town called Keith go to Scotland together, with somewhat disastrous–though utterly romantic–results. But will she ever see him again?

Everything about Ginny will change this summer, and it’s all because of the 13 little blue envelopes.

Review:
I loved this book so much that I read it in one 3 hour sitting. It was amazing. It made me tear up and it was just what I needed to read I guess because it pulled me out of the slump I’ve been in for the past month. At least, I hope it has.

Ginny is a very endearing character. She’s trying to be bold and interesting despite how uncomfortable and not like her the tasks in the envelopes are. I also enjoyed watching her growth in the novel.

The vast array of side characters are interesting and surprisingly 3 dimensional for the very little amount of time each is given. Most characters don’t last more than a few chapters at best and yet I still felt like I could see different sides to most of them.

The romance was awkward and weird but I feel like it fit with the tone of the novel because the main character is like that and the adventure she goes on is like that.

Long story short, the novel was cute and easy to read. It made me laugh out loud and cry. It made me think for hours after I was finished with it. And it made me thirst for the sequel (that I thankfully already bought). Honestly, I don’t want much more from any novel that I read.

Fantasy, middle grade, young adult

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

hp philosopher's stone

Title: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Length: 224, paperback
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Rating: HOW DO YOU RATE HARRY POTTER – ahem – 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard!

Review:
Harry Potter is so iconic that I can’t begin to legitimately review it. Instead this will be insight I gain from rereading the book and a comparison to what I remember of it. This will be very spoilery because I highly doubt there are people who don’t know what happens in Harry Potter even if it’s only from the movies.

Everytime I reread Harry Potter I learn something new both about myself and the books. It’s been a good two years since my last reread. Last time I reread The Philosopher’s Stone I was highly annoyed with the writing. I didn’t think I’d be able to make it through the book. It read too young for me. This time, however, the book was perfect.

I don’t know what’s changed with me between now and then but I know something has because I thoroughly enjoyed my reread. I’m already half way through Chamber of Secrets as I’m writing this one and I’m so glad I’ve chosen to reread the series at this juncture in my life.

Harry Potter is the series that got me into reading. Actually, I hated reading when I was young. It felt tedious and I wondered why people enjoyed it so much. I was almost held back in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade because I refused to read.

One day during SSR (sustained silent reading) in fifth grade, I picked up Harry Potter because everyone seemed to be reading it and wanted to know what the fuss was all about. Suddenly I knew why everyone loved to read. I read books 1-5 in about 5 months which was miraclous to my teacher considering how she fought with me before this.

Enough with the reminiscing though, I really enjoyed this reread and I can’t wait to continue rereading the series.

science fiction, scifi

Book Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

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Featuring Channie (my cat) staring into the distance

Title: Ender’s Game
Author: Orson Scott Card
Publisher: Tor Teen
Length: 384, Paperback
Genre: Science fiction
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Once again, Earth is under attack. An alien species is poised for a final assault. The survival of humanity depends on a military genius who can defeat the aliens. But who?
Ender Wiggin. Brilliant. Ruthless. Cunning. A tactical and strategic master. And a child.
Recruited for military training by the world government, Ender’s childhood ends the moment he enters his new home: Battle School. Among the elite recruits Ender proves himself to be a genius among geniuses. He excels in simulated war games. But is the pressure and loneliness taking its toll on Ender? Simulations are one thing. How will Ender perform in real combat conditions? After all, Battle School is just a game. Isn’t it?

Review:
I think my review for this might be a little biased. I read the original short story in my science fiction and fantasy literature course and I wanted to see the difference between that and the novel. I think this review will be biased simply because I can’t help but compare the novel to the short story and the novel is 1000x better.

Ender is a deeply complicated little boy and then teen in this and I love that the novel allows you to see so much more of Ender. The short story gives as little as possible because it needs to meet a word requirement. The fact that the overall story and characters are fleshed out more is amazing and perfect.

The novel has so much feeling in it even if I don’t compare it to the short story. I found myself crying for Ender and even some of the other characters. I was invested and I honestly couldn’t put the book down once I started. I hated having to stop reading it because I needed more.

I also loved being able to see how much Card’s writing had improved from the short story. Card was able to convey what he wanted more clearly but beautifully. I love his simplistic way of writing. It makes this novel and the genre so much more accessible than other of it’s type.

Overall, I can’t really find anything bad to say about the book. I enjoyed it for what it was and I can’t wait to continue the series.

dystopian, young adult

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Length: 576, Paperback
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
One choice can transform you. Beatrice Prior’s society is divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she’s determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous.

Review:
This is the kind of book that reminds me why I loved YA dystopian so much in high school. I enjoyed every second of reading it which is why I finished it in two days. It was paced perfectly, the romance was kind of insta love but not cheesy and it took second place to the plot, and Tris is as badass as I could want in a female heroine while still remaining original.

I truly loved how fast paced this plot was. I needed a book like this to pull me from the reading slump I was sinking into for sure. It kept me interested and I didn’t want to put it down. There were no slow points (for me) and it reminded me why dystopian is such a great genre.

The characters were also felt very real. Tris was flawed and it showed on almost every page and I love that. She was badass but she could be hot blooded and she had a hard time not standing up for herself and doing what she wanted even if that could put her in danger. I enjoyed every second of her narration.

Four did fall a little flat at times but I enjoyed that he wasn’t a big focus for the book even if there was instalove there. It worked for me. I can enjoy instalove if it’s not the main focus of the book and here the plot was definitely more important than the romance.

The side characters all felt very fleshed out as well. I understood their reasons for acting out of character and they responded and acted like real people. Which is to say, they didn’t have 4 characteristics in total. They seemed completely fleshed out.

If it’s not obvious by the amazing rating, I really enjoyed this book. I understand why it was hyped and I’m glad I went into with my expectations a little lower because the hype has fled from it. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as much but I thoroughly loved this!

memoir

Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Title: Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me? (And Other Concerns)
Author: Mindy Kaling
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Length: 222 pages, Hardcover
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

Review:
I love Mindy Kaling. I’ve wanted to be her best friend since I watched the first episode of Mindy. This book only supports my need to be her best friend.

Kaling is witty and hilarious but also vulnerable in this short book of her rise to writing for The Office. Some parts had me actually laughing out loud. I also really wished I had someone next to me to share some of the funnier bits with.

One aspect I absolutely loved about the book, is that Kaling knows mostly young girls will be reading it. She didn’t try imparting advice though and actually advised against any advice she might give. She also talking about being a normal sized to chubby sized woman in the entertainment industry and how happy she is to just be herself.

I don’t usually read memoirs and I’m glad I chose Mindy Kaling’s for my PopSugar 2015 Reading Challenge. Not only was it funny, but inspiring. She has a similar dream to mine as well. I hope to write novels and she wanted to write for TV. She achieved her dream and it gives me hope to achieve mine!

Fantasy, historical fiction, romance

Series Review: The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

Title(s): A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, The Book of Life
Author: Deborah Harkness
Publisher: Penguin books
Length: 592, 592, 576 all Kindle Edition
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Historical fiction
Rating: 5, 4.5, 4 folded pages respectively

Book 1 (A Discovery of Witches) Blurb:
Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Review:
Originally I read books 1 and 2 of this about 4 or 5 years ago and I loved the first one but didn’t really like the second. In my defense I was still young, barely out of high school, and didn’t really like how sophisticated the novels felt. Now that probably what I love most about the series.

I absolutely loved marathoning this series. I was going to try and put space between each novel but after I reread the first one there was no way I was going to let myself hang on that cliff. Instead I read all three books in about a week which is no small feat let me assure you.

Deborah creates a very lively world with vampires, witches, and daemons and it’s entirely unique. I loved how she revealed the world to us through Diana who wasn’t really familiar with it even if she grew up in it.

The romance aspect of the book was a little eh if I’m to be honest. Matthew could be overbearing and over the top with cheesy things but for the most part I enjoyed it. And I definitely enjoyed watching them decide to be together. However, it was Diana and her character development that made me stay (along with the incredible world)

I definitely think the first book was the best of the three and the third book got really slow at some points. Still I loved the series and hope Deborah Harkness has something new in the works for us.

Fantasy, historical fiction, romance

Book Review: The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Title: The Winter Sea
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Length: 544, Kindle Book
Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
History has all but forgotten…
In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.
Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.
But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her…

Review:
This was a reread for me and what a wonderful reread this was. I think I originally read this two years ago or so to take my mind off of finals and because of that I couldn’t really enjoy it to the fullest. I definitely loved it more than when I first read it.

Carrie is such an endearing character. I can’t tell if it’s because I also (attempt) to write novels or her love of history or how swept up she becomes in Cruden Bay but either way I loved her almost instantly. She’s consistent and thoughtful and questions what’s happening to her while still being able to deal with it.

I loved how Kearsley told the story of Slains as if Carrie was really writing it. Even leaving out scenes that Carrie saw but wouldn’t work well in a novel. It was enchanting and although I did feel sometimes feel impatient with both stories (wanting to be reading Carrie’s POV rather than the novel or vice versa) it wasn’t often enough that it made reading tedious.

I also liked how Carrie’s life somewhat reflected Sophia’s although not exactly and only from time to time. I think it made a bigger connection between Carrie and Sophia. This is actually the novel that made me want to read more historical fiction and I wish I had more time with Carrie and her unique ability. Kearsley kind of set up the ending to allow for another novel but I think her second novel in that world is built on a different character. Either way I absolutely loved it and I can’t wait to read more from Kearsley.

graphic novel, romance

Graphic Novel Review: The Cute Girl Network

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Title: The Cute Girl Network
Author(s): MK Reed and Greg Means
Illustrator: Joe Flood
Publisher: First Second
Length: 192, Paperback
Genre: Graphic Novel, Romance
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Jane’s new in town. When she wipes out on her skateboard right in front of Jack’s food cart, she finds herself agreeing to go on a date with him. Jane’s psyched that her love life is taking a turn for the friskier, but it turns out that Jack has a spotty romantic history, to put it mildly. Cue the Cute Girl Network — a phone tree information-pooling group of local single women. Poor Jane is about to learn every detail of Jack’s past misadventures… whether she wants to or not. Will love prevail?
In this graphic novel from Greg Means, Americus author MK Reed, and Joe Flood, the illustrator of Orcs, comes a fast, witty, and sweet romantic comedy that is actually funny, and actually romantic.
Review:
This graphic novel was so cute! I loved it and I’m glad I happened to see Cory Doctorow mention it on his Twitter.

I loved Jane. She’s down to Earth and will listen to what others say but also wants to form her own opinions and her relationship with Jack was adorable. They were perfect for each other. This is the first time a graphic novel had me grinning like an idiot and I definitely don’t regret it.

I admit it was a little hard to get into at first but I think that’s just because there is a lot more dialogue than I’m used to in a graphic novel and by about 20 pages in I had no problem. I just needed to adjust.

The other thing I loved was that this entire graphic novel was quite feministic but not in the way that I thought it would be. It completely surprised me and I loved the laid back way the authors handled it. Like it’s something that just should be and there’s no question about it.

This is the first time a graphic novel as received 5 folded pages from me and it was definitely well deserved.