Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review: The S Word

The S Word
Author: Chelsea Pitcher
Published: May 4, 2013
Paperback, 304 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

First it was SLUT scribbled all over Lizzie Hart’s locker.

But one week after Lizzie kills herself, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it—in Lizzie's looping scrawl.

Lizzie’s reputation is destroyed when she's caught in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend on prom night. With the whole school turned against her, and Angie not speaking to her, Lizzie takes her own life. But someone isn’t letting her go quietly. As graffiti and photocopies of Lizzie’s diary plaster the school, Angie begins a relentless investigation into who, exactly, made Lizzie feel she didn’t deserve to keep living. And while she claims she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, Angie's own anguish over abandoning her best friend will drive her deep into the dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull herself back out.

It's common to find young adult novels involving suicide and ostracized girls. I've read quite a few books about a girl who finds her boyfriend cheating on her or a girl who gets labelled as a slut, but this book was nothing like those others. It involved many of the same ideas, but it stood out of the pact. Angie discovers her best friend, Lizzie, in bed with her boyfriend on prom night. She doesn't wait around for an explanation and by monday, Lizzie is labelled a slut. Angie ignores her, agreeing with everyone else, until Lizzie commit suicide and suddenly Angie doesn't feel okay about anything she did. When Suicide Slut shows up on Lizzie's locker in her own handwriting, Angie takes it among herself find out who won't let Lizzie rest in peace. Throughout her investigations, she finds out more about herself than anything else and realizes she wasn't the best friend she could have been those last weeks of Lizzie's life. 

This book started with a bang. I knew the writing would show up, but when it did, a chill ran down my spine. I had no idea how it would play out - did Lizzie somehow come back from the dead? Never died? Was someone just screwing with everyone? Wanting to know the answer just as much as Angie did, I had to keep reading, and reading, until I was done. I plowed through this book and as more clues and hints were given, more suspects coming to light, I found myself constantly thinking about who could be behind all this. But the writing on the locker wasn't even the scariest part of this story. Angie discovers things about high school that she was oblivious to. As she reads Lizzie's diary, she finds out how Lizzie really felt about high school. As one of the most popular girls in school, Angie didn't know how hard it was for others to survive the hell that is high school. She becomes friends with Jesse, one of Lizzie's old friends, and finds out first hand how hard it is to be an individual where all everyone wants is to be accepted. The brutality of high school is shown without filters, and Pitcher nails it on the head.

Not only did this book show the cruelty of teens, but it also had a dash of mystery and teen sleuthing. Angie was a nice mix of Veronica Mars and the guilty best friend, and Lizzie was an updated version of Hester Prynne, a nice big little S by her name. The twists and turns that come to light as this story progressed kept me on my toes and eager for more. Everything came together in a hauntingly beautiful, realistic ending with a nice dash of revenge involved for good measure. Not only did this book touch on bullying, slut shaming, and suicide, but it also dove into the heart wrenching reality of child abuse, sexuality, gender roles, and rape. 

Angie's character developed like any real girl would after something brutal and unforgivable happens in her life. Much like the main character in Speechless, she discovers the consequences of her actions as she tries to redeem herself throughout the book. Everything sequence of events leads to the unforgettable ending and there is not better way for this book to have played out. Pitcher took risks and succeeded, Angie's voice is bitter with anger and regret and even Lizzie's voice is haunting from beyond the grave, pleading and loving and wishing for only a better life. A heartbreaking, realistic and fragile read, Pitcher hits the bullseye of this genre.

“It scares me to see someone so together come unhinged. It makes me think none of us are in control.” 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Review: Frostbite

Author: Richelle Mead
Published: April 10, 2008
Paperback, 327 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Rose loves Dimitri, Dimitri might love Tasha, and Mason would die to be with Rose... 

It’s winter break at St. Vladimir’s, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy’s crawling with Guardians—including Rose’s hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if hand-to-hand combat with her mom wasn’t bad enough, Rose’s tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason’s got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa’s head while she’s making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy’s not taking any risks... This year, St. Vlad’s annual holiday ski trip is mandatory. 

But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price...

This series is quickly becoming one of my favourites and I'm only two books in. Mead's world of vampires is believable and refreshingly different than what I've seen in YA lately. The first novel, Vampire Academy, began the thrilling tale of Rose Hathaway and her best friend Lissa Dragomir, a vampire elite whom she'd do anything for. Rose's job in life is to protect Lissa from the Strigoi, an immortal race of vampires out to destroy the Moroi. When an attack on one of the royal families causes alarm, the academy takes to a sheltered ski resort in hopes of keeping everyone safe. The students spend their days making out, and falling in love. Rose desperately tries to get over Dimitri while hanging out with Mason and deciding whether he's worthy of her love. But some students aren't satisfied with just hiding in the shadows, some want to go out and fight the Strigoi themselves, and unfortunately for Rose, those students also happen to be her friends. 

The story weaves itself so tightly it's hard to put it down even at chapter breaks. I found myself halfway through it in one day and wishing I didn't have to sleep so I could keep going. The tension between Rose and Dimitri only heightens in this book, making me want to tear the pages until they finally kiss. There's no doubt those two are meant for each other, and I love that it's going to take them until the end of the series to finally get together (just a prediction). The friendship between Rose and Lissa is lovely to watch. The way that they act is very realistic. They love each other but still keep secrets and don't tell each other everything, as most of us do. It's the kind of friendship I know will transcend every awful thing that happens to them, and I know there will be more terrible things if these first two books are anything like the rest of the series. 

Mead just has a way with words. There is nothing special about her writing. The prose does not roll off the page and stay with you long after you've finished the page, but I like that about it. I don't need fancy words and metaphors galore, in fact I prefer the simple writing of hers. She tells the story as Rose, a straight forward girl who doesn't have time to dream about the flowers or gaze into the stars as she thinks about Dimitri. But Rose is more memorable a character than most I've read. She is loyal, loving, and determined to protect those she loves. She hasn't had an easy life, her mother wasn't around and she never knew her father. It may be impossible for her to find love and start a family as her role as a Guardian means protecting Lissa above all else. But you don't feel sorry for her, in fact you fear her. She is strong and brave and snarky. My kind of girl. Every character i this book stands out on their own, begging for attention from the reader. Dimitri is tortured and dreamy but it's never annoying. Lissa is in more pain than Rose, but does not want to burden her friend even though she fears for her life. And even those characters you want to hate, like Rose's mom and Adrian Ivashkov are likeable in the way that their characters are well rounded and real. Everyone has good and bad in them, and that's what creates a remarkable character.

Each book gives more information about these vampires and what it means to be them and fear them. Rose has a lot to learn and Lissa still has to figure out her powers. The need to find out how this series ends makes me crave the next chapter, Shadow Kiss, which I'll no doubt start shortly.

“There's nothing worse than waiting and not knowing what'll happen to you. Your own imagination can be crueler than any captor.” 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Dorothy Must Die

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine, where we talk about our most anticipated books.

This week's pick: Dorothy Must Die
Author: Danielle Paige
Hardcover, 432 pages
Expected Publication Date: April 1, 2014

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened?
Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.
I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I've been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman's heart.
Steal the Scarecrow's brain.
Take the Lion's courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!

I'm a big fan of retellings and this one is certainly going to be a lot different than The Wizard of Oz. It looks like it will be a lot of fun!

What books are you waiting for?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: September 10, 2013
Hardcover, 433 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

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?

There are not enough words in the english language to explain how much I adored this book. Everything from the characters to the plot were unique and real. Cath is a lot like most of the people I know - scared about change and takes solace in reading and writing and escaping the real world. She's a fangirl. She loves Simon Snow and writes fan fiction after fan fiction about Simon and his nemesis, Baz, where she can create a world of her own within a world already made for her. Cath and her twin sister, Wren, used to write the fics together, but then college starts and everything changes. Wren decides she wants to branch out and not be roommates with Cath as promised. So she ends up on her own, not sure if she can handle everything that goes along with it. She isn't sure if her roommate, Reagan, even likes her, and Reagan's boyfriend, Levi, is annoying and always seems to be around. Classes start taking their tole and the only thing that keeps Cath going is her fan fiction and the anticipation of the final book in the Simon Snow series.

This is just a book following the first year of college for a girl who doesn't make friends easily. There is nothing special about Cath. She is not drop dead gorgeous, nor does she wear nice clothes and go out to parties. But even though this is an ordinary tale, it left me feeling like I'd just entered a magical world and didn't want to come back to reality. Rowell has a way with words and just as in Eleanor & Park, those words took normal lives and made them unforgettable. I related to Cath in more ways than one. The feelings Cath goes through are ones I've been feeling all my life. School is hard, especially when you need to go through it on your own, and sometimes making friends isn't as easy as they say it is. It's easy to hide behind a computer and a screen name and write about a world that you know people will love. Fan fiction is Cath's escape, and we all have one of those. 

The secondary characters are just as strong and likeable as Cath is. Wren goes through the change of being in college the opposite way of Cath, drinking and partying, which is a completely normal way to try and find your own identity. Cath makes friends with a guy in her writing class, Nick, who helps her venture out of her writing habits as they teach each other new skills. Then there's Levi. Levi is the perfect counterpart for Cath. He is friendly with everyone he meets and forces Cath to leave the shell she's put around herself. He enjoys her writing and lets her read to him. Their relationship starts out like most real relationships would - as friends. But there's no looking past the chemistry between these two and the moment they finally get together is a breath of fresh air. 

This book is not all fun and games though, it's realistic in many ways. Cath has a lot of mother issues and her father isn't very stable, especially with the girls at college. It's heartbreaking one page, then fills your heart right back up on the next. It captures the essence of college, of finding out who you really are, and how change can be a good thing. This will be the book of a generation, a book for girls who hide behind books until their brave enough to enter the real world. And, hey, it's not so bad most of the time, but I'll never leave my books behind. 

“She didn't have words for what Levi was. He was a cave painting. He was The Red Ballon. She lifted her heels and pulled him forward until his face was so close, she could look at only one of his eyes at a time. "You're magic," she said.” 

“Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.” 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine, where we spotlight a book we just can't wait to get our hands on!

My pick this week is:

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3)
By Marissa Meyer
Hardcover, 560 pages
Expected Publishing date: February 4, 2014

(summary from Goodreads)

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard.

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. 

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. 

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

The Lunar Chronicles have been blowing me away. Cinder took everything I knew about Cinderella and threw them away and Scarlet turned Red Riding Hood into a fearless girl hellbent on getting her grandmother back. So I know Cress will show Rapunzel in a new light and continue this epic journey the same way the others have. This series is not to be missed!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Review: Eleanor & Park *Book 50!*

Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: February 26, 2013
Hardcover, 328 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

The characters in this book by no means have perfect lives. They are labelled as misfits, but I think they are just ordinary. A lot of us felt like misfits in school, maybe because we were different and didn't fit into the stereotypical cool crowd. I certainly felt like a misfit in high school. Eleanor is a bigger girl with bright red curly hair and a wild fashion sense to match. It's 1986 and she's just moved back in with her mom and siblings after living with a foster family for a year. Starting a new school is hard enough, but it's worse when you have to take a bus and can't find a place to sit. Enter Park, a half white, half Korean boy who has been accepted in school even though he feels he doesn't fit in. He lets Eleanor sit beside him, against his better judgement, putting a start to what will soon be a love story about star-crossed lovers with a love of all things nerdy.

It starts out slow, this relationship between two unlikely kids. Eleanor spends her days trying to get through school and wishing she didn't have to go home to her abusive step father. Park tries to avoid his father who is pressuring him to drive and be someone he's not. But on the bus, he reads his comics and Eleanor reads over his shoulder. Their relationship begins like this, no words, just comics. Soon Park is giving Eleanor comics and more and more words are being said. Every interaction between them gave me the shivers and I couldn't wait for something more to happen. It's simple how they fall in love, realistic and how many teenagers in real life probably would. And when things do start to happen, it's wonderful and made me melt. These two are just perfect, on their own and for each other. The story is told by both Eleanor and Park, sometimes whole chapters, sometimes just paragraphs. I loved when Rowell would have the point of view switch during a scene, allowing us readers to hear both lovers's thoughts as they trailed through the unknown together. 

The love in this book flies off the pages. When Eleanor and Park are alone together, everything is perfect in the world. Nothing can stop these two from giving each other their all. There is so much love that it's hard to know that they must leave each other and go back to places they don't want to be. And where the love makes my heart flutter, the abuse and bad family life makes me shutter. It's all too real when the love Eleanor feels for Park is the only thing keeping her there. There were wonderful moments in this book, but then there were terrible moments, moments I wish I didn't have to read because I wish moments like this didn't happen in real life. But they do and this made the book even more real. Every word gave me a new emotion. Every page left me wanting more. Every thought from Eleanor made me fall for Park and every way that Park described Eleanor made me smile. These two are unique, and maybe they are misfits who listen to The Smiths and make each other mix tapes and hold hands like it's the most important thing to do in the world, but that's what keeps them in my mind long after I've read the book. Rowell is a writer. She knows how to make you feel and fall and wish you were on that bus, watching these two teenagers find the love we all hope to find in our lives. 

He set his forehead against hers. She didn’t know what to do with her eyes or her hands. “Nothing before you counts,” he said. “And I can’t even imagine an after.”

“You can be Han Solo,” he said, kissing her throat. “And I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best/Worst Series Endings

(Sorry I haven't been on in awhile, I just did a very big move!)

Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is a weekly feature where we get to talk about our ten favourite things.

This week's topic is: Top Ten Best/Worst Series Endings

I anticipate the ending of the series the moment I finish the first book. In a perfect world, these endings would do everything justice and wrap up the series without any loose ends. Some series did this perfectly, but others fell flat.

The Best

1. With All My Soul by Rachel Vincent: I've said it before and I'll say it again, this series was perfect. So much happened throughout the novels that who knows how it may have ended. But Vincent ended it just the way I wanted

2. Shine by Jeri Smith-Ready: This series was perfect from the start and it just got better near the end. Aura and Zach are perfection.

3. The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan: I actually liked the last two books more than the first in this series. I related to the twins more so than Mary and I liked that they took place in modern times. Series that are told from different characters always win in my books, I love seeing new tales and falling in love with new people.

4. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien: I think we'll all agree that there was a lot of talk of trees in The Fellowship of the Ring, and the series just got better as the books went on. The final book was enthralling and epic and turned me into a total Ringer.

5. Black Heart by Holly Black: This whole series blew me away. It was completely different than anything I've read and there was no telling how everything would end. 

The Worst

1. Endlessly by Kiersten White: I started out loving this series, but it took me awhile to read the final book. Maybe it's because I didn't read it right away, or because it just wasn't what I expected it to be, but it just wasn't the Effie I loved in the first one.

2. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: Now, don't get me wrong, The Hunger Games is one of my favourite series, but the first two books were just so much stronger than the final one. It did resolve all the issues and the epilogue made me cry, but it didn't live up to my expectations. 

3. Requiem by Lauren Oliver: Another book that was good in its own right, but just didn't live up to what I thought it would be. The first book was so strong that it would have been hard to keep up with that, but Oliver is such a strong writer that I loved reading it just the same.

4. Sever by Lauren DeStefano: After reading Fever,  I wasn't sure how this series would go. It certainly didn't go in the direction I thought it would, and though this wasn't the best way to end what could have been a great series, DeStefano is still a great author.

5. Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella: The first three books in this series were amazing. Becky is funny and relatable and I couldn't wait to see what kind of antics she would get into. But Kinsella kept writing when she should have stopped and I wish it were still just those three books. It's almost like she's just writing them to appaise us, almost like fan fiction, when the series could have ben strong enough four books ago. 

Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

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