Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: This Ordinary Life by Jennifer Walkup (and Giveaway)

From Goodreads: High-school radio host Jasmine Torres's life is full of family dysfunction, but if she can score the internship of her dreams with a New York City radio station, she knows she can turn things around. That is, until her brother Danny’s latest seizure forces her to miss the interview, and she’s back to the endless loop of missing school for his doctor appointments, picking up the pieces of her mother’s booze-soaked life, and stressing about Danny’s future. Then she meets Wes. He’s the perfect combination of smart, cute, and funny. He also happens to have epilepsy like her brother. Wes is living a normal life despite his medical issues, which gives Jasmine hope for Danny. But memories of her cheating ex-boyfriend keep her from going on a real date with Wes, no matter how many times he asks her. Jasmine can’t control everything. Not who wins the internship, not her mother’s addiction, not her brother’s health - not even where her heart will lead her. She wishes she could just have an ordinary life, but maybe what she already has is pretty extraordinary after all. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Jennifer Walkup’s This Ordinary Life was a book that I thought would be a heavier read because the main character’s brother has epilepsy and their mother is an alcoholic. Surprisingly though, This Ordinary Life is a pretty light read for the most part since its focus is more on the relationship between Jasmine and Wes than Jasmine’s life at home. 

While the characters could have been more fleshed out, I liked Jasmine due to her practical nature. For example, when she finds out that her boyfriend has been cheating on her, she dumps him right away and refuses to take him back. Then, when she finds Wes attractive, she takes the time to get to know him as a friend instead of jumping into another relationship. You know you’re not going to have unnecessary drama when you have a protagonist like Jasmine!

A book that was every easy to get through, This Ordinary Life will be released on October 1, 2015 by Luminis Books, Inc. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the design.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst

From Goodreads: It was only meant to be a brief detour. But then Lauren finds herself trapped in a town called Lost on the edge of a desert, filled with things abandoned, broken and thrown away. And when she tries to escape, impassable dust storms and something unexplainable lead her back to Lost again and again. The residents she meets there tell her she's going to have to figure out just what she's missing - and what she's running from - before she can leave. So now Lauren's on a new search for a purpose and a destiny. And maybe, just maybe, she'll be found ...

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: When I picked up Sarah Beth Durst’s The Lost, I thought it was a YA novel. So, I was totally unprepared for the protagonist to be in her late twenties. Once I realized this and adjusted my expectations, The Lost turned out to be a pretty solid read.

I absolutely loved the premise of The Lost! The idea of a town where people and things end up if they’re lost – literally or figuratively – was really original, and the way the town was depicted … you can just feel yourself despairing of the hope of ever leaving.

While I wasn’t as in love with the characters, I did like them; and found myself relating to Lauren quite a bit. When we’re kids, I think we think that life will work out perfectly for us, but as we get older, we realize that may not be the case. Lauren, for example, tried for years to make a living as an artist before deciding to find a job that pays the bills; I myself had to go back to graduate school to find a job in my respective field and know many people who either still can’t find jobs or have found jobs that aren’t personally fulfilling.

The romance was pretty good too. Although it got annoying how often Lauren mentioned how hot Peter was, there was no insta-love. As well, even though there was an opportunity for a possible love triangle to develop, I liked that Lauren stayed true to her feelings.

The Lost was released by Harlequin MIRA in May 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: I’m not really sure why the word “Lost” isn’t written on one line, but I don’t like it.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

From Goodreads: This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded. The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra - who are barely even talking to each other - are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit. But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although I’m not a big sci-fi fan, I put Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae on my wishlist after hearing about it because I love Kaufman’s Starbound series. Having now read Illuminae, I can say that Kaufman and Kristoff didn’t disappoint!

Since Illuminae doesn’t come out until October, I figured I’d provide five reasons to convince you to get a copy of your own:
  1. The writing style: Something that makes Illuminae stand out is that it’s told entirely through hacked documents such as interviews, emails, chat logs, and diary excerpts!
  2. The pacing: The way Illuminae is written makes it really easy to breeze through the book. It also helps that the novel is so action-packed and full of tension.
  3. The themes explored: I really liked some of the philosophical questions that Illuminae raises, my favourite of which is whether saving the lives of many is worth risking the lives of a few.
  4. The characters: Even though the writing style made it slightly hard to connect with the characters, I liked Kady and Ezra. My favourite character, however, would definitely have to be AIDAN.
  5. The plot twists: While I predicted some of the twists, others – like the one at the end – were a total surprise!
Illuminae will be released by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20, 2015.

Comments About the Cover: It's quite eye-catching. 

A big thanks to Christina at Christina Reads YA for sending me her copy of Illuminae!

Monday, September 07, 2015

Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

From Goodreads: My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla. But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black - black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

My Rating: 4 hearts for the first 1/2 of the book; 2 hearts for the second 1/2

Thoughts on the Novel: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon was a book that I had very mixed feelings about. So, I decided that a pros and cons list would probably be the best way to review Everything, Everything. 

  • I loved that Madeline maintains a positive attitude about growing up with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID).
  • I also appreciated that Madeline was an Afro-Asian protagonist. We definitely need more diverse characters in YA! 
  • The burgeoning friendship between Madeline and Olly was super cute, and put a smile on my face. 
  • I really enjoyed the additional elements in this book like the illustrations, Madeline’s Life is Short spoiler reviews, excerpts from Madeline’s diary, etc. 
  • Since Madeline has SCID, I thought we’d learn some information about this genetic disorder. Unfortunately, we don’t. 
  • I didn’t really buy the romance between Madeline and Olly because it transitioned so quickly from friendship to romance. It just made me feel like Madeline was trying to act like a normal teenager and experience as much as possible before it became impossible for her to do so. 
  • The plot twist at the end made me so mad! I would have rather had Madeline and Olly break up (because let’s be honest, that’s what would happen most likely in real life) than have the author do what she did – give them a happy ending by taking the easy way out and eliminating the problem entirely! 
Everything, Everything was released by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on September 1, 2015.

Comments About the Cover: I like the colourfulness of the cover. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Random House) for free via NetGalley.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Review: Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

From Goodreads: Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked ... until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back. Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant - along with several other unlikely candidates - to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City - and maybe herself most of all. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Since I wasn’t a fan of Julie Murphy’s debut novel, Side Effects May Vary, I was a little hesitant to give her newest book, Dumplin’, a try. I’m glad I did though because I enjoyed reading about Willowdean learning to embrace herself and her body. 

Willowdean felt like such a real character, and although I didn’t agree with all of her decisions, I understood why she made them. I think every girl can relate to this book, even if they aren’t a fat girl! 

If it wasn’t for the romance, Dumplin’ would have gotten a four hearts rating from me. The reason I didn’t like the romance was because after Willowdean chose to not pursue a relationship with Bo, she decided to date Mitch, despite not having any feelings for him. I hate when people lead on other people! I also liked Mitch better than Bo for Willowdean, but guess who Willowdean picks? 

A book with a positive body image message, Dumplin’ will be released on September 15, 2015 by Balzer + Bray. 

Comments About the Cover: I love the pose of the girl on the cover.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (HarperCollins) for free via Edelweiss.