Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

From Goodreads: Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all she’s gained. When a new danger appears, Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds, putting not only herself at risk, but every Elite. In order to preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest - though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: After loving The Rose Society, I must say that Marie Lu’s The Midnight Star wasn’t as strong a conclusion as I hoped for for The Young Elites series.

Although I breezed through reading The Midnight Star, I felt quite detached from the characters while reading it. Nowhere was this more obvious than when certain characters died. I feel that a huge reason why I couldn’t make myself care about these deaths was because the characters didn’t feel like they were used to their full potential. For example, it felt like Lu didn’t know what to do with Enzo anymore so she simply killed him off again. Moreover, some characters still weren’t fleshed out enough. A case in point would be Magiano: we learn a little about him, but not enough to explain why he’s so drawn to Adelina and willing to do anything for her. Finally, the religious element was unexpected, and I remain unsure how I feel about it overall.

The Midnight Star was released in October 2016 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the cover, but I think The Young Elites’ and The Rose Society’s covers are better.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Mini Reviews: Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin and Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

From Goodreads: Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled - by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends - sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo - Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny. Things start out great - her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness ... it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Meredith Zeitlin’s Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters was the perfect novel to lighten my mood when I was really stressed and get me out of my reading slump. A quick read filled with hilarious moments, this book features a narrator that’s incredibly easy to connect with as we’ve all been through what Kelsey has – trying to figure out our identity and how to leave a mark, having friendships change, falling in love, etc. I definitely encourage you to give Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters a try, and dare you to read it without giggling!

Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters was released in March 2012 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

From Goodreads: Twelve-year-old Emily is on the move again. Her family is relocating to San Francisco, home of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger, a game where books are hidden all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles. But Emily soon learns that Griswold has been attacked and is in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold and leads to a valuable prize. But there are others on the hunt for this book, and Emily and James must race to solve the puzzles Griswold left behind before Griswold's attackers make them their next target.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman was a book that I decided to read because I loved its premise – hunting for and getting to keep books by having to solve puzzles! However, unlike some MG books which have crossover appeal, it was obvious that the target audience for this book were Middle Graders for two reasons: 1) Emily’s friend James names his cowlick and almost treats it like an imaginary friend, which was annoying to read about as an older reader, and 2) the villain of the story was quite predictable and you knew that the characters were never in any danger from him. 

Book Scavenger was released in June 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Mini Reviews: Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz and Speed of Life by J.M. Kelly

From Back Cover: To Molly Nathans, perfect is: the number four, the tip of a newly sharpened number two pencil, a crisp, white pad of paper, her neatly aligned glass animal figurines. What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving the family to take a faraway job with the promise to return in one year. Molly knows that promises are often broken, so she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: Win the Lakeville Middle School Slam Poetry Contest. The winner is honored at a fancy banquet with table cloths. Molly’s sure her mother would never miss that. Right? But as time goes on, writing and reciting slam poetry become harder. Actually, everything becomes harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly’s world from spinning out of control.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Elly Swartz’s Finding Perfect is another book that one can add to their list of books focusing on mental health. Geared for middle graders, this book features a likeable protagonist in Molly, whose need for control slowly escalates as she places greater internal pressure on herself to succeed and deals with a complicated home life. The depiction of OCD is realistic, and Swartz does a great job capturing Molly’s confusion and anxiety over her symptoms.

Finding Perfect was released in October 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.

From Inside Jacket: Twins Crystal and Amber have a plan: Be the first in their family to graduate from high school, get full-time jobs, and move out of the hovel they've called home for eighteen years. When one of them gets pregnant junior year, they promise to raise the baby together. It’s not easy, but between Amber's job washing dishes and Crystal working at a gas station, they’re just scraping by. Car-buff Crystal’s grades catch the attention of the new guidance counselor, who tells her about a college that offers a degree in automotive restoration. When she secretly applies - and gets in - new opportunities threaten their once-certain plans, and Crystal must make a choice: follow her dreams or stay behind and honor the promise she made to her sister. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: If you're not a fan of contemporary novels due to their slower pacing, Speed of Life by J.M. Kelly probably isn't for you since it has a plot where very little happens. There are also instances of slut shaming in Speed of Life, and it features a narrator that comes across as selfish. However, it also has a plot twist that I didn’t see coming, and shows a strong relationship between twin sisters that evolves over the course of a year. In addition, I liked that Crystal chooses to pursue a non-traditional career.

Speed of Life was released by HMH Books for Young Readers in October 2016. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.