Friday, May 30, 2014

Death Sworn by Leah Cypess

Disclaimer:  This book is a dystopian vaguely veiled in the pretty prom dress that is fantasy.  Now don't get me wrong, I really liked this book.  Clearly outlined in my Goodreads "read" list is a long history of loving both fantasy and dystopian, so this is no surprise.  I was, however, surprised that the description of this book did not meet my expectations (but again, not in a bad way).  This book was nice in that it slowly enveloped you in the story as well as the atmosphere of the fantasy setting.  I look forward to read future installments and hope that the world building expands out of the dark cave (literally, the majority of this novel takes place in a dark cave).  Ileni, our main heroine, is both likable and realistic with just enough sass and toughness.  The male lead is aloof in a way that you are drawn to him (but also disconnected enough that the romantic tension can continue into future books).

Final recommendations: lovers of fantasy, lovers of dystopian, strained romance, sassy girls, "magic"

Monday, May 26, 2014

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

Full disclosure, Speak by  Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my favorite books of all time.  I read it at a time when things like rape were not discussed in Young Adult literature...ever.  I was unique and fresh and raw and sad and it touched something in me that I think is inherent in all young girls, the pain, fear and self-loathing of just being young.  Courtney C. Stevens' Faking Normal reminds me that these types of contemporary stories written by women for the young adult crowd are still relevant and still very much needed.  I am glad that the market is still open and that girls still have the opportunity to read these stories (even though it does make me sad that they are still necessary).  I have read this story before, but that does not mean that my students have and I will be glad to share this with those who still need it.

Recommended for: fans of contemporary YA, you like Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak (and if you have not read this novel, go out and get it NOW), romance, girls who find their voices, if you are searching for your own

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Half Bad by Sally Green

I was pleasantly surprised by this wonderful book.  The protagonist, Nathan, was such an interesting, likable character.  Likable isn't even the right word but I really cannot come up with a better one.  He grows into you.  Like you have known him all you life, like he is a part of your family, like he is you.  You want him to succeed, you wonder what he's going to do at each turn, you ache when he realizes that the things he has always wanted in life may not be attainable.  The magical element to this book was subtle but well explained and believable.  The world building is a slow-burn but makes sense as you, the reader, basically learn at the same pace Nathan does.  I really enjoyed the characters, the magic and the feeling of this book and definitely would continue reading this series.

Final recommendation: if you like magic, endearing-moody boys, for fans of both the Harry Potter series and Mortal Instruments, stories where the "good guys" may not be all that good and the "bad guys" may just be a little better

Monday, May 19, 2014

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

This one probably averages out to 3.5 stars but I'll bump it to 4 because the 2nd half was too good.  Amy's transition from poor Kansas nobody to girl in Oz is a little awkward but maybe that just sets up the change that comes over her.  I found the author's writing style very readable so getting through the initial trip to Oz and escape from evil Dorothy's prison bearable.  This book really picks up once Amy is enlisted by a group of "wicked" witches known as the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.  It's your average plain girl turns bad-ass build-up (which I happen to really enjoy).  I realized though that by the end, my favorite part of this story is how the author uses Frank L. Baum's fantasy landscape and makes it her own.  The possibilities in Oz are endless and it has been a while since I have a read such an open-ended fantasy tale.  I feel like this book really came into it's own in the end and actually am really excited about future installments.  This book and the world it is built into have a lot potential to be an awesome fantasy series.

Final recommendations: if you love the original Wizard of Oz (I realize it's totally different but I feel it definitely stays true to the spirit of wonder), fantasy, sassy protagonists, good-girl gone bad/gone good/maybe gone bad again, mysterious happenings, magic (lots of magic)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Panic by Lauren Oliver

I think I would give this one a 2 1/2 if possible.  Not that it was a bad read, it just wasn't a book for me.  I love Oliver's writing style and have enjoyed her previous YA books but this one just didn't capture my enthusiasm.  I did not feel connected to the main characters Heather or Dodge.  I unfortunately felt that it was rather predictable and at points found that I was "skim-reading" through till I found the good bits.  "Panic" (the game played by recent high school graduates to prove their fearlessness and win a big pot of money) did not seem very realistic.  I don't know, I just felt like a lot of the action was forced and a lot of the background was lacking.  The resolution of the story was also very convenient, predictable and kind of anticlimactic for a novel set on the premise of taking huge risks.

In the end, recommended for: fast-paced action crowd, fans of Oliver, tiger-lovers?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

I realize I am a late arrival to the Jellicoe Road party, but there was an Amazon deal for $1.99 ebook and I am a sucker for a Printz Award winner.  This novel did not disappoint on both counts (worth way more than the price I paid and definitely prize-worthy).  The story blended dream sequences with a flash-back story and the story of a girl trying find herself in the modern day.  Now normally, this would have annoyed and confused me, even writing it out, I found myself confused.   While I do agree that the style does take some getting used to, I found myself trying to constantly piece things together in my head.  It was unique, novel and engaging.  The main protagonist, Taylor, is both likeable and sad at the same time (great combo for many younger readers).  And, if you can get past the initial confusion of where the story is coming from, it is a totally worthy read.  I loved it and will be buying a copy for my classroom!

My favorite quote: "Because being part of him isn't just anything. It's kind of everything."

Recommended if you love: contemporary fiction, angsty teen drama, real-life stories, a bit of magic (the real kind), great characters, a little mystery

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

If the kids in the breakfast club were all in trouble for being potential murderers this would be that book. I must say I liked the Part 2 much better than the first half of the book. This was due primary to my own person dislike of anxiety-causing, mistaken identity, no way out situations like the one Davy is thrust into after her diagnosis with HTS. I did enjoy the interactions she has with other "carriers." I did not like her winy self-loathing.
Part 2, once she makes it to the internment camp for "special" murderous-teens is much more in the vein of my preferred post-apocalyptic/dystopian story: girl gets beat up, girl grows stronger (mentally & physically, girl kicks-ass. And while I did like the male lead,Sean, he was kind of annoying in that he felt he constantly needed to save Davy. 
Lastly, I understand that this was the first in a series, however, I felt as if it ended abruptly. There was a small climactic point towards the end of the book but not enough for carry the remainder of the novel. I would, though, read another installment!

Recommended if you like: dystopian, action, romance, child-murders (that's a genre right? I'm totally gonna start a bookshelf on Goodreads 4 books about child-murders, there are surprisingly quite a few)