The slant on YA books

Tag Archives: 5 stars

Hello, everyone!

I realize it has been quite some time since I updated the dear ole blog. Truth is, I was super busy and experiencing a major creative slump. But, I hope to put all of that behind me. I can’t say that I will be back to blogging with the same frequency as I used to, but I don’t plan on any long hiatuses in the near future.

With all of that said, I recently read a book that inspired me to write a review, which was huge. It’s smart and charming and perfect. My review won’t do it justice, but I will still give it a try. 

On the Fence by Kasie West

on the fence

Pages: 296

Publisher: HarperTeen

Date Published: July 1, 2014

Synopsis from Goodreads: 

For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

On the Fence has everything I love about Kasie West’s books: loveable characters, a swoon-worthy romance, and a plot to make you feel all the feels.

Charlie and her brothers are hands-down my favorite fictitious family. The fact that family is such a huge part of this book makes me enjoy it even more. I love that family is a huge part of what makes up Charlie. It’s refreshing , and it provides some fun sibling pranks. Charlie felt very real, although she struggles with her identity. This book is more a coming-of-age novel than anything else, even above the romance.

I would like to applaud West on how she wrote Charlie. Yes, Charlie is a tomboy, but it is also really evident how she reacts to situations just like any other teenage girl out there. Plus, the fact that she is a tomboy isn’t rubbed in the reader’s face as a point to make Charlie seem oh, so super special; it’s just a part of who she is. It felt very natural and true. After reading On the Fence I picked up another book featuring a tomboy, and it just didn’t compare. While other contemporaries featuring tomboys come across as contrived, On the Fence knocks them all out of the park with it’s authenticity.

There is a slight element of mystery, but I do feel many readers will figure it out pretty quickly. However, it didn’t make me frustrated so much as more sympathetic to Charlie.

I really only wish this book was longer. I would have loved to see the book continue for another twenty pages (or two hundred). In the midst of many, many contemporaries, On the Fence remains new and heartwarming.

P.S. Can I have my own Braden?


The F-It List by Julie Halpern

Pages: 256 TheFItList

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends 

Source: ARC provided from publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Synopsis from Goodreads: 

With her signature heart and humor, Julie Halpern explores a strained friendship strengthened by one girl’s battle with cancer.

Alex’s father recently died in a car accident. And on the night of his funeral, her best friend Becca slept with Alex’s boyfriend. So things aren’t great. Alex steps away from her friendship with Becca and focuses on her family.

But when Alex finally decides to forgive Becca, she finds out something that will change her world again–Becca has cancer.

So what do you do when your best friend has cancer? You help her shave her head. And then you take her bucket list and try to fulfill it on her behalf. Because if that’s all you can do to help your ailing friend–you do it.

Review: 

The F-It List is a book that makes me reconsider why I don’t read contemporary more often.  I can see that some people may be turned off because of the title or the cancer, but I highly recommend you give this one a try.

The core relationship is between two best friends, Becca and Alex, who are absolutely hysterical together. Every chapter made me laugh, which I didn’t expect from a book with cancer in the plot. In my opinion, The F-It List has one of the best friendships I’ve ever read.

Becca and Alex would do anything for each other, which I love reading about in friendships. This is put to the test when they try and check off the items of Becca’s version of a bucket list. I really don’t want to spoil any of the fun from discovering the items on the list, but they are all funny, immature, insightful, or a crazy combination of them all.

The relationship between Alex and Becca is far from being the only in the story. Alex meets Leo, who helps her deal with all of the crazy events of her life. Their romance was a perfect addition to the novel and a main reason I read this book as fast as I did. Both girls also have difficult relationships with their moms that are portrayed very realistically and complexly.

Some moments I was crying from laughter and others just crying. At times I forgot this was a tale of tragedies, grief, and recovery, but then it would hit me all at once. I felt ALL THE FEELS with this books. The effects of cancer aren’t glorified or romanticized, which made some scenes of the novel even more difficult to read, but were beneficial to the telling of the story.

Overall, I highly recommend getting The F-It List as soon as possible. It’s hilarious and sad and amazing.


All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry

allthetruthPages: 274

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Summary from Goodreads: 

Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever. This startlingly original novel will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last. 

Review: All the Truth That’s In Me is most certainly one of my favorite of 2013. I was anticipating its release, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.

Distinctive, melodic, and gorgeous are the best words I can think to describe All the Truth That’s In Me. The book is seemingly simplistic with its word choice, but is full of beauty.

Told in second person, AtTTIM has a unique prose. The second person narration didn’t bother me at all, and it took me no time at all to adjust to the style and it makes me wish that more authors wrote in this style.

The setting is vague but descriptive. This book is a historical novel, but I couldn’t tell you when it takes place. The small town greatly shapes the characters’ actions and was an element I most loved in the novel.

I admit that some characters kept getting mixed-up in my head because I couldn’t keep all of the old-fashioned names straight. I never lost track of the main characters though. Judith and Lucas are tragically flawed, but I rooted for them the whole novel. These are some of the most fantastic characters I’ve read in some time. Quite a few of them surprised me, others I despised, but every single one elicited some sort of reaction.

Really, I don’t want to spoil any of this novel’s loveliness. I felt a wide range of emotions while reading All the Truth That’s In Me that have stuck with me. I keep flipping through the pages, wishing I could read it for the first time all over again.

I highly recommend this one.

Have any of you read AtTTIM? If so, what did you think? I am always up for book discussions.


The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater

Pages: 439 The Dream Thieves

Publisher: Scholastic

Summary (from Goodreads): 

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

Review:

How did I resist reading The Dream Thieves for almost a month? I’m still not sure, but I wish I hadn’t.

DAT prologue. It was so beautiful and intriguing. Truly, it was a fantastic opening to the novel.

The pace was a little bit off, in my opinion. Sometimes the switching of POV was frustrating. Just when I would want one mystery solved, another would be introduced. The complexity of Stiefvater’s plots is what I love best, but sometimes I felt like I was missing things and not fully aware of what was happening.

A few times in the book I thought, “What am I reading?” The Dream Thieves is very unique and clever, but also a bit out there. The tone of book 2 is very different than book 1. It’s got just as much magic, if not more, but it’s much more dark and strange.

Getting to know more about Ronan Lynch is easily the best element of the story. His story is the most fantastic. Adam tried to steal the spotlight on more than one occasion, but in the end it was all Ronan’s story.

New characters are introduced, adding to this large cast. I won’t say much more about who they are because of risk of spoilers, but just know that each one furthers the plot, the mystery, the magic.  

The Dream Thieves answers some questions and raises many more. Stiefvater’s usual wit comes to life. The tale of the Raven Boys continues in this riveting novel of mayhem and suspense.

I can’t get this book out of my head! I still have many questions, so tomorrow I will be posting a discussion for you to be a part of. Come back and share your thoughts.


Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Pages: 308 WhereTheStarsStillShine

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Summary: 

Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She’s never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love–even with someone who seems an improbable choice–is more than just a possibility. 

Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love, betrayal, and how not to lose your mind will resonate with readers who want their stories gritty and utterly true.

Review:

A bittersweet tale of finding your family, Where the Stars Still Shine is incredibly well-written and a compelling contemporary.

The characters are a little unconventional. Callie reads like an actual person, one who has feelings and emotions. Sometimes she snaps at those who are trying to help her, but this only works to strengthen her characterization. I could see how some readers would misunderstand her emotional distance, but for me, it is really a non-issue and helped the story.

The Greek culture in the book is always present, but never overbearing. The culture made the characters pop and the setting seem a bit magical with its uniqueness. Doller even adds a glossary of Greek terms in the back to help readers out and learn some new phrases. Ultimately, I loved the big Greek family in this story.

The only weak moment in this story comes from one of the main conflicts. For me, it felt a little blown out of proportion. It made sense to the story, but left me with some questions.

The ending of the story doesn’t wrap everything up nice and neat. While I wanted a happily-ever-after for Callie, I’m glad that Doller didn’t take the easy way out. The ending was honest, and left me wanting to read more of Callie’s story, though I am also happy with how it left off.

The writing, the characters, the setting – all were beautifully executed. I am so happy that my expectations were fulfilled and then some! Where the Stars Still Shine is easily one of the best contemporaries I’ve read all year.


Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Pages: 432  ThroneofGlass

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Summary from Goodreads:

In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king’s champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass–and it’s there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena’s fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world. 

Review: 

Throne of Glass lived up to the hype. It’s an action-packed fantasy novel full of unique characters and a complex plot.

First off, Celaena is incredibly entertaining to read. Her life as an assassin has greatly influenced who she is now. She constantly proves her deadly skills and doesn’t shy away from a fight, be it a battle of wits or a sword duel. Reading such a witty and intelligent heroine kept me engaged in the story. Her mysterious past, while certainly entertaining, is never fully explored, but is sure to be a topic of interest in the future novels.

The romance worked incredibly well. Never once did it overpower the story, but it was still incredibly powerful. Celaena has two main love interests, so yes, there is a love triangle, but the marvelous way in which it is written keeps it from feeling cliched or cheesy. Truly the romance is a strong point of the book, and distinguishes Throne of Glass from a great story to a fantastic debut.

So many different elements were at work in the book. I didn’t know that faeries and sorcery would play a pivotal role in the plot. Maas keeps the suspense going and turns almost everyone into a suspect. This paranoia has a detrimental affect on the protagonist, but ultimately had me flipping pages faster and faster. I did reach a point where the action sort of slowed compared to the rest of the novel. However, when the pace picks back up it does so with a bang. * The last battle of the novel is one of the best I have ever read.

While Celaena doesn’t know who is friend or foe, the reader has a better idea of what’s going on because the book is told from multiple perspectives. The majority of the book is from Celaena’s point of view, but occasionally we are given a glimpse from a different narrator. This really does add to the dramatic irony of the book, though I do think the novel would have been just as good with out it.

Don’t be like me and wait to read this awesome book. It has most everything I could ask for in a book. Join the bandwagon if you haven’t already. I am so happy that I don’t have to wait for the sequel, Crown of Midnight, since it came out almost a month ago.

* Literally as I was reading the epic fight scene my Kindle died. Just died without any warning. It was the biggest e-reader stereotype ever.

can't read because book ran out of batteries  

Am I the last person to read Throne of Glass? What do you think of it? And if you haven’t read it yet, why not?


Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

Pages: 360 BetweenDeepBlueSea

Publisher: Dial

Summary from Goodreads:

You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town… until River West comes along. River rents the guest house behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard.

Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more?

Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery… who makes you want to kiss back.

Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch. 

Review:  

Wow. What an enthralling, dark novel full of monsters.

The setting is just gorgeous: An old mansion by the sea in a small town. Every single characters has flaws, and almost nothing is black or white, but rather that hazy gray area.

Violet White is a lonely girl. Her characterization was done beautifully. From the first page the reader gets a feel for her strange personality.

River is just as confused and lonely as Violet. Even without his “charming” ways I could understand how Violet and River fell for each other. River is truly an enigma. Most things he says are lies and half-truths. I would have loved to know more about his past, but at the same time I don’t want any of the mystery to be ruined.

All of the characters realize that these eccentricities started when River came to town. No one in this book is stupid; they all see exactly what is happening. But uncovering the how and why leads to learning some answers they wish they could forget. The truth of the matter is that every person in the book has something to hide or be ashamed of. Yet, even when I hated River or Lucas or Summer I could also understand them. The real beauty of this book is the way Tucholke portrayed the harsh realities of the characters in a way that still made me sympathize with them.

Lucas, Violet’s twin is another character whom I would despise one minute and then care for the next. It’s really evident how fractured the siblings’ relationship is, but watching it mend was bittersweet and an element I loved. 

BtDatDBS has everything I want. The mayhem and lies and creepy mansions interested me, but it was the marvelous characters that made this book so thrilling.


Image

Hello! I am excited to be hosting a giveaway for a really great book. I have been chosen to be an “Ambuzzador” for The Lost Sun, courtesy of randombuzzers.com. One winner will receive an advance reader’s copy of the book, some swag, and a code good for a free book at randombuzzers.com. Four others will win one of the book codes.

To enter the giveaway, we will be playing two truths and a lie about The Lost Sun. In the comments on this post whoever takes a guess will be entered once, and whoever guesses correctly will be entered twice.  One winner will win the grand prize and four others the books codes.

The book features some trolls who play with a Slinky.

There is a boy so hungry that he will cause the end of the world by eating the sun whole.

In his past life, Loki spent some time as a she-wolf.

So there you go. Guess away! The contest will  August 24, 2013. Due to my limited funds, this giveaway is only open to the US and those who are at least 13 years old . I will randomly choose winners from the pool of commenters who correctly guess the lie.

Summary (provided by Random House):

Fans of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Holly Black’s The Curse Workers will embrace this richly drawn, Norse-mythology-infused alternate world: the United States of Asgard.

Seventeen-year-old Soren Bearskin is trying to escape the past. His father, a famed warrior, lost himself to the battle-frenzy and killed thirteen innocent people. Soren cannot deny that berserking is in his blood–the fevers, insomnia, and occasional feelings of uncontrollable rage haunt him. So he tries to remain calm and detached from everyone at Sanctus Sigurd’s Academy. But that’s hard to do when a popular, beautiful girl like Astrid Glyn tells Soren she dreams of him. That’s not all Astrid dreams of–the daughter of a renowned prophetess, Astrid is coming into her own inherited abilities.

When Baldur, son of Odin and one of the most popular gods in the country, goes missing, Astrid sees where he is and convinces Soren to join her on a road trip that will take them to find not only a lost god, but also who they are beyond the legacy of their parents and everything they’ve been told they have to be.

As for the review:

I love Tessa Gratton’s writing, and I make no secret of it. (The Curiosities and Blood Magic reviews to come.) I met her at an author visit and thought she was super sweet and fun.

The Lost Sun has such beautiful language. Sometimes I would just read certain passages again and again.

“The words sink down through my skin and embed themselves in my bones.” – pg 5.

“He is the only god who dies at all. And that makes him the one most like us.” – pg 17.

The novel has a certain intensity. It questions what it means to accept your fate or choose to challenge it. (I can totally imagine Merida from Brave reading this book and saying “If you had the chance to change your fate, would you?”)

The Norse mythology is well-written, but definitely not quite what I expected. The mythology element just blends so well with the modern setting that it never once seemed like too much or too odd. It is a very unique element, and I always love when a book gives me something I’ve never read before.

There is some excellent character growth throughout the whole novel. Everyone in the story plays a role and changes in some way as the novel progresses, which is a tendency I’ve noticed in Gratton’s writing.

The ending is perfectly imperfect. I am eager to read the second book in The United States of Asgard series.

*Also, if you head over to Tessa Gratton’s Tumblr (odinsbitch.tumblr.com) you can find out how to enter a giveaway she is hosting as well.



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