Friday, November 29, 2013

First Line Friday: Everneath


Welcome to First Line Friday, where I feature the first line of a book and its information to get you interested in reading whatever the book may be!
This week is:

Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Publication Date: January 24, 2012
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Pages: 370

First Line:
"I was picturing his face — a boy with floppy brown hair and brown eyes — when the Feed ended."

Summary: Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she’s returned—to her old life, her family, her boyfriend—before she’s banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.
Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance—and the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.
As Nikki’s time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s queen.

Friday, November 22, 2013

First Line Friday: The Monster Variations

Welcome to First Line Friday, where I feature the first line of a book and its information to get you interested in reading whatever the book may be!

This week is:

The Monster Variations by Daniel Kraus
Publication Date: August 11, 2009
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 256

First Line:
"Five more minutes and I'm gone."

Summary: Someone is killing boys in a small town. The murder weapon is a truck, and the only protection is a curfew enacted to keep kids off the streets. But it’s summer—and that alone is worth the risk of staying out late for James, Willie, and Reggie. 
Willie, who lost his arm in the first hit-and-run attack, finds it hard to keep up with his two best friends as they leave childhood behind. All of them are changing, hounded by their parents, hunted by the killer, and haunted by the “monster,” a dead thing that guards the dangerous gateway between youth and manhood. But that’s not all: shadowing the boys everywhere is Mel Herman, the mysterious and brilliant bully whose dark secrets may hold the key to their survival. As the summer burns away, these forces collide, and it will take compassion, brains, and guts for the boys to overcome their demons—and not become monsters themselves. 
In this chilling and poignant debut novel, Daniel Kraus deftly explores the choices boys grapple with and the revelations that occur as they become men.

Monday, November 18, 2013

What I Thought Was True

Bear with me, guys. It's a long review. But this book was so good, I had to tell you at the beginning.

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Pages: 415
Keywords: seaside, family, friendship, love
Format Read: ARC from author in exchange for honest review (she also sent me some lovely bookmarks and a post-card with My Life Next Door on it, and upon finishing the book, I promptly went out and bought that one. This one was that good.)


Gwen Castle's Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, is slumming it as a yard boy on her Nantucket-esque island this summer. He's a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island's summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she'll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen's dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.

I just want it to be clear how big of a book hangover I'm going to have for the next period of time. I'm still so invested and attached to everything and everyone in this book. Okay, I can move on now.

There are so many things I want to say, but I think I'll start with the characters. First we have Gwen. She's the MC, and there's a whole lot of stuff going on with her. But it was all great. To start with, she has a reputation in the town as a "swim team tradition." Which starts the story off differently than a lot — there was no instant love connection from across the room. And I loved it. There was already a lot of tension between Gwen and Cass (the MC's love interest), and it just grew as the book progressed. Now let's talk about Cass. Love the name. Loved the guy. I mean, he pissed me off a few times, but I'm aware that's what Fitzpatrick was going for. But as far as love interests go? This one was pretty great.

I loved their interactions and their interactions with their friends — it was always super awkward and uncomfortable and I loved it. About their jobs — those were equally excellent in regards to how the story worked. Cass was the summer yard-boy, aka rich-kid turned outside help who rarely wore a shirt and did a lot of heavy lifting. Gwen was the caretaker for an elderly woman who was one of the summer residents on the island, aka, the super rich group that just paid all the locals to do their stuff for them.

Side characters were amazing. Gwen's family was ridiculous. We had Mom, who really loved romance erotica novels. There was Emory, her 8-year-old brother who wasn't a typically developing child, wasn't autistic, but needed help growing up. Then we have Nic, Gwen's cousin, who was a swimmer, also lived with them, and was dating Gwen's best friend Vivien. My favorite, though, was Grandpa Ben. Known for his wife-beater tanktops and plaid bathrobe, he had a hobby of illegally catching lobsters to eat, watching old movies with Emory, and appearing and saying things at precisely the wrong (aka the BEST) moment, sometimes spitting out portuguese. There was a scene where Cass came over for tutoring lessons, and I was literally laughing so hard in the student union building, I'm sure people thought I was crazy.

Aside from the basics like outstanding characters and a great plot line for them to work in, this book reinforced what I love about young adult fiction. So many people ask me, "Why YA? You could be reading classics!" I want to A.) smack those people. and B.) Give them books like this one.

"I finally get that sometimes we hold on to something—a person, a resentment, a regret, an idea of who we are—because we don't know what to reach for next. That what we've done before is what we have to do again. That there are only re-dos and no do-overs."

This is such a pivotal time in everyone's life. Young adults can love, hate, feel, grow, learn, and do anything just as well, if not better, than adults. And that's what these books, this one in particular, bring to the forefront. That teens do know what's going on, they do struggle with major life decisions, and they do matter when it comes to paying attention to issues like this. Another major point in the book was the division between the rich summer tourists and the locals, who felt like they were there to basically serve the others. Gwen felt it constantly, always feeling distant from Cass and his friends when they drove BMWs and threw large parties at fancy, decorated and coordinated homes. Not only did she feel outcast, her family did as well. They kept reinforcing that the people she was working for and the people they worked for had their own stories, and that their lives were too far separated for her to be involved or to try to get involved. 

And then there was the issue of locals that wanted to get out of the town, like Nic, who dreamed of being admitted to the CoastGuard Academy and having adventures all over the world. There were others, like his friend Hoop, who were happy where they were, and Gwen wondered if he was destined to stay the way he was forever, stuck in the same town, the same life for the rest of his days.

And my favorite — not knowing where life is going or what you want to do in life. This is one of, if not the most important issue, young people struggle with. And it doesn't end. The fact is that life is terrifying, and Fitzpatrick so clearly expressed that through each character's individual personality. They all had their own spotlights and were featured when their questions were brought to the front of the plot. 

To round it all out, little details Fitzpatrick threw in amazed me. Clench. Unclench. 
Everything was absolutely stunning, and so much more than a breezy beachy novel I assumed it was going to be. 

Read When: NOW. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Roomies

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
Publication Date: December 24, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Pages: 288
Keywords: college, roommates, summer
Format Read: ARC via NetGalley



When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.
As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

Normally, I'm not a fan of books done in letter or e-mail format, but this one sounded really intriguing, so I gave it a shot — definitely glad I did so.

First, the book was not entirely in letter format like I assumed it would be. Rather, the story follows each girl's life that summer before they move to college, with an occasional update to the other about what's going on.

This was one of those books that was really funny — and I mean really funny. Every once in a while, there were just superb one-liners like:

"Even so, Catholic must be in my blood because I feel sort of judge-y about the whole thing and a tiny bit of vicarious from merely knowing."

(And this is coming from a born-and-raised Catholic.)
But even with the comedic bits, it still tackled a really important point in a lot of people's lives. Leaving for college is a big deal, whether you are going really far away or not at all, and the reader gets both perspectives. One lives across the country. The other will be 20 minutes from home. 

Even more, the authors also brought up issues like race — one character starts to like a guy who is black, and she doesn't know how her family will feel, react, or act around the guy she wants to get involved with. I mean, I obviously don't want to spoil it, but I was so impressed at how honest and poignant the characters handled this situation, as well as just the whole going to college and dealing with leaving home issues. 

I really only didn't like one thing — one of the main characters. Elizabeth, or Ebb, as Lauren liked to call her, really really bothered me. She was whiny and annoying, and she got angry if Lauren took more than six hours to respond to her emails. Really? Lauren let her know her life was in chaos and she was working all the time. Calm down, girl. 

But all in all, I really enjoyed it. It seemed like just a fun read when I started, but some of the things it did and covered surprised me, and it covered more than a lot of books manage to, and it was done with such truth.

Read When: You are getting ready to make a big change and need some advice, someone to talk to, an inanimate object to confide in.

Other favorite quotes:

"Everything you haven't had time to worry about in the chaos of the day comes at you, whoosh. If you don't move on to the next task, ASAP, it can undo you."

"Is that the destiny of all friendships, no matter how good they are? To die out or fade away? To end?"

"Race. It's so tricky, even though we're all supposedly enlightened and color-blind. I don't want it to be a Thing. But it kind of is a Thing, isn't it?"

Friday, November 15, 2013

First Line Friday: Mostly Good Girls

Welcome to First Line Friday, where I feature the first line of a book and its information to get you interested in reading whatever the book may be!
This week is:

Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales
Publication Date: October 5, 2010
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 347

First Line:
"Poor Mr. Thompson. Mr. Thompson is my precalc teacher, and he is also the only male at the Westfield School."

Summary: It’s Violet’s junior year at the Westfield School. She thought she’d be focusing on getting straight As, editing the lit mag, and figuring out how to talk to boys without choking on her own saliva. Instead, she’s just trying to hold it together in the face of cutthroat academics, her crush’s new girlfriend, and the sense that things are going irreversibly wrong with her best friend, Katie.
When Katie starts making choices that Violet can’t even begin to fathom, Violet has no idea how to set things right between them. Westfield girls are trained for success—but how can Violet keep her junior year from being one huge, epic failure?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Alienated

Alienated by Melissa Landers
Publication Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 352
Keywords: aliens, war, high school
Format Read: ARC from NetGalley


Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. 
Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.
Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.
But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class. 
Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

I did a WOW post about this a while ago, and I was so excited when I was approved on NetGalley to read this one, but now that I've finished I have mixed feelings.

It started off pretty great — I was all into the alien exchange student thing, it was a first for me, and I hadn't read anything similar to this. The background of the aliens also was well-established. It was clear Landers had a huge backstory for them, and I appreciated how much detail was put into their history.
One of the main problems I had dealt with foreshadowing, and the fact that there was just SO MUCH of it. I mean, a good hint to the future is exciting, but giving it away in big chunks ruin the suspense in the story. So about 30% through, I pretty much knew exactly what was going to happen for the rest of the novel.

But okay, I moved past that because it was still cute, and I wanted to see exactly what would pan out. My next issue was with logistics of the actual storyline. So Midtown started getting all these people protesting and eventually bringing weapons on school grounds. Don't you think if you were running an intergalactic experiment to see if your two countries could make nice, you would check up on your TEENAGERS who were sent there? That's just my personal opinion that you should. And that you should take them home when people are threatening them.

I mean, the book was interesting enough that it held my attention and I did actually finish it because I wanted to know what happened. But none of it was believable at all (especially not the ending). I've just now gone and looked on Goodreads and I'm quite shocked at how high it's rated. Sure, it was easy and fun to read, but it was nothing spectacular and I really wasn't blown away by it.

Read When: You're in the middle of a bunch of stuff and need something you can fly through and feel like you just read a fun book.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Divergent

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Publication Date: February 28, 2012
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 487
Keywords: dystopia, rebellion, society
Format Read: paperback


In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

I honestly have no idea what took me so long to get around to reading this. But about a week before Allegiant came out, I found out there were signed copies at my local bookstore, and I thought, "Yep, I need one of those, so I need to get on this." And I'm pretty sure I didn't put Divergent down until I finished it.

I don't really know what to talk about because everybody and their mother has already read this book, but here's why I liked it:

1. Dystopian society you know the main character's going to fight? Check.
2. Mysterious people who do crazy things for fun? Check.
3. Mysterious guy who you know you're going to love even though he's super secret? Check.
4. Bad-ass MC who gets tattoos!? Check.

And that's some of the things I really enjoyed. I also just appreciated Roth's writing in general, there were some beautifully crafted lines, I marked a ton but I'm sitting in class now without the book, so I can't put any in. It also never felt like she did an info dump, but we still weren't confused about what was going on, and I never felt lost. Suspense still existed, though, and in the perfect amount. I only wanted to throw the book a few times but I was just so desperate to find out what happened, and I was mad classes were getting in the way.

I'm flying through Insurgent now, and I'm avoiding Internet as much as possible because I'm terrified I'll stumble onto a spoiler for Allegiant. So NONE OF THAT HERE!

Read When: All the time. Really. It's just great. So if you haven't read it, seriously, what are you waiting for?

Friday, November 8, 2013

First Line Friday: Mothership

Welcome to First Line Friday, where I feature the first line of a book and its information to get you interested in reading whatever the book may be!
This week is:

Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 308

First Line:
"As far as scientists have been able to determine, the primary function of the human coccyx, or tailbone, is to remind us that once upon a time we were all monkeys or something."

Summary: Things look grim when Elvie Nara finds herself knocked up right before her PSAT. To make matters worse, Cole Archer, the too-hot-to-be-human dreamboat co-responsible for her condition, disappears off the face of the planet after hearing the news, and Elvie's father ships her off to the Hanover School for Expecting Teen Mothers — a seriously kitschy cruise liner stuffed with pregnant girls, and circling the planet in low Earth orbit. 
But the cherry on this drama sundae? Three weeks before Elvie's due date, the ship is attacked. By dudes with ray guns. And one of those dudes just happens to be Cole Archer. Talk about awkward.
Cole tells Elvie that the Hanover teachers are aliens (um, okay) and that she has to evacuate the ship to save her unborn baby from their nefarious plans. But just how did Cole — who doesn't know a driveshaft from a windshield wiper — end up as a badass alien-fighting commando? And why on Earth should Elvie trust him?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sia

Sia by Josh Grayson
Publication Date: November 20, 2013
Keywords: amnesia, high school, homeless



When seventeen-year-old Sia wakes up on a park bench, she has no idea who or where she is. Yet after a week of being homeless, she’s reunited with her family. At school, she’s powerful and popular. At home, she’s wealthy beyond her dreams. But she quickly realizes her perfect life is a lie. Her family is falling apart and her friends are snobby, cruel and plastic. Worse yet, she discovers she was the cruelest one. Mortified by her past, she embarks on a journey of redemption and falls for Kyle, the “geek” she once tormented. Yet all the time she wonders if, when her memories return, she’ll become the bully she was before…and if she’ll lose Kyle.

This is such an interesting take to approach several serious issues, and I really enjoyed the creativity on the author's part to discuss these topics using amnesia.

It focuses on homelessness and crises, and the problems those bring to the citizens facing these issues. Sia has to live on the street for a week before she is discovered and thrust back into her popular, rich life, and she realizes the old Sia, whom she can't remember, isn't a person she wants to be. She struggles through the whole book balancing her cheerleader friends and her real friends, whom she discovers while working on a "support the homeless" project.

As a character, I felt pretty okay about Sia. She had trouble a little bit, but it seemed to be easy for her to realize the right thing to do. It was almost too easy, but I moved past that.

The main issue I had was how easy it was for all the other characters. Everyone suddenly decided to jump on board and help with the project, mending issues and becoming BBFs without a second glance. And even though Sia said she didn't want to be popular and that people weren't "weird," she still classified chunks of people as nerds, geeks, etc. It just seemed weird to me that she continually used these phrases while saying she was with them.

It was still a mostly interesting read, and it seemed to bring to light some serious issues that need to be addressed in more books. I was NOT satisfied with the ending. There was an epilogue that I wanted to go away, the book should have ended where it ended, not with an epilogue. In addition, a BIG question is left unanswered, and I don't think that's fair to leave the reader hanging like that.

Read When: You want to feel like you're tackling a big subject, but still have an easy-enough read that it's not taxing or anything.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

On a Mission

So I'm thinking of starting a new little weekly or monthly thing here on Happy Book Lovers.

I want to read more NONFICTION.

GASP! I know, right? It seems appalling. However, it seems like there are a lot of really great titles out there with super strange subjects we could all learn a little more about. So here's my proposition for you:
Have you all read any non-fiction that just blew you away? This could include biographies, info books, humor, anything that's real and has information and is about something that exists outside the YA-verse. Which is, you know, where I like to spend most of my time.

Spread the word, I'd love to get ideas for this!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Pawn

Pawn: The Blackcoat Rebellion #1 by Aimee Carter
Publication Date: November 26, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 346
Keywords: dystopia, rebellion, coming-of-age
Format Read: ARC via NetGalley

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country. 

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter. 

There's only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.

I'm going to do this review in parts, since there are several things I want to discuss.

The setting: Post-America dystopian monarchy ruled by one power-hungry family? Awesome.
The concept: Ranking people on a scale of I to VII based on intelligence and, of course, family ties (the rulers got VII). A IV was good, anything lower and you weren't really considered a citizen. Awesome.
The character: A girl who gets ranked a III and kidnapped from a brothel to replace a member of the royal family? Awesome.

So there are the basics. Then this book got real creepy real fast. Right off the bat, something happens that (I don't want to give it away, but it has to do with Elsewhere) takes this book from a cool dystopian-idea to HOLY CRAP THIS IS TERRIFYING. I was very impressed with the realistic characters Carter created and how they interacted with one another. And it wasn't always happy stuff. The evil exchanges were the most frightening and most well-written.

Another thing that really struck me as wonderful about this book was that no one was clear evil and clear good. Yes, there were some characters that were on the bad side, but you momentarily felt bad for them and saw them as human, and people flipped back and forth over the line so much. I was never truly sure how I felt about a character, and I suppose that will come with the future books (which I'm totally adding to Goodreads right now).

I also loved that it wasn't driven by a girl trying to get a boy. That was established with the first page that Kitty was in a relationship, and it was refreshing for a change to not have a story driven by love interests. Rather, it was driven by equality of people, and a scary-ass family trying to monopolize the country.

And this doesn't have anything to do with the book itself, but the ebook copy I read was so nice! All the lines lined up correctly, and there were really cool chapter heads and everything! I was so impressed!

Read When: You're in a Hunger Games-dystopia-people-fighting-for-their-rights mood and you need a kick ass protagonist. Also this one comes out in 4 weeks, so go add this to your shelf now because you're going to want it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

First Line Friday: Midnight City


Welcome to First Line Friday, where I feature the first line of a book and its information to get you interested in reading whatever the book may be!
This week is:

Midnight City by J. Barton Mitchell
Publication Date: October 30, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 384

First Line:
"Right about then, it became official: Holt Hawkins was having a bad day."

Earth has been conquered by an alien race known as the Assembly. The human adult population is gone, having succumbed to the Tone—a powerful, telepathic super-signal broadcast across the planet that reduces them to a state of complete subservience. But the Tone has one critical flaw. It only affect the population once they reach their early twenties, which means that there is one group left to resist: Children.
Holt Hawkins is a bounty hunter, and his current target is Mira Toombs, an infamous treasure seeker with a price on her head. It's not long before Holt bags his prey, but their instant connection isn't something he bargained for. Neither is the Assembly ship that crash-lands near them shortly after. Venturing inside, Holt finds a young girl who remembers nothing except her name: Zoey.
As the three make their way to the cavernous metropolis of Midnight City, they encounter young freedom fighters, mutants, otherworldly artifacts, pirates, feuding alien armies, and the amazing powers that Zoey is beginning to exhibit. Powers that suggest she, as impossibly as it seems, may just be the key to stopping the Assembly once and for all.