62 Followers
34 Following
stormydawnc

Book.Blog.Bake.

Blogger at bookblogbake.wordpress.com

The Truth about Forever

The Truth about Forever - The Truth About Forever is my first Sarah Dessen book. I know she’s a really popular author in YA circles, but her books just don’t sound like my kind of thing. However, this book was on clearance at Books-a-Million and I couldn’t resist. I’m so glad I didn’t try to, because The Truth About Forever was a really moving book that hit close to home for me.Within the first couple of chapters in the book, we find out that Macy’s dad died the year before, which is partially what leads to Macy chasing perfection and trying to control her life so closely. I really loved reading about Macy’s relationship with her dad. I thought Dessen did a perfect job of capturing their relationship and what Macy was going through. I’ve lost a parent too, and even though Dessen very rarely showed us a full scope of Macy’s emotion, she crafted the words in such a way that her grieving was quite evident in a subtle way, which I appreciated.Macy was my favorite character in the book, but she’s also just one of my favorite characters I’ve read this year because she’s one of those rare characters I feel like gets me. Macy and I have such a similar reaction to grief and control and perfection. I’m pretty sure I’ve said verbatim some of the dialogue that came out of Macy’s mouth to my family and friends, especially in high school. It was until my sophomore year of college that it really got better for me, so the entire time I just wanted to hug Macy and tell her it’s okay to not be perfect, to not always be in control, and sometimes that can even be a good thing. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but if you’re really curious what high school Stormy was like, just read this book and substitute “Macy” with “Stormy”(except for the romance bit– I didn’t have a jerky boyfriend like Jeremy!)Even though I really loved the characters in this book, it wasn’t perfect for me. It reminds me quite a bit of how I felt about Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan. The Truth About Forever is a beautiful book, but the plot didn’t compel me the way some other contemporaries have. I think it might be because I’ve never been much for “summer” books. That being said, I did really love all the workers at the catering company, and how Macy found a place there.The Truth About Forever has a bit of a timeless quality to it as well– I got the feeling it could take place in the summer of 2013 or the summer of 1993. I don’t think it’s a book that will ever feel terribly dated, which definitely contributed to my enjoyment of it.Final Impression: This book is well-written, the characters resonated with me, but yet I didn’t LOVE it or even REALLY like it– I just LIKED it. It’s a good Summer read that’s not too light(Macy deals with some issues such as grief), but not too serious either, and it definitely has a summer-read quality to it. 3/5 stars.Review originally posted on my blog at Book.Blog.Bake.

Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone - I enjoyed Shadow & Bone, but aside from the Russian influences, I didn't think it was original as many other readers seem to think. While it was entertaining, I found it followed a pretty standard fantasy plot. Great characters though.

The Unidentified

The Unidentified - Rae Mariz You know what’s really needed in order for a Dystopian novel such as this one to succeed? Something has to be at stake, preferably something beyond shallow happiness. And I’m not even sure that was at stake in The Unidentified. This book just fell flat for me. The pace was all right, but the plot didn’t capture me and I felt a heart was missing from this book. Even after finishing, I could barely tell you what happened. Perhaps forgettable is a good word.The Unidentified group is just sorta. . . there. I mean, the story is named after them, but Kid spends most of her time doing normal teenage things in the game. I think this was for the point of world-building, but it got tiring after a while. All the trademarks and the speech patterns may have lended themselves to a touch of authenticity, but they were also quite annoying after the first twenty pages. If I never see the word Intouch again, it will be too soon. Kid herself is just a pretty bland character, and I think that’s a good way to describe the book on the whole.The premise is interesting, but the way the world is set up seems so far-fetched to me. Now, it takes a lot for me to say that about Dystopian stories. I didn’t say that about Divergent when many people did, or The Hunger Games, or even The Maze Runner. Normally, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for quite a while. It doesn’t take much to make me happy in way of world-building. It’s honestly not normally that important to me– I’d rather focus on things like plot or characterization. However, in The Unidentified, I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief for that long. The entire point of schools is market research? Sponsorship? I just couldn’t buy it.The ending to this book was also quite unsatisfactory. Things are changed ( a little bit), a celebration occurs, and then. . . nothing. The point of kids coming together is to throw off the whole idea of popularity and sponsorship, but it all just seemed so shallow. There was precious little at stake, so the “triumphant” ending just seemed kind of silly.I started writing this review thinking this would be a 2 star book, but the more I write, the more I realized I didn’t like The Unidentified, mainly because the point and premise all seemed shallow. I felt the book could have gone a lot deeper with its theme of marketing, advertisement, and how it effects teenagers. Instead, what happens it an artificial story where I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters or their eventual fates.Final Impression: The Unidentified had an unique and engaging premise, but failed to deliver in the actual story. I found the entire reading experience rather bland, and have to say I was not a fan. I wished the themes and story had been handled with more depth and less artificiality, much like what the book seems to be trying to fight against. 1/5 stars.

Flash Burnout

Flash Burnout - L.K. Madigan On Goodreads, I have a shelf called “Good Books. . . Just not sure I Like.” This shelf was made for books like Flash Burnout. This is a really good book, and if I was judging on writing alone and removing all my own biases, this would be a 5 star book. Since, however, this is my blog and I can be as biased or unbiased, as emotional or unemotional as I want in my reviews, it’s slightly less than the highest rating available. However, I did want to state up front that I think this is a well-done book.By far the best part of Flash Burnout is the voice. I don’t know how L.K. Madigan accomplished it, but she really got into the head of Blake and his narration is spot-on. I am not nor have ever been a teenage boy, but from my limited experience Blake’s actions and voice seem perfect for his character. I really do like male main characters, but they seem really tricky to write, even for male authors. I feel like I typically walk away from a book with a male MC feeling the character was unbalanced; they were too hormonal(John Green, I’m looking at Miles in Looking for Alaska), too intelligent(I love intelligence, but are all main characters genuises? Don’t they ever struggle?), too distant from their families. There is none of that here. Blake does embody most of those things, but in a balanced way.Speaking of families, Blake’s family is probably one of my favorite YA families that I’ve read. His parents have some of the most depressing jobs I can think of(one is a hospital chaplain, the other is a medical examiner), but they really provide support throughout the story and there’s no case of absent parents here. They treat Blake as a teenager and not an adult who just happens to live in their household, which I found refreshing.The plot of the book wasn’t really my cup of tea, which is why this isn’t going to be an instant favorite for me any time soon. It’s well-written and well-executed, but I just didn’t like the way it played out. Purely a personal preference sort of thing. And because of that, there’s really not a whole lot left to say in this review.Final Impression: This book is one of the hardest reviews I’ve written, just because there’s a gap between how good I objectively KNOW the book is and how I feel about it. This book is supremely well-done and on it’s merit alone, would warrant a full 5 stars. However, the plot was just not something I was really interested in. The strong voice of Blake as a narrator kept me going, however. For me, this book is 3/5 stars, but I would still highly recommend it to people.

The Madman's Daughter

The Madman's Daughter - Even though I (mostly) knew what was coming the entire time, The Madman’s Daughter really built up suspense well. It’s the kind of book where there’s a lot of build-up in the middle of the book and it all culminates in a downright exciting last 70 pages. Even though I saw all the twists coming(which was a little sad, since I heard so many good things about the plot twists in this book), it was just such a heart-throbbing journey to get to that point. The plot is the best part of The Madman’s Daughter–well-executed, great timing, and thrilling.Juliet is a really bold female character for most of the book. She does things that are not taken lightly in her society. She’s shown to be smart, capable, and resourceful. She’s a character ahead of her time and it shows through. The other characters recognize this and sometimes chastise her, but she does what she wants anyway. Which is great. . . until it involves her love interests, which is where the book lost some of it’s great potential for me.There’s a love-triangle in this book, and it is not done well. I’m of the rare opinion that I actually do like love triangles if they’re well-done; so much so that I have a Goodreads shelf dedicated to this. The Madman’s Daughter did not end up there. I see no merit to the love triangle at all. The two love interests just weren’t different enough for me, and while I enjoy some book’s romance, the entire time Juliet was kissing either one of them or thinking about it I was thinking, “Enough! Stop kissing! You have a whole island of horrifying/exciting around you. I want to get back to that!”.At one point I thought I was going to have to put The Madman’s Daughter back on the shelf because of the horrifying factor, but once I got past one particular part it was definitely do-able. I will admit to skimming certain paragraphs to cut down on the blood–because there is a lot of blood in this book. It isn’t all that scary or gross, but it’s just. . . everywhere. I have a really weird thing with blood. I don’t mind giving blood or seeing my own blood, but I really hate seeing/reading/hearing about other people’s blood, so that’s definitely something I picked up on and something I’d be aware of if you have a similar feel as I do.The best part of this book was the last fifty pages–excitement abounds and the ending is . . . I don’t know what it is, but it’s the type that sticks with you. I saw the twists coming, but I did not see the ending coming and it’s the kind of ending that makes you want more immediately. A cliffhanger, but not one that felt overly gimmicky to me.Final Impression: The Madman’s Daughter does a pretty good job of maintaining a Gothic feel. I enjoyed Juliet’s character and her force of will, but I thought the love triangle was by far the weakest point in the book and brought it down a lot. It takes up too much time, it’s not well-done, and the book would have been more exciting without it. The plot was well-executed and left me wanting more. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the sequel, but hoping that the love triangle disappears all together(unlikely, but I will continue to hope). 3/5 stars.

Audrey, Wait!

Audrey, Wait! - Robin Benway Audrey, Wait! is definitely a fun book that made me laugh, shake my head, and sometimes even roll my eyes at the antics of the characters in this book. The book isn’t perfect, but I will give the story props for being original and engaging. Even though Audrey is not a character I think I would be friends with in real life, she is kind of a breath of fresh air in YA. She breaks free of so many of the YA protagonist stereotypes. She’s not really insecure, has good relationships with her parents, and has a pretty healthy self-identity without veering into too extreme territory, even though she can be dramatic at times.The characters in this book act & talk like real high school students(at least in my experience), even if they’re possibly a little more witty. But the fact alone is just REFRESHING. I can believe Audrey is a real person. Her love interest, James, is cute and charming without being the overboard best-guy-ever character. They get into fights. They say stupid things. Overall, they’re teenagers, and they act like it without seeming too mature or too young. Robin Benway does an excellent job of striking that balance.A love of music also permeates this book, making it just so FUN. I’m not like Audrey at all in my music taste (I prefer acoustic whereas she likes her music rock-your-socks-off loud), I really like all the ties to music this book had. Between the concerts and CDs and Evan’s band, this book does a really great job about remind you why you like music, even if your taste differs from the character’s.Is the plot a bit far-fetched? Yes. But that’s what makes it so entertaining. It may not be believable, but it does happen. With one song, Audrey becomes one of those people who’s famous for. . . being famous? She does nothing to earn her popularity besides walking out on her boyfriend, and the result is a quirky teenager girl who has to deal with the tricky world of paparazzi and being in the limelight all the time. It’s the kind of book that shows fame and attention definitely can be much harder than it looks.(I wouldn’t want to be in Audrey’s shoes!)Even though I really enjoyed this book, I did feel a little let down by the ending, which is why it ends up being a 3 star read. I know this is a light and fun book and doesn’t need to be filled with angst and more drama(nor would I want it to be), but the resolution happens a little too quickly. I think it could have gone a little deeper and let the tied-up loose ends be tied up just a little slower. This book also breaks the fourth wall, as the story is basically Audrey telling her side of what happened after all the events have already past. Normally, I am all for breaking the fourth wall(I love this trope so much, actually), but in this case I can’t help but to wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if the action started while the story was still unfolding.Final Impression: Even though the ending resolved a little too quickly for my liking, Audrey, Wait! was an insanely fun book that still managed to deal with some pressing issues. I flew threw it and was so refreshed by the realness of the characters, and definitely laughed out loud in some places. I highly recommend Audrey, Wait! when you’re in the mood for a light contemporary. A (strong) 3/5 stars.Review to be posted on my blog at Book.Blog.Bake.

Screwed

Screwed - Laurie Plissner It’s very rare that I completely dislike a book so much I don’t recommend it at all. The majority of my one and two star reads are books that I realize are not for me, but will have appeal for several readers. Unfortunately, Screwed falls in that unfortunate small category of books that I actively dislike.Almost every character in this book is a caricature of their stereotype. With one notable exception, almost all the characters are portrayed rather offensively. This book manages to stereotype:Conservative ChristiansGrace’s parents are shown to be polite, conservative, involved citizens of the community and the church who are only in it for a good reputation. They act hypocritical, illogical, and unbelievable for parents. At times Grace’s parents think that they actually hate their daughter a little bit. Now, I know there ARE parents out there who don’t love their kids, but it’s such a jump for them. They go from doting on Grace to actually using the word “hate” towards her, at least in their minds.GuysThere’s two main boys in the book: Nick, the boy who Grace has a fling with, and Charlie. They’re meant to contrast each other, but . . . Nick’s goal is to get twenty girls to sleep with him, and it’s pretty obvious that Nick sees women and girls as nothing more than an means to an end for him. He goes into an adoption agency and almost all he thinks about is how attractive the owner of the agency is! Again, he’s an exaggerated stereotype. Charlie is suppose to be the “nice” guy but even though he has good intentions, his actions towards Grace still seemed a little. . . off to me. He thinks he has to protect her and protect her honor. Well-meaning, perhaps, but it still makes Grace seem like a fragile girl who can’t be trusted with her life and her choices.TeachersWith one refreshing exception of the guidance counselor, the only other teacher and principal in this book is sadly characterized. The teacher tells an entire class of student that THEY ARE ANIMALS. She says this. To a room full of high school students who probably have insecurities and problems and you know, probably don’t enjoy being called animals. And who clearly aren’t animals. And then she claims it’s all because they’re playing video games. . . sorry, I just don’t follow the logic. Even if teachers would think those things, I don’t know a single teacher who would say it out loud. The principal can’t bother to care and is just looking forward to retirement.This will probably make my review ridiculously long, but it needs to be expanded more than what I just touched on underneath my impression of the characters– Charlie. Let’s get something straight, because this is a pet peeve of mine in YA. If you think you’re a “nice guy”, but if you can’t respect the fact that the girl you like is pregnant and is going through a lot of things, you are not a “nice guy”. If you think you’re a “nice guy” but also feel the need to defend said girl who is by no means defenseless(Grace may have made a bad choice, but she’s shown to be a smart character. She can handle her own), you are not a “nice guy”.The plot itself is quick-moving, if predictable. Even though I feel for Grace, I feel she had it pretty easy after getting kicked out of her house. She’s taken in by a wealthy benefactor and besides dealing with kids at school, doesn’t have to worry about much. I’m sure it would be really hard to be in her position, but overall things could have gone much worse after being kicked out of her house.Also, this book is written in third person unlimited omniscient, which is really not a good fit for the book. I don’t need to know what a jerk Nick is because I can see inside his head as well as the main character’s — show me instead(which, to be fair, is shown quite frequently with great intensity). I don’t need to know everyone’s innermost thoughts. I would have appreciated Screwed more if the point of view had stuck with Grace and Grace alone.I really didn’t follow the plot as well as I could have because I was so distracted by all the characters and their portrayals. Even Jennifer, Grace’s best friend who supports her for the most part, is an annoying character. She says whatever she’s thinking and does seem to harbor quite a bit of judgement towards Grace. All in all, I just didn’t feel this subject was handle with the nuance and care it so deserved. It read very much like an after school special, and I was just hoping for something deeper.Final Impression: A predictable plot filled with characters who’s only purpose seemed to be to embody a stereotype. Nobody is off the hook from this treatment, and it was just impossible to read past that. The most enjoyable part of the book was after Grace delivers her baby and has a few months without being surrounded by the other characters. It seems to be the only time any character growth really happened and overall, I just was hoping for more from this book. 1/5 stars.

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell Authors, you have got to stop making me feel so much emotion in a short amount of time. That can’t be healthy! I’d say reading Eleanor & Park was like a roller-coaster ride, except I hate roller-coasters and LOVED Eleanor & Park, so perhaps it’s not the best simile. Maybe it’s more like a see-saw(though, now that I think about it, not sure I ever really got the appeal of those either). I’d go from feeling so sad about Eleanor’s situation to giggling at my kindle because the back-and-forth banter between Eleanor and Park was just so witty and amusing.Eleanor & Park is. . . different. Fresh. Unique. As far as the characters go, I’ll be honest: I found Eleanor a little off-putting at first. Not because of her eccentric personality(I love eccentric people), but her personality at first reads a little. . . abrasive. I think her character’s well-written and her personality makes sense, but I could guarantee you if I was in high school with her, I wouldn’t know how to act around her. I know girls LIKE Eleanor and even though I personally like them as people, quiet, unassuming me who thinks through everything a thousand times before I say or type it never knows how to act around people with several of Eleanor’s characteristics, so that threw me for a loop at first. I really liked that she wasn’t the quiet, nice, sweet girl overall, but it was an adjustment. As the book continued, I began to care more and more about Eleanor and really admired her for all that she endured and still managed to keep her wits about her.Park, on the other hand, I was instantly drawn to from the beginning. It was so great to watch the story between him and Eleanor develop. The first time they sit together on the bus, they totally ignore each other and are just in general awkward. Then slowly they find their common interests. I love that they explore shared likes together while also encouraging each other to be themselves, but in a way that’s much more subtle than the normal, cheesy way portrayed in teen movies or YA books.I became so engrossed in Eleanor & Park’s story that I felt everything that happened so acutely by the end of the book. I winced when there was a misunderstanding and cheered when they began to open up to each other. It was so refreshing to see a romance that was slow and believable with two characters that had other things to deal with. Eleanor’s family situation was awful and while it was painful to read about, there was no shying away from some of the real issues that popped up throughout the book. Eleanor’s life didn’t suddenly magically become perfect once she started dating Park and I was constantly reminded of that. While Park’s family was much more loving and accepting, he definitely had struggles of his own and those weren’t brushed under the rug either.Final Impression: Even though I know so many people like Eleanor & Park, I was apprehensive at first because of the summary and the setting. I shouldn’t have worried though, because everything in this book was perfect(and often perfectly heartbreaking) and I just wanted to spend all my time with Eleanor & Park. 5/5 stars.

The S-Word

The S-Word - Chelsea Pitcher If this book depicts the “harsh reality of modern high schools” as the summary suggest, then I am incredibly afraid for the state of high schools in this country. I graduated four years ago, and while I do know that bullying and meanness is a HUGE problem in a lot of schools, the complicated plots and schemes that are contained within the pages of The S-Word are more fitting to television shows like Pretty Little Liars or Desperate Housewives. Entertaining? Yes. A fair portrayal of modern high school? No.Angie, the main character, is. . . well, I don’t really know how to describe her. She does so many horrible things to people that at one point I really began wondering if she was capable of feeling anything, but then she becomes incredibly emotional. As someone who has grieved before I know that this pattern of emotional response isn’t uncommon, but it was still really hard to excuse Angie for some of the things she did. Her plans and mind just seemed so convoluted at times. There’s a specific instance towards the end of the novel where Angie comes up with this elaborate plan to expose someone’s horrible, awful misdeeds. I applaud her for doing so because the person needed to be caught, but the way she went about it seemed like it was quite possibly the riskiest way she could have done so. If her plan hadn’t worked, there was a chance that person wouldn’t be caught at all, and I really disliked that.There’s a lot of issues present in The S-Word, and some of them are handled really well and some are brushed over. Angie, our unreliable narrator, can be quite a bully too, and while I think the book took steps in the right direction addressing this, it ultimately fell short. I also think it did a really terrible job at addressing self-harm. However, I did appreciate how the book approached the issue of sexual assault in high school.Summary: Overall, I was pretty disappointed in The S-Word. I thought the book lacked care with many of the issues it tried to tackle, and the plot seemed overly convoluted and unreasonable. The book’s best part was how it dealt with the issue of sexual abuse, the only issue I felt was well-handled in the book, and the glimpses of Lizzie through other character’s eyes. It was a “I hate this book” book, but it’s definitely a “meh” book. 2/5 stars.A longer version of this review will appear on my blog at Book.Blog.Bake.

Period 8

Period 8 - Chris Crutcher I feel like there were two competing story lines in Period 8. There’s the events of the actual Period 8, a lunchtime get together of a jumble of high school students from different backgrounds, social groups, and grade levels. They’re led by Logs, the supportive teacher who leads what, in essence, becomes a high school therapy group. No topic is off-limits in Period 8, but everything remains confidential.There’s quite a few scenes that take place in Period 8, and they all felt overly dramatic to me. It was a lot like watching a high school soap opera, and these scenes were by far my least favorite part of the book. While I do appreciate the idea of the listening, caring teacher who actually gets his students and supports them both in and out of class, the way the book reads seems just a little. . . off. I think it might be because we never really see the build-up to Period 8, instead there’s just a mess of characters all talking to each other about things that don’t seem like would normally be discussed so easily. Also, there’s a strong attempt to create a realistic teenage dialogue in this book, and while I think Chris Crutcher gets it better than most, it still feels a little stilted.That’s story line A. Then, we have story line B, which is where the psychopathic bully comes in. I enjoyed this story line much more, because while it may not have been exactly realistic, the action didn’t feel forced and I really enjoyed the pacing. If there had been slightly more of a focus on what was actually going on and less of the conversations in Period 8, this book would have ended up with a much higher rating from me. Even though it’s pretty easy to spot the initial bully the first time he’s introduced, there’s quite a few plot twists that I didn’t see coming. The ending was left me reeling a little bit and I definitely had to read the last few pages again.Unfortunately, this book does use one of my least favorite tropes– the informed character trait. We’re told Paulie is a good guy and great teenager by dialogue from other people before we ever get to see it. And while in this case the informed trait may actually be true, unlike some books, I still feel a little letdown whenever someone’s character is introduced to me through dialogue. It’s a minor thing in this book, but enough that I noticed it.Ultimately, I did end up enjoying Period 8 more than I thought I would, but there are definitely some aspects of the book that didn’t quite do it for me.Final Impression: There were two main story lines in Period 8, one of which I really disliked and one that I enjoyed immensely. As a result, I have a few mixed feelings on this book. There were a few things that annoyed me, such as the informed character trait and the forced teenage dialogue, but the twists towards the end were excellently done and this book definitely ended on a positive impression. 3/5 stars. Review originally posted on my blog at Book. Blog. Bake.

Where She Went

Where She Went - Gayle Forman As soon as I read If I Stay back in February, it became an instant favorite. I connected with Mia so strongly, and my heart broke for her as she lost so much. The more I learned about her through her flashbacks and memories, the more I wanted her to be okay, and I was emotionally invested in the story by the time I reached the end. If I Stay was everything I wanted in a book, so I was eager to pick up Where She Went and learn more about Adam, the boy who had been so understanding and sweet over the course of If I Stay.By the time Where She Went takes places, Adam isn’t that understanding and sweet boy, but instead a broken, desperate character who longs for more than what he has. I understood where angsty Adam was coming from, but it was still hard to read. I felt like for so much of the book, he was just meandering aimlessly, both in his head and with his actual feet.I hoped it would get better when Mia came back into the picture, and it did, a little. I enjoyed the exploration of Adam and Mia’s journey and how the events of If I Stay didn’t just affect Mia’s life, but everyone’s around her. The events of If I Stay were tragic, but for the time being, they were contained in one book. We never really got to see what the outcome of Mia’s choice would be. I think Gayle Forman was pretty brave to write about Mia and Adam three years after If I Stay–it really explores the lingering effect that tragedies can have, and I think this was the aspect of the book I appreciated the most.As for the actual relationship progression of Mia and Adam, I just. . . didn’t feel it? I appreciated it, sure. I even enjoyed it, but I never really connected with this book, or this Adam on an emotional level. I wanted him to succeed, I wanted him and Mia to be happy, but I wasn’t going to walk away from the book feeling any differently if their fate had been different. I just wasn’t as invested.I know most readers seem to like Where She Went better than If I Stay, and while I can see why, I don’t feel the same towards this book. I liked it well enough, but I think I liked If I Stay for different reasons than some reviewers did. For me, If I Stay was all about Mia–I felt we were so similar, so it was hard for me to be as invested in Where She Went.Final Impression: This was review was pretty hard to write because I just left Where She Went feeling a bit confused. I liked it, but something was missing that was present for me in If I Stay. I think this was a book that was necessary for Adam and Mia’s story, but I didn’t connect with it the same way I did with If I Stay. I’d still recommend it, but it’s a 3/5 star read for me.Review originally posted on my blog at Book.Blog.Bake.

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green As a rule, I stay away from books with cancer. Not even “cancer books”, but just books in which cancer plays any part. As someone who’s lost a parent to cancer, those books typically make me really angry with their romanticized portrayal of death, illness, and dying. However, this book was written by John Green, and since he wrote Looking for Alaska, which I loved, I decided(after much thought) to give it a try. Even though I really enjoyed Looking for Alaska, I set the bar a little lower for this one. Pretty much, my goal was to read this book without getting angry at someone for capitalizing on the tragedy of cancer.Towards that end, John Green succeeded at that goal. I found I actually did enjoy The Fault in Our Stars, it’s lack of cliche-ness, the inclusion of Amsterdam, and the two main characters. Hazel was not a superhuman character full of dignity and compassion and wisdom. Yes, she was smart, and yes, her disease had made her seriously consider death and life in a way most sixteen-year-olds probably don’t have to, but she still got upset at minor things, watched a lot of TV, and did a lot of other normal, mundane things in between the not-so-mundane things.I understood Hazel’s appeal to Augustus. He was someone who always wanted the world to work on a deeper level. To Augustus, everything was a metaphor, and every day contained some truth about life to uncover. I think Hazel was drawn to Augustus because he was still impressing meaning on a life without doing it in the over-the-top, fake-positivity way that normally accompanies disease. I enjoyed the conversations between the Hazel and Augustus, most of which went most deeper than just their shared experience of cancer.And yes, this book made me both laugh and cry a little, but even though my outward reaction to this book was expressive, I have to admit that while I enjoyed this book, I felt there was something. . . missing. I might have teared up and laughed out loud at the pages in front of me while reading The Fault in Our Stars, but it didn’t affect me the same way that Looking for Alaska did. When I finished this book, I just felt done. I didn’t feel the need to linger and savor before moving on to the next book. Of course, this is just one small aspect of an otherwise good reading experience, so while it might lose a star in the rating for this, overall I would still recommend this book.Final Impression: Overall, I was surprised by my enjoyment in The Fault in Our Stars. It didn’t shy away from complexity and was in no way a cliche cancer book, which I’m really grateful for. However, The Fault in Our Stars didn’t stay with me after I closed the last page like John Green’s first novel did, and I found it pulled me slightly less. A really good read, but not a new favorite. 4/5 stars.Review originally posted on my blog at Book.Blog.Bake.

Parallel

Parallel - Lauren   Miller Whoa, this book loves to twist your mind. I’m not even sure how to review it without giving anything way because it’s incredibly layered and one of the main themes of this book is how everything is interconnected. We can’t truly differentiate between “small” decisions and “big” decisions because there is no such thing as a small decision. I really appreciated the way this book assumed intelligence on the part of the readers to follow the logic behind how Abby’s choices affected her two parallel selves.I think it’s safe to say this book is science fiction, with the parallel universes and all, but at heart I think it feel a lot more contemporary than I expected at first. Abby has to deal with going back and forth between the parallel version of events, but a lot of the conflict centers around family, friends, and boys. Speaking of, I really liked the way Abby’s friends and family members were portrayed as fleshed-out characters of their own. Caitlin is a supportive best friend, though I will say I thought her character was just a tad overdone. She’s incredibly smart(a scientific genius, really), looks great all the time, and has one academic flaw(dyslexia). Caitlin’s character felt a little to characterization-by-the-book for me, but Caitlin and Abby do have a really solid friendship that I enjoyed reading. Abby’s family isn’t a huge part of the book, considering for quite a bit of it she’s away at college, but during the events when Abby was in high school, there were no cases of the mysterious absent parents here.I will warn that there is a love triangle in this book. I didn’t mind the triangle at all though because it’s not really a triangle. . . more of a parallelogram? Because Abby has a love interest, and her parallel has a love interest, so they interact with each other(I’m not good at explaining this, but the book does a slightly better job, though you definitely have to stop and think about it). So even if it’s not exactly a love triangle, there are two love interests. They were both all right, but I really liked one(Josh), while finding Michael just kind of . . . meh. He wasn’t a bad character, but he did seem kind of bland.Even though Parallel was a page-turner for me, I will say this is a book I would only recommend on certain conditions. I really liked it, but I think it’s going to be a polarizing book–I don’t see many people being on the middle ground with this one. So, a few warnings of things that came up in the book that I think might be off-putting to some people: there’s talk of soul-mates(it wasn’t instalove or sickening like I sometimes find this concept, but I know some readers really don’t like those words), all the kids are really, really smart(a little unbelievably so), and this book does sort of mess with string theory, which doesn’t bother me because I know nothing about string theory, but it might ruin the experience for you if you actually know your physics.The Ending to this book was definitely a “whoa, what just happened?” moment in a good way. It was so twisty and awesome–it might be one of my favorite ending I’ve read in any book this year. It’s perfect. I liked the book a lot going into the ending, but the last few paragraphs erased any remaining doubts in my mind that this was an awesome book.Final Impression: Parallel was not at all what I was expecting it to be, but I really enjoyed it. It was less sci-fi than I thought it would be, but I actually enjoyed the way Abby interacted with her friends, family, and the male characters. It was a page-turner and I never wanted to putting down. Also: BEST.ENDING.EVER(OK, maybe not ever, but I really like it). Really 4.5 stars, but 4 stars for categorization’s sake.Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book via Goodreads First Reads giveaway.Reviews originally posted on my blog at Book.Blog.Bake.

Scarlet

Scarlet - I’m not even sure where to begin because there’s just so much I love about Scarlet. I read reviews saying Scarlet was better than Cinder, but I was skeptical. How do you get better than something I already pretty much consider one of the best? I’m still not sure how exactly that happens, but it did.So, the first of many things I loved about this book were the characters. Cinder is back, and this time, while she’s still adjusting to her new-found identity, she’s not the insecure mechanic that was introduced at the beginning of the series. She’s much more determined. She’s quick-witted and smart, and she uses that plus her Lunar abilities to make it through the novel. I loved seeing Cinder start to come into her own. I’m sure she has quite a journey ahead of her before the last book, but this was great progress.Unlike Cinder, Scarlet, our newest addition to the fairy-tale gang, does not have insecurity. What she does have is a gun and a feisty streak a mile wide. She knows how to run her life, let me tell you. Even when bad things happen, like her missing Grandmother, she waste no time and springs into action. She does get down, depressed, and sad, but she’s not the type to mope. I have a feeling her temper might get her into trouble in later books, but in this book it serves her pretty well.Prince, now Emperor Kai is back, though if I had to make any complaint with this book, it’s that he’s not on the pages nearly enough. I missed seeing him interact with Cinder, but given the circumstances to the ending of Cinder and the fact she starts the book as a fugitive that would be a bit difficult to manage. Even so, I really felt for the guy. He’s not having an easy time running his country with the plague and the Lunar Queen all on his mind.The way Marissa Meyer weaves the story together is just amazing. All of those different characters I’ve come to love at first seem so separate from each other. What could Wolf possibly have to do with Cinder’s tale? How would Scarlet get involved in this plot? I was intrigued as to how the plot lines would intersect and I was really pleased by the end result. I cannot imagine the amount of thinking, planning, and plotting that had to be done to get all the different aspects of this story to flow together so seamlessly.I didn’t dislike the ending to Cinder, but I didn’t love it either. It didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the book, but it wasn’t something I walked away from thinking was the best ending ever. The ending to Scarlet, on the other hand, is one of my favorites that I’ve read in awhile. It leaves the impression that there’s a lot more to come, but the characters are so resolved that you can’t help but to get excited for what they’re going to do!Final Impression: I have a LOT of thoughts and opinions on Scarlet, and they’re all positive ones! The world that Marissa Meyer has created just sucks me in every time and I *had* to read this book in one sitting, no matter how much time that took. Scarlet, Wolf, and Thorn are new additions to the Lunar Chronicles, and I loved them just as much as I loved my old favorites of Cinder, Iko, and Kai. This has become one of my favorite series. 5/5 stars.

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1)

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1) - Veronica Rossi I was slightly disappointed in this book. Perhaps it’s because there’s been so much hype surrounding it and I set it up in my head as this amazing read, but it fell short. It was good and enjoyable, but I was expecting beautiful prose and a wonderful plot filled with unforeseeable turns, and what I read just wasn’t that. However, this is a good, just not wonderful, book. I really liked the following aspects:The characters, Aria specifically. They were easy to relate to and had strong motivations and desires that prompted their actions. Their actions never seemed forced or unrealistic. I like Aria’s growth through the book, how she realizes she can survive in the world outside. Perry was a intriguing character as well. I didn’t like him as much as I thought I would, but he was a well-written character.The plot was fairly interesting. I was involved and the story and the characters. I liked the addition of the strong senses and the cannibal tribes, which were rightly terrifying.The little bit of the book that took place inside the pods. This was so interesting, and what I wanted more of! I want to know about these pods. How did they come to be? What exactly has happened that force a society to live in these pods? We get a little bit of this, with the explanation that the Aether storms drove humans inside, but I wanted more, and I ate up every word where I did get to explore this world.The Aether storms. The description of them leaves quite a bit up to the imagination, but in my mind they are incredibly beautiful and incredibly beautiful. I like the addition of these massive lightening-type energy storms. I did really enjoy these aspects of the book, but there were just a few things I couldn’t overlook. I’m not convinced of the romance yet. I like both characters individually, and while I do applaud the rather mutual romance that’s going on here, I just haven’t bought it yet. I’ll probably read the future books and I hope it’ll grow on me, but so far the romance is a no-go. And my biggest disappointment with this book, which takes it from a potential 4 star down to a 3 star review is the world. There is so much interesting things that could be explored in this world that’s been built, and I want to know it all. The whole concept of smarteyes and the pods and the storms just left me wanting more, but not necessarily in a good way. This had the potential to be an insanely interesting story based on the unique world alone, and I feel it just kind of fell flat for me, because instead of the world we get a much narrower story.

Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins There were several roadblocks that I had to get over to even read this book. One, while I’ve been expanding my reading horizons and reading a lot more contemporary books the past few months(and really enjoying them), I’m still a bit iffy on contemporary romance. Two, this book’s title and cover were just a little too cheesy for me to take. However, there have been so many positive reviews for Anna and the French Kiss, and when you add the fact it’s set in Paris, it seemed like a book I might check out after all. In the end, I discovered my biggest hurdle to loving this book: Anna herself.To put it simply, I don’t connect with Anna in the slightest. I don’t remember the last time I read such a whiny heroine. She complains about being sent to Paris to go to school! At first, I overlooked this, because while I would gladly jump at the chance to study in Paris, I could understand how initially being sent away would be frustrating. Anna’s starting her senior year, and going to a new school, no matter where it’s located, would be a really tough transition that late into high school. I get that. But it never really gets better. Even halfway through the school year, she’s complaining about being “stuck” in Paris. She complains at length about her parents, when other students around her have family situations that are much worse. Anna’s parents have some faults, yes, but I never doubted they cared about her. I can’t say the same for the few other parents we saw glimpses of throughout the novel. She complains about her schoolwork(and honestly, to me, her school sounds awesome! I would love to learn there). She complains about boys. You get the picture.Other than Anna, I really liked this book. With another main character, this could have potentially been a 5 star read for me. Even though I don’t think St.Clair is the best YA male lead ever, like I thought I would before reading, I do like him. He has his own share of faults(believe me), but his character also made a lot of sense. Even though the story is told from Anna’s point of view, I feel like I had a much better grasp on St. Clair’s motives than I ever did on Anna’s.Even though the ending is really cheesy, it’s definitely cute and fitting. I really liked how the romance between St.Clair and Anna developed. No case of instalove here! They definitely start as friends before they even become something more. Even though most of the conflicts that popped up throughout the novel could have been solved(thus cutting the novel in half), if the two had actually just talked things out, I understand why the plot developed as it did. There’s just so many factors going into the situation that I think neither Anna nor St. Clair wanted to say something and potentially ruin their friendship.Final Impression: While I really loved the setting of this book(Paris!), and enjoyed the basic story line, I had a lot of trouble getting over Anna’s character. I found her to be annoying and it hampered my liking of this book quite a bit. I think with a different main character this book could have been a 5 star read for me, but as it is, I’m giving it a (weak) 3/5 stars. Reviews originally posted on my blog at Book.Blog.Bake.