Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Eternity Cure

Author: Julie Kagawa
Release Date: April 30th, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre(s): YA Paranormal, Dystopia
Pages: 434
*2nd book of a series*

Summary (from Goodreads):
Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.

~Spoilers are hidden- just highlight the page to see them!:)~

I. Am. Dead.


But, seriously though, you should read it :D

What I love best about Julie Kagawa is her world building.  It feels so real, and the best part is, she doesn't shove the information down your throats.  She actually builds her world with small details and small insights to this terrible world Allie and her friends are living in.  It’s quite fascinating to discover this world piece by piece.

The plot is excellent, as usual ;).   So much stuff happens in this book, and it’s almost impossible to even hint at what happens without giving major spoilers away.  The general idea is she’s journeying to rescue her mentor, and after she does… well, that’s when things get REALLY REALLY interesting. LIKE REALLY.

And the romance.  *sigh* THE ROMANCE!!! ARGGGH!! <spoiler>(it's a good arghh btw) ;) My poor- I mean Allie's poor- Zeke!!</spoiler>   No insta love or love triangles here :)  Zeke is like the perfect guy; seriously, why can't we all have a Zeke in our lives? He's loyal and totally nonjudgmental, andyet we also see he's not entirely the perfect nice guy anymore. <spoiler> He's still reluctant to kill people, but the experiences in the previous book have changed him (of course!), and he has this new coldness/grudge... </spoiler> ( Which makes him totally perfect, duh. ;))

I really loved the overall messages in the book.  Though a lot of people will just pass it off as just a vampire book, it's actually pretty deep.  The author explores a lot of topics through Allie's internal struggle to tamp down her inner monster, like sometimes you have to choose, and even if it's a bad choice, what you do with the choice is what really matters and shapes who you are.

Pretty deep stuff there.

I also liked all the subtle Christian messages within the story. It was a nice touch, and it's one of the few 'future' books I've seen that doesn't portray Christians as psycho maniacs who shove religion down people's throats.  (Because seriously, 98% percent of us are nice people. Really.)

And finally the character developments and relationship.  WOW. JUST WOW.  Every character here is as fleshed out as can be.  We see different sides of everyone , and I love how Julie Kagawa doesn't just portray the characters as black and white people who do things just because they can.  No, they all have motivations (twisted as they are)<spoiler>(like a certain motivation led a certain character to do the WORST POSSIBLE THING EVER AND IT KIND OF DIDN'T MAKE MUCH SENSE BUT MAYBE KINDA WILL WHEN AND IF I EVER CALM DOWN ENOUGH TO PICK THE BOOK BACK UP AGAIN)</spoiler> and hurts they want to avenge. 

And just to put it out there, I thought the reluctant brother and sister relationship between Allie and Jackal was kinda cute ;) Despite all he did in the previous book, here he's kind of ... endearing? I'm not if that's the right word, but he's funny and can be unexpectedly soft (no… I don't think I'm going crazy... why do you ask?). Plus I need my funny to keep from going completely depressed. But I digress. ;) <spoiler> Okay, so Jackal- no James ;)-does sorta not really betray Allie here, but you can tell he does care for Allie in that brotherly way. No? :D </spoiler> We see more of Kanin here, and I love the teacher-student relationship they have.  He's like the father/ mentor Allie never had, even though he does insist he is not her teacher anymore.

So to end this review (more like a rant lol)  READ THE BOOK


and yes, that statement merited all caps.

Happy readings!~

Rating: 4 out of 5

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Demon King

The Demon King (Seven Realms, #1)
Author: Cinda Williams Chima 
Release Date:  October 6th, 2009
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Genre(s): YA Fantasy   
Pages: 506
*1st book of a series*

Summary (from Goodreads):
One day Han Alister catches three young wizard setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet away from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to ensure the boy won’t use it against him. The amulet once belonged to the Demon King, who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece so powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna has her own battle to fight. She’s just returned to court after three years of riding and hunting with her father’s family. Raisa aspires to be like Hanalea, the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But it seems that her mother has other plans for her—plans that include a suitor who goes against everything the Queendom stands for.

The Seven Realms will tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide in this stunning page-turner from best-selling author Cinda Williams Chima.

~Spoilers are hidden- just highlight the page to see them!:)~

I actually really liked this book... until I started noticing the Harry Potter similarities. Like Han and Harry, Micah and Malfoy. The 2 ginger cousins of Micah. The (almost) magical showdown between the two I think this one was actually in the second book, the Exiled Queen). Han not discovering his powers until a certain age and then sent to school to learn about his magic. And instead of wands, we have amulets.

I was never a great fan of Harry Potter (*cowers in corner from glares of Harry Potter Fans*)simply because I didn't like JK rowling's style. (Don't get me wrong: she's a brilliant writer- just not my type of writer I guess lol.) But still, the Harry Potter parallels were striking, even to a non Harry Potter reader. (I just read the first book and then watched the movies.)

My only MAJOR complaint would be Raisa. I just didn't get her. It seemed to me she fell in love with a lot of guys really fast. It doesn't help her case that she can be really irritating at times.  

The rest of the characters, Amon, Han, Firedancer, were all okay but I didn't really connect with any of them. I don't mean to sound like a soul less monster, but when Han's family died, I didn't feel any pang I usually do when anyone dies in a book. It was more of like, "Ok, they died, now what?" (And I'm pretty sure a lot of us knew they were going to die sooner or later- which kind of blunted the blow. But still.)

The plot was intriguing, but the nonstop action and the drama was really tiring at times.  

Overall, I found myself skipping over some parts in the book without regret because, to be honest, some parts were kind of dull. The parts I didn't skip over, I enjoyed a lot.

Simple as that. 

Thanks for reading!~

Rating: 3 out of 5

Saturday, August 24, 2013

If He Had Been With Me


Author: Laura Nowlin 
Release Date:  April 1st, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre(s): YA Contemporary   
Pages: 330

Summary (Goodreads):
Throughout their whole childhood, Finn and Autumn were inseparable—they finished each other's sentences, they knew just what to say when the other person was hurting. But one incident in middle school puts them in separate social worlds come high school, and Autumn has been happily dating James for the last 2 years. But she's always wondered what if...

The night she's about to get the answer is also one of terrible tragedy.


       If He Had Been with Me is a poignant novel about the land of what ifs.  What if Autumn had never left Finny? What if Finny hadn’t kissed Autumn?  There’s so many different what ifs, but it all came down to the biggest what if: What if Finny had stayed with Autumn that night?  

        Autumn and Finny had been the best of friends.  They were next door neighbors- one odd and different, and the other a golden boy.  Their relationship is one of the sweetest- and most heartbreaking- I’ve read about in a long time.  Because of a mistake in Junior High, they both drift apart, with Finny (as we later find out) still pining for Autumn, and Autumn seeming to have moved on, with a new boyfriend and her own group of misfits.  The story spans about four-five years with flashbacks to Autumn’s old life with Finny.

     The thing I love so much about this book is the author’s ability to understand readers.  The way she describes that sensation of reading a book for a first time, or how she talks about the impossible dreams we had as children- I have yet to meet another writer who understood that so well.   Her writing style is also really pretty, and she gives Autumn a somewhat mature voice- which I thought was fitting.
     All the characters in this book are so incredibly deep.  From Finny to Jamie to Angie- nobody’s a cardboard cutout.  Every one of them had a story, no matter how minor they seemed.  I love how Autumn knew she was odd- and she embraces it full heartedly.  She’s different-wearing tiaras every day, for example- and she didn’t care.  She isn’t sassy or loudly witty, but her quiet observations of the world, herself, and the people around her and her somewhat dry sense of humor shine through the entire novel.  I also love how she knew she was pretty- but not in a vain, arrogant way. She loves who she is and what she looks like. It’s very refreshing to see a girl who embraces her beauty, instead of putting herself down and having others telling her over and over again she is pretty. 
    This book really didn’t have a plot: it’s heart driven.  The characters run the show in the entire book, not the plot.  It might turn some people off that the story isn’t a traditional problem-solution, but I actually really like it.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that’s heart driven (probably Hattie Big Sky was the last one).
     Finny and Autumn’s relationship need their own paragraph altogether.  Finny is by no means perfect (that was what made him so appealing actually ;)), but he’s one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met.  He’s such a gentleman-something that’s a bit hard to find in YA novels these days.  They are extremely in love with each other (Autumn albeit reluctant to admit it at first), but it’s clear, that above all, they’re friends.   And that’s what I really think the heart of the book is:  their friendship and all the years they spent together (even if it didn’t seem enough).   Though their relationship as girlfriend and boyfriend was short-lived- and Autumn is  regretful that they didn’t have more time- when I finished the book, I was oddly satisfied because Finny would live on through their child, and Autumn would have all those memories of their friendship.  It doesn’t seem enough, but it would do.  And Autumn would be able to live with that.

      If He Had Been With Me is a story full of regrets- but also of hope.  Some people might not see it, but I really think it is.   Finny will live on, through Autumn and his child, and as we all know, things will turn out the way they were always meant to be. ;)

Happy Readings~:)

Rating : 4.5 out of 5 

The Treachery of Beautiful Things


Author: Ruth Frances Long 
Release Date:  August 16th, 2012
Publisher: Dial Books 
Genre(s): YA Urban Fantasy  
Pages: 363

Summary (Goodreads):
A darkly compelling mix of romance, fairy tale, and suspense from a new voice in teen fiction

The trees swallowed her brother whole, and Jenny was there to see it. Now seventeen, she revisits the woods where Tom was taken, resolving to say good-bye at last. Instead, she's lured into the trees, where she finds strange and dangerous creatures who seem to consider her the threat. Among them is Jack, mercurial and magnetic, with secrets of his own. Determined to find her brother, with or without Jack's help, Jenny struggles to navigate a faerie world where stunning beauty masks some of the most treacherous evils, and she's faced with a choice between salvation or sacrifice--and not just her own.

~Spoilers are hidden- just highlight the page to see them!:)~

Big props to that gorgeous cover!:)

Short review:
Similar beginning idea with Iron Fey series, simple and innocent writing style, bland plot, meek main character, (sort of) deus ex machina ending.

Long Review:
          The Treachery of Beautiful Things wasn't a bad read, nor a good read.  It was an okay read.  I loved the fae concept because there aren't many good books out there that write about this thread of fantasy. This story was simply written, and it gave a sense that the Realm was very delicate.  It made the world seem very pretty, even when it was described as malicious.  
         The main thing about this book that bothered me was the plot and Jenny. The plot was a bit bland for my taste, and I found myself skimming the last 150 pages or so. I didn't mind that the missing brother idea was similar to the missing brother plot of the Iron Fey series.  It was the way this author presented the story that made me lose interest half way through.  The simply written format was beautiful, and gave a feeling of innocence and magic, but the plot was boring and predictable, and the side trips didn’t really do anything except make me skip those parts to get back to the main story. 
      The ending was just disappointing- a sort of deus ex machina.   It was way too convenient for Jack to appear like that and to get his memory back.   I did love Puck, who was so different from swoony Puck of the Iron Fey series.  Nonetheless, even his witty and sometimes warm mannerisms couldn't spice up the book as a whole.
      Jenny was a really weak character development wise.  I didn’t mind the damsel in distress personality of Jenny (hey, in life there aren’t only Katnisses and Keturahs); it was a bit refreshing, actually, and it wasn’t like she was groveling at the feet of men; she just needed help, that was all.  Plus, Jenny had no choice but to depend on other people because she was unfamiliar with this world and all the dangers that came with it. This made sense, and totally what a lot of people would do (rely on someone to help them) if they were suddenly pulled into a magical world where trees ate people.  She wasn't a very developed character, even though she was the main heroine, and that made it hard for me to care for her.  
      It's usually really hard for me personally to feel attachment to characters when the book is written in third person (omniscient or limited), but if done right (UnWind!!), anything's possible. Here, it was not done right.  I felt no attachment to Jenny- or that wild boy Jack. (When Jenny was drowning, I couldn't have cared less whether or not Jack got her back- and that Nix drowning her subplot was annoying. It deviated from the plot for no reason, and if the author's intent was to make us feel anxious about whether or not they would get back together or if the queen would get her body, it was a really poor attempt.)   She just had no character besides her innocence being emphasized.  Jack didn’t bother me as much, but he was also very bland as a character.
     With that being said, I don't regret reading this book (which I picked up because of the gorgeous cover!), but I do wish it had a little bit more oomph.          
     For people who also felt the book lacking,   I would recommend Keturah and the Death Lord.  The book is on the fantasy side, but it has nothing to do with the fae folk.  However, the writing style is beautiful and simple- kind of like here, but the characters are well written, and it had a very interesting and unique story. 

 Happy readings:)

Rating: 2.5 out of 5


Outpost (Razorland, #2)Author: Ann Aguirre
Release Date:  September 4th, 2012
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends 
Genre(s): YA Dystopian  
Pages: 317
*Part of a Series: 2nd book*

Summary (Goodreads):
Down below, she was considered an adult. Now, topside in a town called Salvation, she’s a brat in need of training in the eyes of the townsfolk. She doesn't fit in with the other girls: Deuce only knows how to fight.

To make matters worse, her Hunter partner, Fade, keeps Deuce at a distance. Her feelings for Fade haven’t changed, but he seems not to want her around anymore. Confused and lonely, she starts looking for a way out.
Deuce signs up to serve in the summer patrols—those who make sure the planters can work the fields without danger. It should be routine, but things have been changing on the surface, just as they did below ground. The Freaks have grown smarter. They’re watching. Waiting. Planning. The monsters don’t intend to let Salvation survive, and it may take a girl like Deuce to turn back the tide.

~ Some Minor Spoilers~
(Highlight the page if you want to see them)

*Give me a moment here… or two.. or three*
Ok, fangirl moment over;)

      I always, always do this (probably because Fangirl takes over in that moment I finish a book) but I revise my old rating to 3.5  stars.

      I really love this book.  A ton.  (If you can't tell already...;))  Ann is a brilliant writer, hands down.  She describes everything so well, in a few words, and she really has a way of keeping you on your toes.(*laments over cliffhanger*) 

      Deuce's voice is SO clear.  I can still see the remnants of that brutal but naive Huntress from underground slipping through at times, but at the same time, she's changing and learning to be a girl.  She even goes as far to tell us about the girl within her and the Huntress.  I thought this was absolutely brilliant because it's ironic, and a perfect way to show her duality with herself.  And when she finally comes to terms that she isn't just a girl or a Huntress, but just herself, I loved still what she did next.  She didn't accept that right away, even when she's accepted it.  (Weird sentence, I know!)  That was just the beginning, and I know by the end of the next book, we're going to have a different Deuce altogether.   This is credit to Ann's brilliant writing.  She is a master at character developments.  Not just Deuce's, but Stalker, Fade, and Teagan too.  The wound between Stalker and Teagan is healing.  Even though it seems rushed and highly unlikely that the wound would even begin to close,  it is a good way to show how Teagan is healing- though I thought it could have been done a different way. (She’s made peace with her rapist…um ok.  There’s nothing wrong with forgiveness, but I felt them joking around near the end was way too fast for anything that close.  It takes time-especially in something like rape- to truly forgive and build a new relationship.  )

     And Fade's in and out too was just brilliant too, because something would be wrong with that boy (or he’s just really, really perfect) if he didn't change from arriving at Salvation or from that experience with the Freaks.

     Fade's withdrawal, at the beginning, felt like a little like he was going to pull an Edward. I’m soooooooooo happy it wasn't like that at all. Their romance, to me, seems a little stiff, and Fade grew a tad bit overprotective (possessive is more like it), which got a teeny bit annoying because we all know Deuce can take care of herself (understatement!!!!). 

    Ok, and here’s the reason why I revised the rating: the issue with Stalker.  He’s… interesting.  I’m willing to look past his rapist past, because he didn’t know any better, he’s willing to change (though we will never know sure), and he’s sorry. On the other hand, even if he didn’t know any better, it seems like a weak excuse (I mean, come on.  If the girl was screaming and crying, he should have known something was up) and saying sorry doesn’t really make everything all better.  I’m on the fence with this one. 

   I’m also on the fence with how the author tried to explain how Deuce didn’t know any better about rape, as if it explains her nonchalance toward the matter in the first book (mmm not really nonchalance, but more of the insensitive way Deuce dealt with it, especially toward Teagan).  I didn’t like it at all, because it seems to me the author was responding to all the comments about rape in the previous book in this book.  But who knows? Maybe not.  

    The love triangle had me iffy because I generally don't like them, and the way Stalker's portrayed makes me a little wishy washy about why he wants Deuce.  Deuce thinks it's because she's a capable mate-but I'm not so sure.  He seems to genuinely like her like her, but it may be lust.  I’m going to watch and see how this goes in the last book.  I have a feeling he might die or something though. (PLEASE ANN, DON’T GO THIS OVERLY CLICHÉ ROAD TO FIX PROBLEMS!  I will be super annoyed if that happens and will probably throw my kindle across the room- which would not be good.)

    Overall, I adored this book, and the last bit about how they weren’t zombies but mutants makes me even more anticipated for the next book!

Thanks for reading!~

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 

Princess of the Midnight Ball


Author: Jessica Day George
Release Date:  January 20th, 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre(s): YA Fantasy (Retelling of a Fairy Tale)  
Pages: 280
*Part of a series: 1st book*

Summary (Goodreads):
Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above. 

Captivating from start to finish, Jessica Day George’s take on the Grimms’ tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses demonstrates yet again her mastery at spinning something entirely fresh out of a story you thought you knew.

 Eeeee! I'm such a sucker for fairy tales.  Galen is so swoon worthy;)

     I really like this book; it's so pretty, both the content and writing style.  It's simple, yet it feels like a gentle waltz to read-which is really appropriate, considering this book is about dancing.  Galen is pretty sweet, with his values of respecting girls and elders, and treating each princess, even the younger set, with a lot of care and compassion.  He's a total prince charming, even if he is a soldier.  I might complain about his perfectness, but, hey, this IS a fairytale.

     I LOVE how this book didn't focus on the romance; it w's more focused on the girls and Galen finding out the truth about the girls.  It may seem odd, considering this is a retelling of a fairy tale, but it worked lovely. The romance part is the growing attraction between Galen and Rose; however, it's addressed in spurts throughout the book (the moments are small enough that they feel sweet and discrete, but big enough you know they like each other).

     All the little quirks and relationships with each sister Rose has is very sweet.  They really care for each other, and all their interactions add to that.

    It's hard to connect with the characters because this book does read like a fairytale, obviously (you love them, but you leave them after they live happily ever after).  Otherwise, I really don't have other complaints. (The only reason this book doesn't merit a higher rating, is because this book wasn't very memorable.  It's one of those books I read and forget the title, but not the gist of the story.)

Definitely recommended to fans of Gail Carson Levine!!

Thanks for reading~:)

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

There You'll Find Me


Author: Jenny B. Jones
Release Date:  October 4th, 2011
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre(s): YA Contemporary, Christian Fiction
Pages: 314

Summary (Goodreads):
Grief brought Finley to Ireland. Love will lead her home.
Finley Sinclair is not your typical eighteen-year-old. She's witty, tough, and driven. 

With an upcoming interview at the Manhattan music conservatory, Finley needs to compose her audition piece. But her creativity disappeared with the death of her older brother, Will.

She decides to study abroad in Ireland so she can follow Will's travel journal. It's the place he felt closest to God, and she's hopeful being there will help her make peace over losing him. So she agrees to an exchange program and boards the plane.

Beckett Rush, teen heartthrob and Hollywood bad boy, is flying to Ireland to finish filming his latest vampire movie. On the flight, he meets Finley. She's the one girl who seems immune to his charm. Undeterred, Beckett convinces her to be his assistant in exchange for his help as a tour guide.

Once in Ireland, Finley starts to break down. The loss of her brother and the pressure of school, her audition, and whatever it is that is happening between her and Beckett, leads her to a new and dangerous vice. When is God going to show up for her in this emerald paradise?

Then she experiences something that radically changes her perspective on life. Could it be God convincing her that everything she's been looking for has been with her all along?

~ Some Minor Spoilers~

         Right off the bat I’ll tell you- I have a bit of a bias on anything Jenny B Jones.  She’s witty, she’s sassy, she’s deep, and she writes Christian fiction.  To me that’s like the all kill. I’ve read her Charmed Life series and Save the Date, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the other stuff she’s written.

         There You’ll Find Me is a gorgeous book about a girl whose lost her brother- and her self- and is trying to reclaim it in Ireland. 

“This is Ireland, Finley.  It’s rough. It’s wild. And it is holy.”

I don’t usually like to use quotes, but that one by the *sah-woon* worthy Beckett Rush pretty much sums up Ireland.  The details about the place are amazing, and Ms. Jenny does great justice to this picturesque land.  One of my favorite scenes is when Finley and Beckett visit the Cliffs of Moher.  The way she describes it, it’s so powerful and so beautiful.    I understand why she chose Ireland as the place where Finley finally finds peace through God.  In the beauty and the strength of this place, it’s impossible not to feel and see God in everything.

I love Finley! She’s so very strong, yet fragile, and a bit sassy to boot ;).   She’s also very real. Though I couldn’t relate to her situation specifically, I related to her as a person.   Finley goes through all the Christian teenager stuff we have to deal with on a daily basis: friends, enemies, drama, boy troubles, temptation.  I thought her name- warrior- was very appropriately chosen!:) 

I also love how Ms. Jenny dealt with doubt.  Who doesn’t have doubt from time to time?  It’s hard to keep the faith when that very faith had a major shakeup and it seems like God’s not talking.  But ultimately, as Ms. Jenny shows, God’s love wins over all.  Even if we can’t hear Him through all that junk in our lives, eventually He’ll come through and He’s faithful to us until the end.

Now, Beckett Rush.
Beckett, Beckett, Beckett.  He’s like the ideal guy we all wish existed, but sadly, doesn’t. 
An actual personality: check (should be a given… but sadly in YA it’s like a Golden Ticket)                                               
Bad-boy attitude that hides softy interior: Check.
Treats girls like they SHOULD be treated: check.                              No insta love: CHECK AND MATE.
 If there’s one thing I hate the most (besides cliffhangers, and ya know, Rick Hangers) its insta- love.  **more on that below**
Beckett is fully fleshed out- no cardboard character here.   He has his own issues too-overbearing dad, fame- and we see his satisfying resolution as well. 

**WARNING: Mini rant starting.  Proceed with caution**
 It brings absolutely no depth into their characters, and it’s a MAJOR turn off.  Where’s the chemistry? The courting, the flowers, the complements, the bickering ?  I want to be able to root for their relationship because they actually know each other and I was there to witness their interactions.  If they just fall in love likethis, I don’t feel any attachment to their relationship, and whatever happens to them (“Oh noes! Eddie fell off that cliff and will now have to go through an extremely painful journey to come back to his eternal love, whom he met an hour ago!  Is he going to die? Is he EVER going to be reunited with his eternal love? Oh the suspense!”), I could care less (“Eternal love? Uh please, girlfriend, they met an hour ago.”).  It’s so satisfying when those characters that had been flirting and bantering throughout the entire novel finally come together, and you could do a small “I-knew-it!”dance.   What could more fun that than?   (Ms. Jones obviously understands our need for a “Yes! They-finally-got-together!” conga line. )    
*End rant*

Besides Finley and Beckett, two of my favorite characters are Mrs. Sweeny and Sister Maria.  Mrs. Sweeny is hilarious! She has so much life- but also a lot of bitterness and regret.  Her story is a sad one, but she teaches Finley on how to let go-before learning it herself.   Sister Maria is the steady hand/ mentor in the novel.  She is very mischievous and also has her own brand of humor (she changes her Facebook relationship status from ‘single’ to ‘it’s complicated’, stating that she’s waiting to see how long it takes the priest to catch on LOL).

Overall, this was a great read- definitely one of my favorites.  I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone!

Rating: 5 out of 5

The Distance Between Us

The Distance Between Us
Author: Kasie West
Release Date: July 2nd, 2013
Publisher: Harper Teen
Genre(s): YA Contemporary, Chick Lit
Pages: 320

Summary (Goodreads):
Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she's pretty sure they're only good for one thing- spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother's shop. 

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she's beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

~Some Minor Spoilers~
(Highlight the page if you want to see the spoilers)

          Meh.  I didn’t gush over it, but I didn’t hate it either.  I have a thing for rich hero- poor heroine stories, so that’s why I initially picked this book up.  I regret it now.  The whole story was very bland, and my biggest complaint was the lack of connection I felt with the character.  Even when things happened to the characters, good or bad, I felt nothing for them.

         The basic plot was:  Girl met boy.  Boy met girl.  Boy and girl fell in love, but girl resisted relationship because of X reasons.  Plot “twist” (it did surprise me, but at that point I didn’t care…).  Some things happened, but in the end boy and girl ended up together and rode off into the distance for better things to come…  That’s it. Though I know many authors who can take such a general plot skeleton and twist it into all sorts of ah-mazing stories, this is not the case here.  The author seems to have just used the bare skeleton and maybe a vein here or there.  Not very interesting, and the snarky main character didn’t help either.  Some people might appreciate her (VERY) snarky and straightforward sarcasm-find it refreshing even- but I thought it was confusing and a bit too much.  Though I admit some of it was funny, most of the time, I couldn’t tell if she was joking or if she really meant it.  And half the time, her sarcasm was just plain weird; it wasn’t witty at all.  (Maybe it’s just a “me” thing.)   I know that sarcasm for Caymen was a coping mechanism to hide her feelings and her  true self- not a spoiler, it’s pretty obvious from the beginning- but that wasn’t really explored in the novel.  If the author had gone into it more, I think it would have really made the sarcastic aspect of Caymen seem reasonable and even enjoyable.   

      In general, I really wish the author had made Caymen seem real and not so bland.   Even when she gets excited, it feels so unenthusiastic.  (I’m not sure if it was the writing style or if it was just me. ) Her way of speaking seems detached, and at times I felt like she was talking in a monotone voice.  It seems her whole life revolves around the shop, her mom, and Xander.  Any mention of school is brief- just that she goes to it. It made her unrelatable and boring (she did have a very different life and upbringing compared to most people, I’ll consider that, but so does almost every other YA characters, and many were still interesting to read about).   And of course there’s the dad thing- which **Spoiler** is left open at the end.   This is all fine and dandy- as it gives the ending a kind of hopeful feeling- but like every issue addressed in the book, it’s not very impacting.  By the end, I really didn’t care whether she met her dad or not.

         The romance aspect was bland also.  No sah woons or even regular swoons about anything Xander did.  He had no real character; he was very generic: sweet, loveable, a gentleman.   Now, there’s nothing wrong with a generic “nice” guy, but they’re not very memorable.  I mean, plenty of guys in books are “nice”, AND they are sah-woon worthy (… like Finny.  Heartbreak </3).  Even as I write this review a few days later, I have a hard time remembering simple details about him (hair color, eye color, what he did in the novel besides bringing hot chocolate, etc).  I do remember Xander ‘s daddy-problems, but like everything in this novel (how many times have I said this now? I think I’ve also said “in general” quite a few times too), it wasn’t explored well- it was just told to us- and no real closure was reached.  (To be fair, even when closure was reached  ****Spoiler**** with the grandparents and the mom ***end spoiler***, my reaction was, “eh”.)  There was a lot of telling about his character as well, instead of us being able to deduce it from his action.

     Overall, the entire book doesn’t make me go, “Wow, I need to go out there and fight with every inner being of my soul for the cause of social injustice!”  But this book WAS filed under chick lit, so I guess it wasn’t supposed to be that type of book.   (Then again, it could be considered a book between "heavy contemporary" and "chick lit" because the social issues her mother had and had tried to instill into Caymen was really prominent throughout the novel (it was the basis of the entire book), but the reasons behind her prejudice didn’t have much depth.   As with everything in novel, I felt it should have been explored more. I still had questions by the time I finished reading.)

   My parting statement here? No connection with the characters and vagueness make for a very bored reader. 

Happy readings!

Rating: 2 out of 5


Author: R.J. Palacio 
Release Date:  February 14th, 2012 
Publisher: Knopf
Genre(s): Middle Grade, Contemporary 
Pages: 315

Summary (from Goodreads):
I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

   August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school-- until now.  He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how that can be.  The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face.  But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances? 

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

Books like these remind me why I love Middle Grade novels just as much as YA.  
Gosh, this book is really beautiful. I love-love-Auggie and his relationship with his family- especially with Via. Though Auggie is great, Via is really my favorite character. I understand her and her role as the older sibling- which is never ever EVER easy, especially with a younger sibling who is treated differently because of his appearance. 

I also love how the book seems so real; nothing in that book could not happen in real life. But it's really sad too how real the book is. In this appearance conscious world, there are so many more Julians than Summers and Jacks. 

Auggie's quirks of being a ten year old reminds me of when I was ten. It brings back all my silly insecurities and how hard it is to be not quite a kid, but not quite an teenager either. It's heartwarming to see Auggie struggling to make sense of his world and everyone else's world and come out victorious at the end. 

People could really read deeply into this book and say it's about the nature of humans, blah blah blah, but in the end this book is just about a normal boy named Auggie who is living and learning- much like all of us.

And that is all.

Happy Readings~!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5