Friday, September 16, 2011

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Barnes & Noble Description: "A heartbreaking and shocking teen novel about a taboo romance...

Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending."

My Review: Okay, when I read the summary for this book, my initial thought was No. NO WAY. And that was that. But then I read tons of GLOWING reviews for this book; seriously, like EVERY review was hailing it as this amazing, wonderful golden thing. So I took a chance. And here's what I can honestly say: Suzuma is a very good author and writes with a skillful hand. The book was very well-written and descriptive. I cared about the characters and I wished there was some way that Maya and Lochan could be together, in an innocent, legal way. I felt bad for them, I really did. BUT---I couldn't read this book without feeling kind of nauseous and sick the whole time. In fact, several times, I thought I was going to throw up. In the end, the concept was far too disgusting for me to enjoy the book properly for the well-written, interesting book that it is. Some people were able to get over it---or at least IGNORE it---but I couldn't. So this is one book where---even though it was well-written and had awesome potential---I will NEVER read again. It's just too hard for me. However, anyone with a stronger stomach---or better abilities to ignore---would enjoy this book. Fans of Stolen by Lucy Christopher might like this book as well.

Cover: The cover is boring and blah. Symbolic, yes, but it doesn't win any points with me.

Overall Grade: B+

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford

Barnes & Noble Description: "The Sullivan sisters have a big problem. On Christmas Day their rich and imperious grandmother gathers the family and announces that she will soon die . . .and has cut the entire family out of her will. Since she is the source of almost all their income, this means they will soon be penniless.

Someone in the family has offended her deeply. If that person comes forward with a confession of her (or his) crime, submitted in writing to her lawyer by New Year's Day, she will reinstate the family in her will. Or at least consider it.

And so the confessions begin...."

My Review: This was a weird book. I liked Standiford's other book---How to Say Goodbye In Robot---but I didn't like this book. First of all, the family was wacky and weird...and not in a good way. The parents just seemed neglectful and semi-insane. The girls were weird as well. The book was mainly split into three parts: first the eldest sister's letter (Norrie), then the second sister's letter (Jane), and then the third sister's letter (Sassy). And they were ALL weird. Norrie seemed kind of like a gullible idiot; I mean, she fell in love with a 25-year-old guy. Yeah, THAT'S smart. Jane was an ungrateful brat, trying to bring her family down and being rude all the time. And Sassy was INSANE---the girl thought she was "immortal" and could keep getting hit by cars and not die. Um, no. None of the girls held my interest OR sympathy. Quite honestly, the only character who was interesting was Almighty...the GRANDMOTHER. That's kind of sad. Overall, not a good book. Characters seemed to be weird for no plain reason. I was pretty confused whilst reading this book.

Cover: The cover is nicer than the book. That's why I picked it up. It's kind of intriguing-looking, like, What are they doing?

Overall Grade: D-

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Goodreads Description: "Who is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn't remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers?

This fascinating novel represents a stunning new direction for acclaimed author Mary Pearson. Set in a near future America, it takes readers on an unforgettable journey through questions of bio-medical ethics and the nature of humanity. Mary Pearson's vividly drawn characters and masterful writing soar to a new level of sophistication."

My Review: This is a very hard book to describe, and to review. First of all, I'm not sure what to classify it as. I'd say sci-fi---but it's not REALLY a sci-fi book. I'd also say dystopian---but it's not REALLY a dystopian book. It's more like a...eerie-technology-in-the-future kind of book. Is there a name for that? I'm not sure. Anyway: The Adoration of Jenna Fox was very interesting. I first picked it up because I thought it was a dystopian book, but I soon realized that it wasn't. It's set in the near future (let's say...around 2050-ish) and it has nothing to do with government, the end of the world, or anything like that. It has more to do with advances in technology regarding humans and bodies and medicine---and how this technology can be used for good, bad...or sometimes good that can have bad with it. It took me a long time (TOO long, probably) to figure out what had happened to Jenna, and when I did, I was shocked. This book asks the question, How far is too far? regarding saving human lives...and I can honestly say that I STILL don't know the answer. I understand both sides of the argument. I identified with her parents---I can only imagine the pain that they went through, making such difficult decisions---but a part of me was also kind of repulsed at what they had done, in the end. It's hard to review this book without revealing major plot-lines. I guess I'd have to end with saying that I felt really bad for Jenna throughout this whole book, but I kind of identified with her. She went through the same Who am I? questions that a lot of people go through, only they were magnified in her case. The ending was amazing, in my opinion; I'm glad that Pearson didn't try to spin this into a moneymaking sort of trilogy and kept it a single book. My only problem was that it was kind of confusing at times, but oh well. The book raised a lot of moral and ethical questions about our world. It was, in short, a really fascinating and amazing book.

Cover: The cover is kind of bland, but it's kind of cool at the same time, in a simple way. At least it really represents what the whole book is about, so that's a good thing. I do like the glowing blue light.

Overall Grade: B+

The Education of Hailey Kendrick by Eileen Cook

Goodreads Description: "Hailey Kendrick always does exactly what's expected of her. She has the right friends, dates the perfect boy, gets good grades, and follows all the rules. But one night, Hailey risks everything by breaking a very big rule in a very public way...and with a very unexpected partner in crime. Hailey gets caught, but her accomplice does not, and Hailey takes the fall for both of them.

Suddenly, Hailey's perfect life--and her reputation--are blowing up in her face. Her friends are all avoiding her. Her teachers don't trust her. Her boyfriend won't even speak to her for long enough to tell her that she's been dumped.

They say honesty is the best policy--but some secrets are worth keeping, no matter the cost. Or are they?"

My Review: This was a nice, if somewhat cliche, book. (Maybe I'm just a sucker for stories set at rich boarding schools?)The nice parts: Hailey was, in my opinion, a winning character. She was popular, but not in a cheesy way. She was nice, but not TOO nice. Sassy, but not TOO sassy. I liked her. I liked how she was wealthy---because in most books like this, the main character is the poor scholarship kid, and has to overcome living with a bunch of rich kids---but this wasn't Hailey's issue. I also really liked her background story, with her mom and dad; it made her will to be perfect seem believable. I also really liked how Tristan, her perfect boyfriend, was actually kind of human and nice. In most chick-lit, the perfect guy the girl's dating in the beginning drops her like a hot potato the second she messes up, and then acts like a total jerk. Tristan DID drop her...but he wasn't really a jerk, in the end. And rebel-without-a-cause Drew was just hilarious, in my mind. The cliche? Hailey's transition from perfect, careful caterpillar in a cocoon to daring and brave butterfly. The whole change was kind of tired, in my opinion; girl is perfect, girl messes up, girl learns to be daring and real, girl realizes her life being messed up wasn't such a bad thing after all. HOWEVER---this was still a good book. It was a good, fast read and the interesting characters more than made up for the cliched storyline.

Cover: The cover is just okay. It's cute and all, I suppose---pretty girl blowing a bubble against a blue sky...but I'm not sure how it has any relevance to the book. Actually, it has NO relevance to the book. So it's just plain okay.

Overall Grade: A-

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Across The Universe by Beth Revis

Goodreads Description: "Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone - one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship - tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming

My Review: This is one of the best dystopian/sci-fi books I have ever read---possibly because I NEVER read sci-fi, and so the concept is new and thrilling to me...but the book is still amazing. The plot was the best kind (in dystopian books, anyway): the kind where it's a mystery the whole time, but you slowly find out more as the book goes on---and you WANT to find out more. I finished Across The Universe in two days, and would probably have done it in less time, only I had books to read for school. It wasn't too action-y, which tends to happen with dystopian book, and which is a good thing. I don't like the books when it's constant fighting and killing; you may as well go watch an action movie instead of reading a book. The book did, however, give me tons to think about, and it was very well-written. I could completely feel Amy's despair, every time I thought about the fact that she would never see the new planet, she would see her parents again in 50 years, and she had basically given up her life on Earth for nothing. Elder was a little harder to connect to---but he was still interesting to read about. The world-building was also very well done, which---for a dystopian book---is VERY important. And I was surprised at the ending of the book; it seemed as if the whole dilemma had been solved...but then I found out that there are to be two more books. So clearly, this is just the beginning---and for this book, this is a VERY good thing!

Cover: This cover is GORGEOUS. Okay, so the two opposing heads kind of freak me out a little bit...but the background of the universe is way too beautiful to pass up.

Overall Grade: A+

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Happyface by Stephen Emond

Amazon Description: "Just put on a happy face!

Enter Happyface's journal and get a peek into the life of a shy, artistic boy who decides to reinvent himself as a happy-go-lucky guy after he moves to a new town. See the world through his hilariously self-deprecating eyes as he learns to shed his comic-book-loving, computer-game playing ways. Join him as he makes new friends, tries to hide from his past, and ultimately learns to face the world with a genuine smile. With a fresh and funny combination of text and fully integrated art, Happyface is an original storytelling experience."

My Review: I really, really liked Happyface. I see it as a mix of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (another awesome book) and Diary of a Wimpy Kid---for teenagers, of course. And what REALLY drew me in was the unpredictable and unreliable way the main character narrated. Usually diaries are all, "Dear Diary, today _____" and so on and so forth. But Happyface's diary was more realistic---he didn't talk about everything that happened in his life and while he drew things that connected to the story, he also drew random sketches and things by the side. As an artist myself, I totally get that. Happyface's journal is more like a scrapbook, in where the puzzle that is his life is put together in a more subtle way than just him TELLING us what happens. The story itself was really interesting as well. I felt a whole range of emotions for Happyface---pity and sorrow, and also sometimes irritation. It was very interesting to see him go from shy kid to popular kid to train wreck to--- oops, guess you'll have to read it and see! Anyway...seeing him grow as a person and go through a ton of issues a lot of teens deal with was really interesting, and the drawings only made the book cooler. This is a book that guys could EASILY like, although girls would love it too (as I did).

Cover: It's awesome. End of story. The paperback version comes with two covers---a happy face and a sad face---and whatever one you get is the one you get. But the hardcover is cooler: the slip-case is only on the mouth, and it's a smile...but when you take the slipcase off, there's a frown underneath! (There should be some symbolism in that, right, English teachers?) Anyway, the cover is plain CUTE.

Overall Grade: A+

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Darlings Are Forever by Melissa Kantor

Goodreads Description: "Jane, Victoria, and Natalya. Together, they are the Darlings. Best friends forever. They have matching necklaces, their own table at Ga Ga Noodle, and even a shared motto: May you always do what you’re afraid of doing.

When the friends begin freshman year at three different high schools in distant corners of New York City, they promise to live by their motto and stay as close as ever. The Darlings know they can get through anything as long as they have each other. But doing scary new things is a lot easier with your friends beside you. And now that the girls aren’t spending all their time together, everything they took for granted about their friendship starts to feel less certain. They can’t help but wonder, will they really be the Darlings forever?"

My Review: This is one of those books that had a LOT of hype before it even came out; I saw ads for it in a lot of teen magazines and a lot of hype about it online. It took me a while to get to, because I had more urgent things on my TBR list, but I finally got to it! And my verdict? This is a good---and a FEEL-good---book! It's not a very novel concept, but it was well-written and I felt the girls' personalities and emotions were very real and fleshed out. Normally I'm not such a fan of "friendship books" because I find them kind of cheesy and boring, but this one kept me reading. I'm not saying it's a page-turner that will hook you right away---because it isn't. But it DOES have a good story line that slowly builds up and gets stronger as the book goes on (even though the plot lines are never REALLY very inventive or fresh...). I loved the Darlings; I felt like their friendships, their emotions, and they themselves were very REAL. I personally liked Victoria the best, and then Natalya; Jane got a bit obnoxious at times. But that's what made me like the book: they all have their good parts and their flaws and they own them. The Darlings Are Forever was simply a nice book.

Cover: I do like the cover. I think it seems tranquil and charming---almost quaint, or fairy tale-ish, in a way. At the very least, it's girly and simple yet cheerful---kind of like the book itself.

Overall Grade: B+