Title: Just Listen Written by Sarah Dessen Reading Level: Young Adult Paperback: 400 Pages Published by: Speak (February 28, 2008) Rated: 4.5/5
When Annabel, the youngest of three beautiful sisters, has a bitter falling out with her best friend-the popular and exciting Sophie-she suddenly finds herself isolated and friendless. But then she meets Owen-a loner, passionate about music and his weekly radio show, and always determined to tell the truth. And when they develop a friendship, Annabel is not only introduced to new music but is encouraged to listen to her own inner voice. With Owen’s help, can Annabel find the courage to speak out about what exactly happened the night her friendship with Sophie came to a screeching halt?
I have only read two Sarah Dessen books and I loved, loved, loved (!) both of them. Reading a book by Sarah Dessen is a lot like sitting down with a great friend for coffee and discussing your life’s story. It’s comfortable, provocative, enlightening, and at times heartbreaking yet also beautiful.
From the opening pages you can’t help put feel for Annabel. She feels so lost, so confused and alone; she just breaks your heart. No one will talk to her, even her once-upon-a-time best friend; she’s a pariah in the school where she was once one of the popular girls. When the large, hulking Owen, another outcast and music lover, befriends her, he gives her something to look forward too. He gives her a much needed lesson in not judging appearances and helps her music tastes grow from barely there to eclectic and powerful. Annabel doesn’t do confrontations and it almost ends in someone else getting hurt. Yet when it all finally comes to a head, you’re left with a satisfying ending. I highly recommend this, especially to the parents of teens, if only to help remember just what it’s like to be a teenager.
Title: City of Glass: The Mortal Instruments Written by Cassandra Clare Reading level: Young Adult Hardcover: 560 pages Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (March 24, 2009) Rated: 5/5
This is the third book in a series. Please seem my reviews of City of Bones and City of Ashes. Please keep in mind, as book three; there may be spoilers in this review for the first two books.
In case you just magically stumbled upon my blog, you already know I loved City of Bones and ADORED City of Ashes. Well, folks, I absolutely freaking loved and ADORED and was miserable after I read City of Glass. Miserable because IT WAS OVER.
I really feel like I can’t stand much about what this book is ABOUT if you haven’t read the first two. And really, why haven’t you read the first two? Go on; go to Wal-Mart, where I hear they have the trilogy for like 8 bucks a pop.
You may thank me later.
Okay, stop twisting my arm! If you really want to know what the book is about, here is the product description.
To save her mother’s life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters — never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.
As Clary uncovers more about her family’s past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadow-hunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadow-hunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he’s willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City — whatever the cost?
Love is a mortal sin and the secrets of the past prove deadly as Clary and Jace face down Valentine in the final installment of the New York Times bestselling trilogy The Mortal Instruments.
One thing I really want to say about this series, and it isn’t something I can honestly say about a lot of series (or trilogies for that matter) is that each book is better than the last. Thats right, BETTER. It feels pretty obvious to me that these books were conceived as a trilogy. It doesn’t feel like “oh, well your first book did so well, can you continue the story?” when the story was quite obviously done in the first book (cough, Twilight, cough) and it made for such a better story. Clare knew where she was going folks and it SHOWS. The writing is superb; funny, fast, and witty. No stone is left unturned, no plot is dropped, the characters grow, they actually CHANGE with the storyline, the guys aren’t marble, perfect pansies, and the only problem is you’re left WANTING MORE. It’s a great summer read, heck, it’s a great, any day read.
As an aside, I did, I promise, I actually did like Twilight. I did! That doesn’t stop me from making fun of it at every opportunity. Because it is excellent fodder to be making fun of.
Anyway, and thank the Lord, Clare is writing another trilogy, this time set in VICTORIAN ENGLAND and I hear that she has notes for a sequel series about SIMON!!! Can I get a squee??? I cannot wait.
Kailana and I didn’t exactly read this together, but when we discovered that we both needed to review it, we decided to review it together! Check out her review here.
Laurel is a not-so-normal teenage girl struggling to have a normal teenage life. She’s the new girl at school, after being home-schooled by her somewhat hippie parents. She’s trying to make friends, even though she’s painfully shy. She loves the outdoors. She doesn’t eat any meat, barely any vegetables; she mainly subsists on clear soda and fruit. Strangest of all is that new, painful, huge pimple on the center of her back? That is her flower; with huge petals that look like wings on her back.
When Laurel was three, she was left on her parent’s doorstep in a basket, with no note and no knowledge of where she came from. Now that her parents have moved and are trying to sell their old estate and Laurel’s life is changing to drastically, her past and her present meet in a sudden and distressing way. It turns out Laurel isn’t human at all. She’s a faerie.
Why was she sent away from home to live with her human parents? What is her position in this new world she didn’t know existed? And is there any place for her in the home she has come to love and cherish? And what does Avalon have to do with all of this? Laurel has a lot to figure out, and fast, before both of her cherished worlds are irrevocably changed forever.
You know, I didn’t know what to expect of this book when I first saw it. The leaves/wings on the cover don’t really give you much to go on. I hadn’t heard anything about it. I just saw the book at a yard sale and snatched it up. Once I started reading though, it was difficult to put down and I read it in like – two days – I think. The characters are what really make this book. You can’t help but love Laurel. She’s one of those seemingly fragile girls who you immediately want to protect, but really have a fine, steely interior that can stand up to anything. I had my problems with her of course. She could be a little dense and sometimes missed the obvious. But she is sweet and likeable. David, the boy Laurel meets at school, and who takes an immediate liking to her, is a little too good to be true, but I liked him well enough. Now, Tamani, the male faerie of the story, on the other hand, he’s the hottie of the book and the guy I’m (of course) rooting for. Because you know, like most other faerie tale books of this genre; this is part of a trilogy.
Wings is a great, light, summer read, perfect for beach, pool, or backyard in the sun reading.
Now, for the questions:
1. What did you think of the twist of the flower petals/flower in Laurel’s back?
I’ll admit; I really liked it. I thought it was something new, original; I’ve never seen anything like it in any of the many, many fairy books I’ve read. I liked the way she changed the wings into something more organic. It made it feel more plausible, that there were little people out there who were a cross between a plant and a person as opposed to little winged creatures out to turn your cow’s milk sour.
2. And what did you think of the Arthurian legend being incorporated into the plot?
I liked that too. I’ve always enjoyed Arthurian stories anyway and, seeing as most faerie myths come from Britain, I thought it was a clever twist to combine the two stories. I’m actually surprised no one has done it before, at least as far as I know.
3. What did you think of David, Laurel’s extremely nice and understanding potential boyfriend?
He was…extremely nice and…extremely understanding. Very easy going, willing to wait for Laurel to sort out her feels and never seemed to get very MAD about anything. Do you know a guy like this? A TEENAGE guy? Because none of the guys I grew up were like this. David fits the mold of these new too-good-to-be-true male characters I’ve been seeing in YA fiction lately. Have you noticed? Is this the Edward Effect? Because I’m not sure I like it.
Liar by Justine Larbalestier – after the bruhaha over the cover this week, it got me even more interested in this book than I was. Only conflict, do I buy the US or the Australian editions? (the American is pictured at left and is the one at the source of all the trouble)
Micah freely admits that she’s a compulsive liar. And that may be the one honest thing he’ll ever tell you. Over the years she’s duped her classmates, her teachers, and even her parents. But when her boyfriend, Zach, dies under brutal circumstances, the shock might be enough to set her straight. Or maybe not. Especially when lying comes as naturally to her as breathing. Was Micah dating Zach? Or was Sarah his real girlfriend? And are the stories Micah tells about inheriting a “family gene” real or are they something that only exists in her mind?
Breathtaking in its plotting, and narrated by one of the most psychologically complex young women to emerge since Sybil, Liar is a roller-coaster that will have listeners grasping for the truth. Honestly.
Ghost Town by Richard Jennings – It just sounds good!
Spencer Adams Honesty may be the last best hope for Paisley, Kansas—and for lonely kids everywhere.
Spencer Honesty and his mom are the last people left in Paisley, except for Chief Leopard Frog, Spence’s imaginary friend. One lonely day, Chief Leopard Frog’s carved rabbit talisman tells Spence to take his photo, so Spence digs up his late father’s camera and starts shooting photographs all around his ghost town. When the photos come back developed, he does not expect to see his old neighbor Maureen Balderson in her bedroom. Or Ma Puttering clearing weeds in her yard. They aren’t in Paisley anymore. Yet there they are.
What happens to Spence next is unexpected. It involves a catalog called Uncle Milton’s Thousand Things You Thought You’d Never Find, a poetry deal gone awry, and a ghost camera that promises to take pictures of the past (just be sure not to photograph yourself).
Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis – I love books like this. Family history fascinates me anyway. And I love road trip books.
Meet Mare, a grandmother with flair and a fascinating past.
Octavia and Tali are dreading the road trip their parents are forcing them to take with their grandmother over the summer. After all, Mare isn’t your typical grandmother. She drives a red sports car, wears stiletto shoes, flippy wigs, and push-up bras, and insists that she’s too young to be called Grandma. But somewhere on the road, Octavia and Tali discover there’s more to Mare than what you see. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less-than-perfect life in the deep South and lied about her age to join the African American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.
Told in alternating chapters, half of which follow Mare through her experiences as a WAC member and half of which follow Mare and her granddaughters on the road in the present day, this novel introduces a larger-than-life character who will stay with readers long after they finish reading.
In Ashes Lie by Marie Brennan – Just read the description. It sounds SO GOOD.
The year is 1666. The King and Parliament vie for power, fighting one another with politics and armies alike. Below, the faerie court has enemies of its own. The old ways are breaking down, and no one knows what will rise in their place.
But now, a greater threat has come, one that could destroy everything. In the house of a sleeping baker, a spark leaps free of the oven — and ignites a blaze that will burn London to the ground. While the humans struggle to halt the conflagration that is devouring the city street by street, the fae pit themselves against a less tangible foe: the spirit of the fire itself, powerful enough to annihilate everything in its path.
Mortal and fae will have to lay aside the differences that divide them, and fight together for the survival of London itself . . .
So there you have it, the books I’ve been coveting this week. What have you been coveting for your own shelves?
Obviously, I don’t participant in a lot of reading challenges any more. I don’t finish them! But Michelle at Galleysmith is hosting a Harry Potter challenge, and, since I’ve been wanting to reread the whole series for awhile, I’m going to give it a go!
Introducing the Harry Potter Reading Challenge
What: Read or listen to all seven books in the Harry Potter series
* Sorcerer’s Stone
* Chamber of Secrets
* Prisoner of Azkaban
* Goblet of Fire
* Order of the Pheonix
* Half-Blood Prince
* Deathly Hallows
When: The challenge will run from August 1, 2009 to July 31, 2010. I know we’re all busy with life and work and other such fun things so join up whenever you want, there are no deadlines to the challenge besides the end date above.
Where: E-to the Everywhere! Post reviews on your blog, chat about it on messageboards, post vlogs or podcasts, comment on and converse about it in the monthly post I create here on Galleysmith. It’s entirely up to you, as long as there is some evidence of your having completed each book along the way you are good to go.
I think I’m going to read these myself at probably the rate of one a month or so. I’m so looking forward to it and hope you will consider joining in as well! I mean, she is giving away gifts!
I mean come on….what is a party like without gifts? So, over the course of the year there will be giveaways y’all. All things Harry Potter are game so keep an eye out to see what’s happening as we’re truckin’ along.
Since I want to start this party off in style I’m going to give away two Harry Potter box sets (one paperback and one hardcover)! See….look….pretty!
All you need to do is sign up to participate in the challenge by August 15th and I’ll draw two lucky winners at random to recieve all seven books! How’s that for incentive right?
I read this back in January, enjoyed the heck out of it, and promptly forgot all about it.
Locke & Key is a new, well WAS a new, graphic novel by the author of Heart-Shaped Box and 20th Century Ghosts. The story is about the Locke family and their attempts to reconstruct their lives after the death/murder of the father/husband by a local high school student. The family moves to their uncle’s family home in Maine. Everyone is dealing with their own share of grief, guilt and confusion.
Soon, however, the youngest Locke finds a curious door and an even curiouser well that contains a someone or something that desperately wants to get out and will do anything to gain that freedom. And I mean anything. What follows is one of the creepiest graphic novels I’ve ever read.
If you like Joe Hill’s or his father Stephen King’s, stories, I think you would enjoy this tale of the macabre and the insane. I can’t wait to get the next installment, coming in September.
Title: Graceling Written byKristin Cashore Reading Level: Young Adult Published byHoughton Mifflin Harcourt (October 2008) Hardcover: 488 pages Rated 4.75/5 Author Blog
You know how when you read The Hunger Games, (WHAT? You haven’t read The Hunger Games? Go, right now and buy it. Then sit down and read it. For goodness sakes, what am I going to do with you?) how you thought Katniss was the youknowwhat, so tough and strong and superior to any man around?
Well, let me tell you, she ain’t got nuffin’ on Katsa. She is the new youknowwhat. For you see, Katsa is a Graceling, one of the unusual people born in her land with an extreme talent and identified by their unusual different colored eyes. Since the age of eight, Katsa has been able to kill a man grown with her bare hands. All Gracelings by law belong to the king, so Katsa lives with her uncle King Randa and becomes his thug – delivering his messages and carrying out all his punishments. Katsa hates this and to help balance the bad, she creates a Council, who help people behind the king’s back. It is during one of these missions for the Council that she meets Prince Po.
Prince Po is from a neighboring country – and is also Graced. As they come to know each other, to fight, to confide and to become friends, Katsa’s life begins to change in ways she never expected, or dreamed. She learns new truths about herself and finds the courage to break out of her bondage and become the woman she was meant to be. Along the way she makes new friends, discovers friends she didn’t know she had and helps uncover a sinister secret.
And wow, Prince Po is something else. Can you say HOT?
Aside – Have you noticed how the male roll in YA books seems to be changing? I’m pondering a separate post on this, but he typifies this new male character I’ve been seeing emerge in the last few YA books I’ve read. I like it.
Awhile back, Kailana at The Written World and my reading twin, dared me to read this book. This was back before this “I Dare You” challenge thing that’s going around, but anyway. I take her opinion pretty seriously so I got it from the library. I was still somewhat dubious, I have no idea why, but last Friday night I thought “what the heck!” and picked it up. I am usually a fixture on Twitter on Friday nights, but you may have noticed I was suspiciously absent. I was lost in this book! I barely put it down until I finished it Sunday (I had to put it down a few times, I had birthday parties to begrudgingly attend).
This is a thoroughly well-crafted first novel. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought Ms. Cashore had written many more novels. The characters are all well-rounded and well-thought out. Katsa is a excellent adolescent heroine, confident in her strengths but still unsure of her weaknesses. Her growth as a character through the story is pronounced and feels accurate. No action goes without consequences and it has such a satisfying ending. Well, satisfying except for leaving you wanting more! Which, incidentally, the next part in this trilogy, FIRE, will be coming out soon! I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
Also by Kristin Cashore
The soon to be released companion to Graceling – Fire
Title: The Story Sisters Written by Alice Hoffman Hardcover: 336 pages Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books (June 2, 2009) Reading Level: Typical Alice Hoffman magical realism, more in the adult vein Rated: 2.5/5 which means I liked it okay
Dear Ms. Hoffman, Hi there. I hope you are not reading this. Let me assure you, I am a NOBODY. I haven’t written anything (well, I haven’t published anything). I do have a degree in English, but it‘s from a small university, nowhere of note. I am just a lowly nobody who is not worthy of your attention. Okaythanksbye! ~ Heather
So, in case you can’t tell from my missive to Ms. Hoffman, I was not a big fan of The Story Sisters.
The Story Sisters follows the lives of three sisters, Elv, Megan, and Claire Story, and their mother Annie. When the girls were very young, Elv created a whole other world for them to live in. She created a whole history, a language, and a code by which to live. But when Elv has to do the unthinkable to protect Claire; she spirals out of control into years of drug addiction, rebellion and self-destructive behavior. Tragedy and misfortune haunt the family for years and years, until it becomes almost too much to bear. Elv is committed to a rehab center by her parents, a simple spring drive through the country turns deadly, a fatal illness claims a loved one and there is betrayal after betrayal. When the last bit of the novel turns to Claire; a girl so damaged by the family’s terrible hardships that she won’t even speak, to anyone, the small glimmer of hope and goodness that comes with her story is almost too little too late.
The unrelenting sadness and calamity of the Story sisters lives were the main part of my problem with this book. It was like a bad soap opera; just when things start to look up, someone dies, someone gets sick, someone goes to jail, death, sickness, jail, death, sickness…you get the idea. It was just one bad, horrible, terrible thing after another. It came to the point where a new character was introduced and I wondered when he would die.
Hoffman’s prose is just as lovely as ever, as are the lovely bits of magical realism she throws in, but it’s just not enough this time. One of the few bright spots were the girls’ grandmother who lives in Paris, and her friend Madam Cohen, who come together to help save Claire. If only they could have saved them all! The Story Sisters simply outlive their welcome about halfway through the book and I was so disappointed because the premise sounded so good. And I love Alice Hoffman’s writing so much.
One other quibble; I didn’t like feeling left hanging at the end. And at this, I give a SPOILER ALERT because I just have to get this OFF MY CHEST. Drag your mouse across to read this.
At this point, Elv has been estranged from her family for years. Claire is getting married and invites her sister and her niece. Here it is; a beautiful opportunity, the chance to see these two sisters reconcile, to have some freaking HEALING here and what happens? We don’t even get to see the sisters talk. They approach each other, they see each other, it’s about to happen, they are RIGHT THERE…and Hoffman cuts to grandmother and Madam Cohen. To which I said WTF and threw the book out of the tub. Really. I did.
This was another co-read with Kailana of The Written Word, who liked it better than I did. Here is her review and here are a few questions she had for me.
1. How does this book compare to other Hoffman novels? Would you recommend this one or are there others you would recommend first?
I think you should read it. If you love Alice Hoffman, magical realism, or are just curious about the book. Give it a fair shot; you may like it more than I did. It could have been a mood thing with me, or my violent reaction to Elv. It could have been timing. But definitely give it a read. It did have its good parts. I recommend Blackbird House (LOVED IT), The Probable Future, Practical Magic, and her YA novels Aquamarine and Incantation. They are fantastic.
2. During our conversation while you were reading this book, you mentioned that you didn’t like Elv. What were your complaints with her? Did your opinion change by the end?
She was the biggest, shallowest, most self-centered character I’ve ever seen. She didn’t care about anyone or anything, other than herself and her horrible liar of a boyfriend. I’m sure Hoffman is trying to show the perils of drug-use and sexual abuse, but wow, she was one piece of work. I admit though, later in the book, she did manage to redeem herself slightly. I obviously can’t say why, it’s too big of a spoiler, but yes, by the end my opinion did change.
3. Do you feel that the use of magical realism enhanced the story? In what way?
I think magical realism should enhance the story, give and not take away. I’m not so sure that the magical realism here really added anything. Sure, we have Elv’s fairy tales that she spins for her sisters, but there is no evidence that the world she constructs is in any way real. The first mention of something tangible, something real, is at the end, where it comes off as an afterthought. It was surprising to me, since Hoffman is one of the masters of magical realism, and yet another disappointment.
Thank you to everyone who entered and left such nice comments on my winning pick from the Nerds Heart YA tournament! It was so much fun; I’m still sad to see my turn over but am looking forward to finding out which books move on (go My Most Excellent Year!!!). Since it seemed no one else was going to enter, I cut off the drawing this morning and, thanks to Random.ORG have picked two winners…who are…
I’m looking to start a new tradition here on my blog. There are a lot of books that, I am ashamed to say, have gone unreviewed this year. My goal is to review every book I’ve read this year, so I’m going back to the beginning and reviewing what I missed and will post these “forgotten” reviews on Fridays. I’m starting with this one.
Title: An Abundance of Katherines Written by John Green Reading level: Young Adult Hardcover: 256 pages Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (September 21, 2006) Rating: 4/5
Okay, look y’all. It’s been awhile since I read this and I have a tricky memory at best, but I do, very clearly, remember that I really liked this book. Really, really. Liked it so much that I want to review it like, 6 months later. Because I THINK YOU NEED TO READ John Green’s work. And really, I remember more than I think I do, which is very surprising since I barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday…oh yeah, tomato sandwich…. Anyway, I must have really liked this book!
An Abundance of Katherine’s is the story of Colin Singleton. Colin has had nineteen girlfriends and they were all named Katherine. And all of them have dumped HIM. He’s also a once-upon-a-time math prodigy, he has a passion for anagrams and he has the absolute craziest best-friend in the world. After the last Katherine has dumped him and left him broken-hearted, Colin sets out to prove a new theory – The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability; a theory Colin’s hopes will predict the future of all relationships, reaffirm his lost genius and finally, hopefully, win him the girl.
I admit it, I didn’t love this one as much as Green’s Paper Towns (you really should read that one!) but I did enjoy it immensely. Green has such a sharp, intelligent voice that I just can’t help loving his work. I mean come on, this book has MATH in it and I enjoyed it. That says a LOT for Mr. Green right? This is why I majored in English in college. Heather and the mathematics are like oil and vinegar. And I totally was not bothered by the math in this book. I adored Colin, I adored his buddy Hassan (the best buddy I’ve seen in a book in really quite awhile. And this is SIX MONTHS after I read the book.), and I adored their road trip.
Colin finally meets a girl NOT NAMED Katherine, her name is Lindsay and she helps him with his theorem. There is a lot of laugh-out-loud humor of the sophomoric and intelligent, which feels totally appropriate here. I mean we’re talking about a couple of teenage boys on a road trip! The boys have a great banter that is the hallmark of a John Green novel. I really recommend this book, as I do all of John Green’s books. This reminds me…I really need to pick up Looking for Alaska.