Tuesday, April 24, 2012

BR: The Day Before

by Lisa Schroeder

Oh my gosh, how people have raved about this book. Ashley at Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing is pretty much the biggest advocate for The Day Before, and I think she has fabulous taste, so I’m so happy to finally read this.

Summary (goodreads)

Sixteen-year-old Amber, hoping to spend one perfect day alone at the beach before her world is turned upside down, meets and feels a strong connection to Cade, who is looking for his own escape, for a very different reason.

**
My expectations: I haven't read many verse books, but I had really high hopes for this one!
Delivery: My expectations were definitely met, but I wasn't blown awa
Put-down-ability: a quick read, 2.5/10
**

My Thoughts

I don’t have much experience with verse books, it’s not that I avoid them, it’s just that when faced with a decision whether or not to read them… I feel I have other, more pressing things to read. But I sat myself down and told myself to find what was magical about this book that seemed simultaneously haunting and mysterious, based on the cover and somewhat vague summary. The Day Before. The day before what?

I really, really enjoyed this book. It was like sinking in to a vast pool of beautiful prose, which will be the stand-out memory after finishing, because the words just lift off the page and into your mind. They’re light and effortlessly perfect in a way that’s simply indescribably and makes me wish I could have such a gift with manipulating letters on a page. I thought that Amber’s character was stunningly portrayed in this unfamiliar manner and I was rooting for our protagonist through whatever ordeal she was going through.

I thought the plot was another delicacy altogether, I mentioned this on twitter after finishing about how Schroeder has such a way with small details. She could coax soul out of sandcastles and memories out of lighthouses, the intensity of jellyfish and the simple beauties of the beach. All these little, almost insignificant details really add up into something else.

For some reason, I was expecting something to do with death/suicide based on the cover and summary, and it’s not about that. That’s all I’m going to mention about the plot specifics because I do feel the package kind of misrepresents the book—the book may not be about horrid events, but it deals with deep and emotional themes still. It’s a book that explores the thought of “what if”, not the “what if” itself. It explores the idea of fear and insecurities in a way that felt totally genuine yet foreign.

I liked the characters, I really did, but in the end, I wanted just a bit more. I could sympathize with their situations but my heart didn’t ache for them, I didn’t find myself as emotionally invested as I hoped to be. I think it just comes down to personal preference, but I found that while Amber and Cade’s interactions were written in a beautiful, simplistic way, it was slightly too… perfect. Each person always had the perfect, most insightful, thoughtful thing to say and it lacked authenticity because of it. I know that Cade has the tortured, mysterious thing going on but I also found him slightly too flawless in his interactions with Amber. I couldn’t get myself to believe in their relationship, which was the largest drawback of my reading experience.

I wanted to mention how much I completely loved Amber’s relationship with her mother, her sister, and her best friend; it was really well explored despite not being the focal point. There were letters (oh, how vague!) too that I thought were really well done and added to the suspense factor.

Rating in HP Terms: Exceeds Expectations
Recommended for: contemp YA fans, fans of verse novels
Acknowledgements: 3/5

8.7/10- because I really loved the writing (total fangirling here) and the small plot details, but I couldn’t connect as much with the characters as I would have hoped. The Day Before is such a beautifully written novel that explores themes and idea that makes the reader think, and calls for discussion. I’d highly recommend it.








author website / twitter / goodreads

Monday, April 23, 2012

BR: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

by Jennifer E. Smith

This might be a record-setting moment guys. Someone turn on the word-count-clicker… today’s magic word: cute. Will you look at that completely cute cover*!!

Summary (goodreads)

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything? 

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A.

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

**
My Expectations: kind of in the middle, I've read both raving reviews and meh ones.
Delivery: I did like it, but I didn't really feel the spark.
Put-down-ability: I read it all in one sitting, but 4/10 because if there was a fire...
**

My Thoughts

The premise of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (whew! What a title. Imagine having to type that out five times over) is completely adorable, I mean.. can you think of a better meet-cute? I went into it expecting a fluffy, light-hearted yet lovely read because it’s been getting mostly favourable, even gushy reviews from most bloggers. What I got out of it was not what I was expecting, to say the least.

I had a few problems with it, and I’m breaking the trend and I’m going to talk about these negatives first. I really felt the balance between a cute, quirky love story and a serious, familial-redemption story was off. I thought the jumps between serious and cute moments were jarring, especially towards the end. It kind of felt as if the book set out to be cute, found itself in serious, then hastily steered its way back onto the “cute” road, making it an odd journey. In addition, I never really bought into the idea of twists of fate and all that, but I do admit to being totally cynical (true love? *retch*).

That said, the cute boy was cute, yet sadly forgettable (seeing I forgot his name almost immediately after reading the book.. it’s Oliver). I thought he was lovely enough, but someone in passing, like a cute boy I would talk to on the plane, yet say goodbye to (oh, how fitting…). I’m not going to lie; I do envision a different, more non-typical-YA ending for this book in my head. Hadley was a great protagonist as well, I connected a lot more with her character, and I got used to the odd choice of third person POV rather quickly, which speaks volumes about the writing (very smooth and great word choices makes it a quick read).

And now on to one of the things I really, really connected with and loved about this book. It was the serious stuff. Hadley’s flying to London to attend her father’s remarriage to some British woman, but she still harbours still deep, unresolved feelings regarding her parents’ divorce. I found this aspect of the story to be the most convincing, because my own parents divorced years ago and it felt like Smith really got it.  YA takes a lot of different takes on parents (oh, they’re dead 50% of the time too, which is always fun… kidding) but it’s rare when I feel like the author gets it. I have such a similar relationship with my dad as Hadley does with hers, and sometimes there’s just small phrases or thoughts that capture exactly, almost to the tee, how I felt or feel about it. There’s the pain, the broken trust, the trying and the not trying, there was so much truth in it that it hurt. If there’s anything I’ll be taking away from this novel, it is the truth that Smith captured in Hadley’s parents’ divorce.

I know, bummer, eh?

And well, that aspect is the one I really appreciated about this novel, though in my opinion, it was resolved much too quickly for my tastes. Or maybe I’m just one to hold a grudge. I also adored (and was envious of) Hadley’s supportive relationship with her mother, so yeah, that’s always fun. Parents make fun times. Oh, and each chapter started off telling you the time (the book takes place in 24 hrs) which I thought was cool.

Rating in HP Terms: Acceptable
Recommended for: fans of Amy & Roger's Epic Detour :)

7.5/10 – because I didn’t really love it, but I thought it was kind of cute and liked the serious aspects. Personally, I felt the general story arc relied too heavily on the idea of the meet-cute, rather than fully exploring deeper themes of lingering emotions. I never felt anything for Oliver, much to my dismay, but I really did like Hadley’s character growth and her interactions with whomever she meets. The quick resolution bothered me, and it was a bit too perfect in the end, so ultimately, I’d recommend it if you want to pick up a fast, enjoyable read with some surprising depth.








author website / twitter

*odd note, while it's a cute cover, it was kind of embarrassing to hold up and show to the random Engineering PhD guy who struck up a conversation with you as you were reading. Just a thought. Damn my inability to stray from YA.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

BR: Wanderlove

by Kirsten Hubbard

I first wrote half of this review around September of last year… I only just finished up the end/rating section (impossibly late) but I still agree with what I said :)

Summary (goodreads)

It all begins with a stupid question: Are you a Global Vagabond? 

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

**
My Expectations: so ridiculously high, I absolutely loved Like Mandarin, and this one sounded so amazing.
Delivery: so many smiles.
Put-down-ability: 2.5/10
**

My Thoughts

It’s funny because I swear Wanderlove is pretty much my own personal vacation. I’ve been waiting and waiting to read it for ages. I was so stoked to start. I’m blown away by whatever amazing things are happening, whether these things are small, crazy, insightful, beautiful… Nearing the end I’m dreading the conclusion (like major-ly. I was getting upset that the story was ending at all.. why couldn’t it go on forever?). At the end, I’m sad that it’s over but happy that it happened.

That’s Wanderlove in a nutshell.

And yeah, it’s not the most eloquent way to say it but it seems lately that I’m stricken when it comes to being eloquent. This book is the epitome of contemporary YA in the sense that in embodies the truth and honesty behind being a teenager. It’s what draws me into this genre and hasn’t made me want to ever wander away.

Bria Sandoval is perhaps the most genuine and relatable YA characters in recent memory. It’s like Kirsten Hubbard could be inside my head and steal all my thoughts and plant them into Bria but still make her totally different from me.  She’s her own person yet I could relate to her emotions and that’s just great character creation, I tell you. I read this over the summer following my high school graduation, so I felt such a stronger connection to Bria's character than if I had read it at any other time.

The plot of the book is gorgeous. Like beyond gorgeous, it’s ethereal and otherworldly and using Central America as a backdrop was genius. It’s different yet it felt so authentic, whether they were lying on a dock surrounded by the ocean or talking about the sweat between the backpack and their backs… I know Kirsten Hubbard is a travel writer and it might just be because I don’t really read many non-North-America books but it’s as if the author was partly telling her own adventures as well, if that makes sense. And yes, that’s a great thing.

And here’s the paragraph dedicated completely to the traveling: It makes me want to go to places where I won’t have hot showers and I’ll eat sketchy food and live in hostels that may or may not be infested with mosquitoes. That’s how convincing Wanderlove is. It really broadened my sense of travel and it inspired me to explore Toronto when I first got here, and I’m sure whenever I’m on my next adventure, I’ll be thinking of Bria.

Now moving on to the characters, it’s like Hubbard can do no wrong. Each and every character was beautifully drawn and had his or her own history to tease the reader. I loved each and every backstory as unique and interesting characters were introduced, but what I liked more was the character growth from Bria and Rowan.

Also, there are illustrations! That were so pretty. Oh you talented person, you.

Rating in HP Terms: Exceeds Expectations/Outstanding
Recommended for: All YA contemp fans, people who like traveling :)

9.1/10 – because well, haven’t you heard? This book is amazeballs. I think it’s not necessarily an acquired taste because it does have wonderful, universal themes of self and physical discovery; but it does cater to specific, wanderlust-infected audience as well, and I think this is the type of book that I remember when I think about traveling, the type of book that makes me brave in the face of exploring new ideas, and the type of book that sparks my curiosity about the world. So if it seems like your type of thing… what are you waiting for?








source: netgalley


author website / blog
Wanderlove website (I love it!!)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

COMPLETEDNESS

GUYS!! My lovelies! I've finished my first year at university!

Oh gosh, the past week has been insanely crazy, my brain is fried, I desperately need a nap, I'm going to the Jay Asher signing tonight (woot!), and yeah. I'm DONE. Hasn't sunk in yet. It might take me a bit but I do plan on getting back into the whole blogging shin-dig.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Book of the Month (2012)

Originally I was too lazy and just kept adding my "books of the month" to my 2011 list, but it's time to have a 2012 list. These are the best books I read in that month, and it's books read, not books reviewed.


Year 2012

JanuaryTHE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green

-smart, funny, heartbreaking, poignant, and thoughtful. A masterpiece.


FebruarySPLIT by Swati Avasthi


-that's right! This one was a reread that I greatly enjoyed. Also, I think I only read 3 books in February so this was my favourite :)


MarchBITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore


-an expansive, layered and complex fantasy novel with tremendous writing and beautiful characters. Kristin Cashore is my queen of YA fantasy.


AprilTHIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers


-it's so grippingly in your face with complex characters and perfect writing. My favourite CS book so far, it's brilliant. Released June 19.
-my review

MayCODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein


-beautifully written, intricate, clever, and hit me so hard. The plot was utterly genius and the friendship between the two leading ladies is sensational.
-my review


June / July: NONE


-I was looking over all the books I read lately and none of them really stuck out to me (yes, this does seem to indicate I'm in a 2 month reading slump). No five-star reads, unfortunately.

Friday, April 6, 2012

(un)obligatory April thoughts post

It seems like every month I'm just writing a random post that really has very little to do with books, but I guess that just goes to prove what an awful book blogger I am :) So, again, in a list, things on my mind:



1. I read This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers recently and let me tell you, that book if effing brilliant. And if that book is in your possession (via Netgalley, etc) and you're not really reading it for one reason or another... STOP. READ IT. I was completely swept up in it and it's haunting and painful and the writing hurts and everything is so brilliant.

2. I used to read Harry Potter fanfiction like.. oh gosh.. 5 years ago? I want to say beginning of high school, and funnily, I used to be totally repulsed by the idea of  admitting it but now I'm just like "hey, it was 5 years ago *shrugs*" (one of the joys of growing up and 'maturing'). It's funny because I found myself on the site the other day and I realized one of those super popular stories I liked and was never really updated was finally completed, so I was treated to like 7 chapters and an actual ending to a fanfic from ages ago, which was nice and super nostalgic too (Still Delicate, if you're curious).

3. I'm SO excited for May! Biggest reasons: Bitterblue, Insurgent, and The Avengers movie! I've read Bitterblue and it is sooo fantastic, I'll definitely be buying a copy for myself. And internet, help me find friends who are as obsessive about the Avengers as I am.. I swear nobody understands why I've pretty much watched the trailer 20 times now (not even kidding).

4. I'm probably gonna get stoned for this, and I'm pretty sure I'm the only one, but despite my excitement for Insurgent, I'm getting wiped out by the hype. I'm just not feeling it anymore; I think the pre-release campaign is such a smart and unique idea with all those faction teams, but I keep seeing it everywhere (and pretty much 50% of my twitter feed these days) and it's getting a bit much. So yeah, this is an instance of overhyping that very slightly makes me not want to read the book as much.

5. Which also brings me to another point about hype, and that's you have to get the timing right. I was wayyy too excited for a book around November-ish, and there was so much hype going around (WoWs, early reviews, etc) about it, except it's released in June 2012... which is quite a ways away. And I feel like after my super-excited period is over, I'm entering the refractory period in which I really don't have much interest in the book anymore. Which kind of makes me sad.

6. I recently reread A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, which was one of my fave reads last year, and cried, it's so good :) I've now reread 4 books this year and that makes me really happy. Currently rereading Just Listen by Sarah Dessen :)

7. I vlog-reviewed Black Heart by Holly Black for TotallyBooksessed (link here), so you should check it out. And I'll be hopefully writing an actual review-review of a book soon... #awfulblogger

8. How freaking good was The Hunger Games??? I know some people didn't really like it, but I thought it was fantastic, considering it's an adaption. Okay, you can't have every single tiny detail on point, but I thought the movie got the essence of the book pretty well, and Jennifer Lawrence was superb.

9. Finalsfinalsfinals are on my brain. I'm stressed and not excited, but it's the final stretch... light at the end of the tunnel! I promise there will be regular bookish content over the summer! PROMISE. But till then I'm just knee-deep in series, sequences, and stupid integrals, so bye bye for now :)