YA book reviews, reading and recommending since 2009

Girl Saves Boy by Steph Bowe
Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication Date: August 30th 2010
Buy it from: Amazon (free shipping worldwide!)
Silver star (3.5/5 stars)
Synopsis: Isn’t it enough having your very own terminal disease, without your mother dying? Or your father dating your Art teacher?

No wonder Sacha Thomas ends up in the lake that Saturday evening…

But the real question is: how does he end up in love with Jewel Valentine?

With the help of quirky teenage prodigies Little Al and True Grisham, Sacha and Jewel have a crazy adventure, with a little lobster emancipation along the way.

But Sacha’s running out of time, and Jewel has secrets of her own.

Girl Saves Boy is a hugely talented debut novel, funny and sad, silly and wise. It’s a story of life, death, love… and garden gnomes.

Review: When I first heard about this book, I was impressed to find out that Bowe was only sixteen years old. Bowe is a sixteen year old Australian writer and Girl Saves Boy is her debut novel. It was published by Text Publishing in Australia & New Zealand, but I think it’ll be making it’s way over to the States soon.

First off, I loved how the book was centered around Jewel and Sacha are both flawed characters (have I mentioned how much I loved characters who are not perfect?) who found each other. I found myself able to relate to both characters to a certain extent. Sacha’s early chapters were truly heartbreaking and so were Jewel’s. However, much to my dismay, there were too many subplots and even at the end, some issues were not entirely resolved. The vague abrupt ending was also very disappointing. If you want a book to have a sad ending, then let it have a sad ending. Vice versa. Don’t leave the readers to imagine the ending for themselves. It’s frustrating! Also, Sacha and Jewel’s romance seemed to escalate very quickly in a week and it was rather unbelievable. I wished the romance had been given more time to be developed. The secondary characters were also quite bland. Sad to say, there was nothing very distinct about each character.

But the best thing about this book would be the writing. The writing is not fluffy, like the pink cover suggests, instead it’s realistic but sometimes a little depressing. However, that does not deter one from enjoying the book. The prose is quite similar to Jandy Nelson’s if you are wondering. There were several fabulous scenes in the novel where Bowe’s writing shone and I particularly enjoyed the one were Sacha and his friend rescued the lobster from the Chinese restaurant.

In the end, I didn’t enjoy Girl Saves Boy as much as I would have liked but it still kept me hooked onto for ages. Sadly it was a number of issues that prevented me from really loving it. At times funny, at times painful, Girl Saves Boy is a story of two teenagers and their journey to self-discovery.


Best Books of 2010

2009 was a good year for YA but 2010 was even better! I read many fantastic novels this year and it took me a long time to come up with this list (because there were too many good books!).

Best Book of 2010:
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
No doubt Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins is the winner. It has action, a swoon-worthy and a not exactly smooth sailing romance, and it has excellent writing and a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. Definitely my fave of 2010.
Runnerup: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Although it was published in 2009, it was reprinted in 2010. 🙂 Jellicoe Road is one of my favorite books of all time.

Best Romance:
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
The writing is one of the best, very readable and filled with vivid imagery. The book was one that took me completely by surprise, it an incredible book with plenty of action and romance. The romance angle was a typical love triangle and yet there’s something entirely unique about it. Loved it!
Runnerup: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. Maggie Stiefvater has the ability to write swoon-worthy romances and tearful novels although I still preferred Shiver to Linger.

Best Dystopian:
Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien
Birthmarked is one dystopian that I hardly come across on blogs. But I have this to say: it is my next favorite dystopian after the Hunger Games trilogy so you can guess how awesome it is. 😉 Definitely one of the highlights this year. Read this, I cannot stress enough.
Runnerup: Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder. This one had me on the edge of my seat!

Best Fantasy:
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
This is hands down my favorite fantasy of the year. An epic adventure with the characters falling in love along the way. This book has the best of both worlds.
Runnerup: Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey. I’m not sure if you’d consider this fantasy but one thing is for sure: Maori mythologies are not common in YA! This book has a great cast of characters and a jaw-dropping ending. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up the next time you are at the bookstore.

Best Contemporary:
Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian
Runner up: Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala. It was a close call between this and Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala. But it doesn’t really matter because both books are books you absolutely have to read because I love them so much. Both novels are empowering and you should definitely check them out!

Best Laugh-Out-Loud:
The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell. Absolutely hilarious and entertaining! I adored this one. I never knew books on super heroes and super villains could be so much fun. More books like this please!
Runner up: The Ghost And The Goth by Stacey Kade was simply delightful. I couldn’t put it down, and it kept me laughing throughout.

Best Forbidden Romance:
Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready. Very well written. Shade is truly an amazing YA debut from Jeri Smith-Ready and I am looking forward to more books by her. I love Smith-Ready’s take on paranormal. Bring on the ghosts!
Runner up: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh. I was very impressed with Creagh’s writing and I loved how a big portion of Nevermore took place in school. Hardly any YA books seem centered around school these days.

Alright so that’s my massive Best Books of 2010 list. I did one last year but I included images in this year’s post. I hope you all enjoyed it and leave your thoughts below. 😀 Happy 2011!

Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian
Publisher: Push
Publication Date: September 1st 2010
Buy it from: Book Depository (free shipping worldwide!)
Gold star (4.5/5 stars)

Synopsis: Natalie Sterling wants to be in control. She wants her friends to be loyal. She wants her classmates to elect her student council president. She wants to find the right guy, not the usual jerk her school has to offer. She wants a good reputation, because she believes that will lead to good things.
But life is messy, and it’s very hard to be in control of it. Not when there are freshman girls running around in a pack, trying to get senior guys to sleep with them. Not when your friends have secrets they’re no longer comfortable sharing. Not when the boy you once dismissed ends up being the boy you want to sleep with yourself – but only in secret, with nobody ever finding out.

Slut or saint? Winner or loser? Natalie is getting tired of these forced choices – and is now going to find a way to live life in the sometimes messy, sometimes wonderful in-between.

Review: Have you ever read a book that’s so amazing that you want to tell the whole world about? Yup, Not That Kind of Girl is one of those books. The prose was something I instantly liked. It was very compelling and I just savored every word.

This novel was surprisingly very good. The cover is totally misleading; I picked up the book thinking that it would be a chick-lit kind of novel, maybe something light but, wow, this book has depth. Do not be fooled by the cover. Not That Kind of Girl talks about feminism, first love, the ups and downs of friendship, heartbreaks and one girl’s journey to discovering who she truly was.

Natalie knows what she wants in life; she’s smart, confident, strong and resourceful. But when things start changing during senior year, she starts to question some things in life. The other characters were awesome, oh I don’t know where to begin. There’s Autumn, Natalie’s best friend. I liked her but I couldn’t help but feel annoyed by her actions sometimes so yes, she’s flawed but I still loved her in the end.

The male interest, Connor, was lovely. He is the best representation of a popular guy who is not a jerk. I know it has been done many times in YA novels but Connor stood out. His interactions with Natalie were hilarious. Vivian knows how to make conversations between them realistic and yet with a dose of clever insults. I can’t help but recognize myself in Natalie some scenes. Then there’s Spencer, the girl Natalie used to babysit who is now a freshman. In the beginning I grew quickly annoyed by Spencer’s stripper-in-the-making act and immediately classified her as the mean girl. But she started growing on me and by the end of the book, I adored her. Spencer was also an excellent example of a realistically portrayed flawed character.

As for Mrs Bee, it was interesting reading scenes involving her. While she was not my favorite character, she rang true to me with her actions. She was someone who cared a lot for Natalie and her actions was justified. Vivan painted an accurate picture of high school. The cliques; the mean girls, the jocks who are full of raging hormones, the girl who wanted to fit in so badly. I dare say that Not That Kind Of Girl will be loved by almost everyone who reads it. It is one of the best coming-of-age stories I have ever read. What are you waiting for? Read this book!

Merry Christmas!

Hi my lovely readers, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Have a great one! 🙂

I would like to share with you some wonderful artwork done by Novel Novice‘s mom. They are absolutely brilliant!

Harry Potter

Wow look at that! There’s even a wand there!

Hunger Games

Erm does anyone know which is Peeta?

Anna & the French Kiss

I haven’t read this book but I am dying to! I have heard many wonderful things about it. If you read it, let me know what you thought of it.

Weren’t they amazing? Head over to Novel Novice for more drawings. 🙂

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares
by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 26th 2010
Buy it from: Book Depository (free shipping worldwide!)
Gold star (3.85/5 stars)

Synopsis: “I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

Review: Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares is the ultimate Christmastime read. Seeing that today is Christmas (happy Christmas everyone!), I thought I would do a review of a book related to Christmastime. Now, on with my review.

The story alternates between Dash’s (written by Levithan) and Lily’s (written by Cohn) perspectives. Dash is anti-Christmas and pages told from his POV are usually laced with snarky humor while Lily enjoys Christmas and her pages often have an abundance of capital letters and exclamation marks. Dash finds a red notebook at the stores and before you know it, they are both doing a series of hilarious, spontaneous dares throughout New York, each of them experiencing something they like/dislike during Christmastime. From department stores to wax museums, this book will make you feel as if you were in New York City right that moment. What a treat!

However, I did feel a bit overwhelmed at times when the characters seemed to be having one million thoughts running through their mind. It can be very irritating. That was a similar issue I had with Cohn’s and Levithan’s previous collaboration, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. The secondary characters were also not as developed as I would have liked them to be but I did enjoy reading scenes with Great-aunt Ida.

Overall, I adored this fabulous Christmas novel and I definitely loved it way more than Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. So sit down with a cup of eggnog, or caramel apple cider, or whatever your favorite Christmas beverage is, and read this fun, delightful and meaningful novel. Happy holidays everyone!

After I finished wrapping the gazillion Christmas presents, I finally found the time to draw the winners to my Humongous Giveaway. Unfortunately I did not hit 1567 followers so there will only be one book in each pack.

Prize Pack 1 winner: Laura of Calico Critic! She won Kat Incorrigible.

Prize Pack 2 winner: Chrizette of All The Days Of! She won Bad Girls Don’t Die with a signed bookplate!

Winners, I have contacted you. Happy holidays everyone!

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: 21st September 2010
Buy it from: Book Depository (free shipping worldwide!)
Bronze star (2.5/5 stars)

Synopsis: Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate’s baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

Review: My favorite author blurbed this book so of course I was dying to read it. I trust her tastes. Unfortunately, this is one of the books I wished I loved more but I just couldn’t. I love the idea of a main character who knew he was the odd one out. This is not the type of paranormal where the protagonist suddenly discovers his/her lover has a secret. Instead, in The Replacement, the narrator, Mackie has a secret. I was really excited at the prospect of reading a novel with a narrator who is aware of his problem. And so I read. But after a few chapters, I realized something was wrong. There was no background information. We were told that the town knew about The Replacements but it wasn’t further delved into. I read the book thinking that the history would finally be touched upon, but when I finished it, I realized my questions about the town’s history were not answered.

A significant reason that caused me not to enjoy The Replacement was the lacked in world building. There was an absence of history although I was pleased to see descriptions that were often vivid. The pace was slow but it allowed readers to savor that small town “feel” that Yovanoff captured so incredibly well.

Another thing that angered me was that Mackie hung out with Alice (who is obviously the wrong choice for him) after admiring Tate’s body, sharing moments with her and getting to know her. I know he is a teenage boy with raging hormones although he is not human but what’s with the fickle mindedness?! I don’t know if that was supposed to be the conflict in the the love story but it just added to my frustrations.

Overall, certain parts of the story shone, scenes where Mackie started to talk to Tate and played the guitar on stage, but there were missing aspects as mentioned above. I know this book received lots of good reviews so I guess I’m one of the minority. Nevertheless, don’t let my review deter you from trying the book. Who knows, you might like it!