Tag Archives: book review

Review Paper Towns by John Green

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life – dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge – he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues – and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer Q gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release Date: October 16, 2008
Page Count: 305
Source: My copy.
Rating: 3/5

There’s a few things I’ve learned about John Green’s books reading Paper Towns:


-I don’t agree with the common opinion that all Green’s characters are the same.
Quentin Jacobsen (anxiety) is very different from Will Grayson (typical) who is very different from Miles Halter (the great perhaps) who is extremely different from Augustus Waters (oblivion). However:

-I do think that Alaska Young and Margo Roth Spiegelman have a lot in common, or are, essentially, the same character.
And I don’t get it. Not that they are the same really – that’s fine, it happens – but I don’t get their appeal. As Miles is with Alaska, Quentin is absolutely enamored with Margo. And I understand she’s beautiful and popular and spontaneous and adventurous and all of these wonderful things that might lure in a teenage boy, but she’s also really self-absorbed. She’s careless about the ones who love her. She knows that Quentin is actually obsessed with her (and that’s what this book borders on, obsession) and she doesn’t care. She actually plans to hang out with him and blow him off in the same night. And maybe, maybe I can understand their appeal a little bit – on the outside these girls are these free, beautiful spirits, but that’s not enough if you’re just going to walk all over everyone to get what you want, while thinking you’re better than everyone else. The point is, while I may never understand because I’m obviously not a teenage boy, I think there are plenty of beautiful, eccentric, free girls out there that won’t stomp all over your heart the first chance they get. I guess I’m rooting for the underdog. And this is mainly where my rating comes from. Because I truly dislike Margo, and therefore dislike Quentin for stooping to her level.

-I read Green’s books in the wrong order.
Unfortunately, I only discovered John Green last year. The Fault in Our Stars, my favorite book, was the first book I ever read by John Green. Then Looking for Alaska, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and finally Paper Towns. I’m sure every author wants their next book to be better than their last, and such was the case. Except I read them backwards.

To conclude, I never really thought I’d rate a John Green book three stars. But as it turns out, Paper Towns is my least favorite. And that’s not saying it’s a bad book – there are plenty of books I rated three stars that I really liked – just not my favorite.

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Review Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices, #2) by Cassandra Clare

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?

As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.

Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: December 6, 2011
Page Count: 502
Source: My copy.
Rating: 5/5
I mentioned in my updates that I am not tired of Clare’s books yet. That after seven books, you’d think I would get tired of Shadowhunters, but I’m so not. If anything, this book has renewed my love for Shadowhunters. You get a better sense of who they are and what they believe in in the prequel series to The Mortal Instruments and I found myself really understanding them. Family and strength and staying true to yourself is part of what makes them tick and I realized that they are truly amazing people.

I don’t get love triangles. I don’t. Kissing one boy in the drawing room and then kissing the other boy in the carriage the next day was not acceptable then and it isn’t now. (At least I don’t think so. When is hurting someone you supposedly love acceptable?) Tessa needs to make a choice. She has needed to make a choice for a while now, and I think what she is doing is wrong. And though she may think she has, I don’t think she has truly made that choice. And it is unfair. How long she has strung these boys along, it is unfair to them, and to herself. But I indulge the love triangles. Why? I don’t know. Why do I watch The Vampire Diaries? It’s unclear, but I think my interest in this story is the setting. The world they live in, not so much the characters (even though I love Will. And Magnus.). Which is weird for me. I have always said I can forgive plot, but never bad characters. And the characters aren’t bad, really, they’re just kind of there. I don’t feel overwhelming emotion for Tessa or for Jem or for Charlotte but I do love the magic. And the danger. And the badassery.

I said the characters didn’t wow me yet I still rated the book five stars. I really do love the world Clare has created, and don’t think I’ll ever get enough of it. I keep waiting for Clare to write a bad book, for me to open one of these books and scream WHAT IS THIS SHIT but I never do. She is an author who never leaves anything out while trusting us to read intelligently. She is wonderful and I will read her work for as long as she puts it out. No matter how many Shadowhunter books she writes.


Review Insurgent (Divergent #2) by Veronica Roth

 

One choice can transform you–or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves–and herself–while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable–and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

“New York Times” bestselling author Veronica Roth’s much-anticipated second book of the dystopian “Divergent” series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

Genre: YA Dystopian
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Page Count: 525
Source: My copy.
Rating: 4/5

My rating may surprise you, especially if you saw my Goodreads status updates. Stuff like “Tris, grow up” and “OMG Tris. Stop. Just stop.” And by page three-hundred-and-something I was completely prepared to give this book one star and start my review with “Fuck this book” (I’ve always wanted to start a review like that. I guess it’ll just have to wait.).

But the thing is, I love this book and I love the Divergent series. I have even marked this book as a favorite, a list that holds only 21 books. Despite my frustrations with this book as I was reading it, I really loved it. I think that Roth is a phenomenal writer. I think her world-building is imaginative but realistic, and frankly, I am in love with Four like I have never been in love with a character before. I think he is an amazing, strong person who puts those he truly loves in front of himself and feel like I can connect with him on so many levels. He’s one of those characters that you wish you had as a friend in real life. And this book is like that – it’s a fast-paced, badass thriller yes, and it’s a really dangerous and crazy world to live in yes, yet you find yourself wishing you were really a part of it. I want to meet all these characters and fight alongside them because having them to fight for would be totally worth it. And I’ve gotta say, it’s been a while since I’ve come across a story with such strong world-building and character development that it made me feel that way.

But Tris, she… well, I’m just gonna come out and say it. She pissed me off. Bad. She was too goddamned reckless. And you want to be reckless fine… your parents died, you feel like there’s nothing else – but there is something else. Someone else. And he is fucking counting on you to be the girl he loves. Not throw yourself into danger. All the things I described about Four before, it’s like Tris fails to see all that. And she is supposed to be the one who loves him! She thinks its okay to basically tear his heart out and stomp on it because she is grieving and because she doesn’t want to live. This is where I wanted her to grow up. This is where I got so fed up with her that I wanted to put the book down. She needed to look at her surroundings and realize the world was falling apart, and she needed to stop and really think about what she could do to fix it before running into situations without using her brain first. She was not being Tris at all through the course of this book – the Tris I fell in love with in Divergent – and it seriously pissed me off. And if it wasn’t enough to do one Stupid Thing and be lucky enough to live through it, she went and did another Stupid Thing. And, though it worked out in the end (sort of), I still don’t agree with how she went about it. I don’t agree with her going against the people who loved her instead of entrusting them to keep an open mind to see it her way.

So, maybe I should rate this book lower based on my experience (and my frustration) with it, but I just love the Divergent world so much, I don’t have it in me to do it. I would definitely recommend it, and can only hope, for the sake of my sanity, that Tris is not such a dumbass in the next book, and actually takes the time to realize that – though her world is in ruins – what she does have… is beautiful.


Review The Edumacation of Jay Baker by Jay Clark

A few “sexy” bullet points about Jay: 
– He is in love with a cheerleader named Cameo “Appearance” Parnell 
– He is forever losing “Love-15” to tennis-playing goddess Caroline Richardson 
– He rocks a touche array of pop-culture references, jokes, and puns 
– His family-life cookie is about to crumble. 

Live vicariously through Jay as he faces off against his mortal enemy, gets awkward around his dream girl(s), loses his marbles in a Bermudian love triangle, watches his parents’ relationship implode, and, finally, learns to get real and be himself(ish).

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Page Count: 272
Source: My copy.
Rating: 3/5

I really liked this book. I liked Jay and his quirks, and loved (most) all of the supporting characters. He suffered from some serious teenage boy syndrome during his rival with Mike and the bad choices he made where Cameo was concerned, but he made up for it in character so that was okay.

I had a real hard time connecting with Cameo, who is mostly responsible for the loss of rating. I know the author tried to portray her as a mistake-prone girl with good intentions, but I just wasn’t buying it. She wasn’t sincere to me.

Caroline, however, I loved. I was able to picture her perfectly and could definitely see myself being friends with her. I know that the author’s fiancee is named Caroline (and he is Jay), so one can only hope that she is like Caroline in the novel, because she is really down to earth. I do wish that we could have experienced the development in their relationship though, rather than “it’s one month later and we’re dating”.

Ms. Lambert was probably my favorite character though. Funnier than even Jay, I thought she was witty and very intelligent. Anyone who has a teacher like this, who cares about their students as much as she did, is really lucky.

I knew going into the novel that its main plot point was a love triangle (which I usually stay away from at all costs) but it wasn’t overdone so it turned out okay. Plus, it was told from a boy’s perspective which is not as common, so I was interested to see how that would play out.

Wholly, The Edumacation of Jay Baker is a humorous, witty contemporary that does deal with some real issues (divorce, etc.), but is not a tearjerker or anything like that. I would recommend it for a pretty light read.


Review Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

Nimira is a music-hall performer forced to dance for pennies to an audience of leering drunks. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to do a special act – singing accompaniment to an exquisite piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new life. In Parry’s world, however, buried secrets stir. 
Unsettling below-stairs rumours abound about ghosts, a mad woman roaming the halls, and of Parry’s involvement in a gang of ruthless sorcerers who torture fairies for sport. When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing young fairy gentleman is trapped inside the automaton’s stiff limbs, waiting for someone to break the curse and set him free, the two fall in love. But it is a love set against a dreadful race against time to save the entire fairy realm, which is in mortal peril.

Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date: February 1, 2010
Page Count: 225
Source: My copy.
Rating: 2/5

I did not like this book. I rolled my eyes a lot. Fantastically, the second half was better than the first, but there was still eye-rolling. And that ending!

Page 63, and hello insta-love. Our protagonist has fallen for an automaton. Which is not that far fetched, I guess, considering he is alive, but, up to that point, barely anything has passed between them! They have had like, one conversation, that involved them communicating their names to each other. Which is hardly grounds for true love. I mean, I could even understand the insta-love, the story being set in Jane Austen days (I’m guessing, there were carriages?) but I just expected more from Nimira. She didn’t appear to be one of those girls. She exuded strength, even in the very beginning when times were tough for her, and I expected more character from her. And I could totally see her falling in love with Erris when he is no longer an automaton (well not really an automaton) – I mean the guy is hot. And charming. And a prince. – but not before.

The characters are memorable (even the bad ones), I have to give the author that. The world building was even good – I pictured the story’s setting very easily, especially as the characters moved place to place. And though nothing particularly wonderful stands out about the writing, the story did flow well. But the romance was so, so cheesy.

And that ending! It was terrible. It was one of those endings that tried to be mysterious in leaving the reader to think about it and come to their own conclusions about where the characters end up? But it didn’t work. The most pertinent question that you want the answer to never gets resolved. And as far as I know, there is not a sequel. So if you’re like me, and you can’t stand insta-lovey books that leave you with more questions than answers, I wouldn’t recommend this book.


Review Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Publisher: Hyperion
Release Date: May 15, 2012
Page Count: 343
Source: My copy.
Rating: 5/5

Though I’ve given this book the highest rating it could receive, I want to mention that I still don’t know what to rate this book. I rated it five stars, mainly, because there were parts of it (in the second half, mostly), that made me grip its edges so fiercely that it felt like prying my fingers when I had to set it free. But I wanted to rate it lower, God I wanted to rate it lower when Maddie made me think, “who is this girl?” or when the plot was so far fetched it was unbelievable. Which the author apologized for in her Author’s Debriefing. I don’t often read the Author’s Note or whatever, but when I read the ending of this book and then saw the words “I am legally bound to write this afterword…” I just had to read on. And I just don’t know what to think about the author practically apologizing for the lack of historical accuracy in this novel, but I’ve come to appreciate her explanations to the reader:

“More reading ensued-okay, I could have a pilot AND a spy, and they’d both be girls. And it would still be plausible…. Bear in mind that despite my somewhat exhaustive quest for historical accuracy, this book is not meant to be a good history but rather a good story.”

I don’t know if some will consider this a cheap shot to the reader, or see it as Writer Laziness, but I don’t. I actually appreciate her for pointing out that hey, this is a fictional novel, and while I did my best, I couldn’t have told my story effectively without stretching the binds a little bit.

There are other things to be mentioned, such as Maddie and her shotty personality when the story jumped to her perspective. Part One, Verity was very imaginative in that it told Maddie’s story from the perspective of her unnamed best friend. And Maddie was portrayed by her friend as this strong, badass, Pilot/Motorcycle Rider/Girl who could do anything. And then in Part Two Maddie’s perspective came into the picture and she wasn’t that girl at all. She was this blubbing (Wein’s word, not mine) little girl that didn’t know what to do with herself. I won’t call her weak because she definitely wasn’t – she stepped up when it was her turn to survive – but I wasn’t convinced that she was the same girl. But she wasn’t. The same girl. And that’s the whole point. This experience, this war, changed her. And I’m not going to say that she didn’t handle it well because she really did, she just changed. So yeah, I thought, who the hell is this girlwhen I started reading about Kittyhawk, but really, this is exactly who she is. Who she’s meant to be. And I really loved her.

Laurie Halse Anderson said, “This astonishing tale of friendship and truth will take wing and soar into your heart.” And that’s what Code Name Verity is. A tale of friendship. There isn’t a hint of romance anywhere in the book and I think this is a refreshing trait in YA. Everything about the book is refreshing; I’ve never read a book like it. The unnamed girl (she is named eventually but I don’t want to spoil it) and Maddie truly are a sensational team. Throughout their friendship they have been there for each other and looked out for one another in a man’s world. I haven’t encountered a friendship like theirs anywhere in YA and I thought it was beautiful. I thought the whole thing was just really, very beautiful. And I realize that this review is sort of all over the place but it’s just really hard to sum up this book in a few easy words. I’m not going to say “I don’t usually read historical fiction but this is great” because I do read historical fiction, or “the writing was good” because it’s so… beyond that. I can’t nitpick at this novel or cut it into pieces because it’s, wholly, an amazing novel, that any person who values the beauty of friendship or the soul of another person, should definitely read.


Review Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

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Lucky Linderman didn’t ask for his life. He didn’t ask his grandfather not to come home from the Vietnam War. He didn’t ask for a father who never got over it. He didn’t ask for a mother who keeps pretending their dysfunctional family is fine. And he didn’t ask to be the target of Nader McMillan’s relentless bullying, which has finally gone too far.

But Lucky has a secret–one that helps him wade through the daily mundane torture of his life. In his dreams, Lucky escapes to the war-ridden jungles of Laos–the prison his grandfather couldn’t escape–where Lucky can be a real man, an adventurer, and a hero. It’s dangerous and wild, and it’s a place where his life just might be worth living. But how long can Lucky keep hiding in his dreams before reality forces its way inside?

Michael L. Printz Honor recipient A.S. King’s smart, funny and boldly original writing shines in this powerful novel about learning to cope with the shrapnel life throws at you and taking a stand against it.

Genre: YA Fiction/Magical Realism
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 3, 2011
Page Count: 279
Source: My copy.
Rating: 4.5/5

Generally, during my reading experience with a book, I have something (or somethings) to think or to say about it along the way. With Everybody Sees the Ants, I was at a loss for thoughts. I could only focus all my energy on the heartbreaking story and the author’s way of pulling you into it head first.

Our Lucky Linderman is not only likable, but lovable. He is a kid who is bullied to the breaking point and, because of his mentally-absent parents (they’re there, but not really there), only has his dreams of the jungle and his beloved granddad in which to escape. And yet he doesn’t appear to feel sorry for himself. He does, actually, feel sorry for himself, and feels thatsomeone, anyone should help him, but doesn’t come across as whiny or helpless. How Lucky feels, is how it should be. Yet it’s not. And that’s what infuriated me most about this book. There are so many adults around who are willing to punish him for his expression and deem him depressed, but no one willing to stand up to this bully (who not only bullies, but is responsible for sexual assault).

“It got him in trouble.”

“Yeah, well, it got me in fucking trouble, too, and if he doesn’t watch himself, he’s going to be in more trouble. Those rumors about him rushing girls are going to land him in jail if he’s not careful.”

He laughed. “It’s not illegal. The only reason girls have tits is so we can grab ’em, right?”

What do you say to this? What do you say to an idiot who’d repeat anything Nader told him?

I said nothing.

That day was my monthly guidance meeting, and it took everything I had not to tell the guidance counselor about Charlotte’s completed questionnaires. I did mention the groping rumors, though.

“Does it bother you?” the counselor asked.

“It bothers me that no one is doing anything about it,” I said.

“Believe me, if we acted on every rumor that went around this place, we’d never have time to do our jobs.”

This pretty much sent me over the edge. Reading this, I was a raving lunatic. You wouldn’t have time to do your job. What exactly is your job, lady? Because I don’t know about you, but my idea of a school is somewhere children can be safe. And if they cannot count on the adults to enforce that, who can they count on?

The slight paranormal element to this story gave a glimpse of hope. At first I thought it didn’t belong in this novel, but eventually it just melted in and worked. It was like magic without the story actually being magical. It reminded me of Sarah Addison Allen’s books, which I love.

(removed for spoilers)

King is a very talented writer. I think she took a real issue such as bullying and weaved in self-discovery to a teenager who is such a great kid, he is destined to be a great man, despite his family problems. It’s one of the most realistic novels I’ve read in a long time. The title of the book is absolutely brilliant and encompasses the entire story. I’ve been wanting to read her work for a while, and am so glad I did. I’ll be picking up her other books very soon.