Friday, June 3, 2016

Review: Troublemaker

Andrew Clements
middle grade contemporary

Clayton Hensley is accustomed to trouble: There’s a folder of incident reports in Principal Kelling’s office that’s as thick as a phonebook and growing daily. Most recently, Clay’s art teacher told the class to spend the period drawing anything they wanted, and Clay decided to be extra “creative” by drawing a spot-on portrait of Principal Kelling…as a donkey.
It’s a pretty funny joke, but Clay is coming to realize that the biggest joke of all may be on him. When his big brother, Mitchell, gets in some serious trouble, Clay decides to change his own mischief-making ways…but he can’t seem to shake his reputation as a troublemaker.

In elementary school, I loved Andrew Clements. An advanced kid and reader, I often felt books meant for my age were stupid. So like all academically strong and frustrated kids, I started reading YA early. Clements was never like that- he doesn't write down to children, and he recognizes them for how smart they really are. His characters are always dynamic and interesting, talented and full of life. They are fully capable of manipulating the adults around them. 

Troublemaker was satisfying in all those ways. Despite how smart and witty and independent Clay is, he openly worships his older brother and aims to be like him. I found that realistic and adorable.  He makes you laugh and you can't help but love him. 

I found his willingness to transform his ways entirely not exactly likely, and also the quickness in which he succeeds. In addition, the example the author used for his message was an exaggeration. Just because he was a troublemaker in 6th grade does NOT mean he's on the path to crime.  However, I thought the ideas behind it -that there are consequences to your actions, and that you can have fun without hurting anybody or breaking the rules, and that if you don't take responsibility for your life you can end up in places you don't want to be - were brought forward well and in a way that was light and enjoyable for a middle grade reader. 

Happy weekend!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Review: The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend

The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat FriendThe Duff 
Kody Keplinger
YA contemporary

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper may not be the prettiest girl in her high school, but she has a loyal group of friends, a biting wit, and a spot-on BS detector. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. But things aren't so great at home and Bianca, desperate for a distraction, ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Unfortunately for all of us, I read The DUFF a few weeks ago and only got around to reviewing it now. I loved it, but am more critical after time has passed. Whatever I say, keep in mind that it was awesome. 

The Duff had a really great concept that was executed not as brilliantly as it could have been. For one, the amazing idea that was this book - how we all feel like the duff next to our friends - was spelled out and shoved in our a faces all the time, instead of subtly through the story as I, for one, would have preferred it. 

Another problem was the one-dimensionality of the supporting cast. Bianca's mother, Jessica, Toby... all just served their purpose in the story and showed no hint of complexity at all. Frankly, in the case of Jessica I actually felt that feminism was dealt a blow - a young, clueless, perky girl portrayed as nothing but that. Even the characters of Bianca's father and Casey, who both had potential to be interesting and realistic, well-rounded characters, ultimately were made to be cliches. 

Bianca, at least, I felt was very normal,  realistic and relatable. She was perhaps more aware of herself than a real person usually is, but I think in books that sometimes helps us tolerate our protagonist's flaws. 

Writing-wise, the novel is very, very immature. Phrases were repeated, the language structure used was simple, slangy, childish. (I confirmed my suspicions later... the book's reading level is 3.7 - at the end of third grade in America you should be able to read this. Content-wise of course, this is firmly high-school.) 

HOWEVER, like I said above, I really liked this book. I laughed, I fell for Wesley (even if he is your typical troubled YA popular bad boy), I felt for Bianca. I understood the need to escape from problems, the insecurity that has plagued every teenager from the dawn of time. The unrequited crushes, the parental problems, regrets, girls judging girls, girls trying to stop... it is, for all its faults, a very good coming-of-age story. 


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Review: To All The Boys I've Loved Before

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)To All The Boys I've Loved Before
Jenny Han

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

This never happens to me - usually when I love a book I love it straight off the bat. I also usually never hate a popular, bestselling book - not always in love with it, but usually never hate it. I consider my tastes fairly normal. 

This book tho. 

I couldn't stand it for the first 50 pages or so, and seriously considered putting it down. (THIS NEVER HAPPENS)  Because I'm crazy about not DNFing, I continued. Boy am I happy.

From the second Lara Jean jumps on Kavinsky and I looked up from the book in bewilderment like did she just do that things took a turn for the awesomeness. I loved how funny things were, I love how I grew to care. I hurt for Josh, I hurt for the sisters. I liked how normal and boring our protagonist was, but how her story and life was beautiful and meaning to me nonetheless. I liked how she was Asian, and it was addressed - ahhahh I had never thought about the costumes thing. 

The romance was beautiful. It was slow, it was funny, it was natural. He grew on me, Peter. Totally had me in love with him by the end. My only real point of criticism throughout the novel was that Lara didn't dwell pretty much at all on who sent her letters. I felt that anyone else wouldn't rest until they found out who had done it. 

As for the person who had done it... without spoilers, I felt that that was a drastic move, and frankly an unforgiveable one. Not to mention the cause of Lara and Margo's fallout... the Song girls' ability to forgive each other was truly astonishing. 

THE ENDING. Like with Jenny Han's other books,  I had a bad feeling about where the sequel was going to go so I spoiled it in order to decide whether or not to read it. Fortunately, it seems things will end up where I believe they should be and have decided to continue(:

Soooo recommended.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Book to TV review: SHADOWHUNTERS !

So I'm still so totally behind on reviews but I finally watched the first two episodes of this last night and OMG I just have to gush. 

Let's start with the most obvious and outstanding fact that this series was made of eye-candy. Jace- smoking hot. Simon- smoking hot (thank you, totally-unnecessary-absolutely-lovely-Simon-changes-shirt-onscreen-scene) Luke - OMG IT'S THE GUY FROM THE OLD SPICE COMMERCIAL. Magnus - smoking  hot. Hodge - WTH AREN'T YOU SUPPOSED TO BE OLD AND UGLY WHY ARE YOU YOUNG AND SEXY. Alec- HOTTEST OF THEM ALL. 

Was there anything else? All I can remember was beautiful men making me question my morals. 

Oh yeah (:

So I didn't like how Clary looked flawless. all. the. time. She cries, faints, gets sopping wet, fights, gets thrown through a portal, goes down into the crypts of the Silent City and still her long, clean, perfectly styled gorgeous hair says clean perfectly styled and gorgeous. Makeup - beautiful and flawless all. the. time. I wanted more grit, more realistic. The special effects and lack of worldbuilding made this show wayyy sillier than we wanted it already so the least they could do was get the heroes a little dirty and bloody every once in a while.

Also, what on earth was going on with all the cheesy lines and posing?? In the beginning, Jocelyn has an entire looooong scene in which she picks up a seraph blade and poses dramatically in the darkness. Oh come on. And "This is witchlight. We carry it to remind us that light can be found even in the darkest of places" or something like that. Sorry. Maybe I was quoting Dumbledore. 

I think the character of Dot added a lot to the story, and I'm interested in how Maureen's character arc is going to be played out. When it comes to personalities, I feel like the side characters are going to have a lot of cool developments and that we're going to have fun(: 

The foreshadowing was a little unnoyingly obvious at times (like when Simon was so obviously going to be attacked while alone in the car), but I totally busted out laughing when our two soon-to-be-vampires started singing Forever Young. 

I wished the worldbuilding could have been more fleshed out- everything was so rushed. I felt that they didn't properly explain what Shadowhunters are, the difference between demons and Downworlders, what the hell the circle is. We didn't even have time to really get to know or relate to Simon and Clary. If you haven't read the books I doubt you'll like it for anything more than the good-looking actors. 

As for the things I DID like- I LOVED how the Institute was hi-tech. Like, why shouldn't it be??? Why wouldn't Shadohunters use cameras and store their information in computerized databases?? I felt this was an actual improvement on the book world. Also, I thought Valentine was scary, smart, and menacing. His love for Jocelyn was evident and his shock at learning of Clary's existence came across as genuine. 

The funnies- yeah, I laughed. Simon you are so adorable I couldn't even. And Alec made me feel for him - even him being even more rule-abiding than in the book made him endearing. 

Anything else? Of course. Lots and lots. As with #AllThingsCassandraClare. Truthfully, it made me want to go back and read TMI again, and I haven't had that craving in a long time. So thanks, abcfamily freeform. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review: The Red Tent

The Red Tent
The Red Tent
Anita Diamant 
Adult historical fiction 

Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that tell of her father, Jacob, and his twelve sons.
Told in Dinah's voice, Anita Diamant imagines the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood--the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of the mothers--Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah--the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through childhood, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah's story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past.

The concept of this book fascinated me. I am familiar with the stories of Genesis like the story of my life, and have been educated thoroughly in the traditional commentary. Therefore, this book was scary to me - I didn't want it to besmirch the names that are holy to me. However, more than anything I found The Red Tent a beautiful story, and maybe a thought experiment on the people I'm descended from. 

The setting was one of the most incredible I've read - Dinah speaks to all the women of the generations, and tells us her story. She starts with that of her mothers' - with all the facts and all the feelings, and no anachronistic judgements to marr the picture. She describes the house of Jacob in such detail that you feel Cnaan in the late Bronze Age -  feel the heat, see the views, smell the food cooking and the animals. Hear the children, play in the red tent with the women, feel the pain and joy of motherhood along with them. Truly, it was an experience to read.

The climax in this story, the turning point, is also the only incident from which we hear of Dinah in the bible. This is also the place in which our story parts ways with the traditional narrative. It was beautiful, and happy and sad all at once. The dramatic bit itself was rushed - I found it hard to follow what was happening until later. 

The third part of the novel takes place in Egypt. This part was the saddest, but also the slowest and a little... boring. However, I found the existence of this storyline in which Dinah finds herself in Egypt very interesting, because there is a legend saying she did but no explanation was given.

The full circle in which we come to in the end basically made me cry. Like the rest of the book, it was beautiful and tragic. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Release Celebration - Think Twice!

THINK TWICEThink Twice (Don't Even Think About It #2)
Sarah Mlynowski

YA Contemporary

More secrets. More scandals. More ESP. The long-awaited sequel to Don't Even Think About It! We used to be average New York City teenagers. Then, in tenth grade, we got flu shots and developed telepathy. Yes. Telepathy. We could read minds, and it wasn't always pretty. We tried to keep our ESP a secret, but the news spread until everyone knew about our special ability. Our teachers. Our friends. The New York Post. We became C-list celebrities. We even had our own groupies. Now, it's senior year, and with graduation around the corner we have plans--big plans--that involve being telepathic. So when one by one we start to lose our ESP, we have to take action. Fast. With the class brainiac on our side, we should be able to save our telepathy before it's too late. Right? Or will we have to learn how to survive without it once again?

Hey all! You'll remember the post I did about Don't Even Think About It - well guess what? THINK TWICE is here and I'm super excited! 

Take a look at this excerpt !

Totally recommended for fans of Gallagher Girls and Heist Society. You can learn more about it here on Sarah's website. 

Sarah is the author of the Magic in Manhattan and Whatever After series, as well as Gimme a CallTen Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have)Milkrun, and more.
Her books have been translated into twenty-nine languages and optioned to Hollywood. Sarah was born in Montreal but now lives and writes in New York City.

Absolutely loved the Bras and Broomsticks series back in the day, and the Whatever After series gets snatched off the shelves at the bookstore I work at! 

You can get Think Twice at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Click here for the ebook(: 

Thank you so much to Deb Shapiro & Company for the links and excerpt! Enjoy!!