Tag Archives: ya book reviews

From Twinkle, with Love – Book Review

Title: From Twinkle, with Love

Author: Sandhya Menon

Pages: 328

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Published: May 22, 2018

Summary:

Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

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What If It’s Us – Book Review

Title: What If It’s Us

Author: Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Pages: 448

Genre: YA, Contemporary, LGBT

Publisher: Harper Teen

Publishing: October 9th, 2018

Summary:

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date… or a second first date… or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

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The Chaos of Standing Still – Book Review

Title: The Chaos of Standing Still

Author: Jessica Brody

Pages: 403

Genre: YA, Contemporary

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Published: November 28, 2017

Summary:

Ryn has one unread text message on her phone. And it’s been there for almost a year.

She hasn’t tried to read it. She can’t. She won’t. Because that one message is the last thing her best friend ever said to her before she died.

But as Ryn finds herself trapped in the Denver International Airport on New Year’s Eve thanks to a never-ending blizzard on the one-year anniversary of her best friend’s death, fate literally runs into her.

And his name is Xander.

When the two accidentally swap phones, Ryn and Xander are thrust into the chaos of an unforgettable all-night adventure, filled with charming and mysterious strangers, a secret New Year’s Eve bash, and a possible Illuminati conspiracy hidden within the Denver airport. But as the bizarre night continues, all Ryn can think about is that one unread text message. It follows her wherever she goes, because Ryn can’t get her brialliantly wild and free-spirited best friend out of her head.

Ryn can’t move on.

But tonight, for the first time ever, she’s trying. And maybe that’s a start.

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Review:

I have never spent overnight stranded in an airport, but if I had, this book pretty much sums up everything that I imagine happens in situations like that. The Chaos of Standing Still is such a fun story, and while it has a lot of lighthearted moments that come with contemporary novels, it also touches on some tough topics, such as coping with the death of a best friend.

Ryn has a lot of interesting quirks, one of which is that she compulsively Googles things. I thought this was such a unique trait to explore, because I also Google the answers to random questions that pop into my head all the time! Not nearly to the extent that Ryn does, but still, I could relate.

The cast of characters that Ryn meets while stranded in the airport are absolutely hilarious, and they add a lot of comedy to the story. This is great, because it helps to lighten up the story, which could have otherwise been very serious and sad. Ryn manages to get herself into a lot of… interesting situations with her new friends.

I also really loved that Jessica Brody chose some interesting names for her characters! Ryn and Xander are such unique names, and while a name might not seem like the most important part about a character, I think that each of their names really fits with their personality.

I give The Chaos of Standing Still 5/5 stars. It strikes the perfect balance of hitting on hard topics while maintaining that fun feel of a contemporary novel.

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

The Hazel Wood – Book Review

Title: The Hazel Wood

Author: Melissa Albert

Pages: 368

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Published: January 30, 2018

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away—by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began—and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

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Review:

The Hazel Wood is not the kind of fairytale that you were told as a child. It is a story full of mystery, intrigue and horrors you don’t want to imagine. The Hinterland is nothing like Wonderland, and Alice most definitely does NOT want to fall down the rabbit hole, but if she is to save her mother, that’s exactly what she’ll have to do.

It took me a long time to read this book, and once I finished, I wasn’t all that impressed. I started reading this book a little bit before Halloween, and didn’t finish it until the very end of the year. I never found myself needing to read this book to find out what would happen. In fact, I almost had to force myself to finish it just so that I could enter the new year on a clean slate and not in the middle of any books.

I think that this story will appeal to many readers, but it wasn’t for me. There are a lot of parallels to Alice in Wonderland, and at times it felt like it drew too much influence from other works. Overall the book felt slow, and dragged on forever in the first 2/3 of the book, and then the end felt so rushed and like everything was being tied up hastily without much thought for the story.

I think because this book is so hyped, I had really high expectations going into it, which made me all the more disappointed when I couldn’t get into it. I give The Hazel Wood 2.75/5 stars, and that’s really only because I liked the dark fairytales from Alice’s grandmother’s book, Tales from the Hinterland. It’s a shame the rest of the book couldn’t live up to my expectations.

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Nice Try, Jane Sinner – Book Review

Title: Nice Try, Jane Sinner 

Author: Lianne Oelke

Pages: 432

Genre: YA, contemporary

Publisher: Clarion Books

Release Date: January 9, 2018

Summary:

The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.

Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don’t know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she’ll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.

As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She’ll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.

Review:

Jane Sinner is not your typical main character. She is sassy, and a smart ass, and unapologetically herself. She’s been through some tough experiences in her life, but they’ve helped shape her into the person that she is. I think one of the things that I love most about Jane is that she sticks to what she believes in, and she doesn’t let others try to sway her. In the beginning of the book, Jane is faced with the decision of what to do after being kicked out of high school months before graduation. She knows that living at home isn’t the best environment for her, because she doesn’t have the same views as her parents and doesn’t want them to constantly judge her and her actions. So she agrees to go to community college to finish her high school diploma, as long as she can move out of the house. I admire Jane’s strength and tenacity.

Jane’s story is told through the perspective of her diary, which is such a great format for this book. Seeing as though Jane is a contestant on a student-run reality show similar to Big Brother, being able to know Jane’s deepest inner thoughts really allows the reader to get to know her. I’ve never been a huge fan of reality competition shows, but Big Brother has always been my guilty pleasure, and I loved that Jane Sinner took it’s own spin on the show.

Jane’s family is extremely religious, and the irony that their last name is Sinner is not lost on me. Being from a family that has religious values that I don’t agree with, I was able to understand Jane’s struggles with the issue. Jane can’t really figure out a way to let her parents know that she doesn’t believe in God without them thinking that there’s something wrong with her.

Jane is so snarky, and I love it! For most of the novel, I felt like Jane’s thoughts mirrored many of my own internal thoughts that I tend to keep to myself. She, however, has no qualms about speaking her mind and letting her thoughts be known. She is blunt and doesn’t beat around the bush. I really think that more people should be like Jane Sinner, because the world would be so much less confusing.

The supporting cast of characters is so varied and lively. They are all so well developed, and you can tell that they each have their own motivations behind their actions. I really believe that none of the characters in Nice Try, Jane Sinner are like any others that I’ve seen before.

I really don’t think I could have asked for any more in this book. I devoured it so fast, and was immensely satisfied. It surprised me in the best ways, and took turns that were entirely unexpected. Jane Sinner is refreshingly unique, and should be at the top of every YA lover’s 2018 TBR. I give it 5/5 stars.

I received an e-ARC of this from HMH Teen in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Replica – Book Review

Title: Replica

Author: Lauren Oliver

Pages: 520 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Science Fiction

Publisher: Harper Collins

Published: October 4, 2016

Summary:

Lyra

From a distance, the Haven Institute, tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida, looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, it is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed.

But when a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects—Lyra, or 24, and the boy known only as 72—manage to escape. As they make their way through a new and menacing environment, they meet a stranger named Gemma, who has embarked on a perilous quest of her own. And as Lyra tries to understand Haven’s purpose, she uncovers earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls.

Gemma

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals her whole life. A sickly child, she has grown into a lonely adolescent whose life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April.

But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family’s past and discovers her father’s mysterious connection to the secretive Haven research facility. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two human models, or replicas, 24 and 72—and a completely new set of questions. As Gemma tries to unravel the mysteries of Haven, she learnes terrible truths about herself and her family that will threaten to destroy everything she loves.

Review:

I love the unique way that this story was told! Instead of the book being told in alternating chapters to tell both stories, each half of the book is dedicated to one character. That means that the book can be read in numerous ways. I chose to read a chapter from Lyra, then a chapter from Gemma, alternating throughout the whole novel. I really liked each girl’s perspective. By the time I made it to the end of a chapter, I was so immersed that I wanted to keep reading, and not switch chapters. But as soon as I switched, I was right back into that perspective too.

This book really looks at what makes someone human. Is it the ability to love? The ability to feel emotion? The ability to make your own choices? All of these questions are explored throughout the novel. And while we may not come out of the novel with a clearer idea of the answer to this question, I never really expected that. After all, it isn’t really an easy question to answer. There really isn’t just one thing that makes someone human. It’s a combination of all of the things we are that add up to the big picture.

One of the things that I wasn’t a huge fan of was Gemma’s lack of value of herself. She is a little overweight, and by the sound of it, it’s not as if she is morbidly obese, she just has a little extra weight that all of the “perfect” size zero girls at her school don’t. But once Gemma finds a boy who is attracted to her, she suddenly becomes okay with herself. It’s problematic thinking.

It was very interesting to see that this world exists in our own world, and not some far off fantasy world. It really makes you wonder just what goes on out in the world that most people would never believe is real.

I enjoyed this book, and have started reading the sequel, Ringer, which comes out in October. Expect my review of Ringer closer to the publishing date, but so far I’m enjoying it even more than I liked Replica. I give Replica 4/5 stars.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love – Book Review

Title: I Believe in a Thing Called Love

Author: Maurene Goo

Pages: 336 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Published: May 30, 2017

Summary:

Desi Lee knows how carburetors work. She learned CPR at the age of five. As a high school senior, she has never missed a day of school and never had a B. But in her charmed school life, there’s one thing missing—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a known disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet. When the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides it’s time to tackle her flirting failures. She finds her answer in the Korean dramas her father has watched obsessively for years—in which the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. Armed with her “K Drama Rules for True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos. All’s fair in love and Korean dramas, right? But when the fun and games turn to feelings, Desi finds out that real-life love is about way more than just drama.

Review:

This book is one of my new favorite contemporaries! From the moment I picked this book up, I didn’t want to put it down. I Believe in a Thing Called Love is sweet and funny. Desi Lee is great at all things, except when it comes to boys. Her friends have lovingly coined the term “flailing” when it comes to Desi flirting: flirt failing. I could relate so much to Desi, because I, too, excel when there is a set list of “rules” for something. When things are left up to chance, Desi fails miserably, and often embarrassingly.

I’ve never seen a K drama before, but after reading I Believe in a Thing Called Love and seeing all of Desi’s “K Drama Rules for True Love,” I feel like I understand the genre a lot more, and might actually appreciate it if I were to go watch some of them. There’s even a handy guide at the end of the novel for getting into K dramas, based off of what genre you’re looking for, which I found to be really unique and helpful.

Have you ever watched a show or read a book that you knew was going to end in a huge disaster, and were just waiting for the bomb to go off? That’s what this book was for me. I just had this feeling that all of Desi’s ridiculous manipulations to try and snag Luca were going to end terribly! I mean, she makes some horrible decisions throughout the book, that no sane person could possible come up with, but I think that she also learns a lot about herself through the course of the book.

Maurene’s writing style is one that I really like. It’s engaging, funny, and kept me immersed within the story. The friendships that her characters share are absolutely amazing, and they are so supportive of one another. I constantly found myself wishing that I had friends like Fiona and Wes.

I give I Believe in a Thing Called Love 4.5/5 stars. Thanks so much to Maureen Goo for the ARC of this book, I couldn’t have been more pleased with it!

Anna and the French Kiss – Book Review

Title: Anna and the French Kiss

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Pages: 372 (paperback)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Speak

Published: December 2, 2010

Summary:

Can Anna find love in the City of Light?

Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she’s less than thrilled when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year.

But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new people, including the handsome Étienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he’s taken —and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she’s waiting for?

Review:

This is one of my favorite contemporaries that I’ve read so far. I first read it last summer, and I just picked it up for the second time last week. I absolutely love contemporary books, and the mushier they are, the better. There’s just something about a great contemporary read that gets me in the mood for summer, and this is one of the best that I’ve read.

I first picked this book up because it takes place in Paris, and I was feeling a bit nostalgic about the time I had spent there in 2012. Not being able to travel pack to Paris, I decided to do the next best thing and pick up a book set in Paris, and I wasn’t disappointed. Anna spends her senior year of high school at a school for Americans in Paris. At first, she is very upset that she has to go, because she doesn’t want to leave her best friend and her crush behind, but Anna quickly warms up to Paris, and finds some amazing friends.

I think that the friendships in this book are stunning. No matter what happens between these characters, they are always there for one another. And there is quite a bit of drama that goes on in the group. But I mean, it’s high school, so it’s completely understandable. Through thick and thin, highs and lows, these characters are there for one another, even when they haven’t been the best of friends to one another. And I think that’s really important.

The romantic tension in Anna and the French Kiss is intense! There were so many instances where I wanted to yell at the characters that they just needed to OPEN THEIR EYES to see what was so clearly in front of them, but they were just too afraid to see things for what they really are. And I totally get it. I, too, am afraid of doing things that may seem scary, so I understand why these characters don’t want to admit their feelings. Don’t want to stand up to their parents. Don’t want to cause any conflict. I get it all, and I can relate to it on a really personal level, which is just another one of the reasons why I give Anna and the French Kiss 5/5 stars.

The Winner’s Curse – Book Review

Title: The Winner’s Curse

Author: Marie Rutkoski

Pages: 355 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance

Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Published: March 14, 2014

Summary:

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction.

Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

Review:

I absolutely loved this book. I’ve read it twice in the last three months, because I just couldn’t get the story out of my head. I think that The Winner’s Curse is set in such a unique world, and has many important messages about the world that we live in, veiled by a great story with interesting characters.

This book is just so swoony. The entire time I was reading it, I couldn’t help but wish that Kestrel and Arin would realize their feelings for one another, despite the many obstacles that they faced. Though I really wanted them together as soon as possible, because their tension was so obvious, I was happy that it took as long as it did for them to see their feelings, because it made it believable. I can’t stand when two characters have insta-love, even though that’s totally what I was hoping for with Kestrel and Arin.

Kestrel skyrocketed to the top of my list of favorite female characters. She isn’t like the heroines of all of the other major YA books out there. She isn’t a skilled fighter or hunter. But Kestrel is smart, and strategic, and she embraces it to it’s fullest. Kestrel is independent, and despite her society’s rules regarding women, she manages to do what she wants.

I love the world that this book takes place in. It is so well thought out, and I could picture it in my head so clearly while I read the book. There’s a mix of fantasy and history, and it is definitely a world that I would like to visit. I can’t say as though I’d want to live there, because women can’t travel without an escort, but I would definitely be down to go to a few of the balls and parties that happen.

I’ve already read the entire trilogy, but am planning on rereading the other two books as well, and I’ll likely be doing reviews for Crime and Kiss as well. I give The Winner’s Curse 5/5 stars, but I would give it about a million more stars if I could.

At First Blush – Book Review

Summary:

Who would have thought that a teenager could have a successful career creating makeup tutorial videos on YouTube? For Lacey Robbins, this dream has been her reality. An up-and-coming YouTuber, she has thousands of fans and can’t wait for the day when her subscriber count reaches the one million mark. And when she is offered a high school internship at On Trend Magazine, she figures that this could be the make it or break it moment.

But sometimes your dream job isn’t all that it seems. Her editor is only interested in promoting junk products, and her boss in the Hair and Makeup department introduces her to the larger world of makeup artistry, making her wonder if making tutorials online is all she is meant to do. To top it all off, when the magazine’s feature subject, musician Tyler Lance, turns his broodingly handsome smile her way, falling for him could mean losing her fans, forcing her to make a decision: her YouTube life or her real life?

Review:

I loved this book so much! Spring has sprung, and I am fully in the mood for all of the contemporary books. This book definitely didn’t disappoint me!

LaceyBlushes gets the chance of a lifetime when she’s selected for an internship at a magazine, where she’ll vlog all the behind-the-scenes deeds about the magazine’s guest editor, but the experience isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Lacey finds that while things are going great for her YouTube channel, she is losing her passion for making videos. And to top it all off, she’s falling for someone that she never expected to.

I think that this book really did a great job of portraying that sometimes our dreams aren’t all they’re made out to be, and that sometimes we may think that we know what we want in life, when in reality we don’t. I think that that is something that scares a lot of people, myself included. With my college graduation nearing in a couple months, I’m absolutely terrified that once I actually get into the field, I’m not going to love my profession. Only time will tell.

One thing that bothered me about this book was Lacey’s obliviousness to things that were blatantly obvious to everyone else. Over time, this changes though, and Lacey realizes what an idiot she’s been about many things, and things start looking up for her.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars. At First Blush goes on sale April 4.