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3 Reviews : Beautiful, Carrie Pilby, It Started with a Dare

Sometimes there are books that, without being bad reads, I don’t have much to say about. So mini-reviews are the way to go!

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Beautiful by Amy Reed
Pages : 232
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about, from the back of the book : 

When Cassie moves from the tiny town where she has always lived to a suburb of Seattle, she is determined to leave her boring, good-girl existence behind. This is Cassie’s chance to stop being invisible and become the kind of girl who’s worth noticing. Stepping into her new identity turns out to be easier than Cassie could have ever imagined…one moment, one choice, will change everything.

Cassie is trapped in a swift downward spiral tinged with violence and abuse, and no one—not even the one person she thought she could trust—can help her now.

My Thoughts : 

First, I really liked Amy Reed’s writing. It flowed naturally and really captured Cassie and her story. I couldn’t let the book go until I reached its ending. I was impressed by how real Reed made the story through few words. On that part, I found Beautiful to be a really strong novel. On the other hand, the story and the characters were all a little bland to me. Maybe because it felt similar to other stories I had read in the past, I found it to be a little forgettable, and I had a hard time getting a sense of who Cassie really was.

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Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner
Pages : 336
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about, from Goodreads

Carrie would rather stay in bed than deal with the immoral, sex-obsessed hypocrites who seem to overrun her hometown, New York City. She’s sick of trying to be like everybody else. She isn’t! But when her own therapist gives her a five-point plan to change her social-outcast status, Carrie takes a hard look at herself—and agrees to try.

Suddenly the world doesn’t seem so bad. But is prodigy Carrie really going to dumb things down just to fit in?

My Thoughts :

Carrie Pilby was an interesting read. I think I might have enjoyed it more if I had approached it in a more serious way, rather than a fun and light way. I don’t know if it’s the cover, or the synopsis, but I really thought it would be lighter. While it wasn’t without humor, this was more of an exploration of Carrie’s character. It didn’t help that I had a hard time sympathizing with her. I do think other readers might enjoy her sarcasm more, and find more humor in her story.

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It Started with a Dare by Lindsay Faith Rech
Pages : 312
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about, from Goodreads

Self-proclaimed nobody CG Silverman sees her move to an upscale new school as her chance to be somebody different. Her devil-may-care attitude attracts the in-clique, and before CG realizes it, a routine game of truth or dare launches her to iconic status.

My Thoughts : 

This one was just a bad match of book and reader. It reminded me a little of A Match Made in HighSchool, which I enjoyed okay. But I had a hard time going through that one. I honestly believe that readers looking for something funny, light and with a lot of comedy will enjoy this one. The book doesn’t take itself seriously, in a good way, and while it wasn’t my cup of tea, I still appreciated the author’s writing.

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3 Reviews : The Secret Year, Sixteenth Summer and Girl Parts

Sometimes there are books that, without being bad reads, I don’t have much to say about. So mini-reviews are the way to go!

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The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard
Pages : 192
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : 

For a year, Colt and Julia had a secret relationship. When Julia dies in a car crash, Colt doesn’t know how to deal with this secret grief. Then Colt receives a notebook written by Julia, for him. Reading it, Colt hopes he can find answers to his questions and finally move on.

My Thoughts : 

I know this has been a popular among readers of contemporary YA fiction, but it just didn’t work for me. The story line reminded me a little of Looking for Alaska, without John Green’s wittiness or his likable characters. I didn’t like Colt, or Julia, or anyone in their friends and family. It’s a short read that felt long since I didn’t care for any of them, especially since Colt didn’t seem to give much thought about anything else but his own grief – which I never felt. So the idea was interesting but all in all, it left me cold and close to bored, constantly waiting for something to happen.

Also, this is something some readers might want to know beforehand, but the book has a lot of teens having casual sex, drinking, slashing tires and fighting. The author mostly doesn’t go into details, but this type of events occur again and again along the story.

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Sixteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton
Pages : 283
Genre : YA, Fiction, Romance
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : 

For Anna, a summer at the beach is simple routine. Having lived on the island all of her life, the summer only means more beach, tourists, and days spent working at her parents’ ice cream shop. But then she meets Will, and for the first time, she hopes this sixteenth summer might be a special one…

My Thoughts :

Sixteenth Summer was a nice and quick read. It’s a simple romance under the sun, filled with cute moments, ice cream, beach and the sea. I think it could have used some more tension : everything goes so perfectly all along, it’s really cute but there’s no wondering what will happen next. They get together really early in the story, and there’s a hiccup or two, but it’s pretty much all rainbows and sunshine (and ice cream: I’ll give credit to the author for making me hungry all along!) It would certainly please readers who want a predictable, cute and happy love story. 🙂

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Girl Parts by John M. Cusick
Pages : 218
Genre : YA, Fiction, a bit Futuristic
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : 

After David witnesses a girl killing herself live on the internet, his parents provide him a Companion, a robot who looks like a young teenage girl, but who will shock him (literally) if he tries to touch her too early in their relationship. Then Rose, David’s Companion, crosses paths with Charlie, an outsider with a good heart, and all their three lives become tangled together.

My Thoughts : 

Girl Parts was a short and funny story, which despite some advanced technologies pretty much took place right now. There’s character development, an interesting idea, and a bit of humor that presents itself like a satire of the present times – while still being realistic enough. Ironically, I found Rose, the Companion, to be the most likable and human character, but I still had fun following the guys around. The writing was good, I was intrigued by the technology, but sadly the story wasn’t as memorable as I would have liked it to.

3 Reviews : Empty, The Returners, Watch Me

It’s time for mini-reviews again! Because I don’t have much time for blogging right now and also because I don’t have much to say about these books, I thought it would be a fun way to share my feelings on these, mostly, disappointing novels.

Empty by Suzanne Weyn
Pages :183
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : In a future really close to ours, when fossil fuels run out, a group of teens realize that their lives are now forever changed.

My thoughts : Empty wasn’t a bad book : it was a short read with lots of great ideas, that sadly felt under-developed. The characters felt flat, unidimensional, and the writing lacked a bit of subtlety : too much was explained for the benefit of the reader. The setting was really interesting, close to reality and I would have loved to learn more about it. While some books are too long for no reason, I felt this one could have benefit another 50 pages : this would probably have been enough to flesh out the characters better and give us a wider view of this changed world. I like the conclusion though, which was realistic and not cheesy.

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TheReturners by Gemma Malley
Pages : 252
Genre : Ya
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : Will is having a hard time : on top of having nightmares and getting involved in a murder trial, he is being followed by strangers who pretend knowing him. But what if these strangers were right? What if they knew the horrible secrets of his past?

My thoughts : I was slightly disappointed whit this one. The book is fairly well written, but it moves so slowly I had a hard time keeping my interest up. I didn’t care much for Will, either, which means that the only thing keeping me reading was the mystery of the strangers following him. Even then, I found the scenes a bit repetitive without ever pushing the story in a clear direction. It really lacked some movement! I liked the writing though, so I would definitely read more of Malley, an author who had been highly recommended to me. It’s just too bad this one didn’t work for me.

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Watch Me by Lauren Barnholdt
Pages :
270
Genre :
YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : When she starts college,  Ally decided to do it the big way, by joining a reality show that will follow her through her first year of college. Ally will have to live in a house with people she has never met, while her boyfriend is miles aways studying at another college.

My thoughts : Okay, so this book was kind of bad. Not that I was hoping for something sensational, but I thought it would at least be something cute and funny. It wasn’t. The story was extremely predictable, the characters flat as paper, I was indifferent to Ally’s personality, but most importantly, I felt the whole “reality tv” aspect didn’t take enough place. It should have been at the center of the story, create so many incidents, and yet, it was most often than not forgotten. Bleh. On the plus side, it was a quick, easy read, that I’m sure other readers would find entertaining for a light afternoon.

3 reviews : TMI, Don’t Touch Me, Gravity

I mentioned in my August recap that my August reading had been kind of “meh”; this is mostly due (but not entirely, of course), to 3 of the 4 books I borrowed from the library. Let’s just say I’m glad I borrowed, not bought these books! So to spare the pain of writing many not-so-positive reviews, I decided to rip the band-aid off at once.

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TMI by Sarah Quigley
Pages : 302
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : Becca has a tendency to overshare, a fact she always knew but never cared to change. When her over-sharing drives her boyfriend away, Becca decides she needs to stop saying everything that crosses her mind; instead, she starts an anonymous blog where she can say as much as she wants without getting in trouble.

My thoughts : TMI was a cute story and there’s not much more I can say about it. I enjoyed it enough, but I felt it wasn’t really memorable. I expected Becca’s blog to be about gossips and episodes of her life, but instead it was more about putting her daydreaming in words. Her blog was the least interesting part of the book for me, but the author did managed to make Becca entertaining and likable enough. Also, I felt the book really was directed to a younger crowd than the YA fiction I usually enjoy, so I can’t really blame the book or the author for my lack of excitement.

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Here’s the Deal, Don’t Touch Me by Howie Mandel
Pages : 218
Genre : Non fiction, Memoir,
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : Howie Mandel, comic and host of Deal or no Deal, shares about his struggles with ADD and OCD.

My thoughts : Prior to reading this book, I didn’t know about Mandel’s brand of humor or about his career, really. He was just this guy I saw once in a while in a publicity for his show. I went into this book only interested in learning about how he dealt with his OCD (he’s a germaphobe) and how this affected his life. Sadly, this book was mostly a huge apology to friends and family for the troubles his disorders caused. He shares what happened, but we don’t really get to know what were the consequences, what he did to fix it, etc. Also, I didn’t get his sense of humor, so most of his jokes fell flat for me.

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Gravity by Leanne Lieberman
Pages : 239
Genre : YA, GLBT, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : Elli is an orthodox Jew, but she also has a thing for girls. It’s the summer, it’s the eighties, and Elli is spending a month at her grand-mother’s house by the lake. There she falls for a girl like no other, and her life will never be the same.

My thoughts : I don’t even know where to start with this one. First of all, Elli had the most boring summer I have ever read in a YA novel, so boring that I almost stopped reading many times (so boring, she loses track of time herself). Fortunately, the pace gets better when her month at the lake is over, but the books doesn’t improve much. I guess the author had a great idea, but very poorly executed. Her views on being a lesbian or an orthodox Jew seemed stereotyped to me, and borderline offensive when it came to explaining how it was to be a Jew. Now, I’m not going to write a defense for being a Jew or not and all that, but her view felt limited and therefore, not respectful. Plus, there were so many inconsistencies (her parents are strict, but still let her spend a month with her grand-mother, who’s everything but orthodox?) that it drove me crazy. Also, the numerous references to “breasts” and how they were “squeezed” in a too tight shirt felt a bit ridiculous. Of course, if you’re into girls you’ll be into their physical attributes, but I do wish there’s more to it than that. Sigh.

Review : Lipstick Apology

Lipstick Apology by Jennifer Jabaley
Pages : 321
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From the author’s website :

Emily Carson has always been a good girl. So when she throws a party the night her parents leave for vacation, she’s sure she’ll get busted. What Emily doesn’t know is that her parents will never return. That their plane will go down. And the only thing left amidst the wreckage will be a tray table with the words: Emily please forgive mescrawled in lipstick—her mother’s last words.

Now it’s fall in New York City and Emily’s trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Her public tragedy captures the attention of more than just the media—and soon two very different boys at her new school are pursuing her: the cute, popular Owen and the quirky chemistry partner slash pastry-baker-by-night, Anthony. But even with such delicious distractions, Emily can’t let go of her mother’s mysterious apology. Does she have the courage to face the truth?

Lipstick Apology could have been a beautiful novel about grief and identity; instead, I found it to be a predictable story told by a rather unlikable narrator.

Predictability in itself isn’t exactly a bad thing; sometimes, I need the comfort of knowing exactly where a book is going. Still, there needs to be an element of surprise, something that makes the book stand out : a different character, a sense of humor, a clever writing, a different setting… but I didn’t find that Lipstick Apology gave me that. The story was predictable, but the characters were even more cliché and one-dimensional. If at least New York city had played a bigger role; sadly, I felt like places were named without giving me a real feel of the city.

Seeing Emily go through her grief was kind of annoying. I feel bad and mean saying this, because what she had gone through was simply horrible, but I didn’t believe in her grief, and those strong, emotional scenes when her emotions got the best of her just seemed theatrical – which made it hard to sympathize with her. I also found that she spent more time obsessing about the boys than thinking about her parents, and while it was nice to see that she could go on with her life, as a reader, I wanted to know more about the famous lipstick apology.

Finally, I was a bit bored by the facility money brought to the story. Emily is making a new life in a new city after loosing her parents, but lucky for her, her aunt is a Very Famous Makeup Artist with Lots of Money. As a result, she gets a complete makeover and the most popular girl at her new school becomes her best friend just like that. Hmmm.

Lipstick Apology isn’t a bad book in itself. The writing was okay, and the story, generally speaking, was okay too. I couldn’t find Emily’s connection to her parents, which I thought should have been essential. By comparison, I found If I stay to be a much more realistic (and more beautiful, too) exploration of a teen’s grief after loosing her parents.

So, I guess it just wasn’t the book for me, but despite my disappointment, I have no doubt it could be appreciate by other readers! See, as a proof, those great reviews by other readers :

  • The Book Muncher : “I don’t think I’ve read another book that promotes forgiveness so effectively.”
  • Bookworm Readers : “The vortex-like plot was addicting, beautifully written, and realistic, and I really like how Ms. Jabaley added a mystery subplot to it (Emily finding out why her mom was sorry) without being cheesy and false.”
  • The Compulsive Reader : “Jennifer Jabaley has packed an incredible amount of emotion within the novel—from grief to the exhilaration of first love—and she has created a dynamic, fallible, and likable heroine in Emily.”
  • The Eclectic Book Lover : “While death, love, dishonesty, and loss are all major themes at play in Lipstick Apology, I managed to laugh just as much as I cried while reading it.”

Review : Girl Stays in the Picture

Girl Stays in the Picture by Melissa de la Cruz
Pages : 432
Genre : YA, Chick lit
My Rating : 

What it’s about :

Girl Stays in the Picture takes you for a summer in Saint Tropez, where gossip reigns and famous people are fighting to keep their star shining. This summer, three girls with very different backgrounds will come together and try to make the best of their time in France : Devon, the just-out-of-rehab starlet; Livia, who dropped more than half her weight in a year – but not her self esteem issues; and finally Casey, the normal girl who plays assistant for her supposedly best friend and star Summer. Between movie sets drama and a variety of romances, this summer will be hot, hot, hot!

A few years ago, long before I really got into reading young adult fiction, I went to the bookstore looking for a nice, light read with lots of sun and which wouldn’t require too much brain power. At that time, I found exactly what I wanted in Melissa de la Cruz’s Au Pairs series. With Girl Stays in the Picture, I feel like de la Cruz has created a similar world :  in that stressful time that were end of terms exams, I thanked her for that!

There wasn’t much happening and the characters were a bit two-dimensional. Still, I didn’t have much expectations when I started reading it, and maybe that’s why I could appreciate it this much. I was a little slow to get into it, but once I was, I read most of the 432 pages in a day.

It was light, full of fun, and the characters were likeable enough – totally candy cotton read. I would have love to see a little less predictability in some of the characters, but Girl Stays in the Picture is what it is : a guilty pleasure with which you can relax for a short while. One of the things I really liked about the book were those short gossip columns in between the chapters, which completed the story in different ways. It was a cute and fun way to remind us that we were in a world ruled by gossips and media.

Also, the book ends on a major cliffhanger, and while I have couple ideas on where this all leads, there is nothing certain about it. The ending was good, and it does concludes most of the story lines in the book, but this last page leaves you wanting more, and I couldn’t find any information on a second book coming out. I guess I’ll have to be patient!