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Review : The Way we Fall

The Way we Fall by Megan Crewe
Pages : 309
Genre : YA, Speculative fiction
Series : Fallen World, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

It starts like an unpleasant cold, but it quickly grows into something more: a deadly virus quickly spreading through Kaelyn’s small community, forcing the government to quarantine the island. Kaelyn wants only one thing : keep herself and her family safe and healthy, a task that gets harder and harder when food gets rare and there are more dead than alive…

My Thoughts :

The Way we Fall certainly doesn’t follow the current YA trend of futuristic, dystopian novels. Instead, it offers a terrifying and realistic novel of speculative fiction, in the same vein as  The Things that Keep us Here or In a Perfect WorldThe threat of a deadly virus outbreak is something that is easy to imagine in the present, and if you remember the panic that surrounded the H1N1 situation a few years ago, you’ll understand how scary this possibility is.

The first thing I thought of when I started reading The Way we Fall was the movie Contagiona movie I did appreciate. But while the two do share similar themes, The Way we Fall is a much quieter story, following a regular teen girl with her own worries and insecurities rather than a complete cast of characters. And since the narration is done through Kaelyn’s letters in a journal destined to her former best friend, the view we get is intimate, narrow, and sometimes limited in terms of context or scientific information.

I thought it was refreshing to have a novel that wasn’t a constant train of action and twists and turns. If you prefer novels with punch and movement, then you might feel this one is a bit slow and uneventful – though things do happen, it isn’t in a “cliffhanger at the end of each chapter” kind of way. I can appreciate both, but I enjoyed that this had a more normal, day to day pace. It made it easy to relate to Kaelyn and her fears.

Not surprisingly, there’s a romance, but I thought it was nicely done. It doesn’t overshadow the dangerous situation or Kaelyn’s worrying for her family, and offers to Kaelyn a little more perspective on things outside her house. There are few characters, but you get a sense of constant danger for them – and indeed, the author isn’t afraid to end some of them’s life along the way. Kaelyn herself was an interesting character, a regular girl with a lot of strength but also some flaws. While she was a bit forgettable, she was a character I appreciated both in her strong and weak moments.

I was at first a bit confused by the ending, mainly because I had no idea it was the first in a series and not a stand alone novel. Reaching the last page, there is a lot we still don’t know, mainly on the situation outside the island. Since it’s been quarantined all along, we have very little knowledge on whether the virus has traveled outside the island into Canada or the United States, and in what measure. This being said, The Way we Fall was a quick quiet read that gave me a lot to think about, and I look forward to reading the next novel.

Series Reading Order :

  1. The Way we Fall
  2. The Lives we Lost (coming January 2013)
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3 Reviews : Annie on my Mind, The Lonely Hearts Club and The Vinyl Princess

Sometimes I don’t feel like talking to a

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Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
Pages : 234
Genre : YA, Fiction, GLBT
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From Goodreads : First published in 1982, this is the story of two teenage girls whose friendship blossoms into love and who, despite pressures from family and school that threaten their relationship, promise to be true to each other and their feelings.

My Thoughts : Prior to reading it, I had often seen Annie on my Mind recommended as a must-read of young adult GLBT fiction. One of the first of its kind, this book has been featured not only on readers’ shelves but also recommended or banned by schools and various associations. I know I first saw it in high school, among other GLBT books, in the context of a school event promoting acceptance and tolerance.

So this book came with some sort of a “build up” for me. I wouldn’t say my expectations were high, but my curiosity for it definitely was. I also wondered : could this book still deliver a strong message even though its first publication occurred before I even stepped into this world?

The short answer ; yes. But, only to a certain extent. What struck me was how, if this story was written today, it would probably end up very differently for one reason : social media. Maybe the conclusion would be similar, but I believe the plot would certainly take different turns. It still was nicely written, with a good story, and I am sure many teen would recognize themselves in the characters, but it was an interesting point for me to think about.

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The Lonely Hearts Club 
by Elizabeth Eulberg
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From Goodreads : Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating. So she vows: no more. It’s a personal choice. . .and, of course, soon everyone wants to know about it. And a few other girls are inspired. A movement is born: The Lonely Hearts Club (named after the band from Sgt. Pepper). Penny is suddenly known for her nondating ways . . . which is too bad, because there’s this certain boy she can’t help but like. . . .

My Thoughts : I felt the idea was cute, and fun, and could be something original. I imagined that, instead of a straight-forward romance, it would start as a non-romance with a promise of something more. Mostly, this is exactly what I got, and unfortunately not much more.

It was a cute story, yes, and Eulberg’s writing makes it a quick and pleasant read. But the book lacked some punch, some obstacles for the characters to fight with, some unexpected turn for them to show off their true colors. I found that the whole thing was a bit plain, and I kept confusing the club’s members. Nice ending, though. So, while it wasn’t bad or very memorable, it still was a cute read I could recommend for when you need something light for your heart.


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The Vinyl Princess 
by Yvonne Prinz
Pages : 313
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From Goodreads : While working full-time at Berkeley’s ultra-cool Bob and Bob Records, 16-year-old Allie develops her secret identity as The Vinyl Princess, author of both a brand-new zine and blog. From the safety of her favorite place on earth, Allie is poised to have it all: love, music and blogging.

My Thoughts : I think the best word to describe my feel of this novel would be : unexpected.

I thought it would be one of those traditional YA romance with a touch of music; instead, I found a YA novel that was much more complex than expected. Allie’s passion is music, and it lives through every page of the story. Even though I don’t share her passion, I found myself extremely curious about the bands and records she mentioned (though I don’t think she would approve of most of my musical selection!)

I loved that this book had a mix of everything : family, friendships, romance, a cat and a touch of mystery. Allie felt realistic to me because I got a glimpse of every aspect of her life. She wasn’t only focused on her hopes and dreams or her romance, and I always enjoy that. I know I’ll want to read more by Prinz!

Review : The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Pages : 236
Genre : Ya, Fiction, Romance
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about :

24 hours.

This is all Hadley needs to have her life turned completely upside down. In the course of one day, she will have missed a plane, traveled from New York to London, celebrated a wedding and cried a lot of tears.

And maybe – just maybe – by the end of that day, will she get to dance with her love at first sight.

My Thoughts :

Need a last minute read to put yourself in a romantic mood before Valentine’s Day? If you are looking for a quick and pleasant read, this might be the one for you!

This book’s title is almost longer than its text – or maybe I just felt that the book was too short. Yup, that’s probably it! I think I fell for this one mainly because of the cute cover (it was, hum, love at first sight!), but I have to say, what’s under said cover did deliver an adorable story.

I was really impressed by how dimensional the characters were for such a short novel. Hadley especially was well written and I felt like, in that one single day, I got to know her more than some characters from other books with whom I have spent much more time. And while it was really cute to watch her fall in love, it’s her family’s story that really got to me.

By itself, it’s nothing special really; her parents got divorced over a year ago, and now she gets to watch her father get remarried to a woman she has never met. But rather than being portrayed as a complete brat about it, like I have so often seen in other YA novels, Hadley is portrayed as a normal teenager. She’s not perfect, and dealing with both anger and sadness is hard for her; but she also loves her parents and this is what I felt the most through the pages. Her desire to have her “normal” life back, while knowing that she can’t, really broke my heart.

That said, Oliver looked like he was a great catch. He was certainly fun as a secondary character, and while he had a personality of his own, he never stole Hadley’s spotlight. He completed her well and I loved how they could talk about little things and tease each other easily from the beginning. You could sense that it was not only romance, but friendship that was developing between them.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was a really good book that surprised me by having more depth than I expected it to. Easily read in one sitting, this little book warmed my heart – and I hope it will warm yours too!

 

Review : Raised by Wolves

Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Pages : 418
Genre : YA, Urban Fantasy
Series : Raised by Wolves, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Bryn has been raised by wolves – or more exactly, werewolves. Even though she has a special bond with her pack and their leader, she can’t help questioning her place as a simple human in this group. When she discovers a strange boy locked in her leader’s basement, Bryn’s life is forever changed, pushing her to confront both the people she trusts and memories of her terrifying past.

My Thoughts :

I’ve been a bit grumpy towards YA fiction in 2011; I kept reading it, but more often then not I felt the same story kept repeating itself with only small variations. Fortunately, sometimes come along books like Unearthly and Raised by Wolves to remember me that not all fiction is created equal and that there are, indeed, YA novels deserving of my love.

To be fair, Raised by Wolves wasn’t without faults (but what book is?). It was slightly less engaging than Unearthly, especially since it was so slow to get going. If I compare the two, it’s only because I read them one after the other; these two share a genre but they are, in fact, two very distinct stories.

One of Raised by Wolves surprising aspect for me was the almost lack of romance. It’s there, of course, somewhere between the lines; there are even strong hints, I think, of a possible triangle. The fact is, Bryn is so busy trying to figure out the mysteries of Chase (the boy locked in the basement) and her past, and dealing with the consequences of her actions, that she barely has time to give romance a thought.

And talking of consequences, my oh my! I was kind of surprise how brutal the pack was. Well, it’s nothing more than what you’d see in regular urban fantasy I believe, but most YA tends to soften it up a bit. I think in this case, the author did a great job of illustrating the animal aspect of a werewolves pack with balance, in a realistic manner that didn’t embellish it too much.

There’s a lot happening in this intriguing book but it’s really not full of action. It’s often slow-moving and I didn’t really like how the author chose to tell the story, in a very linear manner, often skipping big chunks of time. It made it difficult to connect with Bryn and getting really into the story, and I’ll admit that when I was finally able to get into it, it was actually the third time I was picking up the book.

The conclusion was strong, I felt, leaving a lot of place to a following book while concluding this chapter of Bryn’s story. I loved the characters surrounding her and I can’t wait to see what Trial by Fire will bring for them!

Series Reading Order :

  1. Raised by Wolves
  2. Trial by Fire
  3. Taken by Storm (coming in 2012)

Review : Unearthly

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Pages : 435
Genre : YA, Paranormal
Series : Unearthly, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Like her mother and brother, Clara is part angel, making her extremely talented at almost everything she tries. It also means she has her own personal purpose, a specific task she has to accomplish while in this world.

When Clara starts having dreams of her purpose, her life is forever changed. Moving away from the California where she grew up, she is unsettled both by her new surroundings and her more and more frequent dreams. Does she really have enough time to get ready for her purpose, or will her terrestrial side get the best of her?

My Thoughts :

Even though I had read countless great reviews of Unearthly, I wasn’t prepared to like it. Not only has paranormal YA been a little disappointing for me lately, but angel books, in particular, have been painful to read. I never made it through Halo (and gave away my copy). I finished Lauren Kate’s Fallen with countless yawns. Hush, Hush was only fun in a bad horror movie kind-of way.

Unearthly broke the mold by offering an entertaining, lovely, intriguing story with a main character who wasn’t, surprisingly, too stupid to live! Clara was so easy to warm-up to : her narration had a human simplicity with just a touch of angelical magic. She was both a teenager going through the mundane life of a teenager wanting to fit it, and an angel forever different who has a unique perspective. I think it’s admirable how successfully Cynthia Hand handled both parts in one single character, never neglecting one side of her personality for the other.

There’s romance, of course. But it’s not a love-at-first-sight-can’t-live-without-you kind of thing. And there’s a triangle, but though I definitely have a preference, it’s really not clear for me where the author is going with this. I thought I knew, but close to the end, the story took an unexpected turn and I wasn’t sure anymore. Which is another lovely aspect of the book, how it keeps surprising you with little twists and turns all along.

Clara, her brother, her mother, her two love interests and a few others form an intriguing cast of characters I am already looking forward to know better. There are a few hints of mysteries in the story that I can’t wait to know more about, and I really felt like the book was the start of a great saga, all while having a strong enough conclusion by itself.

Those who are tired of the paranormal-romance formula might not find Unearthly to be the most original novel on the shelves, but it is certainly one of the best. I personally loved it, and I am looking forward to reading the second novel a few weeks from now!

Series Reading Order :

  1. Unearthly
  2. Hallowed (coming January 2012)

Review : Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Pages : 348
Genre : YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Series : Yes
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Jacob’s grandfather told him many stories about the kids he grew up with, unbelievable ones about children with superpowers and monsters.  Jacob has always thought there was no truth to the old man’s tales, until he travels to Wales and explores Miss Peregrine’s Home, the house where his grandfather spent his younger years. What is there was some truth to it, after all?

My Thoughts :

When Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children first started to appear on blogs last spring, I was, like many other readers, immediately drawn to its creepy cover and intriguing title. The summary begged you to read the book : “A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.” It felt useless to try resisting, so I got myself a copy very early after its release.

Did Miss Peregrine delivered on all of its promises? Not for me, I have to say. Though it was an enjoyable read, it also sent me into one of those states where I felt like I had a split-personality disorder : “I love it! No, no I don’t, I just like it. But I love the pictures! No I don’t. And I don’t enjoy the book at all. Yes I do! And those pictures are a fantastic touch!”

There were two problems for me with this book, that kept me from loving it instead of just liking it. The first was the fact that there are two distinct parts in the book : the first one reads like a dark, almost gothic mystery, that could with a few tweaks end up on the adult literature shelves. The second part reads like a fantasy/historical fiction that would belong on the Young Adult shelves (which is where I have seen this book so far). While I enjoy both genres, it was a strange shift between the two. It wasn’t badly done and I enjoy books that mix genres in a unique, new way, but for a reader who would enjoy gothic novels but not YA fantasy, I’m thinking the change might be disconcerting.

My second problem was the fact that the pictures sometimes felt forced into the story. There are a few instances where I really felt that the author had added a few lines to the story just so he could justify including a picture he found interesting.

That being said, I love, love, love having pictures alongside a story like this, and some did feel like effortless additions that enriched the story. I love the idea of using old photographs that are clearly “photoshopped” the old way, and then turning around and saying “Wait, there’s no trick! These pictures are true!” It brings back that feeling of being a kid, when fiction and reality were one and you felt like magic was there, right under your fingertips. It’s a beautiful feeling!

In the end – wait.

There is no end.

There is NO end!

Because Miss Peregrine’s last pages gives you a few answers, only to tell you “see ya in the next book if you want to know more!”. A book that is planned for 2013. Or something like that. I’m definitely looking forward to it though!

So, I did enjoy the book. It won’t make my 2011 best-of list, but I liked it enough to at least recommend that, if you think you might enjoy part 1 or 2 (and especially 2), you should give it a try! 🙂