Tag Archive | read in 2011

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 : Wither

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Pages : 358
Genre : Ya, Post-Apocalyptic, “Dystopia”
Series : The Chemical Garden, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Rhine grew up knowing her days were counted : in her world, males die at 25 and females at 20, and young girls are viewed as prized possessions, their only worth being their capacity for making babies.

Rhine is 16 when she gets kidnapped and married, along with two other girls, to a man she has never seen before. Despite her new home’s wealth and luxury, she has only one thought; to escape and find her twin brother. When she discovers her new father-in-law is using her sister wives as experiments, she knows it’s time to put her plan in motion.

My Thoughts :

First of all, I’m not sure dystopia is the right tag for it, hence the quote marks at the top; I use it more in the sense current YA literature uses it, as in “any post-apocalyptic society”. But, to be honest, Wither is more of a futuristic post-apocalyptic novel than one about a dystopian society. There is a distinction and while I do find it blurry at times, it’s an important one. If you’re not sure about this, I highly recommend this post at Giraffe Days.

Second of all, this is a bit of a generous 3 stars rating, mostly for “entertainment” value. Wither is not a bad novel and I can see why so many enjoyed it. It’s a terrifying world, and while many of us, I’m sure, have stories of grand-mothers or great-great-grand-mothers who had their first babies in their teen years, it doesn’t make Whither‘s world any less chilling. Plus, DeStefano’s writing was pleasant and had some great moments.

I was mostly interested and Rhine and her sisters’ story. The romance side, a little less. There is a form of love triangle in place but Rhine’s feelings are so unclear that, until close to the end, I wasn’t sure if there was a love triangle, a simple romance or just friendships. It was a bit refreshing to not have the romance being front and center for once, and I appreciated that.

I have read as many negative reviews as positive ones, many of which questioned whether Wither’s world made sense or not. These can easily be found on Goodreads and are worth the read if you like to discuss world building. I have to say that I did find it a little shaky; I would believe that if the world was in such a crucial need of babies, more young women would voluntarily offer themselves to marriages like the one Rhine is trying to escape. I’m not sure there would be such a need to kidnap young girls, and even less to kill a bunch of them… Unless I’m missing something?

I think it’s lucky that Linden (Rhine and her sister wives’ husband) was mostly a decent human being. Or not. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around this one, to be honest. My first thought was that I was glad that he wasn’t forcing himself on these young girls; it would have made a horrible situation even more horrible if violence/rape was part of the deal. But then, what choice do these girls have? Sure, Rhine resists and isn’t forced into it, but then you have Jenna, who sleeps with him even though she despises him. It was all a bit icky, really. Just because I don’t want the difficult parts of life to be glossed over, doesn’t mean I don’t find it really hard to read at times – this was one of those times.

I’ll be reading the sequel because I do want to find more answers to my questions, and I’m hoping the author might offer some in Fever. But I was so torn about this novel while reading it, that I feel like this review is not going into a specific direction, negative or positive. So I’ll just sit comfortably in the middle, thank you very much.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Wither
  2. Fever
  3. (coming 2013)

2 Reviews : The Musician’s Daughter and Two Moon Princess

Two short reviews today, of two books I enjoyed 🙂

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Two Moon Princess by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Fantasy
My Rating :

What it’s about : 

As a princess, Andrea grew up in a castle with her sisters. Even though she has always dreamed of being a warrior, her family has more “ladylike” plans for her. When she steps through a portal and accidentally lands in modern California, her life is forever changed. Now torn between two worlds, she must face the consequences of her actions – and the war she may very well have started.

My Thoughts : 

Fantasy can be really good or really bad for me; books rarely fall in between and I tend to prefer those that aren’t too inspired by the medieval times. I also really enjoy books with characters randomly landing into a different world, whether it’s time-travel, parallel universe or some other magical mechanic. I was really curious to see where this novel would fall and I am glad to say I enjoyed it.

I have read more stories of characters from “our world” traveling to magical places than the opposite, so I found it interesting to have Andrea land here from a medieval-like world. Her observation of our world was one of my favorite parts, and I liked how the author depicted both places with their strengths and weaknesses; it gave weight to Andrea’s difficult decisions and to their impact.

I only wish I could have connected to Andrea more. I read how she felt, but I can’t say I “felt” it too. However, she was a strong young woman with a lot of determination, and I admired that. She also had a sense of humor, which is always good for someone in her situation (I would think it’s a good defense mechanism when landing into a weird place like ours)! She balanced other less likable characters, mostly people of her family, and it was enough for me to carry through the novel.

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The Musician’s Daughter by Susanne Dunlap
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : 

In 18th century Vienna, Theresa is facing the most difficult time of her life; her father has been found dead on Christmas Eve, and all points out to the cause being murder. With her pregnant mom in shock and a younger brother to worry for, Theresa takes on the mission of finding the truth, and it all begins with a missing violin and a mysterious gold pendant…

My Thoughts :

I liked this one. I really wish there was more YA historical fiction (maybe when the trend of dystopia calms down?) and I am always on the lookout for more. This one combined many things I like; the historical part of course, but also the mystery. Romance can be good, but a great mystery will always have my preference.

I had two problems with The Musician’s Daughter that kept me from completely loving it; the predictability of the story, and the disconnect I had with Theresa. Through her tragedy and her adventure, I didn’t really get a sense of who she was. I wanted to know her and root for her, and I did to a certain extent, but not enough to deeply care for her.

It was still a good book I would not hesitate to recommend for readers wanting to read some historical fiction. The setting was great and I could feel the author had put time into her research, something I will always appreciate!

Review : Bright Young Things and Beautiful Days

Bright Young Things
and Beautiful Days by Anna Godbersen
Genre : YA, Historical Fiction
Series : Bright Young Things, Book 1 and 2
My Rating :

What it’s about :

The year is 1929.

Letty, Cordelia and Astrid all dream of a better life, a life filled with the glamour and lights only New York can bring. Whether they dream of the stage, a good marriage or finding their family, they will risk anything to reach their goals.

My Thoughts :

This is not a bad 3 stars review; on the contrary, these two novels were exactly what I had been hoping for from the author of The Luxe series. That is, an historical fiction series that would be light on the detailing and allow me to escape quickly to another era. Once again, Godbersen delivers : Bright Young Things and Beautiful Days are filled with romance, drama, mysteries, drama, treason and more drama. Did I mention the drama?

The historical setting feels merely like a pretext to have these young women walking around in pretty outfits. Even more than with The Luxe, I didn’t feel like I really was taken back in time. The details are limited to general ideas, and the girls certainly don’t act or talk in what you would imagine being 1929’s attitude.

I’ll risk repeating myself here to insist this story is, mostly, about the drama. This being said, I had fun reading them both, especially the first one. The second felt very much like a transition, with not much happening, but it certainly kept me reading anyway. Also, I liked the girls enough, whether they were together or against each other. They are balanced with a great variety of secondary characters, with just enough villains to make things interesting.

Godbersen’s novels are, to me, a guilty pleasure I can’t deny myself. Plus, while these covers aren’t as gorgeous as The Luxe ones, I still find them really pretty. I’ll be reading the next book for sure!

Series Reading Order :

  1. Bright Young Things
  2. Beautiful Days
  3. The Lucky Ones (coming September 2012)

Review : Think of a Number

Think of a Number by John Verson
Pages : 497
Genre : Mystery
Series : Dave Gurney, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Think of any number… picture it… now see how well I know your secrets.

These simple letters seem to have the power to see their reader’s mind, and predict the exact number they’ll think of. And then, the murders being.

As a former cop who personally knew the first victim, Dave Gurney is immediately drawn into the investigation, one of the most puzzling of his career.

My Thoughts :

The book promises you one of the most inventive and entertaining novel of the genre. It was quite hyped when it came out, and I couldn’t go to the bookstore without facing full shelves of the hardcover copy. I love mysteries so I was quite anxious to read this one, hoping maybe this would be a series I could get on board before there are 18 books already published.

I did like the book. At 497 pages it’s not a quick read, but I did finish it in a short weekend. I was fully entertained, I will admit, and I was curious to discover who the murderer was. As a character, I didn’t exactly liked Gurney, but the mystery itself was enough to keep me reading. Even though the writing was sometimes heavy in clichés and a little unpolished, the great pacing and the pages full of action kept me interested.

So, it wasn’t a perfect read, but these are all little faults that can be easily forgiven when balanced with other strong points. However, one aspect really bothered me, and an important one : the ending. And this is going to be just a tad spoilery, so you might want to stop reading here but : how come they never suspected the murderer? When he was right under their nose and I kept thinking “why are they not interviewing him more”? It doesn’t make a surprising ending for me : it’s either stupid characters or lazy writing. One way or the other, for me, it made Think of a Number just an ordinary mystery, when it had all the ingredients to be a captivating read.

While it was a bit disappointing, I believe those who enjoy mysteries filled with actions and puzzling investigations could enjoy this one. As for myself, I’ll probably give the next book a chance.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Think of a Number
  2. Shut your eyes tight

Review : Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Pages : 418
Genre : YA, Fantasy
Series : Daughter of Smoke and Bone, book 1
My Rating : 

From the book : 

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

My Thoughts :

No, your eyes do not deceive you; Daughter of Smoke and Bone really got five fat stars from me, a rating I rarely give to books. But it deserves it greatly; it was one of the most original novels I have read in a while, not in comparison to other YA novels, but in comparison to books of all genres and cagories. What a breath of fresh air Laini Taylor offers us with this beautiful, captivating story!

First, I have to say this : if you have any interest in this book, I would highly recommend that you step carefully in the world of reviews whether it is on blogs, Goodreads, Amazon or other communities. Spoilers abound even in the simple “tags” people attach to the book, which could ruin many surprises for you. This is why I chose to use the summary from the book; I tried to write one that wouldn’t spoil anything and carry a good feel of what the book was about, but I was unsuccessful and for once, I felt the publisher really did a great job with it, so here we go! I also limited the tags I attached to this review. This book really is better if you go in totally unspoiled.

Karou is an incredibly captivating character, and a beautifully written one. She’s aware of her difference, and the author doesn’t explain her situation all at once in the first few pages, keeping a little of the mystery surrounding her – which mirrors perfectly Karou’s habit of being mysterious in her life, to hide her unusual story. It’s not often that we are given a third person narration in YA fiction but it worked great, allowing us to visit both Karou and Akiva (the mysterious guy that will, of course, change her life). And while we’re on the subject, I loved Akiva. As intriguing as Karou, he had a personality of his own and a story I just couldn’t wait to hear more about.

There was so much going on in this novel, and the author kept me continuously on my toes. Every time something happened or something was revealed, I thought “that’s it then, that’s what the book is about!” And every time,  there was more waiting around the corner, surprising me and bringing more questions into the mix. Karou’s errands, the “wishes” she spends on little things, the mystery of who she is and the mystery of Akiva, they all contributed to something, bigger, greater, that took my breath away. Add to that an amazing mythology unlike anything else, and I was hooked to this book, without a chance to escape!

I loved this book so much that, rather than being looking forward to its sequel, I am in fact a little worried about it. Can it be as awesome? Surprise me again, captivate me even more? Have you ever felt like that? It seems impossible at this moment, but I’ll have to trust the author to take me on this journey.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone
  2. – coming September 2012 –