Thursday, May 28, 2015

Book Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Title: Saint Anything

Author: Sarah Dessen

Publisher: Viking

Publication date: May, 2015

Hardcover: 432 pages

Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone

How I got this book: Bought

Why I chose this book: I have been reading Sarah Dessen's novels for years.  Each time she writes a new book it's like I get to discover a new part of me.  She is truly one of my favorite author's, and I would never miss a book from her.


Sydney has always felt invisible. She's grown accustomed to her brother, Peyton, being the focus of the family’s attention and, lately, concern. Peyton is handsome and charismatic, but seems bent on self-destruction. Now, after a drunk-driving accident that crippled a boy, Peyton’s serving some serious jail time, and Sydney is on her own, questioning her place in the family and the world.

Then she meets the Chatham family. Drawn into their warm, chaotic circle, Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance for the first time. There’s effervescent Layla, who constantly falls for the wrong guy, Rosie, who’s had her own fall from grace, and Mrs. Chatham, who even though ailing is the heart of the family. But it’s with older brother Mac—quiet, watchful, and protective—that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last.


Sarah Dessen is just one of those writer's you wish you could kidnap, keep in your basement, and make her write her stories just for you.  They are so amazing, so heartfelt, so touching...  They truly touch on the experiences of real life, and make you feel like you have been a part of something big.

If you haven't read any of Sarah Dessen's novels before, there is no wrong place to start.  You can start here, with Saint Anything, and everything will make perfect sense.  You are truly  missing out, though, if you've never read a Dessen novel.

Now I will admit that a couple of Dessen's previous novels haven't really been on par with her earlier work--meaning that it hasn't seemed as deep as they usually do.  But Saint Anything really brought the game back up.  It's on the same level as some of her greatest novels, like This Lullaby or Just Listen.  (Two of my personal favorites).

So the characters, let's start there.  Her characters are poignant, down to earth, so real.  I want to be friends with them. They're funny, smart, and different.  And they all have odd personality quirks that just mesh so well together.  If I saw them all walking down the street together here in my home town, I wouldn't be surprised at all to learn that they were real people.  And Sydney, the main character, is truly someone you can relate to.  She has family issues that have put her on the backburner, but she's still trying her best to remain calm and make the best out of a bad situation.  She's dealing with tragedy, all the while trying to figure out who she is and what she wants out of life.  Definitely something the rest of us can relate to.

I really only have good things to say about this book.  I would recommend this book to anybody, and say that you're a fool to turn it down.  If anything, my only complaint would be that it ended.

You can learn more about Sarah Dessen here:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Title: The Fill-In Boyfriend

Author: Kasie West

Publisher: HarperTeen

Publication Date: May, 2015

Hardcover: 352 pages 

Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone

How I got this book: Galley from HarperTeen

Why I chose this book: It sounded like the perfect mixture of fun and romantic.


When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she decides to do the unthinkable…convince the cute guy waiting to pick up his sister to pretend to be her boyfriend for the night. The task is simple: two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.
The problem is that days after prom, she can't stop thinking about her fill-in boyfriend. But can Gia turn her fake boyfriend into a real one without exposing her lie and possibly destroying her friendships and her newfound relationship?


I'm going to separate this review in to things I liked about the book and things I didn't like about the book.  Overall, however, I'm pretty torn.  It had its good and bad qualities.  I would give it 3 out of 5 stars.

What I did like about the book: the plot.  I thought it was a perfect mix of messy that I knew had to be sorted out by the end.  And I liked that I wasn't quite sure how everything would play out.  We have Gia, who wants to keep up this front with her friends--yet we know the truth will come out eventually.  And we have Fake Bradley, who is trying to make his ex-girlfriend jealous.  There was even the sub-plot of Gia becoming friends with Fake Bradley's sister, which I really enjoyed.

Now what I didn't like: Gia.  I just found her so annoying.  She is constantly talking about how her friends are turning against her, and how she has something to prove.  But why?  Her friends have no good qualities that make them worth saving.  In fact, in the beginning of the book, Gia is quite the same: shallow, mean, and petty.  She gains some substance as the book goes on, but her friends do not.  Then, she's the one apologizing and trying to save her friendship.  She goes on and on about how she has changed, but can't even see how her own friends are bullies.  It's aggravating to read.  The only two characters who had depth were Fake Bradley and his sister.

Now, I should point out that this is a very light, fluffy read.  It doesn't promote itself as a story full of depth and meaning--because it isn't.  It's the quick read that you go through in a summer afternoon to get some amusement and giggles.  Nothing more.  If you're simply looking for a quick, light read, this is it.  If not, look elsewhere.

Book Review: Dove Arising by Karen Bao

Title: Dove Arising

Author: Karen Bao

Publisher: Viking Books

Publication Date: February, 2015

Hardcover: 336 pages

Stand Alone or Series: Series--the first in the Dove Chronicles series

How I got this book: Bought

Why I chose this book: It was interesting, new, and I was looking for a new dystopian to read.


Phaet Theta has lived her whole life in a colony on the Moon. She’s barely spoken since her father died in an accident nine years ago. She cultivates the plants in Greenhouse 22, lets her best friend talk for her, and stays off the government’s radar.

Then her mother is arrested.

The only way to save her younger siblings from the degrading Shelter is by enlisting in the Militia, the faceless army that polices the Lunar bases and protects them from attacks by desperate Earth dwellers. Training is brutal, but it’s where Phaet forms an uneasy but meaningful alliance with the preternaturally accomplished Wes, a fellow outsider.

Rank high, save her siblings, free her mom:  that’s the plan. Until Phaet’s logically ordered world begins to crumble...


I was very interested in the book for a few reasons.  One, I really love any books that involve space.  And here we have a world that centers around this type of human development right on the moon.  And not to mention that there is conflict with the people that still reside on Earth.  Another reason is because I knew that my narrator didn't have all the facts.  We are constantly told in the book how the people down on Earth are heathens, that they keep attacking the moon-dwellers, that they want their resources.  But I don't think this is true.  I think Phaet is very misinformed about her own life.  And as the novel progresses, she starts to realize this too.

Now on to the problems I had with the book.  There was much ado about nothing.  I keep flipping through the pages waiting for something to happen.  Nothing did.  It was a whole long set-up for the next book in the series, which I probably won't read.  The only time things really started kicking into the gear is the end of the book, when Phaet was about to go down to Earth.  And then the book ENDS.  So plot-wise, this book really fell short.  Everything in this book could have been condensed to 1/2 of the book, or even 1/4, and then it could've gotten on to the meat of the story.

Another issue of mine was the way they spelled Phaet's name--but maybe that's just me.

I also had a hard time believing Phaet's relationship with Wes.  It just wasn't happening for me.  She hardly ever talks throughout the whole book, yet I'm supposed to believe that they made this deep connection.  Could it happen?  Sure, I guess.  But this book wasn't selling it to me.

It seems I'm talking about more negative than good.  And rightfully so. But I'll point out a few good things that book did.  I think the set-up of this dystopian moon-dwelling was done pretty well.  There's talk of a class-system that's set in place, and how the homeless are put into a dirty, decrepit area of the ship.  Stealing is dealt with a heavy hand.  And each person on the ship has there own duties.  And there's some 1984-esque censorship going on.  All of these things I liked.

Overall, I wouldn't recommend the book.  But maybe you will find it more enjoyable than I.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Book Review: Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Title: Mosquitoland

Author: David Arnold

Publisher: Viking

Publication date: March, 2015

Hardcover: 352 pages

Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone

How I got this book: Bought

Why I chose this book: This book just seemed so new and interesting, different than what has been released lately, that I knew I needed to get a copy in my hands.


After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.
So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.


I was so excited to finally start reading Mosquitoland.  I've heard such great things about it, and knew it was going to be one of the debuts of the year.  To top it off, I always love reading books that revolve around some type of road trip.  They tend to show a lot of different sides to different people, contain many oddities, and are always a ton of fun.  And this book was no exception--though I would say it was lighter on the light-hearted fun and heavier on the deep self-realizations.

So let's talk about Mary Iris Malone, or Mim for short.  She's so real, so heart-breaking, so lovely.  She's got a real-life affliction that is constantly on her mind, but most of her worries are the shadows of doubt that her father has cast upon her since being a child.  Her mother is the source of light and all things happy in her world.  And her father is the person who took that happiness away.  Mim is the ideal protagonist.  You know that she has her faults, that she probably curses too much, but you can't help but love her anyway.  You are rooting for her to find a way out of the hole that she has gotten herself into.  And all of the characters that she bumps into on her way are so real--Arlene, Beck, and Walt.  They all hold such a special place in her heart even though she's just met them.  And she goes out of her way to help them in anyway she possibly can.

The entire story is very poetic, and amazingly well written.  I will not give away any spoilers, but I will say that I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.  I kept trying to guess how the story was going to end and what was going to happen to Mim and her friends, but I just couldn't seem to figure it out.  And then that ending.  Wow.  It worked perfectly.  I would whole-heartedly recommend this book.

There has been some debate about whether this is a book for adults and not teens, middle-grade.  However, I disagree.  I think that this is the type of book that kids crave.  An adventure where they can go and determine the steps themselves.  And there are lessons learned.  Not all people are innocent.  Not everything is as it seems.  Mental illness is a very real affliction that many people suffer from.  And these aren't things that should be hidden from younger readers because they seem harsh--they are simply reality.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Book Review: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

Title: All Fall Down

Author: Ally Carter

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Publication Date: January, 2015

Hardcover: 320 pages

Stand Alone or Series: Series--this is the first installment in the Embassy Row series.

How I got this book: Bought

Why I chose this book: I really love Ally Carter's novel, and just can't get enough.  I was very excited for this new series to debut.


Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:
1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.
As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her -- so there's no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.
Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can't control Grace -- no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.


I absolutely love all of Ally Carter's novels.  When I heard that this new series was going to start coming out I got really excited.  Carter's novels are rich with detail, witty, and full of mystery and intrigue.  Despite all of that, I was a little hesitant.  I'm always worried that a beloved author's new novel won't live up to the expectations I've made based on her previous novels.  But that wasn't an issue with All Fall Down.

We are introduced to our new protagonist, Grace, and immediately feel like we know who she is and why she is the way she is.  We empathize with her and her past.  But we never fully trust her.  I think this was one of the greatest parts of the novel that I haven't seen with Carter's earlier books.  I'm never fully sure if Grace is giving me the whole truth--if I can trust her.  And it just left me on the edge of my seat the whole time.

All of the characters, really, are so full of life.  They seem like such vibrant, full-of-life people that I would love to be friends with.  Why are they fictional?!

If I had any complaints, there would only be two small issues.  The first being that I wish there was more of a romantic aspect.  The synopsis mentions a mysterious Russian boy, and yes, he's there.  But I want more of him!  I wanted there to be a building of some type of relationship that could be expanded upon in the later installments.  But the interactions between this boy and Grace don't really happen until the end of the novel.  My second issue would be that the book ended.  I wanted more!  I want to read the entire series right now.  Unfortunately I'm going to have to wait.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.  It was amazing.  And if you haven't gotten around to reading Carter's other series, I would suggest you get on that.