Review: Perfect Chemistry

Author: Simone Elkeles
Publisher:  Razorbill
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Summary: When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more. 
In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.

I read this book and I honestly didn't know how I was going to review it. I sat on my desk with my laptop, thinking about what was I going to say. This was a decent book. It wasn't horrible. Then what was wrong? 

Its utter unoriginality. I felt like I read this book before. It was like...Like De-ju vu. 

The main characters Brittany Ellis and Alejandro Fuentes were just too cliche for me. Brittiany is your typical cheerleader who is obsessed with being "perfect". She kept repeating over and over again how she must remain perfect and it became a bit tedious after a while. Her sister is disabled and her protectiveness and love for her sister was her saving grace. But, this aspect of her character was not handled subtly. I personally preferred Alex's chapters. I could empathise with him more. I wish the book was just written from his point of view. 

The bet aspect of the novel was also cliche and really overdone in YA. Still, the romance was entertaining and I wanted everything to work out for them. The love between the characters and the stakes is what I really liked. 

The ending was a bit flat; and I didn't like the resolutions. The epilogue....What do I say about the epilogue. It was ridiculous. Seriously, the book was realistic and down to earth then I'm hit with this epilogue and I'm expected to believe the main characters found a cure for Alzheimer's. That just killed the little bit of the love I was beginning to feel. 

However, I didn't hate the novel. I just feel somewhat "meh" about it because it didn't really bring anything to the table. Still, the book was somewhat engaging, a fast read and compelling social commentary.

Review: Vampire Academy (Book 1)

Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher:  Razorbill
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Summary: St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger. . . .
Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever. 

Vampire Academy is a mixture of vicious gossip, the supernatural, and adolescent sexuality thus creating something compulsively readable and fun. The comparision to Twilight is unavoidable, and I have to say that not only is it very unlike Twilight, it is far better. Much better characters, better storyline and a more developed world.

The writing style is free of awkward construction and mistakes. It was easy to read and was definately strong.

I can't begin to tell you how much I love reading about a female lead who is willing - and more than able - to fight for herself and those she loves. Rose, is especially strong; she is tough, quick-tempered, but very clever with a great sense of humor. She is also aggressive and a little reckless. Sometimes I wanted more scenes that highlighted her softer, more emotional sid. Overall, I liked Rose's relationship with Lissa.The link between them is interesting, mainly because the associated mythology opens up the playing field to magical calamities, political movements, and fierce warfareAs for Dimitri... I am conflicted about him. Yes, he was H-O-T, but he was also flat as a love interest. He had some moments of development but not enough to make him a good leading man.

Though it was entertaining enough to hold my attention and the pages flipped quickly, I found this book diminished by the same genre conventions that make me shun teen flicks: self-conscious cliques and power dynamics. The Mean Girls tactics, and self-destructive behaviors was very off putting because it assumes that there are no mature teenagers in existence, of any species. Also, too much of the plot depended on a thread about girls getting back at each other through rumors

There are some interesting moments: vampire politics, emotional problems, and a bite-size dollop of action. The pacing is agonizingly slow, especially at the beginning. The Vampire mythology was quite interesting however I couldn't help seeing the flaw in the dynamics between the vampires. If I were a stronger, tougher breed of vampire and the weak vampires came and said, "Okay, we'll keep you as our Guardians and have drunken, disrespectful sex with you on occasion as long as you protect us from the Strogoi." I'd probably respond with, "How about I protect you by keeping you in my dank, dark cellar as my slave and use you to further our race?" Or am I just evil? Lol. Overall, on the world building front, VAMPIRE ACADEMY comes through.

 Vampire Academy holds its own by having an assured, kick-butt type of heroine and a story grounded in folklore

Daily Dose Monday #002

Daily Dose Monday is hosted by Holly over at Good Golly Miss Holly and features inspiring/magical images that you would like to share with your readers 
Every picture is a story waiting to be told. 

Review: Twenty Boy Summer

Author: Sarah Ockler
Publisher:  Little Brown & Co
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Summary: According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy ever day, there's a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie---she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Twenty Boy Summer is the debut novel by the extraordinary by Sarah Ockler. Its a tale that effortlessly weaves in love, tragedy, heartbreak, friendship, betrayal and forgiveness. The novel was a roller coaster ride that left me breathless.

The Zanzibar Bay vacation is beautifully described. The descriptions are lusciously vivid. Ockler's writing is almost lyrical. I felt like I can almost taste the salt heavy in the air. Almost feel the breeze against my skin. Almost see the endless sea. And I could feel Anna's emotions as Ockler portrayed it beautifully and conveyed it fantastically. There are beautiful key phrases repeated throughout the course of the novel, my favourite was "I'm not fine, thanks for not asking." Such repetitions can sometimes border on cliche, but Ockler skill really shines through as this comes across poignant and profound in the novel.

Twenty Boy Summer is a character-driven novel, so it was important for all the characters to be developed well. And Ockler is able to characterise wonderfully. I was emotionally attached to Anna’s journey Through Anna's memory flashbacks, the audience even gets a pretty distinct picture of Matt. Her character growth and development was my favourite part of the book. There was a constant internal struggle not to forget Matt and keep his memories close to her, but she recognised the need to move on and actually start living. Francesca’s and Anna’s friendship is one with ups and downs but always remaining strong despite the heated fights. It was a realistic portrayal of the two teenagers handling their grief and trying to find a way around it.

Twenty Boy Summer isn't exactly a light-hearted comedy; but it's not exactly grieving angst either. It's a painful and lovable story where Anna and Frankie transition from kids to young women. The story contained several dimensions that wove a beautiful tale of trying to live a life that is overshadowed by death. By the end of the novel, I felt like the character's growth was inspirational. We will all go (or have gone through) a death of a loved one, and the novel teaches us that even though it doesn't feel like it, there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope.

A heart breaking novel of death, friendship, and secrets. I'm definitely hungry for more work from Sarah Ockler!

Review: Wintergirls

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Summary: Eighteen-year-old Lia comes to terms with her best friend's death from bulimia as she struggles with anorexia.

Anderson unflinchingly plunges readers into the mind of Lia, forcing us to count calories with her, punish our bodies for eating too much, cut ourselves to feel control. I won't lie and say it wasn't disturbing, almost scary. Wintergirls has to be one of the most desolate, and traumatic novels I have read.

Anderson's writing is almost hypnotising, she has a way of explaining a situation thoroughly using as few words as possible. Genius. It is lyrical and poetic. It did a wonderful job at magnifying the emotions. Many of the jarring and raw descriptions stayed in my head long after I put the book down. Anderson also used a unique printing style in this novel. Strike through words and sentences, blank pages that create the most thrilling plot seem almost unbearable, different fonts for websites and thoughts

Anderson tackles this difficult subject matter in such an honest and unflinching way. Wintergirls is about Lia's relationship and obsession with food, yes. But it isn't just that. It's about grief. About guilt. About family and control and addiction. It's about not just sinking, but actually diving towards the bottom until you are faced with a decision: to let yourself drown or to start fighting to reach the surface and breath.

Lia's struggles are so in your face that you can't help but become emotionally connected. Her family and loved ones keep reaching out she doesn't want to get better. That's the problem. Cheating on weigh-ins. Pretending to eat food she hasn't. Detesting her own body, although she is nothing but skin and bones. This is a great example where I didn't like the protagonist but I still empathised with her.

Wintergirls is the voice of a generation of females starving for acceptance, love, understanding, and freedom. Wintergirls will  transcend time and genres. 

This is not an easy book to read - nor should it be. Laurie Halse Anderson places the reader deep into the psyche of a girl whose demons are threatening to overwhelm her.

Review: I Am The Messenger.

Author: Markus Zusak
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers  
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Summary: Meet Ed Kennedy—underage cabdriver, pathetic cardplayer, and useless at romance. He lives in a shack with his coffee-addicted dog, the Doorman, and he’s hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That’s when the first Ace arrives. That’s when Ed becomes the messenger. . . .Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary), until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission? 

After I finished this novel I had to sit back because I was in awe at the mastery of the writing, the power of the message, the truth of such stories. This book has weaved it's way into my soul. I Am the Messenger captures the the dilemas I go through as a young person. Its depicted my frustration and insecurities and also my hopes and unfulfilled wants.

Once again his language is magic. The dialogue takes on the action of the predominant emotion. If he wants to reach for a friend, the words reach. And the way he breaks his sentences to evoke emotional pauses is poetic. Zusak has a perfect combination of length and pauseI. In a way, his writing transcends language.

Ed is a protagonist whom you come to care about within the first couple of pages, and whose story is deeply engrossing, emotionally engaging and also inspiring. As Ed submerges himself into these strangers' lives. He learns to care for them personally and insightfully discovers a message for them that will alter their lives. Sometimes the messages are easy to deliver, other times they require a lot of strength. The characters were also well-written. They had depth. At the beginning, there were some characters who I immediately labeled as flat and two-dimentional. As I progressed through the book, though, I realized I was wrong. Every character has their own problems and their own way of dealing with problems

Ed is an understandable, down-to-earth guy who we respect and want to do good. His friends, while not perfect role models, are supportive, funny, and real. The addresses hold many interesting people in store, and even though most of them aren't angels, they're at least honest.

The absolutely only thing that took away from the book at all was the ending. I thought it was rather rushed, and tied up a little too neatly. It was a little bit of a "huh? What just happened?" ending." I was never quite sure that I really understood who was sending Ed on these missions. Though I adored Ed's understanding that he isn't the messenger, but IS the message.
 I think there is a unique beauty in Zusak's story. Ed discovers the changing power in simple, personalized messages of love, even if they're ones he's forced to deliver. Ed's story is simple proof that if a guy like him can stand up and do what he did, then maybe everyone can. "Maybe everyone can live beyond what they're capable of." 

Zusak leaves us with our own challenge. We have to find our own names on an ace and we have to discover the real messege: that anyone, no matter how ordinary can be great.

Review: Perfect You

Author: Elizabeth Scott
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Summary: And then there's Will. Gorgeous, unattainable Will, whom Kate acts like she can't stand even though she can't stop thinking about him. When Will starts acting interested, Kate hates herself for wanting him when she's sure she's just his latest conquest.Kate figures that the only way things will ever stop hurting so much is if she keeps to herself and stops caring about anyone or anything. What she doesn't realize is that while life may not always be perfect, good things can happen -- but only if she lets them.... Her father has quit his job to sell vitamins at the mall, and Kate is forced to work with him. Her best friend has become popular, and now she acts like Kate's invisible.

Elizabeth Scott's second novel is a poignant tale about first crush, anguish of losing a best friend, and the bemusement that comes with having to parent...Your parents. PERFECT YOU is a story of one girl's struggle to fit in to a world that keeps changing

The biggest strength of this book is Elizabeth Scott's ability to authentically capture the complex, conflicting feelings in a love/hate relationship. Underneath his flirtatious facade, Will is not what he seems. I loved the clever arguments and smart banter between himself and Kate. Elizabeth Scott has a talent for flawed girls with a unique voice and her leading men border on the divine.However, at times I lost my patience with Kate failing to believe over and over that Will may honestly want to go out with her, that he may ACTUALLY like someone like her. 

Also, I felt that Kate was too-quickly forgiving Anna of her unwillingness to acknowledge her around her new friends or stand up for Kate when she's being laughed at. I could not get pass how Kate was so willing to overlook everything Anna had done (or hadn't done, in this case) every single time. As soon as Kate was ready to forget that Anna and her would never be real friends again, Anna suddenly makes an appearance, says a sweet word or two, and Kate's all for it again. Yes, I realize that's the author's point, trying to emphasize that to certain people, it doesn't take much for that glimmer of hope to appear and disappear again, but it's somewhat annoying and off-putting.

And while I felt like it all wrapped up a little too fast as Kate's bleak outlook peaked, the ending was still rewarding and offered just enough closure in the epilogue-like final chapter. Props to Scott for not sugar-coating any of the harsher realities of teen and family life.   I mean, 99% of the time, the parent realizes his/her mistake, grows up, learns a lesson, and becomes a better person. Here, you’re kind of hit with reality. Not everyone realises their mistakes or wants to change themselves. People, even our parents, can be selfish.

 PERFECT YOU has just the right combination of humor, charm and weight to satisfy any reader, eventhough it had it flaws it was still an enjoyable read.