Friday, 31 August 2012

"Into the Wild Nerd Yonder" by Julie Halpern

It’s Jessie’s sophomore year of high school. A self-professed “mathelete,” she isn’t sure where she belongs. Her two best friends have transformed themselves into punks and one of them is going after her longtime crush. Her beloved older brother will soon leave for college (and in the meantime has shaved his mohawk and started dating . . . the prom princess!) . . .
Things are changing fast. Jessie needs new friends. And her quest is a hilarious tour through high-school clique-dom, with a surprising stop along the way—the Dungeons and Dragons crowd, who out-nerd everyone. Will hanging out with them make her a nerd, too? And could she really be crushing on a guy with too-short pants and too-white gym shoes?  
If you go into the wild nerd yonder, can you ever come back?

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder was my first Julie Halpern book, but I can definitely say it won't be my last. It's about Jessie Sloan, a high school sophomore who gets fed up with her fake friends and decides to find some new ones. The author got inside Jessie's head really well, making her voice very realistic. Jessie is probably one of my all-time favourite narrators; she's funny, unique, wholly likable and good. She wanted to well at school and have friends she could trust and who liked her for who she was. Her brother Barrett (another great character, and I loved their sibling dynamic, it was so refreshing) was into the whole punk scene (complete with orange mohawk) but she didn't get into that, preferring instead to do her own thing, which included being a mathematics geek and designing/sewing her own skirts (which sounded awesome, I must say). When her best friends Bizza and Char become obsessed with Barrett's friends (including Jessie's long-term crush Van), and Bizza knowingly hooks up with Van, Jessie ditches them (admittedly after a bit of dithering and floundering) in favour of the "nerd" crowd, who play Dungeons and Dragons. This book provided a good insight into the game, which I didn't know a lot about before, and showed Jessie that it was okay not to be seen as "cool". (Her father, friend Polly, and even her brother had played it at least once before). At the same time, Barrett sort of parallels Jessie's change of social scene by leaving his band, the Crudhoppers, and beginning to date the Homecoming Queen, Chloe Romano, who unexpectedly turns out to be very intelligent and a feminist. Jessie finds romance of her own with Henry, a very sweet boy (with too-short trousers and very white gym shoes) who she plays D&D with.
Overall, this book was brilliant! I will definitely be re-reading this one at some point in the future.

Rating: A+

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

In My Mailbox: What to Expect When You're Not Expecting Much

So, viewers of the world, I have decided to try something new... sort of. I'm going to start doing In My Mailbox posts (first started by Kristi over at The Story Siren) to show what reviews are coming up next and hopefully introduce you to some new reads! I've got 11 to show you (I recently ordered a load of American titles from Amazon) today. Some are Kindle Editions but most are physical copies. If you're a member of Goodreads, there are links to the page of each book so you can add it. If you're not a Goodreads member, you can still follow the link and read more about the book, including the full synopsis and reviews. I'll also include bits about the story and/or characters. Happy reading!

WANT by Stephanie Lawton

Goodreads page

Main character: Julianne Casquette
Setting: Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Alabama, USA
Released: June 6th 2012
Themes: Romance, Drama, Music, Family

WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard

Goodreads page

Main character: Bria Sandoval 
Setting: Central America; Southern California, USA
Released: March 13th 2012
Themes: Travel, Romance, Adventure, Self-discovery

MY LIFE NEXT DOOR by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Goodreads page

Main character: Samantha Reed
Setting: Connecticut, USA
Released: June 14th 2012
Themes: Family, Romance, Drama, Coming of age


Goodreads page

Main character: Vera Dietz
Setting: USA
Released: October 12th 2010
Themes: Mystery, Friendship, Abuse, (minor) Romance

NEVER ENOUGH by Denise Jaden

Goodreads page

Main character: Loann Rochester
Setting: USA
Released: July 10th 2012
Themes: Family, Sisters, Romance, Mental illness


Goodreads page

Main characters: Jill MacSweeney and Mandy Kalinowski
Setting: USA
Released: October 18th 2011
Themes: Family, Parenting, Coming of age, Romance

IF I LIE by Corrine Jackson 

Goodreads page

Main character: Sophie Topper Quinn
Setting: Texas, USA
Released: August 28th 2012
Themes: Military, Friendship, Romance, War, Drama

PAPER TOWNS by John Green

Goodreads page

Main character: Quentin Jacobsen
Setting: Orlando, Florida, USA
Released: October 16th 2008
Themes: Mystery, Romance, Adventure, Coming of age

THE WAITING SKY by Lara Zielin

Goodreads page

Main character: Jane McAllister
Setting: USA
Released: August 2nd 2012
Themes: Drama, Romance, Family, Adventure

By the way, I think this cover is gorgeous!

FALL FOR ANYTHING by Courtney Summers

Goodreads page

Main character: Eddie Reeves
Setting: USA or Canada
Released: December 21st 2010
Themes: Mystery, Family, Death, Romance

My third Courtney Summers novel, so I already know I won't be disappointed!


Goodreads page

Main character: Drea Horvath
Setting: Bellingham, Washington, USA
Released: May 25th 2010
Themes: Music, Friendship, Romance, Family

Sunday, 26 August 2012

"Hold Still" by Nina LaCour

I am a girl ready to explode into nothing.

That night Ingrid told Caitlin, I'll go wherever you go. But by dawn, Ingrid was dead and Caitlin was alone. Suddenly Caitlin has to deal with a completely unfamiliar life - a life without the art, the laughter, the music, and the joy she shared with her best friend. When she finds the journal Ingrid left behind, Caitlin gets a chance to learn about another side of her friend; and the journal becomes her guide as she deals with forging new friendships, finding a first love, and learning to live without the one person who knew her best.

The novel opens as the summer of Caitlin's sophomore year is approaching, and her best friend Ingrid has committed suicide. Caitlin's life "holds still" as she cannot move forward and cannot look back. When she finds a journal that Ingrid left for her, this makes her death even more raw, but also helps Caitlin understand Ingrid's feelings before her suicide, and gives her an insight into her friend that she never had before. As Ingrid writes, you're looking for answers but there are no answers. When Caitlin returns in the fall, she meets Dylan, a new girl at school who slowly becomes her friend, and Maddy, Dylan's girlfriend who also helps Caitlin recover after her tragedy. Caitlin also gets to know Jayson, the boy Ingrid had a crush on, and forms her own crush on Taylor, the popular boy who's not a stereotype. Her photography teacher Ms. Delani starts the year off by ignoring Caitlin completely, but then reaches out to her after accepting that she has not handled her grief over Ingrid, her favourite and most promising student, appropriately. Ms. Delani then surprises Caitlin by saying that she is also one of her favourite students.
I really liked this book. It was well written, sensitive to the delicate subject matter, and it made me feel things. This is always a good sign. I understood Caitlin, the main character, and I rooted for her throughout the whole book as she tried to deal with her grief. What she did with Ingrid's diary was risky, but I think it made sure people still had pieces of Ingrid whilst giving Caitlin closure. She had some unusual coping mechanisms and sometimes she was a bit annoying - especially when she fell out with Dylan for no reason - but she really was torn apart by the loss of her best friend. The supporting characters were well-rounded and three-dimensional, but I wanted more Taylor page-time! He obviously cared a lot for Caitlin and I liked how she gradually opened up to him more over the course of the book. At first I didn't really like Ingrid, but then as more of her story was told and her character developed, I really felt for her and what she was feeling. Nina LaCour really got under her skin and made her presence deeply felt, despite her being an absent character. She wasn't defined by her suicide and I liked that.
Nina LaCour's writing was incredible; it was sparse but got straight to the point. The only time there was much description was when Caitlin was talking about her hobbies; photography and building her treehouse. Her treehouse sounded amazing! Caitlin's love for photography was so clear. She obviously felt a deep connection to Ingrid when taking and developing pictures. What she did for her final photography project was so heartbreaking, but also hopeful at the same time.
Overall, this was a haunting, compelling debut, and I look forward to reading Nina LaCour's most recent novel, The Disenchantments, in the near future.

Rating: A+

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

"Revived" by Cat Patrick

Description from the book:

The world fades to nothing, and before I have the chance to think another thought... I'm dead.
My name is Daisy West and my whole life is a lie. I have died five times. I've been Revived five times. With each revival comes a new name, a new town... a new life. 

But this time I won't let myself die. This time, I've found a love that I can't let go. This time, I'm going to make my life my own. 

After reading Cat Patrick's debut Forgotten last year, I had high hopes for Revived. Whilst I didn't enjoy it as much as Forgotten, it was still an engaging and thought provoking read. 

The novel starts with fifteen year old Daisy dying for the fifth time. She's part of a top-secret government program that tests a drug called Revive which can bring people back when they have died. Daisy is one of the cases and she has been revived five times. She lives with two government agents, Mason and Cassie, who act as her "parents" to the outside world. After she dies for the fifth time and is consequently revived, the Appleby "family" move to Omaha, Nebraska, and change their surname (as they do every time they are relocated) to West. Daisy starts at a new school and meets new friends, namely siblings Audrey and Matt McKean. Matt and Daisy have a sweet romance, but Audrey is hiding something that changes Daisy's view of Revive, life, and death. 
At first I found it difficult to connect with Daisy; she was so passive and flippant in the beginning, like, "oh, I've just died, but it's okay, there's a drug that'll save me, like always". At some point, probably when she and Audrey became closer, something clicked and I ended up really liking Daisy. Audrey was a lovely character, so cheerful despite her fate, and her story really was heartbreaking. I'd have liked to have known more about her and what her life was like before Daisy came to Omaha, though. Matt was totally swoon-worthy, and surprisingly realistic in such a situation. I really enjoyed reading about his relationship with Daisy as it unfolded, and some of the things they said/thought about each other were so cute! 
I really liked Daisy's relationship with Mason, her pretend father. They obviously cared a lot about each other and was really pleased when they got stronger towards the end, after all that happened with the program. Her friendship with Megan was cool, and I wanted to read their blog!
I also appreciate the talent that Cat Patrick has for writing creepy and sinister characters, namely Cassie and "God". She really made me feel quite uncomfortable in some scenes, and I thought twice about reading this at night! 
The only problem I had with this book, and it is quite a large one, is that it took a while to read, despite it being only 326 pages. I think this was because it dragged a little at times when there wasn't much going on plot-wise, but the stuff written in those pages was necessary to the outcome of the story.
Overall, an interesting and satisfying read from Cat Patrick, who I will definitely be reading more of, despite the moments when it seemed a little slow.

Rating: A-