Saturday, December 7, 2013

Book Review: Love & Other Four Letter Words by Carolyn Mackler

Release Date: October 10, 2000
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Age group: YA
Pages: 240
Buy the book: Amazon - The Book Depository

Rating: 3/5

I read and reviewed Mackler's The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things back in 2009; I really enjoyed it and kept thinking about it occasionally afterwards. When I saw Love and Other Four Letter Words in a charity shop for 50 p, I instantly walked to the cashier and bought it. Finally on a cold night, while sipping tea and eating cake, I picked it from my book shelf and read the whole thing on one sitting.

When the parents of Sammie Davies, a 16 year old girl living in a small New York town separate and her artsy mother rents them a small apartment from New York City, everything changes for her. She has to leave her home and her best friend Kitty behind and move to a completely new city with her mother, who after the separation, seems even more unstable than she was before. But once Sammie gets familiar with New York City and meets Phoebe, which who she forms a friendship, Sammie starts to realize her life back home wasn't maybe as perfect as she thought - her family was falling apart and Kitty, the girl she has regarded as her best friend since 3rd grade does not really seem to get Sammie at all. And in New York there's also the hot neighbor who looks like Johnny Depp and of course Eli, a guy she has known for ages but has never really considered before in a romantic light.

Love and Other Four Letter Words might not be your best pick if you are looking for something cute and romantic. Don't get me wrong, there are some cute moments there, but it is more focused on the development and growth of Sammie and the realizations she makes while getting used to a new environment and new life. I was positively surprised of how well this novel was written - I did not have much expectations, other than that it will be a fast read, and I was really taken by Mackler's witty dialogue and the amount of research she must have done to quote the lyrics of folk bands etc. Sammie listens to. I also really enjoyed the supporting characters from hilarious Phoebe to shy Eli. This was so funny at parts I was literally laughing out loud.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Book Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (Under the Never Sky #1)

Release Date: January 3, 2012
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: HarperCollins
Age group: YA
Pages: 376
Buy the book: Amazon - The Book Depository 

Rating: 4/5

Description (from Goodreads):

Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers abarbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

MY THOUGHTS:

'Under the Never Sky' by Veronica Rossi definitely filled all the expectations I had. The start was a bit slow in my opinion, but once the action really started, I was hooked. The book was in a very unfortunate position in my so-called reading schedule; I started reading it right after finishing with 'Ready Player One' by Ernest Cline, which was incredible. I am happy to say that 'Under the Never Sky' was almost as good!

Aria has lived her whole life in Reverie, which an enclosed city where most of the time is spent in Realms, which are accessed with this device called a Smarteye. Through the Realms you can visit different places and time periods - they are artificial, but extremely well constructed - while you are in one of the Realms, you feel like you are in two places at once. 

Aria's mother is a scientist and has traveled out of Reverie to work on something she has not been able to tell to Aria. When Aria decides to go look for her, things go really badly and Aria ends up being forced out of Reverie to the outside known in Reverie as the Death Shop. 

Perry has been an Outsider his whole life. He knows hunger and panic. He survives better than most with his powerful sense of sight and smell. When he meets Aria, he right away realize that she is a Dweller, one from the enclosed cities. Despite the fact that he does not seem like to Aria, he decides to help her because she has something that could help him in saving someone important for him. As they embark on their journey, they get to know more about each other but also more about the lives they have not themselves experienced. And as they spend more and more time together, it becomes clear that there might actually be something between them, as much as they try to deny it. 

I loved the two main characters of this novel. Aria is strong and independent, but not flawless. When she is thrown out of the place she has called home for her whole life, she is scared and ready to face her destiny, most likely death. But as she spends more and more time Outside, she starts to learn new skills and realizes that she actually might have a chance to survive. Perry is fierce and strong, and despite the fact that he seems cold towards Aria, he is also caring. He has been through a lot, and his life seems to be an endless struggle. He also blames himself for things he had no control over. 

I kept rooting for these two characters throughout the whole book. Even though I knew they would eventually fall in love, I liked the fact that it took its time and it was not the type of instalove you see in many YA novels. The other characters were also interesting and the whole fictional world Rossi has created is fascinating with its little details from the Realms to the cruel Outside world. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (#1)

If you want to participate in Top Ten Tuesday, please click here

The topic for this Tuesday, the 3rd of December 2013, is Top Ten 2014 releases I'm dying to read. 


1. One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak [expected publication February 4th, 2014 by Knopf]
I am OBSESSED with The American version of The Office - it is my favorite sitcom of all time. So obviously every single time someone who can be associated with that show comes up with something, I get VERY excited. B.J.'s upcoming collection of short stories is no exception. 
2.  Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky #3) by Veronica Rossi [expected publication January 28th, 2014 by HarperCollins]
I was surprised of how much I actually enjoyed the first two books in the trilogy (it is a trilogy, right?) after buying them only because I needed to have three books for the 3 for 5 pounds deal. I think I might have to read the first two books again to refresh my memory, but I do remember that the second book ended on a very exciting note, so I obviously can't wait to see what happens. 
3. Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss #3) by Stephanie Perkins [expected publication May 13th 2014 by Dutton]
Since I loved both Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, I can't wait to get to know Isla and Josh (described as introspective artist). And the of course it will be a true delight to read a bit more about Anna and Etienne as well as Lola and Cricket. I CAN'T WAIT!
4. The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave #2) by Rick Yancey [expected publication May 6th 2014 by Puffin
The world introduced by The 5th Wave was so intriguing and well written that I instantly started to grave for more. 
5. The Retribution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #3) by Michelle Hodkin [expected publication June 10th, 2014 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers]
I do enjoy the romance and even started to like the paranormal element during the second book (in the first book I did not really like it that much) but what I'm mostly waiting for is the disturbing, weird events that take place in these books. I can't wait to see how this trilogy finishes. 
6. Rooms by Lauren Oliver [expected publication date not announced]
I simply loved Before I Fall by Oliver and can't wait to see if maybe her novel teared for adult readers is more contemporary in style than the Delirium books (I've read the first book and quite enjoyed it, just haven't had the chance to read the other two yet). Oliver's young adult novel Panic is expected to be published in March 4th by HarperCollins. 

7. Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2) by Libba Brey [expected publication August 5th 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers]
I fell in love with the characters of The Diviners as well as the setting (I love the 20s and New York) so I can't wait to see how the story processes and what happens to these characters.  (BTW, I hope that's not the final cover for the book because it's kind of tacky)
8. A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Walker [expected publication January 23rd 2014 by Viking Juvenile]
It was really the cover that through me into this one, but as I read more about it, I really got increasingly interested. Set in early 1900s in London, it is a story about a girl who wants to be an artist in the very strict London society in which the place of a woman is considered to be next to her husband.  
9. Armada by Ernest Cline [expected publication October 7th, 2014 by Crown Publishing]
If I do not come across another book as amazing as Ready Player One during December, it will most likely to be on the top of my "Best Books Read in 2013" list. Anything this author does, I am interested. 
10. Dissonance (Dissonance #1) by Erica O'Rourke [expected publication July 22nd 2014 by Simon & Schuster books for Young Readers]
 Several people I'm friends with on Goodreads have been adding this to their 'Want to Read' lists and once I read about it myself as well, I got excited. Might be a good new series to start to read now that some of the trilogies I've been reading are about to end. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Book Review: The Duff: Designated Ugly Fat Friend by Kody Keplinger

Release Date: September 7, 2010
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Little Brown/Poppy
Age group: YA
Pages: 280
Buy the book: Amazon - The Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face. 

But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.
Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.
MY THOUGHTS:
My expectations for this book were pretty high due to the fact that it has been on my TBR pile since it was published and it seems that everyone I trust when it comes to book recommendations have at least liked it, if not even loved it. I have not read that many contemporaries this year to be honest, but I am happy I finally picked this one up because it really made me want to read more of books of its type.
It was so incredibly easy to identify with Bianca. I guess I never really shared that much with people in my "group" in high school - I hated parties, I hated all the guys that I had to go to school with and I just couldn't get excited over the same things they did. The only thing we shared was the school stuff and now that high school is over, there really isn't anything that still connects me to them. Bianca has a couple of good friends, but she has always felt like she is somewhat the outsider. When the school douche Wesley calls her The Duff, the designated ugly fat friend of her group, she starts to feel even more conscious about her position in her group of friends. 
Bianca is also extremely cynical and sarcastic, which I loved, because that is also so me in some sense. I am extremely pessimistic and always think of the "worst possible" solution for different things and events. I know that drives people crazy sometimes. So does Bianca. She is also a bit of a control freak, which was something I was able to identify with as well. Bianca might seem like a bitch sometimes, but there are things going on in her life she is not ready to talk about with anyone. She is not the touchy-feely sharing type her friends are. And I loved that about her.
At the beginning I felt like Wesley was a total ass. But I guess that was the point. He is handsome and funny, but also over confident which drives me crazy in guys. Confidence is a good thing, but I think you never should be too sure of yourself. But as Bianca and Wesley spend time together they start to notice that they actually have a lot of similarities. But can Bianca ever forgive the guy who labeled her as The Duff? 
I really enjoyed Keplinger's writing style. It is not anything super special, but it is easy to follow and the characters she creates are funny and you really start to feel for them, especially for Bianca and Wesley. Bianca might be almost unlikable at points (I think this was also due to the fact that sometimes I was able to identify with her TOO MUCH and felt like a complete bitch myself as well) but she really grows as a person throughout the story and realizes that sometimes good things can happen to a person who never expects them to happen. Her family situation adds another level to the story making it not only a book about high school problems, but also about how problems at home shape you as a person. 
The Duff is not one of those super fluffy everything is perfect -type of contemporary reads. It might make you feel uncomfortable because of the fact that Bianca uses people to feel better. There is also sex, so if that usually makes you squeamish, maybe this is not the best one for you. The characters are not perfect and they make bad decisions and decisions that only benefit themselves - that might make them unlikable, but at the same time they make them extremely realistic. Like Bianca realizes, no one us are perfect. 
The Duff is a quick, funny read despite the issues that it deals with. There is no instalove, which I know a lot of readers hate, and the relationships that take place might not be the most loving ones, at least not at the beginning. But if you are looking for something a bit different to read, the Duff is definitely a potential pick. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #1) by Michelle Hodkin

Release Date: September 27, 2011
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Age group: YA
Pages: 466
Buy the book: Amazon - The Book Depository

Rating: 4/5

MILKA'S REVIEW:

Wow. 'The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer' is one of those books that I really don't even know how to review. There were things that I loved about it a lot (okay, yes, Noah mostly), but then there were also a couple of things that I was not that big of fan of (the supernatural element mostly). But now after reading it, I must conclude after examining of the different elements of this novel, I really enjoyed this one. 

The story is told through the eyes of Mara. The story begins with her and her friends playing with a spirit board and then jumps to a hospital where Mara is told that her best friend Rachel, as well as her other friends Claire and Jude have died in a building collapse. Mara was also there, but she has survived, almost unharmed. Mara has no recollection of what happened, but soon enough, dreams and hallucinations start to haunt her and she has no idea how to react.

Going on with her life in the town her friends died is too much for Mara, and the family relocates to Miami, Florida. There Mara and her two brothers start to attend local schools and Mara hopes that her hallucinations stop, so she can go on with her life. She is scared to talk about her situation with her mother, a psychologist, because she knows that she will be institutionalized if her family gets to know the extend of her problem. She is angry at herself for causing so much trouble for her family, and also for not remembering what actually happened that night her friends died. 

"Noah Shaw was still a whore, still an asshole, and still painfully out of my league. This was my inner mantra, the one I repeated on the loop..."

During her first day of school, Mara meets Noah. Noah is charming, incredibly handsome and has a British accent (come on, everyone loves that). But Noah also has a reputation of being a player and a heart breaker. And getting her heart broken is the last thing Mara needs at the moment. But it seems Noah has really taken interest in Mara and despite her efforts to stay away from him, she feels drawn to him and they end up forming a friendship with a possibility for something more. But the fact that Mara still sees hallucinations and nightmares and begins to remember more and more about what happened with her friends, Mara tries to distance herself from Noah as much as possible, knowing that he might actually break her heart and she might actually be able to hurt him in a very extreme way.

What made the novel very interesting is the fact that you cannot always trust Mara's narration. Due to her hallucinations and nightmares, some things that she narrates as ones she "sees" are actually just something she believes she sees. The narration really plays with your mind and a couple of times I had to go back and try to figure out did some of the things actually happen. Mara is also extremely likable as character; she is witty, has a sense of humor and her reaction to what happens to her is very realistic. 

"No," I said, louder this time. "I mean asscrown. The crown on top of the asshat that covers the asshole of the assclown. The very zenith in the hierachy of asses", I said, as though reading from a dictionary of modern profanity."

When it comes to Noah, I can just say that he is incredible. He seems like an extremely confident guy, but there is a mystery behind him as well, a one that you really cannot expect while reading the novel. The way he is described sounds perfect - he is this British guy everyone is in love with, he plays guitar, looks always like he has just woken up and still sexy... He is witty and intelligent and mysterious. I am in love. The relationship between Mara and Noah takes its time even though it is clear that they like each other. I really liked this one, because it makes the story a bit more believable - Mara has been hurt and is not ready to get hurt again, thus avoiding Noah as much as possible.

"A mocking grin crept over Noah's mouth. "Haven't you heard not to judge a book by its cover?"

As I said in the first paragraph, the paranormal element that was added to the story towards the end of the novel was the one thing I did not really like about this novel. I kind of saw that it was coming, but because I read from a review that if you like books like 'Twilight', you will probably end up liking this. The paranormal twists is not as drastic as vampires of werewolves or something like that though, and I hope that maybe it the second book it is explained a bit better, but at the same time it stays in the background, not taking too much attention away from the story itself.

The ending of the novel is SO GOOD because it really makes you want to read the second book in an instant. So that said, I really cannot wait to get my hand of the second book on the series.

This is the start of something new...

So as some of you might know, I am a film and theatre studies student. This year, as an option, I selected Arts Journalism, which has encouraged me to start to write more about the things I see and read. For my classes I've been writing about films and theatre, so on my free time I've been spending time writing about books. Since my semester is almost over, my class will be almost over as well. But I do not want to stop writing and I thought that what better place to keep up with the habit than this blog. 

In the next few days, I'll be going over the archives of this blog and deleting all the unnecessary posts etc. There are quite many reviews here already, which I will keep (expect maybe some of the early ones which are not just very good) and I have a bunch of new reviews waiting in the drafts to be published. 

Keep your eye on this blog if you are interested to see reviews of such books as The Diviners by Libba Bray or Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick. Also, please recommend some cute, quirky, romantic and funny Christmas reads for me? I was browsing through Waterstones but want to recommendations before I make the decision on which book to buy.