Monday, July 8, 2013

Mini-Reviews Part 1 (YA).

Since I haven't been blogging on a regular basis, I have a pile of books waiting that I've read and haven't talked about. I figured I should remedy that, so I give you mini-reviews! I read some of these so long ago that some details are hazy, so this is really the best option for me to at least tell you what books I liked and didn't like. :)

This post will focus on half of the young adult novels that I've read over the last few months. Since this post has been sitting in "draft" mode for...well, a long time, some novels are a little hazier than others (these are in order from the furthest away to the most recent reads).

Feel free to tell me in comments if you've read the same novel and your thoughts! :)

Requiem by Lauren Oliver

I read both Delirium and Pandemonium shortly after they were published, and I was ready to read Requiem when it came out. I wasn't all that happy with the end of either of the two previous books-both made me roll my eyes. Of the two, Pandemonium irritated me more, but I still wanted to know how the story ended.

While I certainly flew through Requiem, I was left feeling very unimpressed. The book felt a bit disjointed. And the romantic conflict felt forced to me. It left a bitter taste in my mouth. However, I did like the storyline with Hana, and felt that it connected well with Lena's story.

Overall, I enjoyed the series, and I've recommended it to a bunch of students. They all seemed to really enjoy it, so I consider that to be a success.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling is one of those titles I've been meaning to read, but hadn't picked up at the store. I finally caved when one of the students from the school's book club convinced me it was really good.

And she was right. Hands down, Graceling is one of the best YA fantasy novels I've read in a long time. I found it to be original and compelling. Katsa was a narrator and character that I truly rooted for. She underwent a great deal of change in the novel, but maintained her identity no matter the circumstances. That was something I really admired from Cashore-that she didn't sacrifice her character's real identity to go along with what the read might want.

The novel, as a whole, was well-written and evenly paced. I flew through it in a night and couldn't read it fast enough. It also caused me to go out to the store and immediately pick up Cashore's other 2 titles.

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire is set in the same world as Graceling, but takes place in a neighboring realm. While in Graceling certain characters are marked with different colored eyes as a sign of their grace, or high skill in a certain area (Katsa's is survival), the country in which Fire takes place is one of violence and anger. The main character, Fire, is a woman with brilliant hair-a trait that attracts violence and anger since her hair also has power.

The story was similarly paced to Graceling. Again, I found the world believable and well-developed. In many ways, the country of Fire's story was similar to the places Katsa journeyed through. Both women had to struggle to be understood for their particular traits. However, I did find Fire to be more...violent than Graceling, and it was missing something to really push it over the edge (and that isn't to say I didn't enjoy it, I did, but not as much as Graceling). In any case, the book left me thinking after I closed it.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

The last of my Cashore binge is her most recent novel. Bitterblue goes back to the realm that Graceling takes place in and reintroduces us to some of the same characters, but focusing on Bitterblue.

Of the three novels in this world, Bitterblue was by far the most political. That is an aspect of fantasy literature that I really love, but puts some people off. I also really enjoyed seeing old characters in new roles, and seeing how Bitterblue had changed from the first novel.

I also loved that like Katsa, Bitterblue stayed in character throughout the duration of the novel. She didn't slip into any YA character traps that seem to be so popular in YA lit, and I found it refreshing.

After finishing all 3 of Cashore's novels, I can say that she has a fan for as long as she writes fantasy literature. She writes beautifully and I love her characters.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

This was a book I picked up at our school's book fair on a whim. I think I heard some murmurs about it on a few blogs, and since I was focusing on the Holocaust in my history classes, it was good timing. This is a historical fiction novel set in Nazi-occupied France. A girl was taken captive by the Nazis for spying, and as the novel unfolds, she tells her story.

At times the novel was very beautiful At other points, it was gruesome and harrowing. There is also THAT SCENE that shocked me very deeply (I had to reread it to let it sink in).

However, it was well-written and I enjoyed it well-enough. I do think there were a few pacing issues in spots, but the story was powerful enough to overwhelm that.

Every You, Every Me by David Levithan

I had heard many good things about Levithan, so I decided to try one of his novels on a whim, and this happened to be the lucky title.

I probably should have started elsewhere, since I really did not enjoy this that much. I found out, after I read it, that the novel was a bit experimental for Levithan. The pictures included were shot and given to Levithan as he wrote the the story unfolded as new pictures emerged. It's an interested concept for writing, but the final product didn't work for me.

In a nutshell, Evan starts finding photographs that seem to be targeting him in some way. He begins investigating the source of the images and a whole bunch of things unfold.

For me, the story felt off from the beginning. The pacing jolted me, and it felt...just awkward.

The Raft by S.A. Bodeen

Our media specialist bought this and begged me to read it over our Spring Break, and I caved in. She wanted someone's opinion on it since it was a new title, but she hadn't been able to convince a student to read it.

Ummm...yeah. It's a good thing that the novel was short and very simple. I flew through it in about an hour or so. Basically, the story is about a young girl in a plane crash who ends up in a raft on the ocean when her plane crashes. It's the story of her "survival" and how she copes with things on the raft.

It was not my cup of tea. I found the writing to be almost childish considering that the novel focused on a teenager. And then there was the "twist" near the end that made me roll my eyes and almost throw the book across the room.

It just didn't work for me.

The Jessica Darling Novels by Megan McCafferty

Apparently I was living under a rock when these novels debuted when I was in high school. Had I found the first title, Sloppy Firsts, back then, I would have been a total fan-girl over these. The narrator, Jessica Darling, is the perfect amount of sassy I always wanted to be. She is also funny as all get out and makes some very humorous choices.

The rest of the series continues her life through the end of high school, through college, and then when she is out in the workforce. They come to a satisfying ending that I almost feel McCafferty wrote for her fans rather than her characters, but they were entertaining enough.

By far the best in the series is the first novel, followed closely by the second. They are funny, sarcastic, and wonderfully written. I just found Jessica got to be a bit stale as the novels progressed, and I didn't see her growing or mature. But, they were funny and light-hearted, which is what I needed when I read them.

And I will say...I don't get the fascination with Marcus Flutie. I just don't. He doesn't float by boat ladies-not even close.

So, there is part 1 of who knows how many mini-reviews. Let me know below what you think!


  1. Yay for Code Name Verity-my favorite book of 2012! I can't believe you hadn't heard more about it but then that means hype doesn't overwhelm you and you don't have too many expectations.

    1. It was very good! I think the one reason I didn't love it more was that my kids and I had just finished a very long and deep unit on the Holocaust. A piece of historical fiction just paled in comparison to the horrors of the actual event.

  2. I have heard of these Jessica Darling books, but hadn't tried them yet. Maybe I should. Ditto to Code Name Verity. I've only read one David Levithan book - The Lover's Dictionary. It is the story of a relationship written through a series of dictionary entries. It is a very quick read, and I'm not sure that it is "YA", but I thought it interesting, and if you want to try him again - you may want to look that one up.

    1. The Jessica Darling books were very cute. The first one is far and away my favorite-you definitely need to read it!

      I've been eying that Levithan book, and I think it might be the one I read next!

  3. Well, I couldn't disagree more regarding Every You, Every Me. It wasn't my favorite by Levithan (Boy Meets Boy and Every Day are better, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson might be, too), but I liked it quite a bit and actually enjoyed the more experimental aspects of it. I agree with Sarah, too - The Lover's Dictionary was pretty neat.

    I haven't read any of the others, but I have had Code Name Verity on my shelf since it came out.. I keep eyeing it, but I'm never quite in the mood.

    1. I think, being new to Levithan, that Every You, Every Me was the wrong place for me to start. I've been thinking about giving it a second chance. :)

      You definitely need to be in the mood for Code Name Verity, and it is a very quick read!

  4. I admit, while I loved Before I Fall, I wasn't impressed with Delirium. I did love the ending - it was the only thing that felt real to me in the book, and made me want to read the next one. But then I heard someone say the end of the second book pissed them off, and I figured I knew what was going ot happen, so when I got the book from the library, I immediately flipped to the back to check. Yep. Exactly what I expected, and it ruined the end of the first book for me. I turned it back in unread, and don't plan to revisit. :/

    I haven't read that particular book by David Levithan, but I've enjoyed many of his others.

    1. I think I was SO MAD at the end of Pandemonium because she completely ruined Delirium and the power of that ending, know what I mean? UGH. I'm really over the whole love "triangle" business anyway. I feel its a bit of a cop out.

    2. So with you on being over the love triangle crap. Pandemonium's end really pissed me off.

  5. The Delirium trilogy was so hit and miss with me, but I did really enjoy Hana's plotline. Code Name Verity is high on my TBR and now I feel like I need to give Graceling a go as well. I adored the Jessica Darling books (I've only read the first two) in college.

    1. I almost wish that she would have written them completely from Hana's perspective. :)

      And Graceling is phenomenal. You'll love it!

  6. The Jessica Darling Novels came at the perfect time in life for me. I read each one when it came out and they aligned almost perfectly with my point in life. I don't know if I would have liked them as much if I read them for the first time now.