Book Review- Beauty Queens

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The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What’s a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program – or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan – or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

This is one of the funniest books I have read in a very long time! The characters are full of silly quirks, for example, Miss New Mexico has a lunch tray embedded in her forehead for the entirety of the novel from the plane crash. Doesn’t that just make you want to read this book?

It took me a few chapters to figure it out, to really get into the writing style, though. It almost reminded me of Jellicoe Road in that you kind of have to push yourself at the beginning. Most of the book is told in a satirical tone that is very hard to describe. For example, at the beginning, Bray talks in a voice similar to the one you read in the summary above. But the farther you read, the more the depth of the characters becomes obvious. They are real, relatable people with problems and fears and prejudices just like we are.

There is no *one* romantic plot, as there are something like 16 girls stuck on the island, and about as many pirates. Libba Bray does a wonderful job of making the group of seemingly shallow beauty queens as diverse as people are in current America. There is no typical relationship in the novel, and I like that, because what is a ‘typical’ relationship, anyway? (hint- it doesn’t exist)

A lot of people complain about “excessive” footnotes in this novel, but I didn’t think it was excessive at all. I mean, compared to some stuff David Foster Wallace writes, there were no footnotes at all. It’s just part of the novel’s style to have a lot of footnotes.

This book is unlike any I’ve ever read, in a good and a bad way. It is a book that I certainly wouldn’t recommend to everyone, but one that many will like and identify with. The writing and plotting is impressive and advanced, and just all around a great read! As long as you try to come into reading this book without preconceptions or expectations, I believe you’ll enjoy it.

Olivia

PS. I forgot to mention- this is a classic case of why you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. The cover reflects the bubblegum-esque, shallow style of the earlier parts of the novel, not the novel itself. Don’t let it put you off of the book!

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Book Review- Invisibility

invisibility

When I saw this book on the shelf at my library, I recognized it (as people deeply involved in book culture are wont to do). I met David Levithan at YALLFest last year, and he was super nice and down to earth. At that time, I hadn’t read any of his books and was only purchasing one of them (Every Day- one of my favorites of all time). I had a feeling that anything written by him would be amazing, but this book only lived up to and exceeded that expectation!

Stephen has been invisible for practically his whole life — because of a curse his grandfather, a powerful cursecaster, bestowed on Stephen’s mother before Stephen was born. So when Elizabeth moves to Stephen’s NYC apartment building from Minnesota, no one is more surprised than he is that she can see him. A budding romance ensues, and when Stephen confides in Elizabeth about his predicament, the two of them decide to dive headfirst into the secret world of cursecasters and spellseekers to figure out a way to break the curse. But things don’t go as planned, especially when Stephen’s grandfather arrives in town, taking his anger out on everyone he sees. In the end, Elizabeth and Stephen must decide how big of a sacrifice they’re willing to make for Stephen to become visible — because the answer could mean the difference between life and death. At least for Elizabeth.

I love this book so much!! When you read a lot of books, you come to expect a lot, especially from a book about something as seemingly simple as invisibility. But the farther into the book you read, the more you discover that there is an entire world hidden behind the seeming simplicity of invisibility, and Elizabeth holds the key. I finished this book in mere hours, because once I started, it was impossible to walk away. The writing was beautiful and haunting, but readable, and I thought Levithan’s writing was extraordinarily empathetic with an invisible boy. It’s hard to understand what I mean without reading it- how can someone know what it feels like to never have been seen?- but he pulls it off.

The magical world behind Stephen’s invisibility curse is complex and thought provoking. The curse, itself, is also so. Many people wish to be invisible, it is widely regarded as something cool, you only have to look at Harry Potter to see what people idolize. Power, invisibility, and eternal life. But this gives a whole new spin on the idea of not being seen- for someone like Stephen who has been invisible since birth, it is not a blessing. The whole issue was delicately handled, and I like that.

The romance was slow and sweet, but passionate, and the ending was heartbreaking. I think it was actually the best part, even though it was sad in a certain way. I highly, highly recommend this book for most anyone, especially for fans of David Levithan or Andrea Cremer (his co-author), YA fans, or those who like a healthy dose of magical realism. (and really, who doesn’t?)

Have a great day, everyone!

Olivia

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Amazing News! (plus- I’m Back, I Promise.)

Today, my amazing friend, CP, and all around confidante Amy announced her book deal with Greenwillow/HarperCollins. I am SO EXCITED for her that it hurts, and I hope you guys are too. Amy is an extremely talented writer and I hope you all will hop over to her blog or Twitter and congratulate her!

Secondly, I’d like to say that I’m back. The last few months have been insane, but instead of giving you a list of reasons that I haven’t posted a book review (or heck, even READ a book) in who knows how long, I’m giving you a list of things that did not happen but that in an alternate universe could be the reason for my long separation from you, my beloved reader.

-I was hit by a meteorite.

-I was struck by lightning.

-My frenemy threw a paper airplane at my face and hit me in the eye, ruining my ability to read properly.

-While getting brain stimulation as part of a secret government experiment, they stimulated the wrong part of my brain, and I have spent the past months un-learning Finnish and re-learning English.

-I was kidnapped by aliens.

-While re-reading one of my favorite books ever, The Book Thief, I was sucked into the storyline and had to live in terrible Nazi-Germany where there was nothing to read that wasn’t bland propaganda.

-The television show NCIS has hypnotic powers and I have spent the last half a year glued to my television.

I can’t wait to get back to reading, reviewing, and making you all laugh half-heartedly at my terrible jokes.

Love,

Olivia

P.S.- in all honesty the last item on that list is more true than I’d like to admit.

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Book Review- The Madman’s Daughter

madman'sdaughter

I missed reading thrillers and I forgot exactly how much I enjoyed them until I read this book. I have heard raving reviews about it for a while, but now I know firsthand how great it truly is!

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

One thing I love about thrillers in general is that when they’re well written, you can never see the surprises coming. This book was done really well in that regard. It also kept me on the edge of my seat, and I couldn’t put it down from the minute that I picked it up until I finished it. Even before Juliet reaches the island, her story is exciting.

The animals made my blood crawl, and as the plot unfolded I became more and more emotionally invested in the story. Sometimes I’ve noticed that when romance is involved in creepy plotlines like this one, I only get more attached to the characters and their romance. Speaking of which, there is a love triangle in this book, but it felt soft and well done, not annoying like most of the ones you read are. There isn’t a love triangle for the sake of one, there is a girl drawn to two different men in a natural way. That is okay, in my book. I thought it added to the story.

The ending broke my heart into little pieces, but maybe I’m just sentimental. I absolutely CANNOT WAIT to read the rest in the series (I believe there’s three?) and spread the word about these great books.

Highly recommended for anyone not looking for the typical YA and lovers of gothic horror and old timey literature.

Happy Spring!

Olivia

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Book Review- Unravel Me

unravelme

My hopes were SO high for this book, especially because I absolutely adored the first one. (it stands one of my favorite books ever) I went in with plenty of expectations, most of which Tahereh laughed at and turned upside down. But for the first time in a long time, I wouldn’t have it any other way. (caution- slightly spoilery synopsis ahead)

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.
She’s finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.
Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.
In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam’s life.

I just… wow. Where do I start? Let me just say that even those who weren’t *huge* fans of Shatter Me will love this. Trust me, I’ve recommended it to plenty of friends who ended up disliking it because they didn’t like the florid language, or thought Juliette was spineless, etc etc. But in Unravel Me, Juliette really comes into herself. Unlike some 2nd books in trilogies (i like to call them “bridge books”), it is vital to the series and even better than the first at times. (I can’t believe I’m saying that) The language is just as brilliant as the first time, yet not trite, and more readable. Before, I realize, the strikethroughs and Juliette’s insecurities were hard to get through for some. But it is beautiful, I think, the utterly human and real way Juliette’s rough edges begin to smooth.

Now for the romance. This is a bit of an embarrassment for me, almost. I now include a quote from a review I wrote of Unravel Me that I wrote sometime last year, after I finished Shatter Me.

“If Juliette and Adam do not end up together {in Unravel Me}, I will throw this book in the garbage”

Yeah… oops. I’m not telling you that Warner and Juliette suddenly get together, but Unravel Me definitely made me consider my unwavering commitment to Adam and Juliette that most people forge in Shatter Me. That is what I get for reviewing prematurely, I guess. Because now my entire heart has done a 180. Yep, I’m Team Warner. I never, EVER thought that would be me. When I finished Shatter Me, I didn’t even think there WAS a Team Warner because no one could possibly like a ruthless man with no heart! I can’t explain it, because a lot of my reasons in this sudden conversion lie in things I wouldn’t dare spoil for you. But I think I learned my lesson about writing characters off.

Before I wrap this review up, two things:

1) even if you didn’t like Shatter Me, I BEG you to read Unravel Me. I think you’ll love it just as much as I did. And if you haven’t read Shatter Me yet, do it! It is one of my favorite books ever, and one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read, too.

2) if you have already read Unravel Me, please express to me in the comments the extent of your feels about Chapter 62. And whether you’re Team Warner or Team Adam.

Love, all!

Olivia

PS.- my absolute favorite book on the planet, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, is on sale on the Kindle store for only 1.99! That’s half the price of a latte, and I swear you’ll appreciate and love it for much longer. This book will change your life. (reviewed here) (buy it here)

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Book Review- Dualed

I applied for this ARC after talking a bit with the author on Twitter (news flash- she’s insanely sweet), totally not expecting to receive it, so when I did I was VERY excited. The idea of this book fascinated me from the beginning, and I’m happy to say that it exceeded my (rather high) expectations! (as always with ARCs, I’m using the GR summary)

You or your Alt? Only one will survive.

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

I think I loved this book because I love books that make me think. Books that make me challenge the norm, wonder why? What if the world was a certain way? (that’s why I’m often drawn to dystopians like this one). I’m almost sad to put this in a category, especially dystopians. They’re so stereotyped, often slandered among ‘serious’ book reviewers. This book is more than a book set in the future, because it might not be in the future. Kersh is a gated, isolated city, separating it’s inhabitants from the ravaging wars of the rest of the world. Sound familiar? While the technology used to create genetically identical twins from two sets of parents (you read that right) seems incredibly advanced and past anything we have now, it doesn’t seem far out of the realm of possibilities to me.

Also, it chilled me to the bone. The thought of being raised to fight, taught your whole life that to live, you had to be fierce, violent, unfeeling- it terrifies me. The world building is incredibly convincing, and I especially loved the main character. It bothers me that a lot of dystopian female characters are so cold, and unfeeling. (I’ve mentioned numerous times that this is the way I feel about Katniss) West has every reason in the world to be cold, every reason to block out all emotion. But somehow, she doesn’t let it get to her. At the beginning, she’s how you would expect a girl in her world to be- utterly grounded in what she needs to do. But towards the end, it’s great to see her really allow herself to feel.

Lastly, the romance. It really felt true and natural, almost like something that actually happened. I am drawn towards romance that is less blind passion and more slow and real, and this definitely did it for me. Thank goodness for the absence of a love triangle, that’s all I have to say.

I highly recommend this book, everyone! It kept me on my toes, never let me get too relaxed, and the romance melted my heart. I also love that the end wasn’t a cliffhanger, seeing as it will be more than a year at least before the sequel comes out! Look for this one in stores on February 26th, 2013!

Olivia

*ARC kindly provided for me from the publisher via Netgalley*

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The One That Could Have Been

growing-up-is-highly-overrated-just-be-an-author

Big thanks and hugs to the magical Amy Zhang for making this post and then giving me permission to post something similar.

What would your life be like if you hadn’t started writing?

Olivia is a tallish blondeish sophomore who falls under that stiff category of ‘smart’ that folks like to apply to people who get A’s in hard classes and talk about things other than Facebook and who’s dating who. She does well in her classes, better than most, but she isn’t a genius like that crazy girl in her AP Psych class who took AP Calc in her freshman year and got a 5 on the exam. She does great in math but hates it, great in Biology but not so hot in Chemistry, great in History but doesn’t like the teaching style, and her favorite is English. English is always the class she loves, because she feels like it is the one class where her opinion matters. In math, when she asks why, they tell her “Because.” In Chemistry, when she says she didn’t choose answer B. because even though that was the answer she got, it didn’t feel right, they laugh at her. In History, her thoughts about current events don’t really matter so much as The All Important 8 Characteristics of Civilizations and Who Chopped off Who’s Head In The French Revolution. In English, it all matters. She gets to do really fun stuff  like write papers about what the green light in The Great Gatsby means and talk about the Latin roots of vocabulary. She secretly wishes she could have a career in English, but those jobs are capital N Not Secure and therefore Not A Good Idea. She figures she’ll be a doctor when she is older. She liked Biology so much after all,so it seems to fit. Olivia volunteers at the hospital so she’s used to the way it feels, the urgency everyone has. She even has the I-Have-People’s-Lives-To-Save-So-Get-The-Bleep-Out-Of-My-Way walk down. Sometimes she gets a little sad and feels like there is something more to life that she’s missing, something different that she could be, that she should be, that no one has told her about. Sometimes she wakes up at 4 AM having had a crazy, vivid dream about 20 foot insects who had a food fight while hovering over Paris and feels like she should do something about it. Even though she’s not quite sure what she could do with a story like that, she has a feeling that as crazy as these dreams are, no one in the world has ever had the same dreams, and that is amazing.***

She also has terrific nightmares where she wakes up panting and sweating and crying. Nightmares of sitting all alone in a big house, with lots of money but no happiness. Nightmares of being 25 and in her very first Gross Anatomy class and realizing, wait a second, I can’t cut into an actual person, why the heck am I training to be a doctor? She is deathly afraid of not succeeding, and equally afraid of being unhappy.

If I never started writing, that fear of not succeeding would probably still be outweighing my fear of not being happy. If I never started writing, I think there would forever be a part of me missing, a hole in my heart. It scares me how close I came to never writing.

The Olivia I am today is still a tallish, blondish sophomore who falls under the category of ‘smart.’ She still does well in her classes and will probably go to a good college and have a nice, secure job/life in a few years. But she is so, so different, so fundamentally not-the-same as the other Olivia. She is HAPPY instead of distant and insecure. (okay, maybe still a little distant and insecure. but who isn’t, really?) She loves the part of her that made her want to challenge the norm and think differently from other people seem to. She writes down the ideas she has and harbors big hopes for them.

If she hadn’t started writing, she would have smiled vaguely and answered ‘Doctor.’ when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now, she replies ‘Author’ and if they say “Don’t worry, you’re only a sophomore in high school, you don’t have to know yet.” she replies that she does know already, thank you very much, and nothing they can say will change it.

Olivia

*** If you have had a dream like this one, you might want to consider either writing, a therapist, or both.

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