Tag Archives: Olivia’s Opinions

Book Review- Beauty Queens

beautyqueens

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- 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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Book Review- Between Shades of Gray

betweenshades

This book blew my expectations out of the water! From the very first page I was captured, and read it in the space of about two days. It’s the kind of book that gives you a hunger for more, even after you finish reading it. When I first started it, I was in a nasty reading slump, but it pulled me out fast! It reminded me how much I really love reading stories of other times, other people, other events, and for that, I am grateful.

Lina Vilkas is a normal teenage girl in Lithuania; she loves to paint and draw, she crushes on boys and has high hopes for the future. But when Stalin invades Lithuania and deports thousands to working camps in Siberia, everything changes.

One thing I’ve learned from reading a lot of historical books is that it takes skill to write about a different time period than our own and make it simulatiously informative and entertaining. The line between informative and a history lesson is a difficult one, but this book successfully made a truly interesting period of history entertaining and enjoyable. Also, it was nice to read about a historical period I hadn’t heard about yet. I obviously knew about WWII and that it affected everything, everywhere, but I did not know about Lithuanians being deported to Siberia. I can’t even comprehend being forced out of my home to go work in Siberia. History unremembered is a terrible thing, and I’m glad this book is telling Lina’s story.

I thought it was insanely cool that Lina Vilkas actually existed. At the end, you find out that it was inspired by an actual diary and letters written by a Lina Vilkas. Also, even though the book ends in an unusual place and you don’t really know what happens to Lina, the letter tells you. Not to mention that the romance in the book (which was amazing, some of my favorite that I’ve read, actually, and that’s saying something) is based on Lina’s real life love, mentioned in the letter. I find this unbelievably cute.

Y’all know writing style is a huge thing for me. I have a strong affininty for books with brutal beauty in the words, such as with this one. It is concise enough not to bother people who dislike more floral writing styles, but still has the beauty of something that would normally be a bit more wordy. Also, the resonance of the title could not have been more perfect. It was worth reading just for the one sentence where it was explained. I want to quote it here so bad, but I feel like it would spoil a big secret, even though it isn’t one.

I highly, highly recommend this book, especially for anyone interested in the time period, looking to get out of a reading slump, or searching for a brutally honest YA romance.

Olivia

*This ARC was kindly given to me (from her personal stash, no less) by Jennifer of ARCycling. Thank you so much, Jennifer. I’ll treasure it.*

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Thanks for a beautiful year.

I love you all, and while this sounds drastic, I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I had never started blogging. I might never have started writing at all, and writing gives me joy. To imagine my life without such a large piece of it is near impossible.

The support you’ve given me over this year warms my heart. You’ve been with me for varying lengths of time, from the second post I made to last week, but each of you has contributed here. I might have given up without the support and love of all of you.

And while we’re talking about giving up, I want to give specific hugs to the lovely people that have never stopped encouraging me on my writing journey.  I throw y’all a lot of crappy words and the strangest questions, but you never hesitate. A million times thank you to Alice, Amy, Ari, Mark, and John. I don’t know what I’d do without you.

Here’s to another fabulous year with more reviews, more writing, more giveaways, and more FUN! ❤ Stay safe as you ring in 2013 tonight!

Cheers!

Olivia

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Book Review- Promised

I’m finally back, and it feels great! Christmas break is so close I can taste it, and I’m hoping to catch up on reading. As you can imagine, between school and extracurriculars, including a newly minted online newspaper for my school that I’m in charge of, I’m swamped. The few minutes I have each day to read are heaven, if I can get them. There’ll be another dry spell in January because of finals, but hopefully next semester will be easier and I can get back to my usual reading. I’ll try to space some of my movie and book reviews from over the break out through January. Anyway, let’s get to the review! I got this lovely gem from Arcycling! 🙂

promised

This book is the last in the Birthmarked trilogy, one of my favorite series’ ever. My hopes were very high for this one, to say the least, and I was very happy with the end. Gaia finally has to confront the things she’s been running from. I can’t really tell y’all more than that without spoiling the series (sorry, that’s been a trend from me lately, hasn’t it?), but here is my review of the first one (I’m was a bit inexperienced at reviewing back then, but either way, it’s glowy and gets the point across). I don’t think anyone would regret reading this series!

That being said, these books did rip my heart into tiny pieces. Sometimes I love that, but other times it just stresses me out to read the book, and for the most part, I read to relax. The angst between Gaia and Leon is so strong that it’s like a physical thing, but they make it work. I’ve always admired that part about their relationship, that despite all they’ve been through they are still happy together. I was happy to see this stay in Promised. It was also nice to finally see some romance between the two! Because of the way that books 1 and 2 were set up and the circumstances, we didn’t get much of an opportunity to see them together. Now that we do, I am convinced that they are the cutest couple ever. Not in the sicky-icky, always kissing-and-whatnot way, but their witty banter and still tenderness stole my heart. If I was ever unsure about the depth of Leon’s feelings before, that is completely gone now.

In the book, something really, really tough happens to Gaia. Something that stands out above the other terrible things and really resonates with me as a woman. (don’t worry- for those of you who hate reading sexual assault in books like I do, that’s not what I’m talking about) I loved the way Gaia handled it, in fact, I love the way Gaia handles most things. She doesn’t block herself off from her emotions, she embraces them and stands back up, and succeeds.

The end was great. It felt a little rushed at times, but overall I was satisfied with the way it ended up!

Hope y’all are having a good week!

Olivia

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