Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: Reality Boy by AS King (ARC)

Reality Boy by AS King
Little, Brown BYR, 368 pages
Expected US Release Date: October 22, 2013
Format/Source: ARC, via Around the World Tours
- thank you!
Challenges: SARC 2013, Contemporary Challenge

Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.

Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap…and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.

In this fearless portrayal of a boy on the edge, highly acclaimed Printz Honor author A.S. King explores the desperate reality of a former child “star” who finally breaks free of his anger by creating possibilities he never knew he deserved.
-------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
I want to talk to her about my plastic-wrapped heart and how I think she's unwrapping it, but I think it's stupid. Anyway, it's more than my heart that's wrapped. My mouth is wrapped. My brain is wrapped. That's how it works when you grow up in the land of make-believe. To survive, you wrap and wrap and wrap until you're safe. 
Knowing this was my first AS King, I expected to be absolutely blown away by this story. Ask the Passengers has been touted as A Book That Will Change You, everyone I know looks back on reading Everybody Sees the Ants with reverence…so I thought Reality Boy would be at the same level. And now, at the end…I was blown away, but in an entirely different way than I thought I’d be.

I didn’t immediately take to this story, while I was reading nor immediately after. It mostly made me incredibly sad. It was like watching a helpless, misunderstood boy from the sidelines who I wanted to reach out and help so badly, but could do absolutely nothing. I cringed, I wanted to cry for him, I wanted to punch people who would call him Crapper and not understand the toll it was taking on him. I really wanted to kill his psychopath sister and try to force her to see how she was wrecking absolutely everyone and everything around her.

I don’t like having strong negative emotions like that as I read – sure, occasionally, and that’s fine, that means it’s an evocative book. But I have a tough time dealing with it when it’s all the time, and I didn’t like that. I wanted something to at least give me hope, I wanted something to lift me. Hannah was a fair try, and she was a shimmer in an otherwise bleak world – but even she had her problems. Yes, that’s what made her work with Gerald so well, but it did nothing to ease all my seething. Probably the only parts that really worked that way for me were Gersdays. The entire concept of Gersday was fantastic, I loved that it’s his own world but still shows off a very human, creative side of him. Hallucinatory and damaged, yes, but still! It was good.

I also liked that they wanted to run away with the circus; and I loved that somehow, it wasn’t at all cliché. It just worked, and I thought it was a fun little destination and change in setting for Hannah and Gerald.

Oddly, this is one of the few books I’ve read in awhile that made me want to dive into the symbolism. I don’t know if it’s just my literary training – maybe none of this is supposed to be symbolic at all – but I felt like there were a lot of moments that really meant more than they appeared. The circus, the constant appearance of Disney characters in Gerald’s Gersdays, all his classmates in his Special Ed class, pretty much every time Lisi appeared in a flashback scene. Like I said, I have no idea if there is supposed to be more meaning, but I like that this book feels heavier than it really is.

I mentioned that this book blew me away, but in a much more subtle fashion than expected. As I look back and try to recall the points I want to review 3 weeks after actually reading it, I’m struck with how important this feels. Reality Boy needs to be read, to understand what can really be behind people’s actions; to see what can really spark anger and violence. Gerald is a real character, with nothing held back. He’s raw and emotional and incredibly representative of a niche we don’t often see in YA. Even though I actually don’t think I like him much, the development and how much depth his character has is something that stuns me. I feel like I remember more to him every time I look back.

Reality Boy presents a unique, interesting plot that actually relates to a lot more of us than we originally think. While I don’t think it’s quite for everyone yet, I do hope that one day it will be because there’s a lot to learn and be guided by within it.

4 Stars / 5

Friday, September 20, 2013

Review: The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle
Amulet Books (an imprint of Scholastic), 316 pages
US Release Date: August 27, 2013
Format/Source: ARC, via Around the World Tours
- thank you!
Challenges: SARC 2013, Contemporary Challenge

For as long as she can remember, Wren Gray’s goal has been to please her parents. But as high school graduation nears, so does an uncomfortable realization: Pleasing her parents once overlapped with pleasing herself, but now... not so much. Wren needs to honor her own desires, but how can she if she doesn’t even know what they are?

Charlie Parker, on the other hand, is painfully aware of his heart’s desire. A gentle boy with a troubled past, Charlie has loved Wren since the day he first saw her. But a girl like Wren would never fall for a guy like Charlie—at least not the sort of guy Charlie believes himself to be.

And yet certain things are written in the stars. And in the summer after high school, Wren and Charlie’s souls will collide. But souls are complicated, as are the bodies that house them...

Sexy, romantic, and oh-so-true to life, this is an unforgettable look at first love from one of young adult fiction’s greatest writers.
--------------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
“I didn’t say it was dumb,” Tessa said. “It’s what you feel, and guess what? Feelings are like three-year-olds. They’re not rational. They’re just there.” 
When I finish books, I usually try to think of one word to sum up my review. The word I decided on for The Infinite Moment of Us is: responsible. This is a safe book, a proper one that every parent would probably want his or her child to read. It teaches teens the proper way to come of age, safely tackling all those weird feelings and strange times, how to safely and responsibly approach sex. All of its messages are approached, considered and resolved in a suitable way.

I tried to put a positive spin on that, but I’m not certain it worked out. I’m glad it does, but at the same time, that overall responsibility made this kind of boring to me, and oddly? A bit like propaganda. I know it’s only because I’m a bit older, I’ve gone through all of this – but still. There was a certain measuredness in the storyline, and I found myself thinking “Yeah, I guess that should be the way it’s done but it never is…” quite often.

But I am glad a book like this exists out there. It should, it really should, no matter how much of a negative I list that as. It is a lot of mature content, especially at the end (was a little surprised at some of the detail!), but it’s handled well. It didn’t quite fit well together to me though; it was older material, but some of Wren and Charlie’s thought processes were a lot younger in my opinion.

Which is probably my main issue. I just felt like both characters were so sheltered. I’m not naive enough (or snobby and worldly enough) to believe there aren’t people who grew up like this (or are currently growing up like this), but sometimes it was just too much and the story no longer felt real. I just wanted to be like, “DON’T YOU READ/WATCH TV/MOVIES/DO ANYTHING?!”

Something I did like though was the progression of Wren and Charlie’s relationship. It was a little startling when it started, but together they made a lot of sense. Sure, I have problems with Wren and her sensibilities, but it worked well with Charlie’s. They made sense, and it felt like a natural timeline.

Charlie was the other saving grace to this novel. He was sweet and nice and interesting. I found myself most taken with all that he held back, which was interesting – I rarely like that in characters. But it added a certain dimension of him that was truly appealing and worked with the rest of the book. 

The Infinite Moment of Us is a book that wasn’t quite for me, but I think that’s just because I’m in the older realm of readers. If anything, read it to get to know Charlie Parker. He’s worth it.

2.5 Stars

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano (ARC)

Perfect Ruin (The Internment Chronicles #1) by Lauren DeStefano
Simon & Schuster BYR, 356 Pages
Expected US Release Date: October 1, 2013
Format/Source: Print ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

On Internment, the floating island in the clouds where 16-year-old Morgan Stockhour lives, getting too close to the edge can lead to madness. Even though Morgan's older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. She tries her best not to mind that her life is orderly and boring, and if she ever wonders about the ground, and why it is forbidden, she takes solace in best friend Pen and her betrothed, Basil.

Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially when she meets Judas. He is the boy being blamed for the murder — betrothed to the victim — but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find — or who she will lose.
--------------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
"Forget who you are." I pause in the doorway. "That's the answer to your question," he says. "Forget who you are and what you think is there, and you'll discover things that don't exist to be known."
I'd never read Lauren's Chemical Garden trilogy, but I'd heard so much about her writing and writing style - and actually? I follow her on Twitter and can tell she's got a distinct voice. She does for herself, and I was certain it translated to her actual writing as well. And it REALLY did! I found myself falling into her writing, getting lost in her descriptions and the way she would express feelings or situations. There's a lovely lyricism to her, similar to how I feel when I read Lauren Oliver books (or listen to Lauren Oliver talk).

I think I found the relationships in this novel to be the most intriguing element, and the one I had the most fun watching and discovering. I adored Basil, though I admit sometimes I wondered if I felt like I had to since he was Morgan's betrothed. The idea of the betrothed was also interesting in itself, and I kind of liked that people accepted it and didn't quite resent it (Pen as the sort-of-almost-exception), and that it actually worked out! Arranged marriage is something so frowned upon in the US, and it was fascinating to see a world where it was accepted, even preferred.

There were a few moments in the plot that truly surprised me, which I loved -- sometimes with Dystopians like this I can see where it would head or just what makes sense, and it's vaguely disappointing when it works out that way, no matter how great it is. But there were some twists and turns that really caught me off guard! Especially once the Prince and Princess got involved, that I never knew what it was to completely scoff at people who seem so frivolous and vacant - which is where Lauren DeStefano just took me into her story completely and made me realize how well she can truly play someone with her words.

Speaking of characters, can we talk about how much the Jumpers and Lex just broke my heart? He's got such a creative darkness inside him, every time he showed up on the page I wanted to hug him and hold his hand to lead him through the world. There was a specific quote early on that just made me love him, no matter how terribly he would sometimes treat people. "He keeps pressing his palm into my knuckles like I might vaporize into nothing if he doesn't hold tight. Sometimes he hides in the darkness of his blindness, and other times he fears it will swallow everyone up and leave him alone."

When I finished reading, even though I was completely taken with the words and was dying to know who was on the ground and what was going to happen, I knew unmistakably that this book was a 4 star for me. And it took me a few days to mull over and figure out why. I think I felt like the movement of the book was a little slow. I don't want it to be some action-packed thriller, that wouldn't fit with Morgan or the tone or the pacing...but sometimes I just felt like it could have had a little more of plot movement rather than explanation/feeling/dwelling. That's not to say I didn't love those bits (and I think I may have actually loved ALL of them), but a little bit more action to break it up would have been nice.

I was also fascinated with the entire world of Internment. Lauren's world building is pretty great, giving us a whole picture of a new type of living, a new space to live. I feel like there are some dark sections in her descriptions that weren't entire fleshed out, but I think that may have been on purpose; and may be revealed later in the series. Intentional or not, it worked together and really made me feel like I could look in the sky and see this floating ground between the clouds.

Overall, I was really impressed with the structure of this book. Somehow, Lauren made me feel exactly what Morgan did in terms of Internment. I liked the world, I was ok with it--but curious about the outside and the ground. And as I learned more, my curiosity grew and grew until I was starting to feel like Internment wasn't a haven, but an isolation. And in that isolation, there is loneliness and the need to find other options, other means; and just like Morgan and her family and seems like their only option is the Ground.

Perfect Ruin was a fascinating novel filled with an ethereal world that appears to be a savior but may, in fact, be much more. It's filled with writing to make you fall in love, relationships that make you question, and situations that make you consider where you would fall in with this world.

4 Stars

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales (ARC)

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Farrer, Straus & Giroux (imprint of Macmillan Teen), 288 pages
US Release Date: September 17, 2013 (today!!)
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!
Challenges: SARC 2013, Contemporary Challenge

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.
---------------------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
Sometimes people think they know you. They know a few facts about you, and they piece you together in a way that makes sense to them. And if you don't know yourself very well, you might even believe that they are right. But the truth is, that isn't you. That isn't you at all.
It’s hard to review a book that strikes so close to your heart, that seems to pull at every cord and chord ever anchored to you. This Song Will Save Your Life spoke to me on every level I’ve ever found with books: personal, impersonal, as a reader, as a person.

One of the things that struck me most is that Elise seems to be a generally normal person. There isn’t anything particularly terrible, or mean, or different about her, and therefore her being the outcast at school seems so…odd. Unfair. Wrong. And it’s that mindset that makes you get a little more invested, that makes you care just a little more. All you can ask is why, and the more you see about her, the more you really wonder and try to figure out her life.

It also makes you love when she finds DJing more, because you feel like there’s hope. Like there’s a chance for her, like she’ll be ok. And it’s such a rollercoaster through each chapter – something takes you way high up, and then it comes crashing down and breaks your heart just a little; until the next when something breathes new life into Elise, and suddenly you’re gasping for air again. Leila Sales has created a master plot of back and forth, and it’s breathtakingly wonderful.

Is it weird to say that one of my favourite things about this book are the lessons you can learn from it? I don’t mean to say the book is preach-y, but it’s just done so well that I love what we can pick out from each character, the growth and tragedies and struggles they all go through. There’s so much that a person goes through in life, and I feel like somehow, it’s all here in this book; and it all works amazingly well! There are a few heartbreaking realizations too, that just wrecked my heart and made me cry because I’ve felt all those feelings before (the castle thing and Elise’s reason for it…*sob*) and had that same hopeless void just begging to be filled.

I want to mention Leila Sales’ writing as well, even though I don’t have much to say about it, really: it’s beautiful. It’s simple but meaningful, and there’s something about it when you read that seems to feel like the words are coming from your own soul.

Part of me wants to say that this book is for anyone who feels a little out of place, who is searching for that something in life that gives you purpose – but really, it’s for all those people and everyone else, too.

5 Stars
and beats and beats of more.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Waiting on: While We Run by Karen Healey

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine
meant to highlight an upcoming release we're excited for!

While We Run (When We Wake #2) by Karen Healey
Little, Brown Young Readers, 336 pages
Expected US Release Date: May 27, 2014

It's 2127, and the future is at stake . . .

Abdi Taalib thought he was moving to Australia for a music scholarship. But after meeting the beautiful and brazen Tegan Oglietti, his world was turned upside down. Tegan's no ordinary girl - she died in 2027, only to be frozen and brought back to life in Abdi's time, 100 years later.

Now, all they want is for things to return to normal (or as normal as they can be), but the government has other ideas. Especially since the two just spilled the secrets behind Australia's cryonics project to the world. On the run, Abdi and Tegan have no idea who they can trust - and, when they uncover startling new details about the program, they realize that thousands of lives may be in their hands.

Karen Healey offers a suspenseful, page-turning companion to When We Wake that will keep readers on the edge of their seats and make them call into question their own ideas about morality -- and mortality, too.
----------------------------Goodreads summary

I was completely shocked how much I loved When We Wake (read my review here!), and I'm definitely anticipating this second book like crazy. It ends so well and on SUCH a cliffhanger that I just...there's an infinite amount of possibility with where this story will head, and I can't wait to find out which Karen Healey has chosen. Also, sounds like we'll get more Abdi (perhaps even his POV?) - and I will LOVE getting to know him better. He was my least favourite of the favourite characters (makes sense in my head), so I can't wait to really dig into his character more and lessen that typical vibe I got from him. And of course, I can't wait for more of Tegan's awesome personality :)

What are you waiting for this Wednesday?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

September is for Sequels Giveaway Hop (US only): Win 2 books!

Welcome to the September Is For Sequals Giveaway Hop!

Sequels mean more than one, right? Soooo...
For this hop, ONE (1) lucky winner can choose
TWO (2) of the books pictured below!
Romeo Redeemed (Juliet Immortal #2) by Stacey Jay (ARC)
Such Wicked Intent (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #2) by Kenneth Oppel (ARC)
The Drowned Cities (Ship Breaker #2) by Paolo Bacigalupi (ARC)
Belonging (Temptation #2) by Karen Ann Hopkins (ARC)
Goddess (Starcrossed #3) by Josephine Angelini (ARC)
Spellcaster (Spellbound #2) by Cara Lynn Shulz (paperback)

Enter through the rafflecopter below, and all my usual giveaway policy rules apply.
Make sure to check out the rest of the linky list, there are some great prizes!
Good luck!

The Weekly Wrap-Up (29): Happy September has been awhile. Much longer than usual.
I have excuses, and most of them are work-related. I've always been a workaholic, which is what made this blog flourish when I was unemployed. But now that I'm focusing on a job, I put in 60 hour weeks and don't think twice how it will affect the rest of my life, you know? I'm trying hard to back down because I definitely made myself sick and stress myself out when I work so many hours, but it's tough. When you really care about something (who ever though I'd say that about a job?!), you want to put your all into it.
But aside from work things, there's been a lot going on with various friends and my family. And I'm working on finding the balance. In the mean time, I still read voraciously and am around. You'll see me on GoodReads a lot as I track things and keep up there.
I'm getting a schedule going for the rest of the year though, and I thoroughly plan on being a part of the book blogging world again. More review to be posted, some wrap-ups and holiday things; and I'm going to visit all my old blog friends and find new ones.

In case you missed it...
Coming up...
Reviews of The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle and Reality Boy by AS King; a Waiting on Wednesday I'm REALLY excited for; and I'm hosting a giveaway for the Sequels Giveaway Hop!
Onto the books!
In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren
Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews
The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

I was thinking of trying to catch up all the books I've received since my last Weekly Wrap-Up (back in June!!), but I'd seriously just have to photograph a bookcase. So, I decided to start fresh and only do the books I've received this week.
Perfect Ruin (The Internment Chronicles #1) by Lauren Destefano, via Around the World Tours - thank you!
The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr (ARC), via YA Book Exchange - thanks Lisa!
Breathe by Sarah Crossan (ARC), via YA Book Exchange - thanks Lisa!
The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus #3) by Rick Riordan, borrowed from a friend - thanks Brandon!
Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas, purchased (and SO excited for!)
Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld, borrowed from the library.

What books came into your possession recently?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!