May
20

Title: All The Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Published: January, 2015 by Penguin
Pages: 388
My Rating: ★★★★☆ 
Purchase: The Book Depository

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

Final Thoughts:
These characters. Wow. They spoke to me. And I loved them. Okay, more to the point, they were actual people, with actual people problems. I may not be suicidal, but I could connect with their issues, the emotions they were feeling, or trying not to feel. All of that, it added up to great book, one that I had to put down too many times because lunch breaks just aren’t long enough. I would have read this so much quicker if spending time with family wasn’t a thing, oh, and working, that too.

This wasn’t my favourite book of all time, but it’s one of those books that you don’t regret spending a minute with. The pages disappear without you even realising it. Violet, having lost her sister in a car accident, was, as you would expect, afraid of any method of engine-powered transportation. Closed off and letting the world go by around her, she had plenty of space left to grow as the book progressed. I really enjoyed experiencing that. Flipping back to the start, the two Violets were just so vastly different.

Finch. Oh, Finch. Such a great character. I loved his perspective. Full of problems, and with a family that didn’t help things, he became such a helpful, loving character himself. Sure, getting into fights and stirring up trouble came with the package, but the whole of him was just so, I don’t know how to say, he just made me want to keep reading. Pushing Violet, getting her to open up, not to be the person she used to be, but the person she was holding herself back from being.

It’s all about the growth, the getting to know each other, the spark of feelings, the experiences, the wandering. All of it comes together in a way that just makes you feel, and want to keep feeling, no matter what those feelings are. Seriously, if I could experience those feelings for the first time again, I would. But like I said, not my favourite book, though it’s up there, at least for books I’ve picked up this year.

May
17

Title: Insurgent (Divergent #2)
Author: Veronica Roth
Published: May, 2012 by HarperCollins
Pages: 525
My Rating: ★★★½☆ 
Purchase: The Book Depository

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves – and herself – while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable – and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

Final Thoughts:
I put off seeing this one at the cinema in favour of getting to the book first. Without having seen the movie yet, it’s hard to know whether or not that was the right decision. The book didn’t hook me. I enjoyed it, but found it lacking in some way from the magic of Divergent. This happens so often: I love the first book, but then things just go downhill from there. Tris became harder to root for, and Four/Tobias (whichever he’s being called), he displayed a shift in personality that I wasn’t entirely on board with. They loved each other, they hated each other, they loved each other again, they didn’t trust each other. Love. Hate. Love. Hate. Waaaaayyyy too much of that back and forth romantic nonsense.

While I wasn’t too fussed with the main two characters, those surrounding them actually became a bit more interesting. I found myself coming to like some and despise others. And in getting to know the side characters more, it gave the series a bit more depth and made the deaths that happened more meaningful.

In terms of the action, I felt that much like the romance, it went through crescendo after crescendo, though in this instance, it can be a good thing. It kept a constant build up and ebbing of tension as the book progressed. The only real downfall I felt was that the dystopian plot didn’t get enough coverage. Being the middle book of the series, it still left me in the dark for far too long. Bits and pieces are thrown out there occasionally, and the ending, yes, it did get me intrigued. But, leading up to it, I couldn’t help but wish I could skip some pages because I wasn’t interested enough and wanted to get onto the next book already. Though, knowing me, I’ll probably leave that until the next movie’s out too.

Apr
22

Title: An Abundance of Katherines
Author: John Green
Published: January, 2006 by Penguin
Pages: 227
My Rating: ★★★★☆ 
Purchase: The Book Depository

Katherine V thought boys were gross
Katherine X just wanted to be friends
Katherine XVIII dumped him in an e-mail
K-19 broke his heart
When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type happens to be girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact.

On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun–but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl. Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself.

Final Thoughts:
While it’s not my favourite book, it was a breeze to get through. That may sound like I didn’t enjoy it, but I did. The characters felt authentic; the situation, despite being a little out there, was quite easy to swallow and get into the groove of this contemporary summer road-trip adventure. My only real wonder was at how Colin—with all of his social inadequacies—managed to land nineteen girlfriends, let alone nineteen with the same name. Putting that aside, though, the banter of Colin and his best friend, Hassan, proved to be just about enough to keep the two hundred or so pages of this short book afloat.

Apr
19

Title: The Here & Now
Author: Ann Brashares
Published: April, 2014 by Delacorte Press
Pages: 256
My Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 
Purchase: The Book Depository

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

Final Thoughts:
Definitely not what I was hoping it would be. Less time travel, more time dawdling. There was nothing epic about the plot, nothing exciting to captivate me. It was more like I was held captive by my desire to finish the book and justify purchasing it. I didn’t flat-out hate the book—it had its moments—but the characters weren’t developed enough for me to care about them. It felt like they were just tokens moving around the board, easily exchangeable for another one that could have played the part of heroine/love interest without a blip.

Apr
04

Title: You Had Me At Hello
Author: Mhairi McFarlane
Published: December, 2012 by AVON
Pages: 436
My Rating: ★★★★☆ 
Purchase: The Book Depository

What happens when the one that got away comes back?

Rachel and Ben. Ben and Rachel. It was them against the world. Until it all fell apart.

It’s been a decade since they last spoke, but when Rachel bumps into Ben one rainy day, the years melt away.

From the moment they met they’d been a gang of two; partners in crime and the best of friends. But life has moved on. Ben is married. Rachel is definitely not. In fact, the men in her life make her want to take holy orders…

Yet in that split second, Rachel feels the old friendship return. And along with it, the broken heart she’s never been able to mend.

Final Thoughts:
While not as addictive as her second book, I still found plenty to love in You Had Me At Hello. Work drama, friendship drama, love drama, life drama—there was lots of drama. Like Mhairi’s other book, this was really the kind of thing you’d want to see made into a big-screen romcom. My only qualms came from the overuse of flashback chapters. I kept finding myself wanting to get back to the present and see what was going to happen next. Still, there were some good moments and depths added to characters that those trips to the past added in.

Mar
25

Title: Grift
Author: Jason Mosberg
Published: March, 2015 by Smashwords
Thanks: Jason Mosberg
Words: 74,930 (ebook)
My Rating: ★★★★☆ 
Purchase: Smashwords

Why would a 17-year-old girl pretend to be a high class escort?

Piper is a con artist whose canvas is the city of Las Vegas. She rolls with a crew of young grifters including a card-counting genius, a tourist-hustling pool shark, and a pocket-picking magician. Together, this crew of teenage outlaws live with their mentor Max in the penthouse of a hotel casino. They work hard and play harder. But unlike the others, Piper must balance her hyper-real Vegas fantasy with the reality of raising her 14-year-old half-sister Sophie. Disaster strikes when the Las Vegas mafia kidnaps Sophie and demands a multimillion-dollar ransom. With only five days to piece together the money, the crew races the clock to save her.

Final Thoughts:
This was such a refreshing read. What starts out as a simple kidnap scenario escalates into a gripping plot of greed, betrayal and Las Vegas. And the protagonist is seventeen!—which I thought was fantastic. Sure, there are plenty of adult themes that require an older character for it to be somewhat inoffensive, but to be perfectly honest I was just so glad to have a YA caper/noir where the leads weren’t filthy rich, irresponsible early-to-mid teens pretending to be responsible and mature twenty-somethings.

Mar
08

Title: Here’s Looking At You
Author: Mhairi McFarlane
Published: December, 2013 by AVON
Pages: 432
My Rating: ★★★★★ 
Purchase: The Book Depository

What if the last person you wanted to see was the person you needed?

Here’s Looking At You is, in essence, an ugly duckling tale. Our heroine Anna returns to school after fifteen years for a reunion. School doesn’t hold happy memories for her, as being a roly poly Italian (known as the Italian Galleon), and always armed with a Tupperware full of pungent Mediterranean food, she was bullied incessantly throughout her years there.

Now in her 30s, Anna wants to put the past behind her once and for all and face up to the bullies who made her life hell. But she is much-changed from the girl she once was – all curves and because I’m worth it hair – and no one recognizes her when she arrives. Losing her cool, she backs out on her plan for revenge and slinks off, hoping never to be reminded of her years at school again.

But fate gets in the way, and after the reunion her path keeps crossing with James – major hunk and Anna’s major crush back at school. But alas, as a crony to the bullies, Anna to this day believes that his beautiful exterior hides an ugly interior. As they continue to cross paths a love/hate relationship ensues until eventually something shifts, and they both start to discover what the person underneath is really like…

Full of laugh out loud humor, Here’s Looking At You is a novel about facing your demons and being happy with who you really are.

Final Thoughts:
After struggling to read the first hundred pages of an angsty teen-sci-fi over the course of a month, I eventually gave in and picked this up instead. I instantly cracked up, the first chapters leaving bursting out fits of laughter earning me strange looks from my co-workers. Worth it, though. It may be a stray from my usual YA outings, but I by no means found it hard to connect with the characters. Anna was easily relatable, and James, by including his perspectives, it added that extra depth to his persona, shaping him into something more than his teen self.