Friday, May 23, 2014

{ARC Review} Noggin By: John Corey Whaley

Title: Noggin
Author: John Corey Whaley
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: April 8th, 2014
Source: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Format: Physical ARC

Synopsis: You only live once... unless you're Travis Coates, one of the miracle survivors of new cryogenic studies. Five years after his body died from the cancer that plagued him, Travis and his head are back... just on a new body. So imagine you're a teenage boy with an amazing girlfriend and an awesome best friend. Then cancer takes you away, leaving everyone behind you stricken. Five years later you're back, and back to witness your girlfriend's engagement, and everyone else moving on. But you can't. You're still stuck five years back, when you thought the end was near... but hey. You only live twice, right?

Review: A HUGE thank you to the wonderful people at Atheneum Books for sending me this galley for review! John Corey Whaley. Remember that name, memorize the face (LOL) because John Corey Whaley is greatness itself. In fact, this entire book is greatness itself.
{Literally me when I finished reading Noggin??}

And where do I even begin to describe how much I LOVED this book? Is it the brilliant voices Whaley must have floating around in his head, that he somehow managed to capture perfectly on paper? Is is the never-ending humor, even through the soul-touching, heart-string pulling moments? Something about Noggin is magical, and it just might be all of the above.

I loved the eerily realistic feel of the science fiction aspect. Travis comes back to life after dying, which is pretty sci-fi to me. The super cool, super mindblowing part is that Whaley put Travis in modern day surroundings. Everything was spot on, and Travis acted exactly as a 21st century teenager would.

The storyline was ADDICTING. When you read Noggin, I have a feeling you won't be able to put it down. It moves at the perfect pace, and everything just flows so well. I can't help but gush and rant over just how wonderful Whaley's writing is. And it is truly awesome. The dialogue was engaging and Travis's jokes and charming personality had me like:
And what makes Noggin important is that it is MEMORABLE. Something about this books makes it stay in your mind. Travis is a unique and stirring character, put in a very moving and heartfelt story.

Conclusion: Both deeply meaningful and comically hilarious, John Corey Whaley's enigmatic new novel is full of bursting with (second) life. I think Noggin is a book that everyone needs to read to truly enjoy for themselves. And what the hey. Go out and buy a copy, for goodness sake! It's really THAT good :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

{Review} Side Effects May Vary By: Julie Murphy

Title: Side Effects May Vary
Author: Julie Murphy
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Recommended For Fans Of: Wendy Wunder, A.J. Betts

Synopsis: When 16 year-old Alice was diagnosed with leukemia, not only does her physical being become sick, but also all the aspects of her life that she once thought so stable come tumbling down. A year later, when told she is now officially in remission, things have not gotten any easier for Alice. Instead, they seem to get harder as her best friend and the love of her life, Harvey, tries to fix what Alice has already broken, and the own parts of her soul that she was sure was going to die. But Alice is about to learn that even without cancer, side effects of life will always vary.

Review: About halfway through this book, I thought I knew for sure that I was going to rate it perhaps a 1 out of 5 stars. But thank god I waited because sometimes, the things that are worth reading are always in the end.

Characters: Let's talk about the characters, shall we? Alice was the main character, a young girl who had gone through hell and survived. So imagine my surprise when she turns out to be a world-class *insert another word for mean girl here*. Alice was manipulative, annoying, distant and moody. She treated Harvey, her best friend who also happened to be in love with her, as her slave. Alice not only took advantage of him, but she played with his heart. Halfway through this book, I was about done with Alice. While I appreciated Julie Murphy's efforts to create a looser character whose heart was not purely gold, Alice felt like a science fair experiment gone wrong. But, choosing to read past the first half, Alice started to change just a little bit in my eyes. For some reason, I couldn't help but defend her in my mind. Think of Alice like this: she's that friend that you never see eye-to-eye with, but she's also that girl you'd defend in a fight. And although those rare moments of warmth and gold that came through in Alice were enough to raise my review to 3 stars, it by no means meant she even made my list of lovable characters. Harvey, on the other hand, was just the boy you could not help but love. He was a handsome Prince Charming, even when Alice refused to be his princess.

Writing: Now here's where I also had some concerns. Side Effects May Vary is told from two points of view; both Harvey and Alice. However, these points of view also go back and forth between the year Alice was diagnosed with leukemia and the period after her remission. You don't find out the reasoning behind this "time switch" until the very end, but even then, it's still a bit unclear. Although it's not DIFFICULT to keep the settings straight, it takes a bit of effort to piece together the string of events that played out from Alice's sickness. And contrasting to that, one part I really liked about Julie Murphy's writing is her exploration into the theme of "cruelty inspiring cruelty." We all know that high school is a tough time, and some people can be downright vicious no matter what stage of life you are in. This is seen in Side Effects May Vary, when Alice's enemies are absolutely cruel and miserable. In retaliation, however, Alice does some things that aren't too easily forgivable, and sometimes, that is the human nature. Alice is definitely one of the more flawed characters I've read in YA contemporary.

Ending: Like I said in the beginning of my review, the ending of Side Effects May Vary is likely the best part. I enjoyed the way Julie Murphy ended this story. I truly did. A perfect way to end an imperfect book, right?

Conclusion: Although Side Effects May Vary is not a book that you will love right away, maybe you'll be able to find those hidden silver linings and just possibly give this book a chance.

Monday, May 5, 2014

{ARC Review} The Chapel Wars By: Lindsey Leavitt

Title: The Chapel Wars
Author: Lindsey Leavitt
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publication Date: May 6th, 2014
Source: Bloomsbury USA Childrens for review
Format: Physical ARC

Synopsis: Love is never easy, and it seems to only become harder when you're the seventeen year-old owner of a wedding chapel. After the death of her beloved grandfather, Holly inherits the family business- a quaint wedding chapel in one of the most romantic cities in the nation; Las Vegas. Soon, Holly finds herself struggling to keep her chapel in business while denying that she's falling for Dax- grandson of Holly's grandfather's worst enemy; who just so happens to be the owner of a rival chapel. Will Holly lose her chapel or her first true love? After all, all's fair in love and chapel war.

Review: First, a HUGE thank you to Bloomsbury USA Childrens for sending me this galley for review! The Chapel Wars is such an adorable contemporary novel with a really sweet premise that stems from an original idea. But I have to say that what first drew me into this book was the author: Lindsey Leavitt. I ABSOLUTELY ADORED Lindsey's other novels, including the Princess for Hire series and her standalone, Going Vintage. I've always thought of Lindsey as an excellent contemporary romance writer and she did not disappoint in The Chapel Wars.

Writing/Romance: I'd like to applause the writing and romance in this novel first, as it was one of the things that I enjoyed most. Lindsey Leavitt brings her signature charm and bubbly sass in her writing. I loved the way that Lindsey gave Holly's view of Las Vegas an almost vintage feel- making it easier for me to connect to an otherwise reputably distant place. I've never actually been to Vegas before,  but the suburban side of this flashy city was brought out in The Chapel Wars, which I really loved! Now when we speak about the romance, I have one word: ADORABLE. There couldn't be a cuter couple found in Vegas. Although this relationship's wonderful reputation is more than partly due to Dax, I still found their banter and playfulness so so sweet. 

Characters: Now here's where my review falls down to 3.5 stars. Holly was a great character, but she was hard to relate to in many ways. For one, I found it completely unbelievable that she could be given the freedom of a 25 year-old at the age of 17. Even though she seemed like a very mature and capable girl, the lack of Holly's parent's supervision and lack of opposition towards anything she did seemed kind of unbelievable to me. The only time Holly's parents were really present was during scenes that involved the chapel. It would have been nice to see the parents of a teenaged girl more involved in their daughter's life. Holly also became a bit distant for me when I realized that most of her thoughts were trained on her chapel. At 17, Holly should have been thinking of school or even of other possible hobbies. Instead, the concept of school was discussed very briefly and dismissed very quickly. What could have been a possible alteration and therefore solution to this problem would be to change Holly's age. Although it could have possibly put The Chapel Wars out of the Young Adult genre, I felt like it would have been more appropriate for Holly's character to be in her twenties.

Conclusion: The Chapel Wars is worth a read. And on the other hand, Lindsey Leavitt's other novels are worth MORE reads as well. For those of you who do pick up The Chapel Wars and reads my review, let me know what you think! :)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

{ARC Review} Fool Me Twice (If Only... #1) By: Mandy Hubbard

Title: Fool Me Twice
Author: Mandy Hubbard
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publication Date: May 6th, 2014
Source: Bloomsbury USA Childrens for review
Format: Physical ARC

Synopsis: If only... Landon hadn't broken Mackenzie's heart after a summer of whirlwind romance. Now, a year later, Landon and Mackenzie are back at the ranch where it all started for another summer of work.. and possibly romance? When Landon takes a fall to the head, he wakes up believing that he and Mackenzie are still together! Now it's Mackenzie's turn to give Landon a taste of his own medicine, but can she pull off the ultimate heartbreak, or will she be fooled twice?

Review: A big THANK YOU to Bloomsbury USA Childrens for providing me with this galley for review! I am just the type of girl who enjoys any contemporary, no matter how unbelievable and how unrealistic it may be. Fool Me Twice may not appeal to contemporary readers who enjoy the more realistic side of this genre, but it was a really cute story for me.  

Romance: They say "old flames never die", which was basically what the plot of Fool Me Twice was centered around. Although I wouldn't say that Mackenzie and Landon had the CUTEST relationship I've ever read in contemporary romance, they still had their affectionate moments that kept me pulling for them. There's a lot of focus on Landon's character development, which also really affects the way his and Mackenzie's romance is played out in this novel. Props to you, Mandy Hubbard for working in some pretty substantial characters as well. Landon and Mackenzie both had their flaws, but that's what makes many relationships work.

Plot/Storyline: Well, the plot was pretty predictable. There was a little curveball thrown in at the end, but nothing that jumped out at me to make it a SPECTACULAR storyline. But that's perfectly fine. I knew Fool Me Twice was a light contemporary that I could enjoy reading in the park on a sunny Saturday morning. The plot is easy to keep up with, and it would definitely appeal to horseback riding fans, which I found pretty cute.

Conclusion: It wouldn't be a waste of your time to pick up Fool Me Twice and to try it! Just know what you're in for; an endearing book about teen romance that is just as adorable as its cover;)

Friday, May 2, 2014

{Review} Audacious By: Gabrielle Prendergast

Title: Audacious
Author: Gabrielle Prendergast
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Romance, Realistic Fiction, Verse Novels
Recommended For Fans Of: Ellen Hopkins, Sonya Sones

Synopsis: Raphaelle has arrived in this new town, determined to start over. To bury the secrets of her past; to forget the skeletons in the closet. So Raphaelle becomes ELLA. The girl she has always wanted to be. Ella, the girl without the paradoxes of family, the troubled thoughts of her mind. But maybe meeting that one boy whose life is as enigmatic as Ella herself will change it all. 

Review: I am a bit ashamed to say that this is only my second or third time ever reading a novel in verse! Boy have I been missing out! Audacious not only kept me completely infatuated with the storyline, but it was also a super quick and easy read.

Bless Gabrielle Prendergast for writing this book. Honestly. She has boldly gone where many authors are afraid to go. Audacious brought out elements of love, loss, pain, secrets, darkness, religion, eating disorders, drinking and just basically LIFE. Life, guys. Audacious is the shadows of life that sometimes we refuse to acknowledge, but when we are confronted by it, we realize they've been present all along. I have finally found a book where the main character does not just have that ONE problem which is resolved in the end. Instead, Ella is surrounded by conflicts and emotions and just a whirlwind of crazy. teenage girl. life. 

Gabrielle Prendergast has a way with words. While novels in verse, or just novels in general may be sometimes confusing with the lyrical language, the author was able to write Audacious in a way that was both moving and appealing to readers. I've also seen many others on Goodreads talking about how much they loved the relevant use of multiple characters in the storyline, and I have to say that I agree. People fit into your life in ways that sometimes cannot be seen by the human eye, and Audacious was such a great example of the influence of the people around us.

I have no complaints towards Audacious besides the romance, which I felt was a bit erratic at times. Any relationship contains a lot of inconsistencies, but with the addition of Ella's ever-changing feelings, her and Samir's romance was a whirlwind of emotions that sometimes I could not understand. Of course, this doesn't in any way take away from the overall brilliance of this book. :)

Conclusion: I really look forward to reading the sequel to Audacious! I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick and easy, but meaningful read.