Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Review: Progress

Title Progress

Author Amy Queau

Release Date March 1, 2013

Is love an infection or is it a sick addiction, when there's nowhere left to run?

Jesse has a curious attraction to Charlie, a hostess at the restaurant where he works. Outwardly he’s rude, awkward and unapproachable. But his sudden bursts of charm are inescapable. A devastating childhood filled with physical and emotional abuse have left him complex and frigid.

Charlie, an innocent, is quickly mystified. Her craving for him generates an infatuation and a purpose. Losing weight and gaining confidence, she begins taking more risks. She defies her past, damaged and tender, in order to move ahead.

If nobody makes the first move then nobody gets hurt.

Their journeys take them down parallel paths which leave them just as emotionally unmatched and conflicted as the day they met. As the story progresses the viewpoints change, giving the reader an insight to the character’s thoughts and feelings.

Wow, what a roller coaster! Progress had my emotions all over the place. I found myself flipping back and forth between wanting Charlie and Jesse together to wanting them to stay far away from each other. Even though I did so much flipping back and forth, I'm glad the book ended the way it did. Without giving anything away, I feel like it was more authentic to end the way it did than if it had went the other way.

One thing I liked about the characters in Progress is they had depth. Charlie and Jesse spend time getting to know one another and become friends rather than rushing off into a relationship with a stranger just because they're hot. After reading so many books that hardly delve into characters, Progress was different and enjoyable. I think Queau did a really good job with her characters, storyline, and writing. I'd definitely pick up the second book in the Progress series.


4 out of 5 stars

* This book was received in exchange for an honest review. *

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Book Review: The Lost Girl

Title The Lost Girl

Author Sangu Mandanna

Release Date August 28, 2012

Eva's life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination--an echo. She was made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her "other," if she ever died. Eva spends every day studying that girl from far away, learning what Amarra does, what she eats, what it's like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.

But sixteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything and everyone she's ever known--the guardians who raised her, the boy she's forbidden to love--to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive.

What Eva finds is a grief-stricken family; parents unsure how to handle this echo they thought they wanted; and Ray, who knew every detail, every contour of Amarra. And when Eva is unexpectedly dealt a fatal blow that will change her existence forever, she is forced to choose: Stay and live out her years as a copy or leave and risk it all for the freedom to be an original. To be Eva.

From debut novelist Sangu Mandanna comes the dazzling story of a girl who was always told what she had to be--until she found the strength to decide for herself.

Wow! Mandanna's debut novel has to be the best book I've read this year. No, I take that back. It has to be the best book I've read in a really long time. I love it. In fact, I loved it a lot more than I thought I would.

The concept of echoes was different. It was a much more complex and fascinating process than the typical cloning. And while Mandanna doesn't go as in-depth into the process of creating echoes as I would have liked, she does tell you enough. It's enough to be intrigued and curious, but also somewhat hesitant. There's a fear of the unknown that makes it all the better.

The book was just fantastic. The writing was beautifully done. Mandanna's writing is powerful and full of emotion. The characters were real. I understood every character and how their behavior fit them. While I might not have agreed with a character, I understood them (even the Weavers). I feel like that's an important part of characters. The plot was fantastic. I really don't think there's enough good things I could possibly say.

I know many people would like a sequel to The Lost Girl, but I personally hope this stays a stand-alone book. I think, while not perfect, the ending was nicely done. I like it being as open to interpretation as it is. Yes, it would have been nice to have a definite answer as to what happens, but sometimes it's good to leave it to the imagination.

In case it isn't obvious, I recommend The Lost Girl to anyone that hasn't already read it . And I look forward to Sangu Mandanna's next book.


5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Review: Stolen: A Letter to My Captor

Title Stolen: A Letter to My Captor

Author Lucy Christopher

Release Date May 4, 2009

It happened like this. I was stolen from an airport. Taken from everything I knew, everything I was used to. Taken to sand and heat, dirt and danger. And he expected me to love him.

This is my story.

A letter from nowhere.

Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back?

The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don't exist - almost.

I wanted to love this book. I really did. Between all the rave reviews I've read on Goodreads and its blurb, it seemed like a book I was sure to fall in love with. It didn't happen, though. Instead, the book was a huge letdown.

My biggest problem, I think, was the way the book was written. It's written as a letter by Gemma to her captor, Ty. It didn't read like a letter to me, not really. Gemma recounts the events of the time she spent with Ty... to him. It was odd and really took away from the story. I remember thinking over and over again that writing a letter to Ty to tell him what happened was redundant. He already knew what had happened. It just seemed weird and it wasn't done well at all.

I didn't care for or connect with Gemma or Ty. I found them to be dull and boring characters. Frankly, I didn't care what happened to either of them. The only one I cared for, at all, was the camel.

I couldn't recommend this book to anyone. It felt like a waste of time and I was really disappointed.


1.5 out of 5 stars

Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review: The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend

Title The Duff: Designated Ugly Fat Friend

Author Kody Keplinger

Release Date September 7, 2010

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

While I had never heard of the term DUFF before, I knew exactly what it was referring to. I've heard it referenced before even if it the exact term wasn't used. I've heard plenty of times that every group of friends has a DUFF. Of course, like every other girl, I thought to myself many times whether or not I am the DUFF. But Keplinger reminds us that "every girl feels unattractive sometimes..... I should be proud to be the Duff. Proud to have great friends, who in their minds, were my Duffs."

The Duff was a really fun read. It was refreshing to have a cynical main character as opposed to the increasingly fluffy Mary Sue type characters. I really liked Bianca. I felt like I could relate to her. I could have been her in high school, no... I was her in a lot of ways (I'm definitely the Duff). I liked her friends, Toby, and even Wesley.

The only thing that was somewhat disappointing was the ending. While I absolutely love happy endings (who doesn't love happy endings, is a good question), it's kind of been done before. Womanizer falls in love after spending time with a girl least likely to be his number one choice. Yeah, we've all heard the story before.

Even though the ending's been overdone just a tad, The Duff was still a really good book. Keplinger's writing was enjoyable and I'd definitely read something from her again.


4 out of 5 stars

Friday, March 8, 2013

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Title The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Author Stephen Chbosky

Release Date February 1, 1999

Charlie is a freshman.

And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

I remember reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower years ago. I'd guess 10 years or so. I didn't remember anything about the book really, but I did remember liking the book. I wanted to read the book again since they made a movie about it last year (here). Well, after reading the book again, I can say I'm not sure why I originally liked the book. Maybe my tastes have changed or something, but I found myself very underwhelmed by The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Charlie is a very emotional teenager (and by this, I mean he cries A LOT, not that he really has a wide range off emotions because he doesn't), though you aren't clued into why until the ending of the book (I'm assuming this is because Charlie himself doesn't know why). Instead of being able to connect with Charlie and understand his emotions, I found myself getting annoyed with him. I feel like I would have been able to sympathize with Charlie had I understood or at least had some idea of what was going on with him. Is Charlie autistic or did the childhood trauma make him the way he is? We're never given any answers. Since we're stuck with Charlie's detached narration, the book falls short. There are many dramatic events that happen, but I wasn't able to connect with anyone or care about the things that were happening. Maybe the book would have been better if it was written in third person.

I have mixed feelings about The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I wasn't sure I wanted to write a review about it at all. I say skip the book and just watch the movie.


2.5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Book Review: Ask the Passengers

Title Ask the Passengers

Author A.S. King

Release Date October 23, 2012

Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother's pushiness and her father's lack of interest tell her they're the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn't know the passengers inside, but they're the only people who won't judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she's falling in love with a girl.

As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can't share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don't even know she's there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers' lives--and her own--for the better.

In this truly original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society's definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to question everything--and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking real love.

Ask the Passengers is a typical coming of age novel. Astrid's a teenage girl with a mom that's too busy to pay attention to a daughter she can't mold her own way, a dad that's there but still pretty absent, a sister that only seems to care about herself, and friends that pressure her to do things she doesn't want to do. Unfortunately, it didn't bring a whole lot to the table that others books don't.

I did like King's writing. The story was fast-paced and flowed nicely. I did like that Astrid sent her love to the passengers of planes because she felt like she didn't need it where she was and it needed to go somewhere. It was a unique idea and felt pretty special to Astrid as a character.

It didn't make much sense to me that Astrid was questioning her sexuality. See, I feel like if Astrid wasn't sure whether or not she was gay, she would have done a little bit more experimenting or something. I don't feel like Astrid was questioning at all. I believe she knew the entire time that she was gay, but she didn't want to admit it. That's completely understandable, but I don't think King should have tried to pass it off as her questioning herself. It felt fake. Another thing I didn't enjoy was the little parts at the end of some chapters where you get the insight of a person on one of the planes that Astrid was sending her love to. I don't think it added anything to the story and the first one confused me and I wasn't really sure what was going on. Since it really didn't add anything to the story, I think it should have been left out all together.

Overall, Ask the Passengers was a quick and mostly enjoyable read. I wouldn't recommend it one way or the other, though.


3 out of 5 stars