March 24, 2014

Moonglass by Jessi Kirby

Title: Moonglass
Author: Jessi Kirby
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: April 24, 2012 (first published May 3, 2011)
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now, I've thought maybe my mother drowned in both. 
Anna's life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It's bad enough that she has to leave her friends and her life behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love--a place awash in memories that Anna would just as soon leave under the surface. 
While life on the beach is pretty great, with ocean views and one adorable lifeguard in particular, there are also family secrets that were buried along the shore years ago. And the ebb and flow of the ocean's tide means that nothing--not the sea glass that she collects on the sand and not the truths behind Anna's mother's death--stays buried forever.

I first heard about this book a few years ago, and my initial reaction was, Moonglass? Huh? And then, Well, whatever it means, it's really pretty. Anyway, the author made it up. Moonglass. Or, rather, the characters in the book made it up. And it was an interesting idea.

Anna wasn't happy with the situation she was being thrown into. The book began with the typical in-a-car-on-the-way-to-a-new-town plot line. A bit cliché, but not terrible. Besides, Anna knew that if she could just get onto the beach and away from her many problems, it would be easier to forget. She would be okay.

And she was. Anna made a friend who seemed unlikely and found success after joining the track team. She met a cute lifeguard who seemed willing to listen to her and helped her uncover the secret behind her mother’s death.

Amidst all of this good, though, there was serious conflict. Anna’s relationship with her father was extremely rocky, and they seemed okay for a while but then had a big fight and were cold to each other. And Anna wasn’t exactly the kindest person in the world. She was not afraid to say what she felt, and this led to her hurting some of the people she loved. Still, another side to this trait was her witty comebacks and sassiness (is that a word?). Anna was hilarious.

I loved the mythology and old tales involving mermaids Jessi Kirby threaded into the story. In some contemporaries this would seem unnatural and would be pretty hard to pull off without sounding awkward. But it actually added to the story in a really cool way, and helped foreshadow what really happened to Anna's mother.

My only real complaint, other than the fact that it was a bit cliché, was that the ending wasn't quite as satisfying as I'd hoped. The story didn't quite feel over.

Overall, this was a surprisingly real and gritty read with a funny, complex protagonist. If you're in the mood for a contemporary beach read without too much fluff, Moonglass is the book for you.

March 23, 2014

Sunday Spiel: Stand-Alones vs. Series

Hi everyone! Today is the last day of Spring Break for me, which means school tomorrow. Ugh.

Before I get into this, I'd just like to say these are my opinions. I am in no way saying that you should have these opinions or that mine are correct. This is simply a post open to discussion, and you're free to share your opinions as well. :) I love hearing them!

So. Stand-alones vs. series. I like both for different reasons. If I had to choose one I prefer over the other, I'd probably choose stand-alones. I don't know what it is, but there's something about having a single book that you really love and reread over and over again that I just love. Series aren't the same, in that there are multiple books in the series, some are worse than others, you have more than one to reread, etc. And the most obvious - no waiting for sequels.

Stand-alones are more satisfying than series. They have a certain finality to them that series just don't have - unless, of course, you marathon the entire thing and it has a really solid ending. But even then, it's not the same. Stand-alones also tend to be less complicated. Sometimes with series I find that I have to remember all these little details and an endless array of characters. But a single book is so much more simple.

Then again, you can get more into series because they're so detailed. Especially if they have great characters and a good plot line. There are more books to fangirl over. :) The anticipation of a new book in the series (if it's not already completed) can also be really awesome. Torturous, but it gives you something to look forward to.

There are also companion novels, which are probably an entire discussion in and of themselves. But they act as a series in the sense that the books are written in the same fashion and some of the characters from previous books appear in the sequels. Still, you can read them out of order the way you would read a stand-alone. I adore companion novels.

What about you? Do you prefer series of stand-alones? Why?

March 22, 2014

Stacking the Shelves #25

Stacking the Shelves is a feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's about sharing the books you got this week--virtual or physical--from the bookstore, the library, borrowed from friends, etc.

Long story short, I bought and borrowed a lot of books this week. A lot. Like, the total comes out to thirteen. Eight I bought, five I checked out from the library. Oops. I may or  may not have gotten carried away. Sooo, because this would be an extremely long haul if I included every single one, I'm going to show you the books I bought and leave the library books for next week. :)


Let the Storm Break (Let the Sky Fall #2) by Shannon Messenger
Unbreakable (The Legion #1) by Kami Garcia
Moonglass by Jessi Kirby
Racing Savannah (Hundred Oaks #4) by Miranda Kenneally 
Love, Stargirl (Stargirl #2) by Jerry Spinelli
Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger
The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater
The Host by Stephenie Meyer

So. Lots of books. I've already read Moonglass, and I'll have a review of it up soon. I'm currently reading Racing Savannah and am in love with it. I recently finished Stealing Parker, which I also adored. (I know, I know, I'm reading them totally out of order. But I can't seem to find the first book,  Catching Jordan, anywhere, and since they're companion novels I can get away with it). I bought The Raven Boys because I like the Shiver trilogy and should probably read more of Maggie Stiefvater's books. And The Host? I didn't give Twilight a chance, but this sounded a little  better. 

I'll be back next week with all the books I checked out from the library!

P.S. Sorry for the absence of anything but reviews this past week. I was still traveling and more in a reading mood than I blogging one. :P

March 20, 2014

45 Pounds by K.A. Barson

Title: 45 Pounds
Author: K.A. Barson
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publish Date: July 11, 2013
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life: 
She is 16.And a size 17.Her perfect mother is a size 6.Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 10 weeks, and wants Ann to be her bridesmaid.So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less) in 2 1/2 months. 
Welcome to the world of infomercial diet plans, wedding dance lessons, embarrassing run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—-and some surprises about her NOT-so-perfect mother.  
And there’s one more thing. It’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin-—no matter how you add it up!

There are many reasons why I love this book, but there is one that is the most important, and that is the fact that the main character isn't your typical seventeen-year-old girl with a perfect life. Diversity (or any uniqueness at all) isn't common in YA, which I see as a problem. It's not realistic if there aren't different kinds of people - whether we're talking gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, etc. We mainly do have books about seventeen-year-old girls with perfect lives, and it just doesn't make any sense. 

This book isn't that. Which is why I love it.

Ann doesn't simply have conflict thrown her way. Her entire life (at least in her opinion) is a conflict in and of itself. She is sixteen and a size seventeen. And she is not comfortable in her own skin.

I've never read or even heard of a book like this, but it occurred to me that there isn't a good reason for that. Why don't we talk about weight? I've probably only read about one book involving weight, and it was a side plot sort of deal (Eleanor & Park). But I think it should be both talked and written about more often, because it can be an issue.

The way the issue was presented in this book was great. Ann's weight wasn't shown as positive or negative, but rather centered around whether or not she was comfortable with herself. In other words, we were more focused on her self-esteem than the number on the scale. This book does not say that to be happy with yourself you must be skinny and look like a model - yet another reason to love the way the topic is presented. Ann's struggle with self-esteem and navigating life was written so well, and we really get to see her grow as a person throughout the story. She learns to push herself to meet certain goals and in turn not care what others think of her.

The characters were a little too on-the-surface for my liking, but I've seen much more shallow protagonists than Ann. Pacing was a bit of an issue, too - there wasn't much variety in the story, and it was more of a flat line if you were to draw it out. Still, this was minor compared to the other issues the book tackled.

Overall, this book is great if you're looking for something that touches on real issues and is much less mainstream than the usual books you find on the shelves. It's also a fairly short, quick read. I'm excited to see what K.A. Barson comes out with next!

March 17, 2014

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Title: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares
Author: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan 
Publisher: Knopf Book for Young Readers
Publish Date: October 26, 2010
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Young Adult
Rating: 3/5 Stars

“I’ve left some clues for you.If you want them, turn the page.If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.” 
So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions? 
Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

So, a Christmas book in March. I was in the mood. The book didn't prove to be bad, but it wasn't great, either. The one thing that it really had going for it was the fact that both of the characters were totally hilarious. There were all of these little jokes throughout that lightened up the mood the moment things got too deep. It made for an extremely fluffy book without much real conflict.

Speaking of conflict, the thing that did potentially pose a problem was the whole moving-to-Fiji thing. But the book ended before there was really enough time to get into it. So there goes that idea. The second time Fash and Lily met also posed a problem because of the situation where they landed themselves in jail. That didn't last long either, though. They were out and back home before anything too terrible could happen.

The characters felt extremely far away. It was another one of those books where even though it was written in first person (dual) POV, you felt as if you were reading from a bird's eye point of view. Everything was so distant, and I couldn't really get behind the character's emotions or the feelings they were trying to portray.

The book was philosophical in a John Green kind of way, at least through the letters Dash and Lily wrote to each other in the notebooks. They were nice to read, and I liked the idea of them learning about each other first through their words and nothing else.

Nothing about the romance was enough to swoon over. This could just have something to do with the fact that I never seem to develop crushes on nerdy guys, but still. There wasn't much, and what there was of it wasn't all that great. Lily's small, short-lived romance with that other guy who also happened to know Dash was also stupid and I thought it a bit unnecessary for the story.

I also loved the real elements of Manhattan spread throughout the novel. It made the story come alive for me in a way that the characters didn't. Overall, this is a good holiday book if you're looking for a quick, light read. Also, if you don't mind a more writing and setting focused plot line, then you'll love Dash and Lily's Book of Dares.