June 2015 Wrap-Up

Polina

1-5) The Princess Diaries (1-5) by Meg Cabot
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Brief Summary: Mia must deal with the fact that she is the princess of Genovia, as well as your garden-variety high school drama.
My Thoughts: I’m rereading these books so that I can get to the new book that Meg Cabot released this year! So far, they’re ridiculously fun. I’m listening to the audiobooks, and I’ve just been flying through them all months. Mia’s voice is so funny and overly dramatic and human and so persistently her. I have to say that books 4-5 aren’t as good at books 1-3. The plots of both books revolve around problems that could be resolved in two seconds if Mia just TALKED to the people involved, and after a while Mia’s constant complaining about her life and over-exaggerating everything that happens gets a little tiresome. I can’t get too mad at her, though; if I’d kept diaries in high school, they would be exactly like hers, probably worse. Also, (1) Michael Moscovitz is literally the perfect man, and (2) I’m appreciating the Buffy references a lot on this reread.
Rating: 4/5 for books 1-3, 3/5 for books 4-5

6) A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
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Brief Summary: Beauty and the Beast…with fairies!
My Thoughts: I’ll be honest; I didn’t love this book as much as most people did. Feyre was an all right protagonist, but I never really clicked with her, and there were points where I found her decisions frustrating. I never clicked with the romance either; I cared more about Feyre’s friendship with Lucien than her relationship with either love interest. There was also a certain victim-blame-y scene that left a bad taste in my mouth. What did I love? I loved the history of the world; the backstory of all the fae in the book was fascinating. I loved Feyre’s relationship with her sisters, and, as I’ve already mentioned, with Lucien. The last 100 pages of the book were exciting, and the story left off in a place that made me want to continue with the series. I feel like this mini-review is giving the impression that I liked the book less than I did, but I did like it. I just wasn’t as in love as I expected to be.
Rating: 3.75/5

7Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
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Brief Summary: A teenage girl who is obsessed with wolves. A werewolf who transforms when the whether is cold. It’s romance time!
My Thoughts: The best thing I can say about this book is that it reminded me that authors can grow. Because, wow, the same person who wrote The Raven Cycle and The Scorpio Races had at some point in the past written this book. For the most part, I was extremely bored. Shiver focuses mostly on the romance between Sam and Grace, and while there are cute moments, the relationship is boring and insta-love-filled and after a certain point I was sick of them. The writing was good (though not TSR/TRC good) and I liked some of the secondary characters enough that I’m considering reading the sequels, but other than that I didn’t really care. Sorry, Maggie Stiefvater. You’re still my one of my favorites.
Rating: 2/5

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May 2015 Wrap-Up

Polina

1) Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
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Brief Summary: Annie and Liza fall in love and it’s cute and then sad and then cute again.
My Thoughts:
 I had some trouble with the writing; Liza’s voice definitely did not sound like a teenage girl. In addition, none of the characters were particularly developed. However, the romance is cute and this book is obviously very important; from what I understand, it’s the first YA lesbian romance with a happy ending. There were some really powerful passages that I appreciated.
Rating: 3/5

2) Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
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Brief Summary: Sibling relationships, airplanes, the tragedies of war, and WW1 Ethiopia.
My Thoughts: Really difficult to get into at first, but beautifully written with excellent family dynamics.
Rating: 4/5

3) P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
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Brief Summary: The continuation of Lara Jean’s relationship with Peter, with a side of family and friendship and growing up.
My Thoughts: Adorable and really well written. Some of my favorite parts of were the sister dynamics and Lara Jean’s character growth. Like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, it was the kind of book that, based on plot alone, wouldn’t have stood out at all (and, indeed, one particular storyline felt very typical-YA) but the characters and the writing style still made it feel very unique.
Rating: 4/5

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April 2015 Wrap-Up

Hello, friends! Sorry I haven’t been doing too much this month–between rehearsals and finals and being sick, I haven’t really had much of a chance to write reviews. That said, being backstage during a show gave me some time to catch up on my reading, so I do have some excellent books and novellas to wrap up today.

1) Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moscowitz
Brief Summary: Etta auditions for musical theater school and deals with categories she fits into and doesn’t fit into.
My Thoughts: When I read the end of this book, I was crying. I don’t know if I can articulate how much I loved it. Etta’s voice was amazing and honest, and her growth throughout the book was very genuine. Having a black, bisexual protagonist who struggles with her weight is so important and I know this book will reach out to a lot of people. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of romance focus; there was a little bit of kissing, but it wasn’t nearly as important as the friendship and character growth. That one speech Etta made at her audition in the end…I don’t even have the words to describe how it made me feel. I’ve been doing theatre for years and Etta got to the heart of why I love it so much. The book dealt with so many difficult subjects without ever feeling like a lecture and everything was handled very well.
Rating: 5/5

2) Please Remain Calm by Courtney Summers
Brief Summary: A continuation of This is Not a Test. Zombies. Feelings. I AM NOT EVEN A LITTLE CALM.
My Thoughts: I didn’t love this quite as much as This is Not a Test, but as always, Courtney Summers’ writing was beautiful and broke my heart into a thousand tiny pieces. Courtney Summers really does not mess around when it comes to making things dark. I would have liked to hear more from Sloane, but at the same time, I loved getting to know Rhys a little better. Also, that ending was unsatisfying in the best way possible.
Rating: 4/5

3) Half Lies by Sally Green
Brief Summary: Some background on Gabriel’s sister before Half Bad.
My Thoughts: I feel like this novella could have been longer and more fleshed out; it’s kind of hard to care about the main character’s forbidden romance when the love interest has no personality to speak of. The end of the book also falls into a trope I am really, really sick of seeing in my media. Still, I liked Michele, and her relationship with Gabriel made me feel things.
Rating: 3/5

4) Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Brief Summary: Dystopialand where love is considered a disease.
My Thoughts: Other than Lauren Oliver’s writing, which is lovely, there was almost nothing about this book distinguishing it from your average dystopia. The characters and the main romance felt so typical that I mostly wasn’t very invested. One thing I did appreciate was Lauren Oliver’s focus on Hana and Lena’s friendship; I hope that continues throughout the series. Despite its flaws, the book did keep my interest enough that I might read the next one.
Rating: 2/5

5) Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash
Brief Summary: Alys deals with the fallout of a school shooting in which her brother was the shooter.
My Thoughts: The author treats this messy and complicated situation with the respect it deserves. Alys’s love for her brother, her confusion and anger and grief at what he did, her world falling apart as she watches–everything came through clearly and painfully. I love the writing–the long sentences and italicized memories that Alys doesn’t want to admit to herself. One thing I appreciated: we never really learn why Alys’s brother did what he did. We get bits and pieces, but in the end, that’s not what the story is about. Even in the end, Alys is just beginning to recover, but there’s hope.
Rating: 4/5

6) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
Brief Summary: A twelve-year-old girl visits Fairyland and has adventures.
My Thoughts: Catherynne Valente’s writing is every bit as beautiful as I expected, but I didn’t love the story quite as much as I wanted to; something about its whimsical quality stopped me from feeling fully connected to the events. Still, it was a fun book that brought back childhood memories, the ending is amazing, and I will probably continue with the series.
Rating: 3/5

7) Emma by Jane Austen
Brief Summary: Emma Woodhouse tries to find matches for her friends, with very interesting results.
My Thoughts: I think this is my favorite Jane Austen book of the three I’ve read so far. Emma is an excellent flawed heroine, and Jane Austen’s writing is as amazing as always.
Rating: 5/5

8) The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas
Brief Summary: Celaena Sardothien’s life before the events of Throne of Glass.
My Thoughts: This book reminded me exactly how emotional I am about Celaena. The ending gave me so many chills. (“I am Celaena Sardothien, and I will not be afraid.”) Also, don’t talk to me about Sam Cortland. Ever.
Rating: 4/5

9) Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Brief Summary: Two teenage girls disguise themselves as boys and travel the Oregon trail with a group of cowboys.
My Thoughts: This is one I’d been looking forward to for a while, and it did not disappoint. Things I loved: the very strong friendship that develops between Sammy and Andy, the resourcefulness of the two main characters, the handling of racism, and the sense of fun and adventure that flowed through this book despite occasional bittersweet moments.
Rating: 5/5

10) The Lost Herondale by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman
Brief Summary: More of Simon’s adventures at the Shadowhunter Academy.
My Thoughts: This was okay, I guess? Not as much fun as the first one, and to be honest I don’t remember 90% of what happened, and what I do remember is mostly rehashing themes that were already discussed multiple times in the books. Still, it was enjoyable enough, and I appreciated the resident Mean Girl being humanized. Also, Catarina Loss appreciation everything.
Rating: 3/5

11) Vicious by V. E. Schwab
Brief Summary: Victor and Eli conduct a series of experiments regarding superpowers, and something goes terribly wrong. Years later, Victor wants revenge.
My Thoughts: As twisted and fascinating of a ride as I expected. Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t stop. The author does an amazing job creating incredibly messed up characters and building up the tension. I will definitely be reading more of her books in the future.
Rating: 5/5

12) Talon by Julie Kagawa
Brief Summary: Dragons live in disguise in the human world. The Order of St. George hunts dragons. Time for some forbidden love!
My Thoughts: I actually DNF’d this one. Even though I found the idea of the world interesting and a couple of scenes made me feel things, the characters did not grab my interest at all, and I mostly just rolled my eyes at the love triangle that took up most of the story.
Rating: 2/5

13) The Turn of the Story by Sarah Rees Brennan
Brief Summary: Elliot Schafer goes to a magic school in a different world, where he makes many sarcastic comments, is not pleased with the general violence of things, and undergoes an amazing character growth arc that makes me feel things.
My Thoughts: Another reread, and I loved this even more than I did the first time! Reading it all at once instead of spread out over a few months really gave me an appreciation for how much the three main characters grew, and how amazing their friendship was. Sarah Rees Brennan is amazing (I wonder how many times I’ve said this on here). This is the kind of story that alternates between being absolutely hilarious and subverting various fantasy tropes and then turning around and punching you in the gut. In other news, I deeply relate to Elliot even though my personality is nearly the exact opposite of his. After reading this, you’ll also want to read Wings in the Morning, found in the Monstrous Affections anthology.
Rating: 5/5

14) Life Before Legend by Marie Lu
Brief Summary: Two short stories about the lives of June and Day when they were younger.
My Thoughts: This didn’t really tell me anything new and I don’t remember much about the actual events of the stories two weeks later, but I did love seeing more of June’s relationship with Metias in the second story; I always felt like what happened to him in the first book didn’t hit me hard enough since I barely knew him then, so this was good to see. Not required reading for Legend fans, but there’s nothing wrong with it, either.
Rating: 3/5

15) Half Wild by Sally Green
Brief Summary: Nathan meets some allies who want to fight against the council of white witches. Also, love triangle drama and father-son bonding time.
My Thoughts: This had the same weaknesses and strengths as the first book: the slow pace and somewhat underdeveloped secondary characters for weaknesses, and the personal immediate writing style, intense emotions, and surprises for strength. In particular, I loved: watching Nathan’s relationship with Gabriel develop (keep telling yourself he’s just your best friend, Nathan. keep telling yourself that.), getting to know Marcus better (he felt like an actual character here, and there were times when I teared up over him), the audiobook narration, and the powerful ending that made me want the final book right away.
Rating: 4/5

Sondra

Whew I just had finals and I was basically swamped, aka I did not read nearly as much as dear Polina up there. But I did have some great titles this month and I’m super excited to share them with you!

1) The Unbound by Victoria Schwab
Brief Summary: Mackenzie can’t stop having dreams about the boy she was forced to kill, and now she’s not sure where reality and dreams collide.
My Thoughts: Holy smokes this book was unbelievable! Talk about twists and turns that I never in a thousand years would have seen coming! I love this series so much and I love Victoria Schwab so so much
Rating: 5/5

2) Leave The Window Open by Victoria Schwab
Brief Summary: Short story that takes place after the events of The Unbound.
My Thoughts: The important thing about this is just simply Wesley’s real name. Lets be totally honest here. Also it was cute and adorable and I grinned forever and ever. And I need a third book.
Rating: 4/5

3) The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey
Brief Summary: Two worlds at war for so long they hardly remember what their fighting for. But when Echo gets news of information of a legendary item to end the war she knows she has to set off after it.
My Thoughts: Ugh okay so my summary sucked, big time, but I really loved this book! Like yes it’s related to some series that I can totally see the similarities, but this book reminded me of my favorite books from my teen years and for that reason alone it’s become a very quick favorite
Rating: 5/5
Read the Full Review Here!

4) Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Brief Summary: Simon is trying to figure out who he is in life, and trying to figure out how to convince the boy he’s falling in love with to meet him in person.
My Thoughts: Oh my god this book was the cutest thing I’ve read in a very very long time. I was left smiling at the end of the book like you wouldn’t even believe. I just loved it. And you need it.
Rating: 5/5

5) Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray
Brief Summary: Second book in the Firebird series with more about Marguerite and the gang.
My Thoughts: Um, well I’m not so sure how much I can say since this one doesn’t come out till…y’know, November. So I’m just gonna leave it as omg it was so good I can’t wait for you guys to read it~
Rating: 5/5

6) I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
Brief Summary: May is convinced that her best friend is still alive, and she can prove it. The information she needs to find her is all within the pages of the online coming Princess X.
My Thoughts: This book I read during finals, and it was the perfect balance of cute and lighthearted. All of it wrapped up with a great mystery that kept me highly intrigued.
Rating: 4/5

March 2015 Reading Wrap-Up

Polina

This was such a good reading month for me, both in terms of quantity and quality! I read fifteen books and one novella, and I loved most of them.

1) Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
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Brief Summary: One of the more messed-up versions of Beauty and the Beast, which is saying a lot.
My Thoughts: What a great way to start a month! A dark intriguing premise, flawed characters with amazing chemistry, and a plot that kept me guessing the whole way through.
Rating: 4.5/5

2) And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
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Brief Summary: After her boyfriend’s suicide, Emily Beam attends a boarding school in Massachusetts and develops a connection with Emily Dickinson’s poetry.
My Thoughts: I wanted to love the book, and I’m honestly not sure why I didn’t. The writing is beautiful, there’s a lot of focus on girls supporting each other, and I loved that poetry played such a huge role in the story, but the whole time I felt a disconnect from the events that kept me from being truly invested.
Rating: 3/5

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February 2015 Reading Wrap-Up

Polina

February was a pretty good reading month for me, especially considering my classes are officially under way! I read ten books, one novella, several short stories, and what currently exists of an online series. I also read quite a bit more contemporary than I usually do, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

1) The Queen’s Army/The Little Android/Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky by Marissa Meyer
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Brief Summary: Short stories in the world of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles. Wolf’s backstory, Little Mermaid retelling, and teen Thorne being a little shit, respectively.
My Thoughts: The Queen’s Army is a must-read for any Lunar Chronicles fan. The Little Android is very well-written and very upsetting. Carswell’s Guide didn’t give me anything I didn’t already have, but it was a lot of fun.
Rating: 4/5

2) One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
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Brief Summary: Sheltered Armenian boy Alek meets resident troublemaker Ethan and they go on cute-but-slightly-illegal dates.
My Thoughts: Adorable and rom-com-y, and the New York background and Alek’s relationship with his family and culture gave it a texture I really liked.
Rating: 4/5
Full Review Here

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January 2015 Reading Wrap-up

Polina

Hello, everyone! Since I’ve been so painfully behind on reviewing books this month, I thought I would post a big wrap-up on everything I read. In January, I read twelve books, one play, and one comic collection, which is particularly amazing since I spent the first half of the month in a bit of a reading slump (I finished Avatar and it was so good I felt like no book could fill the hole it left behind) and the second half starting school. I probably won’t be able to get as much reading done the next few months, so I’m just enjoying this while it lasts.

1) Everlost–Neal Shusterman
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Brief Summary: Two teenagers die in a car crash and discover a secret world of children and teenagers who died, but whose souls stayed behind.
My Thoughts: This was one of my favorite books in high school, so I was really looking forward to rereading it. Unfortunately, I don’t love it quite as much as I used to. The characters felt too trope-y and two-dimensional for my liking, the humor was sometimes overly childish, and there were times where the book just dragged on. Still, Shusterman’s concepts and worldbuilding are excellent; I loved everything about the system he developed in Everlost, and the way he just kept unfolding new surprises. I also really enjoyed the voice of the main character, Ally, and was interested in a couple of secondary characters. I’m looking forward to rereading the rest of this trilogy and the Unwind Dystology whenever I can get to it.
Rating: 3.5/5

2) Afterworlds–Scott Westerfeld
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Brief Summary: An eighteen-year-old moves to New York to work on her soon-to-be-published book, a paranormal romance about a teenage girl who gains the ability to speak to ghosts.
My Thoughts: Darcy’s story was unique, hilariously meta, and gave me an insight on the publishing world. I liked how flawed Darcy was, and the way her relationship with her girlfriend Imogen developed. However, I felt like Darcy’s many problems were resolved too quickly, and it bothered me that she didn’t face consequences for a lot of her mistakes. Darcy’s novel, which is told in alternating chapters with Darcy’s own adventures, has moments of good writing, but is thoroughly generic, based on insta-love, and very difficult to get through. That may have been the point, but it didn’t make the chapters any more enjoyable to read. However, I really liked the connections between the novel and the events in Darcy’s life.
Rating: 2.5/5 for Lizzie’s story, 4.25/5 for Darcy’s. I’m adding a little bit extra because Darcy’s story felt so fresh and new. 4/5
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