Friday, September 28, 2012

Book review: Bittersweet

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances... a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life... and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last...

Before reading Bittersweet, I'd already read Ockler's first novel, Twenty Boy Summer.

And I gotta say, I liked Bittersweet so much more!

I didn't dislike Twenty Boy Summer, but I think the characters were a little young for me. So onward to Bittersweet!

1. Bittersweet has a lot of awesome themes in it. Hudson, the main character, is secretly practicing ice skating, her former dream, and is also trying to juggle working in her mom's restaurant, a newfound social life, preparing for a huge competition, and (also secretly) coaching the boys' hockey team at her high school. Not to mention trying to stay afloat in classes.

So I think Hudson's story was really easy to relate to -- who hasn't tried to do everything all at once?

2. The characters are awesome. Like I said, Hudson is easy to relate to. Her friend Dani is awesome and the kind of girl you want to be friends with. Her little brother is the most adorable little brother I can think of in any book. And there are some cute boys, too.

3. It wasn't all sunshine and roses for me, though. There were a lot of moments when I was mentally berating Hudson for what she was doing. Some of that is good -- as in, it was a device used by Ockler -- but some of it I think I just wanted to understand more why the character was doing what she was doing. Like when she messes around with one boy when she doesn't even like him. Annoying, but could be a plot device if I'd understood better what she was thinking and feeling.

4. The romantic plotline ends in the very last pages. Which I didn't like for some reason. I didn't hate it either, but having it as the very last thing almost made it feel rushed to me. But maybe that's just me as a writer, not as the average reader? I don't know. I was pretty satisfied with what happened, but I might have liked some more detail and time in the resolution.

Overall, though, I really liked Bittersweet and I gave it four stars on Goodreads! It was one of the books I took to read on the beach and was definitely one of those ideal beach reads you always hope for.

Have any of you read Bittersweet? I'd love to hear what you think!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Book review: Insurgent

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. This is a sequel, so my review may have spoilers to the first book, which I reviewed here. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

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.

Insurgent was not as great as Divergent, for me.

I still liked it, and I read it quickly, but I definitely didn't get sucked in like I did with Divergent.

Insurgent develops a lot of the relationships we see in Divergent. Tris and Four grow and change now that they're outside of Dauntless. But the focus isn't just on them, which is good. This isn't a romance series, after all.

The relationships between the factions (and the factionless) are also developed much more in this book. And that is really cool -- to see what Amity, Candor and Erudite are like, since we've seen Dauntless and Abnegation. We get to see how they all work and learn more of the minor differences, like what colors they wear and how they style their hair and whatnot.

Tris also has to deal with everything that happened at the end of Divergent -- with her parents and Will, especially. We see Tris grow through her guilt and grief, and it's obvious she has changed, not simply moved on.

There is also a lot of action. But what I remember more about Insurgent is the development of Tris and the world she lives in.

Like the first book, this one makes you think a lot about where you'd be placed and how you'd react to what's happening. And whether you'd be a divergent, too -- and if that's even something you want to be.

Insurgent isn't a filler book. I didn't love it as much as the first one, but it is very good, develops the characters and advances the story.

And it got me psyched for the third book.

Has anyone else read Insurgent? It has a lot of awesome reviews on Goodreads. What did you think?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Book review: Stupid Fast

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

My name is Felton Reinstein, which is not a fast name. But last November, my voice finally dropped and I grew all this hair and then I got stupid fast. Fast like a donkey. Zing
Now they want me, the guy they used to call Squirrel Nut, to try out for the football team. With the jocks. But will that fix my mom? Make my brother stop dressing like a pirate? Most important, will it get me girls-especially Aleah?
So I train. And I run. And I sneak off to Aleah's house in the night. But deep down I know I can't run forever. And I wonder what will happen when I finally have to stop.

Thoughts while reading this book went something like this:

1. Why does he keep comparing himself to a donkey?
2. Wait, now he's a squirrel?
3. Are all boys this weird?

The first chapter was a bit confusing for me. Maybe it would have been better if not on audio. But from there on, the book just got better. Promise.

I think the description to this one is pretty misleading, though. First of all, this line: "Most important, will it get me girls." I don't like books, usually, where all the character wants is popularity/boys/girls. Felton NEVER seems concerned with it, really. I mean, he gets more popular and it affects him, but it's never his motivation for doing anything he does.

Secondly, the description barely mentions that his family is going cuh-razy. And really, that's what makes this book super engaging and unique. Poor Felton's life falls apart all at once, and we just get to watch how he handles or doesn't handle it all.

I loved Felton's voice. It really made me wonder if all boys are that crazy, but he is so so funny. Maybe even laugh-out-loud funny a couple times. Like how he calls his brother Andrew a pirate. Which, by the way, I also loved Andrew, and think the relationship between the two boys is just spot-on perfect. All the characters were really dynamic and fresh -- definitely not characters I've already seen.

I ended up loving this book, despite my initial concerns, and highly recommend it.

Have any of you read Stupid Fast? What did you think?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Book review: Stay

Stay by Deb Caletti

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Clara's relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it's almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is— and what he's willing to do to make her stay.

Now Clara has left the city—and Christian—behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won't let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough....

Abuse is not an easy topic to cover.

I think Deb Caletti does a more than fair job of depicting the complex emotions of someone in an unhealthy relationship in Stay.

Stay goes back and forth in time -- Clara now, with her father, in a little beach town where her history can't catch up with her, and Clara then, when she's beginning, and then in, a relationship with Christian. 

The parts in the present show us how emotionally wrecked Clara is. But then the parts in the past show how she got to be in that position, how she justified staying in an unhealthy relationship, how all the tiny decisions led up to this monumental breaking point, how small acts in their relationship led to this huge, awful, scary monster of a relationship.

Though I've never been in an abusive relationship (thank god), I'd imagine that Stay gives a pretty good perspective on what it feels like to be swept away into a romance you think will be your perfect happily ever after and then end up scared, feeling at fault, and wondering how it got this bad.

Stay is not a light read, but I didn't think it was overly intense, either. Or, at least not as intense as the topic could be. There's definitely a lot of happy, particularly with the chapters in the present. Clara is recovering, and a new romance with a very cute, sweet boy begins, and there is a lot of light to balance the heavy.

Which, I think, is so like life.

Have any of you read Stay? What did you think?


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