Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

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I’ve never read a Sarah Dessen book before this one, which I’m really not sure how that’s possible. I honestly didn’t know what to expect because I’ve heard so many mixed things about her books. This book was actually a really pleasant surprise.

Rating: [3/5]

Summary:

Last year, Annabel was “the girl who has everything” — at least that’s the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf’s Department Store.

This year, she’s the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong.

Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen’s help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.

Likes: This book deals with a lot of really sensitive issues, including rape, eating disorders, and mental health in a really honest and respectful way. I thought the inclusion of Owen’s anger management techniques into their relationship dynamic was really well-done. The characters are all really interesting, even if not all of them are likable. I also enjoyed all of Owen’s weird-ass music and all the stuff about his radio show. That was just really fun.

Dislikes: I think I went into this book expecting it to be a romance and in that regard, I was kind of disappointed. There were like two romantic scenes that I can remember. So if you’re looking for a book with a lot of romance, this book may not be for you.

Tune in next time for my review of A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

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I got this book for free, actually. Thanks, work. I really wasn’t sure what to expect because I am admittedly extremely picky about contemporary books, but I actually really love this book a lot. I’m pissed no one got me the sequel for Christmas. Just kidding. But really.

Rating: [4/5]

Summary:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

Likes: I love Lara Jean. She is so funny and quirky and adorable. Like, I kinda wanna be best friends with her. I basically love all the side characters too, especially Kitty and Josh.

I also appreciate the representation. Lara Jean’s family is half South Korean. This story also has a lot of important messages about relationships, sex, and feminism that I wish I would have been able to read when I was still a teenager. It was really refreshing to get that perspective.

Dislikes: I was really unsatisfied with the way it ended, which is why this book got 4 stars instead of 5. I just felt like nothing was resolved at all, but it didn’t end on a cliffhanger either. So mainly I was just left feeling vaguely uncomfortable and unfulfilled by the ending.

Tune in next time for my review of The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood!

 

 

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

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This was the first book #readwomen chose for the monthly book club. I’ve never read anything by the author before, and I wasn’t sure if I would like it because time-travel is really hit-or-miss for me. But seriously, how could I pass up such a gorgeous hardcover???

Rating: [4/5]

Synopsis: 

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever.

Likes: I really love the characters and how they interact with each other. Etta and Nicholas make such a great team. They both feel like real people and their interactions are so believable, despite the fact that they come from two very different times with very different social customs.

Speaking of which, I very much appreciated the way the author dealt with sexism and racism and still managed to be historically accurate. Too often, I read books that are overtly sexist and racist in an attempt to be historically accurate. In fact, I recently read a book for review that did this very thing and I did not finish it because these elements of “accuracy” made it genuinely unenjoyable. There is a way to handle these topics from a modern viewpoint without sacrificing historical accuracy, and this is how you do it! Take note, authors.

Dislikes: The pacing of the novel really did not work for me at times. Honestly, the only reason I kept reading was because I really loved the two main characters and I was interested in them, rather than in what was happening.

To learn more about #readwomen, visit them on Goodreads and Tumblr

The Diviners by Libba Bray

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I read this book back in August (yes, I am well aware of how long ago that was) for a readalong. Basically, I read it because I wanted to participate in the challenge; I had never heard of it before then. But I found that I actually really enjoyed it. Funny story: I borrowed it from the library and then I moved, so I had to drive an hour and half to return the book to the library. Oops.

Rating: [3.5/5]

Summary:

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

Likes: This book is really well-researched! I could definitely tell that the author had devoted a lot of time to investigating the 1920s, right down the lingo. Which I also loved, by the way.

I also really liked the amount of diversity in this book. Not only do we get LGBT and people of color, but we also get an interracial relationship which is something that needs more representation in general, especially in historical books like this.

Dislikes: The plot had a tendency to drag, quite honestly. The book could have been much shorter, and I feel like that would have helped the pacing quite a bit. The mystery was really dragged out and sometimes it was hard to keep reading because I felt like nothing was happening.

Also, the romance came out of nowhere. It really did. I’m a huge fan of romance in books and a very unapologetic shipper of basically everything, but this was a little too much for me. It did not feel natural and I just plain didn’t enjoy that aspect of the story.

Tune in next time for my review of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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This book is a combination of two of my favorite genres: fantasy and dystopia. I’ve heard a lot of varying opinions about this book; it seems like most people either loved it or hated. I’m one of the ones who loved it. Or, at least, very strongly liked it.

Rating: [4/5]

Reading Challenge: A book based entirely on its cover

Goodreads Summary: 

The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the center of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

Likes: This book deals with a lot of issues like classism and racism and rebellion from an oppressive government, all in a fantasy world where people have superpowers. I love all the different types of powers in the book. Plus, I don’t know if I’ve read a character as palpably angry as Mare. It was really interesting and different. And don’t even get me started on that plot twist. Even though someone spoiled it for me, I was still in shock.

Dislikes: The beginning was boring and difficult to get into. Honestly, the story doesn’t really start to get interesting until she’s at the palace. Also, there wasn’t quite enough world building, which I’m hoping is solved in the second book.

The Heir by Kiera Cass

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I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one, honestly. There are so many mixed reviews, and I read more bad ones than good ones. This book was supposed to be the sequel that never should have happened. BUT. I loved it and it’s my favorite one in the series so far.

Rating: [5/5]

Goodreads Summary:

Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she’d put off marriage for as long as possible.

But a princess’s life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can’t escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests.

Eadlyn doesn’t expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn’s heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she’s always thought.

Likes: I love Eadlyn. Unpopular opinion right there. But I do. Yes, she can be selfish. But you know what? People are selfish. She’s a believable character, and that makes her a good character. This book also shows the aftermath of all the political decisions made in The One, and I think it portrays them in a really plausible way. There’s no way to quick-fix a broken government, and this book shows that really well. This book is also super feminist! Eadlyn makes a lot of really clear comments on her own agency and bodily autonomy that I really appreciated. It sends a really good message. Finally, all of the boys in her Selection are delightful. There are about four of them I would be happy to see her with. Also! Let’s not forget all of the Maxon and America old married couple cuteness.

Dislikes: I really can’t think of anything that I didn’t like about this book.

Tune in next week for my review of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard!

The One by Kiera Cass

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The dust jacket of this book got torn when I moved and I was so sad. I don’t know why I thought that was necessary to share, but there you go. It was also the first book I read in the new apartment!

Rating: [5/5]

Goodreads Summary:

The time has come for one winner to be crowned.

When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon’s heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose—and how hard she’ll have to fight for the future she wants

Likes: Okay. The plot twists in this book were ridiculous in the best way. Once I reached a certain point in the book, stuff just kept happening. I had to put it down a few times and just stare at the wall to absorb what was happening. Plus, the romance was the best in this book. Especially towards the end. I also really liked the endings that a couple of my favorite characters got. It was really satisfying for those ends to be tied up.

Dislikes: The beginning was really slow. It was kind of hard to get into, at first. It wasn’t until I was about a third of the way through that things started getting really good. And that’s when the plot twist rollercoaster started.

Tune in next week to read my review of The Heir by Kiera Cass!

The Elite by Kiera Cass

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I literally read this book in one day, if that gives you any indication of how much I liked it. Seriously, I could not put it down.

Rating: [5/5]

Goodreads Summary:

The Selection began with thirty-five girls.
Now with the group narrowed down to the six Elite, the competition to win Prince Maxon’s heart is fiercer than ever—and America is still struggling to decide where her heart truly lies. Is it with Maxon, who could make her life a fairy tale? Or with her first love, Aspen?

America is desperate for more time. But the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want—and America’s chance to choose is about to slip away.

Likes: All of the worldbuilding I was missing in the first one showed up here. The way the author built these nations is so intriguing to me. It’s an interesting take on what world politics could potentially look like one day. Plus, there are some major plot twists that left me reeling.

Dislikes: There wasn’t anything in particular I remember disliking about this book.

Tune in next week for my review of The One by Kiera Cass!

The Selection by Kiera Cass

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This book was recommended to me by a dear friend I met from school. She described it to me as being “a fairy tale dystopia meets The Bachelor.” And so I was immediately on board with that and got it from the library as fast as humanly possible.

Rating: [4/5]

Reading Challenge: A book a friend recommended

Goodreads Summary:

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Likes: I really enjoyed America as a character, as well as her relationship with Maxon and friendship with Marlee. Seeing the way the girls all reacted to the pressure of the Selection and to the competition among each other was also really interesting. I found America and Marlee’s relationship refreshing, since I love strong girl friendships in books.

Dislikes: The worldbuilding wasn’t very detailed in this book. The plot was also a little predictable.

Tune in next week for my review of The Elite by Kiera Cass! 

 

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

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Fairest is a bridge book between Cress and the soon-to-be-released Winter by Marissa Meyer. It offers the backstory of series’s villain, the Lunar queen Levana. I was immediately interested because you hardly ever see a book that features a “bad guy” as a main character and I wanted to see what Meyer did with that unique perspective. I was not disappointed.

Rating: [3/5]

Reading Challenge: A book that scares you

Goodreads Summary:

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

Likes: This book really created some of the most complex characters I’ve ever read about. Levana is truly a villain, but she does not believe she is. She sees herself as the girl who could never be enough for anyone, and that is a theme that is explored in every part of her character development. The way she justifies her actions or sees her own motivations is simply chilling, and many times I had to take a break in order to process a character with the capacity to do the things Levana does. There were parts of this book where I genuinely felt bad for her, even though it didn’t excuse her actions in the slightest. Plus, I really enjoyed the cameos of Cinder, Winter, Kai, and Jacin.

Dislikes: It was kind of disturbing to read about her thought processes behind some of her more deplorable actions. I don’t want to give anything away, but if you’ve read the rest of the Lunar Chronicles, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Plus, the book didn’t really have a plot. It was pretty much all character development, so there were some slow parts.

Tune in next week to read my review of The Selection by Kiera Cass!