Openly Straight – Bill Konigsberg

16100972Openly Straight – Bill Konigsberg
Published May 28th 2013 by
Arthur A. Levine Books
Source: eGalley via NetGalley (Thanks Scholastic!)

Rafe has a pretty good life. He likes sports and hanging out with friends and just happens to be gay. His parents and best friend could not be more supporting. There is only one small problem, he hates being known as the gay kid. He doesn’t get bullied or picked on but he does get treated differently. He decides he wants a fresh start and finds an all-male boarding school across the country. He starts a new school year being known as just Rafe.

This was such a unique story to me and I really enjoyed it. Rafe was such a great character that just simply wants to be normal but as long as people think of him as the gay kid he won’t feel normal. I felt that even though Rafe was not being directly bullied at his old school, he was receiving some form of it. Without this sounding bad, Rafe was incredibly normal. Being treated differently for being gay is the same as being treated differently for being fat or Hispanic or tall. Why should any of these things cause someone to be treated differently?

Rafe begins many friendships at his new school and I thought this is where the novel really pulled me in. At first Rafe thinks he wants to be associated with the jocks rather than his geeky roommates. He soon befriends the joke that also happens to be a bit of an outsider. Their friendship evolves, as does Rafe’s friendship with his roommates and he soon finds himself less associated with the people he originally thought he wanted to be friends with.

This story is written similar to Sarah Dessen’s novels. There were times when heavy stuff was going on but it never felt too heavy or overwhelming. It is that magical quality of heavy and light at the same time. I always love this because reading something too serious or too heavy can make me uncomfortable and sometimes cause me to stop reading the book altogether. I did not find this at all in Konigsberg’s writing and that made a wonderful story.

Rating

4star

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The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey

5thwaveThe 5th Wave (The Fifth Wave #1) – Rick Yancey
Published May 7, 2012 by
Putnam Juvenile
Source: purchased

This book is just epic. I was in love from page 1. The story pulled me in right away and there was honestly not a single moment this book let up. The characters, the world building, the action and even the romances…it was all perfect. I swear this book was so perfect it felt like a gift. This is the new book I will be recommending TO EVERYONE!

The book takes place right after the 4th wave. All of the characters have lived through the first 4 waves and are currently impatiently waiting out their days until their death or for an unknown 5th wave. This is a bit of a mash-up of alien invasion and dystopian, which means there were some elements that have been done before but a lot of it still felt unique and new. One thing I loved about this was that all the characters lived before the invasion happened so they all know what Earth “used to be like”. Too many times the setting is in the near future so the characters don’t know what Earth used to be like and I am glad these characters have something to hold on to.

There is a fair amount of mystery to this book simply because the characters do not know who to trust. Some of the aliens have taken form as humans, so there is always the chance you second guess if this person is human or alien. There were so many points in the book were I flipped on the some of the characters!

I did not know when picking this book up that it featured multiple POVs. The first POV shift doesn’t happen for quite a bit so it confused me at first but once I got into the flow it totally worked. I did find myself craving Cassie’s POV but the other characters added well to the story. All of the characters are unique but one thing that shines through is their will to live. The population is almost nothing at this point so it was important to show why each character is currently alive. Yancey does a magnificent job of making the characters hard but also compassionate at times. Overall each character is rounded out nicely, containing the perfect mix of attributes to  make them real.

Cassie is my new favorite heroine. She is strong, brave and independent as well as quite the entertaining narrator. There were a few “serious” moments she would make a funny comment and as weird as that can be, it totally worked! Everything Cassie said (and thought) felt incredibly natural. At one point she says “Are pervs only pervs if you don’t find them attractive?” and I absolutely lost it. She has some amazing one-liners both internally and externally that make the story not feel so dark.

Quick note about the romance(s) in this book. The romance is there but it is not dominant in most scenes that it is in. Yancey wrote the romance in this wonderfully. I say this because there was some importance to the romance but I ultimately think Book 2 is where to real sparks are going to fly. I can say I was satisfied with how much romance was in Book 1 but I will be needing more in Book 2.

You can read an extended preview here! I am warning you in advance, this is going to make you want to pick up the book ASAP.

Rating

5star

How Zoe (Mostly) Made Her Dreams Come True – Sarah Strohmeyer

zoeHow Zoe (Mostly) Made Her Dreams Come True – Sarah Strohmeyer
Published April 23, 2012 by Balzer + Bray/HarperTeen
Source: purchased

I was super excited for this after reading (and loving) Strohmeyer’s other YA book Smart Girls Get What They Want. How Zoe (Mostly) Made Her Dreams is straight adorable. Zoe and her cousin get hired for elite theme park Fairyland. Soon after orientation Zoe finds herself assistant to the evil queen herself while all other summer employees are cast as different fairy tale characters. The summer is spent catering to her every need, which includes walking The Queen’s lovely dog Tinkerbell at the crack of dawn.

It turns out this is a reverse Cinderella story about Zoe searching for her “Prince Charming” based on something he left behind after their magical meeting one night in the forbidden zone of the park. Zoe can’t go around asking questions about her prince though because she could get fired for breaking one of Fairyland’s biggest rules about not going into the forbidden zone, which would result in her immediate termination. She manages to navigate herself around the rules and her boss to find her prince. There is a lot more twists in this story than I was expecting and was pleasantly surprised! There is a “feud” against The Mouse that plays a key role in the story that I quite enjoyed.

I really liked Zoe’s character. She was smart and was able to figure out her how to deal with what is supposed to be one of the hardest jobs at the park all the while she supports her cousin’s quest to become a princess (which is the most sought after job at the park). Alas Zoe is like many YA main character’s and falls for guys fairly easily. This causes her some bumps in the road but in the end she has a good head on her shoulders that helps her out in the end.

If you are a fan of contemporaries or summer books I recommended adding this to your summer reading list, this is totally a beach read (and it was published straight to paperback!)

Rating

4star

Recommendations

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The Elite – Kiera Cass

the eliteThe Elite (The Selection #2) by Kiera Cass
Published April 23
, 2013 by HarperTeen
Source: purchased

The Selection was pure candy for me and The Elite was its darker, richer cousin. The Elite still had its fluffy romantic moments but Cass delved deeper into the world where such things as the Selection are necessary. The Elite had much more world builder that I never realized The Selection lacked. There is not only more information about the caste system but more about foreign lands, as well as their problems or successes.  On top of this information there is also a great look into what life is like being a royal (and I will tell you it is not all pretty dresses and tasty food). America and the other Elite get put to the test not only to prove they are worthy of Maxon’s love but being called a princess.

I read multiple reviews and saw that many people had a problem with America’s character in this book because they felt she was not as strong as she was in The Selection. I agree and disagree with this. America only bothered me when she would get wrapped up in being with one of the boys and then completely forget about the other. She has a problem with trusting Maxon. He would constantly tell her to trust him and the next second she would be upset with a choice he made. This would then push her towards Aspen and thus love triangle. Other than that I felt she was a strong, fierce character who stood up for what she believed in and stayed true to herself. Yes she has her flaws but what character doesn’t?

This is one love triangle that I love! At this point in the series I trust America (and Cass) to pick correctly in the end. In my eyes there is not a wrong choice. That being said I am still totally team Maxon. First off he is a prince and secondly he is just a good guy. I will say there was one scene in particular between him another member of the Elite that upset me though. Oh Maxon why can’t you be real!

Favorite Quote – It wasn’t like I made his world better. It was like I was his world. It wasn’t some explosion; it wasn’t fireworks. It was a fire, burning slowly from the inside out.

Kind of spoiler-y but a few book three thoughts…I found out the title to books three (The One) before reading The Elite and I thought it was spoiler-y but it is totally not! I also (accidentally) saw on Twitter that he picked Kriss and I was like “WHAT, he picks someone in book 2 and its NOT America!?”…alas that was incorrect. Does anyone else feel that Kota (America’s older brother) is going to play a role in The One?

Rating

5star

ALSO! Kiera Cass and company are coming to Chicago area soon so keep an eye out for a giveaway this month for some wonderful stuff!!

Flat-Out Matt – Jessica Park

17611379Flat-Out Matt (Flat-Out Love #1.5) by Jessica Park
Published
March 25, 2013
Source: purchased

Warning: contains spoilers of FLAT OUT LOVE

Matt is a junior at MIT. He’s geeky, he’s witty, he’s brilliant.

And he’s also very, very stupid.

When beautiful, cool, insightful Julie moves in with Matt’s family, why (oh why!) does he pretend to be his absent brother Finn for her alleged benefit? It seems harmless enough until her short-term stay becomes permanent. And until it snowballs into heart-squeezing insanity. And until he falls in love with Julie, and Julie falls in love with Finn.

But … Matt is the right one for her. If only he can make Julie see it. Without telling her the truth, without shattering them all. Particularly his fragile sister Celeste, who may need Julie the most.

I loved Matt’s POV and found it deepened the story. I really enjoyed reading about Matt and Julie from Julie’s POV but this just intenisfied things and made me love them! The only bone I have to pick with this is the fact that it isn’t the whole story from Matt’s POV  but various chapters(but hey, it’s a “novella”). At first I was scared I was not going to be able to follow along but I was pleasantly surprised that I always knew what chapter/scene was happening (and I read FLAT-OUT LOVE back in the fall).

One of the best parts of this was the prequel chapter in the beginning that featured a scene with Matt and Finn before Finn’s death. This is the only time the readers actually get to see this notorious Finn alive. Until reading this I didn’t full understand how much Finn meant to Matt. You know from Flat-Out Love that Finn is greatly missed by everyone in the family but you get to see first hand how much Finn helped Matt.

Rating

4star

That Time I Joined the Circus – J. J. Howard

15843281That Time I Joined the Circus – J. J. Howard
Published April 1, 2013 by Point
Source: eGalley via Netgalley

I had such high hopes for this one and found it to be a bit of a letdown. Our main character Lexi (or X or Xandra or Alexandra or maybe something else, she has a lot of names) finds herself in search of her mother shortly after losing her father. Her journey quickly takes her from New York City to a circus that her mother was rumored to be part of. The story jumps between Lexi’s present day circus adventures and flashbacks to before her father’s death. At first the jumping around confused me a bit because there were details left out that allude to a twist that is not at all shocking.

The overall story is cute and entertaining but I got lost in some of the details. There were several situations that seemed forced (one particular kissing scene) and ultimately did not seem to aid the story at all. I wanted so much for there to be more description of the circus! I think I hoping for as much details as The Night Circus but found the explanations and details falling short of impressing me. What threw me for even more was in the Author Note she thanks someone for telling her to add more circus. I would hate to have seen what the circus was like before this comment.

There were points where I connected with Lexi and there were others where I wish I could see inside her head to know what was going on (and it’s first person POV!). She was a music and book nerd just trying to get by most days. At one point she makes a comment saying “I have more books than friends.” That is me most days and instantly liked this girl. She creates several friendships throughout the story that I felt were some of the most genuine friendships I’ve read but where the friendships were strong the crush factor lacked. I never felt myself getting excited over any of the males in this story. In my opinion we didn’t get enough about the males so I didn’t understand why Lexi liked them. If you’re not going to give me the magic of the circus at least give me some romance to get excited about! One of the “take away” messages of this book was about home being where there are people you love but I didn’t feel like Lexi was there at the end of the book because I couldn’t understand what made her like any of the guys she was crushing on.

Overall 3/5 stars. This was a quick read so I didn’t feel like I wasted my time; I just wished I either had more circus or more crushable males.

The Art of Wishing – Lindsay Ribar

13530566The Art of Wishing (The Art of Wishing #1) – Lindsay Ribar
Published March 21, 2013 by Dial Books for Young Readers
Source: Library

I do this thing when I go to the library and just pick up books off the new releases shelf that have a cool cover. The Art Of Wishing was one of those books. So when I started this book I had NO idea what it was about. After the first few chapters I thought I was reading a contemporary romance about our narrator Margo McKenna that takes place while putting together a production of Sweeney Todd. I love Sweeney Todd so I was excited. Turns out this book is about genies. Margo stumbles upon a ring and soon finds herself in possession of a genie that also happens to sophomore Oliver Parish. After explaining to Margo that he is a genie, he also tells her that her wishes may be the last ones he grants because he is on the run from someone in his past. A romance starts to bud between the two as they both try to protect the other from our villain.

I really liked this book and found it to be an easy read. The story is sprinkled with Aladdin jokes (and even a Princess Diaries one!) that I found myself laughing out loud frequently. The story is always flowing and I never felt that the genie “rules” were dumped on the reader.  A rule was only introduced when it was appropriate to the story. My genie knowledge does not reach much farther than Aladdin so I could not tell you if anything was over the top or forgotten when talking about genies. There are also a few twists in the story that I was not expecting at all!

I loved Margo. Female characters are always hit or miss for me and Margo was totally spot on. Margo is strong, determined and overall selfless. One reason Oliver sticks around is because he can see inside her head (genie perk) and he knows she has good wishes in her.

Favorite Quote – “My breath caught. There were a lot of things I wanted to say to that, most of which ended in exclamation points.”

Overall 4.5/5 stars. This book is for any Disney fan. This is not a retelling of Aladdin but had many connections to that story. It was light-fantasy and is perfect for people who do not usually read fantasy.