Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release date: September 10th 2013
Pages: 448
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Bought
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In Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? Open her heart to someone? Or will she just go on living inside somebody else’s fiction?

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I'd been hearing all this hype about Rainbow Rowell, and after she appeared on everyone's best-of-2013 lists, I knew I had to give her a try. Fangirl sounded right up my alley, but I was still a little scared I wouldn't love it as much as everyone else did. Luckily, though, there was nothing to worry about - Fangirl is amazing, and I loved everything about it.

Of course, I love that it's set at college. Fangirl is everything I had been hoping the new adult genre would be and - a book with older characters in situations after high school, dealing with more "adult"  issues, but one that is still a Young Adult story at heart. I loved the realistic portrayal of the various aspects of college life - I don't think I've read a new adult book that captures this experience quite so well. The only thing I thought was weird is that Cath has an upperclassman as a roommate - is that normal at other schools? I thought you could only live with people in your own year...

What really made this novel work, for me, is Cath. I connected with Cath so easily because, in many ways, Cath is me - or the me I was a year and a half ago, when I first started college. I recognized my own awkwardness in so many parts of Cath, and it was really reassuring to read about someone who had the same experiences I did starting college. Cath is awkward and anti-social, and I loved it. I also loved her obsession with fanfic, since I went through a fanfic phase, too, and definitely know what it's like to spend all your time on the internet, talking about books...

I loved everything about this story. Cath's relationship with her roommate, Reagan, is so much fun to read about, and the family storyline is really well-developed. And, for once, I absolutely loved the romance! I don't want to talk about this too much, since I really appreciated how you don't know who - if anyone - Cath will be involved with (even though I guess it doesn't matter, since everyone else has already read Fangirl). The story is the opposite of insta-love, it's ridiculously adorable, and I loved everything about it.

The only thing I'm not sure about is the fanfiction. In a way, I liked it - it's really well-done, and I liked getting a glimpse into that part of Cath's life. But it still felt kind of pointless - we only get to read fragments of both the real Simon Snow story and Cath's take on it, which means we never really get to understand the whole story. That's why I didn't really see the point in having them, even if I did enjoy seeing this spectrum of Rainbow Rowell's writing.

I really don't know how to explain my love for Fangirl. I connected with Cath on such a personal level, and I loved being there along with her during her first year of college. Fangirl is a new favorite of mine, and I can't wait to read more by Rainbow Rowell!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Title: Second Chance Summer
Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release date: May 8th 2012
Pages: 480
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance
Source: Bought
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Taylor's family might not be the closest-knit – everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled – but for the most part, they get along fine. Then they get news that changes everything: Her father has pancreatic cancer, and it's stage four – meaning that there is basically nothing to be done. Her parents decide that the family will spend his last months together at their old summerhouse in the Pocono Mountains. Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven't actually gone anywhere. Her former summer best friend is suddenly around, as is her first boyfriend. . . and he's much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.
As the summer progresses, the Edwards become more of a family, and closer than they've ever been before. But all of them very aware that they're battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance – with family, with friends, and with love.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I loved Morgan Matson's debut, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, so I'd been waiting to read Second Chance Summer for a while now. And luckily, Morgan Matson's sophomore novel lived up to my expectations - Second Chance Summer is another great summer read that will tug at your heartstrings!

What I loved most about Second Chance Summer is the family storyline. I loved all of the characters, especially Taylor's siblings: Warren and Gelsey are both fully-developed and fun to read about, and I enjoyed seeing how their relationships developed over the course of the novel. And even if 'liked' is the wrong word to use here, I really appreciated the story of the approaching death of Taylor's father. I loved the moments she got to share with him, and I also really liked how we got to be there with Taylor and to see her dad's health deteriorate every day. Most grief-related books I've read start after someone has died, so I really liked actually getting to witness this process in Second Chance Summer.

I also loved reading about Taylor's friendship with Lucy. The subtle and reluctant way these two start to forgive each other brought a smile to my face. I especially liked their relationship in the first half of the novel, when they are reconciling and getting to know each other again; in the second half, sadly, their friendship is no longer the focus and Lucy's character loses some of her dynamics. 

This loss of focus on Taylor's friendship with Lucy is mainly because, in the second part of the novel, the romance takes center stage. And unfortunately, the romance is the only part of the novel I didn't enjoy as much as I had hoped. Honestly, Henry's character seemed kind of bland to me: we are told that he's a nice guy and that him and Taylor share some kind of special connection, but we are never shown this in a way that would make me really understand what makes the two of them click. I also found the drama in their relationship towards the end of the novel kind of unnecessary formularic.

Despite my issues with the romance, I really enjoyed Second Chance Summer. With beautiful writing and the perfect balance of lighthearted and emotional scenes, Second Chance Summer is a great summer read. I can't wait to read Morgan Matson's next book, Since You've Been Gone!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

My New Treasures #30

My New Treasures is a semi-regular feature here at Paperback Treasures to showcase all the books I received over the previous week (or however long it's been since I've last done one of these). It was inspired by Stacking the Shelves, hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson *signed*
How My Summer Went Up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown

What did you get this week?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bookish Anticipation #35

Bookish Anticipation is a feature I do every once in a while to spotlight future releases I'm excited for. It was inspired by Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday. You can check out more of my Bookish Anticipation posts here.

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn
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Release date: June 24th 2014
Two years ago, fifteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor's fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.
But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.
Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know this one simple truth: she’s not the crazy one and never has been.
He is.

Fan Art by Sarah Tregay
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Release date: June 17th 2014
Senior year is almost over, and Jamie Peterson has a big problem. Not college—that’s all set. Not prom—he’ll find a date somehow. No, it’s the worst problem of all: he’s fallen for his best friend.
As much as Jamie tries to keep it under wraps, everyone seems to know where his affections lie, and the giggling girls in art class are determined to help Jamie get together with Mason. But Jamie isn’t sure if that’s what he wants—because as much as Jamie would like to come clean to Mason, what if the truth ruins everything? What if there are no more road trips, taco dinners, or movie nights? Does he dare risk a childhood friendship for romance?

Wicked Games by Sean Olin
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Release date: June 10th 2014
To all the locals in the small beach town of Dream Point, Carter and Lilah seem like the perfect It Couple-but their relationship is about to brutally unravel before everyone's eyes.
Carter has always been a good guy, and while Lilah has a troubled past, she's been a loyal girlfriend for the last four years. When smart, sexy Jules enters the picture at a senior-year bash, Carter succumbs to temptation. And when Lilah catches wind of his betrayal, she decides that Jules needs to pay.
By the end of the summer, the line between right and wrong will be blurred beyond recognition. Blood will be shed. Nothing in Dream Point will ever be the same.

Vivian Divine Is Dead by Lauren Sabel
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Release date: June 3rd 2014
When a death threat arrives with teen celebrity Vivian Divine's fan mail, Vivian has no choice but to go on the run to Mexico. She soon discovers, though, that her Oscar-nominated performance killing villains on-screen did nothing to prepare her for escaping a madman in real life. Some people say he's a hero, others tremble in his presence, but one thing is clear: he won't stop until Vivian is in his grasp. Why didn't she pay more attention during those judo lessons for her role in Zombie Killer?
Vivian finds an ally in the mysterious and charming Nick. He is everything Hollywood boys are not-genuine, kind, and determined to see Vivian for who she really is. But even he seems like he can't be trusted-what could he be hiding?
Beat up, hungry, and more confused than ever about who she's running from, Vivian is living in a real-life blockbuster horror flick. But there's no option to yell "cut" like there is on set....

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
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Release date: June 3rd 2014
Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party. When Healy High star quarterback, Brandon Fitzsimmons, dies in a car crash, it was because he was sexting with Alice. Ask anybody. Rumor has it Alice Franklin is a slut. It's written all over the "slut stall" in the girls' bathroom: "Alice had sex in exchange for math test answers" and "Alice got an abortion last semester." After Brandon dies, the rumors start to spiral out of control. In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students tell all they "know" about Alice--and in doing so reveal their own secrets and motivations, painting a raw look at the realities of teen life. But exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there's only one person to ask: Alice herself.

Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn
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Release date: May 13th 2014
Gemma just got dumped and is devastated. She finds herself back in the Hamptons for the summer—which puts her at risk of bumping into Hallie, her former best friend that she wronged five years earlier. Do people hold grudges that long?
When a small case of mistaken identity causes everyone, including Hallie and her dreamy brother Josh, to think she’s someone else, Gemma decides to go along with it.
Gemma's plan is working (she's finding it hard to resist Josh), but she's finding herself in embarrassing situations (how could a bathing suit fall apart like that!?). Is it coincidence or is someone trying to expose her true identity? And how will Josh react if he finds out who she is?

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
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Release date: June 3rd 2014
Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can't walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.
When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other's lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
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Release date: May 15th 2014

 A love letter to the craft and romance of film and fate in front of—and behind—the camera from the award-winning author of Hold Still.
A wunderkind young set designer, Emi has already started to find her way in the competitive Hollywood film world.
Emi is a film buff and a true romantic, but her real-life relationships are a mess. She has desperately gone back to the same girl too many times to mention. But then a mysterious letter from a silver screen legend leads Emi to Ava. Ava is unlike anyone Emi has ever met. She has a tumultuous, not-so-glamorous past, and lives an unconventional life. She’s enigmatic…. She’s beautiful. And she is about to expand Emi’s understanding of family, acceptance, and true romance.

What releases are you looking forward to this Wednesday? 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release date: May 13th 2014
Pages: 240
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: NetGalley - I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This is a hard book to review, since its success depends so much on not knowing the secrets beforehand. I can't even really tell you what it's about; I think it's best to go into We Were Liars without knowing anything at all. The ending changes everything, so it's going to be hard to talk about without spoiling anything. But I'm going to keep it vague and try to explain what worked for me and what didn't anyways.

As is to be expected with a book like this, the suspense is what I liked best. Not understanding what was going on and trying to piece together what had happened captivated me throughout the novel. I was genuinely shocked at the end, so that's one way that the novel definitely succeeded.

I also really enjoyed E. Lockhart's writing. This is my first E. Lockhart book, but it definitely won't be my last - you can tell she has a distinct style and a keen eye for imagery that will resonate with readers. I can see how this style of writing might not work for every reader - it's rather choppy and sparse - but I thought it worked really well with Cady's voice.

What I didn't love, though, were the characters, because all of them seemed underdeveloped to me. It's partly because this book is so short, but I just wanted more. The whole family dynamic isn't elaborated on enough for me to fully invest in the development of their relationships: each family's story is mentioned a couple of times, but only in passing, so I never got a full grasp of the situation. I was especially disappointed by the Liars' characters - as the bond that ties this whole story together, I expected more from their relationship. We never really get to know them, or understand why they're so close, asides from the outside circumstances that have brought them together. To me, the ending would only make sense with a very strong bond and complex relationship between these four Liars, and since their relationship is underdeveloped, the whole story kind of fell flat for me.

The main problem, for me, is how much this book relies on shock value. Yes, I was shocked by the ending, but I still didn't love it. Again, this might be because of the short length - I wanted more of a development after the big revelation. I wanted to know what it all meant, how the revelation would affect Cady and the rest of the family later on. But instead of elaborating on that at all, the book just ends once we find out what happened.

I didn't love this book as much as I'd hoped, because of the underdeveloped characters and the lack of a story after the big revelation. But I still encourage you to give this book a try - I did love the suspense and the writing, and it's definitely a unique story. I have E. Lockhart's earlier release, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, on my TBR, so I'm going to see if that one is a better fit for me.
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