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Review: Mosquitoland

Book Overview:

Title: Mosquitoland

Author: David Arnold

Genre: Teen Contemporary Fiction

Publication Info: Viking Children’s, March 3, 2015

Synopsis: After her parents’ divorce, Mim is unhappily forced to move to Mississippi with her father and new stepmother. But when she hears distressing news about her mother, Mim takes off without a thought on a Greyhound bus and begins an unforgettable journey that will change everything.

Book Review:

Overall Rating: 4.5-5 (let’s be honest, it’s really a 5 for me)/5

Writing a review for this book is difficult. Ridiculously difficult, even. I’ve tried talking about it to friends, family, co-workers, and here’s what comes out: “Guys, this book is just… I mean, it’s so… just unique, and… yeah. You should read it.” I’m a hot mess because of this book, and this book is a hot mess. But a really touching, remarkable hot mess. So forgive me for remaining unable to sound professional and polished when discussing this one.

Plot:

This is easily one of the weirdest plots I’ve ever read. Granted, the premise–a hero’s quest to save a loved one that turns into self-discovery–is as old as story-telling. Mosquitoland really is a contemporary odyssey with a teenage heroine. But nothing that happens on this trip is normal, from a kung-fu fight on a gas station roof to a trip to the vet with a human patient (and that’s all I can say without spoiling anything). However, every abnormal, seemingly random event is woven together in a cohesive whole that feels too weird not to be true. Not once did I put the book down for its sheer ridiculousness; I shook my head and kept reading, realizing that life will throw everything crazy and unexpected towards us. Kudos, David Arnold. You’ve shown true plot prowess here.

Characters:

Like the plot, our main character, Mim, is as strange as they come: medicated for possible schizophrenia, blind in one eye, and instantly judgmental of others based on only their name. Not the typical heroine, right? Yet her idiosyncrasies and quirks make her very real (again, like the plot). Mim is a character anyone can relate to or adore–funny, witty, and blunt. Throughout her journey, she’s flawed and cynical, due to a harsh, discerning perspective of the world and a life’s worth of pain. And she’s so contradictory, acting fearless when she’s terrified of truly being crazy, brutally honest at times and fiercely secretive at others. Because of this, her point of view and her story was a puzzle and joy to read. Mim learns so much through her quest to find her mom, and as she grows, she gives the reader so many deep thoughts and moments of clarity. God, I really love this character.

This book also boasts a slew of unusual side characters, all with important roles in Mim’s story, but I can’t write about them without giving away significant things. (I really want to, but I just can’t. Don’t hate me. Read the book, and then we can talk.) Just know that I love and/or appreciate each’s role and individuality.

Writing Quality:

Finally, Arnold really outdoes himself as a writer. This book is so literary that it’s palpable. Mim’s journey contains allusions to Moby Dick, the Odyssey, Alice in Wonderland, and probably way more I didn’t catch. And the METAPHORS, guys. Mosquitoland is rife with ’em. (She’s freaking blind in one eye. Just saying.) But beyond providing a literary scavenger hunt that keeps nerds like me happy, Arnold, speaking through Mim (and other characters), gives us so much to think about, to the point that I’m still hashing and rehashing things days after closing the book. That, to me, is what makes this a winner.

(TLDR: While weird and unusual, Mosquitoland is a must read!) 

Who I recommend this to:

  • Honestly, I can’t fit this book into any one category. I suggest everyone should download a sample or flip through a few pages, and then if you’re intrigued, count that as a green light.
  • High school, college, and beyond (warning: language, sexual violence, mental illness, mentions of suicide)

 

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January Book Haul (aka My Bank Account Is in Pain)

February 5, 2015 92320 PM EST-1

Happy February! I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season and New Year!

Surprisingly, I had a relatively book-free Christmas gift exchange this year (maybe my family’s trying to tell me something…), but never fear. My book-buying habits took control in January, much to the chagrin of my bookshelf and wallet. But to be fair, I was on well-needed vacation and deserved to spoil myself. While visiting my best friend, I was taken to two different bookstores (she knows me and my tastes well), and I came home with this pile of beauties!

Seeing as I haven’t posted anything in a while (but do have multiple reviews planned), I wanted to share my purchases with you in the meantime.

IMG_20150205_2232561. Firefight (Reckoners Series #2) by Brandon Sanderson

I bought this book before anything else, AND on its official publication date, January 6. Why? Because the first book in this series, Steelheart, completely blew me away, and I couldn’t wait to have this beautiful story (with its awesome cover) in my hands. In Steelheart, a meteor crash gives superpowers to a select few humans, who in turn become supervillians and world dictators. David, a human orphaned by by one such dictator, teams up with a vigilante group called the Reckoners to take down the dictator. This second installment continues David’s story and promises just as much action and thrills at the first.

2015-02-05 21.00.592-3. The Darkest Minds and Never Fade (Darkest Minds #1 and 2) by Alexandra Bracken

I’ve heard nothing but good things about these books, and so I picked them up at the same time as Firefight. To be honest, I’m going into this series pretty blind: all I know is a virus takes out most of the world’s children, and the survivors are kept in secluded camps by the government. The premise sounds promising, and there’s no mention of romance in the book blurb (not that romance is bad, but I love a good action story). I’ll definitely review these books once I finish them, and I really look forward to sharing my thoughts with you.

2015-02-05 20.59.444. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

This book was published nearly five years ago, so I’m definitely behind the hype, but I’ve been meaning to pick this book up for forever. Like others by Lauren Oliver, the novel falls into the thriller/mystery genre, with a post-mortem protagonist investigating the events of her death. Again, I’m to this book also a bit blind, but I trust Oliver’s writing and can’t wait to start this.

 

 

 

2015-02-05 21.00.095. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I’m also very late in getting to this book, but after reading Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory and adoring it, I plan to read every book she’s written. From what I’ve heard, this book deals with deep issues and has sensitive content, but is a beautiful piece of realistic fiction.

Note: I only bought five teen books in January, which is uncharacteristic for me; the rest of my book haul will be adult and literary fiction. My feelings won’t be hurt if you stop reading here.

 

2015-02-05 21.03.136. City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte

This book promises magic and mystery and mythological creatures and Prague–what’s not to love, right? No one I talk books with has read this book or even heard of it, but it just might be a hidden, unknown treasure. I have hope for this book.

 

 

 

 

2015-02-05 21.03.277. Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

I’d been eying this book for a while, and I found it for $1 at a half-price bookstore (happy dance time!). From the back blurb, I gather that the Hawaiian heroine contracts leprosy, and the story follows her experiences as a social outcast. I’m intrigued by this storyline and the setting, so hopefully this won’t disappoint.

 

 

 

 

2015-02-05 21.04.118. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Descriptions of this book are frustratingly vague, but I gather that the plot involves books, secrets, maybe a conspiracy or secret society? I’m not all too sure, but any story that involves books screams my name; plus, I also picked this up for $1, so I had no choice but to add it to my collection.

 

 

 

 

2015-02-05 21.04.569. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

I’ve been meaning to read this classic for forever, but have always been intimidated by its daunting page count. Granted, you can find a million editions of this book at any bookstore, but this particular one was too special for me to resist. Look at that cover! So cute with the illustrations and speech bubbles! I’d like to shake that cover designer’s hand. I’m not sure as to when I’ll get around to reading it, but it’s a lovely thing to look at on my bookshelf.

 

 

 

2015-02-05 21.03.5010. Arabian Nights by Anonymous

I’m such a sucker for mythology and cultural tales, as well as beautiful cover art, so like with Three Musketeers, I bought this without a second thought. Looking back, I did no research into this translation or checked into which tales are included, which may not have been wise. But again, a truly beautiful cover is all it takes.

 

 

 

 

2015-02-05 21.02.4511. Women Who Run With Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

My mythology-loving, feminist reader friends have been begging me to read this for a long time, so I was thrilled to find a hardcover copy for only $2. God bless half-price bookstores! This non-fiction work compiles examples of the independent or “wild” woman in world mythology and cultures. This book has made huge strides in feminist studies and should prove an interesting (and educational) read.

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The YA Gift-Giving Guide

Frequently at work (yes, I work at a bookstore, and yes, it is glorious) I meet parents, adults, teens, and kids all wandering through the teen department with wide-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights expressions. When I approach them, the conversation usually goes something like this…

Customer: “I/my child/my friend just read [insert bestselling teen book here, usually turned into a movie] and loved it. I wanted to find something like it, but holy crap, there’s so many teen books! What else is good?”

Me: “Well, what kind of things do you/your child/your friend like to read? Fantasy, sci-fi, romance, contemporary fiction?”

Customer: “I don’t know. I just really loved [insert same book].”

Me: “Okay… Let me show you some similar books.”

From these conversations, as well as my own reading experience, I’ve learned to have certain fail-safe titles I can recommend that customers almost always go for. With the holidays quickly approaching (is that jingle bells I hear? …nope, just the sound of desperate, sometimes grouchy customers), I’ve put my mental guide on digital paper in the hopes that it’ll help someone at a loss for a gift or in need of a new series to start. And I’m well aware that not all of these suggestions are very original, but I’m recommending them anyway and you can’t stop me! [Insert maniacal cackling]

IF THEY LIKE… THEY’LL LOVE…
Emotional stories dealing with real-life issues, such as:

 
 Humorous, real-life stories with witty characters, such as:
 
Action-packed stories set in dystopian worlds, such as:
 Realistic and dark stories of post-apocalyptic worlds, such as:
 
 Alternate universe retellings of familiar stories, such as: 
 
 Fantasy and magic-filled stories with strong heroines, such as:
 
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Review: Dark Triumph

Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Books for Children for providing me with a review copy through Netgalley! 

Book Overview:

Title: Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) 

 Author: Robin LaFevers

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Publication Info: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013

Synopsis: Placed back into the household of her terrifying and cruel father, Count D’Albret, Sybella must conceal not only her identity as a handmaiden of death, but also her mission to kill the Count. Yet obstacles to her mission quickly arise, and Sybella must decide what is more important, revenge or justice.

(Note: To see a review of the first book of the series, Grave Mercy, click here.)

Book Review:

Overall Rating: 5/5

This book takes the series to a deeper and darker level of politics, relationships, and justice, and as in the Throne of Glass series, the second book is far better than the first. I finished this book in just two days, which (with my crazy life schedule) shows just how absorbing the storyline and characters are. Please make time to read this book–it’s so worth it!

Plot:

My main complaint against Grave Mercy was that I felt the story relied too heavily on dialogue, politics, and romance/infatuation, so at first I was wary of reading this book at all. I can’t begin to describe how shocked I was at the difference between this book and the first in the series; although political issues and romance definitely play their part in Sybella’s story, they’re offset by action and backstory (this is a word, right? I feel like it’s a word. I’ll get back to you on that). And I could talk for hours on Sybella’s backstory–how she distances herself and makes every decision based on not only the trauma she experienced, but also her deep understanding of her father’s nature and others’ ability to overlook his brutality. In a nutshell, LaFevers weaves together Sybella’s past and present beautifully to create a perfectly balanced story.

Characters:

LaFevers continues to make multi-faceted, complex characters, like Beast, D’Albret, and Sybella. In particular, Sybella’s past (increasingly revealed) and conflicting emotions and loyalties make her an intriguing and unique character to follow. As is probably obvious by now, I absolutely adored and supported Sybella throughout the whole book. Although I did also appreciate Ismae’s feisty nature in the first book, I somehow didn’t connect with her in the way I have with Sybella. This heroine is wary of others, untrusting of Mortrain and the abbey’s intentions, and bitter–and all rightfully so. As more and more of Sybella’s past is revealed, the reader can understand her decisions more, and every action of hers that might have been questionable makes perfect sense. But the beauty of LaFever’s characterization is that the reader can see Sybella growing throughout the book, can sense her begin to trust and protect others, instead of only looking out for herself. This, I think, is where LaFevers developed most as a writer, and I can’t wait to see what the next book will hold with Annith.

Writing Quality:

LaFevers continued to use historically accurate language, over which I practically threw up with happiness (hint: slight exaggeration there). She even mentions in her notes at the end (yes, I read author’s notes and introductions because I’m a geek like that) that she researched specific words and usage to stay as accurate and meaningful as possible–super kudos to her for this! This attention to detail was definitely apparent in other aspects of the writing, as with characterization and plot, as well as timing. Her action-filled storyline and romance are not rushed, and I give major props for the pacing of this book. Like Sybella’s character, the story draws you in subtly but strongly, and  I was hooked long before I realized it.

(TLDR: This book and its writing are killer, so you should buy and read it pronto!

Who I recommend this to:

  • Readers who enjoy bada** heroines with well-developed backstories
  • Fans of The Grisha series, Throne of Glass series, Mortal Instruments series
  • Late high school, college, and beyond (warning: strong amounts of violence, death, mentions of sex)

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Review: Heir of Fire

Book Overview:

Title: Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)

 Author: Sarah J. Maas

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Publication Info: Bloomsbury Childrens, Sep. 2, 2014

Synopsis: After the death of her best friend, Celaena vows to end the King of Adarlan’s rule by traveling to Wendlyn and discovering the secrets of the King’s power. Yet she quickly finds that, to defeat the king, she must come to terms with  her true identity and destiny.

 Book Review:

Overall Rating: 5/5

This book is by far the best and most amazing threequel (yes, that is a word) I have ever read. I honestly cannot find words to describe how perfect this novel is, so I will attempt to say what this novel isn’t.

Heir of Fire is not a resolution or ending. It is not a continuation or simply another step in the chain of events. It is not a quest story. It is not a teen fantasy story. It is not a romantic love triangle story. And it is not the story of Celaena, or Chaol, or Dorian.

Heir of Fire is the story of Adarlan and Wendlyn and Terrasen and Ellwye, and it is the story who Celaena was and what she will become to these countries and people.

If this description seems overly vague or confusing, please know that this is intentional. Only by reading this series will you understand how truly phenomenal and revolutionary these books are. So please find time in your busy lives to read Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, and Heir of Fire. .

Plot:

This book begins with Calaena at the lowest point we have seen her, grieving for the loss of Nehemia, broken by ending things with Chaol, and utterly emptied of ambition and motivation. From this beginning, I knew Heir of Fire would not be the typical revenge or quest story. Celaena shows authentic signs of grief and depression throughout the novel, and because of this, her experiences become very real: even when we want to shake her for making stupid decisions or become frustrated with her apathy and indifference, we understand the emotions and drive behind her actions. Even if I didn’t agree with her actions, I supported and cheered on Celaena throughout every step of the plot, and I’m so impressed by Maas’ ability to keep me so well hooked.

Maas also flawlessly weaves together so many plots and characters. Although obviously Celaena is the main character, both Chaol and Dorian are given separate plot lines (along with new characters, such as Aedion and Sorscha) with their own complexity and depth. Yet everything intersects and builds together so that you quickly forget you’re reading about a nonexistent world, which I consider the mark of amazing writing.

Furthermore, this book provides so much more depth and material for the series to continue. While I fully expected Maas to start wrapping up development of  the plot and world, I was delighted to find the exact opposite — in a style that reminded me of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series, everything and everyone grows and becomes more complex, creating new conflicts and problems to solve. If I was invested in the series before, I am now ten times more so!

Characters:

As mentioned before, Celaena becomes even more real and human in this book through her grief and depression and apathy. Even in grief, she still remains as sarcastic and stubborn and combative as ever, but the darker emotions give depth and meaning to her responses and actions. And she is forced beyond her limits, becoming a version of Celaena we have never seen before; we learn so much of her past and see how her Fae heritage will change her future.

Both Chaol and Dorian show tremendous growth as characters, Chaol struggling to move past his feelings for Celaena and finding where his true loyalty lies, and Dorian working to control his newfound magic.

Additionally, as if the book couldn’t get any better, we meet so many new characters with complex motives and personalities of their own: Aedion, Sorscha, Rowan, etc. Although all of these characters deserve descriptions of their own, allow me to expound on Rowan,  a character who becomes incredibly important. When Celaena first meets Rowan, he is painstakingly abrasive and harsh — as well as violent and potentially sadistic — and this characterization is constant for a large portion of the book. But he certainly grows and develops. The changes in his character are subtle and well-hidden, so that you don’t realize how much you love this asshole until find yourself defending his every action and smiling at his sarcastic, cynical comments. Take caution.

Writing Quality:

Again, the worldbuilding Maas accomplishes in this book alone is more than in the previous books combined, with what we learn not only of Celaena’s past, but also of the Fae and the Wyrdkeys (and even the Valg). Due to this, I would consider Heir of Fire a true fantasy book, because this world certainly has more complexity and background than most worlds in teen novels. And after reading this third installment, I have no hesitation in saying that this is the best teen series I have ever read, not just in depth, but also in characterization and plot and writing style.

Who I recommend this to:

  • EVERYONE (or more specifically, everyone who enjoys fantasy)
  • Fans of The Grisha series, His Fair Assassin series, Mortal Instruments series
  • Late high school, college, and beyond (warning: language, violence, mentions of sex and drugs)

 

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Update: Future Reviews

I apologize for not updating or posting anything for a while. I didn’t fall off the face of the earth–instead, I simply went on vacation and am adjusting to a busier work schedule. In the interim, I wanted to share what reviews will be coming in the next week or so! All three books were amazing, and I look forward to sharing what I thought with you.

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Review: Scarlet

13206760Book Overview:

Title: Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2)

(If you would like more information on the first book of this series, Cinder, visit https://transitionreads.wordpress.com/2014/05/17/spotlight-cinder/.)

Author: Marissa Meyer

Genre: Teen Futuristic/Romance

Publication Info: Feiwel & Friends, 2013

Synopsis: In this second installment of the series, Cinder must escape from imprisonment and find the one person who may hold the key to her past: Michelle Benoit. However, Benoit has mysteriously disappeared–kidnapped, according to her granddaughter, Scarlet, who teams with Wolf, a streetfighter, to find her.

Book Review:

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

As sequels go, Scarlet was an exciting and well-written continuation of the series. Rather than focusing on the main character of the first novel, Cinder, Meyer introduces us to a whole group of new characters with humorous and realistic personalities. This, along with an action and twist-filled plot, developed the series so much more and kept me engaged. I’m much more invested after reading this book!

Plot:

First of all, I am so grateful to Meyer for including timelines and perspectives of various characters instead of giving the reader only one point of view and plot line–to me, this variety automatically makes a book more interesting and engaging. However, I have read other books/series that have taken a similar approach and only became confusing and not easy to follow as a result. For me, this problem did not occur with Scarlet whatsoever; it made me addicted, and it was extremely difficult for me to step away from this book.

Also, because of certain characters and plot events that I will not spoil, Scarlet was much darker and more violent than Cinder. I can’t see very many finding issue with this, but you have been forewarned. As for me, I love the dark and violent [insert sinister laughter here]. If Meyer hadn’t included this, the book (and series) would seem too sugar-coated and unrealistic. Well done, Meyer!

Finally, my only criticism with the book lies not surprisingly in the use of instalove, or extremely quick romance. To be fair, I was rooting for Scarlet and Wolf from the very beginning of the plot, but things progressed much more rapidly than I would have liked. I personally enjoy suspense and tension rather than instant gratification when it comes to romance, but not everyone feels that way. Please don’t let this stop you from reading the series.

Characters:

I have absolutely nothing negative to say about the characters of this series, because Meyer uses such fresh, realistic, and funny people throughout.

Cinder remains as awesome and sarcastic here as in the first book, and though the reader clearly sees her feelings for Kai, she doesn’t fall into whiny, mopey romantic territory. Cinder also grows as a character through delving into her past, which I really enjoyed reading.

Scarlet has my favorite personality traits in a character: impulsive, fierce, and real. From the very first pages, I knew I would love reading her perspective and plot line, and I was not disappointed (instalove aside).

Wolf, to me, provided a well-written and developed version of the mysterious love interest, not only because of his past, but also (and more so) because of his clumsy, awkward shyness. Some “shy” characters aren’t truly shy, but more elusive and guarded; while Wolf certainly is guarded, there’s more to him than secrets. I really appreciated Meyer’s handling of this character.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Thorne. He is an amazing comic relief and dashing scoundrel character. He brings so much to the book, and I can’t wait to see how Meyer will use him in the future.

Writing Quality:

As Meyer keeps building this series, the world and plot become more complicated, which I attribute to her creative genius. The reader has experienced life in various parts of this world (Asia, Europe), and I look forward to seeing the cultures and futuristic design of other parts of this world, perhaps even the planet Luna. From this book, the reader learns that the relationship between Earth and Luna, between Queen Levana and Princess Selene, is not so simple, and this will keep any reader engaged, invested, and ready for more.

 

Who do I recommend this to? 

  • Fans of the Divergent and Legend series
  • Fans of fairy tale interpretations
  • Futuristic/science-fiction readers
  • Romance readers
  • High school, college, and beyond (warning: violence, death)

 

 

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