Review: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Book Title: All The Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Published Date: January 6th, 2015
Publisher: Random House Children’s
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this compelling, exhilarating, and beautiful story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

I was so, so excited for this book. I loved the synopsis and was so confident that this book would be a new favorite of mine. I hate to admit it, but I was wrong. I think I was hit by the hype-monster and unfortunately this book didn’t work for me.

I love well developed and interesting characters, but neither Violet or Finch was very interesting to me. I didn’t care for either of them all that much. They weren’t awful characters necessarily, but they definitely should have been developed more extensively. To me, it didn’t feel like the author took the time to delve into their characters. We know them on one level, but I truly feel like every character could be like an onion and if developed well, the readers can see that as they are reading.

Normally I don’t mind dual POVs, but in this case, they didn’t work for me. I couldn’t differentiate the different characters. Both Violet & Finch’s voices sounded very similar, which really bugged me. To do a dual POV well, the characters voices have to be different and they cannot sound the same or else it doesn’t seem realistic.

Now, I did enjoy the writing. It was very pretty, and the writing was the main reason I even stuck with the book. I don’t know how to describe the writing. Saying it was pretty doesn’t seem like enough. 

 I was hoping the book would improve for me and I’d fall in love with it like everyone else has.It kills me to say that I didn’t enjoy this book, but I didn’t. In a book like this, characters are so important and when they aren’t developed well, that generally ruins a book for me. Unfortunately, I have to give this book 2 stars. It just wasn’t for me. Lots of other people have loved it, so I would still recommend it. Maybe you will love it.

Review: Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff

Book Title: Playlist for the Dead
Author: Michelle Falkoff
Published Date:  January 27th, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A teenage boy tries to understand his best friend’s suicide by listening to the playlist of songs he left behind in this smart, voice-driven debut novel.

Here’s what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, his best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs, and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you’ll understand.

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it’s only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

Part mystery, part love story, and part coming-of-age tale in the vein of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular NowPlaylist for the Dead is an honest and gut-wrenching first novel about loss, rage, what it feels like to outgrow a friendship that’s always defined you—and the struggle to redefine yourself. But above all, it’s about finding hope when hope seems like the hardest thing to find.

Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of this book from HarperTeen via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

I love music, so I was excited to read this book once I realized that music played a significant part in the story. Unfortunately, even with a kick ass playlist, this book let me down in a big way.

I could tell almost immediately that this book was going to be a letdown for me, and yet I continued to read it. I kept thinking that it would get better, these characters would get more interesting, I would get more invested, but it just never happened and I finished the book feeling like I just wasted my time.

I was expecting this book to be chock full of feels, but it wasn’t. I was expecting to sympathize with Sam, but I didn’t. I was expecting to be blown away by the writing, and I wasn’t. It hate it when that happens

Sam would have been a better character if he had been fleshed out more. I didn’t care enough about him to even pay attention to him. I didn’t care about Astrid, and the mystery of what happened that night and how Hayden came to kill himself was not was compelling as I was hoping it would be.

I really only finished this book because of the music. The writing style was strange and the characters were very poorly developed. I can’t even recommend this book, that’s how disappointed I was in it. It had so much potential and it just didn’t live up to it. I am giving this book 2 stars.

Review: Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman

Book Title: Alex As Well
Author: Alyssa Brugman
Published Date: January 20th, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Genre: YA Contemporary 
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Alex is ready for things to change, in a big way. Everyone seems to think she’s a boy, but for Alex the whole boy/girl thing isn’t as simple as either/or, and when she decides girl is closer to the truth, no one knows how to react, least of all her parents. Undeterred, Alex begins to create a new identity for herself: ditching one school, enrolling in another, and throwing out most of her clothes. But the other Alex—the boy Alex—has a lot to say about that. Heartbreaking and droll in equal measures, Alex As Well is a brilliantly told story of exploring gender and sexuality, navigating friendships, and finding a place to belong.

Disclaimer: I got this e-ARC from Henry Holt & Co. via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

I was really, really excited about this book and I had high hopes for it, but I ended up being really ambivalent to it which really disappointed me. I wasn’t sure if this would be a straight up transgender story or if it was due to a congenital issue. I could never imagine feeling like I was born in the wrong body so I knew I wouldn’t be able to relate to Alex the way others could, but I really wanted to see how it turned out for him.

Her parents really were crappy. I know it probably wasn’t easy for them when Alex began dressing in women’s clothes and professing that he was a girl, but instead of working to support what their child wanted, they were holding on to the boy that he was made into as an infant. I so wanted his parents to get over it and embrace the child that they did have.

The best part of the book was Alex herself. She was equal parts awesome and brave. She was going through so much and it hurt me that she had no one else she could talk to about this. Belonging is such a big deal, especially in cases like this, and Alex definitely struggled with the desire to belong. She didn’t feel like she belonged anywhere and it was difficult for me to read about that, because I too struggled with not really belonging anywhere.

I am pretty ambivalent about this book. I didn’t love it, but I also didn’t hate it. Unfortunately Alex was not enough for me to enjoy the book. So I’m giving it 3 stars. I think I would recommend it though, as it was an important read for many reasons.

Review: There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake

Book Title: There Will Be Lies
Author: Nick Lake
Published Date: January 6th, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Genre: YA Mystery
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:

In four hours, Shelby Jane Cooper will be struck by a car.

Shortly after, she and her mother will leave the hospital and set out on a winding journey toward the Grand Canyon.

All Shelby knows is that they’re running from dangers only her mother understands. And the further they travel, the more Shelby questions everything about her past—and her current reality. Forced to take advantage of the kindness of unsuspecting travelers, Shelby grapples with what’s real, what isn’t, and who she can trust . . . if anybody.

Award-winning author Nick Lake proves his skills as a master storyteller in this heart-pounding new novel. This emotionally charged thrill ride leads to a shocking ending that will have readers flipping back to the beginning.

Disclaimer: I received this ARC from Bloomsbury Children’s in exchange for my honest review.

I really was massively excited about this book. I absolutely love mysteries and have read some really awesome ones lately. I hadn’t read anything by Nick Lake before so I was nervous, I really wanted to enjoy this book as the premise sounded so fascinating.

Unfortunately the book really let me down and I struggled every single day with picking it up. No one wants to struggle to read a book, so the fact that I was doing it made me miserable. There were various reasons that this one didn’t work for me, but I’m just gonna highlight a few of them.

Firstly, and more importantly, I felt like I was reading two separate books. The mythology of Coyote and the trickster gods didn’t interest me at all and I flipped through those parts. I was more interested in Shelby and her mom. I think if the mythology bits had been woven into the story more effectively, I would have been able to enjoy it more. The sections about Shelby and her mom were far more interesting and I found myself devouring those parts. I was invested in Shelby’s story, but I was not invested at all in the mythology bits.

My second issue is connected to the first issue. It’s about the pacing. Pacing can be a really big deal to me depending on how the rest of the book is going. Sometimes it can save a book, sometimes it can sink a book. The pacing in this book was very choppy and I think that was due to the constant shift from Shelby’s story to the mythology bits. The bits with Shelby and her mom were fascinating and paced well, while the bits with the mythology made me sleepy and bored. 

The editing. It didn’t hit me until I was about 30 pages into the book that there were no quotation marks. None. Apparently we were supposed to just know that having italicized text meant someone was talking. I was extremely frustrated by that. It seemed very lazy to be totally honest, which is another thing that I didn’t enjoy about the book.

I really liked Shelby as a narrator. She was interesting and I actually cared about her and what happened to her. Could her character been developed better? Hell yes. However, she was still the strongest part of the book for me. Having her be deaf was extremely fascinating to me as I had never read a book with a deaf narrator before, so that aspect was very interesting to me.

Overall, this book did not work for me. I am really bummed about that, but no one is going to love every book. I did like Shelby as a narrator, but she was not enough to save the book for me. I am going to give this book 2 stars. It had a great premise, but it was not executed well.

Review: The Memory Key by Liana Liu

Book Title: The Memory Key
Author: Liana Liu
Published Date: March 3rd, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In a five-minutes-into-the-future world, a bereaved daughter must choose between losing memories of her mother to the haze of time and the reality-distorting, visceral pain of complete, perfect recall.

Lora Mint is determined not to forget.

Though her mother’s been dead for five years, Lora struggles to remember every detail about her—most importantly, the specific events that occurred the night she sped off in her car, never to return.

But in a world ravaged by Vergets disease, a viral form of Alzheimer’s, that isn’t easy. Usually Lora is aided by her memory key, a standard-issue chip embedded in her brain that preserves memories just the way a human brain would. Then a minor accident damages Lora’s key, and her memories go haywire. Suddenly Lora remembers a moment from the night of her mother’s disappearance that indicates her death was no accident. Can she trust these formerly forgotten memories? Or is her ability to remember every painful part of her past driving her slowly mad—burying the truth forever?

Lora’s longing for her lost mother and journey to patch up her broken memories is filled with authentic and poignant emotion. Her race to uncover the truth is a twisty ride. In the end, Liana Liu’s story will spark topical conversations about memory and privacy in a world that is reliant on increasingly invasive forms of technology.

Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from HarperTeen via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

This book had a lot of potential to be something truly thought provoking and interesting, and for the most part, I was definitely intrigued and interested in what was going on and what Lora remembered about her mother.

The idea of Verget’s being a viral form of Alzheimer’s was very interesting to me. I wasn’t exactly sure how it would work, but I was definitely fascinated by the possibility of it. We think of Alzheimer’s as something that old people get, and that there’s no real virus or bacteria that causes it. Having Verget’s changes all that.

Lora has never doubted the fact that her mother died in a car crash on her way to work. That’s what she’s always believed and she’s trusted her father and Aunt Austin to have told her the truth about everything. When she gets a minor injury though, things go haywire and suddenly she’s forced to examine the idea that her mother’s death was no accident and that it was probably caused by the people at Keep Corp.

Then the questions continue to fly around her head, and she wonders who she can trust? Can she trust her longtime best friend Wendy and her brother, Tim, who Lora has had a crush on for years. Can she trust the new boy, Raul? Can she even trust her family? As the book continues on, she gets answers questions.

This book really could have been awesome if it weren’t for the very choppy pace of the book. The first 50% I found to be really slow and I nearly decided not to finish it. I was intrigued, but I wasn’t intrigued enough. Now the 2nd half of the book was a little better for me, but it was also increasingly choppy. Some parts were really intriguing and some parts were very boring which lead me to skim the book a little bit.

My feelings about this book are very conflicted. It wasn’t terrible, but I wouldn’t read it again. It was intriguing for a one time read. So I’m going to give it 3 stars. Maybe that’s a bit lazy, but I can’t give it anything else because it doesn’t fit any other rating. I would recommend it because the science fiction parts are interesting, but if you aren’t patient or if you hate books that are very choppy, then I’d skip it.