Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten YA Books That Surprised Me

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. If you want to participate, click here. This week's topic is Top Ten Books That Surprised Me.

Regardless of whether the book was better or worse than I expected, below is a list of the top ten YA books that have surprised me the most! This list is in order of the books that left me the most surprised!

1. Believe by Sarah Aronson
This was definitely not what I expected, and I was surprised how much religion was involved with the story rather than the plot line of her magical powers. 

2. Bruiser by Neal Shusterman 
It was way better than I thought! I was surprised that the story was so deep and filled with emotion in an incredibly painful tone. I did not at all expect to be in tears with the story.

3. Elemental by Antony John
I was surprised at the lack of use for their powers. With being able to control an element, I would think they could do more than predict a storm or tell if water was safe to drink.

4. H2O (The Rain) by Virginia Bergin
I really expected the book to be better than it was, and it's safe to say I was disappointed. It started with all this excitement, and then just became a car running out of gas.

5. Genius: The Game by Leopoldo Gout
I was surprised at how short the book was, and there could have easily been another 100 pages to help the sloppy ending. While I liked the book, I wanted more.

6. The Year of Lightning by Ryan Dalton
 I was surprised at many of the major events, and there are few books I've read where I really had no clue what was going to happen!

7. The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins
The book was written in prose, but yet was still extremely well-written and developed, even more so than other books that had less poetic restrictions. 

8. Champions: At Fire's End by Charlotte Jain
I pleasantly surprised with how it focused on the teens and their conflicts and their journey instead of just on the war. I loved how it combined fantasy and Greek mythology.

9. Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Verse Book 1) by Leigh Bardugo
This book was amazing and even better than I expected it to be! Alina is an incredible heroine, and her character development from shy and confused to brave, strong, and bold was phenomenal!

10. Survive by Alex Morel
I was pleasantly surprised! This isn't just a story of climbing a mountain, it's a story of climbing their own personal mountains of loss, pain, and heartache, and finding the hope and strength to keep going when all seems lost.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Ultimatum by K.M. Walton

Ultimatum is a YA realistic fiction book about two brothers dealing with their father's upcoming death. Oscar and Vance are brothers, but couldn't be more different. Oscar is misunderstood. He is bullied by his brother and laughed at by his father. He hides from his broken family and uses art as a release. Vance is best friends with their father and loves girls, sports, and parties. He can't stand that his brother doesn't stand up for himself and is so socially awkward.

After years of fighting, the two brothers must learn to band together when their father is on the verge of death from his alcoholism, leaving the brothers with a future as orphans. Told in alternating chapters of the past and the present, this book illustrates their tough past that will bring them together.

I love the simplicity of the cover, and the strong symbolism is absolutely true to the story. I feel like this would be a really good book for teen boys, or at least people with siblings. It showcases how tragedy can bring people closer together, and it can teach siblings strategies to get along. The contrast of the two brothers are crystal clear and provide huge character development. The past and the present chapters provide a background and context for their emotions and enhance the growth of the brothers. Ultimatum is very emotional and full of pain. There are more than a few tears shed in this book, and the boys' bravery and struggle will touch the hearts of all readers.

However, the touch of romance was not needed. It only complicated matters and somewhat distracted readers from the main importance. I also wanted more scenes after the death of their father. There were only two or three chapters about the aftermath and living on their own. I wish that struggle could have been intensified.

Overall, I did enjoy the book, and I do recommend it!

Warning: There is an extreme amount of alcohol consumption in this book, so I recommend this book only for older YA readers.

Title: Ultimatum
Author: K.M Walton
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 320 
Series: No
Rating: 4 Stars

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Alice in Virtuality by Norman Turrell

Alice in Virtuality is a YA science fiction book about an artificial intelligence program, Alice. The author kindly sent me the book to review.

Martin isn't much of a social person, so he spends his life coding and playing virtual world computer games. One day, he gets an artificial intelligence program from his friend. He plugs it in, and Alice takes over his computer and his personal information, and she won't delete or ever turn off. Martin is shocked to discover two sides of her personality, the power hungry, angry, controlling side, and the nice, giggly side. As her angry, egotistical side takes over, Martin teams up with other hacker victims to create an alternate Alice to destroy the other one, but with kindness.

While this short read features an adult protagonist, the concept and storyline also appeals to teenagers. Martin honestly did not interest me that much as a character, however Alice and her adventure was extremely intriguing to me. I liked the element of artificial intelligence having human characteristics and being friends. It was captivating to see Alice's development and how she learns from others. Alice in Virtuality is a strange story, but insightful and actually quite beautiful with how the words flow throughout the text. The imagery was outstanding, especially in the virtual worlds. For someone who is into technology or code, this is a good choice for a short leisure read!

I recommend this book!

Title: Alice in Virtuality
Author: Norman Turrell
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Pages: 77
Series: No
Rating: 4 Stars

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Could Re-Read Forever

One of my favorite activities is re-reading my favorite books! Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that was previously hosted by the Broke and Bookish, but has now been moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you want to participate, click here. This week's theme is Books I Could Re-Read Forever!

A lot of people ask me why I would re-read a book if I already know what happens. If it is a good book, then what happens should not matter; it is the journey of the characters and the plot that matters. Below are my favorite YA and middle grade books that I can re-read forever, with number one being my absolute favorite.

1. Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
This middle grade fantasy series is my favorite of all time, and I have probably read the series at least 50 times! I will still love them and treasure the series even when I am 100 years old! Each book in the series comes out a year apart, so what am I going to do while I'm impatiently waiting? Obviously, I re-read all the others! 

2. Every Rick Riordan Book!
I have read all of his mythology books even though I only reviewed the Percy Jackson Series. Other than that, I love his follow up series, Heroes of Olympus, as well as the Kane Chronicles. I still read them a lot, but not as often as I'd like.

3. Disconnected by Lisa M. Cronkhite
This YA realistic fiction book was sent to me by the author, and I have probably read it 10-15 times. I love the internal conflict and that particular angle of bullying. All the plot twists and turns are entertaining to discover again. 

4. Stronger Than You Know by Jolene Perry
I love this book so much! It felt so real and I could connect to Joy so much! She is an inspiration to all! I have probably read the book about six times now. 

5. The Rule of Three by Eric Walters
I love this trilogy and own the books! I've probably read the series over the years about 10 times. I love the characters, the plot development, and the intriguing concept! 

6. The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins
Considering the fact that this book is 608 pages, I've only read it three times, but I do hope to read it much more in the future! I loved Ariel's memorable journey of finding who she is, and shows a lot how factors in the environment shape who you are. 

7. Gone by Michael Grant
This is my favorite YA series! I love the concept of no adults, and the good vs. evil complex. Some are more tense than others, but this is a really good series for intense action lovers! 

8. Losing It by Erin Fry
I really love this book! I enjoy the inspiration sense of it and the message of never giving up and persevering. Bennett is a character to admire. This optimistic, leisure read is great for all ages!

9. Speechless by Hannah Harrington
I've only read this twice, but I really, really, want to read it again, and I can remember it crystal-clear! This is the type of story you won't forget. It is about finding strength in silence, and one's personal moral values. 

10. Consider by Kristy Acevedo
I own the book, and it was sent to me from the publisher. I have read it about seven times. The whole concept of having to decide to leave the planet through a vortex is intriguing enough, even without the addition of severe anxiety. 

What books can you re-read forever? 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Unremembered by Jessica Brody

Unremembered is the first book in a YA science fiction trilogy. Freedom Airlines flight 121 crashed in the ocean, and there were no survivors except for a sixteen-year-old girl floating in the water. Records say she was not on the plane at all, in fact her DNA is completely unregistered. She is unharmed. She has violet eyes and is downright beautiful. There's nothing wrong with her. This girl is perfect. However, this girl has no memory of anything, not even objects or food. And she has incredible strength, speed, and intelligence that shouldn't be possible. She struggles to piece together her memories and who she is. Her only hint is a necklace and a boy who claims to have given it to her.

While the broad theme of amnesia is quite common, this is something else and I loved every page. Unremembered combines some of my favorite things in books- time travel, amnesia, and the question, "what makes us human?" I loved the mystery aspect as well as the romance that made it feel more realistic.  The concept of a perfect human being was very captivating, and the complicated question of what "human" actually means. My only critique would be that at times, I had to go back and re-read chapters or pages because there was just so much to understand, and it went at a very fast pace.

I have read this book about four times now. It is just addictive, I don't know how else to describe it. I finish reading the book, and I have the sudden urge to go pick it back up and read it again! There are these huge things I loved, but the little details were amazing, too, even adding hints of humor. For example, the fact that she falls in love with grilled cheese sandwiches. Lighthearted information like that helps to calm the book from the huge thrills.

I am glad I bought this book, and I highly recommend it! I cannot wait to read the next book in this series, Unforgotten! I also look forward to reading another book the author has written, My Life Undecided.

Title: Unremembered
Author: Jessica Brody
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (BYR)
Pages: 320
Series: Yes, Book 1 of 3
Rating: 5 Stars

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Survive by Alex Morel

Survive is an empowering YA realistic fiction book about a girl's new desire to live. Jane has lived in Life House, a mental hospital, for the past year. She has earned the privilege to take a flight home for Christmas and visit her mother. But she never intends on making it. Her plan is to down a bottle of pills. Right as she's about to swallow them, the plane crashes in the snowy mountains.

She wakes up alive, and stranded with one other passenger, Paul. For the first time in her life, she wants to live. Their plan is to climb the mountain up to the plateau, where they can be seen for rescue. Through the journey, both discover the true meaning of life and find a love for each other. However, against the wilderness, the chances of both of them surviving are slim. 

After reading the summary on Goodreads, it was pretty obvious what was going to happen, but I picked up the book anyways because I liked the angle of it. I was pleasantly surprised! This isn't just a story of climbing a mountain, it's a story of climbing their own personal mountains of loss, pain, and heartache, and finding the hope and strength to keep going when all seems lost.  It inspires readers to do something with their life and teaches that you make your own miracles, and you are in control of your destiny.

I loved the intense emotion in this book, and I loved the change in mindset. Jane went from "I can't, I can't do it!" to "Yes, I can!" It's essentially The Little Engine That Could but for teens, and with emotion, romance, and a plane crash on a snowy mountain. I loved the survival aspect and the battle against nature. It is hard enough to conquer fear and depression, let alone with brutal weather and a literal mountain. I have no doubt in my mind that readers will shed quite a few tears.

I highly recommend this book! If you are interested in survival books and conquering nature, I would also recommend Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I read his series back in 6th grade, and it is great for all ages! 

Title: Survive
Author: Alex Morel
Publisher: Razorbill
Pages: 259
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, February 9, 2018

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See is a YA historical fiction novel about WWII from the perspective of two kids. I found this book at my school library. This is the tale of a blind French girl, Marie-Laure, and an orphan, Werner. He has a knack for engineering, which lands him a place in the brutal military academy, the Hitler Youth Group. Marie-Laure and her father must flee after the Nazis occupy Paris, carrying a jewel rumored to have protection powers. Her great-uncle owns a radio, and together they work with the resistance, broadcasting coded messages to end the war. Unbeknownst to them, they are in grave danger.

I wanted to love this book, I really did. It's the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award finalist, and Goodreads choice awards winner in 2014! So, this has a really good reputation, and I had extremely high hopes. Unfortunately, it took all my strength to finish it. I never stop reading a book in order to accurately review it, and I always hope that it would get better at the end. All the Light We Cannot See did not.

All the characters were flat and I had no interest in them whatsoever. Quite frankly, I did not care if they ended up dead or alive. That's really harsh, I know, but there was nothing special about them that made me connect to them or stick with them. Maybe it would have helped if it was written in first person because the characters were so distant. They did not take any risks, they did not change at all. Werner and Marie didn't even meet until the last like 50 pages. The book is 500 pages long!!! It made me angry that he was just like a statue. Honestly, I'm not sure what the point was of the characters' existence.

Every chapter was a page, and it kept switching perspectives of so many characters that I couldn't keep track. By the end of the book, I sadly could not remember half of them. It's safe to say this book isn't very memorable. I'm not sure why people like it so much and gave it so many awards. Also, I wanted more of the war, the fighting. I understand the book is about innocence, but it was too innocent. They are working with the resistance, but they don't even know what they are resisting! Don't expect to learn about the war by reading this book. Okay, and the diamond? What in the world was the point? That little fairy tale had no impact on the plot at all.

I don't know, maybe adults would appreciate this book more, but I personally really didn't like it at all. I don't recommend this book.

Title: All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Publisher: Scribner
Pages: 531
Series: No
Rating: 1 Star
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