After The End (After The End, #1)

First Lines: I crouch low to the ground, pressing my back to the ancient spruce tree, and raise my crossbow in one hand.

I picked this up off the “New” shelf at the library, but I was reluctant to read it right away because I wasn’t ready for another dystopia.  However, in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have waited.  C’est la vie.

World War III destroyed the world thirty years ago.  Some luck people managed to escape to the Alaskan wilderness.  Juneau is the daughter of a couple survivors.  She loves her life in Alaska, spending her time hunting and learning to lead her clan.  But after Juneau goes on a hunting trip, she comes back to discover her clan has completely disappeared…and she’s going to bring them back.  For the first time, she’s leaving the confines of her village, venturing further than she ever has before.  And what she finds is that World War III never happened.  The world is still intact.  Everything she knew is a lie.  Adrift in a world she never knew existed, Juneau needs to find her family and friends without being caught by the people who are hunting her.

Kind of an interesting premise, right?  It really does start off like a good dystopia, only the throw that nice little twist in there that the end of the world never actually happened.  That part worked out really well in the story, just saying.

Juneau is a very interesting character.  She’s resilient, intelligent, and independent.  She’s a survivor at heart.  I admired her bravery, going into a world she didn’t understand at all.  She was going to get her family and clan back, and that was that.  Determined.  I love a strong heroine like that.

There’s also another character in the story who’s pretty cool.  Miles.  (And when chapter 2 is titled “Miles”, it means it’s from his perspective.  It’s not a chapter heading, like I initially thought it was.  Threw me way off.)  I don’t want to say too much about him, but suffice it to say he’s a pretty strong hero in his own right.  And I can’t blame him for thinking Juneau was coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs.

Thankfully, this story had a complicated plot.  (Unlike the last story I read.)  There are a few overlapping missions in the story, secrets Juneau doesn’t know about, and things neither Juneau nor Miles understand.  It was fun to watch them try to figure everything out.

I also like that I wasn’t able to figure out everything in this story.  What I mean is that I don’t know where the sequel is going to go from here.  And that’s fabulous because the twists are so much fun.

Once again, Amy Plum doesn’t disappoint.  This was such a fun read, one with mystery and action and two vastly different upbringings coming together.

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Half Bad (Half Life, #1)

First Lines: There’s these two kids, boys, sitting close together, squished in by the big arms of an old chair.  You’re the one on the left.

One of my friends has been pushing me to read this for a while (mostly because she got the book for free and wanted to know how it was).  And I admit, it was a book I was pretty excited about myself.

Nathan was born half bad, or so the White Witches say.  Nathan is half White Witch, half Black Witch.  No one knows if he’s actually bad or if he’s good inside.  Few are willing to find out.  He’s been kept in a cage since age 14, as everyone assumes he’ll take after his Black Witch father.  But Nathan doesn’t want to be bad.  He wants to be good, good enough for Annalise, the White Witch girl he may love.  But how can Nathan prove he’s not dangerous when no one is giving him a chance?  Is he really evil after all?

You guys, I have seriously mixed feelings about this book.  I’m constantly flipping back and forth between “That wasn’t too bad” and “Oh my God, what was the point of that?”  Hopefully, I can explain that better in the coming paragraphs.

One of the hardest things to get through was the use of 2nd person narration.  Oh my.  No.  Just no.  Books should never ever use 2nd person narration.  (If you’re confused on what 2nd person is, it’s when someone says “You sit on the fluffy chair, then you turn and talk to the woman on your left.”)  The book starts out this way and then has one random chapter that uses it again after that.  I didn’t understand why it was used, nor do I understand why anyone would want to do that in the first place.  Ugh.  Pet peeve.  2nd person works great for giving directions, not for stories.

Also, it took a long time for anything to happen.  It spends quite a while in flashback mode, giving us Nathan’s life story.  Which is fine, we needed it, but it was so slow.  The prologue tells us what’s happening in the present, and I just wanted to get back to that, not spend 100 pages going on about Nathan’s awful sister.

Eventually, though, things did pick up.  It got more exciting once we got back to the present.  Once Nathan’s life gets more dangerous, the action picks up.  And after that, it was a lot easier to read.

But still…I couldn’t determine what exactly the plot was.  You know how sometimes you watch an action movie and can’t quite pin down what it’s about besides big explosions?  That’s pretty much what this book was.  Lots of fighting, bad guys, and action, but I couldn’t tell you what it’s about beyond that.

Generally, I liked the premise of this book.  The author uses a Shakespeare quote, but I thought it was more of a “nature vs. nurture” thing.  With Nathan being half and half, he could really fall one way or the other on things.  It’s just interesting to see how those around him deal with that, what they think.  It really shows more about them than it does about Nathan, and that was cool.

There were a lot of problems that I think could be attributed to a debut author rather than real issues with the story.  I mean, I’m willing to give some benefit of the doubt there.  Like how the setting is really never defined.  It’s a lot of forests and countrysides, but it’s never really made clear that this is supposed to be England.

It was a rough read at times, and a fun one at others.  In some ways, I guess you could say it was a lot like Nathan, half bad.  Oh my, I swear, I had an even worse pun on my Goodreads review but I can’t stop saying them!

Truly, Madly, Deadly

First Lines: “Thank you for coming.”  The words rose and fell on the soft pile carpet, and Sawyer wondered whether she should brush the small ball of fuzz from Kevin’s earlobe.  It stuck there, stark and white against the dark navy blue of his suit.

So here’s the story behind my finding this book.  The last 2-3 trips I’ve taken to the library, I’ve seen this on the shelf, but I never grabbed it because I’d not heard of it before.  Finally, I just took it and decided that I wasn’t going to look at any online reviews or ratings before I read it.  This was going to be entirely what I thought of it, free of outside opinions.

Sawyer Dodd is a straight-A student, star track athlete, and girlfriend to the most popular boy in school, Kevin Anderson.  When Kevin dies in a car crash, Sawyer is in shock.  But it was just an accident, right?  That’s what Sawyer thinks until she opens her locker and finds a note that says, “You’re welcome.”  Someone knows that Kevin and Sawyer weren’t the perfect couple they pretended to be.  And that someone is now shadowing Sawyer’s every move…

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a mystery/thriller and it was really fun to come back to that.  I was constantly aware of how my heart was racing just enough to be noticeable.  Plus, I loved trying to figure out who the stalker was.  There are so many possible suspects and weeding through them was great fun.  I’ve missed that.

The pacing of the story is really quick, which was great for building suspense.  Something was nearly always happening in the story.  Like boom-boom-boom.  Which was so great after my last read, in which nothing ever seemed to happen.  Lovely change of pace.

The downside to the quick pacing was that I felt a lot of character development and normal story details were lost to keep the action up.  Which I understand to a degree, but I had a hard time connecting with Sawyer beyond a simple sympathy bond.  All that stuff in the description about her being a star athlete and a straight-A student really isn’t anywhere in the story.  Oh sure, it’s implied a couple of times, but it’s never clear that’s what she is.  I don’t really feel like I know her beyond that.  She’s the main female in a horror film.

And I’m a little iffy on when exactly the story is supposed to be set.  At least where I’m from, track season is in the spring, but this made it seem like it was set in the fall.  I can’t tell if that’s a mistake or sports seasons are different in different states.  So that bothered me a little.

The story was surprisingly funny at times.  I appreciated that that was in the story because it helped keep it from being too melodramatic and suspenseful.

Overall, I thought it was a thrilling, suspenseful read.  But just don’t look too close to the story.  This is more about the cheap thrill than the close reading.

Altered (Crewel World, #2)

First Lines: They abandoned Earth.  Men left their homes and their shops.  They deserted the streets to crack and scatter into the soil, renouncing dominion over the world and rejecting their own progress for the promise of the new and the next.

This was another case of “Geez, how long’s it been since I read the book before this?”  Sigh.  I really need to work on that.  Well, at any rate, I’m caught up now.

*Potential Spoilers Ahead*

Earth certainly wasn’t what Adelice expected it to be.  While most of it is in ruins, it’s far from deserted.  But it’s a dangerous place still.  Cormac Patton isn’t giving up on having Adelice, so he’s sent Remnants to hunt her.  It’s not easy for Adelice to trust anyone.  Secrets are as common as the ruins, all kept for different reasons.  Some secrets are meant to protect those they love, others can tear friends and families apart.  Torn between two brothers, Adelice has to figure out who–and what–she’s willing to fight for.

This wasn’t nearly as good as I was hoping it would be.  Like, not even close.  I was flat out bored with this book.  BORED.  As in this book nearly put me to sleep on three separate occasions, which is so unlike me.  While some people read right before they go to bed because it makes them tired, it makes me wired.  I can’t read right before bed or I can’t sleep.  But this book could’ve knocked me out in 10 minutes.  This was a legitimate issue.

And Adelice…she could barely make a decision to save her life.  Every single issue she faced was met with loads of indecision, panic, and finally making a decision (sometimes).  Other times, she just completely avoided the issue and the story let it go. What?

Perhaps the most frustrating of Adelice’s indecision was the love triangle.  My God.  It drove me batty.  I don’t really like love triangle anyway (unless the two boys happen to be named Will and Jem), so this felt like torture.  And while it was actually done somewhat respectfully of both boys’ feelings, it was, again, boring.  I didn’t really feel anything for anyone.

Really, the only redeeming thing about this book was the last 40 or so pages.  Finally, things started happening.  Hallelujah, right?  But 40 pages really doesn’t do much to counteract 340 other pages.

Overall, I shall sum this up in one word: Ugh.  It was a painful read, one that I almost didn’t finish anyway.  Characters aren’t sympathetic, the action was mostly nonexistent, and it was incredibly boring.  Unless you’re a fan of the series, I suggest skipping this.

Top Ten Books About Summer

So this is new, right?  Yes!  See, lately, I’ve been wanting to share SO much stuff with you guys, and I figured I just needed to pick something and go for it.  I’m hoping this bit will be pretty regular, but we’ll see how good my memory is this summer.  And speaking of summer, I thought the best place to start would be with books about summer!  So if you’re looking for something for the beach, maybe these are worth a look!

(These are in no particular order.  I hate picking favorites!  Also, each titled is linked to its Goodreads page, so I don’t have to go through what each book is about.  If you’re interested, click away!)

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

As many of you well know, I read this book not too long ago.  It’s probably going to be the read of the summer for a lot of people.  It’s so amazing.  I’m pretty sure I laughed, cried, giggled, and everything else in between.  There are beaches (well, lake beaches) in this story and a seriously cute lead male.  It’s the story of a girl trying to discover who she is in the midst of what she thought was going to be the worst summer ever…but it’s not.  Go read it!

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

This. Book. Is. Adorable.  It’s set in the summer before Remy starts college, which is a place I think a lot of readers are in right now.  It’s a cute read with cute guys and a lot of really thought-provoking stuff.  I love this book.  So maybe there aren’t any beaches in this story, that I can remember, but put this on your to-read list if you’ve never read it.  Seriously.

All I Need by Susane Colasanti

Beaches and soul mates!  This cover just screams summer, doesn’t it?  This is a really fast read at just over 200 pages.  So if you’re looking for something quick, this is probably the fastest read on this list.  However, it’s not all fluff.  This actually covers a few serious topics while still managing to have fun summer scenes.  There’s also a touch of college in this as well, if you’re an older reader of YA.  I know I really appreciated that when I read it.

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

This is one of those easy to read, feel good stories.  Set in Maine, it’s about a normal girl who gets an email from someone…who happens to be a movie star.  I’m a sucker for those kind of books.  It does have its moments of seriousness, but mostly it’s just hot days, a hot guy, and beaches.  And some ice cream.  Yay summer!

Effortless With You by Lizzy Charles

This was one that the author gave me to read in exchange for a review and I just fell in love.  It’s freaking adorable.  Sigh.  It’s not the summer Lucy had pictured for herself, but what can she do?  She’s got to get a summer job.  There are definitely hot guys in this story, as well as some funny moments, sweet moments, and surprises.  But no beaches that I can recall.  Still, high school, summer jobs, and guys.  Summer!

Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson

This is the only supernatural book on this list…and the first on this list that takes place in a foreign country!  Norway, to be precise.  If you’re a fan of Norse mythology, I recommend looking into this.  Ellie’s going to Norway to spend the summer with her Grandmother, only to get enmeshed in a battle bigger than she could ever imagine.  It’s really cool.  And for the record, hot guys but no beaches.  And the only downside to this book is that it’s clearly meant to be part of a series, but the sequel is not released/has absolutely no information available about it.

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Yes, this is the 2nd Morgan Matson novel on this list.  I’m a fangirl for her.  This story is so well-rounded.  And just as a warning, this book will make you cry.  It’s easy to read, yeah, but it’s a tear-jerker.  I adored this.  It has so many great characters and themes.  And beaches and hot guys.  Can’t forget those, can we?  But maybe this isn’t the best beach read simply because you’ll be so absorbed in the book you’ll forget you’re at the beach!  (That would be me, and then I’d look like a lobster.)

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

I first read this book four years ago.  And it’s just one of those books that sums up summer romances so well.  Waiting all winter long just to see your summer crush(es) again.  While I still find Belly’s name to be odd and slightly disturbing, I really like her as a character.  And seriously, what’s not to like about Jeremiah and Conrad?  Swoon-worthy boys and beaches make this an awesome summer read, even if you’ve read it before.  And why let the fun end with this book?  It’s a trilogy!

My Faire Lady by Laura Wettersten

Since I just finished reading this recently, I’m a little biased still.  It was super adorable and unique.  I mean, a Renaissance Faire?  Dude.  It’s such a cute tale of a girl struggling to heal a broken heart and the many people she meets at her summer job.  While there may not be beaches in this summer read, there are still super cute guys, bonfires, and sass.  (Give me the first and the third and I’m good.)

Cruel Summer by Alyson Noel

I threw this one on the list mostly because of its setting more than anything.  Greece!  Summer in Greece!  I particularly enjoy books that let me travel the world, so this was nice for that.  And it’s a fish-out-of-water tale as Colby adjusts to her summer in Greece with basically no modern technology.  Again, swoon-worthy boys and beaches!

In Which I Gush About Buying Books and John Green

Hello, lovelies!  I know I don’t normally do this, but there are just some times I feel I need to share some things with you.  And I’m on cloud 9 right now with my books.

The Book Sale

See, one of the perks of being an English teacher is that I have a legitimate reason to scope out incredible sales and not feel bad in the least when I walk away with more books than I can carry.  That is quite literally how I spent my Sunday.

A friend of mine (also an English teacher) invited me to go with her to a big used book sale about two hours from my house.  And this thing was HUGE.  There were probably at least 1,000 YA books to choose from.  (And if you wanted the Twilight series, you were in luck; they had at least two dozen copies of each book.)  The best part was that since this was the last day of the sale, everything was half off.  The original price of everything was $2 maximum.  So with that discount, NO BOOK WAS MORE THAN $1.  I think it was about this point that I started singing, “Heaven.  I’m in heaven.”  (Ahem.  My Frank Sinatra side is coming out.)

It was epically awesome.  My friend and I spent 2.5 hours looking through all the books as thoroughly as we possibly could.  We eventually had to get a cart because between the two of us, we couldn’t carry all the books we’d chosen.  By the time we left, I had 27 books in my possession…all for a grand total of just less than $20.  You have no idea how much of a giddy six-year-old I was on the inside.

And these weren’t just like, old classic YA and children’s books.  Sure, I snagged copies of Johnny Tremain (1943) and The House of Dies Drear (1900) (which my 5th grade teacher read to my class).  I also got books like Wings of the Wicked (Angelfire, #2) as a hardback for $1, Catching Jordan, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and The Half-Life of Planets.  Sorry, I’m fixated on this price thing.  Normally, I can never find deals this good!  I nearly screamed when I saw Catching Jordan.  It was in my hands faster than lightning strikes.  I’m pretty sure I started shaking with excitement.

A lot of the books I picked up are books I haven’t read in years or have never read but have heard about.  My goal for July is to try to get through them instead of getting library books because for the first time in a while, I’m really excited about the books I want to read.  My routine of going to the library and picking out what they have that’s on my to-read list has been getting a little stale.  A change is greatly appreciated.

John Green

If you missed it, John Green was on The Colbert Report last night, and it was hilarious.  (Here’s the link for the interview.)  I’m a fan of Colbert as well as Green, and this was just so awesome to see both of them together.  There were some really golden quotes to come out of it.  I’ve already seen on Twitter that @PenguinTeen is already making graphics for it, like this one.

Isn’t this so funny and true?  This is why I love YA.  We’re like our own little fan club.  The funny thing was, it wasn’t even Green who said this, but Colbert.

Other highlights from the interview include John talking about his time in Starbucks as he wrote The Fault in Our Stars, John describing how long it takes to write a book, and discussing if John is, in fact, a cult leader.  I giggled myself silly during this, and I wasn’t the only one.  Also from Twitter, Gayle Forman said she about spit her coffee out laughing at it.

That’s a wrap!  If I have any more awesome book news (personal like the book sale or bigger, like the John Green interview), I will be sure it share it!

The Sweetest Spell

First Lines: I was born a dirt-scratcher’s daughter.  I had no say in the matter.  No one asked, “Wouldn’t you rather be born to a cobbler or a bard?  How about a nobleman or a king?  Are you certain that dirt-scratching is the right job for you?”

On Goodreads, I constantly make a random list of 20 books that I want to give higher priority to reading.  There’s not really much of a reason for this except it gives me a goal.  And a lot of times, I end up reading books I would have forgotten about otherwise.  Like this book.

As a dirt-scratcher, Emmeline’s life has been far from easy.  But still, she’s managed to avoid death twice.  The first was as a newborn baby and the second was after her entire town was washed away in a flood.  Alone, Emmeline struggles to find what to do with herself and accidentally discovers she can turn cream into chocolate, a sweet more precious than gold.  Now, everyone wants Emmeline when just months before, she was the most unwanted girl in all of Anglund.  But all Emmeline wants is Owen Oak, the dairyman’s son.  His kindness and slow smiles made her believe someone could love her for her.  None of this matters, though, if Emmeline falls into the wrong hands.  They care only about the chocolate, not the cost…no matter what it does to Emmeline.

So I heard that this was a retelling of The Ugly Duckling.  I can see that, and this book absolutely has a fairy tale feel to it, but it never really seemed like it was that close to the source material.  Of course, Emmeline isn’t actually a duckling so…

I really liked that this did feel like a fairy tale.  It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve found a fairy tale I could really fall into.  (I just read Cruel Beauty like a week ago, but they feel completely different in tone.)  This had all kinds of typical fairy tale lore, magic, and sweetness (chocolate!) that I associate with fairy tales.  You know, the sanitized ones, not the Grimm ones.  Anyway, it was a nice break from what I have been reading lately.

I think the premise is really cool.  I loved the idea of chocolate being worth something more than gold.  (Some days in my house, that feels like the truth.)  The story was mostly just fun and lighthearted, even though there were moments of seriousness in it. I flew through it.

There were some issues, though.  Some of the characters felt stereotyped.  The “villains” in particular.  They were one-dimensional and cliched.  I didn’t really know what to do about that.

Also, I started losing interest in the story somewhere around the halfway point.  It had my interest right up until that point and then I felt like it lost its magic.  The pace started to slog and I’d take frequent breaks before I came back to read again.  That kept up for a while before I finally got into it again for the ending.

Overall, it’s a cute fairy tale read.  There’s just not a whole lot of depth to the story.