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I blog about writing journey: the creative process, book reviews, inspiration, the writing process, publishing, and so much more.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart Book Review

Genre: YA Contemporary, Mystery

My Rating: 5/5 stars


Quick Blurb:


The hook that comes with this book perfectly captures the mystery surrounding the story, so I’m just going to copy and paste it:


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. 


Read it.

And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.”


My Thoughts:


This. Is. Such. A. Good. Book. Though the story is fascinating on its own, what makes it stand out above almost every single book I’ve read in the past ten years (literally) is the way E. Lockhart structures the novel. 


Simply put: it’s beautifully written.


There were a couple things, in particular, that I really love about the writing.  E Lockhart personifies Cadence’s emotions throughout the story in ways that I had never even though to accurately describe feelings.  (No spoilers in this review, though, so I can’t give you any examples.  Sorry.)


Another thing I really loved was his use of fairytales. It’s genius.  He breaks the mold of traditional storytelling by interjecting Cadence’s story with these fairytales that change with how much Cadence remembers about that mysterious summer at the current time.


Cadence’s voice keeps the story cryptic in the best way possible.  The reader doesn’t really know why she has these memory gaps until the very end.  When the big reveal happened for me, it just blew my mind.  I put this book back on my TBR shelf, in fact, because I wanted to read it again knowing the full truth.


I recommend this book to everyone.  Go get it.  Now.  And until you do, make sure no one spoils the ending for you.  This book is best read with knowing hardly anything about the actual plot (which is why this review has been so vague on that front). 


But anyway, you must go read this masterpiece for yourself. 

Source: http://ryanndannelly.blogspot.com

Everything Leads to You by Nina Lacour Review

Everything Leads to You by Nina Lacour


Genre: YA Contemporary, GLBT

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Check it out HERE


Quick Blurb:


Emi might have just graduated high school, but she’s already made a name for herself as a set designer in the Hollywood film world.  When shopping for set props, she and her friend discover an old letter from a movie legend to a mysterious girl.  Emi wants to track her down, but all she has is a first name: Ava.  What starts as a quest to find her turns into an adventure of its own once Ava steps into their lives.


My Thoughts:


What a fun and charming summer read.  I flew through the pages and really enjoyed going on Emi’s journey with her.  If you’re looking for light contemporary reads for the summer, this is definitely a book to pick up. 


What makes it stand out from other YA contemporaries is the setting.  It’s entirely set in the Hollywood film world.  The reader is taken behind the scenes with Emi’s job to see all the effort and thought that goes into how movie sets are constructed.  I had never really put much focus into looking at set designs when watching movies until now. 


Emi’s world is a neat one to jump into for a fresh perspective, plus I really enjoyed her voice.  It’s a wonderful story with excellent writing on Nina Lacour’s part.  If you’re a fan of YA contemporaries, check this one out before the summer is through because, let’s be honest, a nice light contemporary adventure pairs perfectly with the summer time. 


(Also on a side note, the cover is gorgeous.  Am I right?) 

Source: http://ryanndannelly.blogspot.com

Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park Book Review

Genre: YA contemporary 

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Check it out HERE


Quick Blurb:


It's senior year of high school and Celeste Watkins feels completely alienated.  Her speech is far too formal, her social skills are anything but normal, and she's too smart for her own good--a combination that's made her retreat into herself, shying away from the world.


But Celeste is determined that college will be her fresh start.  As her college search begins, she meets Justin Milano, a college sophomore.  Sure he doesn't attend any of the Ivy League schools fawning over her transcript, but there's something about his persistence and personality that keeps Celeste from immediately shutting him out.  He's a misfit too, dealing with his own set of peculiar quirks.  Maybe--just maybe--she's finally met her match, that's if she's willing to finally let someone in. 


My Thoughts:


What a cute and addictive read!  I flew through this book in less than a day.  I love a good charming YA contemporary with characters that are actually relatable to me, which Jessica Park once again so wonderfully creates in her newest book.  


Celeste and Justin are everything I want in a misfit story: they're awkward, goofy, intelligent weirdoes that can't seem to properly fit in with the teenagers around them.  By that standard, the three of us would get along swimmingly.  


Park makes the reader want to embrace these quirks, which is something that should be preached much more often. It's time the outcasts were the lead of the show!  In most novels, Celeste and Justin would have be reduced to secondary characters for their peculiar-ness, but here, they get center stage.


I couldn't help but root for them.  I had gotten to know Celeste quite well in Flat-Out Love.  In fact, she was one of my favorite characters in the initial book.  So when I heard that Park was writing a book from Celeste's POV, I was thrilled.  


[Note: Flat-Out Celeste is a companion novel.  You don't have to have read Flat-Out Love to jump right in, but come on people, go check out the first one if you haven't already.  It's just as awesome!]


Once again, what really makes Park's newest novel stand out is how she captures the essence of teenagers nowadays.  The email exchange between Celeste and Justin is just too perfect.  The dialogue [whether that be online or in person] is so spot on.  It's honest, natural, and just the right amount of awkward.


If you like YA contemporaries, this is definitely a book to add to your summer reading list.  There's nothing overly complex about the language or story, but it works nonetheless.  You'll fly through this book, getting captured in Celeste's story, just as much as I was.

Source: http://ryanndannelly.blogspot.com

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes Book Review

Genre: Book Club/Contemporary/Romance/Chick Lit/Drama

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Check out the book HERE


Short Blurb:


After a motorcycle accident, Will Traynor is left as a quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair. He stops working and becomes utterly isolated, staying cooped up in a house on his parents' property. Now two years later, Will has even less of a desire to live.  He's given up.  But his family has other plans.  His mother hires Louisa "Lou" Clark to be his caretaker, giving her a sixth month contract.  Little does Lou know that her contract coincides with the amount of time Will has agreed to postpone his planned assisted suicide.  


When Lou uncovers this truth, she becomes convinced that she can change his mind, if only she can orchestrate the right string of adventures.  She's determined to show him that even as a quadriplegic, his life deserves to be lived, not ended.  Her attempts might point to a happy and potentially romantic ending for the two of them, but then again, sometimes even love isn't a good enough reason to simply keep existing. 


My Thoughts:


Wow. Just wow.  Even nearly three weeks removed from finishing the book, my mind is still reeling from the story.  I couldn't put this book down when reading, flying through the pages, dreading the day when Lou's six month contract ended, knowing that only then would Will make his final decision.


The writing throughout this story is wonderful.  For being such a heavy story at it's core, it's also incredibly entertaining and funny, which just shows that even in life's most dire situations, moments of lighthearted happiness can always be found.  


Moyes finds an excellent balance between the dark and light in this story.  Lou and her family's situation provide the bulk of the humor, but even the conversations between Will and Lou are sprinkled with black humor.  


So trust me on this one, if your reservation to this book have to do with the idea that you don't want to read a sad depressing story, then your reasoning is completely and entirely wrong.  This book is so much more than that (just as one might say a story about a cancer patient is so much more than the cancer...well the same thing applies for a book about assisted suicide).


The characters of Lou and Will counter each other so well.  Both are strong stubborn people who become dependent on each other (one for his most basic human needs and the other for financial reasons). Essentially, they are two sides of the same coin.  Neither have true life ambitions anymore, which allows them to play so well off each other.  Lou becomes the only person to treats him like a person.  She'll call him out when he's being a jackass and not shy away from trying to hurt his feelings because he's a quadriplegic.


Although the book is technically labeled as a romance, I view it as something much more greater than that.  In my mind, it's not so much a romance, but more of a story about how sometimes in life, you're dealt a shitty hand of cards and it's up to you to figure out what to make of them and what's worth fighting for.


What made this book so strong is the way it tackles Will's belief that it's his right to die.  The reader gets to see different perspectives to understand where each person is coming from.  It makes it so that the reader can't just automatically judge the characters by their decisions (or sometimes lack there of).


Even now, I find myself thinking about whose perspective I agree with the most.  Is it better to help a person you love end their life if its what they truly want or is it better to force them to live for selfish reasons? ...I just don't know.


This book will make you think about what you might do in this situation.  It certainly will make you have second thoughts about judging other's decisions.  This book should not only be read by people interested in the whole right to die/assisted suicide discussion.  It's a wonderful story that deserves to be read.

Source: http://ryanndannelly.blogspot.com

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz Book Review

Genre: YA Contemporary/GLTB

My Rating: 5/5 stars


Quick Blurb:


Ari and Dante have nothing in common.  Ari is a moody teenager far too comfortable with silence and solitude.  His brother is in prison and his family refuses to talk about it.  Dante, on the other hand, is a know-it-all who says whatever he feels and who has a peculiar way of seeing the world.  But when the two of them randomly meet one summer's day, it sparks a deep and powerful friendship.  


This coming-of-age story is all about Ari and Dante's friendship and how that friendship grows and changes as the two of them discover their own identities and come into their sexuality. 


My Thoughts:


This is one of the most beautifully written contemporary coming-of-age stories I've ever read.  This is a love story at its core, but it's not a traditional love story.  It's a love story about learning to love and accept yourself, your family, your friends, and your heart.


The book is from Ari's first-person narrative, which I really liked.  He's brutally honest about some things, but will shy away from the truths of other thinks, like most people do when the truth is too much to confront at the time.  Through Ari's voice, the reader also gets to know and understand Dante, the one person that Ari doesn't really understand but whom he's fascinated by.  I fell in love with Ari and Dante as characters.


I really enjoyed both sets of parents in this book as well.  In a lot of YA books, the story doesn't become too involved with the parents, which tends to keep them sort of two dimensional.  But not this book.  For the most part, when Ari and Dante aren't spending their time together, they're spending it with their parents.  The parents add so much to this story.  They each have distinct voices, thoughts, problems, and story arcs.  


What makes this book stand out the most, however, is the writing.  It's utterly perfect.  It's poetic, lyrical, philosophical, and totally captures the essence of these two boys.  Although the writing is simple and the chapters tend to be short, there's a lyrical quality to it.   


The pacing is relatively slow.  Not much happens in the story.  There's not really even a plot in this book.  These two boys are just coming into themselves in their own time.  It's a character driven story about love, friendship, family, and their Latino culture.


The ending is perfect. The way this story comes to a close is just the cherry on top of a wonderful book.  There were tears of happiness and a wonderful grin plastered across my face during those last few pages.  Everything about this story is incredible.  I couldn't put the book down (and clearly judging by this review, I simply loved it).


Anyone and everyone that enjoys YA contemporaries should definitely check out this book.  The story focuses on two Latino families and dapples in the GLTB genre, so readers outside of the YA contemporary, that might be your in too.  But really, just go pick up this book, everyone and anyone.  I promise you'll enjoy it!

Source: http://ryanndannelly.blogspot.com

White Space by Ilsa J. Bick Book Review

I received this review copy from Andye at Reading Teen, which is a YA book blog.  They had too many books to review and so they sent this one to me.  Thanks!  And thank you Egmont for the review copy!


White Space by Ilsa J. Bick


Genre: YA fiction/sci-fi/horror

My Ratings: 3/5 stars


Quick Blurb:


In this story, reality is blurred with a terrifying world that exists in the white space of an unfinished manuscript.  It follows 17-year-old Emma, who possesses the strange ability to blink away from her life and drop into the lives of other people.  She doesn’t think anything of it until she writes a story for class titled, “White Space,” about a bunch of kids stranded in a scary house on a mountain during a blizzard.  But it turns out it’s not her story.  The story is an almost exact replica of an unfinished novel written by a long-dead writer.  The dead writer’s manuscript is a mixture of The Matrix meets Inception meets Inkheart in which the characters fall out of their books and jump off the pages.  Just like Emma does.


Is Emma nothing more than another character that blinks her way into different lives?  Before Emma can figure it out, she is dropped into the very story of “White Space,” trapped in the snowy valley.  There, she meets the other kids, also trapped, who possess strange abilities and hide dark secrets of their own.  It seems that this group of misfits may be nothing more than characters, created from an alternate universe, brought to this house for a specific purpose.  They must discover the truth before someone else pens their demise. 


My Thoughts:


This book deals with some really interesting concepts.  It’s highly creative and inventive, weaving together a rich plot with a lot of different characters. The plot is what makes this story stand out against other books in this genre.  It’s exciting, horrifying, and extremely gory at times, which kept my skin crawling and made me extremely glad I wasn’t a part of the book.  


This is a plot and world driven story.  The character development isn’t as important as figuring out what the hell is happening on this mountain and why something or someone is trying to kill these children who may or may not be real.


I did, however, have some problems with this book that kept me from giving it 4 or 5 stars.  During much of the story, I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on.  It’s a confusion read (for a while at least), as the reader is essentially thrown into this story without any explanation, which is fine in my mind, but that confusion remained for a solid chunk of the book.


There are frequent POV changes, without any hint as to when the next change will occur.  Sometimes it’s at the end of a chapter, but other times, it changes after five paragraphs, or even in the middle of a sentence.  Although this keeps the plot moving at a rapid pace, it does make it challenging for the reader to get to know the characters.


Bick structures this story in a way that’s supposed to build mysteries and suspense, which is great, but the lack of answers to the endless questions for the majority of the 500-page book started to frustrate me after a while.  I was left floundering along, trying to keep from drowning in the mysteries of the story. 


However, I was really glad that I kept reading as the payoff at the end is well worth it.


Bick’s writing is excellently polished and detailed (especially when describing anything horrifying or gory).  I don’t exactly know if I would qualify this as a YA book, though.  I think it’s more general fiction/sci-fi/horror where the main characters just happen to be younger. Readers of fantastical mysteries and detailed horror stories should check out this book.  Be ready to dive headfirst into this world and hold on as the story gets going!

Source: http://ryanndannelly.blogspot.com

Where She Went by Gayle Forman Book Review

 Genre: YA Fiction

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Check out the book HERE


Quick Blurb:


This book picks up three years after the car crash that killed Mia’s family and nearly ended her own life in If I Stay.  Now, her and Adam, her high school rock boyfriend, are estranged, living on opposite sides of the country, excelling in their separate music careers.  This book is from Adam’s POV.  On the night before he’s supposed to take off for London, he attends Mia’s cello concert incognito at Carnegie Hall.  Except Mia spots him.  


For the first time in three years, they come face-to-face again.  There’s no more hiding from the past or the pain.  Over the course of one evening, the two of them travel the city streets, reliving the days after the accident that led to their separation.  It’s a story of heartbreak loss and the absence of love, but at its core, it’s a story about the redemptive power of unconditional love. 


My Thoughts:


Once again, Forman creates a beautiful emotional story, capturing those painfully honest moments of her two main characters.  I really enjoyed how this book’s POVs, as the reader gets to understand Adam much better.  If this story had stayed in Mia’s perspective, it would have once again been a story about the grief and loss of her family.  By placing the story three years after the last book and writing it from Adam’s POV, the characters can open up and begin to heal.


As a reader, you’re totally inside Adam’s head.  You feel what he feels.  You understand how fully broken he has become.  He’s a shell of a person, full of pain and resentment toward Mia.  The bitterness is done so well that the reader can’t help but start to resent Mia too.


The music, once again, brings such life to the story and really makes it stand out against other YA contemporaries .  Expect in this book, I think that the incorporation of the music is done even better.  The chapter’s begin with Adam’s song lyrics, which are all about Mia. The torment, bitterness, resentment, and overall grief he bleeds into each songs is so powerful, almost becoming a character of its own.


The ending of the story is beautifully pulled together, creating a satisfying and realistic resolution for these two characters. Like If I Stay, it’s an easy read that the reader can fly through.  There’s nothing too complex about the writing or the word choice, but the story is still profound, leaving the reader thinking long after finishing the book.


Mia and Adam’s story is definitely one of my favorite YA contemporary stories.  You should definitely check this book out, as well as If I Stay.  Neither books will disappoint.

Source: http://ryanndannelly.blogspot.com

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins Book Review

Genre: YA Supernatural Paranormal Fiction 

My Ratings: 4/5 stars


Quick Blurb:


Harper Price is the queen bee of her high school: popular, the president of all the best clubs, and on track to becoming the homecoming queen. But on the night of the dance, everything that’s made sense is her life suddenly changed.  As she’s standing in the bathroom, the school’s janitor comes running in, covered in blood.  Before he dies, he kisses her, transferring this incredible fighting ability from his body to her own.  


Just in case that isn’t confusing enough for Harper, she quickly learns that having this power makes her the new protector of someone: David Stark, the one person in her class that she’s detested since Kindergarten.  The story unfolds as Harper works on figuring out why David is so important that he needs protections from more ninja-like assassins sent to kill him. 


My Thoughts:


This was definitely an interesting and highly humorous read.  What makes this book stand out against other supernatural paranormal stories is the realness to it.  Harper’s transformation is completely believable.  Sure she wakes up with this new fighting power, but it’s her reaction to suddenly having this power that’s spot on.  She’s utterly confused but strangely excited about her sudden badass status.


Harper is an entertaining main character.  She needs control in every aspect of her life, which doesn’t bode well for the fact that she’s no longer in control of her body.  Since the story is from her voice, the reader really get inside her mindset.  


I laughed when Harper goes out in search of her Professor-X-like mentor.  Her way of making sense of her new ability is to equate it to Marvel’s superheroes, which is entertaining, but let’s be honest, is probably what I would do too.


The interactions between Harper and David were the other parts of the story that I thoroughly enjoyed.  They love to hate each other, and anyone can see where that plot line is headed. The dialogue between them is witty and realistic as they try to keep up this facade while acting tough in situations where they really have no idea what they’re doing.  (Like trying to use a stapler as a weapon to threaten someone into submission.)


This book is a fun and light read.  There’s nothing too complicated about Hawkins’ writing style.  It’s sarcastic and snarky in all the right places.  The combination of the witty dialogue, Harper’s internal monologue, and the intense yet realistic hand-to-hand combat scenes make for a fun read. 


If you’re a fan of the Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stoh, you should definitely check this book out, as there are some overlapping themes.  But really, if you’re a fan of any supernatural paranormal stories, this book will be right up your alley. 


Source: http://ryanndannelly.blogspot.com

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira Book Review

Check out Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira.  It's a magnificent YA contemporary, reflective of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  I give this book 5/5 stars.