Saturday, January 16, 2016

Review: Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Do you think Cinderella married the prince and lived happily ever after, and that the three little pigs outsmarted the wolf? Think again! Premier storyteller Roald Dahl twists the fate of six favorite fairy tales, in this picture book edition with vibrant new cover art by Quentin Blake. Fairy tales have never been more revolting!
Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 
MY TAKE:
I was looking for a light-hearted read and this certainly fit the bill.

In Revolting Rhymes, classic fairytales are re-imagined and takes on a slightly darker but funnier tone.

I wasn't actually sure at first if I'd like it. I decided to give it a chance, and I was pleasantly surprised. I laughed out loud a few times at the funny phrases and situations that were written. I liked that there were some more modern twists, like with Snow White's story.

There were some gory stuff here and there, though, and there were a few words (like "slut" and "hell") that I was surprised to see in a children's book.

For the most part, though, I enjoyed this book. It may be better suited for older kids and pre-teens, though.

THE GOOD:

  1. There are plenty of funny lines.
  2. The re-imaginings are mostly witty.
  3. It may encourage kids to read more poems. 

THE BAD:
  1. There are some words here that might have been innocuous back in the day, but which parents today may not approve of.


READ IT IF:

  1. Your child likes gross rhymes.
  2. You like fairy tale retellings.
  3. You like funny rhymes.

RATING:
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Friday, January 15, 2016

Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!

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. 
MY TAKE:
I read this book because I read so many good things about it.

In All the Bright Places, Finch saves Violet from falling of a ledge. After they are paired together for a project (thanks to Finch), they end up becoming friends, and eventually something more. However, they both have inner demons, and while Violet's starts to fade away, Finch's slowly starts to get stronger.

Because of the summary, I was expecting all sorts of feels from the start. That's why I was a little disappointed at first. I mean, it was pleasant and hopeful, and I initially thought that it might turn into a road trip story of sorts. It wasn't until the third part of the book that I started crying, and when I did, it was of the ugly, sobbing sort.

The book's description of depression and how it affects the person and the people around him/her is pretty accurate, in my experience. I especially loved how the friends left behind reacted to the outpouring of sympathy and sentiments from the bullies. Absolute hypocrites.

THE GOOD:

  1. The portrayal of depression and its aftermath is accurate.
  2. It will make you feel things.
  3. It's a beautiful story. 

THE BAD:

  1. I was expecting to feel more intense emotions during the first parts of the book. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
The great thing about this life of ours is that you can be someone different to everybody.
READ IT IF:

  1. You are looking for a good cry.
  2. You have experienced depression or have ever thought about suicide.
  3. You loved The Fault in Our Stars.

RATING:
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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Review: Because I'm Worth It (Gossip Girl #4) by Cecily von Ziegesar


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
With the college applications complete and summer in full bloom, Serena, Dan, Vanessa, Blair, and Jenny have got an interesting vacation ahead in New York City before heading off to college where they plan to fulfill all of their dreams.
MY TAKE:
I've read this book before, but it's still fun to read the second time around.

In Because I'm Worth It, Blair flirts with a married man, Nate finds himself a new princess, Dan gets involved with another writer despite still being with Vanessa, and Serena lives her life to the fullest.

The thing I enjoy most about these books is being able to live vicariously through these teens. I mean, I don't want to have their lives exactly, but some of the things they get to experience are pretty cool. Besides the obvious stuff like living in New York, there's also things like Serena's surprise job and Dan's writing fame.

Is the book realistic? Well, it's a little far-fetched at times, but that's what's fun about it for me. I may also not like all the characters, and I might like some characters more in the show than in the books, but I did like this book enough for me to finish it pretty quickly.

THE GOOD:

  1. It's a fun, quick read.
  2. Their lives seem like a lot of fun.
  3. Blair gets more likable as the series goes on. 

THE BAD:

  1. It can be a little far-fetched sometimes. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You love the show.
  2. You are a Blair Waldorf fan.
  3. You wish you lived in New York. 

RATING:
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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Review: Descendants Junior Novel by Disney Book Group


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Mal, Evie, Jay, and Carlos are the offspring of some of the most terrible villains of all time. They're offered a chance to leave the Isle of the Lost, where they have been imprisoned all their lives, and go to prep school in the idyllic kingdom of Auradon with all of the 'good' kids. There, they must choose whether or not to follow in their parents' evil footsteps. Watch out Auradon--here come the Descendants!
MY TAKE:
For some reason, I enjoy reading novelizations of television shows and movies, even if I've already seen them and, as such, am not surprised by anything in the book.

In Descendants, Mal and her friends (all of whom are children of villains) are given the chance to study at Auradon, outside of the Isle of the Lost. Mal's mother is thrilled because this is an opportunity for Mal and the other kids to steal the Fairy Godmother's magic wand for her and give her more power.

I loved the movie, and I was curious to see how the song numbers would be explained or narrated here. As it turns out, some of them were treated as just part of the characters' thoughts/imagination, while some were described as they are.

It's a pretty straightforward novelization, and everything you see in the movie is here. This was perfect since I've only seen the movie once so far and there were a few moments I missed.
Sometimes, it felt like I was being told, instead of shown, what happened. It was okay, though, since I understand that this is a junior novelization and what I'm expecting isn't exactly practical for this version.

THE GOOD:

  1. Everything in the movie is included here.
  2. The characters are likable.
  3. It's something younger and older fans can both enjoy. 

THE BAD:

  1. There were a couple or so moments wherein I felt like I was being told instead of shown the action. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You loved the movie Descendants.
  2. You like stories that continue old classics.
  3. Your child is a fan of the movie.

RATING:
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Monday, January 11, 2016

Review: The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Pretty in Pink meets Anna and the French Kiss in this charming romantic comedy
Ella is nearly invisible at the Willing School, and that's just fine by her. She's got her friends - the fabulous Frankie and their sweet cohort Sadie. She's got her art - and her idol, the unappreciated 19th-century painter Edward Willing. Still, it's hard being a nobody and having a crush on the biggest somebody in the school: Alex Bainbridge. Especially when he is your French tutor, and lessons have started becoming, well, certainly more interesting than French ever has been before. But can the invisible girl actually end up with a happily ever after with the golden boy, when no one even knows they're dating? And is Ella going to dare to be that girl?

MY TAKE:
I remember wanting to read this when it first came out, but I forgot all about it until recently.

In The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, Ella is a bit of an outcast at her school, but that's okay because she's got great friends. Aside from being an artist, she has a tiny obsession with Edward Willing. She's not doing well at school, though, and she ends up being tutored by her crush Alex.

I can't remember what it was exactly that drew me to this book years ago, but I'm glad I came across it again. It didn't wow me as much as I thought it would, but I certainly enjoyed it, and that's taking into account the fact that the popular guy-unpopular girl trope is not one of my favorites.

What carried this book for me were: Ella's family, Sadie and Frankie, and Alex and Ella's romance. The subplot related to Edward Willing was interesting and believable too, but it wasn't my favorite part of the story.

Ella's family seemed like a fun bunch. My extended family is huge and close-knit and reading about Ella's family reminded me of my own. As for Sadie and Frankie, I liked them both a lot too, even though there were times wherein they seemed larger-than-life and almost unrealistic.

My favorite thing about the book, I think, is Alex and Ella's relationship or, at least, parts of it. Alex has his not-a-great-guy moments, but he knows how to plan great dates and he seems to genuinely care about Ella. As for Ella herself, while I couldn't really relate to her, I did like her. Had she been real, I think we could have been friends.

THE GOOD:

  1. The romance between Alex and Ella was sweet and believable.
  2. Ella's family and friends are amazing.
  3. The art subplot was certainly new to me. 

THE BAD:

  1. Ella's lack of self-confidence can get painful to watch. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You are an artist.
  2. You like sweet romances.
  3. You like romances about popular guys and unpopular girls.

RATING:
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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Review: You Know You Love Me (Gossip Girl #2) by Cecily von Ziegesar


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
In You Know You Love Me, the sequel to Gossip Girl, it's brunette vixen Blair Waldorf's seventeenth birthday, and she knows exactly what she wants— Nate, her studly troubles boyfriend of three years. But Blair's been too busy filling out Ivy League college applications to notice that Nate has found himself another playmate.
MY TAKE:
I reread this book on a whim, and now I have the urge to reread the other books in the series too.

In You Know You Love Me, Blair is focused on the future but her plans are falling apart in front of her eyes. One of those is her future with Nate, who is feeling the pressure and turning to someone other than Blair for relief. Meanwhile, Dan is in love with Serena, and while Serena likes him, their level of affection for each other are at very different points and this causes some problems.

I had forgotten how addictive this series was. While, as a whole, I prefer the television series more since the characters are more complex and realistic, there is still something charming and interesting about the characters in the book. I also love the snarky comments that pepper the book, and how the book makes me feel like I'm in New York living the high life with them.

As not nice as Blair can be sometimes, it's hard not to sympathize with her as well. She really goes through some crappy things here. Nate is a stoner and a jerk, and I pity Jenny because it can only go downhill from here for her. As for Dan and Serena, they seem like a terrible fit. Serena is so flighty and Dan is a brooding, hopeless romantic, Since it's been a while since I read the series and watched the TV series, I can't remember if they end up together in the books. I do remember that they do get into relationships with people I don't really like, something which dampers my enthusiasm to reread a little bit.

THE GOOD:

  1. It's an enjoyable read.
  2. You feel like you're a part of the action.
  3. There characters are fun to read about.

THE BAD:

  1. If you watched the series first, you may be disappointed that the books are so different. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You miss watching Gossip Girl.
  2. You like reading about rich characters' lives.
  3. You wish you lived in New York. 

RATING:
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Friday, January 8, 2016

Review: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time-the kind Mercedes never had herself.
Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy - so far. Her mother isn't home nearly enough to know about Mercedes' extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won't even say the word "sex" until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn't bank on Angela's boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn - or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.
When Mercedes' perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her own reputation -and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn's Firsts is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.

MY TAKE:
This book was certainly a rollercoaster ride for me.

In Firsts, Mercedes has taken it upon herself to help guys who are virgins to give their girlfriends a memorable first time of their own. For awhile, her system worked and nobody knew what she was doing. However, some unsavory guys soon find out about her service and take advantage of her.

It wasn't until I started the book that I realized how what Mercedes was doing was very much like what Olive did in Easy A, except that Olive just pretended to do things with boys and Mercedes actually did things with guys, provided that they fit her criteria.

The first half of the book, I was so anxious for Mercedes. The girl knew what she was doing, but it was like she was disregarding the possible consequences. She realized that in the end, which is probably why my opinion of her improves. I didn't agree with what she did, but no matter how awful what she did was, especially in the eyes of the girls who were in relationships with the guys she was with, she didn't deserve what Charlie put her through.

Charlie, Luke and some of the other guys are just evil. Had they been my sons, I would be extremely ashamed of them. What is wrong with them?! Look, Mercedes is no saint, but what these guys did were even more wrong.

It was good that Mercedes had Faye and Zach to lean on. I liked Zach a lot. He's a good guy, and probably one of the more realistic romantic interests I've read in a while. As for Faye, I was wary of her at first. I thought she might pull a Single, White Female thing on Mercedes. Thankfully, she turned out to be a cool girl.

My rating for this book is 3.5 stars, although since I don't do half stars, I decided to round it up to four stars. What brought the book's rating down for me was the scheme that Faye and Zach cooked up to take the heat off of Mercedes. It just seemed off and unbelievable to me somehow.

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Griffin for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. It covers an important and relevant topic for teenagers.
  2. The characters are realistic.
  3. Zach is a really good love interest. 

THE BAD:

  1. Faye and Zach's plan just didn't work for me. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You've ever slut-shamed.
  2. You've been taken advantage of by a guy.
  3. You despise how guys who cheat don't get as much punishment and hate as the other woman does. 

RATING:
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