Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles

Title: Leaving Paradise
Author: Simone Elkeles
Publication: April 2007 by Flux
Genre: YA Fiction/Romance
Rating: 5/5

This is one of those books that you better have nothing else planned for the entire day because you will not sit it down until it is finished. I devoured Leaving Paradise. I was so caught up in Maggies and Calebs story that I was reading through class, through lunch, through time when I was supposed to be studying for my Biology exam.  Yeah, bad idea. Note: this might be long. 

Anyways, Leaving Paradise is a twist on forbidden love. On a horrible night that changed everybody’s life in small town Paradise, Illinois, Caleb Becker hit Maggie Armstrong with his car after driving drunk from a party. Maggie had to go to the hospital and began extensive physical therapy sessions. She was doomed with a limp that would remain with her forever. Caleb went to a juvenile corrections complex as a convicted felon.

The story starts with Caleb being released out of jail with a sentence of one hundred and fifty community service hours. When Caleb returned back to his home, he realized everything was not the same as it was when he left it. His family, his friends, his whole life had been shattered. He ran into Maggie on a walk, and began a connection with her that left them both breathless, confused, and in desperate need of the truth.

"I'm going to kiss you." 
My stomach does a little flip; I forget about being mad. 
My nerves take over all emotions. "Here?"
"Oh, yeah. Right here, right now. You gonna run away this time?"
"I don't think so, but I'm not sure."

First of all, I loved the characters- 

Mrs. Reynolds. I wish she was my grandmother. Her honesty, her wisdom, her hilarious wit  had me smiling every time the lady spoke. Favorite leading character ever. 

Maggie. Wonderful, tormented, brave Maggie. She is one of my favorite female characters that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She was so realistic. After being hit by Caleb, her leg was so damaged she had to quit playing tennis. Playing tennis, to Maggie, was the most important thing in her life. She measured her worth in the fact that she wowed everyone in the audience when she took the court. With the loss of tennis, her world was completely changed. She lost her friends, and she lost her scholarship to Spain, her one chance to get away from everyone and everything in Paradise. Worst of all, she was blamed for sending Caleb to jail.  She had the weight of the world on her shoulders, and Maggie reacted like every teenage girl would. Sure, she might have seemed childish in some points, and she might have whined and complained, but she’s human. She’s a teenager. And if I were to be in her place, I would have done exactly the same thing.

Caleb. Caleb was broken, shattered, and completely devastated by what happened and what he had to endure through his time in jail. He is a character that at first, you don’t feel much sympathy for. He hit Maggie; he insulted her again and again, and just keeps lying to her. Caleb started to change. You realize he was a teenage boy who made a few mistakes. He had this tough, arrogant façade up, but it started faltering. At first, Maggie was the only victim, but during the novel, the tides change and Caleb ended up being as much as one as Maggie. Worse, there’s something he’s not telling anybody; a secret that he swore he’d take to the grave, a secret that is eating him alive from where it is buried so deeply inside him. Of course, there were some parts where I wanted to kill him. Namely parts concerning a certain someone, cough cough Kendra.

Maggie and Caleb’s relationship started out slowly, like it should.  The buildup of their relationship was wonderful and real. Caleb was careful with Maggie; he didn't rush her or try to change her into something she’s not. They’re both two teenagers who have had to go through circumstances that many people never have to face. When there was no one else to turn to, they reached for each other. 

"I don't dare touch her, 'cause that would mean
that this is something more than it is. And I
know this... this feeling of friendship is a fleeting, 
temporary thing. What scares me to fucking death is that 
some part of my brain has decided this 
insignificant act of Maggie sitting next to me is 
the first step in fixing all that's gone wrong in my life.
Which makes it all the more significant."

Leaving Paradise was an emotional ride, and I loved every second of it. The writing was flawless and raw; emotions and feelings were intense and shown perfectly through the thoughts and words of a teenager. There were dealings with teenage drinking, jealousy, broken families, and self-esteem issues. Maggie had to deal with her self-image and the fact that whether she liked it or not, she was different, and there was nothing she could do about it. I really related to Maggie. She was alone in her battles and just wanted a loving hand. She was considered an outcast by her peers. She didn’t trust easily, and really she just wanted to run away and leave it all behind her. It never works out that easily, and she had to face it all with a brave face. In the end, she realized being herself was enough, and if someone didn't like it, she didn't need them in her life anyways. She faltered sometimes, but she always stood back up. 

// I loved this book so much I had to run out and get the sequel as soon as I could. And to be honest, I'm lazy. I'm in college so I had to wait for the bus to go out and get my car in the parking lot and then drive to the bookstore and then drive back to the bus stop and then wait to take the bus to my dorm. Like that is how much I loved this book. Return to Paradise will be up soon! 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Review: Vixen by Jillian Larkin

Title: Vixen
Author: Jillian Larkin
Genre: YA/Fiction/Romance
Publication: December 2010, Delacorte Books
Rating: 3.5/5

What can I say about this book? It had such promise. (Just look at the cover - gorgeous.) Set in the 1920’s with Flappers, speakeasies, and gangsters all wrapped up in one little package with betrayal, scandal, and a little bit of love on top. What could be better? That said, it was an alright read, but I was definitely expecting more.

The main character, Gloria, is a seventeen year old girl who has been arranged a marriage to the dull but wealthy Sebastian Grey. Gloria experiences life as a flapper once before she is completely sold over to the lifestyle. She craves getting out of her loveless marriage arrangement and living on the edge as a 1920’s flapper. Gloria and her friend Marcus sneak into the speakeasy the Green Mill one night, and Gloria meets the enticing black Jazz player Jerome. Here begins an infatuation and love (if you can call it that) that lasts throughout the novel.  Gloria starts to rebel against everything her parents have set up for her, testing every limit that was put in place.

Enters Gloria’s trouble causing cousin, Clara. Clara has seen it all; whereas Gloria is just starting to see the other side of society as a flapper, Clara has experienced it all in the big city. Because of the situation Clara previously got herself into, she was sent to stay with Gloria to help set up her wedding. Clara has to put up a good girl façade for her aunt or else she will be sent to boarding school.  By this, Flapper Clara becomes Country Clara. Through this transformation, she ends up falling for Gloria’s friend, Marcus.

Next we have Lorraine. Lorraine is Gloria’s best friend in the beginning of the novel, but we start to see a darker side to her by the end. She is tired of living in her friends shadow. Always being prettier, more interesting, just better. She wants her moment in the sun, and she is going to get it no matter the cost.

To be granted, Vixen is a fast, fairly interesting read. I particularly didn’t like any of the characters too much, which is a big part for me. Personally, if I don’t like the characters, it’s hard for me to like the book. A redeeming quality was definitely the interracial relationship between Jerome and Gloria. The fact that she would question the status quo and give up her polished lifestyle for a man she just met is both risky and admirable. Gloria annoyed me much of the novel, but I have to say that her daring moves impressed me. I loved that she wanted to be with Jerome so bad that she laid everything on the line for their relationship- the consequences be damned. The only thing that mattered, in the end, was having him. 

I wasn’t too fond of Clara; I thought she needed to make up her mind about who she was and who she wanted to be. Pick one and stick to it. Lorraine, personally, interested me. She was an alcoholic, a nut case, completely sadistic, but I liked her more than either one of the other girls. She might have been shady and cynical, but she definitely had loads of character. I loved Marcus; he was the best part of the novel in my opinion.

Vixen seemed like it was trying to be the Gossip Girl of the 20’s- with some expensive dresses, hairstyles, and silly phrases thrown in. It had a lot of action and drama; there were moments when I just couldn't believe what was going on. In the end, Vixen is a fast read that held my attention throughout the novel even though I was expecting more. I was slightly disappointed at the end of the novel, but I suggest you give Vixen a try for yourself and see what you think.  

Monday, February 25, 2013

Teaser Tuesday - February 26, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following: grab your current read and go to a random page. share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on the page (don't add spoilers!). Share the title and author too so that other TT participants can add their book to their tbr lists if they like your teaser! 

Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkelles

"I can tell he's not happy I have control. Caleb used to always have the cards and knew which ones to play to get his way. Not this time. (page 151)"

I just started this today. I have heard of this book for awhile, but I've never picked it up. It sounds so good so far! 

Review: Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Title: Safe Haven 
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Genre: Fiction/Romance
Publication: September, 2010 Grand Central Publishing 
Rating: 5/5 

As everyone knows, Nicholas Sparks is the master of romance. Honestly though, when I think back on his novels, they blend into one sometimes because of their similarities. Safe Haven, however, stands out immensely.  This novel is more than just a love story; it is a story about a young woman’s journey with pain, loss, love, and finally understanding what it means to find safety in another person.

It is definitely the best book from Nicholas Sparks to date.

Katie, a broken victim of domestic abuse, escapes to the beautiful town of Southport, North Carolina (and I can say it's beautiful with actually knowing this because I live fifteen minutes away :p). In Southport, Katie meets a young storeowner and widowed father of two, named Alex. Their relationship starts off slowly- guarded, cautious.  Since running away from her abusive husband, Katie is weary of everyone and everything. It takes time for her to warm up to people, especially Alex. Alex suspects that there is more to Katie than she lets on. Alex knows that Katie is more than just a pretty face; he knows she is a women with a past. A troubled past.

I particularly loved the start of their relationship. So many novels start off with the two main characters just jumping right in and almost instantaneously falling in love. Their romance takes it time. Katie needs time to heal, time to think, time to gather her bearings. Before Southport, she was on the run. Never settling. In Southport, Katie’s whole life changes but finally for the better.  

Katie eventually, of course, drops her guard with Alex, and they fall in love.  Alex is such a kind, warm-hearted character who really cares for Katie. The love he has for his kids is wonderful. I love how Katie interacts with Alex’s kids – not trying to take the place of their mother but still nurturing and loving. You know the kids will eventually come to think of her that way anyways.

Katie’s husband eventually does find out where she escaped. This part of the novel got me on edge. Nicholas Sparks normally does add a little action into his books, but this is by far the most gut-wrenching nervousness I’ve experienced by him. Kevin, Katie’s husband, is a complete psycho. You just want to kill him from the beginning. Sparks shows Kevin’s point of view, and it definitely adds to the suspense because you know he is unstable and unpredictable. He loves Katie, he hates Katie. He loves Katie, he wants her dead. When he showed up in Southport ruining the safe haven Katie found, I just wanted to jump in the book and murder him myself.

"The past was always around her and might return at any time. It prowled the world searching for her, and she knew it was growing angrier at every passing day."

In Safe Haven, there is love, suspense, and an outstanding ending that will leaving you so bewildered, you’ll be flipping back through the pages to read it over again. I definitely recommend Safe Haven. A must read!

Sidenote: The movie is wonderful but different. And as I said, I live 15 minutes away from Southport, and I normally go to the 4th of July parade that they filmed in the movie, but I couldn’t go this year and I didn’t know about the filming. SO ANGRY. I COULD HAVE MET JOSH DUHAMEL AND JULIANNE HOUGH AND I DIDN’T AND IM SO ANGRY. AGH. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Friday Finds - February 22, 2013

Friday Finds showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your to be read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased). 

All summaries are from goodreads. 


First, A Season of Eden by Jennifer Laurens
Apparently this is about student/teacher relationship, and I love taboo so I'm really excited to get this one. 

I let the door silently close at my back. He stared at me, and a taut quiet stretched between us.
"I like hearing you play," I said, moving toward him.
He turned, in sync with my slow approach. He looked up at me but didn't say anything. I rested my clammy hand on the cold, slick body of the baby grand. "May I?"
The muscles in his throat shifted, then he swallowed. "Eden."
My knees weakened, like a soft tickling kiss had just been blown against the backs of them. "Is it okay?" I asked.
His gaze held mine like two hands joined. He understood what I was really asking.
"Let me stay," I said. "Please."
"You're going to get me in trouble," he said.

Second, A Matter of Magic by Patricia C. Wrede

When a stranger offers her a small fortune to break into a traveling magician’s wagon, Kim doesn’t hesitate. Having grown up a waif in the dirty streets of London, Kim isn’t above a bit of breaking-and-entering. A hard life and lean times have schooled her in one lesson: steal from them before they steal from you. But when the magician catches her in the act, Kim thinks she’s done for. Until he suggests she become his apprentice; then the real trouble begins.

Kim soon finds herself entangled with murderers, thieves, and cloak-and-dagger politics, all while trying to learn how to become both a proper lady and a magician in her own right. Magic and intrigue go hand in hand inMairelon the Magician and The Magician’s Ward, two fast-paced novels filled with mystery and romance, set against the intricate backdrop of Regency England.

Third, Dear Teen Me
This one is a little bit different because it is a whole lot of different authors writing to their old selves. I think it will be so interesting. 

Dear Teen Me includes advice from over 70 YA authors (including Lauren Oliver, Ellen Hopkins, and Nancy Holder, to name a few) to their teenage selves. The letters cover a wide range of topics, including physical abuse, body issues, bullying, friendship, love, and enough insecurities to fill an auditorium. So pick a page, and find out which of your favorite authors had a really bad first kiss? Who found true love at 18? Who wishes he’d had more fun in high school instead of studying so hard? Some authors write diary entries, some write letters, and a few graphic novelists turn their stories into visual art. And whether you hang out with the theater kids, the band geeks, the bad boys, the loners, the class presidents, the delinquents, the jocks, or the nerds, you’ll find friends--and a lot of familiar faces--in the course of Dear Teen Me.

Review: Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon

Title: Carrier of the Mark
Author: Leigh Fallon
Genre: Fiction/ Romance
Publication: October 2011 by HarperTeen
Rating: 3.5/5

First of all, lets just get this clear from the get-go, Carrier of the Mark has a lot of similarities to… takers anyone?

Yepp, you guessed it- Twilight.

From the beginning, I started notices little similarities between the books and they appear all throughout the novel. Although I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT STAND WHEN AUTHORS DO THIS, I’m not going to dwell too much on that fact. Mainly because I really liked the plot, and I love Ireland.

Megan, the main character, has moved around all of her life. Her mother died in a tragic accident, and her life has been on the go ever since. Her dad, Caleb, lands a job in Ireland, and they’re off again.

At Megan’s new school, she meets people right off the bat who she becomes friends with. Caitlin soon becomes her new best friend, and I have a like/dislike relationship with the girl. She seemed sweet and innocent even, but I just didn’t really click with the character.  

Now insert Adam DeRis. Adam is probably like every other YA male lead. Gorgeous: bad boy style. The only difference being that in this novel, he is an outcast. Like the rest of his family. Like in Twilight. Okay nevermind. I honestly just really love his name.  Like I really want to name my kid that one day. DeRis. I don’t really even know how to pronounce it. Hmm.

Anyways, Adam and Megan play touch and go in their relationship for the first few chapters, and then it is all, oh I can’t stop thinking about you, oh you amaze me, oh I love you, oh I love you too. I thought their romance spiraled together just a little bit too fast. The only redeeming factor in this aspect was some of the paranormal details; I’m not going to spoil anything, but they have an uncontrollable attraction.  Groovy, huh.

Swirling around the little town in Ireland are rumors of Adam’s family. They are said to be witches, and the townsfolk certainly come up with interesting stories to try and demonstrate that. Through unanticipated circumstances, Megan learns the truth about Adam’s family and finds out that she might have more in common with them than she originally thought.  

Of course there is a little fight scene at the end, and someone has to end up in the hospital; it ended generally the way I was expecting. The ‘we haven’t figured out the bigger picture yet, but for now we’re going pretend everything is alright’ kind of thing.

The paranormal plot that the author spins was really interesting. It has certainly been used before, but so has everything basically. The author does a great job of keeping the story going. Even though the novel holds so many similarities to Twilight, it is still an interesting read that holds your attention through the whole novel.

In conclusion, Carrier of the Mark is a good book. Sure, it has its drawbacks, but for the most, I believe the pros outweigh the cons. Even though I definitely rolled my eyes at some parts, it kept my attention the whole way through. If I’m browsing through the bookstore and see the sequel out, I’ll probably check it out and see what else happens between the magical and mysterious couple.