Magan: Crossed by Ally Condie

ally condie dystopian trilogy, matched #2 by ally condie, crossed by ally condieCrossed (Matched #2) by Ally Condie

Released: November 1, 2011
Pages: 384
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format: Downloaded to my Kindle.
Why I picked it up: Last year I read Matched – my first dystopia ever. I had to continue reading the series.
Summary: Cassia goes in search of Ky in the Outer Provinces, only to be told that he and two other guys have escaped. She and fellow escapee, Indie, are determined to find them and desperately want to join up with the Rising because they no longer believe in the Society.

 

Last year when I picked up Matched, I was so intrigued by the idea of Cassia being matched to two boys – one who was her best friend and another who was an outcast in the Society. I fell in love with how Cassia begins to realize her world isn’t exactly as perfect as she’s always been told. I admired Ky’s character for being so strong; he was an outcast but none of that was his fault. He taught Cassia so much and I couldn’t wait to see if they fell in love. I devoured this book, staying up until 4AM to finish it. Over the last year, I’ve been a major cheerleader for Matched. Highly anticipating Crossed – hoping to finally have a few more answers.

When Crossed was released, I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle. I needed to begin reading it right away. Cassia goes in search of Ky, who she believes to be in the Outer Provinces. Ky has escaped from there and is trying to find a way to get back to Cassia. My first thoughts were, “Seriously!?  They’re going to go in circles and never find one another?”  Much of this book is about their struggles trying to survive and not be detained by the Society again. Unlike in Matched, Crossed is told from Ky and Cassia’s perspectives. We have an inside look at where they are at all times. While I enjoyed hearing from both characters, I do think this added an element of confusion to the story.

The entire story takes place over a very short amount of time, but Condie did a beautiful job making the reader feel as though they were exhausted and tired right along with Cassia and Ky. She didn’t quickly or easily tell the story of how they were climbing, running, and hiding through the canyons. Because they were in unfamiliar territory, I kept trying to figure out if they were near each other and wondered if someone would be mistaken for an enemy and killed.  I felt on edge the entire book because they could so easily be discovered and their whole mission to find one another would be forfeit.

We are introduced to several new characters in Crossed – Indie, Eli, Vick, and Hunter. I had no idea who to trust. By the end of the book, I didn’t know if the Rising was good or bad, if they had fallen into the trap of the Society again, and whether Ky and Xander really had Cassia’s best interests in mind.  Ky knows of a secret that Xander is keeping, but he wants Cassia to find out from Xander himself.  Aside from a short scene in the beginning with Xander, we don’t see much of him in Crossed. I was hoping for a bit more with him, but I think he will certainly shine in the last book.

Overall, I think Condie does a brilliant job as an author – she makes me feel exactly how the characters would be feeling. It is really hard for me to say that I 100% loved Crossed because I was so utterly confused and discombobulated, but I do think that was the intent. Though I wish I had more answers and knew a bit more about what would happen in the next book, I am thrilled that I am kept guessing. I am elated that I won’t be able to guess the ending.  I am, however, sorely disappointed that I’ll have to wait another entire YEAR for the final book to be released.

For anyone who might be a fan of the Hunger Games, I think the Matched trilogy would be a great series for you. What pulls me into the Matched books are the relationships between Cassia, Ky, and Xander. With the Hunger Games, I found myself extremely disgusted with the Capitol and therefore just as invested even if Katniss didn’t end up with Peeta or Gale. These are two very different dystopias, but if you enjoy this type of read, you should definitely consider picking them up.

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Magan: Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

book cover for cracked up to be by courtney summers

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

Length of Book: 214 pages
Type of Book: YA
Format: Library Book
Release Date: December 28, 2008

I read this book because: I like books that tackle big issues. This one hinted at something BIG and suspenseful that happened and I was really intrigued.
Synopsis: Parker Fadley is a former perfectionist.  After an unspeakable event occurs and Parker’s life crumbles, her parents put her on suicide watch, her former friends keep close tabs on her, and her guidance counselor threatens to take away her graduation rights.  What is it that made Parker’s world turn upside down?

 

This was my very first Courtney Summers novel. I was super intrigued by the summaries on all of her books – she appears to tackle huge issues in a very tactful way for teenagers. This particular book was my first to read because there was an element of suspense. We are introduced to Parker at the height of all the confusion – her life has gone to crap, her parents tiptoe around her, her guidance counselor and principal are on her case, and she meets the new boy at school.  The catch is that Summers strings us along with subtle hints and slowly pieces the entire story together.

I immediately lusted over wanted to be Parker Fadley. She was a strong, witty, takes-no-crap kind of girl. Her sarcasm left me in fits of laughter, even though I knew that deep down it was just a cover up for whatever she was hiding.  When new-boy-Jake is introduced, he becomes yet another source of tension. Parker is trying to force him away with all the abrasiveness she can muster, but something continues to pull them together. Jake is intrigued by Parker because he can’t figure her out. I was definitely rooting for Jake because I found that Chris (Parker’s ex-boyfriend-that’s-still-in-love-with-her) had serious issues since he was in a relationship yet still confessed his undying love to Parker.  I also couldn’t figure out why Chris and Parker had ever broken up, so I assumed that the unspeakable-suspenseful-truth had something to do with him.

Overall, I really enjoyed Summers’ writing. She’s clever and funny in all the right places. I do wish the story had progressed a bit faster so that the ending wouldn’t have been so abrupt. Once I finally figured out what happened, the story ended ten pages later leaving me with a few too many unanswered questions. I am all about using my own imagination and filling in the gaps of the story, but I really felt like this needed a bit more. I would have been happier if the book were a little longer.  Although this book wasn’t a best-book-of-all-time kind of read for me, I will still definitely be picking up more of Summers’ writing.

Are you a fan of Laurie Halse Anderson‘s books?  If so, then I highly recommend you check out Courtney Summers. And vice versa. I’ve read a number of Anderson’s books – Speak, Wintergirls, Twisted, and Prom.  You can’t go wrong with any of those if you’re looking to read something similar to Summers’.

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Magan: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Length of Book: 213 pages
Type of Book: YA / Coming of Age Story
Format: Library Book
Release Date: February 1, 1999
I read this book because:  Emma Watson is one of my favorite young female actresses. I found out she would be playing the role of Sam and wanted to prep for the movie by reading the book before it’s 2012 debut (release date still undetermined).
Synopsis: Charlie is a lonely high school freshman who begins high school shortly after the loss of one of his closest friends. He writes letters to an anonymous person about the ups and downs of his life.

 

I picked up The Perks of Being a Wallflower from the library and immediately began reading during my lunch break. I was drawn to Charlie’s character, who is so young and spastic, because he reminded me of exactly what it felt like to be a freshman in high school. While I usually prefer books with strong female characters, I adapted quickly to Charlie’s scattered storytelling ways.  The format of the story is a series of letters written to an anonymous person that he has never met; the letters were hands-down one of my favorite aspects of the book. Chbosky brilliantly thought out his character development of Charlie; when we’re first introduced to him, he is choppy, disorganized, and young.  Throughout the story, Charlie’s writing improves and the improvement in his storytelling abilities made me latch onto him even more.  His honesty, purity, and simplicity completely drew me in – I felt like Charlie was such a relatable character.  I couldn’t help but feel like I would try to befriend this guy if I were in high school with him.

He struggles with getting a grip on reality and being a loner. As a reader, you are aware that something has gone down in his past that he’s not divulging.  I wanted to be the anonymous friend that wrote letters back to Charlie. I wanted to be able to tell him everything was going to be okay.  Thankfully, Charlie finds a solid group of kids to connect with. They appreciate him for his quirkiness. As Charlie says in the book, he quits being a thinker and becomes a participant. Of all the friends Charlie makes, I felt most connected to Patrick and Sam. They weren’t perfect people and were also experiencing some pretty crappy things, but their nurturing of Charlie is what made me love them most.

Not every aspect of this book was easy to read. I strongly disliked Mary Elizabeth’s character when Charlie began going on a few dates with her. Maybe it was that Charlie so easily went along with everything, even though he was unhappy, that made me dislike her the most. While Mary Elizabeth was an annoying character, I shuddered when I read the few paragraphs about what really happened to Charlie. My eyes kept skimming the paragraphs, hoping that I was wrong about what I thought I was reading.  Be prepared to encounter a few difficult topics throughout the course of this book.

Ultimately, this book is a four star kind of book for me. I’m thrilled I read it, loved the coming of age story about this high schooler in the early 90s, and will eagerly see the movie. However, I’m not sure it’s a book that I’d pick it up to read over and over again.  I will definitely be seeing the movie though. I’m hoping that Emma Watson blows me away in her role as Sam. Though she’s played a very innocent, kind role as Hermione, I think she’s going to take a giant leap forward as Sam. This character is so multi-dimensional and I think she’s going to be able to fulfill all my expectations and depict the character I had in my head very well.  I’ll make sure to update you guys once I’ve seen the movie…

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Books That Took Me Out Of My Comfort Zone – Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is brought to you by The Broke and The Bookish, and today’s topic is 10 books that took me out of my comfort zone.  This is our first week to participate and we’re so excited to join in the fun…

What takes me, Magan, out of my comfort zone?  Anything that shows me how incredibly broken this world is. Hate crimes. Paranormal and science-fiction stories. Death.

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: I didn’t think there was ANY way I would be able to read a series that involved people intentionally having to kill other people. This series turned out to be one of my all time favorites that I’ve recommended to anyone who can read.  I had only read one other dystopia when I read these, and I was incredibly determined to find something else that could top or equal my love for Katniss, Peeta, and Gale.

2. Hourglass by Myra McEntire: Emerson sees apparitions that don’t really exist. This book was a mixture of paranormal and science-fiction that is doubly out of my comfort zone. I became addicted to Myra’s witty writing and the tension that existed between Emerson and Michael. I also now follow Myra on Twitter because she’s just. that. funny. and I can’t get enough of her.

3. Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma: I wouldn’t say that this book immediately struck me as something that was out of my comfort zone. A tragedy happens and two sisters are separated. Where the book went while I was reading it baffled me. The writing was beautiful and the concept completely original, but it had elements that were extremely unexpected.

4. Room by Emma Donoghue: This book is written from a five-year old’s perspective, which was a new concept to me. The uncomfortable aspect was that he and his mom have been locked inside a room for over five years – a room with no windows, no ability to leave, and a man who visits on an irregular basis to give them the bare necessities they need to survive. Yikes – this one had my stomach churning while I read.

5. Small Town Sinners by Melissa C. Walker: Lacey’s church has an annual Hell House on Halloween. The whole concept of Hell House was so outside my comfort zone. Definitely not my take on Christianity. I questioned the entire time I read this book if places like Lacey’s hometown actually exist. I come from Small-Town, Texas, but even this was a big stretch for me.

6. What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci:  I still haven’t been able to write a review for this book. I recommended it to Estelle because it was SO different from everything else I read – hate crimes, harassment, and a possible murder – all because Lani doesn’t look like or act like everyone else in the small town he moves to.

7. Wither by Lauren DeStefano:  This book is the epitome of taking me out of my comfort zone. No one lives over the age of 25. Women are being kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages with men they do not know for the sole purpose of reproducing to avoid extinction.  Beautifully written, but incredibly heart-wrenching.

8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: I’m confused by World War II. Why did it ever happen? When this book was released, I knew I wanted to read it, but the hard part was reading the story from Death’s perspective. I was in a book club at the time and all my girlfriends and I were emotional wrecks while we read this book.

9. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: This was one of the first memoirs I ever read – so hard for me to know that this was someone’s real life story and it wasn’t made up. Now it stands as one of my favorite books of all time. This book is powerful, though an uncomfortable read – a drunk do-nothing father, a mother who can’t get her act together, children who eat moldy food…all bad things to the extent that the parents eventually choose homelessness.

10. Towelhead by Alicia Erian: I didn’t choose to read this book; it was another book club book. Totally 100% uncomfortable. So much hate. A creepy, pedophile next door neighbor. A girl too blinded by her sexual interest to see that her next door neighbor was doing something very, very wrong.

 

Magan: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

review of virtuosity by jessica martinez, books about musical geniuses, musical girl genius violinistVirtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Length of Book: 304 pages
Type of Book: YA
Format: My Kindle and Kindle app for my iPhone
Release Date: October 18, 2011

How I found out about it: I was looking for a brand new release. I sorted my Goodreads list by date and realized this one, that had been sitting on my list for oh-so-long, had just been released!  Two minutes later, it was downloaded and I was immersed in Carmen’s world.
Synopsis:  Carmen is a seventeen-year-old girl who is about to compete in the biggest violin competition of her life; she’s already won a Grammy and traveled the world, but this would top everything. She’s focused and driven until she meets her biggest competition, Jeremy King.

 

Jessica Martinez is a writing genius. After the first page and a half of this book, I was hooked and left questioning how I was going to make it through another 302 pages to find out how this story pieced together.  The story begins with the ending. We are introduced to Carmen at the climax of the story, and then chapter one begins from the beginning of the story with Carmen staking out her competitor for the Guarneri competiton, Jeremy King.  Carmen comes across as very sheltered because of her home-schooling and musical career that has left her unable to interact with other people her age.  When she first meets Jeremy, he seems so completely different than her – sarcastic, in-your-face, and maybe a little cocky.  Of course Carmen’s (and my) interest was sparked by this boy.

As the competition nears and things heat up between Carmen and Jeremy (I’ll let you read the book to find out if I’m referring to a romantic heat or a competitive heat), we get an inside look at how discontent Carmen really is. Her mother was a detestable character. The things she made Carmen go through for the sake of winning was unfathomable. The amount of pressure she placed on her daughter was immense. I felt so uncomfortable reading through pieces of this story because Carmen hadn’t come to the realization that they were wrong things to be doing.  I wanted to reach through the pages of the book to shake Carmen and say, “YOUR MOTHER IS TRYING TO LIVE HER LIFE THROUGH YOU.”  Carmen practically had it all and yet, she wasn’t able to enjoy an ounce of her life because her mother had her on such a short leash.

I appreciated how this story was told because it felt like I was going through the journey with Carmen. I could understand her questioning of Jeremy’s motives. Was he talking to her because he was trying to manipulate her or was he really a genuine guy?  Did she believe her mother about everything?  Had her mother ever led her astray before?  I flew through this book because I had so many ideas of what could happen and I desperately wanted to know if I was right. Unfortunately, the ending left a little to be desired because all the loose ends were not tied up. I’ve looked at Goodreads and at Martinez’s website to see if there is a scheduled sequel planned for Virtuosity, but I have yet to confirm or deny this.  I really hope there’s another book coming out. I am sure my jaw dropped when I finished the last page – such a cliffhanger.  Regardless of the end, this was still a four star kind of book for me.

A small side note is that while I was perusing Martinez’s blog, I saw this post where she did a book signing. If you click the link, you can see this awesome author playing the violin for her audience at the book signing. How cool is that!?  I definitely felt like she knew the subject matter and composers well (this coming from a tone deaf, but musically interested girl), and now it all makes so much sense. She plays, too!

Magan’s Most Anticipated November YA Releases

My to-read list on Goodreads is out of control. I have so many more to-be-released books saved than I do books that are already published. I thought it might help me stay organized and on top of my most-anticipated books if I shared new releases that are coming out this month that I cannot wait to get my hands on.  All links below take you to Goodreads, where you can find full summaries for each book.

november 2011 most anticipated young adult releases Matched by Ally Condie was one of my favorite 2010 new releases. It was the first dystopian book that I’d read in a long time and it kick-started by must-read-everything-in-sight craze.  Crossed is the sequel the Matched. It was released November 1st. Go get it now! I’ll be doing a review of this one soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

most anticipated november 2011 new young adult releases A broken-hearted girl with a punk rock name, a vintage clothing shop, a guy with secrets, and a story about friendship – that’s what The Sharp Time by Mary O’Connell is about.  All of those things sound like a recipe for a perfect book. I’m also in LOVE with that cover – the tones + the mood = perfection!  This book will be released November 8th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

november 2011 young adult new releases that are highly anticipated I admit – this cover looks really silly and super corny.  However, the idea of applying training tips for dogs to the social queen bees at school sounds downright hilarious.  It puts a whole new spin on the phrase ‘alpha-dog’.  Fetching by Kiera Stewart also comes out on November 8th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

november 2011 new young adult releases I can’t wait to get my hands on a physical copy of this book. I hope the cover has some sort of texture because it looks so awesome!  This girl, Juliette, hasn’t touched anyone in 264 days because the last time she did, The Reestablishment locked her in a cell for murder. The world is falling apart around them – will Juliette be able to use her gifts to help save people?  This book is being compared to the Hunger Games, which sit HIGH on my radar. I hope Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi lives up to my expectations. It comes out November 15th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

november 2011 books to pine for young adult releases This must be the month for new dystopian releases; this is the third in my list of that category.  One girl from the Republic (i.e. the straight and narrow) is never supposed to come in contact with one guy from the slums. When her brother is murdered, our bad boy is the number one suspect.  Together they discover the truth behind their country’s secrets.  Legend by Marie Lu is the first in a series and comes out November 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What November releases are you lusting over? Do any of my picks strike your fancy?  I can’t wait to cuddle up with these!  Looks like it’s going to be a month full of suspense, thrill, and dystopias.