Review: Fighting Ruben Wolfe (Wolfe Brothers #2) by Markus Zusak

Tough times fall on the Wolfe household. With Mr. Wolfe unemployed, and Mrs. Wolfe working overtime; the Wolfe siblings are helpless, and each copes differently. With Cameron and Rube, it’s involves getting into shenanigans like betting at the dog track. But when rumors of their sister circulates at school, Rube starts a fierce fight– one that gets unexpected attention. Suddenly Rube, along with Cameron, are thrust into the underworld of boxing. While the two brothers vow to watch each other’s backs, Cameron feels a change coming on Rube, and he’s not sure if it’s the good sort of change.

Personal Take: If Zusak’s first book seemed like a solid for such an aimless story, the second installment more than makes up for it. Cameron has much more substance, along with all the characters mentioned. There’s something beautiful and desperate in Cameron’s voice that I love, and his growth is subtle but deeply felt. I also love how he’s contrasted against Rube, and his view of his brother is so pure and heartfelt. The story itself is much more solid and concrete, and not as aimless as Underdog.

That Zusak could make us sympathize with such grungy characters is a testament to his talent.

Audience: Older teens and adults, for some language.

Rating:

Other Recommendations: Needless to say, must reads are Book Thief and I Am The Messenger. Part of this series though (and which I reviewed) is Underdog.

Review: A Brilliant Madness by Robert M. Drake

A Brilliant Madness

This is an anthology of collective writing from Robert M. Drake written during 2004-2014. A Brilliant Madness is a reflection of the social collapses in the 21st century. The social programming, the daily routine and the economic struggles we all go through blindly. What has happen to us? Where did all the love go? We have all gone beautifully mad in a beautifully mad world. (From Goodreads)

Personal Take: I’m such a huge fan of R.M Drake’s poetry on Intagram, and having it all in one book, with his own artwork, is just as bewitching. While I enjoyed his last anthology, Black Butterfly, I feel like this held his best collection yet. It’s still raw and haunting, but covered pretty broad topics, like society and changing times.

On some level, readers will be able relate to his words and the human experiences, even if it had darker themes, and it’s not always that way, as a few dabble with courage and nostalgia and the good old times. For me, one of the pieces particularly struck a deep chord, and I knew after reading it that this is one of my favorites.

This is one poetry collection that’s not to be missed.

Audience: It feels like he’s channeling Charles Bukowski, which means there are plenty of swear words. It also explores dark themes of humanity.

Rating: 

4stars

Other recommendations: R. M. Drake published a few books, but his well known poetry collect is Black Butterfly, which is a combination of 2 previously published book. He’s also published a collection of stories, Beautiful and the Damned.

Review: Black Butterfly by Robert M. Drake

Black_Butterfly

The Black Butterfly is a symbol of transformation and rebirth after death. Drake wrote this book for those who have lost someone in death and in life. This book is a collection of memories and experiences Drake lived after the death of one of his brothers. He promised he would write him a few words after he failed to complete the task while his brother was alive. (From Goodreads)

Personal Take: After reading the beautiful poetry of R.M Drake, I was beyond ecstatic to find out that he’d released a collection of his poetry. Even though this book was a collection of the loss he felt, it was still beautiful in the love that it described too. It’s both raw and emotional, with undertones of his intent, which comes off so strikingly. The illustrations added to its beauty as well. It’s something any person can relate to and aspire to as well.

This is a must on all shelves.

Audience: Older, as there are dark themes.

Rating: 

4halfstars

 

Other recommendations: R.M Drake recently released A Brilliant Madness, and will soon release a collection of writings, Beautiful and Damned, among other things.

Review: Social Suicide (Deadly Cool #2) by Gemma Halliday

 

As a new joiner to her high school’s online publication, Hart has to prove to her fellow student journalists, and especially bad-boy editor, Chad, that she has the knack to be a journalist just like them. So when she goes to interview Sydney Sanders, a fellow student caught in a recent cheating scandal, for what could the hottest story of the semester, she finds Sydney dead in her own swimming pool. While police rule it as suicide, Hart is convinced that there’s more to the story behind Sydney’s death.

Personal Take: I enjoyed Deadly Cool so much, especially Hart’s snarky voice. That voice is back again in this instalment, and I loved every moment of it. I have to say, that the characters stole the show in Social Suicide more than the events in the book.
The mystery was still very well planned and somewhat unexpected, but it wasn’t as exciting a journey as the first book. Having said that, Hart’s adventures of being romantically appealing is hilarious, and I just couldn’t get enough of her and her friends (unfortunately, this book didn’t feature them enough!).
I’m now patiently awaiting an announcement of when the third book will be out, because these books are just SO addictive!
Audience: It’s cute and safe, so younger and older teens, and even adults will have fun with this!
Rating: 
4stars
 
Other recommendations: I’ve already reviewed the first book in this series, Deadly Cool. Other than her Deadly Cool series, she also authored the Jamie Bond series, High Heels series, and Hollywood Headlines , among others.

Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

 

Darcy Patel’s dream comes true when she lands a book deal and a chance to perfect her novel. Putting off college and moving to New York, Darcy begins her life as an independent young woman, and living the writer’s life in the city with her new friends. As it happens, being a writer is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Told alternatively is Darcy’s novel, which follows Lizzie, who face a traumatic incident that almost gets her killed. Instead, Lizzie discovers the Afterworlds, the world of the dead, and a spirit guide that keeps here at bay of what this new world has in store.

Personal Take: It’s really hard to describe what this book is about. I felt like I was reading two completely different books, and I guess that was the point, so I’ll speak about them separately for now.
I wasn’t exactly impressed with the characters in both stories, or the writing style. It felt two dimensional, and the were events just… flat and monotone. I did enjoy Darcy’s side of the story more though, because I related to her struggles in writing. That part of the novel was also like research to me, as it went into some detail about how the publishing industry works.
Having said that, I wasn’t exactly attached to Darcy or the other characters.
In the Afterworlds side of the story– it was the typical YA that I would drop after first signs of cliche. Unfortunately, I had to continue to get the full sense of the whole book, believing that both sides would somehow be connected (it’s not). I just couldn’t connect at all with Lizzie or her story, and the insta-love and lack of clarity and solidity of the story just put me off.
I had a lot of high expectations for it, but unfortunately, it didn’t deliver for me.
Audience: There is a bit of violence and language, so it’s definitely older teens.
Rating: 
2stars
Other recommendations: Even though this is my first Westerfeld novel, I’m still looking to read more of his books. Some of his books are the Uglies series and Leviathan. Check out the rest of his books!

Review: Deadly Cool (Deadly Cool #1) by Gemma Halliday

 

After experiencing the humiliation of her boyfriend cheating on her with a cheerleader, Hart has another bout of unwanted experience– absolute terror when she finds the body of said cheerleader at her ex-boyfriend’s house. All fingers lead to her ex, but Hart is convinced that someone is framing him. As she gets closer to finding the culprit, signs start hinting that Hart may be the next victim.

Personal Take: It’s been SO LONG since I enjoyed a good contemporary mystery! Just from the first few pages of the book, I knew I’d love Hartley. I loved her even more with her gutsy personality and sense of humor. It reminded me so much of Veronica Mars (with less edge), which was another reason why I loved it.The events were fast paced, the mystery was REALLY good. The secondary characters were fantastic. There were elements that Halliway decided to build up as she goes through the series, which I totally appreciate. Her writing flowed wonderfully, and the characters were so well written for such a short book.

One thing that probably knocked off a pumpkin was a minor thing with Hart doing something she promised not to do, and not feeling guilty about it– character growth/development is important!

Still, I loved every bit of the story, and if it weren’t for other reading commitments, I would have jumped to the second book instantly.

Audience: This is a teen-approved book, but I would say older teens for suggestive language.

Rating: 

4stars

Other recommendations: After researching about Halliday, I’ve come to learn she’s the queen of contemporary chick-lit mysteries. Other than her Deadly Cool series, she also authored the Jamie Bond series, High Heels series, and Hollywood Headlines , among others.

Review: Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman

 

Natalie Rowan writes the romance column for her school’s paper under the guise of Dr. Aphrodite, which is pretty popular. At least she thought it was popular until the guys in school accuse her of not knowing anything about how males think. Desperate to save her budding writing career, Natalie decides to enrol at an all-guys boarding school to better understand how guys really think. For a whole week, she’ll have to play “Nat” and investigate the mysteries of the opposite sex. While hiding her identity proves to be more challenging than she thought, Natalie faces the one threat of keeping her secret under wraps– her feelings for her room-mate, Emilio.

Personal Take: Okay, I’ll just say it– I love comedic gender-benders. I’ve read a few of it in manga stories (W Juliet and Hana Kimi to name a few), and I love the funny situations it entails. One of my favorite Shakepeare plays? Twelfth Night.

So I had semi-high expectations for the comedy going into this one. And I was not disappointed. Babe in Boyland is a very light, airy, chick-lit read that didn’t try to be more than what it was, which was why I enjoyed it. Natalie is a fun character, and crazy, poor girl, but very well rounded and girly. Her relationship with her friends were realistic too; the tension, bickering, but still close friendship. It was real.

The adventures in Boyland were HILARIOUS, and I had waves of second-hand embarrassments for poor Natalie. At the same time, I was so proud of what she took out of her experience, and I definitely took a few things away as a female.

The romance is to be expected: fast, semi-instant, but with self-respect still intact, which was a win for me.

There were implausible scenarios at how easy it was to enrol at a boys school, but you know what? It’s all fun and good in the end. I enjoyed it very much.

Audience: Older teens, for a few swear words and other very awkward scenes.

Rating:

4stars

Other recommendations: Gehrman is the also the author of the Triple Shot Bettys series, Audrey’s Guides series, among others.

Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

 

Georgie has her life figured out. After gruelling in the writers room, Georgie and her writing buddy Seth finally get their break for their own show. The only problem – Georgie is supposed to be on a plane with her husband, Neal, and the kids. Even though their marriage is in trouble, she hopes that Neal would understand when she tells him she can’t go, and it seems that he does. But she wonders as he drives off to the airport with the kids if she’s finally ruined her marriage. That same day, Georgie finds a way to communicate with Neal in the past. Is this her chance of fixing what went wrong between them?

Personal Take: It’s been a while since I read something modern that blew my mind. And seriously, Landline blew my mind.

It had everything that I loved– witty dialogue, perfectly flawed, real characters, and not once did it deviate from what the story is about. It was pristine and perfectly described a flawed but dreamy marriage.

For the start I was captivated with Rowell’s writing. The pace was managed so well, even when it alternated between the past and the present. It was concise and captured moments just right. So right that I was thrilled each time there was a new layer added about the characters.

And the characters. I loved Georgie. I was frustrated with her, but I cheered for her. I loved seeing her in the present and learning how she became who she was. She’s unique, honest and so human. And through her, we learned a lot about her husband Neal. There’s also her family, who are so wonderfully weird.

Everything about this book screamed Just Right to me. It held it together and delivered a hell of an emotional roller coaster with a realistic end.

Audience: Other than language, I think older teens can read this. And the adults will love it.

Rating:

5stars

Other recommendations: Rowell wrote Fangirl, Attachments and Eleanor & Park — all on my to read list. Check out what else she’ll be writing next!

Review: Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann

When a girl goes missing in small town of Cryer’s Cross, the small community is shaken. By the time school starts again, the town is almost back to normal, and for Kendall Fletcher, senior year marks her near-freedom from the town. Until another teen disappears, this time someone close to Kendall. The incident sets her OCD on edge, and when she finds messages on an old classroom desk, she can’t help but wonder if she’s really losing it, of if it’s really related to the missing teens.

Personal Take: I LOVE Lisa McMann. I loved her Wake trilogy (though I still didn’t make peace with how it ended), and I loved this book. Her writing style is so simple but profound and almost lyrical. It’s also suspenseful and it conveys so many emotions, and she does that in short chapters, and in a short book. It’s refreshing to read something that doesn’t take you through 400 pages and wastes your time.
Kendall is an interesting character. I’ve never read anyone with OCD, but it’s so believable. She lives a normal life and functions despite it. And then there’s the small, tiny, but heart throbbing romance. My heart melts every time there’s a scene. It may be short, but again, it’s special.
The mystery part of it was also good. I honestly did not expect it, but it’s definitely chilling. Needless to say, I am a fan of anything McMann writes.
Audience: Older teens, for small f-bombs. But they’re very minimal.
Rating:
5stars
Other recommendations: I highly recommend McMann’s Dream Catchers Trilogy: I’ve already reviewed Wake, Fade and Gone. There’s also the on-going series Visions (which I can’t wait to read!), and the Unwanted.

Review: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

In town, Chloe’s sister Ruby is the the girl everyone wants to be and wants to be with, and for Chloe being just under her shadow gives her enough status around town too. Except one night party at the reservoir goes horribly wrong when Chloe finds a dead girl in a boat. Two years after the incident, Chloe is living a boring life– until Ruby shows up to take her back home. And everything is as it should be; Ruby the queen of town, and Chloe the little sister basking in her brilliance. But Chloe can tell something is off. Something dangerous that Ruby is hiding, and could unravel their sisterly bonds in a way Chloe could never imagine.

Personal Take: I knew this was a contemporary read, but I didn’t think it would be so dark. Imaginary Girls was written so beautifully and so vividly. It took its time, weaving things into existence, and showing us how Chloe saw things. Half way through it though, I was torn between being at enchanted by it or simply annoyed.
Imaginary Girls could easily be a classic that could be analyzed over and over for the messages it holds, or the literary techniques Suma used. It’s that well written. But I couldn’t connect to Chloe, the narrator. She was so clinical in her narrative, with not so much as a spark of emotion to make me feel what she’s going through why she reached that particular thought when she did. Maybe Suma wanted it that way, but as a reader, it bothered me.
It also bothered me that Chloe didn’t change at all throughout the book because of it. With all the evidence weighed in, she was so stubborn about her own convictions, and I was put off by her (there were other reasons too).
There was also the issue of vagueness throughout the whole book. Events and plots were hinted at, but not directly spoken out, and that just frustrated me.
I would still recommend people to read it, because the idea of it is so dark, twisted and fascinating. It’s sad that I was so close to loving it, but couldn’t.
Audience: Older teens. It was so dark, I was a little freaked out myself.
Rating:
threestars
Other recommendations: Now, just because I didn’t connect with this book doesn’t mean I’ll stop reading Suma’s beautiful writing! Suma wrote a middle-grade level book called Dani Noir. Her next YA book is 17 & Gone, which I’ll definitely pick up.