Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Challenger Deep 

author : neal shusterman

pages : [hardcover] 320

favorite character : caden

summary :

Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today’s most admired writers for teens.

review :

Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep is everything I wanted in a book and more. To be honest, when I requested it I didn’t know much about the premise. That’s how deeply I trust Shusterman as an author: I know that whatever he writes, whatever the genre, his writing will be so wonderful that I’ll be sure to enjoy it. This latest novel is no exception and is as emotionally packed–and draining–as his other books I’ve read.

Challenger Deep is more grounded in reality than other books I’ve enjoyed by him, like the Skinjacker trilogy and Unwind dystology. And yet, because Caden can no longer tell the difference between what is real and what is only in his head, this book ended up feeling more surreal than actual fantasy books. I think that Shusterman did a fantastic job in writing about mental illness. Though I’ve never experienced something like this myself, I was touched even more when I found out that he’d based his characters around the real-life experiences people close to him have had. WhileI didn’t think he’d approach such a topic lightly, it was another blow to think that a situation like this isn’t just a great story to some people. Instead it’s a depiction of the daily struggle they go through.

To me, mental illness can seem more terrifying than any sea monster or treacherous ship captain. It’s something most people prefer not to speak of and there are so many stigmas attached to labels of illness. Shusterman wrote about that, too. There were so many major issues that he managed to thread into this novel without throwing his messages in the reader’s face, which I think is yet another thing that made this novel so beautiful.

It’s one that I’m definitely going to reread and I need to buy a physical copy of it to add to my collection. I think anyone could learn something from Challenger Deep–and enjoy reading it while they’re at it. Even though it can get dark, there’s Caden’s humor to light the way, and you’ll find yourself rooting for him through every step.

5/5 stars

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You’ve Been Gone

author : morgan matson

pages : [hardcover] 449

memorable quote I somehow knew that the particulars didn’t matter. She was my heart, she was half of me, and nothing, certainly not a few measly hundred miles, was ever going to change that.

favorite character : frank

summary :

The Pre-Sloane Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.

But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend.

Apple Picking at Night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a Stranger? Um…

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Wait … what?

review :

I was really looking forward to this novel not only because I’ve heard great things about it but also because I had the privilege to meet Morgan Matson at BookCon last May! She was so sweet and inviting that I knew I had to give her work a try. While I really did enjoy reading this novel and will definitely pick up more of her work, to me this was more of a feel-good read than an all=time favorite.

Since You’ve Been Gone is filled with many convenient coincidences which make the novel quirky and interesting. Honestly, if I only had one friend and she abandoned me spontaneously, not only would I be too depressed by that but I know I’d end up spending that summer alone because people who’ve known me my entire life but never paid any attention to me wouldn’t spontaneously become my best friends. And I know that’s because I’m a shy person and don’t go outside of my element. But Emily’s whole characterization is based around her shyness and unwillingness to go outside of herself more than she absolutely has to, or unless there’s an extrovert like Sloane around to draw her out of her shell. Honestly, most of the time Emily didn’t seem shy to me at all, just a little awkward and very afraid of horses.

The romance was sweet. At first I didn’t think I was going to like it at all but in the end it really grew on me. I think it was well-done, and wasn’t pushed to the forefront of the story which was really refreshing to see in a YA contemporary novel. The bulk of the story was about Sloan and Emily, like it should have been, and it was great to read about their friendship–even though if someone pulled a Sloan and up and left on me I’m not sure I’d take it as well as Emily did.

If you like YA books that are summer-y, full of fun adventures, and are a quick read, this is definitely a book for you. It’s a good story with some heart thrown into it and this will definitely keep your interest while you read it. While it might not be the best book you’ve read, it’s a good book to reach for when you’re feeling low, are on vacation, or need a break between emotionally draining novels.

3/5 stars

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Crown of Midnight

Throne of Glass #2

Book 1: Throne of Glass

author : sarah j. maas

pages : [hardcover] 420

memorable quote I worry because I care. Gods help me, I know I shouldn’t, but I do. So I will always tell you to be careful, because I will always care what happens.

favorite character : chaol

summary :

“A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.

It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend.”

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie…and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

review :

While I wasn’t in love with Throne of Glass, I was excited to read the sequel–and I think that I liked this second book more than the first! Crown of Midnight focuses more on the action and adventure than the romance between characters, which was all that I wanted. Even though I’m sure that there’s much more to come, and I have my predictions made about what will happen next, there were some surprises in this book that I just didn’t see coming.

On the other hand, unfortunately, I think one of the big reveals in this book was something I’d seen coming since the middle of book one. I’m not sure if readers were supposed to pick up on the subtle hints about it or not so for me, the ending kind of fell short of amazing. I’d really like to hear about what other people thought about the conclusion and if they were surprised by what was revealed there!

While there wasn’t so much focus on the love triangle, I was disappointed because we still didn’t learn much more about Chaol or Dorian outside of their undoubtedly undying affections for Celeana. They never really seem to fixate on anything but her which, I guess, is understandable, but also annoying when they have so much more potential! It’s the captain of the guard and the crown prince–how much more potential could you have? They both have backstories that could be learned, or other duties that they could  be performing. Their lives shouldn’t revolve around Celeana, should they? It wouldn’t be safe for the kingdom.

I’m definitely going to read book three in hopes that this series only keeps going upward for me. I still think that there’s so much that can be fleshed out and told so I’m excited to see what Maas decides to do with her characters and story. I’m still uneasy about what may come and at the moment it isn’t a favorite series of mine, even though it’s fun to read. It’s something that I’ll recommend to friends–if only to show them how much of a fun, badass main character Celeana is!

4/5 stars

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

*** Do NOT read this review if you haven’t started the Heroes of Olympus series! It won’t spoil The Blood of Olympus, but the summary may spoil the previous books in the series! Go read them and then come back to tell me what you think!***

The Blood of Olympus

The Heroes of Olympus #5

Book 1: The Lost Hero
Book 2: The Son of Neptune
Book 3: The Mark of Athena
Book 4: The House of Hades

author : rick riordan

pages : [hardcover] 516

memorable quote :
“Like your zodiac sign?” Percy asked. “I’m a Leo.”
“No, stupid,” Leo said. “I’m a Leo. You’re a Percy.”

favorite characters : percy & annabeth

summary :

Though the Greek and Roman crew members of theArgo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen—all of them—and they’re stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood—the blood of Olympus—in order to wake.

The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it “might” be able to stop a war between the two camps.

The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea’s army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.

review :

I am so incredibly sad knowing that this is the final book in The Heroes of Olympus series. Not because of how it was executed (I’ve heard that some people are very disappointed, but I loved how it came out) but because it means I need to say goodbye to Percy and the gang. I’m not quite ready for that yet, after reading this and the previous Percy Jackson series, for years, so I’m going to keep living in denial.

The Blood of Olympus is our big finale, though it made me so mad that the demigod who started it all, Percy, doesn’t get even one chapter from his point of view. Sure, there’s plenty of his sass and bad jokes shown from other people’s perspectives, but I miss hearing Percy speak for himself. This was one of my only pet peeves with this book.

The other is that it seemed rushed. I don’t know if more should have been put into other books to make this one go more smoothly or if there should have been a sixth book just so major events could be given more time in the novel. I felt like gigantic things we’ve been waiting forever to see and hear about were just casually mentioned and didn’t hold as much significance as they should have in the book.

But onto the good things! I loved seeing how much the characters have developed, especially ones like Percy, Annabeth, and Nico, because we can compare them to when they were even younger and more inexperienced. This is the book that really made me like Nico a lot; before I don’t think I really understood why everyone was so fascinated by him. When he got to have his own quest off with Reyna and had plenty of chapters to speak for himself, I started to respect and like him a lot more.

And the new characters–I loved them, too. Honestly, most of them are on the same level for me (apart from Leo. I could hear from Leo all day!) but I liked all of them for different reasons. Most of all, I loved seeing some of them grow more confident, some of them be humbled, and others come into powers they’d never even known they could have. They were just so interesting to read about!

I’m going to hold this series in my heart for a very long time and I think I’ll be recommending it forever. It’s a set of books that any age could enjoy–there’s adventure, romance, suspense, action, danger, and death. Basically, anything you could want (or love to hate) about a series, wrapped into one. With plenty of sarcastic commentary along the way.

5/5 stars

 

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

 

The Jewel

author : amy ewing

pages : [hardcover] 358

favorite character : raven

memorable quote : “Hope is a precious thing, isn’t it,” she says. “And yet, we don’t really appreciate it until it’s gone.”

summary :

he Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

review :

I really enjoyed the first half of this novel and was entertained but disappointed with the second half. Amy Ewing creates an interesting environment in The Jewel, where it appears that the entire world is a city  surrounded by the sea and separated into different layers that denote a person’s class. At the heart of the city is the Jewel, where all of the rich people live and where Violet is trapped as a surrogate years after they discover she has the magical abilities that are necessary for surrogates to have. She was put up for auction, stripped of her name, and told to forget about her past.

I did enjoy reading about Violet, for the most part. She struggled to remember her family and wants nothing more than to return to them. She hates the system, obviously, but isn’t trying to take it down so much as she’s hoping she can slip through it and return to the life which was stolen from her. I liked her little rebellions, even when they weren’t the smartest choices. It showed that Violet was still in there, even though potential escape seemed hopeless.

As soon as the love interest was introduced (surprisingly late into the book), she turned into someone I didn’t like. While I understand that both she and the interest have had limited, restrictive lives, so perhaps that’s why there was so much immediate attraction . . . He becomes all that Violet can think about. She’s no longer worrying about her family or herself; she’s only dreaming about his eyes and risking everything in silly ways. She could have still had the romance without being so ridiculous about it, which was frustrating to me and ended up making me severely dislike the latter half of the book.

Some of the twists were very predictable but I’m still interested in seeing what happens with this series next. While I won’t be purchasing the next book, I will be reading it and hoping that these books will redeem themselves. Even though plots of this type have become overdone, I can see the areas where Ewing has the chance to prove herself as an author and really hope that she’ll be able to pull it off.

3.5/5 stars

 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

 

Fangirl

author : rainbow rowell (also wrote landline and eleanor & park)

pages : [hardcover] 433

memorable quote In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t Google.)

favorite character : cath

summary :

A coming-of-age tale of fanfiction, family and first love

CATH IS A SIMON SNOW FAN. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan… But for Cath, being a fan is her life–and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fanfiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from frandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath that she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend; a fiction-writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world; a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words…and she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

review :

I absolutely loved this book! I’ve been meaning to read it for a while and this week I started it . . and couldn’t put it down! I think it’s because I loved Cath so much. Well, it was more of a love/hate relationship because it was so easy to see myself in Cath. A girl who’d rather spend most of her time with her laptop than actual human beings . . check! But I was worried that the book would somehow turn into a story where Cath starts going to parties and that miraculously makes her more social and have a better life. I should never have doubted Rainbow Rowell, the twists this book were going to have, and the amazing characters she’s created.

Cath enters college in this book and moves through fears that I feel most people around this age can relate to. I know that I could empathize with her almost immediately. She’s afraid of the little intricacies that go into heading to class or eating in the dining hall. She’s not sure what to make of her roommate, even though she’s spent most of her life sharing her room with her sister. While sometimes it was kind of funny, seeing the ways she’d avoid the things she didn’t know how to do, at the same time it made me a little anxious because I know how much anxiety I get over those little tasks that no one bothers to explain to you how to do.

One thing about this book that I absolutely loved were the snippets of Simon Snow fanfiction as well as pieces of the actual book series. I’m pretty sure that anyone who’s read a book has at least thought about, read, or written fanfiction, or you might have unwittingly encountered it in some way. I think that it’s incredible that Cath is able to create such a following for herself online but I’d never imagined the kinds of pressure and expectation that come with something like that.

I think that I can’t recommend this book enough. It has lovely writing and lovelier characters. It’s a super fun read and also has its serious bits, without getting cheesy. I’m not usually one for contemporary romance so I feel like it takes a special kind of book to make me really like something in that genre and this is it.

5/5 stars

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

 

Love Letters to the Dead

author : ava dellaira

pages : [hardcover] 327

memorable quote You can be noble and brave and beautiful and still find yourself falling.

favorite character : laurel

summary :

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.

Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven’t forgiven?

It’s not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that’s as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl’s journey through life’s challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

review :

 Love Letters to the Dead is unlike anything that I have ever read before and I say that in the best way possible because I ended up really loving this book. It’s told solely through a series of letters written by Laurel, all addressed to people who have passed away. This morbid assignment turns into a way for her to express feelings and come to terms with memories that she was repressed from herself and avoided mentioning to those who love her. Laurel is having a hard time with May’s death and the reader doesn’t quite know why for most of the book because Laurel isn’t willing to speak about it.

What I found unique about the choice of letters is that several could come from a certain day when Laurel needs to let out her feelings or weeks would go by between letters and we’d only know that from Laurel mentioning that it is so. The reader has no control and needs to piece together what the narrator isn’t mentioning as well as put together the clues that she happens to leave about her past and her hopes for the future.

Laurel was a fantastic character because she just seemed so real to me. She’s a typical teenager trying to find herself and has to go through this hardship at the same time. While not every teen can say they’ve experienced that kind of loss, I think that those who are teens themselves as well as older people who remember their teenage years will be able to relate to Laurel and her chaotic, emotional life. She isn’t perfect; far from it. Similarly, her life at school and her relationships with the people around her are peppered with imperfections that only add to the realistic vibe.

By the end of the book, I was severely emotionally invested in these characters. I wanted to know what had happened while  I simultaneously dreaded finding out the truth. Just like I think Laurel needed to tell her secrets but also didn’t want people to see her differently for them. She had me shedding a few tears by the end of the book, which, despite the heavy material, I hadn’t expected.

I really love this book and think that a lot of people will also love it. I’d highly recommend reading it when you have plenty of time to read through the whole thing. You will get hooked, you may cry, and you’ll love the journey anyway.

5/5 stars