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connie908

Translate My Heart

I am a twenty-something year old with a fondness for books, snail mail and summer dresses. I work in a bookshop and live in the pages of books.

Destiny, Rewritten

Destiny, Rewritten - Kathryn Fitzmaurice Cute book about destiny/fate set in Berkeley.

Small Damages

Small Damages - Beth Kephart Atmospheric and descriptive, Kephart has a way with words. However, for those who like plot-driven stories - this probably isn't the book for them.

Unbreak My Heart

Unbreak My Heart - Melissa C. Walker Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker was definitely a great book to usher in summer. Set during the season, the story has travel elements as well as a potential summer romance - two things that I like to read about, especially during summer. But make no mistake, this is not a light hearted novel on the fun times of summer - the heart of Walker's book focuses on relationships, betrayals and most of all, forgiveness. While the natural feeling is to hate Clem for going after her best friend's boyfriend, Walker has written Clem as a pretty sympathetic character. She's definitely flawed with her bratty and selfish moments. There were times when I wanted to shake her for the way she treats her family. However, her actions and emotions are realistic and natural given she's a teenager with her heart broken and reeling from intense emotions. Walker's use of flashbacks to showcase the events leading up to Clem and Amanda's break in friendship lend to Clem's sympathetic characterization. I definitely felt for Clem after what happened. Especially when it comes to light that she's the one saddled with the majority of the blame, while The Boy gets off scot-free. Which is a double standard that drove me bananas. And speaking of characters, I love love love the secondary characters. Walker has definitely created a fun, likable crew of characters. First off, Clem's parents. Too often when I read YA, the parents are either terrible, dead or never much on the page. This isn't the case here. The positive relationship they have with their children is one that I would like to see more often in YA. I also adore the sibling relationship between Clem and Olive as well as the run ins with the older couple, Ruth and George. To tell you the truth, I know nothing about boats and sailing so I cannot say if Walker's portrayal of this world is realistic, but I can tell you that I enjoyed her illustrations of sailing life. The nautical aspects of the story add to the story and never slow the pacing. Additionally, Walker makes it fun with the puns Clem and company encounter throughout the trip. Overall, I enjoyed my time with this book. Walker has created a emotionally driven story with great characterization and a common theme that can be relatable to most teens.

The Dovekeepers: A Novel

The Dovekeepers - Alice Hoffman Like Bradley's feminist take on Camelot in Mists of Avalon, in Dovekeepers Hoffman provides a feminist lens on events surrounding the fall of Masada. Beautifully written!

The Disenchantments

The Disenchantments - Nina LaCour I have a fascination for road-trip stories, well, travel stories mostly. There is such a romanticism to a road-trip story: the wide open road with wind whipping through your hair as you speed off towards adventure and possibilities. I always love that kind of image. So it was a foregone conclusion that I would read this book eventually. However, since I love this author's previous book, Hold Still, I kicked it up the to-read pile.Unlike Hold Still,The Disenchantments focuses on a point of view of a male narrator, Colby. Colby who finds himself struggling with the question "what's next?" when best friend Bev drops their long standing plans to wander Europe for a year. I normally do not read a lot of books featuring the male pov, but the struggles Colby faces about his friendship with Bev and his potential future makes him a narrator I could easily connect to. I think most of us, in our lifetimes, face the question of "what's next?". That is what emotionally connected me to the story. I am in the same place Colby was in at the beginning of the story; struggling to find out what's next in life. But it is not only Colby that makes The Disenchantments a wonderful story. It's the whole complex cast of characters from sullen, mysterious Bev to vibrant pink haired Meg to organized Alexa with her notebook of potential careers and all the people they meet along the way. The relationships between them are so fraught with tension, laughter, conflict and everything in between and Nina LaCour portrays it beautifully. The characters come so alive that I feel like I could bump into them on the street or see them hanging out in a cafe.Additionally, the themes help makes this book resonates. Some of themes The Disenchantments touches on deal with the meaning of friendship, the possibilities of choice, the power of art and music, and the potential of the future. Themes that most people can in one shape or another connect with. A vibrant, radiant book that I cannot recommend enough.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - Jennifer E. Smith Hadley only misses her flight by four minutes and in that time, it changes her life. Because she meets Oliver and they form a connection. I love the premise of the possibility of connections. The idea of chance meetings and fate is so charming in a world so driven by technology and social networking.Given the premise, I completely thought this book would be a light romantic comedy about two teenagers falling madly in love. I completely misjudged it. While the romance does feature in the novel, both Hadley and Oliver have their own separate demons they must face. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is much a story about romantic love as it is about familial love.Hadley's still reeling from the destruction her dad left when he took off for a semester teaching at Oxford and fell in love with the city as well as another woman. She did not want to be at the airport in the first place; flying off to attend her dad's wedding to "that other woman". I really felt for Hadley and her antics are sympathetic given the situation and relationship with her father.Given the short nature of the connection between Hadley and Oliver, it can be hard to realistically create a believable romance. But Jennifer E. Smith does it and it such a short book too! Her writing style made me feel like I was with Hadley every step of the way from the airport to the plane and dashing around London.  And I was right there as she started falling...The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a sweet, charming read and I can't recommend it enough.

Cinder: Book One in the Lunar Chronicles

Cinder - Marissa Meyer Initially, Cinder drew me with its re-imagined Cinderella story. Fairy tales hold a dear place in my heart because those stories is what transformed me into a reader. As a child, I would ensconce myself in the fairy tale section of the library and read for hours. Additionally, all the buzz and positive feedback on Cinder help cement the idea that it would be a good book to start my 2012 reading year.Cinder retains some of the classic fairy tale elements: a girl under the thumb of her domineering stepmother, a prince charming, two stepsisters, and a missing shoe. However, it is in the details and world building that Meyer remakes Cinderella into a fresh tale. In this fairytale, Cinder is a cyborg. As not fully human Cinder faces discrimination from not only her family, but from society at large. People avoid her simply for who she is and legally her freedom is tied to her stepmother. I love this exploration of the divide between humans and cyborgs, which touches on issues of class systems, slavery and humanity. Meyer touches on this few and far between, but I hope that it will be addressed more in the later books. As the focal point of the story, Cinder's characterization shines through. A smart, capable heroine - Cinder's is not one to depend on others in determining her fate. Rather, she makes her own path. Even early on, she relies on her skills as a mechanic to save enough money to break free of her stepmother's hold. While she lacks ability to show emotion, Cinder is capable of feeling strongly whether it is love or sorrow. However, I have trouble with Prince Kai's characterization. Besides his conflict over his duty to his heart or his people and the fact that he is handsome, not much is known about him. He still is a mystery and the relationship between him and Cinder therefore does not feel organic to me. In terms of the world building, New Beijing brings to mind a futuristic city grounded in Chinese lore and culture. Besides the whole cyborg thing, I was excited about this world of New Beijing. As a Chinese-American, I am always excited when I read books featuring elements from my cultural heritage since there are not a lot of YA books that have that. I thought 'finally, a futuristic story with potential Chinese elements'. However, I did not feel any of that and I was a little disappointed with that. While it felt somewhat superficially Chinese at least in some of the names and manners of address, there were no strong details to tie this story to Beijing or China. Despite some reservations, I did breeze through the story and enjoyed reading it. Meyer create a fun revamp of Cinderella and I will definitely be keeping my eye out for the sequel, Scarlet.

The Survival Kit

The Survival Kit - Donna Freitas A picture of peonies, a crystal heart, an iPod, a paper star, a box of crayons and a tiny handmade kite made up Rose's Survival Kit - a kit made by her mother before she died in a devastating battle against cancer. Before her mother's death, Rose was a vibrant girl in the center of the school's social scene and dating the popular captain of the football them. Now she is a shell of her former self; quitting cheerleading and ending her rocky relationship with her boyfriend. Her only tie to her former life is her best friend, Krupa. With the discovery of the survival kit, can Rose begin to heal and piece her heart together?Poor heartbroken Rose. I can't say I love the character, but I certainly empathize with her as she struggles to grieve and move on while holding the family together, especially dealing with her father's drinking binges. Her grief and reactions felt very powerfully real that it did not seem like a struggle of a character in a novel. Freitas did a good job fleshing out Rose's character.I cannot say the same with the secondary characters or the love interest, Will. They felt very underdeveloped and while ultimately this is Rose's story, I wish they had more personality infused into the story. Krupa, the best friend, could easily be a very interesting character, yet for most of the story she seem to serve as a prop than an individual character with her own potential story. A positive note on her secondary characters is that they never dissolve into the mean jock stereotype. All the characters were very much kind and nice people and it is good to see nice cheerleaders.With such a difficult subject matter, books on grief and death can easily get bogged down. The Survival Kit never gets to that point. While some of the dialogue could be fixed - there were some points where the dialogue felt formal and wooden - most of it flowed together to craft a moving story on loss. However with so many other books on the subject matter, Freitas' story does not stand out in the crowd for me. I felt no connection with the story compared to Nina LaCour's Hold Still or Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere, both books with similar themes that I love and felt deeply for.While The Survival Kit did not find a home in my heart, I am confident that this book will appeal to other readers out there.

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green Review to come.

Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances

Let it Snow - Lauren Myracle, John Green, Maureen Johnson I had this on my to-read list for several years. Probably since the anthology came out. So for this holiday season, I was bound and determined to have this read before Christmas. And I did it! *happy dance*Let It Snow contains three holiday romances written by three well-known YA authors: Maureen Johnson, John Green and Lauren Myracle. Which is what I already knew before I picked this up from the library. What I did not know was that all the stories interconnect in some way. It was a lovely surprise. So how does a Waffle House, a snowstorm on Christmas Eve, Gracetown and a train with 14 cheerleaders factor into three different winter love stories.In The Jubilee Express, Jubilee is stuck on Christmas Eve in a train headed south. When a snowstorm hits and the train is stuck outside Gracetown, Jubilee decides to explore and finds a Waffle House where she meets Stuart, a sweet boy who offers her shelter for the holidays. This is my favorite story out of the three. Partly because it is written by Maureen Johnson and I love her charming writing style filled with humor and wit. And I love Juiblee's voice - she's funny, witty and very charming.John Green's piece, A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle, follows Tobin, the Duke (aka Angie) and JP as they head out in the snow in a race to get to the Waffle House first with the Twister. Why? Because the 14 cheerleaders desire it. Overall, I liked the story. It did not pull at my heartstrings like Johnson's story, but I was laughing at the antics they got into as they attempt to beat two other pairs to the Waffle House.Lastly, The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle, focuses on Addie, a heartbroken teen. Regretting the break-up, she sends her ex-boyfriend an email to meet on Christmas Eve at the Starbucks where they shared their first kiss. I found Addie the least favorite out of all the characters, but the story was definitely cute as all the characters came together in the end.All in all, Let it Snow is a sweet Christmas read to curl up with and I am glad I finally read it.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin If I could do .5 on the ratings, this would be 2.5. I liked the story with reservations. Most of my problems came up towards the end. My reactions were pretty much 'WTF' most of the time and a lot had to do with plot points and characterization issues I had. Much potential, but fell short.

Wrapped

Wrapped - Jennifer Bradbury First off, isn’t this cover gorgeous? It’s what attracted me to this book. I am glad I did because it took me away from the present for a couple of fun-filled hours. Infused with history, humor and romance, Wrapped is an adventure tale featuring a plucky heroine.Agnes Wilkins is not your typical Regency lady. Instead of going to balls and flirting with potential suitors, Agnes rather spend her time reading novels by a Lady and learning languages. But alas, her debut has come and her first event is a mummy unwrapping at the house of Lord Showalter – London’s most eligible and desirable bachelor. There she steals away an object found on the mummy and gets follow by a strange waiter who is mysteriously found dead at the end of the party. This sets off a chain of events with Agnes potentially caught in the middle.One great thing about this novel is the family dynamics presented. Most YA novels do not show a positive relationship between parents and child, so I thought that is a nice touch. While Agnes’ mom does not understand her child’s interest in literature over catching a beau, she still obviously loves Agnes. And vice versus. Agnes’ spunk is unusual for the time period, but her father clearly loves her for her adventurous independent spirit and does not force her to change.Wrapped is an enjoyable read. I adore Agnes partly because she has a mutual love for Austen and partly because she can speak ten different languages. So envious of that talent. The pacing is steady and made for quick reading. The adventure is filled with fun mishaps and historical detail. While sophisticated readers might easily deduce the villain, the story has a charm that will keep readers going. At least it did for me.

The Name of the Star (Shades of London)

The Name of the Star - Maureen Johnson Before I talk about my thoughts on this book, I have to preface this review with the confession that I am a huge fan of Maureen Johnson’s books since I first read her 13 Little Blue Envelopes. I fell hard for this author and has subsequently been trying to read all her books published since then. So when this book came for me at work, it pretty much made my day.Aurora “Rory” Deveaux has spent her life growing up in a small town in Louisiana where gators are common and she’s surrounded by her quirky family members from her aunt who runs an angel business to her uncle who owns eight freezers and doesn’t believe in banks. When her parents get a job teaching in England, she gets a choice to stay or go.Rory decides to go and she arrives in London at the worst possible time. The day she lands in London is the same day a murderer has struck London. Not just any killer, but one that is copying the work of Jack the Ripper. All anyone can talk about is the Ripper copycat and despite the presence of cameras everywhere, there are few leads and even fewer witnesses. Until Rory sees a man one night the same night a body was found. Soon she gets caught in the middle of “Rippermania” and a very top secret police force.In short, The Name of the Star, takes a gruesome topic (Jack the Ripper) and ghosts spinning it in Johnson’s trademark clever and humorous manner. To elaborate, the Jack the Ripper plot line could easily veer into the macabre with elaborate details about the killer’s methodology, victims, etc. yet it never gets that way. There is touches of grim, but Maureen Johnson also infuses the story with humor that it balances out. I also enjoy the way Johnson approaches the ghost mythology. It’s unique and believable – well, as much as ghosts are.I also enjoy Johnson’s characters. Main character Rory’s voice is so much fun – comical, strong, and unique. Her tangents about life in Louisana and her quirky family levy the chilling atmosphere set by the strange murders. However, Johnson doesn’t put her eggs in one basket – I really enjoy my time with her cast of secondary characters from Claudia – the field hockey loving house-mom to prim headgirl Charlotte.Additional bonus is the way romance is handled here. It is not girl-meets-boy and “I’ll love you forever” kind of romance, which seem to dominate YA literature. Rather it’s “you’re cute so let’s just make out since it probably is one of the more normal things going on in my life right now”. And it does not dominate the story line. And no love triangle, at least for now! And for full disclosure, my favorite boy character is Stephen. I hope there will be more of him in the continuing series.I am definitely anticipating the next Shades of London novel. I hope it’s not too long of a wait.

The Goddess Test (Harlequin Teen)

The Goddess Test - Aimee Carter The Goddess Test is the first e-book I ever read/finished. It was not easy since I partly was reading this on my itouch. It's also the first ARC I got off Netgalley. The story behind why I choose to request this ARC is simple. It is because I am a sucker for mythology. As a child, I would check out all the books on myths, fairy tales, fables and folk tales the library had. So I was very drawn to this Hades and Persephone retelling.One of the best things about this novel is the relationship between Kate and her mom. In YA, majority of stories feature absent/dead parents or conflicts with them so it was refreshing to see a different side of the teen-parent relationship. Kate and her mom have a loving relationship and Kate would do anything to keep her mom from dying... include agreeing to Henry's bargain. Sometimes my skeptical self flares up and questions Kate's selfless nature - no way can she be this good! But she is. Speaking of the bargain, I thought Carter's the creation of tests is a clever twist to add and make this myth more original. However, I had some issue with how easily Kate accepted this world of magic. As well as living with a complete stranger and entering into a bargain with him. Henry never seems fully nuanced to me - he appears to simply react to the events and never exhibits an independence of his own. Despite some shortcomings, I enjoyed myself and will look forward to the continuing story.

Prom and Prejudice

Prom and Prejudice - Elizabeth Eulberg One of my dirty little secrets is I am super into Pride and Prejudice to the point that I read fanfiction, sequels and adaptations. This Pride and Prejudice reinterpretation takes place in a modern day Connecticut at the very fancy, very posh Longbourn Academy. Lizzie Bennett, a scholarship student and musical prodigy, cannot stand most of her rich classmates and vice versa. When her best friend Jane drags her to a party she encounters snobbish Will Darcy. She automatically labels him as another rich jerk. But they keep running into each other as Jane and Will's best friend Charles spend time together. The plotting of the book is very parallel to Austen's Pride and Prejudice, except for the time change. However, what was missing is the depth of emotion. While this adaptation is adorable and fun, it lack the emotion in Austen's story and the characters seemed mainly shadows of Austen's. Especially Will Darcy. Sometimes the events felt designed to follow the Pride and Prejudice plot and did not naturally fit the modern day setting of the story. It felt more like a modern outline of Austen's book.There is a bright light to this and it's the witty dialogue. The characters are very well spoken and kept the story flowing. The dialogue does not lack, nor does Eulberg ramble on for hours. It's perfect for teenagers looking for a fluffy, fun read. And hopefully it will introduce a whole new generation to Austen's Pride and Prejudice and prompt them to read the original.

The Lover's Dictionary: A Novel

The Lover's Dictionary - David Levithan I am a fan of David Levithan's work ever since Boy Meets Boy. I pretty much read almost all of his young adult novels and when I heard about his first adult book coming out, it was instantly put on my to-read list. The Lover's Dictionary differs from his other novels, as each page contains a word, relating to love, and a short vignette-type entry that ties into the term. The couple is reference by I, you, he, etc. and never by a name, creating the impression that the couple could be anyone. Despite the anonymous nature of the couple, through the entries, the reader gets to glimpse the relationship the two have. The ups and downs. And the pro of the anonymity of the couple is the love story can be universal. It is definitely very ambitious project and I certainly enjoy how he approached it. It took a little getting used to, but the wonderfully crafted entries and the emotion captured in each won me over. From aberrant to zenith, Levithan captures the range of feelings love evokes in beautiful passages. I had to keep a mini notebook with me to capture some of my favorite lines. A wonderful story that many can relate to and just in time for Valentine's Day.