The F-It List by Julie Halpern

Review of The F- It List

The F- It List by Julie Halpern
Title & Author:
The F- It List by Julie Halpern
Publisher:
Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date:
November 12, 2013
Pages:
256
Source:
ARC via Publisher

Alex’s father recently died in a car accident. And on the night of his funeral, her best friend Becca slept with Alex’s boyfriend. So things aren’t great. Alex steps away from her friendship with Becca and focuses on her family.

But when Alex finally decides to forgive Becca, she finds out something that will change her world again–Becca has cancer.

So what do you do when your best friend has cancer? You help her shave her head. And then you take her bucket list and try to fulfill it on her behalf. Because if that’s all you can do to help your ailing friend–you do it. – Goodreads

The F- It List by Julie Halpern is witty, snark-filled story that felt very honest in its portrayal of not only what it’s like being a teenager right now, but how cancer can affect people.

And I really liked it. I’ve seen a few mixed reviews, but I enjoyed The F- It List. I felt like the tone was really realistic and Alex’s character was snarky but in a very natural sounding way. Sometimes a character is too snarky, you know? And it makes you hate them. But there was a lot about Alex that reminded me of myself when I was a teenager.

I was also totally loving the pop culture references in The F- It List. And there’s a lot of them. Again, it felt very natural. From Alex’s Norman Reedus thing to Buffy binge-watching, I was all over it, because my favourite thing is pop culture, basically.

Everyone’s reaction to things like cancer is different, whether you’re the one who has it or it’s your best friend, and I thought Julie Halpern did a great job of showing that. We’ve got Becca, who actually has cancer, and she’s bitter and sarcastic and scared. And then Alex, the best friend, who is awkward and unsure and pretty much terrified. And then Becca’s mom, who turns to God, and a girl at school, who goes around telling everyone. I don’t know, I just really liked how no person acted the same way.

The F- It List had a lot sexual situations, so if that’s not your thing, I might suggest not reading it. But I really liked Leo and I liked his interactions with Alex. I thought that played out well. And I liked how the characters in The F- It List kind of owned their sexuality. It’s a reality of being a teenager these days, maybe not everyone is having sex, but a lot of them are and a lot of them know people that are.

But more important than that, I think, was Alex and Becca. The summary of The F- It List kind of makes it sound like Becca and Alex aren’t friends anymore until she gets cancer, but it wasn’t really like that? They were just fighting a bit and then they kind of just jumped back into their friendship and it was the same as it ever was. It didn’t have that strengthening growth described in the summary – but maybe that’s because I didn’t get a good look at what their friendship was before the fight and before the cancer. I don’t know, whatever their friendship was or wasn’t, I liked it. Not nearly enough YA focuses on friendship and I felt like it was a big part of the The F- It List, although the romance bits definitely took up a lot of the screen time too.

Oh, and I really liked Caleb. I don’t know why, because he was barely there, but I think he was my favourite character.

This review is all over the place, but basically, I enjoyed The F- It List by Julie Halpern. It was bitter and sarcastic, but hilarious and full of heart, much like a teenager, I think. I loved the focus on Alex and Becca’s friendship – I thought it balanced out the romance and the sex perfectly. The writing is fairly straight-forward and easy to get into. Definitely pick it up if The F- It List sounds like your thing.

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Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel

Review of Palace of Spies

Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel
Title & Author:
Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel
Publisher:
HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date:
November 05, 2013
Pages:
368
Source:
ARC via Publisher

A warning to all young ladies of delicate breeding who wish to embark upon lives of adventure: Don’t.

Sixteen-year-old Peggy is a well-bred orphan who is coerced into posing as a lady in waiting at the palace of King George I. Life is grand, until Peggy starts to suspect that the girl she’s impersonating might have been murdered. Unless Peggy can discover the truth, she might be doomed to the same terrible fate. But in a court of shadows and intrigue, anyone could be a spy—perhaps even the handsome young artist with whom Peggy is falling in love…

History and mystery spark in this effervescent series debut. – Goodreads

Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel was everything I wanted it to be – it was fun, with a hint of swoon, some spy action, and a good deal of mystery. I’m a sucker for historical fiction involving the royal court and scandalous things occurring and Palace of Spies did not let me down.

First and foremost, I loved the setting and set-up for Palace of Spies. Usually when we get stories set in historical England, it’s Elizabethan times or something really similar, but this was set a good 100 years later. So it was pretty cool to be reading about Jacobites and stuff – not something you usually get. It made for a really interesting set-up for Palace of Spies, never knowing who was on which side and who could be trusted.

I didn’t quite get that pretty much no one recognized that Peggy wasn’t Francesca (because the set-up is that one of the queen’s maids dies and Peggy is hired to impersonate her). I mean, this girl must have been really freaking close in appearances – or she was wearing a ton of make up. But that’s okay. I kind of just put it out of my mind after a while because it really just didn’t matter.

The mystery in Palace of Spies was one of the really fun ones for me. I hate it when, as a reader, I figure it out way too early and I spend the whole book wanting to punch the main character for being dumb. But I also hate it when the main character figures it out and I’m lagging behind going wait, what? So I think Sarah Zettel timed it brilliantly and I felt like I was figuring it out with Peggy.

There was a romance element to Palace of Spies, although the focus was definitely more on the story – but I was rooting for it all the way and swooned a wee bit.

If you’re looking for a fun historical fiction that won’t overwhelm you with the all the bits and pieces, but will still put you very much in the setting, definitely pick up Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel. It’s a fun read with a great mystery and I will for sure be picking up the second book in the series.

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The Vow by Jessica Martinez

Review of The Vow

The Vow by Jessica Martinez
Title & Author:
The Vow by Jessica Martinez
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Publication Date:
October 15, 2013
Pages:
432
Source:
Publisher via Edelweiss

No one has ever believed that Mo and Annie are just friends. How can a guy and a girl really be best friends?

Then the summer before senior year, Mo’s father loses his job, and by extension his work visa. Instantly, life for Annie and Mo crumbles. Although Mo has lived in America for most of his life, he’ll be forced to move to Jordan. The prospect of leaving his home is devastating, and returning to a world where he no longer belongs terrifies him.

Desperate to save him, Annie proposes they tell a colossal lie—that they are in love. Mo agrees because marrying Annie is the only way he can stay. Annie just wants to keep her best friend, but what happens when it becomes a choice between saving Mo and her own chance at real love? – Goodreads

The first thing that comes to mind about The Vow by Jessica Martinez is holy intense plotline. And oh so good.

The Vow is one of those books where you get the general idea of how it’s going to end from the very beginning and you spend the whole book hoping you’re wrong because you really, really want it to end different, but then when the ending itself happens, you’re grudgingly like oh man, I guess that was actually perfect.

I loved all of the different elements in The Vow – Jessica Martinez is great at doing issues books without shoving those issues in your face, you know? Like The Vow had racism, the grief of losing a sibling, complicated friendships, controlling parents, first love, and just a lot of other elements, but Jessica Martinez weaves them together into one whole story brilliantly.

The Vow alternated between Mo’s point of view and Annie’s point of view, which I actually really liked it. And I usually just can’t stand alternating point of views, but I felt like the different perspectives really helped round out the story. I could more easily emphasize with Mo and Annie when they made decisions I didn’t necessarily agree with because I was getting everything from their point of view.

And man, I loved their friendship. And just everything about the two of them. Mostly Mo, I think. I liked Annie a lot, but sometimes I just wanted to shake her. Well, I wanted to shake Mo too sometimes. But together, I loved them.

Alright, anyway – basically, I really enjoyed The Vow by Jessica Martinez. If you’ve read her past work and enjoyed it, or if you’re just looking for a good, kind of out of the norm contemporary, I definitely recommend picking up The Vow.

Other books by Jessica Martinez

Virtuosity
The Space Between Us

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As some of you guys might have seen, I have a new layout!

I loved my old one because, hello, it had a cat on it, and I’m kind of obsessed with slider bars with featured posts. But it was really slow loading because of the the slider bar and as cute as the cat was, I wanted something a little more…serious? I guess, hah! Or maybe just pretty. I like pretty, whimsical things.

Anyway, so I’ve been working on this layout for a few weeks now and I think it’s finally to where I want it, although I need to tweak some sidebar stuff and random little things and what not.

Excited for November post coming soon…as is the Debut Author Challenge post from October & November because hello, my backpacking trip threw me all out of loop. And I have prizes to send out and e-mails to respond to, so…hang in there, everyone! I am slowly but surely catching up on all the things!

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Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Review of Where the Stars Still Shine

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
Title & Author:
Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
Publisher:
Bloomsbury Children
Publication Date:
September 24, 2013
Pages:
309
Source:
Purchased/NetGalley (read part via e-galley, part via finished copy)

Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She’s never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love–even with someone who seems an improbable choice–is more than just a possibility.

Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love, betrayal, and how not to lose your mind will resonate with readers who want their stories gritty and utterly true. – Goodreads

I loved Trish Doller’s first book, Something Like Normal. It was raw and real and gritty. But my love for her second book, Where the Stars Still Shine, is seriously hard to express in words. Trust me, there is no sophomore novel syndrome here.

There was so much of Where the Stars Still Shine that pretty brutal and hard to take because Callie went through some tough shit in her life and obviously there’s no easy way to fix that. But there’s also a lot of Where the Stars Still Shine that makes you realize that even though Callie went through all of this tough shit, she’s super normal and her story has elements in it that are relatable to everyone, from not sure where you belong, to a real first love, strange new friendships, etc.

I loved all of the characters in Where the Stars Still Shine. Callie, her father Greg, Alex, a whole cast of crazy Greek relatives, and even Callie’s mother – they all made the story and I can’t imagine it being told without any one of them.

My favourite thing about Trish Doller’s books is that she doesn’t shy away from the issues – but she doesn’t necessarily shove them in your face either. She knows teens are having sex and it’s an important aspect of the story, and has a lot to do with who Callie is as a person and who she becomes, but it’s not like Trish Doller is being controversial to be controversial. It just is what it is, if that makes any sense at all.

I loved the relationship between Callie and Alex. I love how it started and I loved the place it was at when Where the Stars Still Shine ended. I could easily see the relationship between them had an effect on Callie’s growth throughout the whole story – it felt like a very natural course for both of the characters. Alex and Callie made me giddy and frustrated and sad and hopeful and just all the emotions ever.

Also, it was super cool reading Where the Stars Still Shine because I’ve been to Tarpon Springs many times and eaten at a lot of the same restaurants and seen the sponging stuff and everything. I was nerding out over Florida, basically. Trish Doller is a master at settings.

If you’re looking for an amazing contemporary, you should go pick up Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller. Because it is beautiful.

Other books by Trish Doller

Something Like Normal

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