Tag Archives: Stand-alone

Minute Review: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Boy Meets BoyBy Meets Boy by David Levithan
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

We all need a place. I have mine–this topsy-turvy collection of friends, tunes, afterschool activities, and dreams. I want him to have a place, too. When he says, “I like it here,” I don’t want there to be a sad undertone. I want to be able to say. So stay.

This is a sweet, sad, quirky, and whimsical tale about a boy named Paul and his many friends. Being set in a world that reminds me of a carnival-mirror version of our own, it explores a lot of serious issues while wrapping them in humor and whimsy. I know some reviewers didn’t appreciate the seemingly unrealistic community of characters, but I thought they framed the story beautifully, allowing me to imagine a world, not too different from our own, in which acceptance can come a little easier.

Recommendation: Read this if you are craving a wacky, whimsical world in which the high school’s top drag queen can also be the star quarterback.

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Minute Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Attachments
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The next night, Lincoln parked his Corolla right next to The Courier’s front door.

“I’m here,” he thought. “Find me. Follow me. Make this inevitable.”

This quirky, socially awkward, and seemingly doomed romance packs a punch of reflection and nostalgia. I loved the quirky characters, the vivid 1990s imagery, and the creativity of the story. While it hasn’t usurped Carry On as my favorite of Rowell’s novels, it definitely made my overall favorites list.

Recommendation: Read this if you’re a fan of Rainbow Rowell, are craving some serious Y2K nostalgia, or love socially awkward nerdy folks.

Minute Review: The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

20500616The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Love’s more than holding hands and going to dances. It’s two people who struggle to live, even when they should maybe both be dead. When maybe one of them would be better off dead.”

Andrew Brawley’s story is beautiful and tragic in so many ways, full of grief, guilt, friendship, family, and love.

Recommendation: Read this if you are looking for a somber, but deeply moving story. I also recommend a box of tissues.

Minute Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
 by Becky Albertalli
My Rating
: 5 of 5 stars

But I’m tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.

I loved this book so much, and in ways that I find really difficult to articulate. The writing is charismatic, snarky, and just plain fun to read, and while the story is largely about Simon falling in love and coming out to the world, its themes are astonishingly universal.

And there are way too many great quotes to just include two…

I love the way you smile like you don’t realize you’re doing it. I love your perpetual bed head. I love the way you hold eye contact a moment longer than you need to. And I love your moon-gray eyes. So if you think I’m not attracted to you, Simon, you’re crazy.

Recommendation: Read this if you liked Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, because they have so many great qualities in common! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you should read Carry On, too! 😉

Minute Review: Silver Lining by Maggie Osborne

Silver Lining

Silver Lining by Maggie Osborne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The situation demanded some serious swearing and bullying, but she couldn’t let herself cut loose, not with Sunshine in the kitchen. Having a child nearby placed a severe crimp in her style.

“You are full of… horse feathers, cowboy.” Leaning over him, she stared hard into his eyes. “I didn’t work like a damned dog out there and freeze my butt off–excuse me, Sunshine–so we could just let those damned–‘scuse me, Sunshine–stupid cows starve or freeze. And we aren’t going to find a buyer for them now, that’s for damned sure–excuse me, Sunshine.”

This story can be read one of two ways: either it’s completely unrealistic and frustrating, or it’s a wacky, amusing, almost farcical Western Romance in which virtue wins out and the baddies get their just desserts. Fortunately for me, by about 30% in I knew I would highly enjoy it as one of the latter 🙂

Recommendation: Read this if you enjoy Hallmark Channel Westerns or are intrigued by a mashup between My Fair Lady, Doctor Quinn Medicine Woman, and The Importance of Being Earnest.

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a standalone young adult novel that follows Cath through her freshman year of college. For the first time in her life, she’s away from home and not living with her identical twin sister, forcing her to break from her usual pattern and find a place of her own – as a college student, an artist, a friend, and a sister.

Before I jump into the review, I feel like I should say that this wasn’t a perfect book, but the story really resonated with me. It’s a young adult novel in pretty much every sense, and the story is about the journey. There is a lot of dialogue, personal struggle, and growth. Because of that, if you don’t connect with the journey you won’t connect with the book. I don’t think this story is for everyone, but it is for me, and it might be for you, too.

“Look at you. All sweatered up. What are those, leg sweaters?”
“They’re leg warmers.”
“You’re wearing at least four different kinds of sweater.”
“This is a scarf.”
“You look tarred and sweatered.”

The first thing I really enjoyed about this book was the writing. The narrative kept me going from start to finish, and it is full of witty, adorable dialogue. This kind of writing is one of my favorite things about a lot of YA novels.

The element of Cath’s story that spoke to me the most was her struggle with creating her own literary worlds. She’s an artist, but she doesn’t think she can be one outside of the scope of Simon Snow, her fandom of choice. She feels that real writers create new worlds starting from nothing, and she doesn’t know how to do that. I wish this book had been around when I was a teenager. I could have learned along with Cath that being an artist isn’t about creating something entirely original from nothing. Our experiences influence everything we do.

Lastly, I loved the presence of fanfiction in the story – not the excerpts, but the fact that it was such a big part of Cath’s life. I remember my own days of furiously reading Harry Potter fanfiction and midnight release events, and Cath’s story is full of nostalgia for me. I loved that Rowell included fanfiction as a complex and wonderful phenomenon, rather than a silly or childish hobby.

Speaking of the Simon Snow fanfiction, Rowell has written her own version of Simon and Baz’s story! It is called Carry On, and it’s not quite canon and not quite fanfiction, but it is 384 pages of Simon and Baz fighting evil and falling in love. The release date is October 6th, 2015!

See my review on Goodreads for Some Particulars.

Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Uprooted is a standalone fantasy novel by Naomi Novik. It tells the story of Agnieszka and her valley, living in the shadow of the Wood and relying on a wizard to keep its corruption at bay. I wouldn’t exactly call this a young adult novel, simply because I think it is equally accessible to everyone.

I always have the hardest time writing reviews for books I’ve loved, and this is definitely one of those. Finding the words to describe all of the aspects I most enjoyed seems like such a daunting task, and I’m always tempted to write, “Just read it, because of all the reasons!!” and leave it at that. So keeping this in mind, please bear with me while I try to express these so-called reasons a little more thoroughly.

The setting took my breath away. There was just enough descriptive detail to breathe life into the valley without overwhelming the reader with landscapes, and with Agnieszka as the narrator, understanding her connection to her home was so simple. As an integral part of this setting, the Wood was a fantastic villain! I loved that the antagonist of the story isn’t an evil wizard or power-hungry king – it is a corrupted Wood that is both natural and personified.

“I’m not stupid, nor a liar,” I said, “and if I can’t do any good, I can at least do something.”

Throughout the story, Agnieszka is not perfect, and she downright fails at many things, but she is amazing. She faces each new calamity the best way she can, drawing on the wisdom and intuition that comes from her childhood roots in the valley, regardless of whether she has the support of others. I also loved the contrasts between her and the Dragon, the valley’s lord and magician. Where he reveres order, perfection, and precision, Agnieszka only knows instinct and improvisation. This balance set the stage for hysterical interactions, a lot of magical growing pains, and a seemingly unstoppable partnership once they learn to work together.

Magic was singing in me, through me; I felt the murmur of his power singing back that same song.

Lastly, there is so much story in these 435 pages! I never felt like the adventure was dragging or went on too long, but it did feel like I was reading a much larger book. The plot development and growing excitement kept me reading at a good pace.

One final note for anyone looking for a couple of concrete comparisons: While this story was completely its own, the representation of nature and Agnieszka’s central role in returning balance reminded me of several of my favorite Hayao Miyazaki movies (think Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind with a little Howl’s Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke thrown in).

As I said, I adored this book, and I will definitely be reading it again (and again). I’m also excited to read more from Naomi Novik, particularly her Temeraire series. Hooray for new book loves!

See my review on Goodreads.