I am starting the new year with a new look to my mini-reviews (really just including the cover, but that’s a start!) and an effort to commit to five books per month – which I think is a very doable task. I exceeded five and managed to read two very different YA ARCs from Running Press Kids! So here’s what I read in January:
1. The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
512 pages / Anchor
Everyone had been talking about this book, so I decided to give Night Circus a try. Full of steampunk vibes and magic, it did not disappoint. Set The twins were the most interesting characters, although they were a side plot from the game. The romance between was a bit disjointed. I wanted more, but I loved this debut novel and I hope Erin Morgenstern writes more for me to read!
2. Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins
372 pages / Speak
Continuing on in my effort to read more YA, I started with this delightful fluffy read by Stephanie Perkins. Anna and the French Kiss is pretty much your typical girl-goes-to-boarding-school-in-a-foreign-country romance, but the characters are likable, even loveable. Lola and the Boy Next Door is next!
3. The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone – Adele Griffin
256 pages / Soho Teen
Dead teenage artist Addison Stone is the star of this book, which is told in the form of a posthumous biography via interviews with the characters in Addison’s tumultuous life. Addison struggled with psychiatric problems before she left small-town New England life for the New York City art scene. The combination of creative genius at such a young age and love for the spotlight made her the perfect it-girl. However, caught up in a whirlwind of publicity and partying, she hit her high and then spiraled back into the manic, illusive nightmares of her own ghosts, and her death was clouded in mystery. This book has been getting a lot of hype, and I would definitely recommend it if you can handle the interview style of storytelling.
4. Spirit Junkie – Gabrielle Bernstein
288 pages / Harmony
In Gabrielle Bernstein’s self-help/memoir, the motivational speaker, meditation & yoga teacher, and vlogger describes her journey from PR party girl to blissed-out guru by using A Course in Miracles to find release from her old life. I really admire Gabby and hope to one day see her speak (at Wanderlust, perhaps). I believe I purchased this book at just the right time in my life, since it has inspired me to take my own Course in Miracles.
5. When You Leave – Monica Ropal
336 pages / Running Press Kids Advanced Copy, On Sale April 2015
Skater-girl Cass is trying to remain invisible at her new preppy, private school. She rushes out of class at the end of the day to meet up with her best friend Mattie and fellow skaters Gav and Franklin. But one day, she is rescued from detention by the kiss of elite prep Cooper – and as much as she struggles against her feelings, the two fall for each other, but keep their relationship under wraps. When Cooper is murdered, and Gav is arrested for the crime, Cass and her group navigate the prep scene to find the real killer and free their friend. I had a few problems with plot holes in the story (Mattie is mute due to cancer, but we never find out what the cancer was), but overall it was a fun read.
6. Seed – Lisa Heathfield
336 pages / Running Press Kids Advanced Copy, On Sale March 2015
Seed is another young adult novel I managed to devour in a day, about a girl named Pearl. Pearl is a member of a cult (she doesn’t know it, obviously) and lives in Seed. In Seed, everything is wonderful – everyone is happy and never goes hungry; they are guided and loved by nature; the men, women, and children all share the workload and make life better for those on the outside, sight unseen. Or so Pearl is led to believe. But when newcomers arrive, Pearl’s eyes are opened to skepticism and truth. She is drawn to Ellis, the teenage boy who arrived with his mother and little sister, and Ellis sees all that is wrong with Seed and their father, Papa S. The story opens with her getting her period and thinking she’s dying, which caused me to roll my eyes and wonder if I made a mistake in opening the book, but please don’t discredit it there. Seed was gripping.
7. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
181 pages / William Morrow Books
As with The Night Circus, I felt like I was missing out by not reading something of Gaiman’s – and I had acquired this book for free from a swap at Main Point Books, so it was a great place to start. I read it in a day also (or less than that, since it was the same day I read Seed – the flu is a great opportunity to read). I really, really enjoyed The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It reminded me of a children’s horror story, and not just because the book is a reflection on the forty-year-old narrator’s childhood. It’s just so animated and vivid, and that’s what I loved. Anyway, our nameless narrator goes back to his childhood home after a funeral and visits the farm nearby his home. He remembers the terror of his childhood when a man killed himself using the narrator’s family’s stolen car, unleashing a string of events that lead the boy to the farm and a little girl named Lettie, whose family has generations of witches essentially. The evil comes out through our narrator and takes the form of his new nanny, who goes on to terrorize him until Lettie and her mom and grandma eventually save him from the various terrors that have been let out by this suicide. This might not be the world’s best description, but Gaiman’s writing kind of made me thing of Stephen King if he were writing in Dr. Seuss’s world. And it’s awesome.