Heart With Joy by Steve Cushman

Title: Heart With Joy
Author: Steve Cushman
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review Copy
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Canterbury House Publishing (September 1, 2010)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

My Thoughts:
Heart with Joy is about a 17-year-old boy Julian whose mom left him and his father because she said she wanted to help her parents with their motel and complete writing her book. But Julian knows it’s more than that. He plans on going to Florida to his mother for the summer, and possibly to settle there. He is not as close to his father as he was with his mother, so staying with his father is not really appealing to him.

Julian takes up cooking and other household activities after his mother goes away. Slowly, he discovers that he really likes cooking and is possibly even passionate about it. He gets acquainted with his next door neighbor, who is a really old woman, who has a passion for birds.

Heart With Joy is exactly that, finding something that fills your heart with joy instead of going through life just because you have to. It’s a coming of age story, where Julian begins to understand his father, his mother and his own heart. It’s an easy read and its a very simple and quite story. I enjoyed knowing more about birds as a hobby and also loved the glimpse of recipes given in the book.

I had a problem with what a sweet, understanding teenager Julian is. I haven’t met any teenager who is as well adjusted and has his priorities in place and also who has such insight into things. But maybe I’m just being cynical.

It’s a good book though, definitely worth a try if you like YA or like quite stories.

Paper Towns by John Green

Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Genre: Young Adult
Set in: United States
Source: Personal Shelf
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

My thoughts:
I cursed myself for waiting so long to read it and to discover John Green. I can safely say it’s one of the best YA novels I have read. I don’t know what I was expecting but I wasn’t expecting this. This book really make me laugh out loud many times, it made me fall in love with the characters.

Quintin (Q), Ben and Radar are friends who are in their final senior year. Q and his friends are not the popular kids , but they do have fun and are almost comfortable in their own skins which makes it a refreshing approach on unpopular kids in YA novels. Q is in love with this firecracker of a girl called Margo. She is everything Q is not. Although they were good friends when they were kids as they lived next to each other, they kind of drifted apart as they grew up. Margo became the popular girl. On the outside she seems perfect, but beneath that perfect exterior is a girl who is very different from what Q knows and loves. When she disappears leaving clues for Q to find her, he starts realizing that there is a lot more to her than what appears on the surface.

Q becomes obsessed with finding Margo and as the book progresses we get to know more about Q’s relationships with his friends and his parents. Paper Towns is the kind of book that makes you want to love the author for creating characters like these. The humor is delicious and as I said before I was laughing throughout. Even my husband was intrigued and asked me to keep my copy for him instead of taking it back home. What is the best part of Paper Towns is that even underneath all this humor is a sensitivity and warmth which very few authors can achieve.

If you haven’t read John Green, do so now. Even if you don’t read YA, you simply cannot go wrong with John Green. Cannot wait to read his other books.

Some Quotes from Paper Towns
“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.”

“When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.”

“The rules of capitalization are so unfair to words in the middle of a sentence.”

“When you say nasty things about people, you should never say the true ones, because you can’t really fully and honestly take those back, you know? I mean, there are highlights. And there are streaks. And then there are skunk stripes.”

Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas

Title: Sugar Daddy
Author: Lisa Kleypas
Genre: Contemporary Woman’s Fiction
Source: Library
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; First Edition edition (March 6, 2007)
Rating: 4 out of 5

My Thoughts:
I avoided this book for some time now because it’s contemporary Woman’s fiction and all the other Lisa Kleypas books I’ve read have been historical romances. I loved them and I didn’t want to be disappointment even a little as Kleypas is my favorite romance author. But I shouldn’t have worried. I loved Sugar Daddy although I wish the name of the book was different.

Liberty Jones moves to a small town, Welcome in Texas, with her mother and her mothers new boyfriend. They move in a trailer park where she makes new friends including one particular guy called Hardy. Liberty is 14 and Hardy is 17 at that time. They are attracted to each other right from the beginning. But Hardy has big dreams, he wants to escape the dreary life of the small town and he doesn’t want anyone to hold him down, least of all a serious girlfriend. So off he goes but Liberty is unable to forget him, she tries to match every guy she meets with Hardy and all of them fall short.

Meanwhile, Liberty’s mom, who has had her fair share of boyfriends gives birth to a baby girl, Corrington. Liberty ends up taking care of her most of the time. In a way she is more of a mother to her than a sister. Later in her life she meets Churchill, a rich old man, whom she develops a friendship with and eventually gets involved with his eldest son Gage. And then Hardy comes back in her life. There is a lot more to the basic story but I won’t tell you all even though it’s there at the back of the book. Suffice to say it’s all good.

The first half of the book is like a Young Adult novel, a very good one at that. Kleypas explores the mother daughter relationship, the struggles of a mother trying to raise a daughter alone and a daughter who accepts responsibilities way beyond her age. Liberty makes a wonderful heroine, sweet, charming, intelligent, hardworking, at times too perfect but I loved her anyway. Hardy and Gage are excellent heroes, the kind that are in romances. I loved Hardy more because he is the one we come to know first.

Although this is woman’s fiction, Lisa Kleypas has been a romance author for so long that I guess she could not help but include a few cliché’s of the romance genre in Sugar Daddy. But I’m not complaining, I love romances so it only made me happy. Sugar Daddy gave me immense satisfaction, one that comes with loving the book more than you expected.

The Long Way Home by Andrew Klavan

Title: The Long Way Home (The Homelanders Book Two)
Author: Andrew Klavan
Genre: YA thriller
Hardcover: 352 pages
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5

My Thoughts:
I’ve had this book for some time now but what kept me from reading it was that it was the second book in the Homelanders Series. So I did what I usually do when faced with this dilemma. I read the spoilers reviews of the first book on Amazon after checking if the library had the first book. I was very happy to know that not many people were satisfied with the first book since it left a lot of questions unanswered. It seemed like the first book was kind of a build up.

So I jumped into the second book and was hooked right from page 1. In the first book ‘The Last thing I Remember’, a high school student Charlie West went to bed as an ordinary guy and woke up to find out that the police as well as the bad guys are after him. A year has passed by and Charlie doesn’t remember any of it.

********spoilers for those who haven’t read the first book**********
I didn’t really know how much he found out about himself in the first book but it didn’t matter because I didn’t feel like I missed a lot. I think it was because the author covered the gaps successfully. When this book opens Charlie is surrounded by the bad guys, supposedly the terrorists who want to destroy America by recruiting Americans who are against the country. After escaping from them and then later the police, Charlie goes to his town Spring Field to find out the truth. That is where we learn about his friends, his school and his teachers and what could have gone wrong. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire book which was also a very fast read.

********end of spoilers**********

What I didn’t understand was the terrorists role in all this. They were always in the background and the reasons were not really enough for me to believe that they were a danger to Charlie. Charlie was too good a kid which could actually work well since this is a YA novel. Charlie could be a good role model. Also there are absolutely no bad words. Even though it’s an adventure involving terrorists and a murder, it is a very clean book. At times I found the language very simple and forced. It could be because this is the first YA series that the author has written. But he is the recipient of 2 Edgar awards, so what do I know.

Anyway, recommended for YA lovers and those who love adventure and mysteries.

Dispatches from the Edge by Anderson Cooper

Title: Dispatches from the Edge
Author: Anderson Cooper
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (May 23, 2006)
Source: Library
Genre: Non-Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

My thoughts:
I love reading books on War Correspondence but sadly out of all I’ve read I’ve only liked two. But Dispatches from the Edge I loved. I had expected to like it but I wasn’t prepared to like it so much.

Anderson Cooper describes his journey, dispatches rather from developing and third world countries. The first section describes the cyclone that hit Srilanka and many other countries a few years back. Having been to Srilanka recently, I could picture the small towns and the people and it was very painful to read about the destruction of life and property.

The middle section is more a mix of his experiences in war-torn places like parts of Russia, Iraq and Africa. At times there are alternate chapters on the same places but in different times. I guess he wanted to contrast or something but to me that section was most confusing because even though it describes the same place the situation was somewhat different, at least politically. It was difficult to just switch between times.

The last section is on hurricane Katrina. He was in the midst of the hurricane then and his experiences were chilling. And because it was his own country, he was more emotionally involved which reflected in the writing.

What I loved most about the book was that Anderson Cooper didn’t hold back. He let the readers know what his state of mind was then. He described how his father’s death affected his and his brother’s life. He kept running away from reality instead of facing his grief and loss. His brothers suicide was another tragedy that made him runaway from his emotions. He describes his need for always being in crisis and how it was unable for him to adjust to normal life.

Although this book is based on difficult subjects, it really is very easy to read. Highly recommended.

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

Title: Prophecy of the Sisters
Author: Michelle Zink
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (August 1, 2009)
Genre: Young Adult (Fantasy)
Source: Library
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

My thoughts:
I was excited when I picked up this book from the library because it had been on my Wishlist for some time. I was instantly drawn to the World of Lia and Alice in Birchwood. When the book opens, 16 year old twins Lia and Alice and 10 yr old Henry are at their fathers funeral. Their father dies a strange and sudden death leaving them in the care of their Aunt Virginia.

Soon Lia sees a mark on her wrist, a circle with a snake coiling around it and she struggles to make sense of it. Then she learns of an old prophecy, a prophecy that places 2 sisters on the opposite sides, one evil and the other good. She realizes that there is something sinister at work and that this time she and her sister Alice are at the opposite sides.

I loved the story, I loved the idea of 2 sisters against each other and I loved the Gothic atmosphere in Prophecy of the Sisters. I was engrossed in the book for the first 200 pages and could not put it down. But…yes, I’m sad there is a but, the story got too complicated at times. Lia is trying to understand the prophecy and her place in it for almost the entire book. I was waiting for the action to start, but that was not to happen in this book.

Because most of you know by now, there is a sequel to the book called ‘The Guardian of the Gate’. I was hoping there would be some conclusion, or at least a part of action that would be over and done with in this book. Alas, that was not to be. It just worries me that I will forget a lot from this book before I can get hold of the next one. The book is from Lia’s point of view. The other characters interested me more than Lia. I would have loved to have a first person account from Alice and possibly a little from Henry. Those were the characters I found most interesting.

Nonetheless I would definitely recommend this book to YA and fantasy lovers and begin stalking the library for the second book.

Swallow by Tonya Plank

Title: Swallow
Author: Tonya Plank
Paperback: 402 pages
Publisher: Dark Swan Press (December 11, 2009)
Genre: Fiction
Source: Author
Set in: New York
Rating: 4 out of 5

My thoughts:
When I read the book synopsis, I thought this would be a serious book since it deals with a psychological disorder called Globus Sensate where Sophie feels like something in stuck in the throat as a result of which he/she may find trouble eating or in extreme cases- breathing.

So when I opened the first page I was prepared for a sad saga. But Swallow is far from sad. It’s a look into the life of a New York lawyer (intern) who seems to be awkward, lacks confidence and generally looks down upon herself. Sophie Hegel is working as an intern in a New York firm acting as a criminal appeals attorney. I obviously had no idea that there are attorney’s just for appealing cases. But I did get a lot of information about it from this book.

Sophie seemingly has everything. A hot-shot lawyer for a boyfriend-Stephen, a fabulous New York apartment which she lives in with her Stephen and a job as an intern which could possibly turn into a permanent one.
But as a reader you learn from the very first chapter that Sophie had self-worth issues. Coming from a small town in Arizona, Sophie never feels like she completely belongs and is not comfortable with people she thinks are more successful and more sophisticated than her.

Things start going wrong when Sophie discovers that she has problem swallowing even simple things, including drinks. After confirming that she has no physical problems she is hoping to find answers from her psychiatrist. This book is not about a disease. It’s about Sophie’s struggles, not only with her self-issues but also with her relationships- her mother, her sister who has 3 children out of wedlock and her father who makes pornographic movies.

As I said I expected this book to be dark and serious but it actually reads like a chick-lit or a light novel, which was a welcome change. In spite of this, the author never undermined Sophie’s problem or made light of it which I really liked. Sophie is a very likable character most of the time and although you get a good glimpse into Sophie’s character, I wish some of the other characters were explored in little more detail, like Stephen or her father, whom I really disliked and was intrigued by at the same time. At times I thought the book was not moving at all, especially in the middle. But it really picked up pace for the last 100 pages which was nice.

Would I recommend Swallow? Yes, definitely. I found it very entertaining. But if you expect to find more details about the psychological disorder, you’ll be disappointed. Go into it expected a light hearted novel and you’ll enjoy yourself. I would even go as far as calling it a Beach read.

Oh and by the way, do you know that the author Tonya Plank is a dancer? I find that really cool.

Gold Medal, 2010 Living Now Book Awards * Gold Medal, 2010 Independent Publisher Awards * Finalist, ForeWord Book of the Year Awards * Finalist, National Indie Excellence Awards * Kindle Top 10 Best Seller, Legal Fiction / Anxiety Disorders

And Then I Found Out The Truth by Jennifer Sturman

Title: And Then I Found Out The Truth
Author: Jennifer Sturman
Genre: Young Adult
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Point; 1 edition (July 1, 2010)
Source: Publicist
Rating: 4 out of 5

My Thoughts:
I loved the first book in this 2 book series so when presented I grabbed the opportunity to review the next book. Besides I was dying to know what happened after ‘And Then Everything Unraveled‘.

In the first book, Delia’s mother goes missing and is declared dead. Delia has to move places and go stay with her aunts in New York where she also meets Adam. Adam, other than being her love interest, helps Delia to find out more about her mother. And Then I Found Out The Truth is a continuation and needless to say it contains spoilers. You can try reading the second book without reading the first but I really wouldn’t suggest it.

So if you haven’t read the first book, this review contains spoliers. Skip to the end to know what I think of this book.

**********spoilers begin*****************

The first book ends where Delia finds out that her mother is not dead but is hiding somewhere in South America. In the second book she finds out the reason and the corporation involved in it. She and Quinn try to find out answers and although Delia does get sidetracked by Quinn and her friend (she is after all her teenager), she does get on track eventually. Besides, it gives the reader more to enjoy and laugh about.

**********spoilers end*******************

This book was as enjoyable as the first and as much fun. I was so happy to finally get all the answers. Even though this is a mystery involving Oil drilling, it does not get into the details. It is just a very happy and feel good book like the first one. The only thing I wished was this was one book instead of two. I really don’t see the reason for splitting the two books since both are pretty small. I hope in the future this book is offered as a two-in-one promotional pack or something like that.

On the whole, if you want a fun and light book to go to, something to lift your mood, this book is just for you. I can’t wait to see what Jennifer Sturman comes up with next.

Evermore by Alyson Noel

Title: Evermore
Author: Alyson Noel
Genre: Young Adult (Fantasy)
Source: Personal Library
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin; 1 edition (February 3, 2009)
Rating: 3 out of 5

My thoughts:
16 year old Ever has to change her school, her town and go live with her aunt when her parents and her 12 year old sister die in a car accident. After the accident, Ever starts seeing dead people and read others thought. In short, she is a psychic. I think the term psychic was used very liberally here, Ever can do so much more than a psychic can. She and talk to her dead sister. Anyway, in her new school she meets the mysterious Damein.

I have mixed feelings for this book. On one hand I cannot stop comparing the book to Twilight. I felt as if the author read Twilight and thought I could possibly write a similar book and try to eliminate the problems some people have with Twilight. One for e.g how dangerous Edward was and how many people thought Bella was foolish to fall so deeply in love so quickly. There are so many other things that are similar to Twilight but I will not mention them here since they could spoil the story.

The thing is, Alyson Noel is a good writer, she knows how to keep the reader glued to the page and keep turning the pages. But the fact that it was so similar to Twilight put me off a little bit. I loved Twilight but I don’t want to read another version of it no matter how good it is. There is something to be said about originality.

The part I liked best was her equation with her dead sister. I also liked the ending, its just enough to end the first book and leave enough scope for a second. I will definitely be reading the next book, Blue Moon, which I hope I’ll like better.

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Title: Lock and Key
Author: Sarah Dessen (blog)
Genre: Fiction-Young Adult
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Viking Juvenile; First Printing, First Edition edition (April 22, 2008)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

My thoughts:
Ruby Cooper is a 18 year old teenager who shoulders more burden than she should at such a young age. Her mother is an irresponsible women who cares more about herself than Ruby.  Ruby has grown up taking care of herself and moving homes and schools according to the shim and fancies of her mother. One day, her mother disappears and she is left alone at the run down yellow house. Ruby manages on her own while she can for about 2 months until her landlords find her living alone in the house and turn her over to the social services.

Thats when her elder sister, who had left home and never come back, takes her in. She is now married to a guy called Jamie and has a huge house and a good life. Everything she had always wanted. But for Ruby, she is a stranger. After not knowing anything about her sisters whereabouts, now being in her house at her mercy was something that was overwhelming for Ruby. As she decides what to do next and as her life is being turned upside down, she meets a guy called Nate, a neighbor.

Having heard so much about Sarah Dessen I had very high expectations. I started Lock and Key, read a 100 pages, thought the pace was very slow and was still wondering what is so great about Sarah Dessen when ‘Baam’, I was hit by her writing powers. There is no other way to describe it. She explores a lot of themes that many YA novels do, relationships, family, responsibilities, grief but she does it so well. I cried so much at one point that I had to lock myself in the bathroom so that nobody sees me crying over a book.

Sarah Dessen writes characters that grow on you, be it Ruby, Jamie, her sister Cora and even the pet dog Roscoe. Initially I was disappointed in Nate as he seemed like any other YA novel hero. But as the story progressed, and the layers peel off, we get to know things that make him different.

Lock and Key is about many things-finding the meaning of family, of grief, of being there for someone you love even when all you can do is just be there, of accepting help when needed, and of believing in yourself and the power of changing your destiny.

Here are some of the sentences from the book:

But wasn’t that always the way. It’s never something huge that changes everything, but instead the tiniest of details, irrevocably tweaking the balance of the universe while you’re busy focusing on the big picture

It’s a lot easier to be lost than found. It’s the reason we’re always searching and rarely discovered–so many locks not enough keys.

We can’t expect everybody to be there for us, all at once. So it’s a lucky thing that really, all you need is someone.

Family isn’t something that’s supposed to be static, or set. People marry in, divorce out. They’re born, they die. It’s always evolving, turning into something else.

This is exactly what I wanted, as commitments had never really been my thing. And it wasn’t like it was hard, either. The only trick was never giving more than you were willing to lose.

If you didn’t always have to choose between turning away for good or rushing in deeper. In the moments that it really counts, maybe it’s enough – more than enough, even – just to be there.

What can I say? I’m a new fan. I have ‘Just Listen’ by Sarah Dessen so I have one more book to look forward to. If you love YA and haven’t read Sarah Dessen, you seriously don’t know what you’re missing.