Every Day by David Levithan

Can you imagine going through life waking up every day in a new body? Borrowing other people’s lives, families, rooms, schools, friends.. but never having your own? Though it sounds lonely and hard, A makes their way through life like this. A doesn’t know their sex or family because A has been shunted from body to body since A was an infant. A doesn’t fight against it until one day, A falls in love.

The day A falls in love is much like any other. A wakes up in a 16-year-old’s body, a boy named Justin.  A eats breakfast with Justin’s parents, goes to Justin’s school and meets Justin’s friends. Much like any other day. But then A meets Justin’s girlfriend Rhiannon and everything is suddenly different. They run away for the afternoon and have one, shining, perfect day. Afterwards A decides that A wants to be with Rhiannon, every day, no matter who A becomes tomorrow. A is sometimes girls and sometimes boys, sometimes miles away and sometimes just next door. A tries to find out if love can in fact, overcome all obstacles.

Levithan often writes about love. Simple love, teen love, complicated love, but it is almost always, love.  He writes about it effortlessly and beautifully, making the reader want nothing more than to be a part of his stories even when they end sadly. His writing often addresses humanity in a way that is thoughtful and kind. He writes about love whether it be between two boys, two girls or two people of the opposite sex.

Every Day is no different. Exploring how it could feel to be pursuing a relationship when tomorrow you may be a boy or girl, fat or thin, gay, transgendered or straight. A experiences all these aspects of love and relationships. It is well written, engaging and sweet. Every Day is a book you won’t want to put down until the end, because love is love, no matter who, especially in this case, you are.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

“There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”

I wasn’t going to write a review of The Fault in Our Stars because everyone I knew was excited to read it and I thought “it really doesn’t need another reader saying it’s a good book.” But then, THEN! A friend told me she didn’t read “sappy cancer books that are all the same.” I mean, firstly, I don’t even read sappy books. OK Ok ok, so I teared up a little at the end of Ender’s Shadow, but come on.. who knew Ender would be upstaged like that by Bean? (If you haven’t read those books, you should read them and then come back, the joke will be funny then. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Back? Ok.) So here I am, with my infinite determination, to point out, this isn’t that at all.

Hazel is a sixteen-year-old cancer survivor with a wicked sense of humor and an oxygen tank accompanying her everywhere to make her weak lungs work. One day she attends a cancer help group (to make her mother happy, of course) and meets a boy, Augustus Waters, who is there to support their mutual friend. At this point in her condition Hazel has pretty much given up on making friends, attending school and really just, living. Augustus wakes her up. They trade their favorite books (this is where the book nerd in me fell in love with John Green) and it begins their time together. Augustus and everything that occurs after she meets him, makes Hazel redefine how she looks at life, surviving and what we leave behind when we die.

Even though Hazel was the main character, Augustus was my favorite in the book. He makes everyone around him feel as though things aren’t as bad as they could be, even when they are. There are some beautiful moments and great writing in this book. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you incredibly sad and it’ll make you wish you were more eloquent. I read an article about John Green the other day where they quote him as saying this book will make you “feel ALL THE FEELS.” Though that may have been one of his less eloquent moments, it is the perfect way to describe it. Of course John Green would nail it on his own book, but come on, perfect is perfect.

“I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know that the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.” 

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

For starters, I just spent my life savings on a new foot. But even if I did have money, why would I spend it on a dress or shoes or gloves? What a waste.

Once upon a time in the future, Cinder, a young cyborg, is a mechanic in New Beijing with a step-mother and two step-sisters. One step-sister is Peony, a sweet girl, and the other, Pearl, a horrid troll. Cinder supports her family with money earned from her mechanic business, known to be the best in the city.

The story opens as Cinder is unscrewing her old too-small mechanical foot. As she detaches it, sighing with relief, the Prince arrives at her booth with an android that needs to be fixed. As the story unfolds further, we learn that city is wracked with plague victims, there is a cyborg draft to test the plague antidotes, and Earth is in danger from invasion from a jealous queen on the moon.

This fun twist on the Cinderella story is a really enjoyable read. Cinder is a compassionate, intelligent and independent young cyborg lady. I really liked how she and the Prince first met. It wasn’t the Prince saving Cinder from certain death (as it is in many versions); she’s a skilled businesswoman and he comes to her for help. For all intents and purposes, they’re equals. This sets the stage for the rest of the book and gives us an idea of how the author sees the Cinderella fable.

Though the story still tiptoes along the lines of ‘Will she make it to the ball?’, the reason for her being there is not a wish upon a star or a fairy godmother. If you read Cinder, you’ll see, there’s a lot more to this fairy tale than wands and glass slippers.

Grab Bag o’ Books Giveaway (closed)

I recently was offered a job in New York (confetti! trumpets!) so I will be relocating from my current perch in Texas. As a result, everything I own must fit into my car for the drive over. Due to the lovely local bookstores here, I have too many books and not enough room.

Help me make my car look less like this:

And more like this:

So in celebration of sending my books to good homes instead of donating them to a Library that already has copies of most of what I own (I checked), I am giving them away to fellow book lovers.

Interested? Here we go! In the spirit of surprises and fun, comment on this post to win a book in the great Grab Bag o’ Books Giveaway. You won’t know what you are getting until you get it, but note, most of what I own is YA, Fiction, Non-Fiction and some historical novels.

So here are the steps:

1.) Make sure you are a follower of my blog

2.) Leave a comment telling me what kind of books you like to read (so I can try to send you something you’d enjoy)

3.) Send a mailing address to readingconfessions@gmail.com

That’s it! Woo hoo!

*Winners have been notified and will be mailed books soon*

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

 “Because we weren’t like other people. We were peculiar.”
“Peculiar how?”
“Oh, all sorts of ways,” he said. “There was a girl who could fly, a boy who had bees living inside him, a brother and sister who could lift boulders over their heads.”

I picked up this book because it looked like a spooky yet entertaining read. Although the cover resembles something out of the Exorcist or the Ring, it leads you to believe it is much scarier than it actually is. This book is in no way a horror story, it is a fantasy novel about a boy trying to figure out who his grandfather (and then who he himself) really is. There were no aspects to this story I would say were ‘scary’, so don’t be fooled, you’ll smile more than you’ll scream.

Jacob was enthralled by his Grandpa Portman’s stories of peculiar children in the orphanage where he grew up. He marveled at the photographs of the invisible boy and the levitating girl. Now as an teen he feels cheated because he believes the stories were a lie and the photographs were just tricks. Then his grandfather is killed by a creature unlike anything Jacob has ever seen. His death sets Jacob off on an adventure to figure out if his grandfather’s stories are true. He travels to the island and the orphanage to try to learn about the past. When all he finds is a destroyed house full of dust, decay and those old odd photographs showing the children who died so many years ago, Jacob is dismayed. But as he explores the rotting floors and abandoned bedrooms, he discovers something more. Did they really die? Jacob soon realizes that the children are, peculiarly, still alive and looking exactly like they did in his grandfather’s photographs.

I was delighted by this book, it was diverting and just a little bit uncanny. The characters are unique, even Jacob who at the beginning is a typical young adult in an adventure novel. He doesn’t have a lot of friends and he isn’t sure where he fits in so when he is asked to leave it all behind, he jumps at the chance. The island is the perfect setting for a slightly spooky escapade, full of fog, bogs and mysterious cranky townsfolk. Then when Jacob stumbles upon the secret of his grandfather’s history, we are introduced to a whole new realm of otherwordly characters, magic and adventure.

In addition to the book’s eccentric plot, the photographs that are part of Jacob’s story are also included for us to see. I especially enjoyed in the acknowledgements when the author explained that all photographs were real vintage snapshots.

It almost makes you wonder.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

“We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.”

Beatrice Prior lives in a dystopian Chicago where everyone in society is divided into five factions. Each faction is dedicated to the cultivation of a specific virtue. They are: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Every year, at the age of sixteen, children must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. Beatrice’s family is in Abnegation, but when shes tested she finds out that she can be one of many virtues and she must pick for herself. She has to choose between her family and being true to who she thinks she is.

Not to give too much away, Beatrice obviously leaves her family’s virtue to pursue another (or else really, what would we be reading about?) which puts her on a path of independence and self exploration. Luckily for us, she picks a virtue that encourages a lot of crazy adventures and adrenaline filled moments. In the virtue she picks, they must prove themselves through a series of tests and feats. These moments are exhilarating to experience with Beatrice as she pushes herself to her limits. In the larger story, there is dissent and corruption in the factions which will challenge Beatrice to help break or save the world she lives in.

Divergent was definitely a page turner and great fun to read.  To be honest, this isn’t a book I’ll treasure on my bookshelves or read again someday, but it is well written and engrossing to the end. If you aren’t a diehard YA fan, I’d suggest picking it up at the library rather than buying a copy. I know we have more coming in this series and I’m interested to see where she takes her characters in the next couple books.

The characters are interesting, multifaceted beings with the same strengths and flaws as most humans despite their attempts to fulfill only one virtue. The world they grew up in is intriguing in all its stringent rules and one-sided ideals. It is even more interesting as it decomposes when the virtues are corrupted. Roth’s book well describes the struggle it can be to be a good person in comparison to just making ‘good’ choices. What is the difference between being brave in ignorance and knowing fear? What is the difference between being kind because we mean it and being kind out of obligation?

Have you ever had someone ask you to describe yourself in one word and you weren’t sure what to say? Maybe on an awkward date or one of those really annoying job interviews with 200 questions? This book reminded me of that question. It strives to show us why we are so much more than that one word we are sometimes asked to squeeze into.

Divergent emphasizes that despite our best attempts to fill an ideal, we are more than that. We are human. We are cruel, we are loving, we are brave, we are cowards, we are kind, we are stupid, we are intelligent and above all.. we are fallible. It is one of the few truths we have.

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shullman

What I mean is, all the terrible things that happen in fairy tales seem real. Or not real, but genuine. Life is unfair, and the bad guys keep winning and good people die. But I like how that’s not always the end of it…Evil is real, but so is good. They always say fairy tales are simplistic, black and white, but I don’t think so. I think they’re complicated. That’s what I love about them.

Elizabeth is at a new school where she is finding it hard to make friends after standing up for a girl who was getting bullied by other students.  She is generally lonely even at home because her father has remarried and she has a stepmother and stepsisters she doesn’t much like.  So when one day her History teacher offers her a job at the New York Circulating Material Repository, a library that loans objects of historical value, she jumps at the chance to earn a little money and possibly make some friends outside of school.

At first the job is a bit strange, albeit interesting, and then Elizabeth is given a special key to The Grimm Collection. The Grimm Collection  holds magical objects from the Brothers’ fairy tales such as the  seven-league boots, a mermaid’s comb, the sinister mirror from “Snow White” and the 12 dancing princesses’ shoes.  Elizabeth is startled but delighted to learn that magic is real and that the Grimm fairy tales were true.  As suddenly as she is introduced into the world of magic, she is also thrown into a world of intrigue. The Grimm objects are being stolen and she, with the help of her fellow pages at the Repository, must find out who is stealing them and why.

This story was a very enjoyable young adult fantasy. The characters are humorous and thankfully, very human. They make mistakes, distrust each other, get confused, embarrassed, overjoyed and generally act like normal teenagers without too many exaggerations or over blown character traits.  Some of the characters, such as the Librarians at the Repository, are more magical than the young people who drive the plot and they add a lot of fun and mystery to the story with their own odd personalities. There is a bit of a love story (or two) thrown into the plot (after all, it is about teenagers) but it doesn’t take over the story or swamp the plot in angst.  Its just an added bonus for those that enjoy a few awkward moments and romantic revelations.

It is a well written book with plenty to keep the reader engrossed and turning the page eagerly until the end. The magical aspects of the book are not only delightful because of all the literary references, but because none of the characters really know how the magical objects work.  Even when the young pages are given permission to ‘check out’ magical objects from the Repository they must leave something behind in return. What they exchange must be something they treasure inside them such as their sense of smell, sense of direction, vision, hope, will or other integral aspects of being a person. These trades also lead to confusion and amusing complications in their quest to find the culprit of the magical thefts.

The Grimm Legacy is a great book, not just because of all the references to the fairy tales so many of us grew up with, but because it humourously points out that magic, if we were lucky enough to experience it,  would probably cause as many problems as it would solve.