Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Hidden gems: Underrated YA reads

I just love to discover the hidden gems of YA, so today was the perfect day for me to join in nd share a diverse mix of underrated YA with you dear readers.

Today The Broke and the Bookish asked their readers to share much loved underrated books. Underrated is defined by B & B as books with less than 2000 ratings on Goodreads. Non of my top underrated reads has more than 1500 ratings(most of them way below that), so I'm well within the definition with my picks.

(Title link takes you to Goodreads.)

Secret diary(Lou #1) by Julien Neel - 581 ratings on Goodreads

This graphic novel series by French author Julien Neel is just hilarious. The stories will make you smile and laugh even on a rainy day. Teenager Lou lives with her slightly 'crazy' science-fiction-author-to-be mum, and we read about their everyday life and their journey to love. I promise you won't regret picking it up.

Chain Mail: Addicted to You by Hiroshi Ishizaki - 484 ratings on Goodreads

Things get really scary when the lines between reality and fantasy is blurred in this novel. Four lonely girls in Tokyo, an email and a yet to be written thriller novel with available slots for four leading characters. Add a stalker into the mix, and you're there. In addition to being a thriller, this book gives insight into what everyday life might be like for young adults growing up in Japan.

La Línea by Ann Jaramillo - 1026 ratings on Goodreads

I tried remembering where I first discovered La Línea and I think it was quite by accident. It is rare to read a young adult novel that in such a true way evolves around a human crisis, social and political challenges. No, this is not a boring story, it is a very dramatic and painful story, It is an important one, when it comes to being able to see life from different perspectives. In this novel we meet Miguel and his sister, they were left by their parents to live with their grandmother. The plan was that the parents would work and save up money to build a new life for all of them in USA. Years have passed and Miguel is tired of living in a village in Mexico without any prospects for his future. So Miguel sets out on an extremly dangerous journey to be reunited with his parents. This is the authors debut novel, written in 2006, but is still very much relevant.

Butterflies in May by Karen Hart - link to my review - 95 ratings on Goodreads

Perhaps some where scared off by the unfitting cover? I know it did not speak to me, but the content did. This is a contemporary YA where the subject is teen pregnancy. The author treated the difficult issue with respect and without moralising or draging politics in to it. I loved that. There is no sugercoating, just realism. Every character in this story has depth, even the minor ones.

The book was originally published back in 2006 it now seems like the author might have been given back the rights to the work and selfpublished it later on.

The Intern by Dillon Kahn - link to my review - 66 ratings on Goodreads

I loved reading every page of the Intern, eventhough I never imagined myself as interested in the 'behind the scenes' of the music industry. Wonderful humor, great characters, a story of what working as an intern might be like and last but not least a lot of great and diverse music(at least for me who was a YA in the 90's and 00's)!

Waiting For Gonzo by Dave Cousins - 100 ratings on Goodreads

This British YA is laugh out loud funny and has an incredibly charming main character called Oz. Oz and his family has moved and starting a new school can be quite challenging, especially when you fall out with someone on the very first day. This was a great read, not all fun and games but also a story touching upon some serious issues.

The Last Full Measure by Ann Rinaldi - link to my review - 217 ratings on Goodreads

Ann Rinaldi has written over 40 books, most of them historical YA. In this novel the setting is in Pennsylvania during the American Civil War. This is the story of the people who lived when the Battle of Gettysburg commenced, told through the experiences of a young girl named Tacy. The story is fiction, but some of the characters are people who actually did live at that time and place. Rinaldi's writing is so genuine, the littlest paragraph could make me sob. This is also the story of the 200-400 free black Americans living in Gettysburg, according to the author this is the first work of fiction that have addressed important piece of fact.

Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner - my review - 1306 ratings on Goodreads

Carrie is a quirky character and a girl who just does not care about doing things to fit in. On a negative note, for Carrie, she is a person with some serious people issues. She actually reminded me quite a bit of Holden from J.D. Salinger's Catcher In The Rye. As the pages go along and you settle down with Carries way of viewing the world you will fall in love, laugh and most certainly build your vocabulary, Carrie is just that kind of character. This one is more for the mature YA readers, or at least those who doesn't mind that sex is being mentioned.

All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield - my review - 1126 ratings on Goodreads

A contemporary YA from Australian author Wakefield. About 16 year old Mim who dreams about a better life, and most certainly she will NEVER be like her mother. All I Ever Wanted is a story about dreams and hope, family and friends that will keep you turning pages into the wee hours. This book has earned a place on my keeper shelf, not many books get to go there.

The Fiddler's Gun by A.S. Peterson - my review - 740 ratings on Goodreads

Back in 2010 I claimed that this book should have a place among the classic YA/MG reads, six years later on and I stand what I said back then. This book has it all; adventure, America on the brink of war with England, piracy, friendship, love and redemption. I fell head over heels, so any fault in the story telling would be missed by me, it was just one of the books that was impossible to put down.

I noticed that the novel was marked as Christian fiction, which kind of put me off before I ever picked it. I do not like books that I suspect is written to preach me any kind of religion. Luckily I can say that this was not the case with The Fiddler's Gun,

I do hope you will check out at least one of the titles on my list!
Have you read any of them perhaps? Or do you want to?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Debut of the year? Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Everyone and their neighbour have already read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Now I have as well, but did I like it?

As a side note, don’t you think everyone should have to come out? Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it should be this big awkward thing whether you’re straight, gay, bi, or whatever. I’m just saying.

My short, unfair and spoiler free synopsis:

Simon is gay. No one knows, except Blue. Blue is also gay, and the two boys have a secret, anonymous email exchange going on. A wonderful friendship is in the making. Only trouble is on the horizon. One day Simon forgets to log out of his email at school and the mistake will soon throw Simon’s world into chaos.

Well let me start by using the phrase “all the feels” for the first time ever, because truly Becky Albertalli writes the most genuine scenes. It was not a sad story, but the parts that were borderline sad, the happy scenes, the angry scenes and every other emotional evoking scene all felt so genuine. By the last part of the book I was a bit frustrated, angry, I laughed, laughed again, cried a few tears, laughed some more and then I cried again. I told my significant other that I would think myself a bit emotional unstable I had observed myself from the outside as he did.

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.

Believeable characters

Simon is a great character. He is not without faults, but he has this admirable ability to look back and reflect upon incidents where he did wrong. I loved that about him. Along with Simon, there are plenty of other well fleshed out characters. Even the ones just doing a guest performance in the story felt like real people. Well done, Becky!

There is a lot of love, caring, support and empathy between these pages, as well as there are a handful of people who contribute to evoke the opposite kind of feelings. Like in the real world, Simon have some encounters with people who are narrow-minded, but he slays them with his bravery (yes, that was just a silly metaphor, this is not a fantasy novel).

My limbs feel really heavy. I kind of want to go home and crawl into bed with my iPod. But the curtains start to open. And I keep moving forward.

It’s not easier. It’s impossible. Because even though it feels like I’ve known Abby forever, I really only met her four months ago. And I guess there hasn’t been time for her to have any set ideas about me yet. But I’ve known Leah since sixth grade, and Nick since we were four. And this gay thing. It feels so big. It’s almost insurmountable. I don’t know how to tell them something like this and still come out of it feeling like Simon. Because if Leah and Nick don’t recognize me, I don’t even recognize myself anymore.

Becky Albertalli have created a fictional contemporary world that I fell in love with. The wonderful friends, loving family, the cutest love interest and a truly amazing teacher, I could have read on about them all for hours and hours. I was sad to let them go.

For those who find it of importance: there are some swearing, a tiny scene of underage drinking and references to sex. All addressed with the loving care, concern and advice of Simons parents. In my opinion, nothing to hide from a seventeen-year-old living in the real world. Then again, I live in one of the Nordic countries and scenes like described above very rarely shock us – is that an American thing? Some might find us weird, I mean we rarely to never ban books even. A real live book utopia that is ;)

I could have written more in depth about this novel, but I do not wish to do so. I just want the world to know, if in doubt, that I LOVED Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda! It is an important novel for young adults and adults alike. Not only does the books address the challenges of being gay and the huge deal everyone makes the “coming out” part out to be, it also addresses what it is like to be a teenager and how a parent/child relationship evolves through the years regardless of whom you love.

Book source: I bought the book.

Friday, August 7, 2015

In short: Rivers of London and wisdom of life from Peter Grant

Some might know the name Ben Aaronvitch from Dr.Who. I myself am familiar with the author for his excellent Rivers of London (in US known as Peter Grant) series. In this series, we met young cop and wizard in training Peter Grant.

The UK covers reminds me of the BBC series called EastEnders.
The show aired in Norway during the 80's when I was a kid.

If there's something strange in your London neighborhood. Who you gonna call?
Peter Grant of course!

Rivers of London is a well-written, funny and smart urban fantasy series for adults. The books contains references to music and literature, I like finding hidden treasures. I just discovered the other day why Kansas is a reference used a countless number of times (thanks to my American friends). I have not read or watched The Wizard of Oz yet so that reference has been flying over my head for years, I guess I should consider being embarrassed because of this, but hey, I am just thankful for adding some useful knowledge to this brain of mine.

I am rather sad that I have not written about any of the four books that I have read. I guess I am trying to make up for it with this post. I have devoured all four books in audio book format, purchased on Audible. The reader of these books is the magnificent Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, he adds an extra dimension to the novels with his talent.

Without further ado, here are a handful of quotes full of wisdom for you from Peter Grant :

...good-Samaritanism in London is considered an extreme sport - like base-jumping or crocodile-wrestling.

Keep breathing,’ I said. ‘It’s a habit you don’t want to break.

Despite what you think you know, most people don't want to fight, especially when evenly matched. … That's why you see those pissed young men doing the dance of "don't hold me back" while desperately hoping someone likes them enough to hold them back.

From Rivers of London(Peter Grant/Rivers of London #1) by Ben Aaronovitch.

Every male in the world thinks he's an excellent driver. Every copper who's ever had to pick an eyeball out of a puddle knows that most of them are kidding themselves.

We were aiming for a cross between Kafka and Orwell, which just goes to show how dangerous it can be when your police officers are better read than you are.

I decided to invent some rules just so I could add a new rule to the rules: Never diss somebody’s mum, never play chess with the Kurdish mafia, and never lie down with a woman who’s more magical than you are.
Moon Over Soho(Peter Grant #2) by Ben Aaronovitch.

Like young men from the dawn of time, I decided to choose the risk of death over certain humiliation.

It was a good plan, and like all plans since the dawn of time, this would fail to survive contact with real life.

Fra Whispers Under Ground (Peter Grant #3) by Ben Aaronovitch.

“That which does not kill us,” I said, “has to get up extra early in the morning if it wants to get us next time.”

A lifetime of disappointment had made him cynical, but you don’t stay an activist without a core of stubborn belief that things can get better – it’s a bit like being a Spurs supporter really.

From Broken Homes (Peter Grant #4) by Ben Aaronovitch

Have you read any of the books in this series or are you tempted to do so in the future?

Happy Friday, make the best of it =)