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Title: The Pearl Thief (Code Name Verity #0)
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Genre: Historical, YA
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 336
Date read: April, 2017

When fifteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart wakes up in the hospital, she knows the lazy summer break she'd imagined won't be exactly like she anticipated. And once she returns to her grandfather's estate, a bit banged up but alive, she begins to realize that her injury might not have been an accident. One of her family's employees is missing, and he disappeared on the very same day she landed in the hospital.

Desperate to figure out what happened, she befriends Euan McEwen, the Scots Traveller boy who found her when she was injured, and his standoffish sister Ellen. As Julie grows closer to this family, she experiences some of the prejudices they've grown used to firsthand, a stark contrast to her own upbringing, and finds herself exploring thrilling new experiences that have nothing to do with a missing-person investigation.

Her memory of that day returns to her in pieces, and when a body is discovered, her new friends are caught in the crosshairs of long-held biases about Travellers. Julie must get to the bottom of the mystery in order to keep them from being framed for the crime.

While I never found it quite as engaging as neither Code Name Verity nor Rose Under Fire, I was still very pleased to get to read it.

It took me awhile to get into the story. Partly because I didn't care too much about Julie at first, partly because I really couldn't figure out what genre the book was trying to be! However, I was still intrigued enough to keep reading, and once the book decided for sure that it was going to be a mystery, I enjoyed it a lot more.

I was really, really frustrated by how people treated the tinkers, but guess that's pretty true for the time, and that describing it any other way would be "whitewashing" (for want of better word) history.

It didn't break my heart the way Elizabeth Wein's two other books did, but it's a cute story to tide people over, who want to know more about Julie/Verity.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Afterworlds
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Genre: YA
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 599
Date read: October, 2016

Darcy Patel has put college on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. With a contract in hand, she arrives in New York City with no apartment, no friends, and all the wrong clothes. But lucky for Darcy, she's taken under the wings of other seasoned and fledgling writers who help her navigate the city and the world of writing and publishing. Over the course of a year, Darcy finishes her book, faces critique, and falls in love.

Woven into Darcy's personal story is her novel, Afterworlds, a suspenseful thriller about a teen who slips into the "Afterworld" to survive a terrorist attack. The Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead, and where many unsolved - and terrifying - stories need to be reconciled. Like Darcy, Lizzie too falls in love... until a new threat resurfaces, and her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she cares about most.

"Afterworlds" is really two stories mixed together. Every odd chapter tells the story of Darcy Patel, her life in NYC and her experiences as a debutante author, and every even chapter is the book Darcy wrote.

I'm finding it extremely difficult to figure out what I think of this book and how to rate it. I enjoyed the chapters about Darcy - appreciating this look into the book publishing business and the life of an aspiring author, not to mention that I really liked Darcy, despite her tendency to turn into an emo teen. She's 18 - she's allowed to. Those chapters flew by and were a breeze to read. That part of the book probably deserved 4 stars.

However, the chapters about Lizzie were such a slog to get through! I LOVED the first one (and as that was the chapter I read as part of the sample, which made me buy the book, I feel kinda cheated), but once she went back to the flipside after that first time, I was done. That entire storyline just didn't work for me. I don't know if it's just that I'm really not into ghosts, or if I'd have disliked it regardless, but those chapters were a real chore to read. That part of the book would probably have been a dnf if it had stood on its own.

In the end the good outweighed the bad, and I finished the book - but it was a huge disappointment, and I'm disinclined to recommend it to anybody else.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Secrets
Author: Sue Welford
Genre: YA
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 187
Date read: July, 2016

17-year-old Jason is going out with Maria, and everything would be perfect if it wasn't for his 15-year-old sister, Lisa, behaving so strangely.

Slowly Jason realizes that Lisa is anorexic.

20 years ago I would have adored this book, and indeed read several books of this genre. Now that I'm ever so slightly out of its target audience range (*grin*) I had a few problems with it, as I felt some parts were somewhat unrealistic. I did appreciate that it was told from the viewpoint of an older brother, however, instead of from the anorexic girl herself.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Sci-fi
Rating: 5+/5
# pages: 384
Date read: January 2015

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he's stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills--and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit--he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

It doesn't happen often that I find a book that leaves me speechless. But when I do, that book automatically becomes an instant favourite.

"The Martian" had me hooked from the very beginning. I couldn't put it down, and stayed up far too late last night to finish it. I was instantly drawn to Mark's plight and was fascinated to read how he solved the various obstacles and kept himself sane under the circumstances.

I don't know how scientifically accurate it is, but there were no glaring holes big enough for me to see. Besides, it kept true to its own universe, and to me that's more important.

The plot had me at the edge of my seat, and though I could almost guess the outcome from the start, the end still brought a lump to my throat - that's how emotionally attached I got. Amazing writing all around!

As I was reading the book, I kept telling my husband "This would make a GREAT movie! They have to turn it into a movie!". Lo and behold - they have. With Matt Damon as the main character, unfortunately. But you can't have everything. Either way, I am definitely going to go see it!
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Rose Under Fire
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Genre: World War II
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 368
Date read: June, 2013

While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

... And here I thought "Code Name Verity" packed a punch...

Rose Under Fire is an extremely poignant and important book. I literally sat stunned for a couple of minutes after finishing it (be sure to read the author's afterword!). The horror of RUF is that this is all REAL! Oh sure, there never was a person like Rose Justice - the American who got mistaken for a French political prisoner and thus sent to Ravensbrück... but Ravensbrück itself is real... the war crimes committed against the "rabbits" were real. And that's what makes this book such a devastating read. Rose made the horrors of the concentration camps become real in a way few other books have managed to, because she is such a relate-able heroine, and the shock of going from discounting the rumours of medical experiments in concentration camps as "anti-German propaganda" to seeing for herself the results of those experiments is only all too believable.

The novel is interspersed with Rose's poetry - some of which is too heartbreaking for words.
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Title: The Bar Code Tattoo
Author: Suzanne Weyn
Genre: Dystopian, YA
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 256
Date read: November, 2012

The bar code tattoo. Everybody's getting it. It will make your life easier, they say. It will hook you in. It will become your identity.

But what if you say no? What if you don't want to become a code? For Kayla, this one choice changes everything. She becomes an outcast in her high school. Dangerous things happen to her family. There's no option but to run for her life.

More blatantly YA than I had expected - or at least a younger YA. Which meant that it didn't go into as much detail as I would have liked. I still liked it though, and read it in just a couple of hours this morning. I don't know if I'll bother with the rest of the series though.
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Title: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Genre: WW2
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 452
Date read: July, 2012

Oct. 11th, 1943 - A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

I knew nothing about this book when I started it, so I had no idea what to expect, and even so it managed to surprise me. It started out as a fairly average WW2 spy novel (somewhat similar to Connie Willis' books in writing style, actually), but quickly changed into something very much out of the ordinary.

It is very, VERY slow to start, and I actually considered giving up on it once or twice, but I'm glad I stuck with it, because it definitely becomes worth it, and I think I read the last 50% in one or two sittings.

Not at all the book I had thought it would be, but very interesting and very thoughtprovoking.

I wish I owned the book as a book-book though, and not just as an e-book, because certain events in the second half of the book made me want to flip through the first half again, to pick up clues. And that's just not as easily done in an ebook!
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Title: Rose and the Lost Princess
Author: Holly Webb
Genre: Childrens fantasy
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 268
Date read: April 2012

Turning the worn pages of her spell book, Rose can't believe how much her life has changed. Once a poor orphan, and now an apprentice to the King's chief magician!

But when the country's beloved Princess vanishes, everything changes. As rumours of dark magic fly through the city, the King asks Rose for help. She must find the missing Princess - before all is lost.

Just as charming as the first book in the series. It's childrens literature of the best kind in that it can just as easily be enjoyed as an adult. I missed some of the character building from the first book, as this was much more about the action. But I loved Gus and Princess Charlotte.

A perfect book to wrap up a read-a-thon.
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Title: Certain Girls
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 406
Date read: January, 2012

After Cannie's debut novel - a fictionalized (and highly sexualized) version of her life - became an overnight bestseller, she dropped out of the public eye and turned to writing science fiction under a pseudonym. She's happily married to the tall, charming diet doctor Peter Krushelevansky and has settled into a life that she finds wonderfully predictable - knitting in the front row of her daughter Joy's drama rehearsals, volunteering at the library, and taking over-forty yoga classes with her best friend Samantha.

As preparations for Joy's bat mitzvah begin, everything seems right in Cannie's world. Then Joy discovers the novel Cannie wrote years before and suddenly finds herself faced with what she thinks is the truth about her own conception - the story her mother hid from her all her life. When Peter surprises his wife by saying he wants to have a baby, the family is forced to reconsider its history, its future, and what it means to be truly happy.

I was just thinking the other day that I seldom recognized emotional manipulation in books or even really knew what it consisted of. Well, now I do. It was so blatantly obvious here that it would be impossible not to realize it for what it was.

And unfortunately it made me rather disappointed by the book. Most of it was good enough, but because of the emotional manipulation I ended up not enjoying it nearly as much as "Good in Bed" or "In Her Shoes".

I did appreciate the follow up to "Good in Bed" though, and learning what happened to Cannie and Peter after the birth of Joy.
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Title: Cherry Ames, Senior Nurse
Author: Helen Wells
Genre: YA
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 217
Date read: July, 2011

In Senior Nurse, Cherry realizes that "a senior really must be a little more sober and responsible" - perhaps she should have warned the head nurse right away about the rabbit that had been smuggled into the pediatric ward.? But the children had enjoyed it so!? As "lofty" seniors, Cherry and her friends each "adopt" a probationer (first-year student) to mentor.? Why did her probie have to be dull and sullen Mildred Burnham?? Dr. Joe Fortune has discovered a new way to synthesize penicillin - which could make a life or death difference on the battle front.? But how did word of it become common knowledge around Spencer?? Cherry discovers that Mildred has more to her than she thought as together they face the dangerous thieves who have stolen Dr. Joe's formula.

Unfortunately only okay. It wasn't very engagingly written, so took me ages to read, despite the fact that it's really very short. I had originally planned to read more of the series, but now I'm not so sure... Hopefully it'll improve as she becomes an army nurse.
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Title: The Geography of Bliss
Author: Eric Weiner
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 345
Date read: July, 2011

The Geography of Bliss takes the reader from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness, or, in the crabby author's case, moments of "un-unhappiness." The book uses a beguiling mixture of travel, psychology, science and humor to investigate not what happiness is, but where it is. Are people in Switzerland happier because it is the most democratic country in the world? Do citizens of Qatar, awash in petrodollars, find joy in all that cash? Is the King of Bhutan a visionary for his initiative to calculate Gross National Happiness? Why is Asheville, North Carolina so damn happy? With engaging wit and surprising insights, Eric Weiner answers those questions and many others, offering travelers of all moods some interesting new ideas for sunnier destinations and dispositions.

Part happiness project, part travel memoir. I really liked reading about Eric's experiences and have to agree with him that Tolstoy got it all wrong - people are happy for all kinds of different reasons, and what works for some won't necessarily work for others. It's an incredibly quotable book, and I've jotted down a number of quotes in my little notebook :)

I liked that he limited himself to 10 countries, and then spent quite a lot of both physical time and page time on each, so the reader got the impression that he'd really done his research and gotten a true picture of the country.
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Title: Cherry Ames, Student Nurse
Author: Helen Wells
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 211
Date read: June, 2011

In Student Nurse, Cherry starts nursing school at Spencer with a mixture of anxiety and anticipation - would she have what it takes to be a nurse? She leaves her quiet town of Hilton, Illinois for the bustle of hospital life, to meet challenges she wouldn't have imagined. The U.S. is at war. Many nurses have gone to the front, and there is a shortage of RNs at Spencer-which Cherry and her classmates help to fill, as they learn the skills they need to graduate. And who is the mysterious patient in the secret room that no one seems to know anything about? Should Cherry risk expulsion to save his life?

How this book managed not to get sued for plagiarism of "Sue Barton - Student Nurse" I will never understand. It is a complete rip-off, right down to even many of the smaller details.

That said, "Sue Barton" is one of my favourite books, so I didn't mind terribly much finding a new 'version' of it, and I still enjoy reading about the life of a student nurse and was sad to have 'run out' of Sue Barton books, so I'll probably find myself reading more of Cherry Ames as it's not bad reading - even if it does seem like cheating ;)
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Title: Rose
Author: Holly Webb
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 262
Date read: May, 2011

Rose is an orphan, who has lived at St Bridget's Home for Abandoned Girls for as long as she can remember. One afternoon, a thin woman in a smart black coat comes to the orphanage looking for a maid-of-all-work, and chooses Rose. Rose is delighted. Miss Bridges looks stern, but she is surprisingly pleasant as they walk to Rose's new home -- a tall, thin town house in a smart square.

When she's inside and being shown her small attic bedroom, Rose realises that the house is drenched in magic! Rose knows this because she has a certain amount of magic herself. She can tell thrilling stories that transform themselves into pictures on shiny surfaces as she speaks, and she rescues her alchemist master's apprentice from a mist-creature he has mistakenly conjured up. It is this magic that she will call upon in times of dire need, for children are going missing across the town, and none of them show any signs of returning.

Very charming YA. I loved the characters, the universe and the story, and will definitely be keeping my eye out for the rest of the series. I liked the way magic was used, and hope we get to hear more about Rose's history in the later books.

A quick read and a sweet, feel-good story.
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Title: Bones of the Dragon
Author: Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 536
Date read: November, 2009

Skylan Ivorson is a sea-raider of the Vindras and eventually becomes the Chief of Chiefs of all Vindras clans, an honor he truly feels he deserves as one who has been blessed by Skoval, the god of war.

But sometimes a blessing is a curse in disguise.

Skoval and the other ancient gods are under siege from a new generation of gods who are challenging them for the powers of creation… and the only way to stop these brash interlopers lies within the mysterious and hidden Five Bones of the Vektan Dragons.

It will be up to the Vindras people, as the dragon-goddess' champions, to undertake the quest to recover all Five. The fate of the Old Gods and the Vindras rests on their recovery--for this is not only a quest to save the world. It is also a quest for redemption.

Despite my enjoyment of fantasy, I've never read a single Dragonlance book, and probably wouldn't have picked this up either, if I hadn't been asked to review it.

It's a fairly interesting start to a new series, but either not terribly well-written, or I'm just way above the target age, because I did find it rather simplistic at times, and during the first half of the book, the main character came across as a gigantic arrogant git. Had it ended there, I would only have given it two stars.

It improved in the second half though. Through tragic events Skylan was forced to make difficult decisions and mostly rose to the occasion. Following his growth made the book worth reading, even if nothing else had. Also, I grew to like several of the other characters and found myself interested in their futures - despite my initial reservations.
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Title: Meet the Malones
Author: Lenora Mattingly Weber
Genre: Classic
Rating: 8/10
# pages: 278
Date read: December, 2008

Summary: Mary Fred spends the fifteen dollars that is intended for a new formal to buy her beloved Mr. Chips, a lame horse. Elizabeth's husband, Don, is sent overseas, and a weak and wan Elizabeth arrives at the Malones' with her two-week-old son, Martie. When Mr. Malone is called away on business for the Call, the children's step-grandmother, Nonna, arrives to "run" the household and shower them with gifts. It is quickly evident that Nonna has earned her title as "the iron hand in the velvet glove." When Nonna provides Mary Fred expensive new clothes and relieves her of her household responsibilities, will Mary Fred be able to manage her confused priorities?

Review: An old-fashioned wholesome tale in the style of Estrid Ott. I feel like I ought to have loved it instead of just liked it, and I probably would have if I'd been younger when first reading it, because it fits right in with the other books I read in my tweens. Even without the nostalgia I spent a cosy evening snuggled up in a chair in the company of the Malones. I really wish they'd been better at standing up to Nonna though - she really bugged me. But of course all's well that ends well... especially in books like these ;)

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Title: Dear Enemy
Author: Jean Webster
Genre: Classics
Rating: 9/10
# pages: Audiobook from Librivox
Date read: November, 2008

Summary: Judy and Jervis Pendleton appoint lively, red-headed Sallie McBride as Superintendent of the John Grier Orphan Asylum. Her clashes with Dr. Sandy MacRae (her "dear enemy") are both hilarious and appealing as she promptly embarks on a program of much needed reform.

Review: "Dear Enemy" is the sequel to "Daddy Long-Legs" and in my opinion just as good. I love hearing about Sally's experiences leading the orphanage and find the writing style very charming. It's one of those comfort books that I keep returning to when I'm the need for some wholesome entertainment.

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Title: Extras
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Rating: 8/10
# pages: 417
Date read: October, 2008

Summary: It's a few years after rebel Tally Youngblood took down the uglies/pretties/specials regime. Without those strict roles and rules, the world is in a complete cultural renaissance. "Tech-heads" flaunt their latest gadgets, "kickers" spread gossip and trends, and "surge monkeys" are hooked on extreme plastic surgery. And it's all monitored on a bazillion different cameras. The world is like a gigantic game of American Idol. Whoever is getting the most buzz gets the most votes. Popularity rules.

As if being fifteen doesn't suck enough, Aya Fuse's rank of 451,369 is so low, she's a total nobody. An extra. But that's just until Aya gets to kick a good story for herself.

Then Aya meets a clique of girls who pull crazy tricks, yet are deeply secretive of it. Aya wants desperately to kick their story, to show everyone how intensely cool the Sly Girls are. But doing so would propel her out of extra-land and into the world of fame, celebrity...and extreme danger. A world she's not prepared for.

Review: Not quite as good as the first three in the series, but still definitely worth reading, and I finished it in two days, so it wasn't like it was bad either (although the rating has probably given that away already).

I like the universe Scott Westerfeld has created, and though I've read many criticisms of the language he uses (happy-making, bubbly, truth-slanting etc.) I think it's very fitting and just adds to the atmosphere of his universe.

The writing isn't as tight in Extras, nor is the plot as captivating, but it's still an enjoyable book, and if you liked the rest of the series, I'd definitely recommend reading this one as well.

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Title: Specials
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Rating: 8/10
# pages: 372
Date read: March, 2008

Summary: The Specials used to be a sinister rumour - frightening beautiful, dangerously strong, breathtakingly fast.

Now tally's become one of them: a sumeramped fighting machine, engineered to keep Uglies down and Pretties stupid. The strength, the speed and the clarity of her new powers feel amazing... most of the time. One tiny corner of Tally's heart still remembers something different.

When she's offered the chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke, she is forced to make one last choice: carry out the mission, or listen to that faint yet persistent heartbeat telling her that something's wrong...

Review: While the first was definitely the best book in the trilogy, I thought this was a very fitting ending to it (I know there's also Extras, but as far as I know that's not a part of the series as such, but more a different series in the same universe).

However, the two last books were a bit of a let-down after the roller-coaster ride of the first one. Don't get me wrong, I loved the books and read them in no time flat, but it seemed a bit like Scott had a great idea but then didn't quite know what to do with it. All books followed more or less the same pattern, making the previous book seem, for want of better word, pointless.

That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy them though, and I'll definitely be getting Extras out of the library as soon as they get it.

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Title: Pretties
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Genre: Dystopian, YA
Rating: 8/10
# pages: 370
Date read: February, 2008

Summary: Tally has forgotten almost all that she did as an Ugly and has completely embraced the mindless life of a New Pretty, going to parties, drinking heavily, and thinking of nothing more than the next bit of entertainment. It is not until one of the Uglies from New Smoke comes and delivers a message for her that leads her to two pills, that she begins to remember the real reason she is Pretty: to see if the cure will work. Tally and her new boyfriend, Zane, each take one of the pills and both begin to stay focused for longer periods of time. Then he has a bad reaction to the pill, and Tally has to make a desperate attempt to get him to the only doctors who can help him–the ones outside the city.

Review: Now that I know how closely the three books of the trilogy are connected, the cliffhanger'ish ending of Pretties didn't seem as annoying as it did in Uglies. But that may also be because I never got quite as emotionally involved in this one. Not that it wasn't excellent, but it had a very transitional feel, which I find is often the problem with the middle book in just about any trilogy (right now I can't think of any that are the exception to the rule).

I was very impressed at how Scott Westerfeld wrote the mentality of the pretties. The distinction of how they thought and how uglies though was very distinct and very well done.

I'm looking forward to seeing how he'll wrap this all up in the final book.

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Title: Uglies
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Genre: YA, dystopian
Rating: 9/10
# pages: 425
Date read: February, 2008

Summary: Tally can't wait to turn sixteen and become Pretty. Sixteen is the magic number that brings a transformation from a repellant Ugly into a stunningly attractive Pretty, and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be Pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the Pretty world - and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn Pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

Review: For most of this book I was absolutely captivated. It is well written, funny, poignant and thought-provoking. I would have rated it 10 out of 10 in a heart-beat if it hadn't been for one thing... the ending. Cliff-hangers are bad enough in movies and tv-series, but they annoy the crap out of me in books. A good book to me is a book that it's possible to read on its own. It may of course be part of a series, but it should mostly be self-contained. Uglies wasn't.

That said I loved the universe Scott Westerfeld created and am dying to learn more about it. I've ordered the two remaining books in the trilogy from interlibrary loan and can't wait to read them. If they live up to the promise of the first one, it'll be an amazing series.

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