Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard

Title: Like Mandarin
Author: Kirsten Hubbard
Publisher: Ember
Release Date: March 8, 2012 (paperback edition)
Pages: 320 pages
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

It's hard finding beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming, but 14-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it's not her mother's pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild-girl Mandarin Ramey: 17, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin.

When they're united for a project, they form an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town's animal-head trophies, and searching for someplace magic. Grace plays along when Mandarin suggests they run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds plaguing their Badlands town.

Because all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin's unique beauty hides a girl who's troubled, broken, and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, no friendship can withstand betrayal.


Review:


I can't tell you how many times I have gone into a bookstore hoping to see Like Mandarin on the shelves and left the store feeling disappointed that it wasn't. For one reason or another, it seems Barnes & Noble--and possibly Books-A-Million too because I have never seen her novels there--won't stock her books. After reading Like Mandarin and Hubbard's second novel Wanderlove, I think that's a shame. This novel cements Hubbard as one of my favorite contemporary YA authors and I feel her books deserve to be more widely read.

Hubbard's descriptions of Washokey, Wyoming and its residents are deeply atmospheric and ring true. Though I live in a place that does not resemble Washokey in any way, I felt like I was there every time I started reading again. When I went outside during a break from my reading marathon of this novel, I chose to imagine the winds outside were wildwinds and not winds from the aftermath of a tropical storm. Grace's narrative voice is lovely and clear with few to no tripping points to jerk me out of the story.

Grace and Mandarin are both strongly characterized are act as the driving force of the narrative.  Mandarin's naive yet cynical ways when the majority of the town wrongfully labels her a slut make her a standout character, but she never takes over the book because Grace is just as well-drawn. She has her childlike dreams of escaping too and a distant relationship with her mother that constantly hurts her, but she chooses to blend in to hide her pain where Mandarin acts out so she can mask her pain. Their friendship and its constantly shifting nature fascinated me until I'd turned the last page.

It's kind of funny how Grace was already like Mandarin before she started trying to emulate her. She just didn't see how similar they were until she came closer and saw what no one else saw in Mandarin.

But the novel wasn't just about Grace and Mandarin becoming friends, painting the town red, and eventually coming to their respective realizations about life. Like Mandarin was also about two girls with broken families who want to put the pieces back together but have no idea how. Grace's mother seems like a horrible person at first, largely neglecting one daughter to shower all her attention on the other, but she is no cardboard character either. She is far from being the best person, but where the novel leaves Grace's mother, younger sister Taffeta, and Grace herself shows there is hope for their family to come back together.

It's difficult to find words to describe this book. I wanted to bang my head on the keyboard more than a few times while typing this up and as soon as I thought of something I wanted to say, a wildwind blew through my head and took the thought away. This is actually the same problem I had with the author's other novel Wanderlove, which I really liked but never wrote a review for because I didn't know what to say. I can't say there are any authors whose books impress me so much that they tend to leave me speechless.

About a year ago, Hubbard herself made a blog post about the difficulties of being a midlist author, how chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble wouldn't stock her books, and how she was afraid to speak out about it. That post is not only one I highly respect her for, but it's the post that put her books on my to-read list. Those books put her on my to-buy list for any books she may publish in the future.

5 stars!


What am I reading next?: The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

Waiting on Wednesday (22)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

Funny story with this book. I hardly cared about its existence at first, but then it went up on NetGalley and one of my friends fell in love with it. Then I was like EEEEEEEEEE and decided to plan a month-long event around this book and its four prequel novellas that may or may not include a giveaway--all that because I was so sure I would love it. I've read the first two novellas and I am not impressed. Plans will go on, but I'm less enthusiastic about it than I was before. Here's hoping the next two novellas and the novel itself will bring me back!

Throne of Glass
by Sarah J. Maas
August 7, 2012
416 pages (hardcover) 

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Pages: 368 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Received an ARC through a swap with a friend.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promitional Materials and More:  book trailer | author website

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. 

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.


Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.


Review:


And the hype strikes again! All but one of my friends loved this novel and they promised me it would be fantastic. Having been bitten by hype multiple times (two very recent incidents being Divergent and Anna Dressed in Blood), I put off reading my copy for close to two months and said that if the novel didn't live up to the hype, all my friends that loved it owed me their pinky fingers. Two days of near-nonstop reading later, I find myself less impressed with the novel than they were. Time for them to kiss their pinkies goodbye!

Bardugo's writing flows well and her top-notch worldbuilding left me dying to know more. She can write a fantastic make-out scene, that's for sure. Even when Alina and the Darkling's relationship dives into Not Okay territory, the complexity of it is almost scrumptious and readers are sure to gobble it up. Speaking of complexity, the Darkling's characterization had to be the standout point of the novel. His secrets and layers are constantly being unraveled and revealed throughout the novel and I looked upon it with envy. If I could write a character like that...

So with all that nice stuff to say, why don't I love it?

I didn't care about any of these characters. The Darkling's complexity is appreciated, but not anything I love because he's not very original in it. I feel like I've already seen characters just like him that did it better. Alina and Mal didn't win more of my attention than the bare minimum I could give. They were satisfactory, but they once again felt like characters I'd seen done better elsewhere. Like with a cornbread recipe in my family that my grandmother wrote. My dad follows the recipe exactly when he makes cornbread, but he always says it's never quite like the cornbread she made. Most of all, I wanted this book to go deeper than it did with its characters and its world. Shadow and Bone may be entertaining, but it's not quite as engaging as I wish it was.

It seems like a good sign I read this in two days, but it isn't in this case. On the first day, I read about seventy-five pages; on the second day, I skimmed the rest. So much time was spent on the makeovers, balls, and the Darkling drawing Alina in while I wondered where the overarching plot was. As a small niggle, Alina's name bugs me. According to the Russian tradition that seems to govern most of the other names, it should be Alina Starkova, not Alina Starkov.

Now if those friends of mine who hyped it up so much would leave me the pinky fingers they owe me, that would be fantastic. There's a knife by the door and doctors will be waiting outside to make sure you don't bleed to death or anything like that. Thank you! But just like they will, I'll be coming back for the next installment of Bardugo's series.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han


Title: The Summer I Turned Pretty 
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon and Schuster BFYR
Release Date: May 5, 2009
Pages: 276 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

When each summer begins, Belly leaves her school life behind and escapes to Cousins Beach, the place she had spent every summer of her life. Not only does the beach house mean home away from home, bu her favorite people are there: Susannah, her mother's best friend, and her sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. Belly has been chasing Conrad for as long as she can remember, and more than anything, she hopes this summer will be different. Despite distractions from a new guy named Cam and lingering looks from Conrad's brother, Belly's heart belongs to Conrad. Will he offer his to her? Will this be the summer that changes everything?

Review:

The first time I came across this series was when one of the bloggers I follow reviewed the final book of the trilogy, We'll Always Have Summer. Gazing at the three covers of the series, my immediate reaction was "Oh God my heart, wait those are the heartstrings not heartburn, but either way Oh God my heart." With summer rapidly approaching and me being in a terrible mood because of various things, it seemed like the perfect time to indulge in some fluff. I just wished the content could have pulled at my heartstrings the way the covers can.

I've got to hand it to Han: she wrote Belly's nostalgia for summers past and present well. She's able to tap into our own memories of summers long gone and wrap us up in Belly's world. Neither the characters nor plot were strong enough to carry the novel and give it pacing, but relaxed prose and a series of events you can't help but smile at as you follow them keep you reading. In fact, Han is so good at what she does that it took me three-fourths of the novel to realize that Belly is an immature brat who doesn't get nearly as much character development as she needs. She lost me as soon as she called her best friend a slut.

Though Conrad has his nice moments, I have no idea what Belly sees in him. He's a jerk, plain and simple. A jerk of a boy I went to school with until ninth grade had his nice moments too, but he was still a jerk to me overall and I still wanted to kick him in the shins. Conrad isn't any different in my eyes. His brother Jeremiah and Belly's "boyfriend" Cam were more likable as love interests and they deserved better treatment than they got.

The teenage characters could have used some more work, but the bond between the kids' mothers was pitch perfect on every note. The way they interacted with one another when their scenes played out and even when they were off-screen doing various things we only learn about close to the end of the novel, the friendship they have and the loyalty they show one another is more interesting than any of Belly's adventures in Boyland. I hope I can have a Susannah to my Laurel when I'm that old (only without any cancer or divorce involved).

The next two books sound more interesting, so who knows? I may read them, I may not. It depends on my mood and how much I need a dose of nostalgic memories of summer. For that much, The Summer I Turned Pretty is a great choice for a beginning-of-summer read.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

Title: Cracked Up to Be
Author: Courtney Summers
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: December 23, 2008
Pages: 214 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book:Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: audiobook clip | book trailer | author website

When "Perfect" Parker Fadley starts drinking at school and failing her classes, all of St. Peter's High goes on alert. How has the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school, consummate teacher's pet, and future valedictorian fallen so far from grace?

Parker doesn't want to talk about it. She'd just like to be left alone, to disappear, to be ignored. But her parents have placed her on suicide watch and her conselors are demanding the truth. Worse, there's a nice guy falling in love with her and he's making her feel things again when she'd really rather not be feeling anything at all.

Nobody would have guessed she'd turn out like this. But nobody knows the truth.

Something horrible has happened, and it just might be her fault.


Review:


A few weeks ago, I promptly swooned over Courtney Summers's novel This Is Not a Test and took it upon myself to acquire her three previous novels, and it just so happens I went from her fourth and most recent novel to her first. I can clearly see how much the author's writing ability has grown between Cracked Up to Be and This Is Not a Test, but the author's work was strong even at the beginning.

Parker cannot and should not be mistaken for a good person. She manipulates people, pushes them away whenever possible, lashes out at them to hide what she's really thinking and feeling, and she has done some terrible things. There are a lot of things Parker isn't, there's one thing she is that matters more than anything: human. Beneath all the sarcasm and sadness is a girl just like anyone else, and I connect with her on a certain level. Admittedly, the supporting and minor characters suffer and readers hardly know anything about them by the end of the novel. Parker's story is such a focus of the novel that everyone else loses out.

The length of the novel and what kind of novel it is come together to make Cracked Up to Be a quick read. It's short at 214 pages, but it's also character-driven and a little bit suspenseful as little pieces of what happened to Parker to make her go into such a steep downward spiral come to light over the course of those 214 pages. If it had been another forty or fifty pages longer, Parker's story would have suffered. The author's succinct prose keeps things short and maximize the novel's subtle power.

For the last few weeks, I've been feeling self-destructive myself. I spend far more time than is healthy thinking about how much I hate myself and wonder why I can't just wake up and feel good enough for myself like I could a few months ago. Just yesterday, a classmate of mine confessed that earlier in the year, he'd been feeling the exact same way I've been feeling, but he was getting better. I heard something snap in my head and I tore out of the classroom in tears. How did he manage to get out of that rut when no matter how hard I tried to climb out of the pit, I always manage to fall back to the very bottom? I thought.

Remember how I said earlier that I identified with Parker? My reaction to my classmate's confession might make you think this book made me break down in tears, but it didn't. Actually, I feel better than I did before I read the book, and that is exactly what I needed. Before, I felt certain Summers would become one of my favorite authors; now, she's a certified favorite author of mine.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff

Title: The Space Between
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: November 14, 2011
Pages: 365 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

Everything burns in Pandemonium...

...a city in Hell made of chrome and steel, where there is no future and life is an expense of frozen time. That's where Daphne lives.

The daughter of a demon and a fallen angel, she wonders what lies in store for her. Will she become a soulless demon like her sisters? Or follow in the footsteps of her brother Obie, whose life is devoted to saving lost souls on Earth? All she wants is to find a place where she belongs.

When Obie saves a bleeding, broken boy named Truman from the brink of death and then suddenly goes missing, Daphne runs away to Earth to find him. But on Earth, everything is colder and more terrifying, and Daphne struggles between her demon instincts and her growing--yet achingly unfamiliar--feelings for Truman. As Daphne and Truman search for Obie, they must navigate the jealousies and alliances of the violent archangels who stand in their way. But Daphne also discovers, unexpectedly, what it means to love and be human in a world where human is the hardest thing to be.

The Space Between is a breathtaking and transcendent new novel about a demon girl's search for love on Earth, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement.

Review:


Books that give me ideas for my own books are my very best friends. Books that give me an awesome idea like a contemporary YA retelling of Lilith's myth in just thirteen pages? I expected to fall so deeply in love with The Space Between that I would forge us a marriage license. Though Yovanoff's prose entranced me and her characters made my heart ache, I didn't love this book nearly as much as I should have, and that's a crying shame.

Adorable is the last thing one would think to use when describing a demon, but that word fits Daphne perfectly. I wouldn't want to screw around with her if I saw her on the street, but her quiet sort of steel --I hope that isn't a pun--is contrasted with her straightforward, somewhat naive approach to the human world (which is understandable, considering this is the first time she's been out of Pandemonium and what she knows about the human world comes to her through media). Following her on her quest to find her brother was great fun and I never doubted for a moment that she really loved her brother.

Her relationship with her love interest Truman developed slowly and I think this was . The way I saw it, their relationship is what authors guilty of insta-love were going for and failed at achieving. They have a fascination with one another at the beginning, true, yet it makes sense given the circumstances. A little bit of that fascination is still there when they see each other again roughly a year later, but the way they fall is natural. The climactic scene between them is one I can see myself rereading a few times. It was so sweet!

However, my greatest complaint is that the novel is so poorly paced. All the lovely descriptions, perfect book jackets, and well-defined characters in the world can't make up for that. I spent more than half the novel bored out of my mind and waiting for some developing in the Obie-is-missing-and-in-trouble plotline. I wish a little more time could have been spent in Pandemonium with Lilith, whose great characterization made me swoon the few times she came around, and all the other demons in the steel city within Hell. The great Lucifer himself made one appearance. Just one, and it didn't give me the kind of insight into his character I wanted.

Yovanoff's novel impressed me a good deal more in the second half than in the first, and that's part of the reason why I decided to keep it when my original intent was to get rid of it after I read it Besides, if I ever get around to writing that idea the novel gave me, I'll want The Space Between around. Now then, to figure out how to translate all the pieces of Lilith's myth, from God to her ability to look through mirrors to her children and beyond, into a contemporary YA setting. This will be fun (and I say that without an ounce of sarcasm).

3 stars! (More like 3.5 stars.)


What am I reading next?: Dark Companion by Marta Acosta

Friday, May 18, 2012

Immortal Hearts by Ellen Schreiber

Title: Immortal Hearts
Author: Ellen Schreiber
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: May 15, 2012
Pages: 260 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Book Depository

Athena "Stormy" Sterling is coming to Dullsville, and Raven is both excited and panicked in anticipation of Alexander's little sister's visit. Alexander tells Raven that she and his sister have a lot in common, but can the mini-Raven be everything she hopes for? Alexander calls her Stormy for a reason.

Stormy's visit stirs up the perfect immortal whirlwind. Raven is forced to take a good look at what it would really mean to become a vampire in the Sterling family, aside from some of the things she already loves, like shunning the sun and sleeping in a coffin with Alexander. When Raven compares her life with Stormy's, she can see that it's not all starry skies and black roses. But Raven knows she's always wanted to be a vampire.

Alexander is as romantic and dreamy as ever, and though he keeps showing Raven how much he loves her, will she ultimately be able to convince him that it's the right thing to turn her?

This final chapter of Vampire Kisses' nocturnal romance will keep all mortal and immortal hearts racing.

Review:


In October 2007, when I was a mere lass of thirteen, I discovered the Vampire Kisses series and fell in love. Four and a half years later, in May 2012, Immortal Hearts brought the end of the series and I, ever the dutiful fan, blubbered like an infant when I finished reading it. The final book of the series was fluffy and brought the resolution all the fans have been waiting for, but it was also pretty badly planned and doesn't actually offer very much resolution at all.

Everything I've come love the series for and expect from each installment was here: failtastic clothing descriptions ("her tights were ripped in all the trendy and cool places" (p. 55) doesn't actually tell me very much about where her tights are ripped); ridiculous emphasis on the greatness of Goth fashion; Jagger (and nothing more needs to be said); Raven drooling over Alexander and being a brat over wanting to become a vampire--you know, the usual stuff. And we get a tweenage vampire with braces!

Heck, the writing was pretty repetitive too. More than it usually is, and it's not that great in the first place. Two paragraphs on pages 202 and 207 reiterated the same main point. See?

 "The offer was attractive, and though I didn't want to become a vampire with Jagger, I was flattered that someone wanted to change me. I knew Alexander did, but Jagger was offering it to me only last night. It was something I couldn't shake. If Jagger wanted it, thought about it, and tried to make it happen, did that mean Alexander would too?" (p. 202)

""I need to know," I said again. Jagger's offer was flattering but not something I'd really consider since I loved Alexander. And now that Stormy wanted me to be part of the Underworld, I realized that the only one who was reticent about my being turned was my one true love." (p. 207)
But we learn a little bit about Jameson! It may have taken nine books to say something as small as what he is (a half-vampire), but it finally got put out there. Funny Raven never got curious enough to ask before now, but whatever. She was too busy going on graveyard dates and partying and stuff like that.

I make this series sound so horrible, don't I? It is horrible, but I love it. So what if these two teenagers moved way too quickly after just over a year of dating? They're fucking adorable. I don't read this series for quality work, I read it for the fluffy love and nostalgia. Raven's story reads easily, Alexander's little sister Stormy turns out to be adorable and fairly realistic for a twelve-year-old in her situation, and it's all good as long as readers can read it as tongue-in-cheek.

Yeah, I'm failing pretty badly at getting across why I love these books. When I read them, they take me back to when I was thirteen. Back then, my biggest worry was getting a cell phone and Raven and Alexander's love story was the cutest damn thing I'd ever seen. Raven spoke to the teen in me and Alexander, the sensitive artist, and Jagger, the driven bad boy with eyes two different colors, made me swoon in equal measure.

(I've really grown up in four and a half years, haven't I? Now if only Raven could show that kind of growth...)

And so ends Raven and Alexander's table, but it will always be with me. Now it's time to indulge my inner fangirl with crackshipping (Raven/Jagger could have been canon!!!!!11!!1!) (sorry, she took control for a second), imagined fanfic, and unrestrained squeeing. I think a quick reread of some of the previous books is in order.

Okay, that's where the review ends for everyone that wants a spoiler-free review. SPOILER CITY AHEAD. If you want to see how it all goes down, don't mind massive spoilers, and care about my qualms with the ending, keep going. You still have quite a ways to go. SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER. Got it? Okay.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy Raven is a vampire now, but the minute character growth she gained got negated by her transformation. So she started pressuring Alexander about becoming a vampire RIGHT NOW, they fight, and she realizes pressuring him about it is wrong for multiple reasons (she isn't considering how much pressure is on him, she sounds selfish, it makes her sound like she's only in pursuit of vampirism and not in love, etc.). Hooray! She figures out she's being an idiot! But then Alexander comes back and gives her exactly what she wants. Fucksticks!

The last two pages of the novel are Raven going through the covenant ceremony and becoming a vampire. What happens afterward? For all intents and purposes, Raven is now a high school dropout and married woman at the age of seventeen, all without any input from her parents. Actually, she waited until her parents went out and then went to the graveyard to have her covenant ceremony in secret. How will they react when their daughter tells or shows them she is now a vampire and Alexander's eternal partner? Because they can't not find out. Will they--or Trevor, now that he knows about the vampires too--spill the beans to the rest of the town? Does everyone get staked or chased out of town? Is everyone okay with it? Does Scarlet kill Trevor?

Open-ended series endings are fine, but there are limits. Immortal Hearts is way beyond that limit. So many questions like the ones I asked above are left open that I feel there needs to be a tenth book or more length to Immortal Hearts in order to answer them. I can't remember an open ending that screwed up quite this badly before.

Non-nostalgic rating: 2 stars!
Nostalgic rating: 4 stars!


What am I reading next?: The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dark Kiss by Michelle Rowen

Title: Dark Kiss
Author: Michelle Rowen
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: May 22, 2012
Pages: 348 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher through NetGalley
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Book Depository
 
I don’t do dangerous.


Smart, uber-careful, ordinary Samantha – that’s me. But I just couldn’t pass up a surprise kiss from my number-one unattainable crush. A kiss that did something to me – something strange. Now I feel hungry all the time, but not for food. It’s like part of me is missing – and I don’t know if I can get it back.

Then there’s Bishop. At first I thought he was just a street kid, but the secrets he’s keeping are as intense as his unearthly blue eyes. If he’s what I think he is, he may be the only one who can help me. But something terrifying is closing in, and the one chance Bishop and I have to stop it means losing everything I ever wanted and embracing the darkness inside me.

Review:


Sometimes, I read a book and think it's so hilarious that I'm laughing every few pages and feel genuinely entertained. Sounds like the sign of a good novel, right? Good ones make you really feel and make you laugh or cry, not just snort or tear up. Yeah, that's until I realize I'm not supposed to be laughing because the novel is dead serious. Dark Kiss and my experience with it is best defined as a continuous cycle of those moments that never get any less awkward.

Rowen had a fantastic idea--not necessarily original, but a fine one nonetheless. She could have gone so many places with it and at times, I saw just how great it could have been; though it was shallow, the exploration of how problematic Heaven and Hell's methods of dealing with problems like the Source impressed me. The climax had me glued to the book and offered close to the main storyline of the novel while putting out some very shiny hooks for the next book.

That's pretty much all I can praise I can offer it. The characters and their relationships are poorly developed; Samantha and Bishop's romantic connection starts as insta-love taken to an almost frightening extreme and never gets any stronger. Some tantalizing bits about how Kraven, a demon assigned to the same mission, and Bishop knew each other when they were human are dropped and I don't feel enough is given for it to be really compelling.

Then there's the implication that beautiful people are soulless. That's certainly not beautiful.

Wait, what? Yeah, that kind of pops up. Grays seem to become more attractive to humans after they've been turned, as shown by all the boys that start to drool over Samantha after her change. Applying the implication to the real world was especially fun. Consider what this would mean for Hollywood and all the beautiful people that live there and you might see what I mean. And we've also got our super-hot mean girl, but she--funnily enough--does still have her soul.

The antagonist didn't think out her evil plan. Like, at all. To stop the flow of power to Heaven and Hell like she wants to, she and her legions would have to kill a lot of humans and turn just as many into grays that need to feed on human souls to live. By the time Heaven and Hell fall apart like she wants them too, there will be too many grays and there won't be enough human souls to feed them, leading to the starvation of billions and a planet full of zombie-grays. Following the logic seems clear to me, but not so much for her.

Book two of the series, Wicked Kiss, was set for release in 2013 last time I checked, but I highly doubt I'll check it out. Angel and demon fans that don't discriminate and fans of the author will love Rowen's latest offering, but I can't say I did. Not exactly encouraged to try out any of her other novels after this bucket of cliches.

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: Underworld by Meg Cabot

Monday, May 14, 2012

This List by Siobhan Vivian

Darling followers and readers? I think I'll be blogging a little less these upcoming weeks. I've been dealing with some health problems since late March and I've developed anemia, which has left me feeling sluggish. The stress of that, my high school graduation in three weeks, and the pressure to keep up the reviews for all of you is breaking me down and I need to shuffle around my priorities. I'll still be around and blogging, of course. I've got some scheduled posts and I'll still be writing reviews, but I'm taking it slow.

Thank you for understanding. Really, thank you. I love all of you so much. I've begun monetizing and entering affiliate programs so I can put some money into this blog and show you just how much I appreciate all of you. Hopefully, I'll have enough one day soon for something special.

Title: The List
Author: Siobhan Vivian
Publisher: Push
Release Date: April 1, 2012
Pages: 332 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Book Depository

It happens every year before homecoming--the list is posted all over school. Two girls are picked from each grade. One is named the prettiest, one the ugliest. The girls who aren't picked are quickly forgotten. The girls who are become the center of attention. Each one has a different reaction to the experience.

Abby's joy at being named prettiest is clouded by her sister's resentment.

Danielle worries about how her boyfriend will take the news.

Lauren is a homeschooled girl blindsided by her instant popularity.

Candace isn't ugly, not even close, so it must be a mistake.

Bridget knows her summer transformation isn't something to celebrate.

Sarah has always rebelled against traditional standards of beauty, and she decides to take her mutiny to the next level.

And Margo and Jennifer, ex-best friends who haven't spoken in years, are forced to confront why their relationship ended.

With The List, Siobhan Vivian deftly takes you into the lives of eight very different girls struggling with issues of identity, self-esteem, and the judgments of their peers. Prettiest or ugliest, one you're on the list, you'll never be the same.

Review:


Novels with more than three points of view tend to give me a headache and/or annoy me due to all the POV shifts. A book about beauty and how one group of high school girls perceive themselves because of a list, told through eight different points of view? It could be fantastic or it could be a fantastic disaster. Somehow, The List did what I didn't think it could and fell in the middleground.  A novel with ambition to do something great and deliver the right messages to girls who could really use them fell disappointingly flat.

I very nearly put down the novel just after I started it. Third-person present tense is very difficult for me to read because I feel very few authors write it well. Vivian is not one of them. She paced the story well by rotating the girls' turns as narrators, forcing the reader to keep turning the pages so they could read on about whichever narrator they latched onto, but the way she used third-person present tense came off as bland and disconnected me from the girls. With a novel like this, readers need to be connected to the story for it to have any chance of success.

If I could give the novel stars for effort, I'd give it at least one more. It is unfortunate that girls are perceived as less attractive or ugly if they're "too masculine" in our society and that skinniness is held up so high as the standard of beauty that girls fall into the deadly trap of anorexia trying to be that skinny. These are only two of the many problems tackled in the novel and the criticisms made of all these troubling perceptions of beauty are genuine. With such a wide variety of narrators, readers are sure to find at least one they identify with and want to read more about.

When calculating in all the blank pages and pages declaring which day it is, the book turns out to be roughly 320 pages. This gives each of the eight narrators 40 pages that are solely focused on them--and that's not factoring in that the girls weren't all given equal attention. Some took larger portions of the story and left others with only the bare minimum attention they had to be given as one of the girls on the list. Sarah's sections in particular were lacking; her pieces consist mostly of her stinking herself up and fighting with her friend-and-possibly-more Milo. The girls needed more time to develop and their characterization remains static, which lends its hand to an unsatisfying conclusion.

This, I think, is the biggest issue of The List: development. With so few pages to fully develop each girl and make her feel real, the issues they're having to deal with--Danielle's insecurities about her femininity because she's such a great athlete that others consider her too masculine and Bridget's body issues--are weakened. Their stories are merely rough outlines of the poignant pieces they could be with more care and it's a disservice to very real problems girls like me deal with every day.

I do think The List is worth a read, but it's the kind of book you need to be absolutely certain you want to read for very certain reasons so your time isn't wasted. I would recommend it for someone who wants to write about issues young women face in high school and wants to see how it can go wrong in order to learn from it. Vivian had the right ideas, but her lack of development was what sunk the novel and made it appear more like an outline of a masterpiece than a true masterpiece.

3 stars! (More like 2.5 stars.)


What am I reading next?: Silence by Michelle Sagara

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cover Squee (3)

There are plenty of cover memes out there I could do, but I wanted one that was purely mine. So welcome to Cover Squee, a Saturday book cover memewhere I unleash my inner squeeing fangirl on book covers. Here's how it goes:

  • Three covers I love and my take on them;
  • one cover I dislike and want to give a good-natured poke to.
Past covers, covers of unreleased books, international covers--it makes no difference to me. I practice the equal opportunity squee.

But this time, I'm going to do a small variation on it by examining the redesign of the covers in one series. Very recently, I Glow and Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan. Like it so often happens, the cover for Glow was redesigned to fit a new theme and the sequel's cover was designed to fit that theme instead of the original one. This is hardcover's cover for Glow:


And these are the covers for the paperback of Glow and the hardcover of Spark:



When grading them solely on aesthetics and not how they relate to the book, I love the new covers. I love soft colors like the pink and blue of Glow and Spark respectively and I can see in my head exactly what work went into creating them. Stars on covers are one of my weaknesses because they almost always turn out well when I see them. While Glow's original cover is intriguing and makes you wonder what such a simple cover could be hiding, the new covers are more visually attractive to me.

Then it comes time to judge them based on how they relate to the book. In this category, the new covers are an astounding level of fail.

You would think from the colors and stars that it's not a deadly serious series, right? I didn't when I first saw the new covers, which was long before I gained any interest in the series. Then I actually read the books. Holy hell, these books are not nice and sweet like the covers imply. People are regularly dying, girls are stolen so their eggs can be harvested, Lord of the Flies basically plays out among the boys, and these children do terrible things in the name of survival and power. I may like the covers, but they do not represent the story. Covers really can put people off a good story and I'd hate to see someone pass up this series when they would otherwise enjoy it just because they thought those covers represented the story within.

The original hardcover of Glow had a more fitting cover. The simply black and the girl being enclosed in such a small circle as the letter O effectively communicate the dark, constricting feel of the book.

So what do you think? Love the new covers? Hate them? If you've read Glow (or Spark too, if got an ARC), what do you think of them in relation to the books? Tell me.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Forgotten by Cat Patrick

Title: Forgotten
Author: Cat Patrick
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Pages: 304 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Read it on my Kindle.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Book Depository


Each night at precisely 4:33 am, while sixteen-year-old London Lane is asleep, her memory of that day is erased. In the morning, all she can "remember" are events from her future. London is used to relying on reminder notes and a trusted friend to get through the day, but things get complicated when a new boy at school enters the picture. Luke Henry is not someone you'd easily forget, yet try as she might, London can't find him in her memories of things to come.

When London starts experiencing disturbing flashbacks, or flash-forwards, as the case may be, she realizes it's time to learn about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future.


Review:

I gave it my best shot. Just under halfway through the novel, I'm calling it quits on Forgotten because this book is stupid. For a moment, I tried to find a kinder way to put it, but why sugarcoat it and Be Nice? Forgotten is dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb.

The way London handles her disorder confuses me. Writing down what it to come the next day so she can prepare herself? That's a smart one. I'll give her that much. However, her past is just as important as her future and yet she neglects her past by barely recording it or not recording it at all. How is she going to grow and change if she doesn't bother to start recording her past more thoroughly until she gets a boyfriend? Does she not remember the saying, "Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it"?

Oh, wait. That wasn't nice to say, was it?

Concerning the aforementioned boyfriend, their relationship was one-hundred percent insta-love. That should say everything that needs to be said about why Luke and London's budding love made me want to go to sleep. I'm constantly tired in the first place partially thanks to anemia, but it got worse every time I tried to dig into Forgotten. I wish that was exaggeration, but it's not.

Forty-two percent of the way in, there was still no sign of a plot. Jamie started her relationship with the teacher, London met and forgot Luke multiple times, London tries to find out more about her dad, she and Luke go on a few dates... As if I were London, I've forgotten most of what happened in the novel because it's so forgettable. The novel is readable, but it's not interesting. I think this is a case of the author biting off much more than she could chew. This sort of idea required a meticulous author who could execute it perfectly and it does not appear Patrick is that author.

After a friend mentioned how the book comes together in the second half, I forced myself to skim through the second half just to give it another shot. I gave Forgotten far more fair shots than it deserved, let me tell you. Something about a dead grandma and brother, "I love yous" between Luke and London--yep, nothing interesting there. Quitting at the forty-two percent mark is only looking smarter the more I think about it.

So there you go. Another DNF. Forgotten was riddled with holes and as dull as dull can be and I can't really recommend it. A few of my friends loved it, but it definitely wasn't to my taste. Give it to a better author who can give London and co. better characterization, give London better ways to manage her life, develop a plot interesting enough to make me finish reading the novel, and not turn a great concept into a sleep aid. Then we'll talk about me giving this book a second try. Like I said at the beginning, this review is not concerned with Being Nice.

What am I reading next?: Silence by Michelle Sagara

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Title: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publisher: Hyperion
Release Date: May 15, 2012
Pages: 327 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC found at a used bookstore
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Book Depository

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?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.


Review:


The books you never think you're going to read are often the books that surprise you, whether that surprise is good or bad. Code Name Verity sat on my shelf for well over a month and it was never my intent to read it in the first place. After a terrible reading streak (nine of the last ten books I've read were either jaw-droppingly terrible or underwhelming), I remembered a 10/10 review Code Name Verity got from one of The Book Smugglers, aka two of my favorite reviewers ever, and gave it a shot.

Good surprise, everyone! Good surprise! Oh my gosh, this book. If I could, I would drop a bunch of crying GIFs and squeeing GIFs here and call it a day, but that won't make anyone understand why I've hardly let go of the book since I started reading it. Wein's story of friendship and survival during World War II tore my heart into pieces.

Told in two points of view (Verity's for the first two-hundred or so pages; Maddie's for the rest of the book), Code Name Verity is occasionally funny despite the subject matter and all the torture Verity goes through. As she writes of being forced to endure pencil shavings in her eyes, three days of little sleep and almost nonstop torture, and burns all over her body alongside the story of show she and Maddie met and how Verity ended up in France, she tends to display a wry sense of humor. The average person would have gotten that tortured out of them, but not her. She understands that clinging to humor any way she can may be the only way to keep hold on some semblance of her sanity.

But how much of what Verity says is the truth? Could she be lying through her teeth with every word she says in order to stay loyal to her country? Has she really been broken to the point of giving up everything she knows? Since everything she writes will get back to her captors, she can only write down so much. There could be much more going on during her time in prison than she is able to write down. Verity's unreliability as a narrator gives the novel a compelling angle.

Maddie's part of the novel is a little weaker, but her faith in her best friend nearly made me swoon. When someone claims Verity is a collaborator, Maddie has to be knocked out so she won't hurt him any worse than she already had. Where Verity is wry and a tad long-winded, Maddie is direct and very emotional. It's funny how despite Verity's side of the story being the stronger one overall and detailing some of her torture, it wasn't until Maddie took over that I started bawling.

Sure, the descriptions of pilot life and how planes work and such made my eyes glaze over a little when I was reading, but that is something I easily overlooked in my quest to make it to the end of Verity's story. Anyone looking for a World War II romance won't find one here--not in the usual sense. This is the platonic love affair of two intelligent girls who become close friends while serving their country and are forced to make difficult choices in the middle of one of the fiercest wars ever fought. Difficult choices indeed.

Code Name Verity started out as an ARC I rescued from a used bookstore so I could pass it on to another blogger who would love it. Now I'm more reluctant to let it go. If you think this is the kind of book you can read, read it. It made me blubber and it made me laugh (but not at something that would make me blubber) and I'm going to love it forever.

5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Monday, May 7, 2012

Body and Soul by Stacey Kade

Title: Body and Soul
Author: Stacey Kade
Publisher: Hyperion
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Pages: 316 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Book Depository

The Ghost
 
I’ve been trapped in the body of Lily “Ally” Turner for a month now. Talk about a fashion crisis on an epic scale. What worries me more, though, is sometimes I catch Will looking at me like he thinks I’m Lily...or that he wishes I were. Without the good looks of my former self, I don’t know who I am, or if who that is is good enough. I need out of this mess. Now.

Will and I have been looking for a solution, one that would separate me from Lily without killing her. But it’s not going well. Then, when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, we run into Misty, my former best friend and boyfriend-stealer extraordinaire, who claims she’s being haunted...by me. Seriously?

I’m determined to get to the bottom of who’s pretending to be the spirit of Alona Dare (while I’m pretending to be someone else) and then get the heck out of this body. Or die trying...

The Goth

 
I’ll admit it. It’s really weird to look at Alona but see Lily. I do know the difference, though, contrary to what Alona might be saying. And Alona is more than a pretty face to me, not that she would believe that.

Our one lead for some help in this messed up situation might be a page torn from the yellow pages-—the “Psychics” section-—I found in my dad’s stuff. One of the “fakes” seems a bit more real-—and odd-—than the others. Before I can investigate further, though, Alona is off and chasing a ghost that’s probably nothing more than a figment of Misty’s guilty imagination. Now Lily’s family is freaking out because she didn’t come home, my mom is ordering me to stay out of it, and something is definitely wrong with the person formerly known as Lily “Ally” Turner...


Review:


With Alona trapped in Lily's body and no way to safely separate them in sight, the road ahead for Alona and Will at the end of Queen of the Dead could easily turn out smooth or rocky. And since when has anything ever been easy for this two? I had worries about Body and Soul, but Kade dispelled them and I'm not sure whether to applaud at this fantastic conclusion or cry because it's over. Talking about this book is going to be hard because I love it so much, but here goes something!

Easy answers about who they are to each other, what to do about the Lily situation, and where to go from there continue to evade Alona and Will. For both of them, the question remains: now that she is keeping Lily alive, will Alona go to the light, crushing both Lily and her family by doing so, or will she stay? Throughout the book, the question plagues them and I feel their pain. The choice they eventually make isn't easy, but I'm happy with where it leaves them and from the looks of it, they're happy too. Through their fights, their failures, and their screw-ups (sorry, but the Amazon censors won't let me get alliterative there), these two are a duo I can see sticking together for a very long time. I think they may be one of my favorite couples in YA.

In addition to their struggles, we are introduced to twins Erin and Ed. Erin is dead, Ed is not, and she is haunting him. Two characters that originally come off as rather flat fill out as the novel progresses and their reconciliation at the end of the novel made me tear up so much. One girl cut short from living her life, one boy unsure of what to do now that his sister is dead and haunting him, and a whole lot Alona and Will can teach them. It was funny, seeing Alona help Erin reach realizations and then have the same realizations herself.

And speaking of Alona's growth... From book one, Alona has never been a great person. Snobby, a liar both through omission and true-blue lies, and sometimes vicious, she is anything but the girl next door. But she's been slowly growing and changing through the experience of being dead and Will's influence. Seeing her come full circle in Body and Soul as she helps Erin, a girl so much like herself... I can't even describe it. Calling it "fantastic" feels like an insult.

There was very little I didn't like, but there were still issues. I love the cliffhangers each chapter ends on and they keep the novel well-paced, but this time around, it was more frustrating than fun. Just when we approach the juiciest part of the chapter--BAM, new chapter. And most of these chapters are about twenty pages long. This constant cycle of frustration and fulfillment was draining. More than a few times, I lost track of whether it was Alona or Will narrating. None of that impeded my ability to enjoy this book too heavily, but I couldn't ignore it either.

Alona and Will's story may be over, but I'll be revisiting their world and living through their struggles with them all over again for many years to come. There is a very good reason I love this series, and if you're looking for something fun with a surprising amount of heart to it, this is perfect. Just be ready to hold yourself back from yelling at Alona too much. The girl is a work in progress until the very end and beyond--and that's why I love her.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Title: Glow
Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: September 13, 2011/July 17, 2012
Pages:  320 pages/336 pages (hardcover/paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it. 
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: audiobook clip | book trailer | author website


What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you'd been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue?

Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth's collapse, the ship's crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader's efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don't know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them...

Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he's the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.

But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren't all from the outside.


Review:


Another sci-fi book. For some reason, I keep picking them up despite my apathy for the genre. Perhaps I was hoping Glow would be the one to really impress me and make me like sci-fi. (Or maybe I was reading it solely because an ARC of its sequel was coming. Yeah, that sounds right.) The plot grabbed me and didn't let go, but in all honesty, I can't respect a sci-fi novel that grossly violates Newton's first law of motion.

To be fair, Glow started off with a bang: the invasion by the New Horizon people. Ryan can write a mean action scene and keep readers glued to the pages with top-notch pacing. I can respect the slowly evolving psychological mindset and development of the characters throughout the novel. I dreaded reading the novel when Waverly's response to her boyfriend proposing to her was "Why not marry Felicity Wiggam? She's prettier than I am," but my worries were for little. Who each character was at the beginning of the novel barely resembles who they were at the end, and what this promises for future books in the series is tempting.

So what about Newton's first law of motion being violated? Well, said law goes something like this: an object in motion stays in motion until an external force acts upon it. On Earth, that external force is most often gravity. In space, there is no such external force, so an object will continue moving at the exact same rate forever. It's why tools astronauts lose are goners if they float away.

The long explanation I came up with for this was too long and convoluted, so I reduced it to a few bullet points.

  • The New Horizon slowed down to let the Empyrean catch up.
  • The only way the New Horizon could slow down was to use its reverse thrusters to cancel out their forward momentum.
  • It explicitly says in the novel that they did not use their reverse thrusters to slow down.
  • Because they are in space, there is no external force to act upon the ship. A spaceship in space whose engine is cut can't slow down like a car on Earth can and would.
  • Because of this, the New Horizon should have kept moving at the speed it was going when it stopped using its thrusters. It didn't.
  • Therefore, Newton's first law of motion was violated. Bad sci-fi novel! Bad!

(I really hope that made sense. My explanations of science aren't fantastic.)

And the writing. Oh, the writing! Third-person narration didn't feel like the best choice for this novel. The copious telling-not-showing way it told the story and explained everything kept me from getting fully invested in the story. I normally don't have this problem with third-person, but the way it was used in Glow made the characters feel so distanced from me. Ryan can write great characters, pace her story well, and come up with a great plot, but her technical writing skills need improvement.

Glow packed a real punch with its ending. Unfortunate implications of both Christian priest/leader characters being evil cult leaders/dictators are there, but the stage set in Glow and promised for the sequel Spark will have readers coming back for more. I was worried it couldn't pull through for me because of the major science flub, but I'm happy to say it's a solid novel otherwise. Lord of the Flies in space, almost.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Body and Soul by Stacey Kade

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cover Squee (2)

There are plenty of cover memes out there I could do, but I wanted one that was purely mine. So welcome to Cover Squee, a Saturday book cover meme where I unleash my inner squeeing fangirl on book covers. Here's how it goes:
  • Three covers I love and my take on them;
  • one cover I dislike and want to give a good-natured poke to.
Past covers, covers of unreleased books, international covers--it makes no difference to me. I practice the equal opportunity squee.

My three lovely covers:

Initial reaction: SQUEE!

What I love: The return of the intricate font! The wings made of light! The purple! The continuing theme of bright colors and snow!

What I hate: It's significantly less striking than the first cover (The Torn Wing being the sequel to The Faerie Ring) because there is less color. Maybe that's not the right way to say it; it's more like the color being spread out more rather than concentrated in one place.






Initial reaction:

What I love:The outfits of the girls on the left and right. How you can look at it and discover something new in the little details each time. Like the time I saved it so I could use it for this post? I noticed the city in the background and the gears in the corners.

What I  hate: Absolutely nothing. It's the perfect acquired-taste cover and I can't wait to have it in my hands.







Initial reaction: Ooh, how dark and lovely... LainiTaylorwhat? Laini Taylor's in it?! Gimme!

What I love: The girl's pose and body language. The dark colors. Her dress. The rain. The border around everything.

What I hate: How the girl's face makes it look like she's rolling her eyes. The placement of the clouds; it looks so haphazard.









The cover that leaves me less impressed:

"Oh fuck, we're not sure what we want to put here. Quick! To the stock pictures of pretty people and the black background!"

(I love that there is a PoC on the cover; I just wish it weren't such an awful, bland cover. With titles like The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa and supposedly For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund getting stuck with whitewashed covers, I wish there were more covers with PoC on them. Team Diversity!)









You want to join in the squeeing fun? Go right ahead! I can't seem to find a free linky widget that will work on this blog, so leave a comment if you end up making a Cover Squee post of your own. Thanks for reading!

Social Suicide by Gemma Halliday

Title: Social Suicide
Author: Gemma Halliday
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Pages: 277 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Book Depository

Twittercide [twit-er-sahyd]: the killing of one human being by another while the victim is in the act of tweeting.

Call me crazy, but I figured writing for the Herbert Hoover High Homepage would be a pretty sweet gig. Pad the resume for college applications, get a first look at the gossip column, spend some time ogling the paper’s brooding bad-boy editor, Chase Erikson. But on my first big story, things went... a little south. What should have been a normal interview with Sydney Sanders turned into me discovering the Homecoming Queen-hopeful dead in her pool. Electrocuted while Tweeting. Now, in addition to developing a reputation as HHH’s resident body finder, I’m stuck trying to prove that Sydney’s death wasn’t suicide.

I’m starting to long for the days when my biggest worry was whether the cafeteria was serving pizza sticks or Tuesday Tacos...

Review:


Hartley Featherstone is back and finding dead bodies again! Oh, fluff. Unfortunately, I was a little less charmed by her this time around. I still enjoyed myself and was glad for the distraction Hartley's antics provided, but I think she went a little too far.

Characterization isn't this series' strong point--you only need to look at the characterization of girls like Jenni Pritchard ("our school's answer to Snooki") and the cheerleaders to figure that out--but Hartley's narrative voice is charming and makes it easy to forget about the flaws of the novel. She takes us into a mystery full of twists, turns, and egos big enough to fill up a few swimming pools. It's more predictable this time, but figuring out who Twittercided Sydney is no less fun for it.

It can't be left unsaid that this book--no, this series--is over-the-top in the best of ways. Their melodramatic ways give the series some of its comedy and it's why I loved the first book so much. This installment was more often trying to be over the top and failing by ending up spreadeagle on the unfunny side of the fence. Breaking into the school at night to prove it could be done by someone coming in to get test answers? Sneaking into a hospital and interrogating a guy who very nearly got murdered while trying to meet Hartley? That's not so funny. That's blindly stupid for the former and astronomically insensitive for the latter.

(And do people out in California really dress up for homecoming in tuxes and Jessica Rabbit-esque dresses like it's prom? It's either the book being unrealistic again or we Floridians and our dressy-casual homecomings are just different.)

Why would Mr. Tipkins leave all his ungraded papers at school only to come back later at night with the intent to grade the papers then? He had the free time for grading, as evidenced by him coming back in the first place, and it didn't seem like he'd forgotten the papers. Why not save gas and grade the papers in the comfort of his own home? It was such a lazy plot contrivance meant to get Hartley and Chase shoved in a closet together that I couldn't enjoy their scene. And I would have if it hadn't been for that niggling contrivance!

But speaking of Hartley and Chase... They're so adorable! I don't squee over very many couples, but their banter is so cute and their chemistry is so hot that I just can't help it. If I could, I would make little stuffed dolls of these two just so I could clutch them to my chest when I'm in a squeeing mood or I'm remembering something they did.

It may sound like I disliked the novel, but I really didn't. Social Suicide was a worthy sequel and an enjoyable standalone novel in its own right. Just bring a suspension of disbelief and you should be fine.

Is this your first time hearing about the Deadly Cool series and you're a U.S. Kindle owner? Then you're in luck! For who knows how long, the first novel of the series, Deadly Cool, is just $2.99 for Nooks and Amazon Kindles! I recommend it if you're in a bad mood and need something to cheer you up. The deal might not be a deal for long, so get it while you can!

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Friday, May 4, 2012

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Title: You Against Me
Author: Jenny Downham
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Release Date: September 13, 2011
Pages: 413 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: From the school library.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Book Depository

If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge.

If your brother's accused of a terrible crime but says he didn't do it, you defend him.

When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her, his world begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the offense, her world begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide.

This is a brave and unflinching novel from the bestselling author of Before I Die. It's a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all, it's a book about love.


Review:


Because of its premise, You Against Me had an abnormally high level of disaster potential. It can take a few small steps to turn a good book into a bad one, but books with higher disaster potential require even fewer steps to go beyond bad and become vile. I didn't have anything to lose (really, I've killed most of my brain cells by this point with other books and it looked so shiny on the bookshelf), so I went for it. I've got to say, I'm impressed. There is a lot it could have done better, but I felt it was a solid novel. I'm glad I took a chance!

Downham's near-flawless characterization of Mikey, Ellie, and their families was what made the book. If it hadn't been as well done as it was, You Against Me would have been a clear disaster of a novel. Victim, alleged criminal, family member--the sexual assault is hard on all these characters no matter what their role, nearly tearing two families apart. Some of them are deserving of sympathy--Karyn, for example--and others are not--Tom, who I knew was guilty the minute I read that Karyn was drunk. Someone can't consent to sex if they're as drunk as she was. Mikey and Ellie shine as the main characters trying to do what is best for their families, even if it means doing something wrong.

You Against Me is often uncomfortable to read. Is it honest? Yes. Brutal? Very much so. The effect the assault had on Karyn, how it affected Mikey's and Ellie's lives and actions, how people treat all the characters involved, and the loyalties tugging at everyone made it hard to keep reading even when I wanted to. Yet somehow, it also manages to be a little bit warm in the first half as Mikey and Ellie start their small romance. Why only the first half? It got cheesy in the second half and I wasn't quite as into it. Downham's careful handling of a touchy subject kept the novel from being a disaster.

Toward the middle of the novel, the character-driven pacing slowed, taking a little longer than it should have to pick back up and bring the reader to the story's natural end. Was it cheesier than felt befitting of the novel? Yeah, it kind of was. The second half was more romance-focused and that weakened it. And whether or not the cop was testing her (I found that a little vague), I found his behavior while questioning Ellie disgusting.

On the rampant slut shaming and victim blaming in this book: all of you know how much I hate that stuff. How did I tolerate it when the novel was chock-full of it? It was addressed and it wasn't justified in the end. It should have been more strongly objected to, but it was never made out to be right and that is what really mattered this time. I knew there would be some going on because of the novel's subject; however much I hate it, the treatment of Karyn and Ellie by multiple characters in You Against Me accurately represents what society would do at its current point. If it hadn't happened, I would have cited the novel for being unrealistic.

Though its ending was weaker than its beginning, You Against Me was powerful and I will be buying a copy of my own shortly. This is one of those times where I don't feel confident recommending a novel because it's going to come down to whether or not the person feels they can handle it.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Social Suicide by Gemma Halliday