Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (1)

Stacking The Shelves, hosted by Tynga's Reviews, is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

I've had a very shiny week in books! I'm sad to see one book go and I'm unhappy to see a different book enter my collection, but that's what happens sometimes.


 
Bought:

Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe
  • Here's hoping this ghost story will rock me! I've heard things about the heroine that could make the book go either way for me.
Silksinger by Laini Taylor
  •  I'm regretting this because as much as I love Laini Taylor, I'm reading Blackbringer (which Silksinger is the sequel to) and I am not impressed. At all.
Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV by Jennifer L. Pozner
  • Sometimes, I need a break from YA for nonfiction that will enable me to better examine YA. I've read the introduction and one chapter (a chapter all about the misogyny, mixed messages, and humiliation inherent in shows like The Bachelor) and what I've already learned has made me want to write an analytical article about a recent YA release pitched as The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games (and this unfortunately means reading said book). What this book is saying is about media needing to have social responsibility applicable to all media, not just reality TV.

Amazon Vine:

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
  • I'm reading this solely because one of my friends gave it five stars. It better be good or she loses a finger! It's the perfect way to punish someone who hypes up a book too much: chopping off the finger they were poking you with as they said "Read it!"
Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
  • The reason it's not pictured with the rest of my books is because it's packed up and ready to be shipped to another blogger I'm swapping books with. Fortunately, I had another photo of it. I'm sad to see the book go, but that's alright; I'm going to pre-order a finished copy because I really liked the book.

Won in a HarperCollins giveaway:

A Want So Wicked by Suzanne Young
  • Funnily enough, I haven't read the first book, A Need So Beautiful. I need to do that ASAP. Either way, thank you, HarperCollins!

Borrowed from a friend:

The Selection by Kiera Cass
  • I'd really rather not do this because the reviewer her agent called a bitch (while Cass stood by and said nothing about it) is my friend, but there are things you do sometimes in the name of an article you feel you have to write. Like how my grandmother once had to investigate a burning marijuana field for a newspaper article and came home high as a kite. At least the author won't be profiting off my copy! I'm borrowing it from a friend (who also got her copy for free) the next time I see her.

Friday, June 29, 2012

When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen

Title: When the Sea is Rising Red
Author: Cat Hellisen
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Pages: 297 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website | prequel

After seventeen-year-old Felicita’s dearest friend, Ilven, kills herself to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege. She fakes her own death and leaves her sheltered life as one of Pelimburg’s magical elite behind. Living in the slums, scrubbing dishes for a living, she falls for charismatic Dash while also becoming fascinated with vampire Jannik. Then something shocking washes up on the beach: Ilven's death has called out of the sea a dangerous, wild magic. Felicita must decide whether her loyalties lie with the family she abandoned . . . or with those who would twist this dark power to destroy Pelimburg's caste system, and the whole city along with it.

Review:


There are books out there that are so creepy/strange that they drive some readers away and draw in others who want to bask in its strange beauty. When the Sea is Rising Red is one of those books and I am one of the readers happily basking in it. The novel may have its issues with pacing and clarity, I enjoyed it. This is no paranormal love story, people. Ignore that jacket copy!

Felicita isn't the best person--she's rather spoiled and prejudiced and sometimes childlike--but I loved to read about her and her three-dimensional personality was appreciated in all its strengths and flaws. Her narrative voice is often understated and sometimes poetic. The class warfare going on, gaining strength over the course of the novel,is well-developed. Both sides are right and wrong at the same time, shades of gray in a dreary, miserable world that Hellisen's prose brings to life. The romances are no passionate affairs with declarations of love flying around; One of them is... I don't even know what Felicita's relationship with Dash is based in, but what she develops with Jannik evolves mostly out of mutual needs being together would meet.

Hellisen's world of Lammers, Hobs, boggerts, and scriv-magic are never really explained; they simply are, and whether or not you can just go with it is the detail that will make or break a novel for a reader. Such sink-or-swim worldbuilding approaches often lead to some confusion on my part and I admit, I still don't understand everything that happened. If the novel had been a little more clear, that would have been great, but that didn't keep me from enjoying this unusual world and all its imperfect inhabitants.

While I ended up reading roughly seventy-five percent of the book in one day, it is not well-paced. After Felicita's quiet escape from her prison-like home and induction into Dash's house of misfits, the plot becomes thin and ambles around. Despite how much of the novel I read in one day, I regularly stopped reading, drifted off to do something else, and then came back to it. Not quite as impressive as sitting down and reading it all at once, is it?

And I suppose one more disappointing element is that while a minor theme of the novel is Felicita (and Ilven in a way, since her suicide appears to be motivated by her desire to escape an arranged marriage) escaping the power men have over her, she still ends up being controlled by a man. Almost every measure of freedom she receives from the beginning of the novel to the end is given to her with the help of a man. Even when she thinks she has finally escaped the power of men, she really hasn't, and that just makes me sad.

I can happily recommend this novel for all the other readers out there who like strange books, but whether or not one should read the prequel story Mother, Crone, Maiden (which stars Ilven, who kills herself early in the novel for reasons the prequel story reveals) with it is debatable. It left a bad taste in my mouth regarding Ilven and negatively affected my experience with the novel I wish I'd never read the prequel.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Waking Storms by Sarah Porter

Title: Waking Storms
Author: Sarah Porter
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Pages: 400 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC through Amazon Vine
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

After parting ways with her troubled mermaid tribe, Luce just wants to live peacefully on her own. But her tranquility doesn't last long: she receives news that the tribe is on the verge of collapse and desperately needs her leadership. Anais, the tribe's cruel queen, wants Luce dead. Dorian, the boy Luce broke mermaid law to save, is determined to make her pay for her part in the murder of his family. And while the mermaids cling to the idea that humans never suspect their existence, there are suddenly ominous signs to the contrary.

But when Luce and Dorian meet, they start to wonder if love can overpower the hatred they know they should feel for each other. Can Luce fulfill her rigtful role as queen of the mermaids without sacrificing her forbidden romance with Dorian?

Full of miraculous reunions and heart-pounding rescues, this haunting second installment in the Lost Voices trilogy finds Luce eager to attempt reconcilation with humans--as long as war doesn't break out first.

Review:


Though the mention of forbidden romance in Waking Storms left me wary and drove me batty for nearly half the book, I'm surprised at how much I liked this book. This may turn into a pattern with this series; the quality of the first book surprised me too. Luce could use some stronger characterization so I actually had something to say about her, but you know what? Whether or not she gets a personality, I'll keep reading. The expansions Porter makes to her universe are enticing enough to make me not care.

The first hundred pages were not very good to me. We spend time in the head of Dorian, the human Luce saved the life of at the end of Lost Voices, and it's made very clear he's in pain after the death of his family in the mermaid-caused sinking of the Dear Melissa. When he's not thinking about them, he's tortured by thoughts of Luce. So why were he and Luce making out by page sixty-two and pretty much declaring their love soon after? No! No! Noooo! After that hundred pages, the problems in their relationship started to come out. This is not meant to be true love. Whew! Close call.

So while Dorian and Luce's insta-love romance drove me batty, I started to see Romeo and Juliet parallels in it. No, not like that! If I had to say, I think Porter understands what the often-misinterpreted play is really about. Like Romeo and Juliet, Dorian and Luce are young and stupid (Dorian is fifteen, Luce fourteen). They fall in love very quickly for little good reason, and it seems their relationship will negatively affect themselves and others if it ends badly--and all signs say it will end badly. Even if it does work out, others will be hurt because of them. Do these parallels follow through? I suggest reading the novel yourself to find out, but I will say I was somewhat happy and somewhat wary about where the novel left the two. Kind of like how I felt at the end of Lost Voices.

The mix-up of sirens and mermaids grates on me more in this book than it did in the first (sirens sank boats/killed people by singing but they didn't live in the water; mermaids lived in the water and killed by charming/tricking sailors into the water), but I'm willing to let go of that. The history of the two being combined is too extensive for any complaints to mean much. Dorian's character isn't fleshed out as much as I wish it was, but he's rather endearing. Focusing on a mythical, dreamlike mermaid like Luce to forget about the pain of his parents seemed like a way he might try to cope due to his age and the circumstances. There isn't much I can say about Luce herself, unfortunately.

The last book showed no signs that humans knew mermaids existed, but over the course of Waking Storms, we discover that not only do some humans know about mermaids, but they're actively trying to prove they exist in order to eliminate them. A scene where a room full of FBI agents and goverment higher-ups listen to a thirty-second snippet of the mermaid death song was one of the strongest of the novel! Subtle and creepy. Just the way I like it!

The Twice Lost, the final book in the Lost Voices trilogy, doesn't come out for another year, but I'm looking forward to it. Yet another pattern with the series: the ending leaving me wary of the next novel. But since Waking Storms did better than I thought it would, why can't the third book pull off the same trick?

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: So Close to You by Rachel Carter

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dark Companion by Marta Acosta

Title: Dark Companion
Author: Marta Acosta
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Pages: 368 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC received through Amazon Vine.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Orphaned at the age of six, Jane Williams has grown up in a series of foster homes, learning to survive in the shadows of life. Through hard work and determination, she manages to win a scholarship to the exclusive Birch Grove Academy. There, for the first time, Jane finds herself accepted by a group of friends. She even starts tutoring the headmistress’s gorgeous son, Lucien. Things seem too good to be true. 

They are.

The more she learns about Birch Grove’s recent past, the more Jane comes to suspect that there is something sinister going on. Why did the wife of a popular teacher kill herself? What happened to the former scholarship student, whose place Jane took? Why does Lucien’s brother, Jack, seem to dislike her so much?

As Jane begins to piece together the answers to the puzzle, she must find out why she was brought to Birch Grove—and what she would risk to stay there…


Review:


The first time I tried to get a copy of this novel after I saw someone give it a lot of praise, I was told no. I was sad and meant to ask for it again, but I got a copy through another avenue and all was well. Why do I keep forgetting that publishers usually tell me no for books I'm not going to like very much? Sometimes, it's like they're psychic and I'm the skeptic who refuses to listen to them. The praise for Dark Companion is well-earned, but I just wasn't into it.

Acosta's novel is well-written for the most part, if a teensy bit overwritten in the sense that there were too many unnecessary scenes. The lush descriptions of Birch Grove Academy, the birch groves surrounding the school that give it its name, and the air of mystery around everything really brings the Gothic atmosphere to life. Jane is fairly well-written and though I didn't always like her, I very rarely tired of reading about her.

Mary Violet, one of Jane's new friends, is absolutely adorable. She's an undeniable stock character (specifically, she's the plump best friend who drops the one-liners and acts as comic relief), but she was so cute that I will temporarily stop caring that Dark Companion had to fall back on such a trope. Jack is another high point among the cast and he's less of a stock character, thank goodness. I could reread the scenes where Jack and Jane verbally spar over and over again! It was kind of cute, the way he always insisted she had to be a Halfling or a magical woodland creature, though that made him easy to see through. Why Jane didn't get it is beyond me.

Then around the halfpoint of the novel, gears shift completely. Anyone looking for a paranormal twist will be sadly disappointed because there is nothing paranormal about the novel. A scientific explanation for what is going on is offered in a way that befits the novel, but the shift in tone, plot, and Jane's mindset after this point is where Dark Companion starts losing me. The way Jane justified everything with Lucky... It's horrible. Absolutely horrible.

What really got me was how Jane's actions didn't seem to mesh with her characterization half the time. She strongly disapproves of her friend Wilde's situation, where her boyfriend/pimp provides everything for her and stays with her as long as she keeps up her appointments. The latter makes me wonder why Jane spent most of the book consenting to a situation that parallels Wilde's significantly. A provider gives her everything she could want in exchange for her performing a not-so-little service for them whenever they ask her to--hm...

Jane's rough upbringing must also be taken into account and it's understandable that it leaves her with a desire to be loved. The way I saw it, she's been looking after herself her entire life and that comes with being able to pick what might pose a threat to her. It struck me as wrong that after all the crap she dealt with growing up, she was willing to take all the crap Lucian threw at her. Most of the creepy things he says? Right over her head. The way he treats her like dirt? Same thing. The severe co-dependency they had going on made me sick and I wanted to put down the book over it. The resolution on that front made me very happy, but other readers may not be able to swim through all the fuckery to the ending they beg for.

The ending was a neat wrap-up of the novel--almost too neat. Resolution with Lucky comes out of nowhere (or maybe I wasn't paying attention, but I swear I saw no hint of it anywhere) and little details made me unsure of whether or not there would be a sequel. Everything seems resolved and happily-ever-afterish, but then it's said the antagonist was never found. We all know what it means when the antagonist isn't found after the climactic battle.

I can see Acosta's novel finding many fans, but I don't feel I'm one of them. If you're not into blood play (and I most definitely am not, so those scenes grossed me out), you might not want to read this. I'm still not completely sure how I feel about this very strange novel, but I have put my feelings into words as well as I could manage.

3 stars!



What am I reading next?: Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

Waiting on Wednesday (26)

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

Honestly, I don't like this series very much. I was okay with Shatter Me when I first read it, but as time passed, I liked it less and less. I'm sticking around for two reasons: Warner (because HE IS THE ONLY DAMN CHARACTER IN THIS SERIES I CAN STAND; Juliette and Adam annoy me while Warner's more interesting) and fake covers I come up with based on the titles.

That latter seems like a silly reason to keep reading, but I love it. For Shatter Me, I had two core ideas. One had various pieces of a girl reflected in the pieces of a broken hand mirror on the floor (you see her head in one shard, her legs in another, etc.) and the title/author name are spelled out either in the mirror shards along with the girl or outside the shards. The other idea kept with the broken mirror shards, but the girl is outside them now. She's curled up miserably in the corner of her cell, but you can't see her clearly because the shot is more focused on the mirror shards than her.

Seriously, if I could get together the stock photos to make a fake cover or draw more than just stick figures, I would totally do it and post them for everyone to see. Alas, I haven't been able to find the right stock photos yet. Maybe soon. I've got ideas for Unravel Me too, but Destroy Me is giving me a real challenge. Challenge accepted!

Destroy Me
by Tahereh Mafi
October 2, 2012
150 pages (ebook exclusive)


Perfect for the fans of Shatter Me who are desperately awaiting the release of Unravel Me, this novella-length digital original will bridge the gap between these two novels from the perspective of the villain we all love to hate, Warner, the ruthless leader of Sector 45.

In Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me, Juliette escaped from The Reestablishment by seducing Warner—and then putting a bullet in his shoulder. But as she’ll learn in Destroy Me, Warner is not that easy to get rid of. . .

Back at the base and recovering from his near-fatal wound, Warner must do everything in his power to keep his soldiers in check and suppress any mention of a rebellion in the sector. Still as obsessed with Juliette as ever, his first priority is to find her, bring her back, and dispose of Adam and Kenji, the two traitors who helped her escape. But when Warner’s father, The Supreme Commander of The Reestablishment, arrives to correct his son’s mistakes, it’s clear that he has much different plans for Juliette. Plans Warner simply cannot allow.

Set after Shatter Me and before its forthcoming sequel, Unravel Me, Destroy Me is a novella told from the perspective of Warner, the ruthless leader of Sector 45.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

Title: Team Human
Author: Justina Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Pages: 344 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC received through a swap with a friend.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Book Depository

Just because Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, doesn't mean she knows any of the blood-drinking undead personally. They stay in their part of town; she says in hers. Until the day a vampire shows up at her high school. Worse yet, her best friend, Cathy, seems to be falling in love with him. It's up to Mel to save Cathy from a mistake she might regret for all eternity!

On top of trying to help Cathy (whether she wants it or not), Mel is investigating a mysterious disappearance for another friend and discovering the attractions of a certain vampire wannabe. Combine all this with a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and touching.

Acclaimed authors Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan team up to create a witty and poignant story of cool vampires, warm friendships, and the changes that test the bonds of love.

Review:


You know how you sometimes think, when reading a vampire book "Man, this girl has no brains/has a terrible best friend. She needs someone to talk some sense into her/be a better friend!"? Mel wants to be that sensible best friend advising her lovestruck friend to take it slow with the vampire. How successful she is at being the sensible best friend and main character in Team Human is up in the air. For multiple reasons, this is one of the toughest reviews I've ever had to write.

As you might expect, the characters sometimes feel like improved versions of more famous characters in vampire lit. Cathy is our typical mature, bookish girl who rushes into a relationship with a vampire, but she knows exactly what she is getting into. She weighs the pros and cons of becoming a vampire, buries herself in books about transitioning, and isn't letting anyone, including her vampire boyfriend or her best friend, tell her what to think or do. Mel is the best friend we've been begging girls like Cathy to get, though she gets pushy and prejudiced sometimes. (But I love her name--Mellifluous. Heehee!)

I've read novels from both Larbalestier and Brennan before this and while they blended their individual styles well, there were a few moments where I felt like I knew who had written that specific line or scene. A line about Francis having a stake where the sun don't shine is one I'm almost certain is Brennan's. While it was a funny novel and a solid parody of the "girl meets vampire" trope, it didn't quite make the leap to hilarious. I would call it more of a dramedy than a parody, though. Book gets seriously serious toward the end.

One of my problems with the novel is that things from it tended to resemble a few things in real life that I'm unsettled by. Some of Mel's statements about human-vampire relations and how the two groups should be kept apart strongly reminded me of how segregationists in the U.S. during the '50s and '60s spoke. How thorough the process of informing a human about the risks and consequences of transitioning (showing them zombies, three required sessions with a counselor, parental permission required if underage) very slightly reminded me of the million hurdles women have to go through to get an abortion in certain places. But--I can't stress this strongly enough--the resemblance to abortion hurdles is very slight because aborting a fetus and changing species are two entirely different things.

I see bits and pieces of why I love both authors in this book. Humor I can see Brennan coming up with, Larbalestier's own brand of quips, and the gifts they both have in writing relationships between characters are all there. All the central characters are well-rounded too, so why, for some reason I can't figure out, couldn't I get fully immersed with the novel? Maybe it was the mystery element that took over the story halfway through. The only thing that impressed me about it was the aftermath of it. I tried so hard to love it, but you can't force bookish love.

After having so much trouble investing myself in the novel and finding things to love about it, I'm not sure I'll be back for its sequel. Vampire fans will almost certainly love it, and others who want to see the "girl meets vampire" scenario poked fun at by two talented YA authors will want to check Team Human out. I'm sad to say this is a bit of a disappointment for me.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Forgotten by Cat Patrick

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink

Title: A Temptation of Angels
Author: Michelle Zink
Publisher: Dial Book for Young Readers
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Pages: 435 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

Even angels make mistakes in this page-turning epic romance.

When her parents are murdered before her eyes, sixteen-year-old Helen Cartwright finds herself launched into an underground London where a mysterious organization called the Dictata controls the balance of good and evil. Helen learns that she is one of three remaining angelic descendants charged with protecting the world's past, present, and future. Unbeknownst to her, she has been trained her whole life to accept this responsibility. Now, as she finds herself torn between the angelic brothers protecting her and the devastatingly handsome childhood friend who wants to destroy her, she must prepare to be brave, to be hunted, and above all to be strong, because temptation will be hard to resist, even for an angel.

Michelle Zink masterfully weaves historical fantasy with paranormal romance to create a gripping tale of love and betrayal.


Review:


New rule: I will immediately say no to any novels with a mention of a love triangle in the jacket copy from this day forth. The only way I shall reconsider a novel is if trusted friends heap praise upon it (which is what pushed me to read the magnificent Unearthly by Cynthia Hand despite love triangle presence in the jacket copy) or if I've already started the series and may as well finish it. Why am I making this rule now? The misses far outnumber the hits and after coming off one novel with an irritating love triangle, rebounding with A Temptation of Angels was not a good idea. A lack of tension, stock characters, and a heroine whose split affections annoyed me sunk a promising novel.

Zink's writing style has a Dramatic flair to it, one I enjoyed and loved no matter how much the content of the story annoyed me. It was wordier than most prose, but it was just enough to give it a deliciously formal feel. It it had been much more, I would have called it purple and become more irritated than I already was.

The world of Keepers, descendants of the original angels assigned to guard Earth, and the Legion (demons and such; Lucifer leads them) was of great interest to me and I was sad to see it wasn't expanded on very much. The way Keepers were trained as children for their lifelong duty with games like Find the Way Out and other such little things that made sense once they knew the truth impressed me. If I had to pick something out, I'd say that was the best detail of the novel.

For all the good ideas and Dramatic prose A Temptation of Angels has to offer, there isn't much else I like about it. The characters are flat and uninteresting, stock at best; I couldn't have cared less if everyone died during the climactic scene. On that topic, with thirty pages left in the novel and the book entrenched in its climactic scene, I found myself unable to care about anything. I could have put the book down and never picked it up again and I wouldn't have had one problem with leaving it unfinished so close to the end. Uneven pacing had me hooked for the first one-hundred pages of the novel, but the next two-hundred or so bored me before it got back on track.

As I'm sure you figured out if you read my personal rule above, I don't like love triangles. I like them even less when one of the love interests has wronged the heroine pretty badly (like, say, giving the order to have her parents killed by burning to death in their home) and she falls in love with him anyway. I'm sorry, but... You know what? I'm not sorry. That disgusts me on a pretty deep level. "He killed my parents, but I'm going to fall in love with him!" Really? It reminds me of a series by another author where one of the heroine's love interests was a guy who kidnapped and tortured her twice. Ick ick ick!

And on another note, one of my greater pet peeves in a novel? When an author gives a character a Russian last name such as Baranova but does not follow the system that comes with Russian surnames, which makes the spelling change with a person's gender. A male in that family would be a Baranov; a female in that family would be a Baranova. Andrei and Raum Baranova are not female, so their surnames should be Baranov.

So yeah, I'm going to start following my new personal rule. Like, right now. Right? (Oh please, let me follow the rule this time unlike the last time I instituted it! I don't want to keep putting myself through the pain!)

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Eternal Starling by Angela Corbett

Title: Eternal Starling
Author: Angela Corbett
Publisher: Pendrell Publishing
Release Date: December 6, 2011
Pages: 320 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

A love so strong, even eternity can’t separate them.

Evie Starling has lived a relatively uneventful life hanging out with friends, gossiping about boys, and driving her 1966 Mustang. All of that changes when she moves to Gunnison, Colorado, to start college and meets two mysterious men.

For centuries, Alex Night and Emil Stone have yearned for Evie—but they each have their own reasons for wanting to be with her. When both men claim to be her soul mate and tell her about an unbelievable past, Evie learns that she’s not the person she thought she was. Soon, Evie finds herself in the middle of an age-old battle between the Amaranthine Society—the soul protectors, and the Daevos Resistance—the soul destroyers. With a past she doesn’t understand, and a future rife with danger, Evie has to decide who she can trust. But Alex and Emil aren’t the only ones who want Evie, and her soul is about to become the rope in an eternal tug-of-war.


Review:


"Alex had just met me. Why would he care if I went careening off a cliff?" -Eternal Starling, 3% mark on my Kindle

That was a warning. After all, if Evie thinks there is something wrong with another having the common decency to not want a person to go careening off a cliff, there may be something wrong with her. Did I listen to that warning? Not for a second, and did I ever pay for it! My violent dislike of love triangles aside, I thought Eternal Starling was going to be a good book, but its half-awesome, half-infuriating heroine, unlikable love interests, badly done love triangle, and slow-moving plot killed it for me.

Half the time, I liked Evie. She took little to no bull from her boyfriends and she had so much backbone that I wanted to ask her to donate some of it to YA heroines in need. If only we could get the truly fantastic girls to share the wealth, YA would be a better genre for all! But I'm derailing myself. The other half of the time, I could not stand her. In addition to the quote at the beginning of the review, she lets her hormones control her brain--and she admits to it. It does not make me like her any more when she admits to it. It just makes me think she's even dumber.

Let's say it together: reincarnation does not excuse insta-love even if they knew each other in a past life. It is not an excuse to skip over development either. Here, we get not one, but two cases of insta-love, and I wondered for a minute if Anthony Sullivan and his pitchman ways had anything to do with this book. This story is driven by the love triangle (after all, most of what you see in the jacket copy is only just getting hinted at around the halfway mark) and giving it no development is a death sentence. Why does Evie have two soul mates when people are only supposed to have one? Hell if I know and hell if the book has an answer.

Both of her love interests can go jump in a pit of vipers. Alex constantly criticizes Evie's independent spirit, which led to me literally shouting expletives at my Kindle, and he always found a way to rub me wrong. Emil was not as offensive to the senses, but his mushy, annoying attitude got on my nerves. Some of the things he said to her and the way he kept just as much from Evie as Alex did is what sentences him to the pit. I get more excited watching my two inside cats attack than reading about Emil and Alex fighting over Evie. (And really, my cats are hardly fighting; the kitten jumps on our overweight cat and the two run around the house hissing at one another.)

My main reason for hating them both? When Evie uses her backbone to stand up to her, they shut her down almost every time. What the hell?! I love backbones, but when they are chained down by other people like Evie's is constantly, it's almost preferable to have a spineless heroine! Between seeing a heroine rarely stand up for herself and then seeing one stand up for herself but be told to sit back down and shut up, I can't decide which one I dislike more.

When the plot finally steps in, the greater antagonist's motives are poorly explained. I get why the Amaranthine Society tries to help soul mates, but what does the Daevos Resistance get out of breaking them up? The explanation the book offered (they're evil and building an army) was poor. They're never explored any deeper than "they're evil" and the flat picture it paints takes away a lot of the tension. I did like the idea of the two groups, but they're so shallowly covered that they aren't much good. The specific antagonist, a  Daevos Clan, isn't much better.

And I suppose this teaches me not to listen to one particular book blogger. They may be popular and many people may love them (to be fair, this blogger really is a sweet person), but their reviews never match up with my tastes and the books they tend to love the most are the ones I hate the most. Remember, everyone: make sure the people you rely on for book reviews have tastes that match yours in some way. Otherwise, you end up like me, buying books you hate because someone whose tastes are unlike yours said it was awesome.

1 star!


What am I reading next?: A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Title: The Truth About Forever
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Speak
Release Date: May 11, 2004
Pages: 375 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: audiobook clip | author website


a long, hot summer...

That's what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy's father.

But sometimes unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister's project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl's world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder, Is it really better to be safe than sorry?


Review:


For the last few weeks, I have had a monstrous craving for Sarah Dessen books. I'm not completely sure what triggered it, but I believe it had something to do with most of her books getting new covers. Luckily enough for me (and thankfully enough for my family, who would have otherwise seen me crawling up the wall and begging for a Dessen book), I had one of her novels--one of her most well-received novel, it appears--sitting in my stack of unread books. Even though there are a few books sitting in my pile that are a little more urgent, I put them all aside to read The Truth About Forever.

I see why Dessen is such a hit with readers. Her sense of characterization is fabulous and she has the ability to write fulfilling character arcs that drive the story in the absence of a plot. Macy sometimes got on my nerves because she tended to be passive, but I had a deep understanding of her and in the end, she's only human. I wanted to reach through the pages multiple times and give her a hug, a pat on the back, or a big cheer. The supporting characters like her sister Caroline and the Wish catering crew were just as well-written. I think my favorite moment of the novel had to be her sister Caroline calling out their mother. None of the moments between Macy and Wes had any hope of topping that.

Not that I disliked how their relationship developed. In fact, I loved it. As their friendship develops at a leisurely pace and they took small steps closer to one another, the romance it will eventually transform into becomes more and more plausible--and more anticipated. It takes almost the entire novel for them to finally give in and get together, but once it happens, it's so, so worth the wait. I was definitely happy about Macy's final decision when it came to her boyfriend Jason. He was just... Ugh!

Still, there's a certain stylistic quality to Dessen's writing that makes her books difficult for me to read for long stretches of time. There are moments where the prose smacks me in the face and I think, "Wow, this is fantastic writing," but it's more often a slog to get through. I have no trouble sitting and reading for hours at a time, but it as a challenge to read this book for more than an hour straight solely because of the prose.

I have read only one of Dessen's other novels (This Lullaby) and that was all the way back in May 2010. I liked it well enough, but I had the same issue with that novel as I had with The Truth About Forever: the prose. I hate I have this problem because it means I will have the same issue with all of her books. I doubt she will correct her natural style when that is part of what fans love about her works.

I will be back for more, that's for sure. My personal issues with the author's writing style are a little bit troublesome, but I still want more! One book is not enough to satisfy a craving of this magnitude.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Eternal Starling by Angela Corbett

Waiting on Wednesday (25)

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

I loved Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy, though I didn't care much for Beauty Queens (and I never read nor plan to read Going Bovine, so it's not even in the equation). This book was already on Goodreads when I joined the site in October 2010 and it was one of the very first books I added. Almost two years later, it's finally coming out! Here's hoping The Diviners rocks me like the Gemma Doyle trilogy did. This comes out on my Book Bonanza day (so named because five books I am highly anticipating come out the same day, including this one) and I will make sure to pick it up that very day.

The Diviners
By Libba Bray
September 18, 2012
608 pages (hardcover)

Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies."

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer--if he doesn't catch her first.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dani Noir by Nova Ren Suma

Make sure to check out this novel as Fade Out, newly updated and marketed as a YA novel!

Title: Dani Noir
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Publisher: Aladdin
Release Date: September 22, 2009
Pages: 272 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

If this were a movie, you'd open to the first page of this book and be transported to a whole other world. Everything would be in black and white, except maybe for the girl in pink polka-dot tights, and this really great music would start to swell in the background. All of a sudden, you wouldn't be able to help it--you'd be a part of the story, you'd be totally sucked in. You'd be in this place, filled with big lies, mysterious secrets, and a tween girl turned sleuth....

Zoom in on thirteen-year-old Dani Callanzano. It's the summer before eighth grade, and Dani is stuck in her nothing-ever-happens town with only her favorite noir mysteries at the Little Art movie theater to keep her company.

But one day, a real-life mystery begins to unravel--at the Little Art! And it all has something to do with a girl in polka-dot tights.... Armed with a vivid imagination, a flair for the dramatic, and her knowledge of all things Rita Hayworth, Dani sets out to solve the mystery, and she learns more about herself than she ever thought she could


Review:


Typically, middle-grade isn't my genre. It never has been; even when I was a tween, I skipped right over middle-grade books and went straight to YA. About a week ago, I went to the bookstore with the intent to buy Fade Out, which is Dani Noir updated and marketed as YA, but when the bookstore had no copies of Fade Out in stock but had multiple copies of Dani Noir on clearance priced at $3.97... Well, I left with Dani. Though the novel lacked the delicious creepiness that made me love the author's second novel Imaginary Girls, Dani Noir was fun in its own right and a great coming of age story.

Dani was a such a witty narrator and a great character too. Her problems and emotions felt so real, and I wished I could do away with all the pain she felt concerning her father cheating on her mother, leaving, and then deciding to marry the other woman. Dani wasn't perfect (she was extraodinarily selfish and I was happy to see her get called out for it), but she was someone I wanted to read about.The movie motif was a great choice because of how it illustrates Dani's dissatisfaction with real life. History has already shown people escape to the movies during tough times.

Though the novel is a bit of a mystery (who is the girl in the polka-dot tights? Is Jackson cheating on Elissa with her?), it's very easily solved and not that impressive. Then again, the novel isn't really about the mystery of the girl; it's about Dani. On a side note, it was a little strange reading about the love triangle through Dani's eyes. Because of my love of YA, I've gotten used to seeing love triangles where the narrator is one of the angles as the focus. In Dani Noir, it was like seeing the YA triangle through the younger friend/sibling of someone who is part of the triangle.

Not that I expected anything less than a great novel from one of my favorite authors. It's simpler than Imaginary Girls, but it's much easier to relate to and it's not quite as out-there. This makes waiting for the author's next novel, 17 and Gone, even more painful. Why does spring 2013 have to be so far away?!

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: So Close to You by Rachel Carter

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (24)

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

I admit, I'm only mildly interested in this novel for the time being, but the premise holds promise. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels, so I might this steampunk-and-fae-infused retelling of the classic a try. And that cover is gorgeous! I want her dress. Like, now. I'll wait until some awesome reviewers get ahold of it and I'll see what they say, I think.


Ironskin
by Tina Connolly
October 2, 2012
304 pages (hardcover)

Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.

It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin.

When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a "delicate situation"—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio...and come out as beautiful as the fey.

Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life—and discover just how far she will go to become whole again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Title: This is Not a Test
Author: Courtney Summers
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Pages: 322 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: ARC through Amazon Vine
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Book Depository

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

Review:

"Maybe the only way our story can end is varying degrees of sad. And that I miss her, and that I need her, and this kind of missing, this kind of need, the kind of emptiness it leaves behind is worse than waking up one day finding the whole world has collapsed in on itself, that I was over long before it was." (ARC p. 226)

Zombies? Usually, I'm not interested. The zombie fanatic of the family is my brother. Still, something about This Is Not a Test intrigued me. The good word friends put behind this author and this book in particular? The way I swear I saw someone describe it as a more depressing The Breakfast Club in the middle of a zombie apocalypse? Whatever it was, I snatched it up and started the novel with a sense of caution.

Unless you really can't stand zombie books, go pre-order or buy this now. Do it. Less a story about the zombie apocalypse (though we do get some good zombie scenes in there, especially toward the end) and more about a group of hurt people doing what they have to and being forced to deal with their own problem while doing so, This Is Not a Test took me by surprise.

Characterization is the novel's strongest suit. Sloane's well-painted struggles with her sister's abandonment of her to their father's ways create a brilliant character. All of the teenagers except perhaps one of them are given the same treatment as Sloane and do some pretty despicable things over the course of the novel. Some of them turn other people into sacrifices; some of them have to become murderers. They're trying to survive long enough to see the next day, not be good people. But they're still just teenagers. They're just children without parents forced to find a way to make it through the zombie epidemic that's suddenly taking over the world.

More than it's about killing zombies (but there is some zombie-killing, especially toward the climactic scenes), it's about these broken people trying to pull themselves back together. Wanting, angry, hurt people who need a reason to keep going and not toss themselves to the ragged-breathed hordes outside the high school just waiting for their next meal.

Partway through This Is Not a Test, I had a revelation: This is it. What Summers can do is exactly what I want to be able to do as a writer when I try to focus on the less noble emotions of my characters. She channels these desperate, damaged characters so well and makes them feel so alive even when they themselves feel like they're the walking dead (the kind that don't want to eat human flesh yet). I want to capture the hopelessness of a hellish situation you can't escape the way Summers did. When my characters feel like there's nothing left for them, I want them to be as authentically wretched as Sloane and co. are after everything concerning Mr. Baxter.

The only problem I had with the novel was that its writing style was often off-putting. Perhaps this will be fixed because I had an ARC, but the long, rambling run-on sentences nearly drove me up the wall. Their meandering structure made it hard to keep the picture in my head moving the way it should. When they mixed with short fragments--oh God, the pain. Toward the end, I stopped caring because it ended up working so well.

Just over halfway through the novel, I was feeling so good about this novel that I added Courtney Summers's entire backlist of novels to my to-read list. An author with this great of a handle on the darker human emotions and characterization (and who can also make me shamelessly jump up and down with the book in my hands in the middle of a high school) is one I need to keep an eye on.

"I wouldn't have let you die. When I saw them coming for you, I ran to you, to save you," I say. "I wouldn't have left you like that. Not like she did to me." I swallow hard. "She always said I'd die without her and she left anyway."

"But you didn't die," he says.

"I did," I say. "I'm just waiting for the rest of me to catch up." (ARC p. 226)

5 stars!


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

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti

Title: Keep Holding On
Author: Susane Colasanti
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Release Date: May 31, 2012
Pages: 224 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Won it in a Goodreads giveaway
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Lunch is the worst, but there's no safe place at school for Noelle. Keeping her mortifying home life a secret and trying to ignore the kids who make her life miserable are Noelle's survival strategies. Her emotionally distant boyfriend, Matt, isn't the one she really wants to be with. But she's sure there's no way she could ever be with Julian Porter.

When Julian starts talking to her, Noelle is terrified. It seems safer to stay with Matt than to risk a broken heart. But when the bullying of a friend goes too far, Noelle realizes it's time to stand up for herself--and for everything that makes her keep holding on.

Review:

Books like Keep Holding On are the kind of books no one really wants to criticize. It delivers a strong anti-bullying message with its stark portrayal of the torment Noelle goes through and anyone who has been bullied--no, anyone with a heart--will realize how worthwhile the novel is. After the recent attention on suicides due to bullying and bullying itself, this kind of novel was begging to be written. Colasanti's novel begins strongly, but a lack of strong characterization throughout the cast and lacking coverage of other subjects brought into the novel weaken its overall impact.

Noelle's characterization is fantastic. The self-loathing, the way she felt helpless to change her fate until late in the novel, her feelings of isolation--they all ring so true because I've felt the same way. From kindergarten to twelfth grade, there wasn't a year I wasn't bullied by my classmates, and I was more than happy to graduate a few weeks ago after a rough senior year that saw me having panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. Like Noelle, I considered suicide, but I decided to keep holding on because I knew it would get better eventually. I found something I loved doing and clung to it for dear life, and Noelle reflects so many aspects of me in her personality that it's almost uncomfortable.

What I wanted to see was stronger characterization across the board. Noelle's love interest Julian is never really a character. He functions more as a goal or ideal to Noelle. With him in that role, their romance becomes very underwhelming and he is robbed of becoming the full character he deserves to be. Noelle's bullies and her own mother get taps of characterization, but they deserved more depth too. Two-hundred pages is relatively short for a novel and when major topics like suicide, child neglect, and rape are introduced, they don't get the full attention they deserve and need because of the length and concentration on bullying.

So while I feel Keep Holding On itself is only worth three stars because of its weaknesses, I will give it a fourth star for the resources listed at the back of the book. The links to organizations like A Thin Line, To Write Love On Her Arms, and Love Is Respect are perfectly placed so any reader the story resonated with can reach out to the right people and groups. Short and poignant, Keep Holding On is the kind of novel I can see making a difference in the right person's life.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Waking Storms by Sarah Porter

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Falling Under by Gwen Hayes

Title: Falling Under
Author: Gwen Hayes
Publisher: New American Library
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Pages: 324 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

Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life, not allowed the same freedoms as the rest of the teenagers in the small California town of Serendipity Falls. But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, she feels every urge she's ever denied burning thorugh her at the slightest glance from Haden Black. Theia knows she's seen Haden before--not around town, but in her dreams.

Theia doesn't understand how she dreamed of Haden before they ever met, but every night has them joined in a haunting world of eerie fantasy. And as the Haden of both the night and the day beckons her forward one moment and pushes her away the next, the only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels toward him is stronger than her fear. And as she slowly discovers what Haden truly is, Theia's not sure whether she wants to resist him--even if the cost is her soul.

Review:


What a surprise! Though I've had Falling Under on my shelf for months, I didn't expect to like it very much. I wanted to see how someone else wrote about demons (because I have an idea or five about demons stuck in my head), but reviews from friends told me all I felt I needed to know about it. Then I actually got to reading and discovered I liked it. It was this close to being one of my five-star reads, but the romance sunk this ship.

Hayes's descriptions are often so lush I want to do nothing but bask in them; Under and its inhabitants are like a mixture of Alice in Wonderland and Tim Burton films (but not the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland; more like Corpse Bride). That sort of twisted, nonsensical beauty wowed me. There are multiple scenes I'll be going back to not just because they're great for reference, but because they're well-written and overall fantastic. The tarot-reading at Madame Varnie's, the chaos when the hell noise goes off at Theia's school, and the early dreams Theia has, for instance.

The romance. Oh, the romance. This is my sole problem with the novel and it was bad enough to bring it down quite a few notches. Theia was a well-rounded character for the life her father has forced her to live and I often felt for her, but she got stupid if it had to do with Haden. She's ready to confess that she's in love with Haden by page fifty-three, for Pete's sake! They fell in insta-love and though I can see why Hayes forced them into it, the weakness of their relationship weakens the novel overall because so much depends on their feelings for one another.

You know what the sad thing is? Both Theia and Haden had somewhat legitimate reasons to develop feelings for one another so quickly. Haden has lived in hell all his life and found something that made him happy when he first saw Theia. Meanwhile, Theia has been restrained all her life and when a boy comes along to show interest in her, all the freedom she's never been able to enjoy comes out and she falls head-first in "love". Even when these reasons, they still fall into the insta-love trap and make me want to scream (not the good kind of scream), mostly because Theia never really questions how quickly she falls and doesn't get put of the way she should by Haden's behavior.

I'm not sure I want to read its sequel Dreaming Awake, but I'll keep it in mind because Falling Under was such a pleasant surprise. I originally thought I'd be giving away this novel for credit at the used bookstore, but I'll be holding onto it instead. A girl needs references when she gets writing, after all. I just wish the romance had been restructured and made much stronger. That would have made this a five-star read in my eyes.

3 stars! (But more like 3.5 stars.)


What am I reading next?: Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Armchair BEA 2012: Beyond the Blog

Armchair BEA Day 4: Yet another topic I'm not sure how to cover because the prompt wasn't phrased so well. Option one: Share tips for getting beyond our blogs, like doing freelance writing, monetizing our blogs, and making connections outside the book blogging community. Option two: Share something fun about our blog/life that might not have anything to do with books.

Though I have done freelance writing of a sort (I wrote for my school newspaper for about two years) and I do monetize my blog so I can try to get together money for giveaways, option one isn't going to work for me. Option two it is!

Books and the English language itself aren't my only passions. I also have an interest in digital design and doing stuff on the computer; I took tech classes for two years and enjoyed them very much. As I'm sure is obvious, I created my banner, button, and the pictures I use to denote ratings in my reviews (DNF, 1 star, 2 star, etc. Speaking of which, I feel like redesigning them.). The books in my banner? I lined them up on my shelf, took the picture, and got to work in Photoshop.

I took all my best Photoshop creations with me on a flash drive just before I graduated, so here are a few of them for you to look at.

A fake magazine cover featuring Ke$ha that I had to create for a project:


An eye/stars combo I used as my background on the computer I used at school, though it looked better on the other computer than it does on here:


Three fake digital design business cards (the two with black boxes in them are blanking out my last name; the author that recently posted a reviewer's personal information is one I have had long-standing problems with and I don't feel comfortable putting my last name out there because of her):




A photo I took on a camping trip and then messed around with (my mother was not holding that knife, the fire was not that large, and that beer was not on fire either):


Finally, a mock cover I created for my manuscript using stock images from DeviantArt (the weakest of the pieces I've posted today, in my opinion):


As you may be able to tell from the title, it has to do with vampires. It seems to start off as your typical "girl meets vampire, vampires bites girl" story, but then the vampire asks the girl to marry him, she refuses by saying she'd have to be insane to marry him, and he takes that literally. While he's trying to break her, she accidentally makes a vow to a thirteen-year-old psychic that forces her to protect the child from all the monsters after her and she's got to deal with all the problems that come with being turned into a superhuman guardian against her will. It's fairly dark and I wrote my first draft of the novel when I was sixteen. I'm now on my fourth draft.

I'm not a master at using design programs and there are a lot of things I still can't do, but I'm happy with where my skill level is at and I love to play around. I've never really thought of doing commissions because I'm insecure about my abilities and the Photoshop software my computer has isn't the best. I'm not near as good as I want to be. Maybe one day.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

Title: Struck
Author: Jennifer Bosworth
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux BYR
Release Date: May 8, 2012
Pages: 373 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC I received in a swap with a friend.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

Mia Price is a lightning addict. She’s survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.

Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.

Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn’t who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.


Review:


I sit here with this book next to me and have just seventy pages left until I reach the end. For the last two-hundred pages or so, I have been skimming and forcing myself to keep reading but I can't do that anymore. My brain is so adamantly against this book that when I try to read it, I can't register any of the words on the page. I've got limits on the bookish torture I will inflict upon myself. With lackluster development, annoying insta-love, a heroine and love interest I didn't care much for, and sometimes cliched writing, one of the most fascinating premises of the year goes to waste in Struck.

The warring-cults aspect of the novel, though unexpected, was what I enjoyed the most and what had the most potential. Numerous religious groups and cults are focused on when the end of the world is coming and it's only logical one would spring up when it appears the apocalypse is upon us as it is in Struck. That people would join them when the world appears to be going to rot the way Mia's mom did? Totally realistic to me. The sci-fi aspect of the novels that gives people struck by lightning their powers undoubtedly makes this novel fantastic for some readers, but I felt the novel would have been more powerful and entertaining if it was contemporary rather than sci-fi/post-apocalyptic. Personal tastes and all. Surprisingly, the heavy doses of Christianity and religion did not bother me like usual.

Mia states at the beginning of the novel that she has lost her hair more than once after lightning struck her. I think the lightning strikes made her lose some brain cells too. When she calls love interest Jeremy's eyes "the most beautifully tortured blue eyes I'd ever seen (ARC p. 68)", a flag so red that it burned went up because torture is not beautiful. At all. The way Mia reacts the the idea of Jeremy stalking her with "Jeremy, a stalker? No way. A guy like Jeremy didn't need to stalk (ARC p. 86)" is actually kind of dangerous. I hate seeing that myth be perpetuated. And there's the whole thing where he sneaked into her room and meant to stab her...

As far into the novel as I got, I still wasn't sure why Mia liked Jeremy. I get part of why Jeremy likes Mia after reading through his backstory, but why does she like him? Is it because she's a hopeless girl in a hopeless world trying to find some hope in a guy who appears to be interested in her? Is it because he's hot (spoiler: YES)? I applied as many reasons to them as I could, but nothing worked and made me understand. With so many pages in this book, seeing so little development for these two was disappointing.

Overall, Struck needed a little more time in the oven so it came out golden brown instead of lily white. The characters experienced very little growth and were given little depth. This book was of a somewhat formidable length, but so little was done in all those pages. Why do any of these characters do the things they're doing? Why can lightning do everything from giving people superpowers to curing cancer? Eh, they just do and it just can. Just go with it. "Just go with it/just because" is the answer to about half the questions I asked about this book and that kind of non-explanation can ruin a book for me.

And that is why Struck is yet another novel I did not, could not, and will not finish.


What am I reading next?: Falling Under by Gwen Hayes

Waiting on Wednesday (23)

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

I've had my ups and downs with this series, but I've overall liked the first two books in Caitlin Kittredge's Iron Codex series. The cover for the third novel, The Mirrored Shard, was just recently revealed and it nearly made me swoon when I saw it. From the model's expression and pose to the background and the colors, I love everything about it! I'm sad to see the series coming to an end (I think this is the end, at least), but I'm sure it will be satisfying.

The Mirrored Shard
by Caitlin Kittredge
February 12, 2013
 

Aoife Grayson must face death to win back Dean—the love who was ripped from the Iron Lands of the living when he was shot in the arctic north. But getting to the Deadlands is something that Aoife can't do on her own. And if she can find a way there, Tremaine would surely never allow it. He has sworn to keep her in the Thorn Lands, the fairie home of her mother, Nerissa. But Aoife is determined to find her way out. And she has no trouble if that means she has to kill Tremain and his queen to do it.

Armchair BEA 2012: Networking

Here on day three of Armchair BEA, we're supposed to talk about a positive real-life experience with books. Their suggested topics were partnerships in the community, a book signing I may have gone to, or a get-together with other bloggers, just to get us thinking.

Unfortunately, I've done none of that. There aren't any bloggers in my area that I know (but I know one is around here; ARCs for YA books both recent and unreleased keep turning up at a used bookstore) and I've never been to a book signing. So my topic? What one book series I read ended up doing for me and how it encouraged me to both deal with and start speaking out about one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. Hoping this doesn't end up being terrible off-topic, but I felt it would work.

(For anyone who may need trigger warnings, putting up one right here for sexual abuse of a child.)

Like most people once were, I used to be thirteen and stupid. Though I consumed books like they were candy--reading, like my body type, is a trait passed through my mother's side of the family--I didn't care about them and never thought much on them. More than anything, I read magazines like CosmoGirl! and Seventeen.

 In one issue of CosmoGirl! that I read in October 2007, there was an excerpt of a novel called Vampire Kisses 4: Dance With a Vampire by Ellen Schreiber. I can look back on that passage now and recognize how bad it was, but at the time, there was something about it that spoke to me. It wasn't anything big; it was just Raven and Alexander on a date together, and Raven thought Alexander was finally going to bite her and turn her into a vampire.

Whatever captured my attention, it did it fully. A few days later, we were on our way out of town on a trip when I begged my parents to stop by the bookstore and let me get the books. My parents have always encouraged me in any of my pursuits and they had no problem with letting me buy some books. And so I left Books-A-Million with the first four books of the Vampire Kisses series, read them all over the weeekend, and promptly fell in love with them.

Not only was I thirteen and stupid, though! I was thirteen, stupid, and hurt. A year and a half before, when I was but twelve, my brother's best friend came on a camping trip with my family and molested me. It took me six months to tell my parents and at the time I encountered Vampire Kisses, I still wasn't sure how to deal with what happened to me. My parents never sat down and had a talk with me about it and very few thirteen-year-olds have been educated on how any sexual abuse inflicted upon them isn't their fault. I wasn't one of those children and so I often blamed myself for what happened.

Vampire Kisses by itself didn't help me deal with the trauma, nor did any of the books I sought out after I finished reading the books and decided I wanted more like them. As I started reading more books and became exposed to broader ideas, my views changed. I started registering it more when women in a book were treated badly and recognizing it as Not Okay when this treatment was justified. I eventually stumbled into contemporary YA and the books about sexual abuse, which gave me the message that had never occurred to me before: What happened to me is not my fault.

So did I use this blog and my books to get involved in the book community? Unfortunately, no. I have never been good at networking, though I've been working hard to improve on that in the last few months. Have I used books to get more involved with other feminist-minded readers who don't want to see women blamed for what happened to them or put down for daring to be sexual? Hell yes. That is how I've networked: by connecting with other readers, online and real-life, who want to see the same changes I do in YA so harmful messages aren't being sent out to people who can be affected by them. I've used my experience to educate people more than once on how they should be careful of what they say and how they treat others.

It is always difficult to talk about what happened to me. I've kept it bottled up for close to six years now and I've only started opening up about it in the past year or so. But I don't want anyone to torture themselves the way I did because books are giving them the wrong messages.

(And as a postscript, I've been the one having the last laugh at the guy who molested me. He's been having some marital problems lately with his pregnant wife--it turns out she cheated on him and the child may not be his--and though some may call me cruel, I say this is karma coming back to him.)