Thursday, August 30, 2012

Defiance by C.J. Redwine

Title: Defiance
Author: C.J. Redwine
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Pages: 416 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC I won in a giveaway
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

DefianceWithin the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.


Review:


After telling the harrowing tale of this book following me no matter what I did, I finally sat down to read it and try to get it out of the way. If I loved it, fantastic! If not, it would be proof of karma and... Well, I've been planning something special where I act as the Book Fairy and leave books I didn't like (but that someone else might) in the common rooms for others to pick up, read, or keep.

If I weren't already convinced karma exists, this book would have proven it to me. Because I deliberately sought out bad books in the past, this one sought me out and demanded I read it. It doesn't matter that I recently decided to stop doing that. Karma bit me anyway.

Defiance is told in both Logan's and Rachel's first-person POVs, and losing track of who was narrating what chapter became a normal occurrence after chapter three or four. Their narrative voices sound exactly the same and that kind of problem is exactly how dual POV books go bad. Their personalities are fairly different, but it becomes difficult to grasp that fact and keep it in mind when their voices are identical. I didn't come to like any of them either, and I can only stand to read about certain types of unlikable main characters. Neither of them were of that certain kind.

Making the process of getting invested in this world and these people even more complicated, the worldbuilding was minimal. Is this an alternate world? It is the past? The future? The explanation for how Baalboden came to be and the names of the characters implies this world is the future, as does the use of technology, but the rampant misogyny and wagons and village life are more commonly found in fantasy novels based on past times and set in an alternate world. The heavily misogynistic society Rachel and Logan live in left a bad tasste in my mouth too. It's portrayed as evil and I'm glad for that, but I'm increasingly asking books with this sort of society why it needs to be there.

Maybe this gets better, but I genuinely have no interest in reading more. My stopping point was when Rachel got attacked by a Cursed One popping up out of the ground, which is a pretty good cliffhanger, but I don't care. I don't care if she lives (of course she does!) or dies or how she escapes. I don't care what the two-dimensional villain does to Logan in the dungeon either. Some argue that this lack of knowledge about the story's development is why DNF reviews like mine are useless, but use can be found in listening to someone talk about why they could not finish reading a certain book.

It's such a shame I wasn't into this book. Part of the reason I wanted to like it is because the author has been very supportive in the wake of multiple reviewers and bloggers being threatened and/or harassed, leading some of them to shut down their blogs. Supporting authors who don't harass readers and actively speak out against such practices is something I've been doing more of these past few months. Sadly, a great author does not necessarily lead to a great book.

And that is why Defiance is a DNF.

(A small, unrelated, yet fun comment: am I the only one who noticed the title font for Defiance has the same diagonal line/different shading effect going on as Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth do? It's a slight variation, but the similarity is clear to me. An attempt at subliminal messaging, perhaps? Trying to recreate the success for Roth's series by reusing the same font effect? Nah, not even. Still, it's an odd thing I noticed.)


What am I reading next?: Living Violet by Jaime Reed

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (32)

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

I entered the contest to have a story published in this anthology (my story), so I'm excited about this book for more than one reason. There are three chances for publication--one will be published in the book, two will be published on the book's website--and I'd love for mine to be any one of them. Fingers crossed!

Defy the DarkDefy the Dark
edited by Saundra Mitchell
June 2013 (HarperTeen)

Defy the Dark, an all-new anthology edited by Saundra Mitchell. Coming Summer 2013 from HarperTeen!

It features 16 stories by critically-acclaimed and bestselling YA authors as they explore things that can only happen in the dark. Authors include Sarah Rees Brennan, Rachel Hawkins, Carrie Ryan, Aprilynne Pike, Malinda Lo, Courtney Summers, Beth Revis, Sarah Ockler, and more.

Contemporary, genre, these stories will explore every corner of our world- and so many others. What will be the final story that defies the dark? Who will the author be?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond

Title: Blackwood
Author: Gwenda Bond
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Pages: 416 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher through NetGalley
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Book Depository

On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.

Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other.

Blackwood is a dark, witty coming of age story that combines America’s oldest mystery with a thoroughly contemporary romance.


Review:


Roanoke is one of the most fascinating mysteries in the history of North America. Over a hundred colonists go missing, leaving behind little more than "Croatoan" carved in a wooden post, and are never found again. Historical mysteries like this one fascinated me as a little girl, but so little was known about it and I was so little that I soon gave up on it. Bond's take on the secrets of the Lost Colony's disappearance is grabbing, though it could have used a little more development.

From beginning to end, Blackwood won't let the reader go. The opening pages dangle a little bit of bait for us, but it gets pulled away every time we get close. Not only does it get further away, but it gets more and more appetizing, and we keep following it until we reach the end of the line and finally get the gratification we've been seeking the entire time. That is the story of this book. The hints of alchemy and its role in the mysterious disappearances of Roanoke citizens in the present time, mirroring the mystery that made the island so infamous, kept me reading and thinking about it even when I wasn't reading.

The pacing may be fantastic, but I feel Miranda and Phillips's blooming relationship suffered because the story flew by so quickly. Blackwood takes place over a couple of days. They vaguely knew each other when they were children thanks to an incident where younger Phillips called Miranda a freak in front of the entire town, setting the stage for her to be ostracized by the rest of the town, but otherwise have no connection before the book stars. She gets over what was apparently an important moment in her life easily and the two are head over heels for one another before the first day is over. They moved too far too fast for what felt like the sake of the plot and it threw me out of the story.

The writing was largely serviceable and often perfect for a certain scene, but it sometimes bordered on ridiculous. Talk of hands remembering how to open doors and feet knowing how to be clever as if those body parts had their own brains made me roll my eyes. Miranda treating Phillips giving her bacon like it was a confession of love at one point made me roll my eyes again.

Back to the better points of the book. Few young adult authors have made attempts at writing about Roanoke and alchemy isn't a subject I've run across very often either. Her take on the colonists of Roanoke being alchemists searching for the secret to eternal life had me intrigued and I enjoyed the chance to read something outside the usual circle of plots and powers. I wish it could have been a little more fully explained, though. How little is known for sure about the colonists and the fictional nature of the novel gave it so much room to create an even deeper story of the colonists, but I know little more about these fictional ones than I do the real ones.

I wish Blackwood could have been a more solid novel, but Bond is an author I want to keep an eye on. I see promise in her and I'm all in for any more young adult novels she may choose to write.

3 stars!


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

Saturday, August 25, 2012

When a Book Won't Leave Me Alone

I woke up in a storytelling mood this morning--which is good because I have a fun little story to tell all my lovely followers. It's the tale of a book and I, in which the book follows me no matter how hard I try to get away from it and I considering locking it in a box. I'm supposed to be the one that stalks books, not the other way around!

Defiance (Defiance, #1)
When the cover for CJ Redwine's Defiance was revealed in late February 2012, my friends list exploded. Everyone wanted this book in their hands and based on the activity in my Goodreads feed, I can say it seems to be one of the most highly anticipated debuts of 2012.

Naturally, my response to all this hype was "OH HELL NO, I AIN'T READIN' THIS." I've been burned by hyped-up books waaaaaaaaay too many times, so that's my first reaction to hype now. Can you really blame me?

But then Defiance popped up on Edelweiss, and friends of mine who got access to it started throwing out rave reviews. Friends who can be just as hard to impress as I am were throwing four and five stars at it! That's just a little bit convincing, you know? That changed my feelings from "NO NO NO" to "...Maybe. Only if I can borrow it or get it for free, though!"

I never had any intent to seek this book out actively; the only attempts I made at getting this book were entering an ARC giveaway and signing up for an ARC tour I wasn't sure I'd get into. But lo and behold, I got into the ARC tour for Defiance! Whee!

Only, around the time I was supposed to get the book in the mail and start reading it, I'd be on vacation. I worked it out with the tour organizers so I'd get the book later. Great!

In the time between when I made that arrangement and now, one specific friend reviewed Defiance and her review was... not very positive. Complaints about inconsistent characterization, a controlling and sometimes abusive love interest, melodrama--all sorts of things that I hate in a novel. That made me decide I didn't really want to read it anymore. I emailed the tour organizers back to tell them I was dropping out of the tour, they said it was okay and I was free from the tour, and all was well.

Remember that giveaway I mentioned? It came back to bite me in the ass.

I thought I'd be notified by email if I won the giveaway because that's what happened the first time I won a giveaway through that site. No "Congratulations, you won ________!" email ever came, so I thought I didn't win. No biggie.

Well, it turns out I did. The same day I dropped out of the Defiance ARC tour, I checked my itty bitty square mailbox and found a slip informing me I had a package waiting for me. Sweet! My unexpected packages are most often books, so I was looking forward to it. I gave my slip to the woman at the reception desk, signed for my package, and tore open the envelope, especially once I realized it was from the organization holding the giveaway. I entered almost all the giveaways on that site, so any book could have been in the envelope. The book that lay inside?

Defiance.

Now, I don't use the word "bitch" anymore because I hate it and don't want to further normalize a word that is regularly used to oppress women even now. I call people the gender-neutral "asshole" now and use "son of a gun" in place of "son of a bitch." Childish, yes, but I'd rather sound like a child than normalize "bitch" further. I was so shocked at Defiance still making its way to me despite my efforts to escape it that I stared at it and said quite loudly in a lobby full of people, "Son of a bitch!"

(I'm really glad I'm in college now. I would not have gotten away with that anywhere else.)

Now Defiance sits in the small purple carrying crate I keep all my unread books in and I will be reading it once I finish the two books I'm currently reading. Considering its efforts to follow me and make me read it no matter what, I'm wondering if I should lock it away in the grey storage bin I keep a small pink lock on at all times. We're supposed to be the ones stalking books! It gets freaky when they start stalking you.

Long story short: ah, blogger problems.

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Title: The Dark Unwinding
Author: Sharon Cameron
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: September 1, 2012
Pages: 336 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC given to me by a friend.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

The Dark UnwindingA spine-tingling tale of steampunk and spies, intrigue and heart-racing romance!

When Katharine Tulman's inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.

Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.

As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle's world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it. With twists and turns at every corner, this heart-racing adventure will captivate readers with its intrigue, thrills, and romance.


Review:


Based on Welbeck Abbey, the fifth Duke of Portland, and the building projects that took place at the abbey, The Dark Unwinding comes with a tantalizing premise based largely in truth that seems hard to believe. Cameron constructs a well-written story about a girl's conflict between preserving her own interests and doing what's best for nearly a thousand people, though it's not without its flaws. Misleading advertising, for one.

Katharine makes for a great heroine even if she isn't the best person at the beginning. She's only looking out for herself to start with and wants to make sure she can give herself some sort of freedom--even if gaining that freedom means sending nine-hundred people away to workhouses and worse. Her character development kicks in quickly, thank goodness, and she comes to love the estate just as much as everyone living there loves it. Her dilemma was strongly written and I wanted to find out her ultimate decision so badly.

The further I read into the novel, the more baffled I became that it was being advertised as steampunk. The only steampunk elements to be found are small clockwork figurines that Uncle Tully makes, and that is definitely not enough to create a steampunk novel. Rather than that, The Dark Unwinding is a Gothic novel flavored by mysterious happenings, a dark atmosphere, and careful prose. The genre was misclassified, methinks.

Speaking of the prose... It's well-written and contributes to the novel's atmosphere very well, but there was something about it that failed to captivate me the way I believe it was supposed to. 336 pages isn't a terrible long book by my standards, but it felt like I was reading so many more pages than that. Inconsistent characterization made characters like Mrs. Jeffries and Lane suddenly do something outside their character because the plot (or in the latter's case, the requisite romance) demands it and the plot drags for much of the book.

Katharine also has strange visions/dreams/hallucinations, one of which nearly kills her when she almost falls down a large flight of stairs, and then they're almost completely forgotten. Yanking on these plot threads and then hiding them away again started to irritate me after the third or fourth instance. Long before she started paying attention to what was happening to her, I had a good idea of what was going on.

The story arc concludes itself well and leaves off in a comfortable place, but this is not the end. The Dark Unwinding will have a sequel, though there's no information available at press time on what it will be called or when it will be released. Its plot is introduced at the very end of The Dark Unwinding and its promise of espionage during the time of Napoleon III definitely has me interested. Recommended for fellow fans of Gothic novels!

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse

Title: The Forsaken
Author: Lisa M. Stasse
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: July 10, 2012
Pages: 375 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC via Southern Book Bloogers ARC tour
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

The Forsaken (The Forsaken, #1)A thought-provoking and exciting start to a riveting new dystopian trilogy for fans of The Hunger Games.

As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the U.S., and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help but stand out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to The Wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.

The life expectancy of prisoners on The Wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes. Desperate, she and the other prisoners concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway.


Review:


This novel could have been so fantastic, especially considering the shades of other, greater novels within it (such as Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games, and The Giver) and its fast pacing. Unfortunately, The Forsaken fails to be half as good as any of the novels it borrows from and somehow manages to be an exciting bore. I'll explain what I mean by that in a minute.

The fast pacing and near-relentless action sequences kept the novel moving and it's easy to keep turning the pages until there aren't any pages left to turn. While few of the twists caught me off-guard, there was one that managed to surprise me and I thought it was a pretty good twist. Unlike many YA novels, it's not afraid to kill people and get a little violent the way it should, though the violence is still tame. I want to say more, but that's really all the good The Forsaken has to offer.

What makes this an exciting bore is that while the action is exciting, the characters involved in that action are bland, unmemorable, and more like pieces to be moved when needed than characters. They do what they're supposed to in a certain place to move the story along and that's about it. Alenna is easily forgettable and her romance with Liam is insta-love. There's no spark or reason to care whether or not they get to be together because they're so bland and lack deeper characterization. The writing is more tell than show and Alenna's thought processes are often eye-rolling, such as anything she thinks in italics when describing a scene. Whether a plane is crashing or they discover something terrible, her thoughts can always make it seem less dramatic than it is.

Yet another problem is that the blurb claims this book is thought-provoking. What thoughts does it provoke? The Forsaken treads the exact same themes about freedom and the evils of a government becoming a controlling tyranny that every other dystopian novel published in the last three years has covered. This book offers no new questions--it doesn't even offer an interesting spin on the same old questions. It's a cookie-cutter book.

Don't even get me started on Gadya. She's a contradictory, badly characterized mess and exemplifies many of the qualities I've been complaining about for months concerning negative female characterization. Really, she's going to start an argument about boys when she and Alenna are on an island where kids are regularly dying? She'll act one way in one scene, another way in the next scene, another way in the scene after that--basically, she acts however she needs to in order to move things along. She has no set characterization because she is the Every-Character (tm), who can conform to fit any role the plot demands a character to fit.

If turned into a major motion picture, The Forsaken would be one hell of an action movie. Maybe that's my problem: I don't like action movies because they often lack the character development and depth I desire, and I don't like books that read like action movies waiting to be made.

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Foretold by Carrie Ryan

Title: Foretold: 14 Stories of Prophecy and Prediction
Author: Carrie Ryan
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Pages: 368 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC found in a used bookstore
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Have you ever been tempted to look into the future? To challenge predictions? To question fate?

It's human nature to wonder about life's twists and turns. But is the future already written—or do you have the power to alter it?

From fantastical prophecies to predictions of how the future will transpire, Foretold is a collection of stories about our universal fascination with life's unknowns and of what is yet to come as interpreted by 14 of young adult fiction's brightest stars.


Review:


I love tales of prophecies and visions of the future! Always have, always will. Maybe I love them so much because they're one of the few supernatural/paranormal bits (ghosts, vampires, the Chupacabra, etc.) I can wholeheartedly say I believe is real and can happen. I will swear on the lives of all five of my cats that I had visions of the future when I was younger; I knew one specific friend of mine was going to get hurt in a very specific way (and it did come true) and those visions of graded tests sure made US History in eighth grade easier. In this anthology, fourteen authors offer their own takes on predictions and prophecies, ranging from a cult leader's prediction of the end of the world to a princess's prophecy that comes true mostly because everyone defaulted to heterosexuality.

"Gentlemen Send Phantoms" by Laini Taylor: 3.5/5. In this adorable story, three girls set out specially made cakes and go to bed in hopes the phantom of the man they're meant to be with will come to visit them. Taylor's prose is as beautiful as ever and the story is strange as all her stories are (women, when their death is approaching, can make the choice to turn into animals), but it bogs down the story in places and I don't have positive feelings about how the girls who didn't get visited by the phantom of the man they wanted suddenly fall for the men whose phantoms did come to them. A little too insta-love for me.

"Burned Bright" by Diana Peterfreund: 5/5. A cult leader's prediction of the end of the world comes to pass and his most devoted daughter, left behind for some reason, strikes out with another abandoned teen in what is most likely my favorite story. Bright, the main character, is so devoted to her father's religion that she even shoots someone because she thinks they're a--well, I'll let that be a surprise. Intense, a little strange, and incredibly memorable.

"The Angriest Man" by Lisa McMann: 2/5. Too repetitive, and I didn't care for the narrative voice of the young man who carries the evil of the angriest man ever just because he got stung by a bee who got nectar from the flower at the angry man's grave. If you're asking "Wait, what?", that situation is exactly as it is in the story. You just have to go with it.

"Out of the Blue" by Meg Cabot: 3/5. In this story about fraternal twins, the strange blue moles on their arms, and what they have to do with extraterrestrials, Cabot delivers the same sort of fun, fluffy story that has made her so famous. Cliche characters who aren't fleshed out, narrative voices that start sounding the same after a bit, and people kissing each other and doing things like that for little to no reason made the fluff a little hard to enjoy, though.

"One True Love" by Malinda Lo: 5/5. This story is why no one should ever default to heterosexuality when there's a prophecy concerning someone's true love. The king immediately decided his daughter's true love had to be male and because he didn't consider she might be a lesbian, his prophesied downfall came. The prose carried the story and made me not mind that the characters didn't have much personality and I liked the shades of King Henry VIII and Oedipus Rex I saw too. This story also makes me want to see more LGBT royalty, like MtF transgender queens and bisexual princesses.

"This Is a Mortal Wound" by Michael Grant: 1/5. If you hated Holden Caulfield's narrative voice in Catcher in the Rye, run far away from this story because Tomaso's voice is just as annoying. His story of being kidnapped by a former teacher and forced to do schoolwork without the benefit of the Internet and the Link and stuff was supposed to be funny, but it ended up being pretty dumb.

"Misery" by Heather Brewer: 3.5/5. This story, not unlike the eponymous, monochrome town itself where everyone gets a Gift once per year, is a little bland and difficult to understand. Brewer's writing is fantastic and it makes me want to check out her novels (I've been thinking about getting Soulbound for a while, but this push helped me a little), though I still wish this story had more clarity to it.

"The Mind Is a Powerful Thing" by Matt de la Pena: 2/5. As one paranoid girl counts down to catastrophe on her sixteenth birthday, a few things really brought down the story for me. The red herrings are obvious, there's something off about the third-person narrator's voice, and the stereotypical portrayal of teenage girls irritated me. I'm also a little disgusted that a gruesome message carved in the naked bodies of her dead mother and sister turns out to mean absolutely nothing. If it has no meaning, why include it? Joanna could have been just as rightfully paranoid without it.

"The Chosen One" by Saundra Mitchell: 4/5. I loved the bond of the sister princesses and how the prophecy of who would find the Fabled Cup had a different twist put on it. I had a hard time putting together an image of the heroine until all her scars were detailed, at which point I decided she looked like Freddy Krueger. Also, it bugged me that the crown princess Lucia was called "Her Majesty" when that is what one calls the queen. "Her Royal Highness" is how one should refer to Lucia. ARC error, hopefully?

"Improbable Futures" by Kami Garcia: 2/5. This story of a fake carnival psychic and how her predictions are suddenly coming true was nicely written in some places and badly written in others, like when the POVs switched to show what happened to some of the people she told her fortunes to. Also, calling girls skanks on the second page? Giving two girls bad fortunes while implying she did it because the girls' shirts were too low-cut? Really? I'm starting to figure out that I'm not a fan of anything Garcia writes.

"Death for the Deathless" by Margaret Stohl: 2/5. I like this story's take on Nostradamus and his prophecies (he never existed and it's a bunch of immortals putting out the predictions), but otherwise, I don't care one link about this story. The narrators' voices blended together and the gratuitous French gave me a headache. Same situation as with her writing partner Kami Garcia: I'm quickly figuring out I don't like things Stohl writes.

"Fate" by Simone Elkeles: 3/5. This small story of two teens finding love in the RV park they both live in was cute and fluffy, but not particularly remarkable. They had a little insta-love going on: too much feeling with too little development. Funny thing is that while their personalities were vastly different, Carson and Willow's narrative voices share a lot of similarities.

"The Killing Garden" by Carrie Ryan: 4.5/5. A new style of execution: the condemned races against the executioner, aka the Gardener, and if they get to the platform first, they're merely banished. If not, they die. Tanci, who replaces her father as the Gardener who trims the court when the Emperor condemns someone to a race with her, is a great character and I felt bad for her. The relationship she had with one of the condemned developed well. My only problem is that I wish it hadn't taken another man to make Tanci realize she had nothing to prove as a female Gardener coming in after a long history of male Gardeners.

"Homecoming" by Richelle Mead: 3.5/5. It's the story all Vampire Academy fans have been waiting for since the author first brought it up: Dimitri and Rose go back to Russia together and see his family! They also go hunt down a Strigoi nicknamed the Blood King. Knowing this takes place after Last Sacrifice gives me an instant distaste for Rose due to what she did in that book and how she doesn't even think on any of it here, but a few times, I smiled despite myself. I still like Vampire Academy, but I have a boatload of issues with it--so many that according to my headcanon, Rose never escaped the illusion at the end of book four and everything that happens after it is in her head. That's how much I hated the last two books.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Ironskin by Tina Connolly

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Title: Speechless
Author: Hannah Harrington
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Pages: 336 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

SpeechlessEveryone knows that Chelsea Knot can't keep a secret.
 Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.

Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she's ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.

But there's strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she's done. If only she can forgive herself.

Review:


After the fantastic little novel that was Saving June, I knew two things: Hannah Harrington was possibly going to become one of my favorite authors and I needed to get a copy of her sophomore novel Speechless ASAP. Luckily enough for me, I got my Hannah fix much earlier than I expected to, and the quality of this novel confirms that the author is now among one of my favorites. Her characterization is fantastic, her prose is always perfect, and these darn characters made me tear up so many times.

Honestly, I didn't mean to read it as soon or as quickly as I did. Another book I've been anticipating was supposed to come first, but I was a dummy and left it in the book pouch hanging from my bed when I had to go on a trip. My Kindle, and therefore Speechless, was on hand and I decided to read this instead. Wow. Chelsea's character growth as she starts her long journey into right drove the novel from beginning to end and in a few hours, I'd devoured the entire book when I only meant to read a piece of it while visiting my grandparents.

What happens to Chelsea when she talks to the cops isn't unfamiliar. I've seen a popular girl get frozen out and bullied in multiple novels after she talks to the police about something bad that happened. That doesn't make it any less painful to read about as she is bullied by the people she used to call her friends and hear about Noah's slow recovery from the homophobia-motivated attack on him. Forgiveness is never easy and figuring out right from wrong rarely is either. These messages shine clear through the novel I was nearly brought to tears when Chelsea and Noah meet again for the first time after the attack.

Harrington's prose captures Chelsea's voice perfectly and her characterization is well-done. I wanted a little more of that for her new friends Sam and Asha, but they were both incredibly likable and I was cheering when Chelsea and Sam's first kiss came around. They're so cute! I'm running out of things to say because there are so many subtleties about this novel that I love so much--the bonds between everyone at Rosie's, the strength of both Chelsea and Noah, Asha's genuine personality--and I don't know how to put words to them. I hate to give in to my punny heritage, but this novel darn near left me speechless.

So I loved this book. I mean really loved this book. So why is it not a five-star read? Kristen, Chelsea's former best friend, is never given any depth. She is the two-dimensional mean girl through and through when so much more could have been done with her. There was also the slut-shaming, which means a star is automatically taken off. I'd be fine if its only instances remained in the first two chapters, when Chelsea was still a mean girl, or when people were calling a whore to make her feel bad (which is a pretty clear implication that doing that is just wrong), but Chelsea continues calling people and things slutty even when she's supposed to be turning herself around and being a "good" person.

Any future books Harrington decides to publish are going on my to-read list immediately. Maybe we'll see more cameos from previous novels' characters in future books too; Jake and Harper's (of Saving June fame) quick cameo in Rosie's tickled me pink. (This has nothing to do with anything, but I keep trying to type Chelsi in place of Chelsea because I use the first spelling in one of my manuscripts.)

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Incarnation by Emma Cromwell

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Benson by Karina Halle

Your friendly cat-loving blogger is now a college student! I love my dorm room and my roommates and I have a good feeling about everything. (But ask me again tomorrow after I spend the day doing mandatory community service because I'm in my school's Honors program. I won't be so happy then.)

Title: The Benson
Author: Karina Halle
Publisher: Metal Blonde Books
Release Date: December 7, 2011
Pages: ebook exclusive
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Promotional Materials and More: author/series website

The Benson (Experiment in Terror, #2.5)An Experiment in Terror Novella (#2.5).

This short story/novella sees amateur Youtube ghost-hunters, Perry Palomino and Dex Foray, investigating the real-life hauntings of Portland's infamous Benson Hotel. It occurs between books #2 (Red Fox) and #3 (Dead Sky Morning) and is the perfect primer for anyone interested in the EIT series.

Review:

A quick disclaimer before I begin: the author is one of my friends. Neither my rating nor my review have been influenced by this.

So I gave the first book of the Experiment in Terror series a try a few months ago and though I didn't care much for it then, I've found myself really wanting to read more about Perry and Dex's adventures these past few weeks. This novella has been sitting on my Kindle ever since I discovered it was free in the Amazon store and something about the yellowish sky as the sun set earlier made me decide now was the right time to read it. Short, sweet, and just as much fun as I expected it to be, The Benson has completely brought back my interest in continuing this series.

One of my problems with Darkhouse, the first Experiment in Terror novel, was Dex's character, but I was much more comfortable with him here. Perry's entertaining banter with him flows well and the dynamic they have, quit a bit of it influenced by their sexual tension, is fantastic. I was a little lost to begin with because this takes place after/references events from book two and I've only read book one, but I got into the groove soon enough and I think someone who hasn't read the series before might be able to do the same.  

Stephen King's The Shining taught everyone to fear haunted hotels and The Benson is exactly the kind of hotel to fear. There aren't any men driven mad by the spirits of the hotel here, but The Benson is just as creepy. Halle establishes the atmosphere well with the ghost encounters and a hanging man that scared me almost as much as it scared poor Perry, who was trapped in the same room with it!

The only issues I have are some minor editing/writing snafus, like typos and some rough phrasing. That's it. Otherwise, their adventure through a haunted hotel, complete with evasive ghosts (when aren't they evasive?), is perfect reading for when one wants something fun, short, and creepy.

This novella only confirmed that I made a good choice when I decided to give this series a second try. I'm picking up Red Fox and the rest of the series (especially The Dex-Files; an incredibly sexy story from it companion novel helped reignite my interest in this series) as soon as possible.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (31)

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

THIS BOOK. THIS BOOK. I need it. The cover is a special sort of disturbing that captures me instantly and it sounds so much like an idea I had a few months back (though my MC went undercover in order to seek vengeance for a home invasion, not a suicide). I want to see how McQuein does it. Give me this book, like, yesterday.

PremeditatedPremeditated
by Josin McQuein 
October 2013
Hardcover 

A week ago, Dinah’s cousin Claire cut her wrists.

Five days ago, Dinah found Claire’s diary and discovered why.

Three days ago, Dinah stopped crying and came up with a plan.

Two days ago, she ditched her piercings and bleached the black dye from her hair.

Yesterday, knee socks and uniform plaid became a predator’s camouflage.

Today, she’ll find the boy who broke Claire.

By tomorrow, he’ll wish he were dead.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Heaven by Alexandra Adornetto

Title: Heaven
Author: Alexandra Adornetto
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: August 21, 2012
Pages: 432 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC received it in a swap with a friend
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer

Heaven (Halo, #3)Only sixteen when she started the series, Ally Adornetto knows how teen hearts beat, and this long-awaited conclusion is certain to be her most popular book yet.

Bethany, an angel sent to Earth, and her mortal boyfriend, Xavier, have been to Hell and back. But now their love will be put to its highest test yet, as they defy Heavenly law and marry. They don’t tell Beth’s archangel siblings, Gabriel and Ivy, but the angels know soon enough, and punishment comes in a terrifying form: the Sevens, who are rogue angels bent on keeping Beth and Xavier apart, destroying Gabriel and Ivy, and darkening angelic power in the heavens.

The only way Bethany and Xavier can elude the Sevens is to hide in the open, and blend in with other mortals their own age. Gabriel and Ivy set them up at college, where they can’t reveal their relationship, and where there is still danger around each corner. Will Bethany be called back to Heaven – forever – and face leaving the love of her life?


Review:


In the first two chapters of Heaven, a priest dies solely because he officiates Bethany and Xavier's wedding and Bethany's response is a childish "I didn't know that would happen!" when she is confronted about what she did. The rest of the novel is this bad and worse. Bigotry, rampant girl-hate, a complete disregard for the tenants of Christianity, purposeful misinformation about abusive relationships, and more make this the worst of the Halo trilogy. On the bright side, the pacing is better. Whether it had to do with my desire to get this book read as quickly as possible, I took less issue with the prose. That's... about it.

Before anyone asks, I read this to get back my peace of mind and put the series behind me for good. A few weeks ago, I realized I'd never be rid of the thought of these books if I didn't read Heaven and get all my questions answered, so I did some legwork and managed to procure an ARC. Are we clear on that? Good. Anyone who asks "Well, why did you read this?" will be ignored now.

Bethany regresses to the behavior and logic of a three-year-old in Heaven. Funny how she says she said she'll never forget that her actions led to a priest's untimely death and yet she only brings it up once or twice after she says that. Multiple people get killed because Xavier and Bethany go on the run and yet the body count their actions rack up don't matter to them. Those people are merely bits of collateral damage incurred on the way to their happily-ever-after (as I believe Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead once put it). Why Ivy and Gabriel put all their effort into defending Bethany and Xavier when they would be well within their rights to force the kids to deal with the tempest they've wrought upon themselves is a mystery.

Then there's this line is uttered by Gabriel: "Marriage is an indissoluble covenant between man and woman (ARC p. 37)."

Outright marriage bigotry. The implication that gay marriage is wrong is clear and it made me, a staunch supporter of LGBT-and-beyond rights, have a fit. Friends will be reporting back to me on whether or not this proclamation makes it into the final copy. I don't want this to be like the "gas pedals on a motorcycle" gaff from Hades that I raised a stink about only for it to not appear in the final copy. Unfortunately, since the purity myth bull permeating Hades didn't get cut, I have a bad feeling this offensive statement won't be cut either. Breaking news: it's in the final copy. -sigh-

Girl-hate is everywhere in Heaven. Bethany presents herself as nonjudgmental, but the way she describes other women's clothes and behaviors is pretty judgmental, and the portrayals of human girls is twice as bad as that. Bethany's roommate Mary Ellen is portrayed as obsessed with Xavier and clingy. One girl is deemed bad for asking Xavier (who was undercover with a fake name/background as an unmarried college guy named Ford McGraw) on a date. What is wrong with creating a female character who isn't bad, one-dimensional, an airhead, or a punching bag?

Does this book even know what Christianity is? This is supposed to be an uber-Christian book, but it violates most of the religion's tenants and every rule in the angel handbook gets broken, including an angel and a human having sex (in a forest!). The only rule-breaking that comes with repercussions is Xavier and Bethany's marriage and that's because of the rogue Sevens, who aren't really following the rules. It's implied that God has no problem with Bethany breaking every angel rule she can get her hands on. That's a very large bird being flipped at Christianity.

Oh yeah, and there's something about Hell being up in arms, but that's not important. A visit from Lucifer halfway through the book when he possesses Xavier and a cameo by Jake's ghost is all Hell has to do with this book. That little plot thread about Hell's reaction to Jake's death in Hades gets left hanging there, snipped by a pair of Deus Ex Machina scissors. The real villain is Hamiel (a POC angel; making the only POC character evil was a bad idea) and the Sevens.

Double standards are nothing new in the Halo series, but applying double standards when comparing Xavier and Bethany's unhealthy relationship to Molly's unhealthy relationship is purposely spreading misinformation about what defines an unhealthy relationship. Xavier calls Molly insane for changing schools and making decisions based on what her boyfriend wants. That Bethany decided what college to go to, who her favorite football team was, what her favorite food was, and more based on what Xavier liked is not brought up or challenged. There are multiple jabs at the codependency Xavier and Bethany have and they're all either shut down or ignored. At one point, both characters say they will kill themselves if deprived of the other.

Why was Molly even in this book? The poor girl is a constant punching bag and putting her through an abusive relationship in this book was unnecessary, especially when that is the only time she plays a major part in this book. It almost felt like another jab at critics who say Bethany and Xavier have an unhealthy relationship. "You think they have an unhealthy relationship?" the situation seems to scream. "Well, you're wrong! Molly and her boyfriend Wade are going to show you what a real bad romance looks like!"

This isn't even funny anymore. This is dangerous. There is more than one shade of abuse in the relationship spectrum and ignoring Bethany and Xavier's shade to focus on Molly's like hers is the only one that exists is wrong. Young men and women need to be educated on all the ways, big and small, a relationship can go wrong, not just one or two ways.

And in the end, the only one who has to make a sacrifice so they can be together is Bethany. She has to give up an integral part of herself to be with Xavier and he doesn't have to give up one little thing to have Bethany back. Not even an eyelash. Supernatural or no, I'm disappointed and angered she is the one who has to conform to his life and start all over while he doesn't have to make any adjustments.

Now I am done. That's what matters. I am dancing around in my Jaguars pajamas because I am finally done and after this, I don't expect to pick up any more books I know I'm not going to like. It's all about the good books now, baby. (But I read a book I think I'll like and it turns out to be bad, any jokes at its expense are fair game.) Speaking of good books, I'm going to read some Courtney Summers in order to get over Heaven's mess. In my eyes, Summers just can't write a bad book.

0 stars!


What am I reading next?: Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer

Title: The Demon Catchers of Milan
Author: Kat Beyer
Publisher: Egmont USA
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Pages: 288 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC given to me by a friend
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

The Demon Catchers of MilanMia's ordinary life is disrupted in the most horrifying way possible when she is possessed by a hungry and powerful demon--and only saved by the arrival of relatives from Italy, the country her grandfather fled many decades ago. Now her cousins Emilio and Giuliano say the only way to keep her safe is for her to come back with them to Milan, to live, to learn Italian, to fall in and out of love, and to master the family trade: fighting all demons with the lore of bell, book, and candle. Milan is not what Mia expected, but it will change her forever, in this stunningly well-written novel about an American girl who, fleeing an ancient evil, finds her only salvation in her ancestral home.

Review:


Exorcists/demon catchers! Whoo! I'm always in the mood for a good story involving demons. There aren't near as many out there as there should be. The Demon Catchers of Milan started off with a well-written bang as Mia got possessed and the demon was exorcised from her a few days later, but the rest of the novel fails to live up to that dynamic beginning. Pacing problems, issues with characterization, and various other bits kept me from enjoying myself very much. On the bright side, there's Lucifero!

After those first thirty pages, the book seems like it's going to rock, and in some ways, it still does. The few exorcisms that happen within its pages (let me tell you now, this is not an action-packed book) are still well-written. Then there is Lucifero, the darling Satanist Mia develops a crush on. He is either the most brilliantly hilarious red herring to ever exist or he's the worst case of foreshadowing ever to exist. That's up for interpretation. Either way, I love him! The romance is almost nonexistent in this novel other than the crushes Mia develops on her third cousin Emilio and Lucifero, and it was better that way.

I consider anything less than 300 pages long a short book and at 288 pages, The Demon Catchers of Milan is most definitely short. This isn't an often-made criticism from me, but this book needs to be much longer than it is. None of the ideas or characters are fully developed and because so little happens in the book, it feels almost insubstantial. The conflict and antagonist are barely present and the pacing problem created by that makes reading the novel feel somewhat like walking through a waist-high mud pit.

The demon that possesses Mia wants revenge on their family for something, but what? We know Emilio and Francesco rent a room together elsewhere and Anna Maria is a model who is outspoken about her beliefs, but we don't really know these characters. All that's said of the family dynamic is "Yeah, it's totes sexist because only men can be demon catchers (unless you're Anna Maria and you force your way in or you're Mia and you're practically screwed if you don't), but whatevs." (Paraphrased, of course.) Really? Who creates a family of demon catchers without giving even one member of that family any personality/depth or exploring their dynamic?!

There will be a sequel and that hopefully means there will be further development, but that doesn't excuse this novel for its lackluster development. Even when considered as the sort of series beginner that is merely set-up, this is a weak offering. Still, I want to see where Beyer will take Mia and the rest of the Della Torre family, so I may stick around for the next book. It all depends on what I hear about it in the coming months.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Speak
Release Date: December 2, 2010
Pages: 372 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

Anna and the French KissAnna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets √Čtienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, √Čtienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? Stephanie Perkins keeps the romantic tension crackling and the attraction high in a debut guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt.


Review:


With my summer almost over, I wanted to indulge in something fluffy--you know, the kind of fluffy fun summer reading is made of. With rave reviews all around praising its swoony male lead and cute romance, Anna and the French Kiss seemed like a good bet.

It wasn't.

Perkins undeniably has talent as a writer. Anna's narrative voice is engaging and some of the scenes are so adorable that I smiled a little bit despite my annoyance. It was only when I remembered who was having the cute scene (usually Anna and St. Clair) and what kind of people they were (really terrible people) that I stopped smiling. That the author's talent is wasted telling the story of despicable characters like Anna and St. Clair is a shame because with more likable characters, I could see myself loving this book the way everyone else does.

See, Anna makes me want to scream because she hates all other women who are her "competition" in any way, shape, or form for a guy she likes. Amanda, Bridgette, Ellie, eventually Meredith--all of them. She describes them badly (which isn't help by the narrative portraying them badly and I have a boatload of issues with that) and is generally a hypocrite. I'm not into abundant girl-hate in novels and that's exactly what Anna and the French Kiss has to offer. Her melodrama about non-problems like going to a beautiful boarding school in France didn't endear her to me either.

Meanwhile, St. Clair is an asshole. No other way to say it. He spends the entire book leading Anna on when he already has a girlfriend while also discouraging any guys who show interest in Anna and that is the sign of a guy who isn't worth any girl's time. He doesn't like change? Too bad. How much I care is less than or equal to zero. I feel he would have done something about it much earlier than he did if she really mattered to him. Seeing him be praised as THE BEST GUY EVER makes me want to find a trash can.

I estimate that I began skimming somewhere around page 100 and didn't stop until the book ended. Everyone good pronouncing Anna and St. Clair to be the best people ever when they're not was too annoying to sit through for long. I wanted them to be together solely so no one else had to deal with being in a relationship with them. If they can tolerate each other's crap, why not let them? It saves other people the pain of having to deal with it.

This book is very, very lucky I'm gifting it two stars and not just throwing one badly-constructed star at it. The cheesy, soapbox-like way homosexuality is declared okay and slut shaming is declared wrong (but only when it's Anna being called a slut; all the other girls are fair game and this hypocritical position is yet another reason why I hate this book) made me want to give the book only one star, but with writing this great, I couldn't. Anna and the French Kiss should consider itself lucky.

Recommendations of well-written, non-offensive fluff, please? I'm a little tired of being negative.

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody

200 followers! Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou! All of you are awesome and perfect and-- -devolves into screaming/jumping up and down- It's taken me almost two years to get to this point, but I don't care because I'm just glad you're here and care what I have to say. Thank you!

Title: Obernewtyn
Author: Isobelle Carmody
Publisher: Random House Children's Book
Release Date: December 9, 2008
Pages: 244 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

Obernewtyn (The Obernewtyn Chronicles, #1)In a world struggling back from the brink of apocalypse, life is harsh. And for Elspeth Gordie, it is also dangerous. That's because Elspeth has a secret: she is a Misfit, born with mysterious mental abilities that she must keep hidden under threat of death. And her worries only multiply when she is exiled to the mountain compound known as Obernewtyn, where—for all her talents—Elspeth may finally and truly be out of her depth. Then she learns she’s not the only one concealing secrets at Obernewtyn.

Review:


Isobelle Carmody's standalone novel Alyzon Whitestarr was one of the first books I reviewed when I started this blog nearly two years ago (almost two years now!) and since then, I've been interested in the series that made her so famous in Australia: the Obernewtyn Chronicles. This post-apocalyptic fantasy novel is a serious departure from what I'm used to and I enjoyed it, though the novel has its share of problems. It's difficult to put my problems into words for this one, but I'll try.

The novel's vivid worldbuilding kept me reading when I needed to pack and do other things, though I admittedly started skimming at the boring points. Elspeth came across as a relatable character to me and what she went through in various orphanages a a child believably shaped who she is in this novel. I got quite a bit of heart from the supporting characters as well, but I did expect a little more from them. It's understandable we didn't get to know them better, in a way; the iron fist of Obernewtyn's Master(s) kept them from being more open and letting both Elspeth and readers in. They're likely to get more characterization in future books.

Carmody began the novel when she was fourteen and it was first published in 1987, when she was in her late twenties, but there are places where stilted writing/dialogue and rough pacing give away how young she was when she began. As I said previously, I started skimming when things got boring and during some of the descriptions. Obernewtyn is short and that's exactly why I read this next over something else, but that also gives it two choices: cram a lot into a little book or allow a proportionately small amount of material into said little book. It went with the latter.

I have a feeling Carmody's Obernewtyn Chronicles is a series that is better when considered as a whole rather than as individual books, much like LJ Smith's books. I think I'll continue on with this series to see how the author improves and how the more subtle elements and forgotten plot threads of Obernewtyn will come back later (research on this series has taught me that everything is important and can come back books later to save the day), but I can't do it right now. Maybe one day.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (30)

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

This book sounds like an incredible amount of fun and I always want to read more books about dancing (call it research), but one thing worries me about Dance of Shadows: it's from Tinderbox Books LLC, a book packaging company. Specifically, the same one that put out Fallen by Lauren Kate, which I did not like. I have read multiple books created/sold by book packaging companies ([resource 1] [resource 2] [resource 3]) and have not honestly liked any of them. There's a love triangle too! Augh.

Dance of ShadowsDance of Shadows
by Yelena Black
December 24, 2012
304 pages (hardcover) 

Curtains up on a deliciously dark new YA trilogy!

Vanessa Adler isn’t so sure she really belongs at the School of American Ballet. But dance runs in her family. It’s been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. Her grandmother and mother were prima ballerinas, and her older sister Margaret was, too. That is, until Margaret mysteriously disappeared from school three years ago. Vanessa is heir to the family’s gift and the only person who can fulfill her sister’s destiny. She has no choice.

But she never could have guessed how dangerous the school is. The infamous choreographer, Josef, isn’t just ruthless with his pupils, he guards a sinister secret, one in which the school’s dancers—prized for their beauty, grace, and discipline—become pawns in a world of dark, deadly demons.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers

Title: Fall for Anything
Author: Courtney Summers
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: December 21, 2010
Pages: 230 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

Fall for AnythingFrom the author of Cracked Up to Be and Some Girls Are comes a gripping story about one girl’s search for clues into the mysterious death of her father.

When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of why? Why when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he saw? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Culler seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie’s vulnerability has weakened her and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on...but are some questions better left unanswered?

Review:


My Courtney Summers Love-a-Thon, begun when I fell in love with her latest novel This Is Not a Test, continues with her third novel, Fall for Anything. In a small town, a daughter's grief over her father's mysterious suicide grabs hold of readers by the throat and won't let them go until the last page is turned. As always, the enviable prose and ability to wrench so much emotion from both the characters and from readers makes me wish I could crawl around in the author's head and figure out how she does it.

Like all of Summers' heroines, Eddie isn't an easy girl to like and sympathizing with her can be hard sometimes, especially considering what she puts her friends and family through later in the book. Her grief is all too real and incredibly powerful, and the sparse yet poetic prose help bring all the painful emotions the characters express to life. Why these books aren't more popular when they're so real and can make you feel what the characters are going through no matter what situation you're in is a mystery to me. A question without an answer.

The novel is difficult to get into for the first eighty pages, but once Culler came in (let's not talk about Culler; I want to hurt him and that's all you need to know) and he brought his camera with him, I couldn't put it down. It helps that I'm somewhat into photography myself, though I think the novel would have drawn me in regardless of whether or not I was. It's the storytelling element of photography as used in the novel that really spoke to me and make me keep turning the pages, along with Eddie's journey to find out why.

In the end, we never really learn why Eddie's dad did what he did and though the questions I still have nag at me (like why Eddie hated Missy so much and did half the stuff she did), I think it's okay for me to not have all the answers. Some questions simply don't have answers or if they did have an answer at some point, it's no longer possible to find out what it is. I feel that's one of the themes of this novel: you're never going to have all the answers because life isn't that easy.

Now I'm almost completely caught up on Courtney Summers' backlist, leaving Some Girls Are the only books of hers I haven't read (barring the books she hasn't published yet, of course). I plan to get a copy of that soon; I hear it's her strongest work and I'm looking forward to it.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Foretold edited by Carrie Ryan

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Want So Wicked by Suzanne Young

Title: A Want So Wicked
Author: Suzanne Young
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Pages: 288 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC won in a giveaway
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

A Want So Wicked (A Need So Beautiful, #2)Elise is a normal seventeen-year-old girl until the day she wakes up in a desert park, with no idea who she is.

After that episode, her life takes a bizarre turn. She’s experiencing unexpected flashes of insight into people’s lives—people she’s never met before. Strangers frighten her with warnings about the approaching Shadows. And although Elise has never had a boyfriend, she suddenly finds herself torn between two handsome but very different young men: Abe, the charming bad boy whose effect on her both seduces and frightens her, and the mysterious Harlin, who’s new to town but with whom Elise feels an urgent, elemental connection—almost as if they are soul mates.

Now Elise begins to question everything about her life. Why do these guys both want her so desperately? What are the Shadows? Why does the name Charlotte inspire a terrifying familiarity? And who is Elise, really?


Review:


I liked A Need So Beautiful. Sure, it had its issues, but I had fun reading it and I was kind of looking forward to its sequel A Want So Wicked. Now I'm left wondering how a series went from decent to just plain bad in one 288-page book.

I picked up this book instead of another one because I needed to get this series finished and I wanted to divert my attention away from the other, more detestable book I was reading. One can only read a book that makes her blood boil for so long before she needs something to soothe the flames. Though I didn't enjoy A Want So Wicked, it occupied me in the one day it took me to read it and didn't make me want to scream, and that's what I wanted from it more than anything.That's the best part.

Part of the magic of A Need So Beautiful was Charlotte's conflict with what she was meant to do and her inevitable fate slowly encroaching upon her, making even her best friend and the family she'd lived with as long as she could remember forget who she was. A Want So Wicked lacks this magic and treads the exact same ground only with far less wonder because readers have already seen it play out. This book is more focused on the Shadows, how they become what they are, and what they have to do to survive, but more of the focus still is on the love triangle.

Both love interests come on too heavy and their relationships with Elise get no development; it's insta-love all the way and there is't much to get invested in with either Abe/Elise or Harlin/Elise. The development of the story isn't particularly notable, the twists are obvious from miles away, and reincarnation as this book wants it to work is not how reincarnation works. I was rather irritated to see the solid concept of reincarnation twisted only to keep the romance in the acceptable age bracket. YA readers might not be supportive of a romance between a thirty-something Harlin and seventeen-year-old Elise, so Charlotte is somehow reincarnated into someone who has already been alive for seventeen years.

One of the male characters was even called a slut! The solution to slut-shaming is not to start using that detestable slur on men; it's to not call anyone a slut at all for any reason. (Reading so many books in a row where there is unchallenged slut shaming is going to make me crack sooner or later...)

As far as I know, this series is only a duology and there will be no third book, though the ending is certainly open-ended enough for there to be more books if the author chooses to write them.With some assurance they will cover new ground and not be a repeat of previous books the way A Want So Wicked was, I might read them.

1 star!


What am I reading next?: Incarnation by Emma Cromwell

Throne of Glass Giveaway Winner!

With the beginning of August comes the end of my Throne of Glass giveaway and month-long event. I've read so much Throne of Glass-related stuff that you can't even know how happy I am. Without further delay, the winner is...

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Annabelle, I'll be emailing you shortly.

Thank you for sticking around and giving my little event support, everyone! -bows- I really do appreciate it. I'm hoping that my blog will continue to expand and I'll have the resources to host more in the coming months.

(Also, to all the people I had to disqualify because they broke the rules: please follow the rules and enter honestly next time. I take giveaway-cheating very seriously and breaking even one rule or picking up one entry without doing what you were supposed to disqualified all your entries. It made me sad to see how many people I had to throw out entries for and I don't want that to happen again.)

Auracle by Gina Rosati

Title: Auracle
Author: Gina Rosati
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Pages: 304 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Received it in a swap with a friend.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Auracle16 year old Anna Rogan has a secret she's only shared with her best friend, Rei; she can astrally project out of her body, allowing her spirit to explore the world and the far reaches of the universe.

When there's a fatal accident and her classmate Taylor takes over Anna's body, what was an exhilarating distraction from her repressive home life threatens to become a permanent state. Faced with a future trapped in another dimension, Anna turns to Rei for help. Now the two of them must find a way to get Anna back into her body and stop Taylor from accusing an innocent friend of murder. Together Anna and Rei form a plan but it doesn't take into account the deeper feelings that are beginning to grow between them.


Review:


I'm in such a reading slump! I had one awesome book and one good novella in the last week, and every other book I've read since then has been either mediocre or bad. I don't like the way it makes me look like I hate everything because I don't. I'm just in the company of some unimpressive books that clash with my feminist ideals or are lacking in quality. I wanted Auracle to break me out of that slump, but... Well, this is probably the worst of the books I've read since my slump began. Almost all of it is because of the portrayal of the antagonist, a young woman named Taylor.

I wanted to enjoy this so badly, but it's a little hard to find nice things to say. I love the love interest being half-Japanese (yay for diversity in YA romances!) and Rei's little sister being named Saya automatically won her awesome points because she shares a name with one of my favorite heroines ever. Anna's voice reads well and is likable, though Anna herself is not because of the way she treats/describes Taylor, and the novel is well-paced. If Auracle weren't causing my blood pressure to skyrocket every few pages, finishing this today would be easy.

Taylor's portrayal. There are so many problematic elements to it that it pains me just to talk about it. When Taylor was fifteen, she was having sex with a twenty-one-year-old man, lying to him about her age and swearing she was on birth control pills. When she got pregnant, she told her parents she was raped, the man was charged/possibly convicted of statutory rape, and he must now register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Right after that, she moved to Anna's town.

In an act of implicit slut shaming, Anna puts the reader's focus on how short all of Taylor's skirts are and how low-cut her shirts are by describing them all the time. She even mentions when Taylor wears a skirt so short that her underwear is visible when she sits down. Taylor develops a crush on Anna's friend Seth, who calls her a stalker in front of the class when she tries to talk to him. After she insinuates he must be gay to not like her, Seth responds with, "You think because I'm not interested in a slut like you I must be gay... why doesn't that surprise me? (ARC p.54). After she dies and takes over Anna's body and decides she's going to frame Seth for murder when her death was nothing but an accident.

Seriously? This is offensive no matter what way you look at it. The way she's characterized, the way she is dressed, her actions--all of it is deeply problematic in the way it oversimplifies why people do such things and makes a caricature out of it all. Letting revealing clothes be labeled bad by association (or is revealing clothes just a way to characterize how eeeeeeeevul she is? I'm not sure) doesn't fly with me either.

Maybe Taylor is given depth later in the novel and some light is shed on why she has behaved the way she has. I flipped ahead a little and she brings up her not-so-great relationship with her parents and they way they pushed her to do certain things whether or not they wanted to do them. In my eyes, this bit of depth I stumbled across is nowhere near enough to make up for everything done to Taylor. I lack the ability to care about any resolution on this front and the time to keep wading through the book to find the good stuff. I've read over half the book and if all the good stuff is in the second half, that's still the book's problem, not mine.

I don't have time for this. Look at all these books stacked up waiting for me. Just look!


I move in a few weeks, so I'm packing up everything, and I want to get at least a few more of these read before I move. I do not have time for offensive books like Auracle.

And this is why Auracle is a DNF.


What am I reading next?: Fated by Alyson Noel