Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Echo by Alyson Noel

Title: Echo
Author: Alyson Noel
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Pages: 340 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

Echo (Soul Seekers, #2)
The second book in the Soul Seekers series about a girl who can navigate between the worlds of the living and the dead by #1 New York Times bestselling author Alyson Noël!

Daire Santos just saved her grandmother's life—and her soul. But at a cost. The Richters, a dark family of sorcerers, have been let loose in the Lowerworld, and Daire and her boyfriend, Dace, must once again work together to find them before they upset the balance between good and evil, and destroy not only their small town in New Mexico, but the entire world.

As Daire and Dace's relationship deepens, Dace’s evil brother Cade grows stronger than ever, building his power and forcing Daire to confront the horrifying prophecy that has brought them all together. One that will leave Daire no choice but to claim her true destiny as Seeker, but only by making an unthinkable sacrifice for the greater good of all.


Review:


I had a feeling Noel's Soul Seeker series would get better with time and it seems that hunch was somewhat on the mark for once! Though the series could still see some improvement in its characterization and overall writing mechanics, I genuinely enjoyed Echo and found myself lost in Daire's world more often than I did while reading Fated a few months ago.

The further development of Daire's world and exploration of the prophecy both Daire and Dace are having nightmares about drives the story from beginning to end and made the novel hard to put down. Moral dilemmas, fun friends, and more info on Dace's side of the world were everywhere. There was even sex! I like sex in YA. There should be more. If only they could have it freely instead of being barred from it because it makes evil more powerful... Why can't sex be sex and not a tool of evil, especially one that creates a plot hole later in the novel?

The darker turn Daire and Dace's characters take over the course of the novel is fantastic. Though their relationship and love for one another, the driving force behind their changes, have no depth or realism, it's very easy to suspend disbelief and get caught up as both of them consider breaking all the rules in order to save the world and defeat Cade. Unfortunately, Daire's development is robbed of its momentum too quickly; killing Cade is initially against the rules and presents a moral dilemma, but her ancestor later okays it and the morality of killing him becomes null and void. Dace's, however, comes full circle and contributes to one hell of an ending.

The author's style is her style and I can't expect that to change just because a handful of readers would like it, but Noel's way of writing grates on me. Whether it's Dace or Daire narrating (this book is mostly told in dual POV; telling the narrators apart is effortless, thank goodness), em-dashes are abused/used incorrectly and sentence fragments are everywhere. Really, fragments are supposed to be used for emphasis, but Noel uses them so much that they lose all their power and simply become annoying. If her writing didn't have those problems, the novel would get a significantly higher rating from me.

There are also a few instances where sense seems to fly the coop completely. In the middle of a battle in which Daire is killing a bunch of undead Richters, she stops without warning or reason in the middle of it and lets them beat her up because she deserves it for failing at everything. Just as soon as that lapse happens, she gets up and goes right back to killing undead Richters. That detour wasn't necessary at all. I've also got a few small issues with the flat characterization of Dace's ex-girlfriend Phyre (though her quick piece at the end of the novel promises development).

I'll definitely stay around for Mystic, book three in the series. How can I not? It still makes very little sense after three rereads of the last thirty pages, but such a bloody ending earns some serious respect.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Dear Teen Me edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Iron King
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: February 1, 2010
Pages: 363 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

The Iron King (The Iron Fey, #1)Meghan Chase has a secret destiny; one she could never have imagined.

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth - that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.


Review:


Stories of the fey are typically not my cup of tea, but the Iron Fey series has so much praise going for it from my friends that I've always considered the series. Kagawa's vampire novel The Immortal Rules was good enough to make me consider it further, and I've finally taken the leap. Really, being the odd one out all the time like this is getting irritating. I fail to see what has so many of my friends enchanted.

The Iron King left me unimpressed overall, but Kagawa's worldbuilding deserves some applause. If there is any one element in the novel that is outstanding, it's this. Her idea of how the iron fey came to be is actually quite ingenious and she makes the well-used details of the fey's Summer/Seelie and Winter/Unseelie Courts feel somewhat fresh. More than a few times, I was reminded of the movie Labyrinth, which is pretty much something everyone who has seen the movie can say about this book.

Still, it draws too much on Labyrinth at times and I stop enjoying the similarities. Subtle parallels are okay, such as those to Sailor Moon in Cinder by Marissa Meyer, but The Iron King went above and beyond in that respect. The overindulgence in cliches and lack of depth made it harder and harder to enjoy the novel. Our brooding hero Ash, the insta-love he and Meghan have, the stereotypes of the human high school students,... Cliches should be played with, not played straight.

From the time Meghan called a cheerleader ""inflate-a-boob" Angie", I disliked her. I forgave some of her dumb actions in the novel because she had no idea what they fey were like and was slowly learning, but some things are simply unforgivable. Like being told not to run because the enemy will see her and then running to a police officer as if he could help her with fey-possessed humans. That's just--- There are no words. The scene with the satyrs trying to rape Meghan and Ash saving her from them bothered me far worse than that. THIS IS NOT A WAY TO DEVELOP A ROMANCE. IT NEEDS TO DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH.

So they spend the entire novel traveling to get to the Iron Kingdom and rescue Ethan, and once they get there and meet Machina, the Iron King, it's all over just like that. So much anticipation for a few pages of a speech (one so creepy that I made a GIF-worthy horrorface) and then that's it. What I'd heard about Machina played on one of my tropey weakness of the villain wanting the heroine and was yet another factor in why I finally jumped into this series. Such a quick ending was disappointing.

Because I'm dumb like that, I faith-bought the entire series at once and can't return them. Maybe I'll get to the other books of Kagawa's series at some point and see if they are any better than The Iron King. It feels like this review is too short, but there's simply no more I feel needs to be said.

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: Prophecy by Ellen Oh

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rockoholic by C.J. Skuse

Title: Rockoholic
Author: C.J. Skuse
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: November 1, 2012
Pages: 358 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

RockoholicShe's got it bad, and he ain't good -- he's in her garage?

"I'm your biggest fan, I'll follow you until you love me..." 

Gonna have to face it: Jody's addicted to Jackson Gatlin, frontman of The Regulators, and after her best bud Mac scores tickets, she's front and center at his sold-out concert. But when she gets mashed in the moshpit and bodysurfs backstage, she's got more than a mild concussion to deal with. By the next morning, the strung-out rock star is coming down in her garage. Jody -- oops -- kind of kidnapped him. By accident. With a Curly Wurly candy bar. And now he doesn't want to leave.

It's a rock-star abduction worthy of an MTV reality series...but who got punk'd?!


Review:


A few weeks ago, sixteen-year-old Emily Baker got a book deal with Penguin to take her One Direction fanfic Loving the Band and turn it into an original novel, which will go on sale as an ebook November 1st. As the editor who acquired it said, they'd been looking to commission an author who could tap into the boy band mania for some time. I have a boatload of issues with this deal, the legal implications of it, and the publishing house did it rather than the author doing a pull-to-publish deal first, but that's another story.

Rockoholic is a distant relative of that story. Distant because it did not start out as a fanfic and it's more focused on rock stars than boy bands. Also, the trope of a girl meeting members of the band and one or more members falling in love with her? It gets torn to shreds in Rockoholic to great effect. Equal parts funny and sad, Skuse's novel is a great way to whittle away the hours and see how our idols are rarely who we expect them to be.

The initial premise of Jody kidnapping her rock idol Jackson Gatlin with a Curly Wurly bar (they look like this) requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief to make it work. As Jody informs us, it's also a melted Curly Wurly bar, so it isn't as straight as it appears in the picture, and Jackson believes it's a knife. He would need to be pretty heavily strung out on drugs for that to seem possible. To be fair, he is strung out on drugs enough to strip naked and toss all his clothes off a bridge shortly thereafter.

For the funny half of the novel, Jody's interactions with Jackson can be funny at times and the punny/silly chapter titles (Must Hang Sally; Softly, Softly, Catch a Junkie; Please Don't Feed the Diva) managed a few giggles out of me too. It's not a difficult story to get invested in, especially once the rock-star-falls-in-love-with-groupie trope starts getting subverted.

On the other hand, it's a quiet exploration of how fame has changed Jackson and turned him into a drug addict who has to take red berries just to get on stage for his shows and then take blackberries to calm him down again. He used to love the spotlight and making music, but now it only makes him miserable. Worse, he can't escape. The band manager's ire at Jackson's disappearance leaves one band member with broken bones, an ambulance woman in need of plastic surgery, and a roadie on life support after being beaten to a pulp. I don't blame Jackson for refusing to go back to the band. As he comes down off the drugs and starts to be a person rather than an idea (and a demanding one that that, considering how he treats Jody initially), he starts to take over the story.

Still, Jody has her own story that takes the stage. Her grandfather has just died (of crashing through the window of a lingerie store in his wheelchair, natch; just the way he'd want to go), she has a dead-end job at a daycare center, and she has a lot of issues with her mom and sister. The grandfather's death felt a little like a plot device sometimes, such as when Jody's inheritance from him moves the plot along, but more often, it feels like something real that has affected her and leads her to all the places she goes in this novel.

But Jody. Oh, Jody. Her schemes to hide Jackson range from taking pictures of him in the Italian District to make it look like he's in Italy (which backfires badly in the end) to telling a reporter who knows the photos were taken in the Italian District that she was actually in Italy to take the photos (which can easily be debunked by talking to people) and all of them are terrible. She's such a dim bulb that she no longer lights up and it can be difficult to deal with. She is rightfully called out on her stupidity throughout the story, but some ideas were just too dumb for a good call-out to make me forgive.

And deciding her best friend was gay because of his interests and holding that position for years? Ugh. I'm glad everyone told her off on how dumb that was.

I'd be happy to read more of C.J. Skuse's novel, provided the main characters have a few more brain cells than Jody.

3.5 stars!



What am I reading next?: Undeadly by Michele Vail

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (36)

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

I was able to swap someone for an ARC of this book and I am BEYOND EXCITED, YOU GUYS. I have one other book I need to read first, but once I get that read, Prophecy is MINE.

Prophecy (The Dragon King Chronicles, #1)
Prophecy
by Ellen Oh
January 2, 2013 (HarperTeen)
320 pages (hardcover)

The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms... is a girl with yellow eyes.

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope...

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Title: Some Girls Are
Author: Courtney Summers
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: January 5, 2010
Pages: 246 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

Some Girls AreClimbing to the top of the social ladder is hard--falling from it is even harder.  Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High... until vicious rumors about her and her best friend's boyfriend start going around.  Now Regina's been "frozen out" and her ex-best friends are out for revenge.  If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day.  She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully.  Friendship doesn't come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend... if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don't break them both first.

Tensions grow and the abuse worsens as the final days of senior year march toward an explosive conclusion in this dark new tale from the author of Cracked Up To Be.


Review:


Is it even possible for Courtney Summers to write a bad book? After reading all four of her currently-available novels, I think it would take her more effort to write a bad book than it does to produce the fantastic, affecting works I've come to love her for. Some Girls Are has been hailed as her best and I can see why. Regina's story of falling from the top and becoming the number-one enemy of her former best friends and how she gets tired of just taking it is beyond powerful and cringeworthy in the best of ways.

Like all of Summers' heroines, Regina isn't anyone you will want to root for most of the time, but you empathize with her and understand her. She's well-established in personality and especially in her flaws; there is no shortage of people calling her out on what she does wrong both before her fall and after. As the saying goes, what goes around comes around, and what Regina has done is coming back to her--though as the novel always asserts, Donnie trying to rape her at the beginning of the novel is not her fault and she didn't deserve to go through that trauma, nor should it have been used against her by Kara.

One bit I especially loved is when Liz, someone Regina once let Anna bully to the point that she tried to commit suicide, tells Regina as she attempts to apologize and gain Liz's forgiveness:
"When will you forgive me?" I blurt out. "I got what I deserved. I know I deserve it, everything, but I need to know if you forgive--"

"Like if you suffer enough I should forgive you?" she asks, totally unimpressed. I exhale shakily and stare at her feet. "That's not how it works." (~p. 150)
The bullying she faces is unfortunately realistic and incredibly painful, especially for me to read a someone who has suffered through bullying. Mine was never as bad as Regina's, thank goodness, but I wanted to do something more than stand by and watch as she discovered her vandalized locker each time it happened or got locked in a room with the guy who tried to rape her. Books about bullying and the popular girls aren't uncommon by any means, but Some Girls Are is above the rest because of how visceral it is.

Really, I'm struggling to find words for this novel. It's that good! Now I'm caught up on all things Courtney Summers for the moment. The wait until her next book All The Rage comes out is going to be a long one.

5 stars!


What am I reading next?: The 13th Sign by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (35)

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

 I've never read one of Jennifer Brown's books before, though I've heard plenty about them. Why pick out this specific book? The main character has the same name and spelling I do! It's no easy feat to find that. There are those horse books (my grandmother bought me one solely because my name was plastered across the cover and I love complaining about how there is never anything with my name spelled right on it) and a book where an Ashleigh is a minor character, but that's it. Support the Ashleighs!

(Except that one Ashleigh who broke my iPod, lied to me about everything, and accused my brother of cheating on his girlfriend with her. Fuck her.)

Thousand WordsThousand Words
by Jennifer Brown
May 21, 2013 (Little, Brown BFYR)

Ashleigh's boyfriend, Kaleb, is about to leave for college, and Ashleigh is worried that he'll forget about her while he's away. So at a legendary end-of-summer pool party, Ashleigh's friends suggest she text him a picture of herself -- sans swimsuit -- to take with him. Before she can talk herself out of it, Ashleigh strides off to the bathroom, snaps a photo in the full-length mirror, and hits "send."

But when Kaleb and Ashleigh go through a bad breakup, Kaleb takes revenge by forwarding the text to his baseball team. Soon the photo has gone viral, attracting the attention of the school board, the local police, and the media. As her friends and family try to distance themselves from the scandal, Ashleigh feels completely alone -- until she meets Mack while serving her court-ordered community service. Not only does Mack offer a fresh chance at friendship, but he's the one person in town who received the text of Ashleigh's photo -- and didn't look.

Acclaimed author Jennifer Brown brings readers a gripping novel about honesty and betrayal, redemption and friendship, attraction and integrity, as Ashleigh finds that while a picture may be worth a thousand words . . . it doesn't always tell the whole story.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sampling Samplers: Penguin Teen Spring 2013 Preview

Penguin Teen Spring 2013 Preview
Every now and then, certain publishers put out small, free samplers of their upcoming releases. I've never thought much of them before, but now they will be part of a new feature on my blog: Sampling Samplers.

Sampler 1: 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma

Oh, Nova. <3 She's one of my favorite authors and the three chapters featured in this sampler are very intriguing. The story begins as Lauren finds the missing poster of a girl named Abby Sinclair and latches onto it, pinpointing the origin of Lauren's book-long obsession at the very beginning. It made me wonder if we would get to see who Lauren was before or if we would only come to know her as she is post-obsession.

Funny thing, though: at the same time I started reading this sampler, I started reading my ARC of 17 & Gone. It made for a very strange reading experience, but my questions were answered.

Would I read on?: I would have and did. The full book was... less impressive, I'm sad to say.

Sampler 2: The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar

Do you know how long I've been looking for a book that ties a musical into it? Probably not, but I'm always on the lookout for a book that involves musicals and look into it immediately if I hear of a book with one in it. The Art of Wishing opens with Margo's tryout for Sweeney Todd and I swooned rather embarrassingly. I like the idea and Ribar's take on genies, but something about this feels very... typical. Whether it's in Margo's voice or the characters or how it all progresses, there's little that sets it apart from the many YA books I've already read. I wouldn't pick this up based on this excerpt alone. I'd need good reviews too.

But in other news, if you know of any YA books with musicals tied into them, please tell me! (Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay is one book you don't need to recommend, though. I've read it.)

Would I read on?: Maybe.

Sampler 3: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

I've never read If I Stay or Where She Went. Yes, it's true. I might one day, but I don't have the time right now. Still, Just One Day seems very intriguing. I can see myself getting invested in Allyson's personal journey--not just to find Willem, but to find herself now that she is no longer constricted by the boundaries her life had back home. The excerpt left off right when Allyson agreed to go to Paris with Willem for a day and that's a great yet torturous place to leave off. I'm going to go request this on Edelweiss and hope I get approved.

Would I read on?: Most likely, yes.

Sampler 4: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

This one may not interest people who haven't read The Name of the Star by the same author, but I did read that book and this excerpt was therefore of interest to me. Rory's voice and personality don't seem to have changed much between books and though I'm not terribly interested, I wouldn't be opposed to reading this either. I like the twist on what Rory can do after the conclusion of The Name of the Star and I want to see where it takes her--and if it will take her back to the people she's trying to find.


Would I read on?: Maybe. I put in a request on NetGalley, so we'll see.

Sampler 5: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

I'm not even sure what to say about this sampler because I've already read the full book and OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS, THE BOOK IS FANTASTIC. I CAN'T EVEN. It had me at Josie the seven-year-old bartender and gripped me more tightly with Josie the ambitious eighteen-year-old trying to escape her mother and New Orleans in general. The author's writing is fantastic and Josie's voice works so well that it's difficult not to get sucked into the story. If I hadn't already read it, I would have been shaking my computer upon finishing this, demanding more.

Would I read on?: I would and did. Once again, FANTASTIC BOOK.

This is honestly the strongest sampler I've read yet because I was interested in all five books featured. Good job!

You can find this sampler on Scribd.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Legend by Marie Lu

Title: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date: November 29, 2011
Pages: 305 pages (hardcover)
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

Legend (Legend, #1)What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.


Review:


Legend may be the only dystopian novel other than The Hunger Games where I hear few to no complaints from my friends. That's rather impressive, especially for a dystopian novel published in the wake of The Hunger Games among many unimpressive dystopian debuts. Massive amounts of hype made me waffle about whether or not I'd read it for months, but this adorable dress-up game created by the author and a friend reading the novel shortly before me gave me the final push I needed. (Yes, I like dress-up games. My girliness shines through!)

To me, Legend is no different than any other unimpressive debut dystopian.

Lu's writing prowess is great and flipping through the book until there are no pages left to flip is all too easy thanks to great pacing. Day and June have their motivations and it's easy to get caught up in their world. Some scenes, like the Skiz fight that allows the two to meet and the climactic escape, are nothing short of fantastic.

I wish I had more to praise, but that is where the things I like about Legend stop.

Generally, this dystopian world feels very... typical. Confusing it with the dystopian regime of another novel would not be very difficult for me because there is nothing that makes it stand out. Questions I had about the floods, what made the USA split into the Colonies and the Republic sometime before 2130, and the overall idea of how Day and June's world got to where it is went unanswered. The "just go with it" method of worldbuilding isn't one that typically works for me.

As unique in personality as they are, Day and June have interchangeable voices that made mix-ups of who is narrating what section very common. This might be less of a problem in a print copy, where the font and font color change with the narrator, but I didn't get anything like that in my ebook. The predictable plot made reading on a little bit of a chore after a certain point. The book reminds me of an action movie, really. There's a lot of blood-pumping action that keeps readers going, but personally, I don't care for action movies or action books because characterization and depth are often neglected in place of action. Such is the case here.

Friends of mine who have gotten ahold of ARCs of Prodigy have been swooning all over it, but all of them were in love with Legend too. How can I be sure the sequel is actually better? Seeing a few glowing reviews from people who also weren't impressed by Legend might sway me, but until then, I do not think I will be reading on.

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: Undeadly by Michele Vail

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Title: Monstrous Beauty
Author: Elizabeth Fama
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Pages: 304 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: audiobook clip | author website

Monstrous BeautyFierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.


Review:


This book should have worked for me. It really should have. Mermaids may not be my favorite creatures in the world, but I like them enough and Monstrous Beauty sounded exactly like the kind of tantalizing, creepy story I could fall in love with.

So why didn't I?

Fama has the creepy part down; some of the novel's descriptions are great, such as when Syrenka kills a man and tears apart his chest so she can feed on his lungs. That there? Genuinely sent chills up my spine. Small scenes like that may have been all the good I saw in this novel. Otherwise, the narration (usually in the chapters happening in 1872/1873) tended to do a good bit of head-jumping when narrative consistency is my preference and what works best for me.

The characters never earned any emotional investment from me and I kept getting annoyed at Hester. No, she absolutely can never love anyone or be with them, even though two people who are together don't necessarily have to have sex. And birth control and abortion? Totally nonexistent, even though she brings up birth control once. The relationships just sort of happen and one can only accept them if they want it to work. I couldn't because I didn't feel the strength of the characters' bonds. I made most of the connections before Hester did and whether or not this was intended, it's not something I like doing while reading.

Perhaps the answer is in the mermaid myth itself. This is not the first time I've seen mermaids needing to marry human men to gain souls, though this one goes a step further and makes it so she must also carry a human man's child. The idea of a woman needing a marry/have a child to have a soul is problematic in itself no matter how old or common the idea is in mermaid mythology. Every time I tried to get into the story, that jumped out at me again. In general, I had a hard time putting together an image of the mermaids in my head, though an email from the author helped clear up some of my questions.

Whatever the case, Monstrous Beauty's chosen variety of creep is simply the wrong kind. Just as some people are specific about which brands they use to make foods, I'm very specific about what kinds of creepy work for me. This did not have the right kind.

And that is why Monstrous Beauty is a DNF.



What am I reading next?: Legend by Marie Lu

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dead Sky Morning by Karina Halle

Title: Dead Sky Morning
Author: Karina Halle
Publisher: Metal Blonde Books
Release Date: October 13, 2011
Pages: 358 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Received a copy from the author
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Promotional Materials and More: series website

Dead Sky Morning (Experiment in Terror, #3)With the Experiment in Terror show finding some success, amateur ghost hunters Perry Palomino and Dex Foray embark on their most terrifying investigation yet. A tiny, fog-shrouded island in the rough strait between British Columbia and Washington State has held a dark secret for decades: It was a former leper colony where over forty souls were left to rot, die and bury each other. Now a functioning campground, Perry and Dex spend an isolated weekend there to investigate potential hauntings but as the duo quickly find out, there is more to fear on D’Arcy Island than just ghosts. The island quickly pits partner against partner, spiraling the pair into madness that serves to destroy their sanity, their relationship and their very lives.
 

Review:


Quick disclaimer as always: The author is one of my friends. This in no ways affects my review or rating.

-rubs circles on temples- Oh, what these books do to me... I like them and I'm sooooooo glad I've got all the available books in reach for when I'm in the mood for them, but I got issues with them sometimes.

Dex and Perry's latest assignment takes them to D.Arcy Island, where a bunch of lepers died and now no one wants to camp there because the place is supposed to be haunted to hell and back. The descriptions of the island, its hauntings, and how Perry and Dex start to slowly fall apart as the days go on are fantastic and really claw their way into you. Their complex relationship gets kicked up a few notches (especially because of the thing in the tent). I did drift from it every now and then, but as I've done with past novels in the series, I read them in large sections. That's apparently a thing with this series and me: I read them slowly but all at once.

I generally love the way the novel is written, but at times, it got a little too heavy-handed. Like this quote from the 61% mark on my Kindle: "There was something weird happening between us. I didn't know what it was. I felt like it had been building up for the last couple of days, some strange chemistry or an overload of tension or something." Considering readers have been up to their necks in the sexual tension between them for two-and-a-half books by that point, that's just telling us something we already know. I have a few similar quotes highlighted, along with some bits of rough writing and small typos. It's one of my things to do that with any book.

And unfortunately for this book, I was reading another novel at the same time that got me really keyed up and irritated at anything to do with infidelity. When it came up in Dead Sky Morning, it took some restraint to keep myself from blowing up.

To make reading Lying Season that much sweeter, I'm going to put it off a bit and try to get a few other books read in the meantime. When the time is right, I'll come back (and knowing me, that might happen next week).

3.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thoughtless by S.C. Stephens

Title: Thoughtless
Author: S.C. Stephens
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: November 6, 2012
Pages: 544 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Thoughtless (Thoughtless, #1)For almost two years now, Kiera's boyfriend, Denny, has been everything she's ever wanted: loving, tender and endlessly devoted to her. When they head off to a new city to start their lives together, Denny at his dream job and Kiera at a top-notch university, everything seems perfect. Then an unforeseen obligation forces the happy couple apart.

Feeling lonely, confused, and in need of comfort, Kiera turns to an unexpected source – a local rock star named Kellan Kyle. At first, he's purely a friend that she can lean on, but as her loneliness grows, so does their relationship. And then one night everything changes...and none of them will ever be the same.


Review:


The only good I got out of reading Thoughtless is that I now have the ability to horrify people with how a beer bottle was shoved in a woman's vagina before page 30.
"...this girl, damn, she had the best rack I've ever seen." The bassist paused to make a crude gesture with his hands, as if the guys would need that statement clarified. "And the shortest skirt too. Everybody around us was completely wasted, so I ducked under the table and shoved that skirt as high as it would go. Then I grabbed my beer bottle and stuck--" (ARC p. 28)
I think it's clear where he was going. Anyone else want to consider the possibility that he did this without the woman's consent or when she was too drunk to give consent? Hello there, rape. Besides, everyone knows proper etiquette is to wait at least 50 pages before inflicting that kind of mental scarring on a reader. Common courtesy and all that. I thought this was New Adult, not adult erotica!

To sum up Thoughtless in a nutshell: It is 544 pages of lifeless, badly written, plotless schmoop dripping with enough melodrama to kill an elephant. I tried so hard to look at this the way fans of the novel and Simon & Schuster (whose imprint Gallery Books picked up this trilogy after the first two books were self-published) did, but the appeal is not there. This novel should not have seen the light of day, much less been given a publishing deal.

You know that character who is always like, "Oh my gosh, why is this super-hot guy paying attention to me? I'm so plain, even though there are at least four guys with some level of interest in me and people are constantly grabbing my butt!" That's Kiera.

She's also the blushing virgin sans the virginity. I can understand the quoted story above making her blush, but the simple word "penis" after she's been having sex with her boyfriend of two years for a good while? It's ridiculous! Her immaturity, shown by such actions, become more obvious when considering she changed schools solely to move to Seattle with her boyfriend (and has no problem admitting it), being a selfish child by demanding Kellan do this or that even though they're not together and she's cheating on her boyfriend all the time with him, and so much more that I can't recount it all without losing my temper again.

Kellan and Kiera disgust me and I would like to hurt them both. End of story. Infidelity is one of my huge no-nos and that made it impossible to root for them the way I was supposed to. Their scenes, rather than getting me hot or making me like them like they're supposed to, made me reach for my trash can and force me to take a break in order to preserve my sanity. Other people may be able to get around the infidelity, but I can't. I have no interest in reading about these two selfish, childish people and all their drama as they hurt their best friend (Kellan) and boyfriend (Kiera) with their actions. This novel has no plot unless this counts and these two characters are not interesting or tolerable enough to carry the entire book.

Honestly, they are so bad that I could not finish reading this novel. I read over 300 pages of the disgusting schmoop, flipped to the last chapter, and promptly felt nauseated again as a happily-ever-after was confirmed. My two reasons for giving it a rating and not just calling it a DNF:

1) I've read over half the novel and that is my cut-off for ratings. I don't rate if I read less than half, but I do if I read more than half.

2) I missed absolutely nothing by skipping 200 or so pages to get to the end. To me, that's the equivalent of reading the entire book in misery.

If a girl is interested in Kellan, she is written as an insipid (Kiera's word from page 10 of the ARC, not mine) mess who can't stop herself from drooling over him. Some of them are drunken and.or ugly too, just to add to it. The only females in the story who aren't badly portrayed are Kiera's sister (who starts out as the same drooling-over-Kellan mess and stays that way for a while) and women who are uninterested in Kellan, such as Kiera's co-worker Jenny.

I saw recently where an author turned in a 24k novella and the 55 ellipses she used total were considered too many. In a single fifteen-page chapter, Thoughtless used 74 ellipses, only 11 of which were used to transition flashbacks. This novel doubtlessly has nothing on Fifty Shades of Gray, the ultimate ellipses abuser, but this novel used them far too often. That one chapter was the only one in which I had the patience to count, but they are everywhere in this novel. Don't abuse the ellipses, people! Just don't!

That's just one example of lazy writing, and there are many more, but a worse crime with the writing: a lack of passion. Ben Stein's monotone voice narrated this in my head because there is absolutely no passion in Kiera's voice. Even when she's getting it on with Kellan or her boyfriend, it seems like she's just going through the motions while she narrates. That does not make for good, interesting reading. There are highlights everywhere in my e-galley of passages that were especially badly written, horrifying, or tasteless.

In addition to badly written, it's badly researched. When Denny has to fly to Tuscon for his job early in the novel, Kiera and Kellan somehow stay with him right up until he boards the flight. Uh, no. That's not how it works. It's well-known now that in major airports across the United States, no civilians are allowed to go any further than the entrance to security without a plane ticket. When people without tickets make it past security, it makes the national news and the TSA gets ripped a new one.

The stated target range of New Adult novels is ages 14-35. Are you kidding me? No fourteen-year-old should be reading this book! The descriptions of sex in this novel are on the same level as the kind I've seen in urban fantasy novels aimed at adults. I'm starting to wonder if this genre is by and large and excuse for people to aim sex at teenagers without someone getting up in arms about it. Sex in a YA novel? Oh my gosh, ban that book! The children must not see it! Sex in New Adult? No one cares. -rolls eyes-

I'm the ideal target audience for this book and I've got an iron stomach for all things terrible and bookish, but even I can't deal with Thoughtless. If it turns out Easy was an exception and the average New Adult novel is like Thoughtless, I'm jumping ship.

0 stars!


What am I reading next?: Rockoholic by C.J. Skuse

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Pages: 368 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 | book website

Between Shades of GrayLina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.


Review:


Just like all the reviews say, this is a story that absolutely needed to be told. When we think of atrocities committed against humankind during World War II, we think of the Holocaust, not Stalin's deportation of millions of Latvians, Estonians, Lithuanians, and Finns in order to put them in prisons and labor camps--and eventually kill many of them. It's something lost to the wilds of history. Sepetys brings it to the forefront in her novel about survival in hellish times.

From the very start, Sepetys establishes who her characters are and keeps them consistent throughout the novel. What they go through tears at your heart and as more people die, either of disease or because the Soviets shot them in the head, chills run up your spine. Sometimes, it all feels so bleak and hopeless and real. Unfortunately, some of it also feels rather detached and sanitized. The novel packs a strong emotional punch, but not as much of a punch as it should.

These characters never really grow, though. They're well-established, sure. They harden, they survive, and sometimes they die, and we always care about what happens to them, but they never truly develop beyond who they are established to be at the start of the story. There's not a plot to move the story along either, so without a character or a plot to drive the novel, it can be easy to put the novel down and not come back to it for a while. Still, as I tend to do with novels I'm rather disinterested in but still want to read, I was able to read it in large gulps here and there.

The ending is also very abrupt. We are carried from the end of their first winter in the Arctic Circle to fifty years later, when a time capsule is unearthed by Lithuanian construction workers and they find Lina's words. We can surmise a little of what happened to her, but there are more questions than answers.It's frustrating, really, and it doesn't quite fit the story.

Still, I'd read more of Sepetys's work thanks to her subtle characterization skills, which were observed in this book and in her upcoming release Out of the Easy (which I already read and OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS, MY HEART! MY HEART!).

3.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Thoughtless by S.C. Stephens

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Crewel by Gennifer Albin

Title: Crewel
Author: Gennifer Albin
Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Pages: 368 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC via Amazon Vine
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Crewel (Crewel World, #1)Incapable. Awkward. Artless.

That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: she wants to fail.

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to embroider the very fabric of life. But if controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and wove a moment at testing, and they’re coming for her—tonight.

Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her Dad’s stupid jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because once you become a Spinster, there’s no turning back.


Review:


This book makes me tired.

There are a lot of things in YA that I'm tiring of: slut shaming; girl/women hate; abusive relationships being gussied up as "edgy" and romantic when they're not; me saying no to a book only for friends to say it's great and then I realize my gut feeling was right when I read said book; bland love triangles that don't really capture how difficult being in that situation can be; and so many more that I can't even remember at the moment. Crewel, thank God, does not have all those elements to it, but it does have a few. A few too many, sadly.

The bright lights in this experience are the worldbuilding and writing of Crewel. Albin's world is fascinating and will draw many readers in with its fairly original concepts, though certain pieces can be a little derivative of other novels, and the idea behind the looms. And ooh, what delicious writing! The scenes describing how it felt to work on the looms made me feel like I was eating the most decadent chocolate to ever exist. It was beautiful to the point of almost being torturous, it was so good.

Fantastic writing and compelling worldbuilding, no matter how great, are unable to save this novel from its weak characters, lack of explanations, and how tired I am of seeing this dystopians aim for women in particular.

Perhaps I've read too many novels lately where women are once again forced into obedience to men. I can't do it anymore. I really can't. Seeing this time after time in novels, even though Crewel and most other novels end up objecting to this nasty treatment of women, has gotten depressing and at some points, it made me not want to read anymore. Even calling Adelice and girls like her Spinsters when that is such a loaded term to me hurt, though I'm sure the author used it with its negative connotation in mind--which will be great writing and something I thumbs-up her if it's true. It's stressing me out and I can't keep doing this. I really can't. (But none of this counts against the novel. I just needed a moment.)

The weak characters make it difficult to keep going despite the novel's strong points. Adelice lacks the distinctive personality to really make her pop off the page and the supporting characters, to the two bland love interests that make up the love triangle to the shallow cartoon villains, are no better. She flip-flops between Jost and Erik and I simply don't care. There's no life to it.

Not everything about this worldbuilding makes sense. The neighborhoods are segregated so that boys and girls rarely, if ever, meet before it comes time to set up courtship appointments when they're sixteen and older. Yet fathers live with their daughters and mothers presumably live with their sons. There's sense in keeping that family unit together because the Guild likes the family unit, but that sense disappears when we remember the sexes are segregated to keep the girls' purity standards in place. What, like adult men and adult women don't ever sexually abuse children--even their own children?

More questions, such as what happens when married couples have sex and conceive without permission, the full limits of what Spinsters can do,, how these social dynamics came about, how people began to develop the ability to be Spinsters and Crewelers in the first place, why the men are still in control when it's the women who really have the power, and more are left unanswered. These questions and Crewel's cliffhanger ending are perfect lures to bring readers back for book two in the Crewel World series, but readers who are unenthralled by the book may not want to come back.

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Rewind

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Rewind, meaning I can choose from any past topics, and I decided to go with Top Ten Series I Haven't Finished. I've also included links to my reviews of books in these series when able.

1) Experiment in Terror series by Karina Halle

I really like this series and I have all the books but the upcoming sixth book Into the Hollows on my Kindle, but there aren't enough hours in the day or free time in the world for me to read them all when I want to! [my review of Darkhouse] [Red Fox] [The Benson]

2) The Violet Eden Chapters by Jessica Shirvington

Aussie books generally rock my socks off, but this is an exception. If I remember correctly, I skipped about sixty pages just so I could get to the end and find out what happened. This was one book I didn't want plaguing me with questions about how it ended (because that's the hell I go through when I DNF books). [Embrace]

3)The Divergent series by Veronica Roth

I was one of those people left unimpressed by this hyped-up dystopian novel. I don't plan to read Insurgent or even try to find out how it all ends. I just don't care. [Divergent]

4) The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

It's not necessarily a great series, but I had a lot of fun reading it and I'm looking forward to the next book. Unlike another book with beginnings on Fictionpress that eventually led to a major publishing deal [glares at Thoughtless by S.C. Stephens], I can see where Throne of Glass got its fans. [Throne of Glass]

5) The Shadow Falls series by C.C. Hunter

I read three books of this five-book series and I am stopping there. I'm supposed to be a good girl and not read a book solely to snark it anymore. (It's still fair game if a book I expect to like becomes snark bait.) Besides, slight improvement in the third book showed me the series isn't going to be my go-to fun for a train-wreck read anymore. It's still going to be as offensive and badly written as ever, I assume, but I don't care anymore. [Born at Midnight] [Awake at Dawn] [Taken at Dusk]

6) The Cambion Chronicles by Jaime Reed

The first book was a lot of fun, but admittedly, money and a lack of motivation are keeping me from getting the second book. [Living Violet]

7) The Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick

-stifles nausea-

Let's not talk about it, m'kay? [Hush, Hush] [Crescendo]

8) The Hybrid Chronicles by Kat Zhang

... -shakes laptop-

Damn you, books, I wish you could come out more quickly! But I know you can't because Zhang is a busy college student like me and there's the publishing process to get through, so I will wait. Impatiently, but I will wait so you can be fantastic.

(Seriously, I admire Kat Zhang and her ability to get this published while in college so much. I can barely find time to write, though that is in part due to health problems stealing all of my energy.) [What's Left of Me]

9) The Angelfall series by Susan Ee

Pretty much half the YA blogging world is waiting for the second book in this series to come out--including me. Her bleak world, unique worldbuilding, and fantastic characters are droolworthy. [Angelfall]

10) The Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Seriously, what is the big deal with this series? I'm at a loss. [Obsidian]

Two and Twenty Dark Tales by Georgia McBride and Michelle Zink

Title: Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes
Editors: Georgia McBride and Michelle Zink
Publisher: Month9Books
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Pages: 340 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Received from the publisher via NetGalley
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose RhymesIn this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall. The authors include Nina Berry, Sarwat Chadda, Leigh Fallon, Gretchen McNeil, and Suzanne Young.

Review:


Note: There are five stories I did not review. Three of them were not in my ARC but will be in the finished copy and two were stories I chose to skip due to personal reasons regarding their authors.

"As Blue as the Sky and Just as Old" by Nina Berry: 2.5/5. Berry had a great idea, but a lack of development and a heroine whose levels of dumb break the scale ruin it. Am I really supposed to go with it when Girl meets Guy, they talk for less than five minutes, and she agrees to go with him somewhere secluded just like that, implying that she's following him just because he's really hot? It's clear she did that just because the story required her to.

"Sing a Song of Six-Pence" by Sarwat Chadda: 4/5. I really liked Chadda's Billi SanGreal series and the same reasons I liked them are why I liked his short story. It's well-written, delicious, and isn't afraid to say that sometimes, there is no winner.

"Clockwork" by Leah Cypress: 4/5. This story, where the mouse climbing up the clock is actually a girl transformed by magic, was full of fun twists. The storyline was great, but it was too simplistic and easily solved even for a short story.

"Blue" by Sayantani DasGupta: 1/5. There simply wasn't anything to this story that interested me or compelled me to put some thought into it like the others did.

"Pieces of Eight" by Shannon Delaney with Max Scialdone: 2/5. It's well-paced and actiony as Marnum tries to get to the Dreamland Tree and meanwhile discovers where he came from, but "actiony" is half-compliment, half-complaint. Stuff happened, but there was no development. Marnum was kind of an ass and I didn't like the writing style.

"Boys and Girls Come Out to Play" by Angie Frazier: 4.5/5. As one sister ventures into the woods to save the other from the witches' beckoning, I found myself invested in what would happen to them and feel the story was well-thought-out. A small plot hole is all that keeps it from a 5. I admit, this gives me motivation to try and move Frazier's novel Everlasting up the reading line (even though I don't exactly have the freedom to pick and choose what I'm reading right now; certain books need to be read ASAP).

"I Come Baring Souls" by Jessie Harrell: 3/5. There's really not much to say about this story, where three people with the roles of the Egyptian gods Anubis, Bast, and Hathor past judgment on the souls of the dead. I wish there were more to it.

"The Lion and the Unicorn: Part the First" by Nancy Holder: 4/5. It's well-written and interesting, but I felt it was a bit iffy to set a story during a time of witch hunts without giving even a second of thought to innocent people persecuted as witches (and the existence of real, live witches in the story changes nothing). As "Part the First" implies, the anthology splits this into two stories, but my ARC didn't have the second part in it.

"Life in a Shoe" by Heidi R. Kling: 3/5. Kling's story has more of a dystopian twist to it, with the old woman and her many children in a shoe being in a small apartment instead, living in a place where women are forced to have children that will one day be raised to fight in the wars. The story suffers from a common flaw in dystopian stories: worldbuilding and plausibility. I cannot see this ever happening and nothing about how things came to be in such a state is not explained.

"Candlelight" by Suzanne Lazear: 2/5. Too anvilicious to be enjoyable. Yes, we know children and teenagers shouldn't be brats over not being able to go to parties or being grounded because there are always people who have it worse and bad things can happen.

"One for Sorrow" by Karen Mahoney: 1/5. I couldn't enjoy this for one second. The incredibly immature main character killed it for me.

"Those Who Whisper" by Lisa Mantchev: 5/5 . This author is the main reason I wanted to read this anthology. She's one of my favorites! With a slight Snow White feel to it in that the main character Sida can talk to animals and a clear, lovely writing style, this is my favorite story of the anthology by far.

"Little Miss Muffet" by Georgia McBride: 3/5. Shape-shifting spiders? ...Okay! Would have been a little more highly rated if the main character hadn't called another girl a tramp.

"Sea of Dew" by C. Lee McKenzie: 3/5. This story of four teenagers adrift in a lifeboat after the ferry they were on capsized is the good kind of bleak, but it didn't really make me feel anything. What happens to them and how it worsens over time is sad, yet something was lacking.

"Tick Tock" by Gretchen McNeil: 5/5. This story of a babysitter going out to a house on assignment and finding some very creepy children there was fantastic! Creepy and horrifying and just right. Not exactly unique, but I like it anyway.

"The Well" by K.M. Walton: 4/5. Al, Jack and Jill reimagined in a post-virus world where the siblings hate each other. The nuances of their complicated relationship were very well done and I liked the ending.

"The Wish" by Suzanne Young: 4/5. Insta-love put a damper on a story I would have otherwise liked, one about a girl miserable after a break-up, the death wish she makes on a star, and the new guy she spends her night with. It reminded me a little of the urban legend where a girl ends up dancing with the devil.

"A Ribbon of Blue" by Michelle Zink: 3/5. I admit, I knew what was going to happen to Ruby from the time the fortune-teller told her she'd find light, love, and freedom in a boy with a whistle, a ticket, and a blue ribbon. I felt a little bad for Ruby, but I didn't feel much else because I lacked emotional investment.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Cover Critique: Recent Reveals

I'm awful with keeping up with cover reveals, so I won't get to do this often, but there are a few I've seen lately that give me something to talk about. I also enjoy critiquing covers, so here we go!

Ink (The Paper Gods, #1)
Ink
by Amanda Sun
The Paper Gods #1
June 25, 2013 (Harlequin Teen)
384 pages (paperback)

I did a survey a while back that showed me some concept art they were considering for this novel's cover and the final product has a lot of similarities to how I saw! The image itself is very delicate and pretty. I love delicate and pretty covers, and this one's art would certainly catch my eye in a bookstore or online.

My problems with the cover are with the title font and author name. The author's name seems thrown in as if someone forgot about it until the last minute. The harsh black shapes making up the title break up the delicate feel the cover has going. Some are going to love that disharmony and how it represents a hint of something darker within the story, but I don't care for it.

I have small worries concerning whitewashing, but so little is known about the book right now that they're not worth explaining.

Neverfall (Everneath, #1.5) 
Neverfall
by Brodi Ashton
Everneath #1.5
January 2013 (HarperCollins)
ebook exclusive 

I like Neverfall's cover and I'm looking forward to reading in Cole's point of view, but I'm a little disappointed too. It's nothing more than the cover of Everbound with a darker background and the model in silhouette. That's so little effort! The cover for Tahereh Mafi's Destroy Me novella (#1.5 in the Shatter Me series) works better because it was a cover in its own right and not just a remix of the exact same image another cover in the series has.






Tidal
by Amanda Hocking
Watersong #3
2013 (St. Martin's Griffin)
Hardcover

I was meh on the first cover and okay with the second cover, but this third one doesn't work for me at all. Maybe the tattoo on the guy's back is significant, but that tree freaks me out. Something about the way the light reflects on the models feels wrong.

Actually, I think that's the word for this cover: wrong, in the sense that it all appears too fake. The other covers looked at least a little bit natural, but this one doesn't have that vibe going on.




 

The Beautiful and the Cursed
by Page Morgan
The Dispossessed #1
2013 (Delacorte Press)
Hardcover

I love the use of colors and the font they used for the title. It's not absolutely amazing, but it's eye-catching and pretty and everything one could ask a cover to be. You can even tell where it's set. Then again, any books set in Paris make an effort to tell you they're set in Paris by including the Eiffel Tower.

The only problem I have is the model's pose. Pairing a title like The Beautiful and the Cursed with a pose that says "Oh, woe is me!" is like dangling meat to the snarky cover-loving alligators. Many jokes about "Oh, how horrible, I'm beautiful and cursed with it!" will be made about this cover.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-3ViLjngs9G4/UG75MqvTSGI/AAAAAAAAFzs/_y8rgdes2Ls/s1600/Phoenix+(Black+City+%232).jpg


Phoenix
by Elizabeth Richards
Black City #2
June 2013 (G.P. Putnam Son's BFYR)
Hardcover 

I really like the cover for Black City, book one in this series, and its exploding rose, but I'm less of a fan of this cover. I see clear parallels in the cover styles--things being destroyed in various ways and in a very dynamic matter--but where the gray-white cover of Black City emphasized the rose and made the explosion even more dramatic, the sepia tone of Phoenix's cover robs the burning feather of some of its oomph.





Friday, October 5, 2012

Easy by Tammara Webber

This is also the first book of an informal New Adult reading project, just so everyone knows. Who better to check out this up-and-coming genre (no matter how ridiculous I think the argument for its distinction is sometimes) than a member of its target audience? Young female college student and all.

Oh, and a funny thing happened: the day I finished this book/wrote the review, Tammara Webber made a deal with Penguin for Easy and starting October 9, Penguin will sell the ebook. A paperback will be on sale next month.

Title: Easy
Author: Tammara Webber
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: May 25, 2012
Pages: 304 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

EasyA girl who believes trust can be misplaced, promises are made to be broken, and loyalty is an illusion. A boy who believes truth is relative, lies can mask unbearable pain, and guilt is eternal. Will what they find in each other validate their conclusions, or disprove them all?

When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup two months into sophomore year. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she's single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life.

Leaving a party alone, Jacqueline is assaulted by her ex's frat brother. Rescued by a stranger who seems to be in the right place at the right time, she wants nothing more than to forget the attack and that night--but her savior, Lucas, sits on the back row of her econ class, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. Her friends nominate him to be the perfect rebound.

When her attacker turns stalker, Jacqueline has a choice: crumple in defeat or learn to fight back. Lucas remains protective, but he's hiding secrets of his own. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.


Review:


Things I learned from Easy:
Ways in which you should not victimize women include:
  • Sexually assaulting them
  • Saying they were asking for it
  • Ignoring her boundaries and acting like no means yes
  • Saying it's not a big deal they were raped because they weren't a virgin in the first place
  • Caring more about the damage it will do to the accused's reputation than what happened to the victim
  • Trying to convince a victim not to testify because of what it will do to the school's/fraternity's reputation
  • Having sex with them when they are drunk (because THAT IS RAPE, PEOPLE)
  • Blaming them for anything sexual abuse or assault they suffer
  • Probably many more things I'm forgetting because my arm started hurting from all my feminist solidarity fist-pumps
Ways in which you should victimize women include:
  • Calling them sluts/whores/skanks/hussies/etc. because she does something you or your friends don't like.
Wait, what?

Exactly. A novel hyped as the book women need to read okays slut shaming. Let that sink in.

This contradiction held throughout the novel is the biggest problem Easy has. As the lists show, this book carries a lot of heavy feminist themes that make absolutely valid points more people need rammed into their skulls. Most of these messages aren't terribly anvilicious and that makes it a great way to teach people. Most people will digest a subtle, personal approach more easily than an in-your-face approach. Slut shaming is never okay and is not empowering for women whether they're doing the name-calling or suffering it.

Other than that gigantic, book-breaking snafu, Easy has a lot going for it. Webber's writing is powerful and can wrench a wide range of emotions from readers. Smiling because Lucas and Jacqueline are so adorable, choking up because what Jacqueline suffers through after Buck nearly rapes her is so awful, and making my heart pound because the romance is pretty fantastic. Why can't more books pull such a wide range of emotions from me?
This novel and Jacqueline connected with me in an unexpected number of ways: as a fellow woman, as a college student, as a victim of sexual abuse (though of a different variety than Jacqueline's), and as someone who suffered with what happened to her for so long before she was finally able to tell someone. If Jacqueline and I weren't so similar and those parallels made it impossible for me not to see the good in this book, it would be down another half-star. As it is, Jcqueline's growth from a young woman afraid after her near-rape into a capable young woman who has found what--and who--she wants and no longer lets what happened to her hold her back is beautiful.

The secondary characters can sometimes be weak, but they usually have strong, memorable personalities as well; Erin serves largely in the supportive-roommate role, but she is so enjoyable as a character because she helps Jacqueline so much and delivers some of the best lines of the book. NUTSACK! Quite a few of the necessary lessons in this book are served on a silver platter to Jacqueline by her.

Lucas and Jacqueline's romance, while incredibly cute, is also somewhat typical in certain respects. I saw their couple dramas with the tutor thing and his mom coming a long ways away because it has been done in so many other novels. Kinda made me roll me eyes. Lucas also has a small creepy moment when he revealed he keeps a drawing of Jacqueline on the wall next to his bed so he can wake up to her every morning. This is only at the beginning of their relationship. Beyond that, he is a fantastic love interest and gets some pretty good character development of his own.

My interest in Webber's other books is high after this, but if she pulls the same sort of shenanigans with book-breaking contradictions, there will be hell to pay.

3.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Blind Spot by Laura Elle

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (34)

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

(It's a slightly late post, but I've been having health problems, so I don't really care how late it is or isn't.)

My pick this week is pretty SPOILERY because it's the third book of a trilogy, but I wanted to feature it because I quite like this series. Lost Voices by Sarah Porter entertained me and Waking Storms expanded on almost everything I wanted expansion on, and The Twice Lost looks like it will be a dynamic end to this series. Can't wait!

The Twice Lost (Lost Voices, #3)The Twice Lost
by Sarah Porter
July 2, 2013 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
480 pages (hardcover)

Mermaids have been sinking ships and drowning humans for centuries, and now the government is determined to put an end to the mermaid problem—by slaughtering all of them. Luce, a mermaid with exceptionally threatening abilities, becomes their number-one target, hunted as she flees down the coast toward San Francisco.

There she finds hundreds of mermaids living in exile under the docks of the bay. These are the Twice Lost: once-human girls lost first when a trauma turned them into mermaids, and lost a second time when they broke mermaid law and were rejected by their tribes. Luce is stunned when they elect her as their leader. But she won’t be their queen. She’ll be their general. And they will become the Twice Lost Army—because this is war