Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Mirrored Shard by Caitlin Kittredge

Title: The Mirrored Shard
Author: Caitlin Kittredge
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Pages: 304 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC given to me by an awesome friend.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

The Mirrored Shard (Iron Codex, #3) When Dean was shot and killed in the Arctic north, he was ripped not only from the Iron Lands but from Aoife Grayson's life. Aoife has sworn to bring her love back, even if she must face death to do it. But she can't get to the Deadlands on her own. And even if she can get there, her foe, Tremaine, will surely block her escape; it is his job to hold her in the Thorn Land, the faerie home of her mother, Nerissa.

Aoife has never shied away from a fight. She'll do whatever she must to get out of the Thorn Land and to the Deadlands. But to rescue Dean, she must also face the other catastrophe that took place in the north. She must stop the apocalyptic chain of events she set in motion when she opened the Gate to the nightmare realm. Because if she doesn't, there will be no world to bring Dean back to.

Review:


And so the Iron Codex series come to a close, just as frustrating at its end as it was at its beginning. Though it manages to improve on the other two books writingwise by cutting down on the bloated prose significantly, other issues developed that put it at the same general level of well-written as I'd put The Iron Thorn and The Nightmare Garden. That is to say, they have great potential but waste a lot of it.

The Mirrored Shard is significantly shorter than the other two books in the series; the first book was nearly 500 pages and the second was over 400, but this one is just over 300 pages long. Because of this, it doesn't feel bloated and overwritten like the others did. The pacing is also streamlined to keep readers hooked from beginning to end. I've been asking for this to happen for two very long books and I got what I wanted.

But as soon as that problem was solved, others came up. The priorities of the plot lines seem a little off. Bringing Dean back to life is the main plot, with stopping the Old Ones from destroying the world coming in second and the faeries--especially Tremaine, who is mentioned in the jacket copy--bringing Aoife back at a very distant third. The third plot line doesn't show up until the very end of the novel. Really, stopping the apocalypse and staying free of the terrifying denizens of the Thorn Land seem more important than bringing a love interest back to life. Dead is dead. It would have been better for Aoife's character to move on and deal with his death rather than cling to hopes he could come back.

And then. AND THEN. After charging through the entire book naively believing she can do the impossible thing she's trying to do and being told by everyone that what she's trying to do is impossible,  Aoife realizes all the people telling her she's being a child unwilling to accept the horrible thing that happened are right. She grew up. I felt like a proud mother watching her child become an adult.

Then she gets what she wants anyway and the growth she achieved, along with the point the book was trying to make, are rendered null and void. Hair was ripped from my head faster than one could eat a cherry. The series has an open ending that leaves room for more should Kittredge decides she wants to write more in this universe, and I rather like how it all ended, but Aoife's growth and then regression just about made me throw the book at the wall.

Kittredge is like a drug to me. She's bad for me because her characters, their choices, and the story arcs frustrate me so, but there is enough good in them that quitting is difficult. I'll keep an eye out for any other books she publishes in the future, especially YA novels.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Title: Out of the Easy
Author: Ruta Septeys
Publisher: Philomel
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Pages: 348 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC via a swap with a friend.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Out of The EasyIt’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.

Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.


Review:


Say you go out to a bar on Saturday night just looking to drink a few beers and maybe make conversation with anyone else who's there for Happy Hour. You're sitting there, nursing your beer, and you get to talking with the guy sitting next to you. It's just small talk at first, like work woes, but you two really start to connect and go into deeper subjects like your family, your dreams, and things you've only told your family and close friends.

Before you know it, you're both going back to his apartment and you have the wildest, most fantastic sex of your life with that guy. Sunday morning, you wake up to see him in bed next to you.

First thought: "Whoa, that was... unexpected."

Second thought: "That was awesome!"

That is exactly like this book.


Josie had me from the moment she, as a seven-year-old, started making drinks for brothel madam Willie and her mother at the end of chapter one. The next chapter takes us to her life as an eighteen-year-old desperate to leave behind the Big Easy and it's hard not to get drawn into her story as she struggles with her mother's neglect/abuse and how people see Josie, the whore's daughter, more often than they see Josie, the person. She grabbed me by the heart and through all her up and downs with her best friend Patrick, his father, Willie and the brothel girls, her own mother, and Josie's own desires to get in to Smith College, she never let go of it. She only squeezed harder as I turned the pages, unable to stop myself.

New Orleans and the Quarter as Sepetys writes it is atmospheric and endearing. From Evangeline, the mean kleptomaniac who dresses up like a schoolgirl, to Dora, whose bazoombas and love of green could knock anyone out, and beyond, the ladies of Willie's brothel are hard not to like. Willie Woodley herself is one of the most outstanding characters of the novel. Harsh yet loving, she is "the wicked stepmother with a heart of gold," as Josie puts it. She's better than Josie's own mobster-dating mother in any case.

Out of the Easy has few weaknesses, but it does have them. Some of the supporting characters get very little characterization. Josie's love interest Jesse, for instance. His two traits are his alcoholic father and how he'll do almost anything for Josie, and there needs to be something deeper than that. It's hard to understand why Josie keeps covering for her mother after she humiliates Josie, steals from her, and treats her so badly and the text does nothing to help me understand. The mystery element is a little weak too and there's no solid resolution to it, though who did it is heavily implied.

I nearly gave this four stars because of its weaker elements, but then it beat me over the head with feels at the end when I wasn't expecting it and it became more than a four-star read, though still not a five-star. It's a good thing there's room for compromise! Now I'm going to backtrack and read Between Shades of Gray, the novel that made Sepetys so well-known in the first place.

4.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Monday, January 28, 2013

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Title: Scarlet
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Pages: 464 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC via Amazon Vine
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More:| book trailer | author website

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother and the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own.

As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.


Review:


I'll be frank: I loved Cinder to bits the way many readers did, but its plot was pretty predictable. Scarlet needed to step it up a few notches and wow, did it! Scarlet is everything you can ask for from a sequel: fast-paced, a strong mix of old and new, and just plain fun. Meyer still has room for growth, but she has made it clear she is getting there at the speed of light.

Scarlet is a book with a plot that's constantly moving quickly and for the last hundred pages or so, it quadruples its speed. It's the kind of book that glues you to your seat and makes you involuntarily twitch because you're so on edge and nervous about what's going to happen to the characters. Sometimes, it feels like someone overstuffed it and the seams are threatening to burst, but it's an easily forgivable flaw that only occurs rarely. Our dynamic heroines Scarlet and Cinder handle the weight of this fast heavy plot just fine. I just wish some of the supporting characters like comedic relief Captain Carswell Thorne and Quen Levana herself got a little more character development. Maybe in another book.

Meyer's prose is also far from poetic, but it's readable. It gets us where we need to go and brings Cinder's world to life vividly before our eyes. That said, it has its moments where it's trying too hard and something feels off about it. I forgot to highlight or bookmark said moments, unfortunately. Something that also makes me curious is that there don't appear to be any language barriers in this futuristic world. Everyone speaks perfect English and I remember few mentions of accents if there were any at all. That just seems strange, but I can go with it if English became the entire planet's language.

On that, there's something else that strikes me as odd. It is perfectly conceivable that an eighteen-year-old character never had to go to the hospital for anything except maybe to visit someone and therefore she has never had her blood drawn or put in any system. What is unusual is that despite the anti-Lunar sentiment, androids are only programmed to test for plague-tainted blood. It seems perfectly logical to me that they'd be programmed to test for Lunar blood too in order to flush out anyone in hiding. That they don't feels a little too perfect.

But I digress. Scarlet is still an improvement. Next up is Cress, which be narrated in part by Queen Levana's eponymous personal programmer. The one chapter told from Levana's point of view in this book and my own curiosity about what makes the Lunar queen tick makes it another book I'll be watching out for. It's going to be a long year!

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (10)

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

I didn't get much this week, but what I did get is some very good stuff! Stuff like the last book in a beloved series and two very shiny ARCs.



 

Bought:

Boundless by Cynthia Hand (review)
  • By the way, the rocks reading "Angel" and "Jackson Hole" are ones I bought at a festival because they reminded me of this series.

Amazon Vine:

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Pivot Point by Kasie West

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Boundless by Cynthia Hand

So it turns out I may have bitten off more than I can chew this semester. In addition to being on the leadership team for my school's Honors program that has meetings every other week, I'm now in charge of the website for said Honors program and enrolled in classes that all require I read, write, and study a LOT if I want to pass. If my review posting seems lighter than usual from now until the end of April, that's why. Also, thank goodness for ARCs and post scheduling!

Title: Boundless
Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Pages: 438 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

Boundless (Unearthly, #3)The past few years have held more surprises than part-angel Clara Gardner could ever have anticipated. Yet from the dizzying highs of first love, to the agonizing low of losing someone close to her, the one thing she can no longer deny is that she was never meant to live a normal life.

Since discovering the special role she plays among the other angel-bloods, Clara has been determined to protect Tucker Avery from the evil that follows her . . . even if it means breaking both their hearts. Leaving town seems like the best option, so she’s headed back to California - and so is Christian Prescott, the irresistible boy from the vision that started her on this journey in the first place.

As Clara makes her way in a world that is frighteningly new, she discovers that the fallen angel who attacked her is watching her every move. And he’s not the only one. . . . With the battle against the Black Wings looming, Clara knows she must finally fulfil her destiny. But it won’t come without sacrifices and betrayal.

In the riveting finale of the Unearthly series, Clara must decide her fate once and for all.


Review:


I'm going to try and keep this as vague as possible because it's the last book of the series and most of my friends have vowed to brutally murder anyone who hands out spoilers like candy, but this is one of those books that is difficult to talk about without at least a teeny tiny spoiler somewhere. My own book decided to spoil me by falling open on the last page, so yeah. Reader problems. It didn't make me sob like Hallowed did, but Boundless is still a great read, albeit the weakest of the trilogy.

Clara remains one of my favorite protagonists in YA and the central love triangle of the series is still few of the only ones I can stand because neither love interest sucks. If I didn't understand the appeal of Christian before, I do now! Hand does a fabulous job of showing us how easily they connect with one another and are able to share more with each other than either one could with the average human. They have their fights and deeper issues, but I get the appeal. Tucker still gets his time with her, so his fans won't be disappointed in that respect. Then again, there are going to be people this book disappoints no matter what because Clara doesn't end up with the person they want her to.

Also, quick shout-out to how well the transition from high school to college went. Relatively little time is spent on college stuff and it's more background than anything, but it's better than some New Adult books I've read do. Sooner or later, I'm going to do a post on my feelings about that genre, but there's one more book I need to read first before I'm ready to.

In a lot of ways, Boundless is a big step up from the previous books. There's more action and much more interference from the forces in hell. Where book one was the set-up and book two was upping the emotional stakes, book three brings everything back together in ways we sometimes expect and others we don't. But speaking of things we saw coming, the foreshadowing in this book isn't that great. Come on, from her one pre-reveal appearance, it was SO obvious that character was evil! Hand can do better than that!

Still, the book--and the series as a whole, for that matter--isn't flawless. Clara is sometimes so sanctimonious that it hurts, like when she seems to chide Angela for not recognizing a blessing when she sees it--the kind of blessing some people don't always see as such. There's also a case where a woman who has a child out of wedlock gets taken to hell and has to suffer for what she feels like is years before our righteous heroine saves her from her torment, almost as if redeeming her. I can't go into details about the situation in question, but this is what it boils down to in my eyes and it's not pretty.

After reflecting on it for a while, something about the ending also feels a little too perfect and some of the explanations are a little confusing. So purposes are things angels don't have to do except they kind of do? Then an issue that has plagued one of the relationships throughout the series because it IS important is taken care of just like that. Boom. Easy solution, no more problem. Giving them that way out is like letting all the air out of a balloon, in a way.

It's sad to see this series end, but it ends in the right place. If Hand's editors hadn't convinced her out of a fourth book (I think that's how it happened, anyway), it would have gone on longer than it needed to. Everything we needed to feel like the story ran its course happens in Boundless and fans of the series are sure to be happy. I may have my issues with it, but I really am happy at how everything turned out. If you haven't already given this series a try, now may be a good time. Just be wary of people giving away the ending!

3.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Monday, January 21, 2013

Everbound by Brodi Ashton

Title: Everbound
Author: Brodi Ashton
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Pages: 368 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC won in a giveaway by Epic Reads
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

Everbound (Everneath, #2)Nikki Beckett could only watch as her boyfriend, Jack, sacrificed himself to save her, taking her place in the Tunnels of the Everneath for eternity — a debt that should’ve been hers. She’s living a borrowed life, and she doesn’t know what to do with the guilt. And every night Jack appears in her dreams, lost and confused and wasting away.

Desperate for answers, Nikki turns to Cole, the immortal bad boy who wants to make her his queen — and the one person least likely to help. But his heart has been touched by everything about Nikki, and he agrees to assist her in the only way he can: by taking her to the Everneath himself.

Nikki and Cole descend into the Everneath, only to discover that their journey will be more difficult than they’d anticipated — and more deadly. But Nikki vows to stop at nothing to save Jack — even if it means making an incredible sacrifice of her own.

In this enthralling sequel to Everneath, Brodi Ashton tests the bonds of destiny and explores the lengths we’ll go to for the ones we love.


Review:


Everbound drop-kicked me in my emotions. For about ten minutes after I finished it, I sat around muttering "Oh my God" to myself because it shocked me that much. Well, that and "I'm going to murder Cole." The novella Neverfall left me with worries for the series, but the second book in Ashton's fantastic series shook them all off.

Nikki's unstoppable determination to save Jack from the Tunnels leads us into an action-packed book that introduces us to the Everneath outside the Feed caverns. It gets a little infodumpy at times as Cole and Max tell Nikki about the layout of the Everneath (rather like Dante's Inferno) and the Walls of Water/Wind/Fire that keep people away from the center of their world, but it just barely manages to work because it makes sense for Nikki to know so little. The characters' development never suffers from the action and a few characters are developed further than I ever thought they would be.

The only reason a star has been subtracted is the writing. For the most part, it's readable and just right for the story, but it has its weaker moments. Like the word "whisper-yell" being used. I really do get that it's trying to get across that someone is whispering loudly, but "whisper-yell" is a bad way to describe it. There's also a section where Nikki helps Cole when he gets hurt and she directly tells the reader it's because she considers him her friend now, not because she needs him to help her find Jack. That's something we could have figured out ourselves.

The ending. Oh wow, that ending. Even though I finished the book last night, there are still times I pause what I'm doing (including writing this review; by my count, I've done it five times while trying to get this written) just to try and process what happened. You won't be squeezing those secrets out of me, but it's... I can't even. I thought I knew Cole after being inside his head in Neverfall, but he turns out to surprise us. Never saw it coming, and it's one of the best endings I've come across in recent memory.

It's going to be a long wait for the third and final book in this series, which will come out in early 2014. Until then, I'll just plot dastardly ways to kill Cole or make him suffer.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (9)

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

Lotsa lotsa books this week, and after a bad week, I decided to do a vlog. So yeah, here you go! I get interrupted at the end because my best friend called to fill me in on some drama back home, but I know you don't care about that. You care about the BOOKS. And also me flailing over Everbound and admitting I like harem romance but not love triangles.


Won in a giveaway from Epic Reads:

Shadows in the Silence by Courtney Allison Moulton
The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Asunder by Jodi Meadows
Everbound by Brodi Ashton

Gifts from my best friends for my birthday:

Soulbound by Heather Brewer
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Got in a swap with another blogger:

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

Bought:

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Winter's Shadow by M.J. Hearle
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Friday, January 18, 2013

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Title: Something Like Normal
Author: Trish Doller
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Pages: 214 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Something Like NormalWhen Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.

Review:


American troops have been fighting the War on Terror in the Middle East for over ten years now, but as someone who doesn't know anyone serving over there, it's easy for me to forget what the soldiers go through every day. Even as a regular news-watcher, it just isn't something I think about. Though he's only a fictional character, seeing what happens over there through Travis's eyes has made me not just think about it, but remember it like it was drilled into me. Something Like Normal has given me a greater appreciation for what these men and women suffer through in the name of our country. It's a story that needed to be told.

Travis isn't always likable, but he's a well-developed character and that manages to trump how awful he can occasionally be. His narrative voice sounds very similar to how my older brother sounded at his age, and the pain he feels from his friend's death and his time in Afghanistan is viscerally real. The scenes in which he experiences flashbacks and sees Charlie chilled me to the bone.
To imagine thousands, maybe millions, of people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder the way he does for a variety of different reasons is... There aren't words for how it makes me feel, really.

Something small I enjoyed with this book that I've never enjoyed with any other is how I recognize every area Doller writes into the story. I live in places in areas no one sets their stories, so the sensation of "Hey, I know that business/itty-bitty city/area of town!" reviewers from larger, more book-friendly cities are used to is completely new to me. It immersed me further in the story to know every inch of the setting.

Something Like Normal has an issue with its portrayal of women, though. Travis's mother and love interest are portrayed positively because they are people he cares about dearly, but the only other woman of note have rather negative images. Paige is the one-dimensional character who got boobs for her fifteenth birthday, bounces between brothers, and exists mainly to add drama in his relationships with his family and love interest. Harper's friend Lacey is a stripper who wears a lot of skipmy clothes and whom Travis jokes might give his Marine buddy Kevlar an STD. That's not a very funny joke.

There's also some unchallenged sexism in going to a gun range being a guy thing and some of the things the Marines say about women. The STD joke above is one of them. This is an identifiable attempt to accurately portray the attitudes of some men, but it's still rather upsetting to read about. Just one character saying something about it would have made me feel better, but no one said a thing about it.

Even despite the issues that make my feminism perk up its ears, I plan to stick around for more of Doller's novels. She's got the power to write an authentic voice and make me physically react to her characters' plights. Authors like this don't prance into my life every day, you know! Besides, I need to support my Florida authors--especially the ones who write places I know.

3.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Everbound by Brodi Ashton

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Title: The Madman's Daughter
Author: Megan Shepherd
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Pages: 432 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC in a swap with a friend
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

The Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter, #1)In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father's gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father's handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father's madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island's inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father's dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it's too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father's genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells's classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect.


Review:


This book. Hm... The Madman's Daughter is more than worth some of the hype it's gotten, but readers looking for a story more focused on the horrors of the island and Dr. Moreau's experiments on animals (may as well warn now for animal cruelty and such) than the romance will be disappointed.

Shepherd's lovely, Gothic writing had me from the very first page's descriptions of King's College of Medical Research. Lush as they are, it's easy to get drawn in despite any issues with the content of the story itself. There are only a few occasional snafus, such as a piece on page 265 (ARC) where Juliet says she can hardly think of anything other than Montgomery's kiss and starts thinking of Edward immediately after. Some scenes are genuinely horrifying, such as the rabbit vivisection and the reveal of Dr. Moreau's experiments to Juliet--and I am not an easily horrified reader.

Shepherd even manages to build some serious suspese despite how predictable some twists are. Out of all the twists offered (including one that comes in halfway through the novel and is basically spoiled by the jacket copy), there was only one I didn't predict, but she still kept me on the edge of my seat. Whether the reader is a total unknown to The Island of Dr. Moreau or overly familiar with it, some things are easily seen coming.

Unfortunately, the romance completely takes over the novel from about page seventy. Neither Edward nor Montgomery are particularly interesting, and I have trouble finding things to say about Juliet too. Her connections with both men happen too quickly and with too little development for me to care who she gets with. Juliet has her great moments, but with how often she says she's attracted to/curious about her father's experiments, I don't see her displaying such curiosity often. She'll say she's curious about what her father does to them but then flinches from them.

A rape attempt on Juliet early in the novel, perpetrated by one of the doctors at King's College, makes me more and more uncomfortable the more I think about it. What is its purpose? We are already aware of how little respect women--especially working women--had in the time period in which the story is set. The doctor ogling her in the first place and how the medical students disrespect her makes that clear enough. Getting fired and put out on the streets is enough reason for Juliet to beg Montgomery to let her go to the island with him. I simply fail to see a good reason for its presence in the novel.

The second book of this trilogy will be based on The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but I'm unsure whether or not I will stick around to read it. Hopefully, it will be more concerned with the story than the romance.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Mind Games by Kiersten White

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook

Title: Nobody But Us
Author: Kristin Halbrook
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Pages: 304 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: ARC given to me by a friend.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

Nobody But Us
Bonnie and Clyde meets IF I STAY in this addictively heart-wrenching story of two desperate teenagers on the run from their pasts.

They’re young. They’re in love. They’re on the run.

Zoe wants to save Will as much as Will wants to save Zoe. When Will turns eighteen, they decide to run away together. But they never expected their escape to be so fraught with danger....

When the whole world is after you, sometimes it seems like you can’t run fast enough.

Nobody But Us, told in alternating perspectives from Will and Zoe, is an unflinching novel, in turns
heartbreaking and hopeful, about survival, choices, and love...and how having love doesn’t always mean that you get a happy ending. Described as “beautiful, heartbreaking, and exhilarating” by Kody Keplinger, author of The DUFF, Nobody But Us will prove irresistible to fans of Nina Lacour, Jenny Han, and Sara Zarr.

Review:


This needs to be said immediately: this is not If I Stay meets Bonnie and Clyde. This is Beautiful Disaster meets Bonnie and Clyde. After reading BD shortly before Nobody But Us and being horrified of all the parallels between them, I feel obligated to make sure people know in case they don't want to read about an unhealthy relationship. The idea of romance is there, but Will's red-flag behavior sucks all the romance right out of it.

Dual narration can be hard to pull off, but Halbrook does it well enough that mixing up Will and Zoe is next to impossible. Zoe is well-spoken and naive; Will is more jaded and used "ain't", "gotta", and double negatives often. Even then, they both have a sense of naivete about the world that really brings home how young and damaged they are. The novel itself is is riddled with problems, but their voices are so spot-on and readable that turning the pages despite issues with the content is very easy.

Now, where people might call the novel is romantic is easy enough to figure out. The idea of leaving behind a troubled past and everything else to start a new life elsewhere with your loved one does sound rather romantic. There's more than one book that ends with the main couple leaving it all behind and it turns out to be very romantic. Why this doesn't work in Nobody But Us is clear: Will and Zoe are in an unhealthy relationship that gets glorified every time someone calls this novel romantic.

Will beats up three people in the name of his girlfriend, and two of those beatings happened out of jealousy. Zoe outright tells him he's scaring her and he scares her so badly at one point that she literally gets sick. Vomit everywhere! After one of the fights, he asks Zoe if she was flirting with the guy who grabbed her butt out of nowhere and asks why she let the guy do so. When he apologizes, it's not for blaming her for the sexual harassment; it's for making her genuinely fear he was going to hit her.

Two imperfect people together is one thing. Unhealthy relationships are a whole other issue, and this is what Nobody But Us glorifies.

This might seem irrelevant, but I've seen many, many crime documentaries and many, many explanations for how these people eventually get caught. Will and Zoe's plans have so many holes in them that it's a miracle they weren't caught sooner. A fake ID isn't enough to get Zoe enrolled in high school, after all. Freaking out when cops come into a diner for a lunch break? Going to a place where one of them has a known history? Zoe calling her best friend from Will's phone? All of these are beyond suspicious and other criminals have pulled these stunts so many times that police look out for that kind of behavior. Really, how do they get away with it for as long as they do?

The ending is all sorts of uncomfortable thanks to how Zoe continues to view Will (aka, he's perfect for her) and just furthers the romanticization of an unhealthy relationship. Halbrook's got definite talent and that's why I plan to stick around for her second novel (most likely unrelated to this one), but it almost seems like she wrote the one story requires far more awareness and skill than she has.

1 star!


What am I reading next?: Venom by Fina Paul

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Shimmer of Angels by Lisa M. Basso

Title: A Shimmer of Angels
Author: Lisa M. Basso
Publisher: Month9Books
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Pages: 321 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: author website

A Shimmer of Angels (Angel Sight, #1)Sixteen-year-old Rayna sees angels, and has the medication and weekly therapy sessions to prove it. Now, in remission, Rayna starts fresh at a new school, lands a new job, and desperately tries for normalcy. She ignores signs that she may be slipping into the world she has tried so hard to climb out of. But these days, it’s more than just hallucinations that keep Rayna up at night. Students are dying, and she may be the only one who can stop it. Can she keep her job, her sanity, and her friends from dying at the hands of angels she can't admit to seeing?

Review:


Angel lit can be a little risky, but a jacket copy that promises a take on it that's actually different and a beautiful cover pulled me right in. There's a lot to like about A Shimmer of Angels, but ultimately, it's a disappointment.

From page one, I was on board with Rayna despite her dumber moments. Really, when you just got out of a mental health clinic three months ago and your family could be looking for signs of returning issues, the smart thing to do it not keep a notebook in which you write down everything weird you see, including the angel wings that got you put in the mental health clinic in the first place. She's very sympathetic despite being a rather typical heroine. I'd have hot chocolate with her any day.

Well, other than her slut-shaming, I like her. Girls who are in skimpy Halloween costumes are dressed like slutty this or sluttier that while Rayna herself isn't dressed as a slutty anything when she's wearing even less than they are. Double standards are also unbecoming. YA novels, what have I told you about slut-shaming? (Read that in your best mommy voice.)

What really catches the reader is the worldbuilding. It's sparse and nothing new, but Basso breathes life into it and makes me curious. This and the combination of the readable prose Rayna's voice is constructed with makes A Shimmer of Angels easy to read in one sitting. I kinda-sorta stayed up late to finish it when I had to present a project the next morning and be... well, presentable. It was worth it. The last few chapters starting at the school dance all the way up to the climactic scene atop the Golden Gate Bridge were almost impossible to quit reading.

The romances fall flat, unfortunately, so readers looking for a great romance might want to look elsewhere. Rayna interacts well with both her love interests, but there isn't enough there for me to believe they actually have a spark with Cam, the guy she confesses her feelings for, or Kade, the guy she interacts more/more believably with. It's a told romance instead of one that's shown. Besides, what she might have with one love interest creeps me out considering who he used to date. (Hint: her mom.)

By the end of the book, the big question remains: why can Rayna see angel wings? I've got my educated guess and what happens to Rayna toward the end only supports it. I'll be happy to stay around for A Slither of Hope considering where the story leaves off.

2.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Okay, back to business as usual. The site that should kiss my ass isn't going to get to me no matter how much they'd like to.

Title: Paper Valentine
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Pages: 320 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC in a swap with a friend
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Paper ValentineThe city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

Paper Valentine is a hauntingly poetic tale of love and death by the New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement and The Space Between.


Review:


Readers coming to this book looking for a paranormal murder mystery will need to adjust their expectations. Readers looking for an exploration of Hannah's grief over her best friend's death and a young woman who lets life float by finally doing something about it will be right at home. The deaths, while they do play a part in the novel, aren't the focus for much of it.

Hannah's a likable character with a boatload of issues she works through over the course of the novel, her best friend's ghost haunting her, and a crush on a bad boy named Finny (actually Finnegan, but that's rarely used). Her relationship with Finny happens pretty much just because YA needs romance, but more of the focus is on Hannah and her dead best friend Lillian. Even as a ghost, Lillian exerts a massive amount of power over her best friend by pushing her into investigating the murders. Between the deaths, Hannah dressing up in all sorts of beautifully odd clothes, and Hannah living life, we get glimpses into Lillian's mind as she spiraled into anorexia and eventually died from it.

Yovanoff's prose is beautiful--so beautiful that there are too many passages I want to quote. Oh, why didn't I mark any of them?! There are a few flubs here and there, such as when Hannah describes the way blood bubbles out of a wound like water when it's just starting to boil in a pot, but for the most part, the poetic, evocative writing style is the best part of the novel. If her story matched her style, this might be a five-star book.

Hannah is rather disconnected from the world; problems roll off her like water off a duck's back most of the time. Even her younger sister says if Hannah was on fire, she'd still say she was fine! Hannah's way of being distanced from life and the crimes also distances readers from the narrative. Getting connected to the story is difficult, especially when the mystery we expect to be drawn in by gets less focus than we expected. It isn't until the very end, when the killer tries to off her, that I got nervous for her and invested in the story.

Yovanoff can definitely write, and I'm looking forward to reading more of her books in the future. The two I've read from here have been rather average or slightly above average, so here's hoping she'll be able to write a book that can really wow me. She has the ability. She just needs the story.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Nadège Richards: Badly Behaving Author

Until author Nadège Richards decided to attack me, fauxpologize, and make purposely vague posts on Facebook, I had no plans to post anything else about author-reviewer fights after the epic post about 2012 in author drama.

Well, she did all that. I'm never going to take something like this lying down, so it's time to set the record straight with all the screencaps I can offer. One thing I learned in 2012 was to screencap EVERYTHING. Even the things I've linked to are screencapped in case they get deleted.

This didn't start with Richards, you know. It started with an author named Brittany Hiester, who I got into a very small tiff with back in March 2012 when she posted on my review of Heaven by Alexandra Adornetto. The only work she was then involved in was an anthology called If I Should Die Before I Wake and I put it on my "will-not-read-due-to-author" shelf, which is my normal protocol when I come across a badly behaving author. She sent me a message in November 2012 apologizing for what she said and how she acted and I accepted it. Now, I'm a busy college student with the attention span of a dead fruit fly, so I never got around to PMing her or removing her book from my shelf.

That brings us to January 10, 2013. Nadège Richards, one of the authors in the anthology, also posts on my Heaven review. I start there to give you the full context of who posted what afterwards and to make sure you get it all. My comment, which contains the full text of hers, isn't likely to be deleted anytime soon.

For any and all screencaps after this, click them to make them much larger.



Shortly after she made her comments, she deleted all of them and PMed me; "We need to talk" was the subject of the message. I don't know the legalities of taking screencaps of private messages and don't want to risk it, but here's a summary of what she said:

Her crack about whether or not I've written a book is her generic response to reviewers so she didn't mean anything by it (that doesn't make her look much better in my eyes), she's still in school and what she said to me wasn't immature, shelving her books as "will-not-read-due-to-author" is an onslaught/slaughter, and I probably wouldn't like it if she did that to me. (If I actually did something on her level, I'd let her have at it.) She oddly respects me for speaking my mind about bad books and she's sorry about her attitude, but she isn't sorry for her comments. She tries to appeal to my heart with the fact it's a charity anthology (spoiler: it fails because that is non sequitur) and she wants to put this all behind us.

Now, I have excellent fauxpology senses. If someone apologizes but doesn't mean it, I can tell nine times out of ten. Hers reeked of insincerity. At that time, I was still rather blase about all of it because she seemed just like any other clueless commenter. She just had author status. I tried to PM her back the next morning to talk it out with her like she wanted according to the subject line, but she blocked me. If I hadn't already known her apology was a fauxpology, this would have confirmed it.

January 11 passes without incident and I'd already forgotten her. Then came January 12 (also known as this morning), when I got up and found that she hasn't put it behind her at all. She doesn't want to.

The very first email in my inbox was for a comment from Brooke, someone who liked Richards' page on Facebook. According to her and her links, Richards has been posting very vague statuses about my on Facebook, meanwhile misrepresenting the situation to her fans completely.


Here are the posts, one and two and three and four:




Notice that on one of those screencaps, my comment can be plainly seen. I have since been blocked. I see she doesn't want any of her fans being like Brooke and doing some of their own research.

Funny thing: you can check all her books on Goodreads and all you will see that is remotely negative toward her books are shelves.

Number of negative ratings on her books from people who have shelved the book in such a manner--or even negative things said about her in the review? That would be zero, and I damn well hope it stays at zero because I don't want people doing that.

Moral of the story: don't mess with this kitten. I prefer to be sweet, but if you give me just cause, I'll fight back with everything I have.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton

Title: Wings of the Wicked
Author: Courtney Allison Moulton
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Pages: 516 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

Wings of the Wicked (Angelfire, #2)Life as the Preliator is harder than Ellie ever imagined.
Balancing real life with the responsibility of being Heaven’s warrior is a challenge for Ellie. Her relationship with Will has become all business, though they both long for each other. And now that the secret of who she really is has come out, so have Hell’s strongest reapers. Grown bold and more vicious, the demonic threaten her in the light of day and stalk her in the night.

She’s been warned.
Cadan, a demonic reaper, comes to her with information about Bastian’s new plan to destroy Ellie’s soul and use an ancient relic to wake all the souls of the damned and unleash them upon humanity. As she fights to stay ahead of Bastian’s schemes , the revelations about those closest to her awaken a dark power within Ellie that threatens to destroy everything—including herself.

She’ll be betrayed.
Treachery comes even from those whom she loves, and Ellie is broken by the deaths of those who stood beside her in this Heavenly war. Still, she must find a way to save the world, herself, and her love for Will. If she fails, there will be hell to pay.


Review:


The general consensus is that Wings of the Wicked is far better than its predecessor, but I'll be the one to disagree. In certain respects, it really is better than Angelfire, but overall, I actually dislike this book more. If you're a fan of the Angelfire series, go watch the entire Blood+ series right now and be amazed. It's far better than this series will ever be, trust me. You've already seen it? Go watch it again.

In minor ways, there's a lot of improvement. Ellie has her petty and/or irritating moments, but she's grown from the cliche heroine she was in book one to someone more accepting of her grand role, albeit more than willing to question it.  She makes mistakes, says stupid things, and does even stupider things, but it's easy to accept them because even though she's the Preliator, she's a teenage girl too. Will gets a little development past his love of Ellie and dedication to his duty too, which was a little unexpected. Ava starts out rather demonized, but the development she gets makes me fond of her too. She's probably my favorite out of this whole sorry cast.

Then again, one must consider while reading my compliments that I read Angelfire almost two years ago and my tastes have evolved a good deal since then. If I reread it now, I might develop a different opinion of it, but my memories tell me it wasn't as excruciating to get through as Wings of the Wicked.

The first third of the book is almost entirely relationship drama and boring to read. The plot takes a good while to kick in and once it does, things stay moving for almost the rest of the book. Cadan, one of the characters I liked in book one, returns with a heart full of love for Ellie. When, why, and how this happened is a mystery that isn't explained well enough for my tastes, but it's there. The lack of good reason behind it is also why I now ship Cadan/Ellie. Yay for crack! (If this sort of statement surprises you, you haven't been reading my reviews long enough.)

But then we hit the halfway point. A demon has been impersonating someone close to her for YEARS and when the demon reveals this, something occurred to me. If the demon has been in her life for years without her knowing, that implies the bad guys knew or at least suspected Ellie was the Preliator long before she came into her powers. Why would a demon to impersonate a person close to her otherwise? Following my line of logic, this means the bad guys stood by when Ellie was at her most vulnerable and waited until she came into her powers and started killing them to do something.

This obvious failure to read the Evil Overlord List nearly made me give up, but I soldiered on.

With some further editing and snipping, a good hundred pages could have been cut from this bloated novel. After the big fight during which Lilith (who I am sick and tired of seeing be portrayed as a villain when her only crime was to refuse being anything other than Adam's equal) appears and a whole bunch of other stuff goes down, there's just a bunch of unnecessary, dull fluff until there's a sudden explosion of events on the very last pages. As actiony as it was and with such a cliffhanger as it had, I have no desire to finish the series out--and that's really something when I already have the third book.

The endless Blood+ parallels are the main reason I bothered to read on, along with the aforementioned consensus that this is supposed to be better. But back to Blood+ (I can't fangirl hard enough about this, seriously), it's almost difficult to believe Moulton hadn't seen it prior to starting the Angelfire series because of how many similarities there are. Anyway, the difference between Blood+ and the Angelfire series is how much more complex, affecting, and well-written the former is.

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: Everbound by Brodi Ashton

Monday, January 7, 2013

Old Blood by Karina Halle

Title: Old Blood
Author: Karina Halle
Publisher: Metal Blonde Books
Release Date: June 23, 2012
Pages: 93 pages
How I Got the Book: Copy from the author for review
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Promotional Materials and More: series website
 
Old Blood (Experiment in Terror, #5.5)A haunting novella from the Experiment in Terror Series...

From her harrowing introduction in Darkhouse, the spectre known as “Creepy Clown Lady” has been a constant fixture in Perry Palomino’s life. But beyond the horrid makeup and piercing stare lies Pippa, a woman just like everyone else.

Well, not quite.

When Perry discovered Pippa’s message to her and Dex on the EVP recordings, she thought she heard the last of the old woman’s message. She was wrong. In the novella Old Blood, Pippa relays the tale of her troubled and tortured past, revealing how an aspiring actress and loving mother fell into madness and how an unfathomable betrayal led to her untimely death.

For Perry, the repercussions of her message are life-shattering.


Review:


Same as usual: the author is my friend and this didn't influence my rating or review. You'll see that in a second.

Well... This was unexpected. Pippa's story should have been so interesting because we know so little about her; we only found out the littlest bit of information close to the end of On Demon Wings, the fifth novel in the series. The long-awaited story behind the woman made up like a clown isn't able to make the anticipation worthwhile, but her character is developed well enough to make that a little bit better.

This short novella manages to cover Pippa's entire life, which was probably around sixty or seventy years by my vague math, but only concentrates on the key times of her life. When she started seeing ghosts, how she grew up, an affair that came back to bite her multiple times, what happened once she came to New York and met Dex, and other little tidbits I'll keep quiet. By the time you're done, you understand exactly how she came to be who she is and why she's been haunting Dex and Perry for so long.

One of the larger issues is that Pippa isn't as engaging of a narrator as Perry is. Pippa speaks much more formally--befitting of her age and when she grew up, I suppose, but it's not necessarily fun reading. Even with this heavily abridged version of her life, some parts drag and I got tempted to flip through another book even with just a little bit left to this novella.

I noticed the quality of the editing make a small decline in On Demon Wings, but it's even worse here. Figuring out where to start is difficult because there were so many sections I highlighted for repetitiveness, awkward structure, and even a dropped word or two. I try not to overdo it with commas despite being taught to use them everywhere, but there were a lot of places that really needed commas objectively.

Even though this was a slight disappointment, I'm sticking around and still love Karina to bits. How can I not with how well On Demon Wings went?

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton

Thursday, January 3, 2013

On Demon Wings by Karina Halle

Title: On Demon Wings
Author: Karina Halle
Publisher: Metal Blonde Books
Release Date: May 13, 2012
Pages: 454 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Provided by the author for review
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: series website

On Demon Wings (Experiment in Terror, #5)When the life you wanted has crumbled beneath your fingers, there’s nothing left to do but pick up the pieces and soldier on. You’ve done this before.

But what happens when you no longer feel like yourself anymore? When fires spontaneously start-up around you, when you hear growling coming from underneath your bed, and you no longer recognize your face in the mirror. What happens then?

Ghost-hunter Perry Palomino doesn’t have much time to find out. Now, the evil she used to hunt is a lot closer to home. It’s inside of her, taking over her life bit-by-terrifying bit, and there’s only one person who can help her.

If part of her doesn’t kill him first


Review:


Same song and dance as usual: the author is my friend and this does not affect my review/rating.

Why couldn't this have been my first read of 2013 instead of the thoroughly disappointing novel I read before it? After a mixed experience with Lying Season, I didn't expect much from On Demon Wings, but this is without a doubt the best of the series so far. Why did I wait so long to get back to this series in the first place?

Perry is a pretty solid wreck after what happened at the end of the last book. She's up and moving, which is better than some heroines do after a break-up with their primary love interest, but she's still hurting. And then with what happens shortly after the story begins... Wow. No wonder the demon was able to take advantage of her weakness and crawl in. A miscarriage--especially of a pregnancy you didn't even know about--can be a devastating event. Perry is incredibly sympathetic in this installment, even more so than in any of the previous books in the series.

From start to finish, something is always happening and well-written scares are everywhere, whether it involves vomiting up wasps or having spiders come out of a bathtub and swarm all over Perry (AUGH, MY ARACHNOPHOBIA; THANKS, KARINA). Some of this stuff is going to be nightmare fuel for me and I don't even scare that easily!

Then there's Maximus, who's back in the picture. I'm not sure what's up with him. My gut says hate him because he does some awful stuff throughout the novel, but my brain says be patient because there's got to be a reason behind him acting like a douchebag and making Perry's parents think she's crazy.  Maybe he's already experienced what happens when you try to tell certain kinds of people paranormal stuff exists? We'll see, hopefully.

The only problem I have with this installment are some grammar/editing issues. Misuse of semicolons, Perry once saying she wasn't dating Mom thanks to some missing punctuation, and other such things. They were more numerous than I remember in previous installments. The story this time around was so intense that the errors were more distracting when they threw me out of the story.

After a quick break to read Old Blood, the novella starring Pippa (aka Creepy Clown Lady), I plan to move on to Into the Hollow. Thank goodness for gift cards at Christmas!

4.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Ink by Amanda Sun

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price

Happy 2013, everyone! Just popping in with a review before some friends and I celebrate by going to see Les Miserables.

Title: Zoe Letting Go
Author: Nora Price
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: June 14, 2012
Pages: 272 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Christmas gift
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Zoe Letting GoA girl's letters to her best friend reveal two lives derailed by anorexia in this haunting debut that's Wintergirls meets The Sixth Sense

It's not a hospital, a spa, or an institution. That's what they told me--that's what the brochures promised.

But no matter what the brochures promised, Zoe finds that Twin Birch is a place for girls with a penchant for harming themselves. Through journal entries and letters to her best friend, Elise, she tries to understand why she was brought there, and how she could possibly belong in a place like this. But Zoe's letters to Elise remain unanswered. She wonders why her best friend would cut her off without a word, reliving memory after memory of their beautiful, rocky, inescapable friendship. But everyone has secrets--including Zoe--and as her own fragile mental state hangs in the balance, she must finally learn to come to terms with what happened to Elise before she's able to let go.

Fans of Laurie Halse Anderson and Girl, Interrupted will race through this hauntingly emotional debut novel with the pacing of a psychological thriller.


Review:


Any books that calls itself Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (one of my all-time favorite novels) and anything else is an instant must-read. Zoe Letting Go claimed to be just that, but the two only share the element of the main character having an eating disorder. I don't even know where the other half of the pitch comes in. Zoe Letting Go starts out well and becomes a novel of its own instead of a standard eating disorder novel, but stalls halfway through and never regains momentum.

 Unlike most novels of its kind, this one stars a girl who is just starting down the path to anorexia instead of being neck-deep in it when the novel begins. To start with, we question if Zoe even has an eating disorder at all because her mindset is so unlike what we think of when it comes to people with eating disorders--or even what I've read in other novels. It takes spending time with her fellow patients to adopt their number-obsessed habits! Still, as we read on, it becomes clear she was on her way to being like Victoria, a fellow patient who has been in treatment for her anorexia five times.

The first half of the novel is utterly compelling as we dig deeper into Zoe's psyche and try to figure out what's going on with her. It's after the halfway point that things start to unravel. Once we realize she is indeed anorexic, interest starts waning. Something brought up in one of Zoe's earliest sessions with Alexandra seems too noteworthy to be a one-off like the novel treats it--and it's not a one-off. If readers pay attention to it, they can quickly figure out the main twist, which is what Zoe's real problem is. I suspected it early on, but thanks to a reviewer who didn't tag their spoilers (THANKS, ASSHOLE), it was confirmed.

Her friendship with Elise is supposed to be the most compelling element of the novel, judging by the marketing, but Zoe's time in Twin Birch and her interactions with fellow patients are more interesting than how she and Elise were together. The most interesting part of the Elise storyline comes only near the end of the novel, when we see how the severe diet the girls went on together led to Zoe developing mild anorexia and Elise developing a much more severe case of the same disorder. I also started getting really irritated when the characters let the r-word (retard/retarded) fly.

On the bright side, this is the first exception to my Zoe curse in a long while. For some reason, I dislike an inordinate number of books I've read in which there is a main character named Zoe. No other name has this phenomenon and before anyone suggests it, the name Zoe has nothing to do with why I dislike the novels. I'm not sure if I'll keep an eye on Nora Price and any future novels she'll publish, but she's got the skill to draw me in to begin with. Maybe she'll develop the ability to keep my attention for an entire novel.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson