Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review: The Star Shack by Lila Castle


Title: The Star Shack
Author:
Lila Castle
Genre: YA fiction
Publishing Information: June 1, 2010 by Sourcebooks Fire

Where I got it:
E-book from the library

One sentence:
Pete and Annabelle were soulmates until Annabelle becomes obsessed with astrology and challenges the skeptic Pete to open a summer business with her giving advice based on the stars.

Themes:
Astrology, romance, friendship, summer, rivalry, soulmates

Main characters:
3/5
Pete and Annabelle are cute and fun, if slightly shallow in development. I feel like they lack depth and true flaws. Castle creates interesting dynamics with their rivalries in baseball allegiance (Yankees all the way), and Pete’s dislike of Annabelle’s new obsession of astrology. However, the characters lack enough depth to make them more than just sweet and simple.

Secondary characters:
3/5
Very minimal contribution to the plot. Most of them were clients of the Star Shack or vacationers. Sarah was slightly unrealistically catty and jealous, which made her seem one-sided and flat. However, they served their purpose, which is to provide a catalyst for the main characters in their personal development.
Writing style: 3.5/5
Effectively switches between Pete and Annabelle’s point-of-view, which creates an unbiased picture of their relationship. The characters are written well, particularly their conversations, which are simple and realistic. There was nothing particularly sophisticated, but the pace was right and the style got the job done.

Plot:
3/5
Sweet and funny, but unfortunately, pretty predictable. I thought that some of the elements were slightly too dramatized as well, but that’s a very opinionated view. There wasn’t a lot of added depth, but I enjoyed how Castle inserted extra elements, like the astrology, the baseball rivalry, the beach-town atmosphere, etc.

Ending: 3/5
Completely predictable, but not overdone. Cute, but not saccharine or over-the-top.

Best scene:
When Pete first shows up Annabelle while giving advice.

Positives:
Cute, fun and light story, realistic characters, effective writing style

Negatives: Sometimes a little boring, predictable, lack of depth

First Line: The first time I saw Annabelle Lomax, she was holding a gun.

Cover: Cute. It’s definitely how I pictured the town and the couple and I liked the background astrology image.

Verdict:
A laid-back and cute summer read.

Rating:
6.2 / 10

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Review: The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells


Title: The Summer of Skinny Dipping
Author:
Amanda Howells
Genre: YA fiction

Where I got it:
E-book from the library

One sentence:
16-year-old Mia’s vacation to South Hampton changes dramatically when she meets a different, pale-skinned boy named Simon.

Themes:
Self-discovery, beach, romance,

Main character:
3.5/5
Mia is a solid narrator looking back on her time as a sixteen year old on vacation. However, I found that while her voice was relatable and intriguing, the character was unfortunately forgettable. I did, however, like some of the unusual parts: how Mia was larger and self-conscious of her body, how she was interested in science, etc.

Secondary characters:
4/5
I actually found the secondary characters to be more interesting and complex than Mia. Corinne, her cousin, changed drastically since Mia last saw her. Although she seems snobby and unconcerned with her uncool cousin, Corinne was struggling with a broken family and drug addiction. Simon is also captivating because he is different and because of his own family problems.

Writing style: 4.5/5
Howell’s writing style was very clear and easy to follow, and had some very poignant passages. My only problem was that the first part of the book really seemed to drag, and it was pretty deep into the book that we finally meet Simon. I feel like it was at that scene that the book really hit its stride.

Plot:
3/5
The plot was definitely slow moving sometimes, and it certainly wasn’t anything new. However, I didn’t give up on the book and the ending was a complete shock that I never saw coming.  

Best scene:
When Mia decides to finally skinny dip

Positives:
Cast of supporting characters, writing style, Simon’s uniqueness,

Negatives: Mia’s character, slow moving plot, lack of originality


First Line: There are summers you'll always remember and summers you've forgotten even before they're through.

Cover: I thought Mia was supposed to be larger? The girl on the front looks pretty skinny.

Ending:
Probably the most redeeming quality for me

Verdict:
Warning- this may look like a sweet, cute summer read, but it definitely brings up some darker themes. Still, it brought forward some emotions and made me think and was ultimately a satisfying ending.

Rating:
7.2 / 10

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Follow Friday #2

Welcome to the Feature & Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read!

Q. In books like the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) series the paranormal creature in question "comes out of the closet" and makes itself known to the world. Which mythical creature do you wish would come out of the closet, for real?

Werewolves, for sure! The lore and tales behind them are so cool, and who wouldn't want a friend with a personality like a lovable dog? But I also love the world created in Paranormalcy, where all kinds of creatures are out in the open, including mermaids, faeries, and banshees. That would be amazing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Time Will Come #2

Every Thursday, I participate in The Time Will Come, hosted by Books for Company. Here, I highlight a book on my shelf that I have been meaning to read.


Want to join in?
- Pick a book you have been meaning to read
- Do a post telling us about the book 
- Link the post up in the linky
- Visit the other blogs
This week: Looking for Alaska by John Green
I am finally getting this book from the library- just got the email today! And I can't wait to read it. This book has been on hold forever, and on my TBR list for even longer. I have heard such great things! Have any of you read it? What's a book on your to-read list that you've been meaning to get to?



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review: Fallen by Lauren Kate


Title: Fallen
Author:
Lauren Kate
Genre: YA Paranormal fiction
Publishing Information: December 8, 2009 by Delacorte Press

Where I got it:
E-book from the library

One sentence:
When Luce and Daniel meet at the Sword & Cross Boarding School, Luce knows that he’s different, familiar, and she’s drawn to him and his mysteries like no one else.

Themes:
Angels, demons, mystery, bad boy, romance

Main character:
3/5
I actually preferred Luce to Nora from Hush, Hush. I think she has more of a past and more conflict that makes her more interesting to me. I like the fact that she is able to see the shadows, and that she has this familiar feeling about Daniel. I wouldn’t say that I felt particularly drawn to her or that she is intriguing, but I could deal with her.

Secondary characters: 3.5/5
I liked Arianne- she was spunky and witty and made for a great sidekick. Penn was her complete opposite, but I liked that too. Cam was… obvious. He was the hunky second love interest and I could see what was going to happen from a mile away. And Daniel, oh dear. Another Edward rip-off. I didn’t see the relationship between him and Luce developing at all, it just seemed to be there….creepily.

Writing style: 3/5
I would have preferred more detailed descriptions. I feel like the book was long enough, but not much happened, so Kate could have filled at least some of that with mature and detailed writing style, particularly because I was expecting it due to the Gothic charm of the beginning of the novel.

Plot:
3/5
The plot was very predictable. I could see the next twist coming a mile away, which was disappointing. I had also just finished Hush, Hush, so the fallen angel thing was coming right after that. I wish Kate hadn’t skirted around the action either- she sent Luce away from the battle, which could have been one of the most exciting scenes.

Ending: 2/5
Barely wraps it up for the first novel; I’m pretty sure I know where the entire series is headed. Pretty lackluster, considering the lack of the climactic action scene that we know is happening.

Best scene:
The fire in the library

Positives:
Setting, cover, cute and spunky secondary characters

Negatives: Main characters, boring writing style, unoriginal and slow moving plot, the climax

First Line: Around midnight, her eyes at last took shape.

Cover: GOREGEOUS! I just wished the rest of the novel had matched the beauty and tone of this cover.

Verdict:
Another easy and simple read, however I finished this one feeling disappointed.

Rating:
6.0 / 10

Sunday, August 21, 2011

In My Mailbox #1

In My Mailbox is a meme created by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie! It features a list of what books you have received over the previous week, either for review, from the library, or from the bookstore.

Won:
The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want by Garret Keizer (from LibraryThing)
The Million Dollar Catch Trilogy by Susan Mallery (from Romancing The Book)

Bought:
Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs (Goodwill)
Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder (Borders)
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater (Borders)
The Demon's Lexicon by Rees Brennan (Borders)
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (Borders)
Crave by  Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz (Borders)

Borders liquidation sale is bad news for me. I can't go without spending lots of money! 






Saturday, August 20, 2011

Review: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick


Title: Hush, Hush      
Author:
Becca Fitzpatrick
Genre: YA supernatural romance

Where I got it:
Border’s liquidation sale ($3.75!)

One sentence:
Nora’s life changes after she meets the mysterious Patch and is dragged into an ancient immortal war.

Themes:
Angels, romance, mystery, bad boy,

Main character:
2/5
I wasn’t particularly thrilled with Nora. She was uninteresting, whiny, and unable to stand up for herself in any way. There also wasn’t any sort of gentle introduction to their relationship or romance

Secondary characters:
3/5
The only reason that this gets any higher rating than the main character section is because of Vee- I loved her character, even if she was oblivious and completely stubborn. Patch was your typical bad boy/blatant rip-off of Edward Cullen. I’m always a fan of the bad boy character, but I found Patch a little over the top and his treatment of Nora repulsive.

Writing style: 3/5
Nothing distracting, but also nothing particularly special. The relationship between Nora and Patch was written well, even if I didn’t agree with the plot of how it played out. The last third of the novel picked up the pace and I really started to enjoy how Fitzpatrick wrote out the action scenes.

Plot:
4/5
I read this before I read Fallen, so the idea of fallen angels was completely new and interesting to me. Fitzpatrick’s world was well thought out and had some fascinating plot twists. Although predictable, the plot was very entertaining, especially the action in the last bit.

Best scene:
The showdown in the school

Positives: 
Entertaining plot, clear writing style, good action scenes

Negatives:
Boring characters, simple writing style and plot, felt like a Twilight knockoff

Ending:
Some good action scenes. Tied up the conflict without answering all the questions.

Verdict:
I had higher hopes with all the hype, but it was cute and entertaining for what it was.

Rating:
6.8 / 10

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Follow Friday #1



Welcome to the Feature & Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read!

This week’s features are: Belle Books & Stuck In Books!

Q. If you could write yourself a part in a book, what book would it be and what role would you play in that book?


I adore dystopian fiction, however, I'm not sure if I would want to be written into a story where a giant portion of the population dies or must struggle for their lives.
So, I guess it would be fun to be written in as myself into literary fiction. A novel about my life might be fun. ;)
I wish I could say I wouldn't mind being in the background, but hey, if I'm in a book, I might as well be the main character. Or at least someone instrumental to the plot.

Review: North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley


Title: North of Beautiful
Author:
Justina Chen Headley
Genre: YA fiction

Where I got it:
E-book from the library

One sentence:
Terra is a gorgeous girl who works to cover up her one flaw- a port-wine stain on her left cheek- until she meets Jacob, a Chinese Goth boy who challenges her ideas of beauty.

Themes:
Beauty, traveling, self-discovery, fractured families, romance,

Main character:
5/5
There is a lot to like about Terra. As a character, she is extremely well-developed and relatable, even though I’ve never been in a situation like hers. I’ve noticed a recent trend of characters being defined solely by a hobby that they do, or a sport that they play, and while Terra’s art is definitely part of who she is, I didn’t feel that making art was what made her, her.

Secondary characters:
5/5
The secondary characters were nearly as flawless in their characterization as the protagonist. Jacob, the Goth Chinese love interest, was quirky and mature. The way that Headley developed their relationship was nearly perfect- their conversations were deep and engaging and the progression felt just right.
Further, the relationship between Terra and her family was wonderful. I found Terra’s mom particularly interesting, overweight and timid due to her husband’s overbearing ways. The way that she and Terra evolve through their journey was astounding and rang true.

Writing style: 4.5/5
The writing style felt very mature for YA, which I appreciated. Sometimes I feel like writers think they need to cut out all of their voice, style, and descriptions and make their YA novels completely plot-driven. North of Beautiful definitely proves that wrong. I loved the progression of Terra’s development coinciding with the three stages of the novel. The only thing I didn’t like was that the book was a little long and there were a couple scenes that were paced a little slow, but beyond that, the style was compelling and beautiful.

Plot:
4/5
I’m not usually big into realistic fiction. Normally, I like my novels more plot-driven than character, which is why this was definitely a big change for me. However, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. The sections did catch me a little off-guard at first, because I was afraid it would end up too much like two or three separate books (the one where they meet, the one where they travel, etc.). However, Headley did extremely well tying them all together even though they were countries apart!

Best scene: 
Terra in the orphanage. Melted my heart!

Positives: 
The expert characterization (gahhh! So good!), beautifully developed plot, the unusual qualities brought in (Jacob as an adopted Chinese Goth, cartography, geocaching, even the port-wine stain was something I’d never heard of), the mature writing style.

Negatives:
I mentioned earlier that the length was a little long, sometimes the pacing was too slow on a couple scenes, it was definitely a slow start to the book too (I’m ashamed to say I thought it wouldn’t be as good as it was), the plot was a tad predictable.

First Line: Not to brag or anything, but if you saw me from behind, you’d probably think I was perfect.

Cover: Simple, but so gorgeous! I love the compass pointing North toward the girl, it’s really the epitome of the novel.

Ending:
Absolutely perfect.

Verdict:
A masterful and emotional telling of a girl looking for the meaning of “beautiful”

Rating:
9.2 / 10

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Time Will Come #1

Jodie over at Books for Company is hosting a Thursday meme.  It's really easy to join in.  Here's what you have to do:
  • Pick a book from your bookshelf that you've had for a while and really can't wait to read, but haven't managed to get to yet.
  • Put the details on your blog and head back over to Jodie's blog to fill in the Mr Linky.
  • Go and visit some other bloggers who are joining in.

I've had Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides on my bookshelf for years.  Literally... years. I've read pretty far in too at different times over these years. And while it's not awful, I can never seem to get into it. However, I am often turned off at first by books that I later come to adore. So I am determined to finish this book at some time in the future!

Review: Rippler by Cidney Swanson


Title: Rippler 
Author:
Cidney Swanson
Genre: YA paranormal romance

Where I got it:
E-book giveaway from LibraryThing

One sentence:
Sam is just a regular girl with a mutation that causes her to ripple, or turn invisible, until fellow classmate Will sees her vanish and the two discover that someone has been killing people who possess Sam’s gene.

Themes:
paranormal, romance, mystery,

Main character:
3.5/5
I really liked the character of Sam. She is portrayed as a normal teenage girl with a genetic disorder that she can’t control. And this disorder isn’t like a superpower, it has its own pitfalls, which is refreshing. The only thing that I didn’t like about Sam was that sometimes I found her a bit bland. She didn’t have a personality for me other than the fact that she likes running and has the rippling gene.

Secondary characters:
4/5
Will was sweet and funny, and I loved how the relationship between him and Sam develops as a friendship, rather than a romance, however there is certainly the opportunity for it. I particularly loved the character of Mickie. She is multi-layered, interesting and intriguing.

Writing style: 4.5/5
Swanson’s writing style was clear and mature, and the pace unhurried. I found the conversations to be natural and easy-to-follow, and while there wasn’t that much action in the novel, I never really got bored.

Plot:
4/5
I liked the fact that Swanson combined the new paranormal craze with realistic and even historical elements. The combination with the Nazi human experiments added an extra gruesome twist on the side. I was definitely curious about the journal entries; everything just combined to pull me fully into the story.

Best scene: 
Sam’s first time walking through walls

Positives: 
Writing style, characters that are easy to connect with, intrigue and mystery, new twist on an old plot.

Negatives:
The rushed ending, the blandness of Sam sometimes

First Line: “The screaming was the first clue that I’d turned invisible again”

Cover: Very pretty- I love the incorporation of water into it, and the girl in a dress.

Ending:
As I mentioned earlier, probably one of the weakest things about the novel. I feel like there should have been some sort of conflict in the end, and instead it felt like I learned a great deal… and then the novel just stopped. I would have preferred some conflict that was wrapped up in the end, rather than just an obvious stopper until the next book in the series.

Verdict:
. Cute and refreshing, a quality debut from author Cidney Swanson.

Rating:
7.5 /10

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review: Fast-Tracked by Tracy Rozzlyn


Title: Fast-Tracked    
Author:
Tracy Rozzlyn
Genre: YA dystopian

Where I got it:
E-book giveaway from LibraryThing

One sentence:
Their lives are dictated by how they score on the assessment test; when Alexandria is elevated to the fast-track class and her best friend/boyfriend is assigned the lowest rank, Alexandria does whatever she can to save Byron from a life of hardship and misery.

Themes:
Romance, dystopian society, class conflict,  

Main character:
The first couple chapters didn’t give me much to go on with Alexandria, and I wasn’t sure that I would like her at first, but I ended up enjoying how she decided to make the best of the situation she was in, and yet still retain her own morals and beliefs in such an extravagant society. She had just the right amount of virtues and flaws so that she was down-to-earth and likeable; went through emotions and feelings and confusion, without being helpless.

Secondary characters:
I thought the character of Avery was actually very well developed, Autumn was useful in her part of the “queen-bee” without being completely unlikeable, and Wendy was sweet, kind, and ready to push Alexandria back into place when needed. However, I didn’t have enough time to feel that Byron developed as a character, as I didn’t see very much of him through the novel. When I did see him, I didn’t understand his actions, like pushing Alexandria away.

Writing style: I have to admit, I opened up this book and didn’t think I was going to be able to get through it. As cool as the concept was, the opening scenes didn’t grab me, and there were definitely some writing characteristics that I didn’t like. For example, I didn’t understand why Rozzlyn used Byron’s mother’s compliments to form Alexandria’s physical description: “Why, that lilac dress is the perfect color for your alabaster complexion and your lovely ebony hair. I swear it just makes those sapphire eyes of yours just pop right out.” However, once the novel really started moving, it smoothed out some of the stylistic problems I had- whether I just didn’t notice them or they lessened in frequency is still undecided.

Plot:
The concept of the book was really cool, although the idea of being assigned to a class based on a test or assessment is really nothing new. What I found interesting was how Rozzlyn combined this dystopian/science-fiction concept with the upper-class lives of the fast-trackers, which reads like it could be an account of the lives of the Upper Manhattan prep-school kids.

Best scene:
The scene where Alexandria is taken shopping is every girl’s dream! I was literally drooling.

Positives: 
New spin on an old plot, romances, strong female protagonist, entertaining and believable backstory.

Negatives:
Avery’s motivation?, some of the writing style, the beginning (started out a little slow on the uptake), Byron, the cliffhanger ending.

Ending:
Ahhhh! Such a cliffhanger! I’m so mad, now I’m hooked and have to read the sequel!

Verdict:
Entertaining, fun, blew my expectations out of the water.

Rating:
7.2 / 10