Saturday, September 28, 2013

Review: Seven Deadlies by Gigi Levangie

Title: Seven Deadlies: A Cautionary Tale
Author: Gigi Levangie Grazer

Genre: (I have no idea)
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Length: 256 pages
Original Publishing Date: October 17th, 2013
Series: Standalone
Where I got it: NetGalley

Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"New York Times bestselling author Gigi Levangie Grazer returns with Seven Deadlies, a witty and wildly different novel set amid the sinful reaches of Beverly Hills, narrated by a captivating, gimlet-eyed Mexican-American heroine."
Main characters: 5/5

Our main characters Perry is a fourteen year old Mexican-American girl living in Beverly Hills. She attends a private academy and between extracurricular activities and tutoring five days a week, she is kept pretty busy. It was difficult to find out a lot about Perry at first because she narrates these seven stories. Although she is present in each one (as the tutor or babysitter), she is not the main focus. Perry's voice knocked me clean off my feet though. She is sassy, funny, witty and strong. I just want to pull out a couple lines so you can get an idea of how unique her voice is:
  • "(I've had more success at kissing since then, I'll have you know. Not everyone runs away after kissing me"
  • "I had become a fanatic, spending every spare moment (spare moments being rather spare in my life) researching the Seven Deadlies, as I like to call them. (I wanted to make them hashtag-friendly, give them a catchy social media moniker.)"
  • "This is what they call a "game changer" on ESPN."
Perry had me laughing out loud and her refreshing and engaging voice was so much fun to read!

Secondary characters: 4/5

Perry's mom, Yelena Maria Gonzales, is described at one point by Perry as "the Buddha". Yeah, that's a lot to live up to. Yelena was mostly included in the story to give Perry advice about her students and give Perry herself life advice. This unfortunately meant that Yelena came up a little one-dimensional and I wondered what was actually so great about her, other than the advice-giving.
Perry's students were something else. They were larger than life (as they were meant to be), quirky and outrageous.

Writing style: 5/5

I love the framing of how Perry is writing to an Admissions Committee (this one is in the first sentence, so I hope it's not a spoiler). I loved the illustrations inside the book. I loved how quickly the book moved. I loved the breakup of the smaller stories. I loved Perry's voice. I loved the fairytale style of the tales.

Plot: 5/5
You guys, I don't even know where to start with this book and I think that anything I tell you will be a spoiler. Essentially, we follow Perry along her journey tutoring seven different children who each have/are represented by a different deadly sin. Beyond that, the only thing I can tell you is you need to read this one for yourself! This plot was 100% wholly original and refreshing. I never knew what was coming for me and I loved the blind twists and turns.

Ending: 4/5

What the what the what??? I don't know what to think. I can't even write anything.

Best scene: The ending

Reminded Me Of:  Is it weird if I say Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle? You read it and let me know what you think on this one.

Positives: Perry & her refreshing and witty narrative voice, the complete uniqueness and originality of the plot, that ending (!),

Negatives: I don't even know... (I'm speechless)

Cover: I'm in love with this quirky sketched cover and I think it represents the novel perfectly.

Verdict: A completely unique story with a one-of-a-kind main character. It's so different that I can't compare it to anything else and it completely blew me out of the water.

Rating: 9.6/10 (5 stars)

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review: Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker

Title: Ten Tiny Breaths
Author: K.A. Tucker

Genre: NA Contemporary
Publisher: Atria Books

Length: 304 pages
Original Publishing Date: December 9th, 2012
Series: Ten Tiny Breaths #1
Where I got it: NetGalley

Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"Kacey Cleary’s whole life imploded four years ago in a drunk-driving accident. Now she’s working hard to bury the pieces left behind—all but one. Her little sister, Livie. Kacey can swallow the constant disapproval from her born-again aunt Darla over her self-destructive lifestyle; she can stop herself from going kick-boxer crazy on Uncle Raymond when he loses the girls’ college funds at a blackjack table. She just needs to keep it together until Livie is no longer a minor, and then they can get the hell out of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

But when Uncle Raymond slides into bed next to Livie one night, Kacey decides it’s time to run. Armed with two bus tickets and dreams of living near the coast, Kacey and Livie start their new lives in a Miami apartment complex, complete with a grumpy landlord, a pervert upstairs, and a neighbor with a stage name perfectly matched to her chosen “profession.” But Kacey’s not worried. She can handle all of them. What she can’t handle is Trent Emerson in apartment 1D.

Kacey doesn’t want to feel. She doesn’t. It’s safer that way. For everyone. But sexy Trent finds a way into her numb heart, reigniting her ability to love again. She starts to believe that maybe she can leave the past where it belongs and start over. Maybe she’s not beyond repair.

But Kacey isn’t the only one who’s broken. Seemingly perfect Trent has an unforgiveable past of his own; one that, when discovered, will shatter Kacey’s newly constructed life and send her back into suffocating darkness.

Main characters: 4/5

Kacey's ice queen act was annoying at first. I get that it was a coping strategy, but it has been so overdone in YA contemporary novels. I was getting to the eye-rolling part before she started trying and her sense of humor cracked me up at some parts. The fact that she was self-aware about her chilly act made it better because I was able to see her internal conflict and understand her coping mechanisms. And, oh boy, her coping strategies. Sometimes I just wanted to scream, "Ughhhh no Kacey!!!". But the fact that I was emotionally involved in her life showed how I connected to Kacey. I also liked that the reader learned about Before Kacey without having flashbacks and without really having anyone "tell" us. Kacey was a fully fleshed out character with quirks and nuances.

Secondary characters: 3.5/5

I immediately connected with Livie initially because of how Kacey described her: "she apologizes when someone bumps into her"? That's me to a T. She was sweet and yet stood up for herself, but I didn't feel like Tucker gave her quite as much attention in bringing out how the accident affected her.
Storm was pleasantly surprising in a lot of ways and I appreciated the fact that she broke through so many of my expectations of her character. She had this was of seeing through people that complimented so well with Kacey. Overall, she was a refreshing character.
Trent had a little douchebag thing going with his comments but it was also kind of refreshing, to be honest. It was different than a lot of YA male love interests. Kacey described it best when she calle dhim "the dictionary definition of contradiction". The fact that he was stubborn and sweet, That being said, the insta-love thing was not cool. The introduction to Trent is that he's handsome and suddenly he breaks through every wall Kacey's ever put up and she has no idea why but she turns to mush. Ughhhh. That being said, Trent improved over the story and I really like where Tucker took the end with Trent.

Writing style: 4/5

Sometimes the writing was a little dense. Especially at the beginning when I was trying to get into the story, I would get stuck in the middle of a large descriptive paragraph and just have trouble moving on. Once I became more emotionally involved and the plot started moving, this mostly went away. That being said, the descriptions were lush and detail-filled and the dialogue was realistic and allowed the character's personalities to shine through. Ten Tiny Breaths was well-paced beyond those beginning chapters and the tension grew as we continued toward the inevitable conflict.

Plot: 4/5
Because it was a character driven novel, the plot mostly revolved around Kacey's continuing stages of grief and meeting Trent. However, the setting of this story adds to the plot, both in furthering the action and in uniqueness. There were a lot of things to be lauded in the ways that Ten Tiny Breaths used its setting and characters to the utmost advantage to create a unique story, if not a unique plotline. I had figured out the twist partway through the novel, but I was still impressed with the way it was done.

Ending: 4/5

There were a lot of ways that this novel could have ended that would have made me mad. Luckily, Tucker found just about the only one that truly worked. The character growth was a bit sudden but we were able to see the process.

Best scene: I'm going to alter this to best line and say it's this one: "This is sexual blackmail!" With that sneak peek, you know you wanna read this one.

Reminded Me Of:  A little bit of You Against Me? Just in some of the themes/romance I think.

A unique and fun secondary cast of characters, beautiful descriptions, dialogue and pacing, the setting

Negatives: Instalove, some stereotypical aspects, tough beginning to get through

Cover: One of the prettiest covers I've seen in a while! I love the simplicity, the gorgeous colors, the girl (with red hair!), everything. 

Verdict: An engrossing read whose fleshed-out and unique characters and setting made up for its slow start and stereotypical parts.

Rating: 7.4/10 (4 stars)

What I Was Listening To: I'm happy to introduce you all to one of my favorite artists, reggae singer Cris Cab. He has done plenty of covers as well as original songs but this is one of my favorites. Enjoy!

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Review: Twigs by Alison Ashley Formento

Title: Twigs
Author: Alison Ashley Formento

Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Merit Press

Length: 272 pages
Original Publishing Date: September 18th, 2013
Series: Standalone
Where I got it: NetGalley

Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"One pint-sized girl. Ten supersized crises. And it’s high noon.

They call her “Twigs,” because she’ll never hit five feet tall. Although she was born early, and a stiff breeze could knock her over, Twigs has a mighty spirit. She needs it, as life throws a whole bucket of rotten luck at her: Dad’s an absentee drunk; Mom’s obsessed with her new deaf boyfriend (and Twigs can’t tell what they’re saying to each other). Little sister Marlee is trying to date her way through the entire high school; Twigs’ true love may be a long-distance loser after a single week away at college, and suddenly, older brother Matt is missing in Iraq. It all comes together when a couple of thugs in a drugstore aisle lash out, and Twigs must fight to save the life of the father who denied her
Main characters: 2/5

Okay, can I just get a nitpick out of the way? "Twigs"? Really? Beyond her ridiculous nickname, Twigs is an abnormally short teenager trying to get through a tough patch. She was fiery and sharp; sometimes a little too fiery for her own good. I liked her flaws and weaknesses, but ultimately she was pretty unremarkable.

Secondary characters: 3/5

I LOVED Coop. He was such an asshole, but that made him intriguing. He had a way with words and using them to get himself into trouble. The rest of the secondary cast was slightly larger-than-life. They were ridiculous and over-the-top. Particularly Helen, Stu and Dink. Again, I liked that none of these characters were perfectly, or even likeable at times. You go through hating every character here. Sometimes that over-the-top aspect went a little too far where you think, would this really happen? 

Writing style: 3.5/5

I am a fan of Formento's writing style: her descriptions are accurate, detailed and often funny. Her dialogue is clever, witty and realistic. Overall, her writing style is mature and subtle, but also youthful. The only problem is that I was not interested in what I was reading. Part of that was that the pacing of the story dragged. A lot. It made it difficult to get through the book.

Plot: 3.5/5
I could feel the small town setting coming through the writing and I was fascinated by Twigs' description of her neighbors, her job, everything. However, the plot combined with the pacing just fell a little flat. I'm not exactly sure what it was either. I think part of it may have been that Formento was trying to cover a lot of different crises' in Twigs' life and the reader gets pulled around a lot and we don't focus much on any conflict.

Ending: 2.5/5

The ending itself was sweet and had a good wrap up. However, there were a couple things that didn't get the attention they deserved, and some that really needed to be addressed (Brady).

Best scene: The climax scene at the pharmacy

The writing, some of the ridiculous situations, the unique setting and plot points, Coop

Negatives: Pacing, unmemorable main character, her name, pacing, not enough attention to some details at the end

Cover: The photo itself is pretty but I don't like the font

Verdict: Unique setting and characters don't save this book from the dragging writing style

Rating: 5.8/10 (3 stars)

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Review: By A Thread by R.L. Griffin

Title: By A Thread
Author: R.L. Griffin

Genre: NA Contemporary
Publisher: CreateSpace

Length: 272 pages
Original Publishing Date: March 15th, 2013
Series: By A Thread Trilogy #1
Where I got it: InkSlinger PR

Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"Stella's future was set, and it was a bright one. She was engaged to a man she adored, and was headed to law school in the fall. Tragically, her perfectly planned future ends just as it was beginning.

With no ties to family or friends, Stella finds herself alone in a new city, spiraling out of control. Her typical day comes to a close with her passed out on the floor; sometimes clothed.

Luckily, her new roommate, essentially a stranger, is dead set on getting Stella past her grief and back to functioning within society. Putting one foot in front of the other, she climbs up from the bottom of a bottle. Even with all her progress, Stella walks through life unfeeling, numb. Defiant, she sends out warning signals for the world to keep away. But, is that what she really wants?

With the steadfast help of a few tight knit friends, she gradually begins to feel again. She starts to savor the flavor of food again; lets herself notice how the handsome bartender glances at her. Still, after allowing herself a fling, she wonders if she will ever be able to let go of her shattered past, fully enjoy the present, or get over what she thought would be her perfect future and with the man who destroyed her heart."

Main characters: 2.5/5

Stella fell into this trope of main characters who are "broken": they numb themselves. Stella was the best example of this trope because she took it pretty literally. I could understand this after what Stella went through, but in a novel that spans over four years, it became a little excessive at times. At one point in the story she says to her friend: "'ll never understand how much I've been through". This line made me roll my eyes. Stella was one of those characters who could wallow in her grief and pretend like she was the only one who'd ever had anything bad happen to her. On the positive side, I loved Stella's sass and how she wasn't afraid to say what was on her mind. Her relationship with Millie, Patrick and Billy was fun and made her seem more down-to-earth. I love that she had ambitions and that she was in law school. There were a lot of little things about Stella that I could relate to and that were quirky or interesting tidbits.

Secondary characters: 3.5/5

The characterization of Millie was a little uncertain. She was very blunt and said what she wanted, but when she called Stella "bitch" as a term of endearment on the first day she met her, I was a little quizzical. That's not really a first day of friendship term. But besides that characterization flaw, I really liked Millie. She acted as a foil to Stella, which I really enjoyed. Patrick and Billy were great as well, although Patrick was noticeably more developed than Billy. George stole the show: I was emotionally invested and liked his stubbornness, how sweet he was, and the fact that his and Stella's relationship was slow-moving but passionate. There were some things that frustrated me about George, but ultimately I think that's what Griffin intended and it just made George more realistic and well-developed.

Writing style: 1/5

I didn't like how the chapters bounced around. Between the prologue, chapter one and chapter two, I was in a whirlwind of different scenes and it threw me off balance. This continued for the rest of the story. Some jumps in time were minor and didn't bother me as much but others were too large. I would miss out on months between jumps and then feel so lost in the story. The third-person POV also seemed to alienate me from what Stella was thinking and feeling.  It felt like there was a glass wall in between myself and Stella and I was watching her from a distance, rather than being emotionally invested. In addition, the lack of detail made it difficult to picture anything in my mind: from what the characters looked like, to the setting, etc. The POV shifts were confusing; one minute I would be reading Stella's thoughts and then the next I'd be reading George's. Also a little nitpick, there were a lot of typos in the ebook I read, enough that it made it really difficult to read.

Plot: 3/5
I liked the realism behind the daily happenings in Stella's life. I especially appreciated the fact that Griffin didn't skirt around some of the ways that people deal with heartbreak. In a lot of cases, alcohol is how some people deal and Stella's drinking habits were realistic of a college student and of someone who had just experienced a lot of pain and sorrow. The romance developed easily and fit right into the plot of the story. I figured out the twist from the beginning (prologue definitely spoiled it for me, so I wasn't a fan of that) which was exciting but wasn't handled as well as I thought it could have been.

Ending: 1.5/5

Another ending that could have been cool and unique and instead seemed a little mishandled. I was taken from one scene to another that had no connections and then suddenly we jumped three months forward for the last chapter. It would have been a cliffhanger but I felt like I wasn't even led to the cliff at all, I was still waiting at the bottom of the mountain for Griffin to explain what was going on!

Best scene: The drunken dare scene

The fact that Stella was pretty bad-ass, the secondary characters, George, the idea of the twist, the realism

Negatives: The writing, Stella's self-pity, the fact that the twist was so obvious and not explained well, the ending

Cover: I don't really like this cover. I'm not drawn to it and it's not very pretty.

Verdict: An entertaining read, but the writing and a couple other faults kept it from reaching its potential.

Rating: 4.4/10 (3 stars)

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!