Saturday, December 28, 2013

Review: Grasping at Eternity by Karen Amanda Hooper

Title: Grasping at Eternity
Author: Karen Amanda Hooper

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Starry Sky Publishing

Length: 328 pages
Original Publishing Date: May 21st, 2012
Series: Kindrily #1
Where I got it: NetGalley

Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"Leave it to Maryah Woodsen to break the one rule that will screw up eternity: Never erase your memories.

Before entering this life, Maryah did the unthinkable—she erased. Now, at seventeen years old, she’s clueless that her new adoptive family has known her for centuries, that they are perpetually reincarnated souls, and that they have supernatural abilities. Oh, and she's supposed to love (not despise) Nathan, the green-eyed daredevil who saved her life.

Nathan is convinced his family’s plan to spark Maryah's memory is hopeless, but his love for her is undying. After spending (and remembering) so many lifetimes together, being around an empty version of his soulmate is heart shattering. He hates acting like a stalker, but has no choice because the evil outcast who murdered Maryah in their last lifetime is still after her.

While Maryah’s hunter inches closer, she and Nathan make assumptions and hide secrets that rip them further apart. Maryah has to believe in the magic within her, Nathan must have faith in the power of their love, and both need to grasp onto the truth before they lose each other forever—and discover just how lonely eternity can be.

X-MEN meets MY NAME IS MEMORY in Karen Amanda Hooper’s latest young adult release

Main characters: 2/5

Maryah was a very bland main character. Part of this may have been intentional, to represent her as the "blank slate", however it meant that she didn't have a strong image in my mind. I didn't know what she liked or didn't like, or even what her personality was. The other thing that bothered me about Maryah was her naivety. This may be in part due to the writing style which let the reader in on what was happening, but everything just appeared so obvious to me.

Secondary characters: 3/5

Nathan also appeared one-dimensional. Besides his love for Maryah I really didn't know anything about him and I was frustrated with their relationship. He also had a really pessimistic way of looking at the situation (although I realize that it was a depressing one) that started to irritate me.
The rest of the secondary characters were better but there were so many! It was hard to keep track sometimes. I liked Carson because he didn't like Maryah at first and that was refreshing to have a character not fall instantly in love with her. Krista was also fun and upbeat.

Writing style: 2.5/5

The story switched POVS between Nathan and Maryah, which I wasn't a fan of. Normally I wouldn't mind but because we knew what was going on, Maryah just seemed like an idiot for not questioning or realizing some of the obvious stuff. Or even just the weird way everyone was acting. Also, I don't know what it was but some of the description threw me out of the story.

Plot: 3/5
Here's the thing: this trope? The lovers through multiple lifetimes? I've seen it before. I'll mention a couple minor details that I did like though. The Arizona setting was perfection and the descriptions were spot on. I liked the introduction of something new to the been-done-before reincarnation plot: the idea of erasing was cool and I liked the mystery of figuring out why Maryah erased. The aspect with the stars and astronomy was a neat touch as well. I liked the idea of a kindrily (although it reminded me of the Cullen family from Twilight) and the quirkiness that came from reincarnation regarding age and previous family ties. I didn't understand, however, how despite all of this plot information being thrown around, the plot could lack action so much. It really seemed like not a lot happened in this book.

Ending: 3/5

Bonus points for not ending on a cliffhanger, and for some real action. The downside? I didn't feel like we really learned anything. We have this whole mystery and at the end I was wondering if anything was solved.

Best scene: The climax

Reminded Me Of:  Transcendence by C. J. Omololu

Some fun twists on the reincarnation trope, well thought out world-building

Negatives: Instalove (destined to be together), bland and one-dimensional main characters, not enough action, the writing style threw me out of the story

Cover: I actually don't really care for this cover. I like the title text but the image doesn't pull me in enough.

Verdict: Stereotypical addition to the reincarnation trope with lackluster characters.

Rating: 5.4/10 (3 stars)

What I Was Listening To: 
Something else fun about my quirky music taste is that I love remixes to great songs. For this one, the Tailors DJs remix a Tracy Chapman staple, Give Me One Reason. I listen to this song all the time because it pumps me up and relaxes me at the same time (is that even possible?). Check it out and let me know what you think!

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, December 21, 2013

Review: The Liar Society by Lisa & Laura Roecker

Title: The Liar Society
Author: Lisa and Laura Roecker
Genre: YA Mystery
Publishing Information: 368 pages; March 1st, 2011 by Sourcebooks Fire
Series: The Liar Society #1 

Where I got it: E-book from the library

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"Kate Lowry didn't think dead best friends could send e-mails. But when she gets an e-mail from Grace, she’s not so sure.

Sent: Sun 9/14 11:59 PM
Subject: (no subject)

I'm here…
sort of.
Find Cameron.
He knows.
I shouldn't be writing.
Don't tell.
They'll hurt you.

Now Kate has no choice but to prove once and for all that Grace’s death was more than just a tragic accident. But secrets haunt the halls of her elite private school. Secrets people will do anything to protect. Even if it means getting rid of the girl trying to solve a murder...

Main characters: 3.5/5

Kate was intriguing because she was trying to figure herself out as much as anyone else and I think the Roecker's did a good job of portraying her conflict. There were qualities about Kate that I admired, and qualities that I cringed at, but together they made a compelling main character. She was determined, smart, witty and honorable. I didn't like the way she treated Seth a lot of the time, but I could tell that she was still a good-hearted person. I liked some of the quirky inclusions, like Kate's pink hair. I also enjoyed the way that Kate learned so much about herself throughout the mystery and it was truly a healing process. 

Secondary characters: 3.5/5

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of depth given about the lives of minor characters off the bat, including Taylor and Bethany. It was interesting to hear Kate's take on them and connect the rumors and family lives with the characters. As a reader, I don't get that level of detail about relatively minor characters often. I do wish that I had some more physical detail so I could picture the characters in my mind. Grace fit a stereotype that I'll call "Dynamic-best-friend-ends-up-dead", seen in the TV series "Pretty Little Liars", where the popular and outgoing best friend is the one who dies. This leaves her quieter and less popular best friends in a mess after her death. Seth was a cute and quirky guy and I loved reading the interactions between him and Kate, even if I felt bad for him. I like how the relationship between Kate, Liam and Seth turned into an almost love-triangle, but not really. I had mixed feelings about Liam; I feel like he was in a lot of ways underdeveloped and it was hard to get a read on him.

Writing style: 3/5

The opening chapter moved slowly and it was difficult to get into. After the intriguing and thrilling opening email, I was expecting some action right off the back and it was tough to read through long details of the past. The flashbacks sometimes seemed random although I appreciated the look back to the past to learn more about Grace, Kate and Maddie before Grace's death. Kate's voice was bitingly witty in some places and achingly sad in others, which was a fantastic mix. The Roeckers also did a fine job of creating suspense and tension through their writing, which kept me on edge through so much of the story.

Plot: 3/5
I hate nitpicking little plot things, but right off the bat I was shaking my head in disbelief over a couple things. Kate is convinced that the email couldn't be a joke because no one could hack into their school's database, but if they live in the 21st century, I'm pretty sure there's a hacker who could get in. I was intrigued by the plot clues, including Cameron's sketch, because they made me think about the mystery as well, instead of waiting back for Kate to solve it herself. When I had the same clues as Kate did, I felt just as involved because I at least felt like I could solve it too. That proved not to be the case because the whole mystery had me stumped. Without giving anything away, I felt like the 'bad guys' were more ominous than was justifiable, and these 'bad guys' are pretty easy targets for being the 'big bad' in novels. Regardless, I was fascinated by the mystery and I was really only disappointed that there were no huge hints or clues for me to really dig my teeth into. Those clues that I thought I could solve were really just teases.

Ending: 3/5

I like that while the mystery was solved, justice wasn't necessarily served. Not everything ended up perfect, but Kate discovers that life goes on. Even though plot-wise the ending wasn't rewarding, Kate grew so much as a character and discovered herself and that was what made it entertaining and worthwhile.
Best scene: I loved the homecoming scene and the descriptions of the theme & attendees

Positives: Strong and three-dimensional main character, well rounded secondary cast, excellent tension and pacing for the most part, the fact that the ending didn't solve everything

Negatives: Overused plot & plot devices, some slow sections, a couple minor characters could have used more development (I think it was an attempt at making them mysterious/possibly the 'bad guy' but I still would have liked more).

Cover: I love the representation of Kate! She's so awesome and quirky. The pink hair + the preppy outfit= love. The one knock is that the cover is more lighthearted than the book was. The book was such a blend of a witty main character, a mystery and self-discovery and some of that was lost on the simple cover.

Verdict: A fun and surprisingly deep YA prep school mystery

Rating: 6.4/10 (3 stars)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Title: Scarlet
Author: A.C. Gaughen

Genre: YA Historical Adventure
Publisher: Walker Childrens

Length: 292 pages
Original Publishing Date: February 14th, 2012
Series: Scarlet #1
Where I got it: NetGalley

Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.
Main characters: 3.5/5

Scarlet's wittiness, independence and daring were likeable characteristics, but overall she often seemed immature. Scarlet's past affected her present to a great extent, but it also made her sometimes lacking morals make sense. Her weird issues with food made sense, but it almost felt like anorexia, which I shied away from. She also had some moments where I just shook my head, such as when she misinterprets what Robin means (I feel like this happens a lot). I liked the fact that she was willing to play outside the rules, sometimes to a fault. Sometimes her wittiness came off as sharp or abrasive, but either way it was clear that Gaughen had taken the time to create a well-developed main heroine.

Secondary characters: 3/5

Gaughen threw a lot of characters on the reader at the onset. I'm a little ashamed to admit this, but I don't have a lot of experience with the Robin Hood tales besides *cough* the Disney movie *cough* so I wish there had been more description and character development.
Robin was a little mysterious, a little heroic and a lot frustrating. The relationship between him and Scarlet was full of misunderstandings and hiding feelings. Gaughen included more depth on Robin toward the end by discussing why he became an outlaw, but he still felt one-dimensional for much of the novel. John Little was funny in his "player" ways and I liked his sassiness, but again I felt like I didn't understand his motivations and his character didn't have much depth.

Writing style: 2/5

Gaughen used colloquial phrases in her writing style but one thing that bothered me was the use of "were" instead of "was" in order to characterize Scarlet in her time period. I just kept stopping and being jolted out of the text because it threw me off so much. I also had a tough time getting into the groove of the writing style. Every once in a while I'd be sucked in for a few pages but it never thoroughly kept my attention. I think part of it was the fact that I was being told a lot of information, rather than shown. The writing did pick up in the second half after the plot twist and it was much easier to read.

Plot: 3/5
The retelling of Robin Hood through the eyes of Scarlet was a great concepts; but it ultimately didn't deliver. Even the plot points made for a good story however the pacing and the writing fell flat. Additionally, the tension wasn't strong enough and there weren't enough action scenes to merit the retelling of such a great adventure story. However, the plot did improve in the second half of the novel with the plot twists (which I saw coming but was still exciting). The action picked up and I breezed through the second half.

Ending: 4/5

The plot twist came relatively early on and that was the turning point where the action picked up for me. The ending was eventful, tense and full of "You go girl!" moments.

Best scene: The ending

Reminded Me Of:  Robin Hood: Men in Tights... just kidding but not really.

Positives: A fun retelling premise, an exciting plot twist, a very sassy and independent lead heroine, the ending

Negatives: Instalove, writing style, the use of "were" rather than "was" (couldn't get past it!), one-dimensional secondary characters, boring plot for the first half

Cover: I was pleasantly surprised by the cover, especially for the historical which I've found generally doesn't have as pretty of covers. The simplicity really makes the girl's face stand out and the font is perfect.

Verdict: A cool premise with a unique main character, but the plot and writing fell short of making this an exciting adventure story.

Rating: 6.2/10 (3 stars)

What I Was Listening To: 
I was listening to this amazing Coldplay cover of "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)". Love that Coldplay can pull off pretty much any song, but especially love that this was a tribute. 

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, December 7, 2013

Review: You Wish by Mandy Hubbard

Title: You Wish
Author: Mandy Hubbard
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Publishing Information: 304 pages; July 29, 2010 by Razorbill
Series: Standalone

Where I got it: E-book from the library

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"Kayla McHenry's sweet sixteen sucks! Her dad left, her grades dropped, and her BFF is dating the boy Kayla's secretly loved for years. Blowing out her candles, Kayla thinks: I wish my birthday wishes actually came true. Because they never freakin' do.
Kayla wakes the next day to a life-sized, bright pink My Little Pony outside her window. Then a year's supply of gumballs arrives. A boy named Ken with a disturbing resemblance to the doll of the same name stalks her. As the ghosts of Kayla's wishes-past appear, they take her on a wild ride...but they MUST STOP. Because when she was fifteen? She wished Ben Mackenzie would kiss her. And Ben is her best friend's boyfriend."

Main characters: 2.5/5

My first impression of Kayla is that she's a little quirky. I like to have a character that is acknowledged as a bit of a pessimist, however I think it's maybe a little unrealistic that she can identify herself thus at age sixteen? For example, I was a major pessimist in high school and I would have denied it with the best of them. I could relate with Kayla's sense of feeling like her best friend has outgrown her, but I feel like she may have overemphasized the point to where I was a little sick of her whining. And the whole thing with her wanting her best friend's boyfriend? It's realistic, but I was tired of Kayla's jealousy and downright meanness about their relationship. I appreciated how she changed at the end of the novel, realizing her mistakes and deciding to create herself anew.

Secondary characters: 1.5/5

Some of the characters were one-dimensional, for instance, Kayla's mom. Ann was a little quirky but I ended up liking her because she was a foil to Kayla. Even though the end explained why Nicole had been acted weird, I didn't feel like she was fully-formed and therefore likeable. Ben, the love interest, was a little more three dimensional, but I still didn't feel that there was enough justification given as to why Kayla was in love with him.

Writing style: 2/5

Some of the action felt a little passive, and I couldn't get into it because it felt like it was being described to me rather than feeling like I was in the action. Some parts of the novel were hilarious, both in writing style as well as situational, however others parts seemed like Hubbard was trying too hard to be witty or have that sarcastic teen voice.

Plot: 2/5
I know this is minor, but right off the bat I was turned off by the reference to Old Navy being the "in-crowd" place to shop. I'm sorry, but Old Navy hasn't been a cool place to shop for about ten years. Some more research would have helped this point, I think. Just randomly, I loved the bit about the Photography class because I took two in high school and failed pretty miserably at them. The fantastical aspect of all of Kayla's wishes coming true was part cute and fun and part over-the-top. I appreciated the point where Kayla realized her past mistakes and had a revelation about herself and her life, but it was a little obvious coming.

Ending: 2/5

The ending moved really quickly and a lot of it was unbelievable; and I don't just mean the part about the birthday wishes coming true. It wasn't satisfying and it wasn't exciting.

Best scene: Nothing really stands out

Positives: Some funny situational humor, good final transformation for Kayla

Negatives: Passive and boring writing style, one dimensional characters, over-the-top plot devices


Verdict: Fell a little short of the reviews I'd read... I wasn't expecting greatness but I expected more than this

Rating: 4.0/10 (2 stars)