Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (1)


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This weeks theme is Top Ten Favorite Beginnings/Endings In Books. I'm notoriously picky about my endings, so I'll try to round up some that I liked.

1.  Noughts & Crosses by Marjorie Blackman
2.  The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

3. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen
4. Looking For Alaska by John Green


5. You Against Me by Jenny Downham
So that's the list! What do you think? What do your favorite endings look like?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Beat the Heat Readathon

I'm about to complete my last day of my summer job, so I'm excited to begin my first Readathon! I have very humble goals for this blog for the upcoming school year because I know how caught up in college I get, so my goal for the remainder of the summer is to schedule a review post for every week through next June. I'm almost done through November currently, so hopefully this Readathon will help me make progress toward that goal!

Goals:

  • Participate in at least one mini-challenge
  • Read and review at least five books

Books:


  • The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
  • Grasping at Eternity by Karen Amanda Hooper
  • Viral Nation by Saunta Grimes
  • Piece of My Heart by Lynn Maddalena Menna
  • Seven Deadlies by Gigi Levangie
  • Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker

Progress:

  • 7/29: Completed and reviewed Piece of My Heart
  • 7/30: Completed and reviewed Viral Nation
  • 7/31: Completed and reviewed Ten Tiny Breaths, started Scarlet
  • 8/1: Completed Scarlet
  • 8/2: Reviewed Scarlet, started reading, completed and reviewed Seven Deadlies, started reading Grasping at Eternity 
  • 8/3: Completed and reviewed Grasping at Eternity, read This Is How I Find Her
  • 8/4: Reviewed This Is How I Find Her, started Tempest and Twigs
  • 8/5: Completed and reviewed Tempest, continued reading Twigs, started reading Pride
  • 8/6: Finished reading Pride
  • 8/7: Continued reading Twigs, started reading By a Thread
  • 8/8: Finished and reviewed By a Thread, completed and reviewed Twigs
  • 8/9: Started Out of Play
  • 8/10: Continued Out of Play
  • 8/11: Finished and reviewed Out of Play, started Forevermore
  • 8/12: Finished and reviewed Forevermore
  • 8/13: Started and finished When the World was Flat (and We Were in Love)
  • 8/14: Reviewed When the World was Flat (and We Were in Love)
  • 8/15: Read and reviewed My Chemical Mountain
  • 8/16: Read and reviewed Deeper, started Since You Asked
  • 8/17: 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Review: Autumn by Sierra Dean

Title: Autumn
Author: Sierra Dean

Genre: YA Paranormal Fiction
Publishing Information: 263 pages; January 1st, 2013 by Sierra Dean
Series: Dog Days #1

Where I got it: NetGalley

Synopsis from Goodreads:
 

"Cooper Reynolds’s life is going to the dogs… literally.

As if being a high school senior in a small Texas town wasn’t hard enough, Cooper has bigger things to worry about than who he’ll take to prom and whether or not the Poisonfoot Padres will win homecoming. He has less than a year before his eighteenth birthday, when a curse placed on his family will doom him to live in coyote form forever.

The last thing he needs to complicate his already messed-up life is a girl, but fate has other plans in mind for him when it brings Eloise “Lou” Whittaker to Poisonfoot. She’s grouchy, sarcastic and has no love for her new Texas home, but she might be exactly the right person to help Cooper break the curse.

The clock is ticking, and Cooper will have to decide if he’s willing to let Lou in on his dirty little secret before it’s too late.
"

 
Main characters: 2.5/5

Lou was an enigma at times. I didn't feel like I was getting a lot of personality from her until a good part of the way through the book. The fact that she was diabetic and a baseball fan started to give me a better idea of some of his quirk, but I still felt that she was lacking some of the depth that I've seen in other main characters. Thinking back, it's tough to come up with a defining way to describe her, which I think shows some weakness in conveying the character to the reader. She was described as being shy, but she seemed at home partying after the football game (which is fine, but not what I would expect a shy high-schooler to be doing) and she was very forward in her relationship with Cooper. Maybe it was simply that the descriptor of "shy" was inadequate for Lou. I think the times I liked her best was when she interacted with Cooper because she gained some spunk and their banter was perfect. 

Secondary characters: 3/5

Cooper was a doll. I really liked him as the male romantic interest because he had the perfect mix of sensitive and slightly tortured (the whole no friends thing) and manly and athletic (you know, the whole football thing). I only wish that I'd had a little more insight into his mind and more depth. I felt bad for him due to the social outcast status and curse, but I didn't see how that affected him to the extent that I wanted. I have to say though that the chemistry between Lou and Cooper was fantastic!
Overall, the remainder of the secondary cast of characters was so-so. Granny Elle was a gun-toting, etiquette-following, church-going riot, but most of the other characters were very stereotypical. Marine, for instance, first interacted with Lou in a way that reminded me of the movie Mean Girls. You know, the scene where Regina is talking to Cady and says, "So you agree, you think you're pretty?". But I liked that she fit some of Lou's Texas stereotypes and not others. I've seen characters like Archer around before, but he still mystified me and made me curious about what sort of person he'd be- and I wasn't disappointed! 

Writing style: 2.5/5

There was a great deal of exposition to start out with, which was informative but unfortunately very boring. I would have preferred the information to be more spread out and subtle. Dean did a good job of bringing in the action early, but Lou's reaction seemed artifical in some parts. She ran through a list of all these questions, but I didn't think they were relevant and I didn't understand what she was thinking. Beyond some of these more minor problems however, I enjoyed reading Dean's writing. I was rarely jolted out of the story and some of the descriptions were spot on. For example, Lou's Grandma's house "looked like it had fallen out of a Gothic horror novel and been transplanted into West Texas". I could totally see it in my head. I think what bothered me about the writing was that it lacked a sense of urgency. I was curious about the conflict but the writing didn't give me that sense that I needed to continue reading to find out the answer to the mystery. The end seemed to gain some momentum but I wished the middle would've had the same purpose in writing.

Plot: 3.5/5
It's hard to argue that the set-up for this novel is original: the new girl moves to a new school and meets a mysterious boy with some kind of powers. But what I liked about Autumn was some of the subtle details: the fact that Cooper was a bit of an outcast too, the fact that he turned into a coyote (how unique is that?), etc. The Texas setting pervaded the novel, and I love the fact that it went hand in hand with the plot points. Some parts of the plot reminded me of Maggie Steifvater's Shiver, but there was enough different that it wasn't obnoxious. I liked the mystery about Cooper's curse and how it dealt with Lou's family; it mixed together a lot of different aspects that I've always liked: revenge, forbidden love, family history, ghosts and more. Ultimately, I liked the fact that Dean took some old themes and plot devices and made them new, and integrated so many of my favorite things to make an exciting world.

Ending: 3/5

Arggghhhhh, that cliffhanger of an ending! You all already know by now that I am not a fan of cliffhangers, or sequels in a lot of cases. That makes the ending of this novel unfortunate. I'll give it this, it left me emotionally invested in the outcome and the cliffhanger was a good one. But still a cliffie...

Best scene: The very end scene. Despite the cliffhanger, it was explosive.

Positives: The worldbuilding and updates to old plot devices and premises, Cooper, some of the unique aspects of Lou (her interest in baseball and her diabetes)


Negatives: Some of the pacing (the middle dragged a bit), some stereotypical characters, the cliffhanger

Cover: It doesn't have the "wow" factor, but I liked the simplicity of the cover. My only nitpick is that I hate when a cover says "A XXX novel". I don't know why but it bothers me.


Verdict: A quick and entertaining read with some new updates on old ideas, but ultimately nothing life-changing


Rating: 5.8/10 (3 stars)


Bloggers note: Just for fun, here's one of the songs I was listening to while reading this book. No connection to themes or anything, I simply have some eclectic tastes in music and like to share them. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (1)


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

This week I'm spotlighting Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam. That cover sucks me in with nothing else even necessary, but check out the synopsis (from Goodreads):

"Soon, Elusion® will change the world and life as we know it.

A new technology called Elusion is sweeping the country. An app, visor and wristband will virtually transport you to an exotic destination where adventure can be pursued without the complications—or consequences—of real life.

Regan is an Elusion insider. Or at least she used to be. Her father invented the program, and her best friend, Patrick, heir to the tech giant Orexis, is about to release it nationwide. But ever since her father’s unexpected death, Regan can’t bear to Escape, especially since waking up from the dream means crashing back to her grim reality.

Still, when there are rumors of trouble in Elusion—accusations that it’s addictive and dangerous— Regan is determined to defend it. But the critics of Elusion come from surprising sources, including Josh, the handsome skeptic with his own personal stakes. As Regan investigates the claims, she discovers a disturbing web of secrets. She will soon have to choose between love and loyalty…a decision that will affect the lives of millions.

Suspense, thrills, and romance fuel this near-future story about the seductive nature of a perfect virtual world, and how far one girl will go to uncover the truth behind the illusions.
"


I can't wait for this book to be published March 18th, 2014. Until then, check out what others have to say on Goodreads.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta



Title: On the Jellicoe Road
Author: Melina Marchetta

Main character: 4/5
Taylor was a dynamic and rich character. Although she and I are very different, I was able to connect with her because the basic needs and human desires were the same, as well as how she reacted to many of them. Initially I wasn't sure if I would like Taylor as a character, but she grew on me throughout the book. Marchetta's writing shone brilliantly in her ability to create a flawed and struggling character without turning off the reader or making them bored/annoyed.

Secondary characters: 5/5
Wow, I absolutely loved the secondary cast of characters. Each of them were richly detailed and beautifully rounded; everyone from the original Five to Jonah Griggs, Santangelo, Raffy and Ben. The problem is that because the novel is written in first-person, several characters who seem interesting are left slightly one-sided until the very end, when Taylor finally sees them for what they actually are and then finally, so can the reader.

Writing style: 4/5
I'm so glad that I pushed on with this story. The opening seemed like it wasn't going to be my type of plot or writing style, but it continued to improve throughout the story. Another problem with the beginning was that we were thrown right into the action and I was completely confused, but it cleared up as we learned more and more. Marchetta's writing style is descriptive and gorgeous without being over the top, and while most of the time I prefer action oriented writing, I found that Marchetta's style didn't put me off and in fact I enjoyed the beautiful details. Another fun part was the fact that I was laughing in the middle just because of the random quirks of the characters or just so caught up in what was happening.

Plot: 5/5
Wow, I think the plot was one of the showstoppers. I guess this ties together with writing style though because you need an incredibly skilled writer to pull off this kind of interwoven plot with so many small and intricate details that all work together. The territory war was the first thing that drew me in and from there I was caught up in the emotional and strategic warfare between these kids and what it meant to them. From there, Marchetta continued to make the plot more complex and broad, weaving in little details throughout the whole story to make it deep and meaningful.

Ending: 4.5/5
Gorgeous. My only knock was that it was a little drawn out, but it really explored what had happened and what it meant in the fullest detail. All the loose ends were tied up without it having to state facts (subtlety is another bonus point on Marchetta's writing style), and I'll admit I was sobbing at the end.

Cover: Probably one of my only knocks on the book, I wasn't a huge fan of the cover. Looking back, it makes sense but it didn't immediately draw me into the book.

Rating: 9/10

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Review: Undeadly by Michele Vail



Title: Undeadly
Author: Michele Vail

Main character: 2/5
I wasn't a fan of Molly. She was boring, unoriginal, and whiny. I felt like too many of her characteristics were told, not shown, and thus I didn't connect when she was supposed to be the "middle class humble girl". Her snark was supposed to set her apart but was just okay.

Secondary characters: 1/5
Rick wasn't even really a character, just a plot device. Rath could have been cool but was underdeveloped, as were Molly's new friends at the school (it's bad news when I can't even remember their names).

Writing style: 2/5
The best I can say is that it was entertaining enough for me to finish the book, but needless to say it was nothing special. I wasn't a fan of the random interspersed journal entries; they ultimately added nothing. Same with the 21st century girl speak/lingo: I don't need that to understand Molly as a character nor to connect with her. I can understand that she's a normal girl without having the story written with so much "vernacular".

Plot: 3/5
I thought integrating Egyptian mythology was cool but I saw everything coming from a mile away. I like the idea of a society where spirits, ghouls, zombies and necromancers are everyday occurrences, but this novel made it childish and funny, rather than thought-provoking.

Ending: 1/5
I thought it would end up okay and then the final page took a turn for the worse in one of the most stunningly awful cliffhangers I've ever encountered.

Cover: The cover is pretty but it definitely gives me a different impression of the book than I would have expected after reading it. I don't think it fits well.

Rating: 3.6/10

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Review: Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

Title: Darker Still
Author: Leanna Renee Hieber
Genre: YA Paranormal Victorian Gothic Fiction
Publishing Information: 317 pages; December 1st, 2011 by Sourcebooks Fire
Series: Magic Most Foul #1

Where I got it:
E-book from the library

One sentence:
Natalie is determined to to save the cursed Lord Jonathan Denbury, trapped inside a portrait, despite the fact that she is mute.

Themes:
Victorian gothic, portraits, art, forbidden romance, magic, deception

Main characters:
2/5
The only interesting thing about Natalie was the fact that she was mute. Other than that, the constant references to her being called "pretty" and her newly found skills halfway through the novel of make-up, etc. were a little ridiculous. I did like the part where she dressed up as a boy at the opium den.

Secondary characters:
2/5
Denbury was okay. The whole bit with his picture drawing everyone in because he was so beautiful was over-the-top, and toward the end he started frustrating me. He was very one-dimensional and the one aspect that gets the most time is his handsomeness. Mrs. Northe was a unique character but I ultimately found her fascination with Natalie slightly odd given the fact that she had a niece to dote after. 

Writing style: 2/5
The writing was a little slow at times and definitely seemed to drag. I wasn't a fan of the journal format. There was nothing very unique or engaging.

Plot:
4/5
Really cool take on a Dorian Gray type situation. I loved the setting as well and the 19th century urban magic. I wish there had been more at stake on Natalie's end and that we had seen more action because a lot of it seemed to be character-driven, minus the character.

Ending: 3/5
I like that it was open to a sequel but ended with everything tied together and not on a cliffhanger.

Positives:
The magic aspect, the 19th century urban setting, the concept

Negatives: Slow, one-dimensional characters, insta-romance

Cover: So gorgeous! Definitely what drew me in at the beginning.

Verdict:
A cool concept that ultimately fell a little flat

Rating:
5.2/10
Blogger's note: Welcome me back to the land of the living! I wrote up a couple of these abbreviated reviews to help me remember the books I have been reading this summer and since they were nearly complete, I figured why not post them to the blog.