Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Title: Sisters Red
Author: Jackson Pearce
Genre: Fairytale Retelling/Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 328 pages
Original Publishing Date: January 1st, 2010
Series: Fairytale Retellings #1
Where I got it: Audiobook from the library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris--the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She's determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead. Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls' bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax and Scarlett's only friend--but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they've worked for?

Main characters: 4.5/5

Okay, I just have to say, I LOVED the accents of the audiobook narrators. The girls exactly fit how I pictured Scarlett and Rosie in my head and their southern accents were perfect. It really gave that extra boost to their characterization.

The girls were opposites of each other but I love how seamlessly they fit together and the constant description that they shared the same heart. Rosie was sweet and naive, a little innocent. I didn't like the fact that Rosie was a bit of a damsel in distress though: she could be a bit annoying. Scarlett was tough and a warrior and I was thrilled that she was such a strong character. Scarlett, however, was extremely stubborn and sometimes I got a little upset that she wasn't able to stand in other people's shoes.

Overall, however, I really liked Scarlett and Rosie and I both appreciated and believed how they changed and grew throughout the course of the novel.

I do want to mention that I did some research and discovered some controversy over this book over at The Book Smugglers. While I don't want to get involved in depth, I do want to touch on it and say that while I can see why this book would make some people upset and angry, I didn't necessarily see the same evidence that was pointed out in that review. Therefore, that aspect doesn't play into my review here.

Secondary characters: 2/5

Silas was sweet and kind and I liked that about him, but he was also slightly bland. The bigger problem with Silas is his relationship with Rosie. The age gap was weird, first of all, but there was more too. They seemed to fall instantly in love and I didn't particularly understand why they were so attracted to each other, besides the physical I mean.

There were very few other secondary characters and I wish that there had been some more, to add more depth to the story and the main characters.

Writing style: 2/5

Pearce's writing style was delightfully dark and intense. I really appreciated that aspect of Pearce's writing. Other parts were simply run-of-the-mill, mediocre, if you will. The pacing could run a little slow, which was surprising given that it was relatively action packed.

Plot: 2.5/5 
I love Pearce's rendition of Little Red Riding Hood. The basics are there- the wolf, grandmother, and the huntsman- but the werewolf aspect and the lore that went with it was intriguing. The fact that it was set in the South was a bonus because the culture of that region was enmeshed in the novel and the plot.

The downside? Pearce could have used a bat to smack me with the "twist". I am completely dense when it comes to twists but I saw this one coming from the very beginning.

The plot also lacked something, and I think it might be excitement. There were some exciting fight scenes, but in general, the novel simply lacked some exciting aspects and some parts of it dragged. And the plot holes... I won't even start on those.

Ending: 2.5/5

I liked the ending for one main reason: the characters learned a lot and demonstrated this in the ending. The epilogue made me a little sad though. I felt that one of the characters in particular got a little jipped, even though I understood the reasoning for Pearce's choices.

Best scene: The scene where Rosie grows a backbone

Reminded Me Of: Little Red Riding Hood meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Positives: Rosie & Scarlett, the ending, the premise

Negatives: Bland writing style and plot, the Silas & Rosie thing

Cover: I love the design, but not so much the font.

Verdict: A deliciously fun rendition of Little Red Riding Hood with a Southern twist

Rating:  5.4 / 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!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Title: Under the Never Sky
Author: Veronica Rossi
Genre: YA Dystopian Science-Fiction
Publisher: Atom
Length: 374 pages
Original Publishing Date: 
Series: Under the Never Sky #1
Where I got it: Audiobook from the e-library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Aria has lived her whole life in the protected dome of Reverie. Her entire world confined to its spaces, she's never thought to dream of what lies beyond its doors. So when her mother goes missing, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland long enough to find her are slim.

Then Aria meets an outsider named Perry. He's searching for someone too. He's also wild - a savage - but might be her best hope at staying alive.

If they can survive, they are each other's best hope for finding answers.

Main characters: 3.5/5

I was pretty unenchanted with Aria at the beginning. I couldn’t get a read on her personality and my first impression was that she was ditzy and silly. Ultimately, I think this was the goal, because it made her personality change all the better. I ended up really liking Aria, her stubbornness and her drive
Perry was pretty cool. I loved his relationship with Talon and his desire to do well by his people. There was a lot of detail in his character: his tattoos, his abilities, his personality. 
I liked that Aria & Perry’s relationship grew slowly and began as a friendship rather than an insta-love romance. Sometimes it almost seemed like it grew too slowly?

Secondary characters: 2/5

I was very disappointed in the quality and quantity of the secondary characters. We possibly see the most of Roar but he seemed fairly flat and one-dimensional. Perry’s brother was the most intriguing to me. There was more depth and intrigue to him than the other main characters. Talon was cute, but I didn't feel like he was a fully developed character, more like a plot point.

Writing Style: 2.5/5
I really struggled to get into Under the Never Sky in the opening few chapters. I wasn’t really digging the whole dome thing (as I’d just finished Pure and Fuse and this felt like a shoddy knock off), and the action and characters seemed stilted and jolty. Once Aria left the dome however, I felt like the pacing really started to get into its groove. I can't say that Rossi's style was anything spectacular, in fact there was a lot to be desired, but it moved well and kept me entertained.

Plot: 2.5/5 
Arggghh the worldbuilding. This is a baby of mine- I love the worldbuilding. And I felt like Under the Never Sky’s worldbuilding was honestly pretty shoddy. There wasn’t a lot of description or explanation about why things were the way that they were. In other news, the abilities were not necessarily unique but I liked the way that Rossi added in minute details that contributed to the complexity. Okay, and seriously? What’s up with the aether storms? Can I get a little more description or explanation there?>

Ending: 1.5/5

Props for Rossi for making an end that simultaneously keeps all the secrets hidden and ties up the first book. That being said, it was unmemorable.

Best scene: The siege on the castle

Reminded Me Of: Pure meets Crossed

Positives: Positive character change and growth, interesting premise, pacing began to get better half way through

Negatives: Secondary characters, some of the writing style, worldbuilding, unmemorable ending

Cover: I LOVE the UK cover for sure, although some parts of it remind me of a romance cover, but the US is just ok. Gives me of an aether feel, but I don't like the girl.

Verdict: A lackluster dystopian- am I getting tired of them or is this one really just not that good?

Rating:  4.8 / 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!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review: Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Title: Insatiable
Author: Meg Cabot
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: William Morrow
Length: 451 pages
Original Publishing Date: June 8th, 2010
Series: Insatiable #1
Where I got it: Audiobook from the library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Sick of hearing about vampires? So is Meena Harper.

But her bosses are making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn’t believe in them.

Not that Meena isn’t familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you’re going to die. (Not that you’re going to believe her; no one ever does.)

But not even Meena’s precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side. It's a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire-hunters, would prefer to see him dead for.

The problem is, Lucien's already dead. Maybe that’s why he’s the first guy Meena’s ever met that she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena’s always been able to see everyone else’s future, she’s never been able look into her own.

And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare.

Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future . . .

If she even has one.

Main characters: 2/5

Problem #1: the narrator's voice was too much and got on my nerves! Besides this, Meena was hilarious for most of the novel. Her sense of humor and reactions to events reminded me of what mine would be, so that made them humorous and realistic. Sometimes she got a little old, or her over-the-top gasping became ridiculous (especially in the audiobook, you can imagine). Overall, however, Meena was down-to-earth and entertaining. Lucien, on the other hand, I didn't really see any positive for the guy. Where was his personality?! Or was he all simply stereotype?

Secondary characters: 2.5/5

There were some good secondary characters and some bad. Adam and Leisha were cute and I loved Leisha's contributions to the humor and the plot. She had a down-to-earth and sassy attitude that fit well with Meena's dramatics. Other characters fell a little flat; both a mix of their attempt to satirize common vampire stereotypes and the fact that there were a lot of characters that weren't particularly well developed. Alaric Wulf was sort of a fun character. I didn't understand why he was there at first but I grew to really appreciate the depth of his character and the wrench that he threw into the conflict. Yay Alaric!

Writing style: 1/5

Cabot could be long-winded. Sometimes I would zone out in the middle of a description of how Meena was feeling about something and come back to with her internal dialogue in pretty much the exact same place. And this happened A LOT. This book could have been cut in half, in terms of length. God knows Cabot is hilarious, but in this novel, it seemed like she became very acutely aware of exactly how funny she is, and she has a sort of arrogance about that humor. Like, I know I'm funny.

Plot: 2/5 
I liked the twists on the vampire plot. The characters really made it though. The way that Meena was a writer for a soap opera series that included vampires was hilarious. The satire was also awesome, and I love how Cabot made fun of the prevalence of vampires in our society. However, some of this satirical fun sometimes crossed into unbelievable (yes, vampire plots can still be unbelievable) and fantastical. Let alone the fact that, despite the fantastical elements and the conflict, not that much happened! We had a lot of discussion about how people felt about one or two events, and not a lot of forward plot motion. 

Ending: 2/5

The one thing I can say for the ending is that there was a lot going on. I could see the scene pretty vividly in my mind's eye. It got a little crazy and ultimately I ended up questioning where the plot went at the end! But definitely the most action.

Best scene: In terms of action, definitely the climax scenes. They were pretty wild. 

Reminded Me Of: Twilight meets The Princess Diaries (It's obvious I know, but there it is). 

Positives: Meena's crazy personality, some humorous parts, the satire of vampires, some fun secondary characters

Negatives: The narrator's voice, the pacing, the lack of conflict, the length, the ending, just everything being "too much"

Cover: Pretty, but it feels a little cheap I guess. Like anyone could have done it. And I didn't really understand the front cover image

Verdict: My favorite childhood author did not impress me on this forage into adult novels

Rating:  3.8 / 10 (2 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, December 13, 2014

When My Score Matches My Rating

Obviously, I'm a big fan of analytical scores. You can tell just by reading one of my reviews that I love analyzing my different aspects: giving them numerical values, averaging them together and coming up with a number out of 10 that represents my thoughts on the novel, and then converting that to stars.

I am anal about this system. Sometimes, however, it requires tweaking. Every so often, my rankings in the categories and their average scores do not come out to equal how I felt about a novel. In the course of writing the review, I discover that I didn't really like a novel as much as I thought I did, or that I liked it more.

But sometimes, I find that my score matches perfectly. And that's pure gold. It makes me nervous to be adding up the scores, thinking "What if I was completely off on either my score or my star rating"? But recently, while reviewing The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, my numerical score matched perfectly and I found myself thinking, "I'm pretty cool with my rating system". 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Review: Pure by Julianna Baggott

Title: Pure
Author: Julianna Baggott
Genre: Dystopian Science-Fiction
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Length: 431 pages
Original Publishing Date: January 1st, 2012
Series: Pure #1
Where I got it: Audiobook from the e-library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads:  
We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . .
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . .
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it's his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.

Main characters: 4.5/5

Pressia was a fascinating and intriguing main character. She had a perfect mix of innocence and stubbornness, of childhood and adulthood, of being relatable and being realistic. I loved following her as she learned about her world and about her past.

Partridge, on the other hand, could (somewhat understandably) be annoying. He was exposed to this whole new world outside the dome and had never dealt with most of the difficult things there. He seemed to grow slightly, but I wanted him to become more mature as he grew.

Overall though, I appreciated the slowness with which Baggott introduced the characters and the complexity that she lent to both Partridge and Pressia. I felt like I understood them deeply and they truly made the narrative.

Secondary characters: 4/5

What a rich cast of secondary characters! Bradwell was a satisfying love interest for Pressia. I love how their opinions differed and how Bradwell could sometimes be maddening. Lyda seemed too meek to me. She did grow a backbone as the book went on but the impression stuck and I was never too big of a fan of hers. Finally, El Capitan was complex and such an interesting POV to add to the novel. Although I was ambivalent about including his POV in the story, I ended up really liking it because we found more out about the world that they lived in and about the different interactions between groups.

Writing style: 3.5/5

Here's my problem with Baggott's writing style: I don't particularly love or hate dual-narratives, but I like to know what the plan is. In Baggott's case, we had two main characters who narrate for most of the novel and then some random character's were given chapters with their own POV. I didn't really understand why. Sure, it was interesting to hear another character, but it seemed random when Baggott decided to include El Capitan or Lyda's POVs.

On the plus side, Baggott had incredibly rich visual descriptions. Her writing impeccably communicated the dark and eerie world that Pressia lived in and made me feel like I was there with the characters.

Plot: 5/5 
Disclaimer: I'm a sucker for premises like this. I love apocalypses, dystopian societies, everything about this was my thing.

So, yes. I was definitely into the premise and plot of Pure. I like the idea of the nuclear apocalypse because I've found that it's one that has been declining in popularity (for whatever reason). And the fusing? It made me shudder, but I was also a rapt audience. The darkness of the fusing surpassed most of the dystopian fiction that I've read in the past. The dome aspect is nothing new, but I really appreciated the direction that Baggott took it in. And yes, there is quite a bit of science in this science-fiction/dystopian, but I appreciated it because it gave it the scary possibility that it could be real- something I look for in dystopians.

The plot itself was intriguing and there was a lot to be interested in. There was always something going on or brewing in the background. The secrets and reveals were well done and kept me guessing throughout.

Ending: 3/5

It seemed like the pacing could have been better. A lot happened at the end all at once while sometimes the middle dragged a little bit. I wish that the action had been more evenly spaced. I did like how the story of Pure was resolved, and yet the plotline for the series was introduced. Props to Baggott for ending the first book in the series well (a difficult feat!).

Best scene: All of it (seriously). First learning about the detonation and the fusions was probably the most memorable. I was just shocked. 

Reminded Me Of: Under the Dome meets The Hunger Games

Positives: The depth of the characters, the premise, the action, the visual descriptions

Negatives: The pacing of the ending, the randomness of the POVs

Cover: I get the connection to the story, but I'm not really a fan of the font or the colors or... anything really.

Verdict:  I know dystopian is getting a little old, but Baggott breathes life into this deliciously dark rendition. 

Rating:  8.0 / 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!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Review: Through to You by Emily Hainsworth

Title: Through To You
Author: Emily Hainsworth
Genre: YA Contemporary Paranormal/Mystery
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Length: 272 pages
Original Publishing Date: October 2nd, 2012
Series: Standalone
Where I got it: Audiobook from the e-library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Camden Pike has been grief-stricken since his girlfriend, Viv, died. He’d give anything to have just one more glimpse of her. But when Cam visits the site of Viv’s deadly car accident, he sees an apparition. Her name is Nina, and she’s a girl from a parallel world. When Cam follows her there and makes an unbelievable discovery, it’s as if all his wildest dreams have come true. But things are very different in this other world. Nina is hiding a secret, and the window between the worlds is shrinking every day. As Cam comes to terms with the truth, he’s forced to make a choice that will change his life forever.

Main characters: 5/5

Wow, I haven't read a book from a male POV (and only a male POV) in a while! It was incredibly refreshing. Cam was honest, genuine and down-to-earth. Everything that he felt was entirely real. He was stubborn at some points, but had such a big heart and I fell in love with him!

Cam definitely had his flaws, don't get me wrong. Sometimes I wanted to smack him because he was so slow on the uptake, and he was stubborn as all get out. But flaws aside, he was truly just real to the bone and I completely related to everything that he felt and thought.

Secondary characters: 2/5

Nina. What can I say about her? I liked her in general, but she felt a little bland to me. I wish that we had learned more about her. She was down-to-earth and sweet, but I didn't feel like I understood her or her motivations well enough. I also struggled a little bit with her decision not to tell Cam some things. In some ways I got it, but I also didn't and it made me wonder.

Viv was a bit of an enigma. I liked the contrast between her in the parallel worlds. I definitely didn't hear enough about Viv though. It was hard to understand her motivations (even more than it was to understand Nina). I seriously wish that Hainsworth had put in some more time putting some characterization on Viv, because I could have connected more with her then.

Writing style: 1.5/5

Hainsworth had some beautiful and real passages, but the main thing that I noted was the slow pacing. Hainsworth had such great ideas and characters, so I just wanted things to move a little bit faster!

I also had some issues with the way that Hainsworth introduced the twist. I could see it coming from so far away, I was astounded by it. I am definitely not a reader that catches twists from this far in the future, so I was surprised that.

Plot: 4.5/5 
What a cool premise! I really liked how Hainsworth integrated the parallel worlds with various other subgenres and plot points. You can tell by the vast amount of different genres that people have tried to shelf this under. I chose three on my own! For such a fantastical premise, there were few action points and few big integral moments where the plot moved forward. It sort of goes back to the slow pacing. There could have been some bigger plot points and action scenes, in my opinion (but take it with a grain of salt, because you know I love the action packed novels!). But overall, I really appreciated the philosophical aspect of parallel worlds and the extent to which Hainsworth really capitalized on it.

Ending: 4.5/5

Besides the massive twist that I saw coming from miles away, I was surprisingly happy with the ending. It left enough ambiguity to keep me questioning and thinking, but enough detail to give me a good idea of how all the main characters ended up. That's my perfect ending; that delicate mix of details and ambiguity.

Best scene: The ending

Reminded Me Of: Inception meets If I Stay

Positives: Cam, the premise, the ending

Negatives: Lack of characterization of the secondary characters, the slow pacing

Cover: I actually love this cover. The colors are gorgeous, as is the font, and everything makes a lot of sense with the novel.

Verdict:  I had a love/hate affair with some of the aspects of Through To You but ultimately I ended up really enjoying this parallel universe novel

Rating:  7.0 / 10 (4 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, November 29, 2014

Saturday Summary

As promised, this post has obviously been a long time coming. I blame it on the jobs! I knew it would be a lot, but I guess I didn't realize just how much.
The two constants in my life since graduation (and since my last life update) have been working and reading. I feel like I'm constantly at work, or constantly waiting during the four hour gap between my jobs. Other than that, I've been reading like a madwoman. It's refreshing. I had this giant to-read list and I'm finally getting somewhere on it. And not just YA novels. I've been starting in on some adult novels too, mostly because I'm starting to find it harder and harder to find YA audiobooks on my library's website that I haven't read yet. While I'm not sure if I will expand to classics at some point, I would like to. There's just so many things left to read.
I'm also dreaming up stories and novels in my head, which hasn't happened for a few years. My creative juices go up and down, so it's hard to have a steady writing process, but exciting to have ideas and dreams about what my stories would look like written down. Some recent books I've read have helped contribute to what my dream novel would look like. It's a mix of my favorite poem, T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland combined with Cloud Atlas and The Tale for the Time Being, as well as a favorite TV show, Lost. I still have many books on my to-read list that I think will contribute to my ideas more, so I'm excited for creating where the books will go. My masterpiece at work! Just kidding, we'll have to see.
Anyway, a pretty short update but more to come!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Review: Just Like The Movies by Kelly Fiore

Title: Just Like the Movies
Author: Kelly Fiore
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Length: 300 pages
Original Publishing Date: July 22nd, 2014
Series: Standalone
Where I got it: eARC from NetGalley
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Pretty and popular track star Marijke Monti is confident about almost everything – she’s got great friends, a great family, and she’s on her way to the State Track Championship. In fact, the only thing Marijke isn’t confident about is her relationship with Tommy Lawson.

Lily Spencer has spent her entire high school career preparing for the future – she’s participated in every extracurricular activity and volunteer committee she could. But, at home, she watches her mother go on date after date with dud-dudes, still searching for “the one.” Lily realizes that she’s about to graduate and still hasn’t even had a boyfriend.

While they live on each other’s periphery at school, Lily and Marijke never seemed to have much in common; but, after a coincidental meeting at the movie theater, Lily gets an idea – why can’t life be like a movie? Why can’t they set up their perfect romantic situations, just in time for their senior prom, using movie techniques?

Once the girls come up with the perfect plans, they commit themselves to being secret cohorts and, just like in the movies, drama ensues.

Main characters: 4.5/5

Marijke and Lily were two peas in a pod and they were adorable. They had opposite problems and personalities and I liked how they were brought together by their problems and their love for the classic love story movies. Both had completely relatable personal and relationship problems that I felt I could understood- even if those particular problems had never happened to me. Marijke and Lily played to each others strengths and weaknesses perfectly, and made me adore them both as individuals and as friends.

Secondary characters: 2/5

Tommy and Joe became sort of flat, which I totally understand. Ultimately the novel was about Marijke and Lily finding themselves, not as much about Tommy and Joe and their changes. I'll be honest though, I was not a fan of Tommy at all. Joe was a bit of a mystery but I liked him considerably more than Tommy. Although there was a miscommunication with Joe, I still thought he was a nice guy. Some more characterization would have been nice with these love interests though, even if the story was only told through Marijke and Lily's POVs.

Writing style: 4.5/5

The pacing moved so quickly: I honestly steamrolled through it in literally a night. Even the style was adorable and made me giggle along with Marijke and Lily. It was fun and light-hearted and completely matched the plot of the novel. The dialogue was snappy and fresh, without being over-the-top or dramatic. Overall, it was both entertaining and humorous.

Plot: 4.5/5 
The premise was absolutely adorable. Like many teenage girls, Marijke and Lily wish for a romance from the movies, but are having trouble with their dreams matching their realities. It made me giggle, made me blush, made me smile, and made me tear up. The scenes were memorable and fun, and I loved it all.

Ending: 1.5/5

This one could have been better. No spoilers, but the way that Fiore chose to end the novel felt unsatisfying to me because it jipped the characters. With the characterization from earlier in the novel, I genuinely felt that the characters would be unhappy the way that they ended up, and that was depressing.

Best scene: All of Marijke's failed attempts to ask Tommy to prom!

Reminded Me Of: This is What Happy Looks Like

Positives: Marijke & Lily (just... yesss), the premise, the pacing

Negatives: Lack of characterization in Tommy & Joe, the ending

Cover: It's cute.... it just looks like something that an amateur could do, and the picture didn't necessarily translate to the plot at all.

Verdict: I blew through this fun and sweet movie-inspired love story in one night- does that tell you enough?

Rating:  6.8 / 10 (4 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!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Review: Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

Title: Sweet Evil
Author: Wendy Higgins
Genre: YA Paranormal
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 447 pages
Original Publishing Date: May 1st, 2012
Series: Sweet Trilogy #1
Where I got it: The e-book library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
What if there were teens whose lives literally depended on being bad influences?

This is the reality for sons and daughters of fallen angels.
Tenderhearted Southern girl Anna Whitt was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She's aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but it isn't until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage and her willpower is put to the test. He's the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna.

Forced to face her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?

Main characters: 1.5/5

Anna had a cute premise- the sweet, innocent Southern girl with an unusual ability- but she ended up a mixture of bland and frustrating. I say frustrating because of her attraction to Kaiden. I wanted to smack her upside the head! She kept repeating that she knew Kaiden was a bad boy who would never want to date her, and yet she keeps thinking that he will! Okay, maybe realistic for some teenage girls, but again, it's that line between realism and likeability of characters and Anna crossed that line by getting on my nerves!

Kaiden had that tortured thing going for him (overused as it is recently...) but I knew I wasn't going to like him when Higgins first noted that he had a British accent! I'm sooo over the British thing. I liked that Kaiden had this internal struggle inside, but when he was "working" it just grossed me out.

Overall, Anna and Kaiden's relationship just happened way too fast and wasn't based on anything other than lust/insta-love. There wasn't any depth to their characters or their relationship.

Secondary characters: 2.5/5

There was some promise on the secondary characters front for sure. Kopano was quiet and sweet and threw an interesting wrench into the whole Anna/Kaiden thing. I like his mixture of his innate personality matched with his mental roadblocks (aka his refusal to give in to his "nature").

Marna and Ginger had some cool drama but didn't add anything interesting to the plotline, and I didn't really understand why Blake was there at all. Anna's Dad was one of the more fascinating characters and I thought his introduction and contribution to the plot was useful and helpful. 

Overall, the secondary characters were surprisingly stronger than the main characters (though not by much). To say the least, they were decidedly less annoying.

Writing style: 1/5

Here's the thing about Higgins' writing style: it was completely unmemorable. And that's about the only thing I can say, because I honestly don't remember a whole lot more. There were definitely some stereotypical parts and aspects that made me scoff in disbelief, especially the dialogue and Anna's fawning.

Plot: 2.5/5 
On the plus side, I really liked the premise of this novel. While I'm plain sick and tired of the angel & demon storyline, I liked the unique spin that Higgins put on this one. The twist on the different types of demon (nephilim) spawn was fascinating and it combines multiple things that I've always found intriguing.

The plot itself felt a huge deus ex machina: everything was happening simply to further the plot points and some of it became unbelievable. Anna's mom is okay with sending her daughter off with a demon because some random nun (the only person who knows about Anna's past) is dying? They can't just call her?

Ending: 1/5

Everyone kept talking about what a big cliffhanger it was, but I didn't really feel shocked or "on a cliff" at all. More than anything, I just felt like, "that's it?". It was underwhelming and didn't inspire a "need" to read the next installment.

Best scene: Some of the party scenes- like Project X up in here

Reminded Me Of: Hush, Hush meets Fallen... you get the point

Positives: Unique premise, some secondary characters

Negatives: Writing style, ending, Anna & Kaiden

Cover: Okay, yeah, the cover is gorgeous. But when does Anna ever wear a ballgown like that? Or have that much confidence? It just doesn't really fit the plot.

Verdict:  Add it to the roster of subpar angel/demon novels

Rating:  3.4 / 10 (2 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!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Review: The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

Title: The Future of Us
Author: Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Publisher: Razorbill
Length: 356 pages
Original Publishing Date: November 21, 2011
Series: Standalone
Where I got it: Audiobook from the library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
It's 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They've been best friends almost as long - at least, up until last November, when Josh did something that changed everything. Things have been weird between them ever since, but when Josh's family gets a free AOL CD in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they're automatically logged onto their Facebook pages. But Facebook hasn't been invented yet. And they're looking at themselves fifteen years in the future.

By refreshing their pages, they learn that making different decisions now will affect the outcome of their lives later. And as they grapple with the ups and downs of what their futures hold, they're forced to confront what they're doing right - and wrong - in the present.

Main characters: 2/5

Emma got on my nerves. Don't get me wrong, I liked her transformation by the end, when she came to her senses. But she was sooo frustrating. It's that line that I've discussed between having a realistic character and having a likable character. That's a thin line and Emma crossed too far into unlikable. She was a little shallow and a little self-centered, and that just ended up hurting a lot of people and creating a lot of problems for herself. I will admit, however, that for most of us, this is more realistic than we might think. We should all be able to relate to Emma on some level, even if we still hate her for her flaws. Asher and Mackler just needed to tread the line more carefully so that we could still relate to Emma, even while recognizing her flaws within us.

Josh was sweet but sometimes a little bland. He was so content to sit back and let life guide him instead of choosing his own future (the complete opposite of Emma). At the end of the day, he was just a little too unremarkable for me, and not a very memorable character.

Secondary characters: 3/5

Kellan was vivacious and funny. Her relationship with Tyson was hot and cold, but I liked how she knew what she wanted and was open to everything. She was a good foil to Emma, which accentuated a lot of the character traits and conflicts in the novel.

Tyson seemed like your typical jock and, unfortunately, we didn't get to know him very well. His quips and jokes made me laugh but I wish he had been more developed.

The few other secondary characters were relatively unmemorable. Sydney, Josh's parents, and Emma's mom were brought up but I didn't feel like we ever got to know them in any meaningful way. Emma's mom had an interesting interaction with Emma that was probably the most relevant to the plot, but it wasn't used to the full extent that it could have been.

Writing style: 2/5

I didn't have any huge problems with the writing style of Asher and Mackler, but similarly, I felt like the writing style was nothing special. My biggest concern was the pacing. I was listening on audiobook, which normally keeps me engaged more, but I found myself zoning out and not paying attention because it felt like the same thing was happening over and over again.

Plot: 2/5 

I liked the idea of where the plot was headed overall, but I'll be honest, I thought that the delivery of the plot was pretty heavy-handed. The lessons that Emma and Josh learned were thrown in my face and it was incredibly obvious. Some subtlety would have been appreciated here.

Further, the pacing combined with the lack of major plot elements makes a cool premise lose a lot of stream. I had been so intrigued with the idea of Facebook and a sort of "time-travel", but the conflict itself was relatively petty. For a story that could have been pretty intense and action-packed, it seemed very trivial and catty.

Ending: 2/5

The ending was mediocre. I felt like there was a lot that needed to be discussed and the conflict was simply skimmed over. While some parts of it gave me the warm fuzzies and made me smile, I was overall a little disappointed in the execution of the idea and also in the obviousness of the "lesson" that they learned.

Best scene: Probably the final scenes

Reminded Me Of: Thirteen Going on Thirty meets The Social Network

Positives: The premise, Kellan & Tyson, the warm fuzzies at the end

Negatives: The obviousness of the lessons, Emma, the pacing, unmemorable secondary characters, Josh's blandness

Cover: I can't decide. I like the concept, but I don't know if I like the outcome...

Verdict: What a cool premise! Ultimately, it just fell a little short for me. 

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!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Review: Carnival of Secrets by Melissa Marr

Title: Carnival of Secrets
Author: Melissa Marr
Genre: Urban fantasy
Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 336 pages
Original Publishing Date: July 31, 2012
Series: Untamed City #1
Where I got it: Audiobook from the library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
In a city of daimons, rigid class lines separate the powerful from the power-hungry. And at the heart of The City is the carnival, where both murder and pleasure are offered up for sale. Once in a generation, the carnival hosts a deadly competition that allows every daimon a chance to join the ruling elite. Without the competition, Aya and Kaleb would both face bleak futures—if for different reasons. For each of them, fighting to the death is the only way to try to live.

All Mallory knows of The City is that her father—and every other witch there—fled it for a life in exile in the human world. Instead of a typical teenage life full of friends and maybe even a little romance, Mallory scans quiet streets for threats, hides herself away, and trains to be lethal. She knows it's only a matter of time until a daimon finds her and her father, so she readies herself for the inevitable.While Mallory possesses little knowledge of The City, every inhabitant of The City knows of her. There are plans for Mallory, and soon she, too, will be drawn into the decadence and danger that is the carnival.

Main characters: 3/5

Aya was intriguing and fascinating. Her secret was interesting (though perhaps thinly veiled), but more importantly she was an incredibly strong character. I loved how she attempted to break out of the gender norms and the status quo and that she was willing to give up everything for what she believed in. Even when I didn't agree with what she did or how she went about it, I was enthralled with her.

On the other hand, I really, really hated Mallory. She was one of the most frustrating characters that I've ever encountered because she was inept and incompetent. She was coddled and had secrets kept from her, but that didn't excuse her whining and poor attitude, and the way that she needed to be saved by everyone. I found no redeeming qualities in her.

I wavered back and forth with how I felt about Kaleb. On one hand, I loved his loyalty, his relationship with Zevi, and his commitment to bettering his life. But on the other hand? Kaleb's entire relationship with Mallory was pretty awful. The way he treated her, the foundation of their relationship and its progression (no spoilers)... just everything. Further, we didn't get a good sense of Kaleb and Mallory's introduction or how their relationship began. I was wondering what the attraction was and how they fell in love so quickly.

Secondary characters: 4/5

Zevi was such a unique character. I have never encountered anything like him, and I appreciated that novelty. He was quirky, loyal, and sweet. His interactions with Kaleb and Aya were the perfect counterbalance to their harshness and intensity.

Belius was similarly a breath of fresh air. I was frustrated with him and his adherence to the status quo, but even still I really liked him. He was single-minded in his love for Aya and gave the reader an idea of the caste system and those who followed it. His dedication to Aya, even when her actions negatively affected him, was the true demonstration of love.

I wasn't a fan of Adam. I appreciated his love for Mallory, but I was incredibly frustrated and upset with him and I didn't understand why Mallory didn't feel the same way.

Writing style: 2.5/5

Marr's writing style was not my favorite. While she had some nice descriptions and the pacing generally moved along at a good clip, I was frustrated with the dialogue. The way that her character's spoke was sometimes unrealistic and jolted me out of the story. Ultimately, that was something that was very difficult to get over and tainted the rest of the novel.

I was pretty neutral about the alternating POVs. I liked seeing the characters from one world into the next, but sometimes it jolted me around and could be confusing to keep track of what was going on.

Plot: 2.5/5 

I wasn't immediately drawn to the premise of Carnival of Secrets. It's not something that I would normally be interested in reading and the idea of daimons and witches wasn't really down my alley. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

The world that Marr created was something unique and intriguing: the idea of the rigid class lines and the carnival were both fascinating to me. Daimons themselves were not new, but I liked the way that Marr shaped the mythology of the creature to fit her story and put a new spin on an old tale. The way that Marr combined the two worlds with her plot was extremely well done. I wish that Marr had given me some more background on.... well... everything: on the actual nature of daimons (what are they exactly?), more details about the City, more information about the Curs vs. the rest of the daimons, etc.

I was disappointed that we didn't see more actual conflict in this first book of the new series. At some points, it felt like a giant prequel for future novels, with the exception of the fact that we learn some secrets and see the progression of some relationships. The secrets and the wheeling and dealings were interesting, but more action would have been appreciated.

Ending: 1/5

Is it bad that I can't even remember what happens? I guess that means it's pretty lackluster. Basically, nothing happens in the book so nothing happens at the end either. We learn a lot about everything, find out all their secrets and.... it ends. A prequel to the series, essentially.

Best scene: Aya and Belius' fight scene

Reminded Me Of: The Hunger Games meets 

Positives: Aya, Belius, Zevi, secrets & deals, novelty and innovation with an unoriginal theme (daimon/daemons), worldbuilding (for the most part)

Negatives: Mallory, Kaleb, the instalove/treatment of women, lack of character development, ending, the "prequel" feel & lack of action, writing style

Cover: It's pretty but I don't really see the connection to the story.

Verdict: Some major pitfalls stopped this read from being much more than a way to pass the time

Rating:  4.8 / 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!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Scorpio Races 
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Length: 416 pages
Original Publishing Date: October 8th, 2011
Series: Standalone
Where I got it: Audiobook from the library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Main characters: 5/5

Puck and Sean were well-developed characters that demonstrated a wide range of motivations and emotions that I could connect to. Puck was a little more hot-headed than Sean, which I liked. Even sometimes when I wanted to bang their heads against a wall, I still liked them as individuals. And better yet, they were realistic (even when the plot was fantastical).

The romance between them was even better. It was a slow romance, and I really appreciate that. Sean and Puck didn't fall instantly in love, in fact it was more like instant dislike. The way they slowly became friends, and then more, was perfectly done. 

I think the best part is how the characters were interwoven into the plot. Have you ever read a book where you feel like the conflict could be the same if you interchanged any character in the story? That's not the case with Puck and Sean. Their conflicts are entirely unique to them and to the story.

Secondary characters: 4/5

I was slightly torn on the secondary characters. I loved Puck's brother Finn: he was amusing and fun and added a lot to the story. I was a little concerned about Gabe because I felt he was very one-dimensional for most of the story (although much of this may have been because we only saw him through Puck's POV).

Similarly, Mutt and Benjamin Malvern, while excellent villains, sometimes lacked realism because I didn't feel any redeeming or human qualities. They were pure evil, which doesn't create relatable conflict.

But then on the other hand, Stiefvater created characters like the Maud sisters and George Holly, who were just a hoot to read. Just as Steifvater brought Puck and Sean to light in the context of Thisby, she did the same with the other islanders, and used them to create the world, and vice versa. The integration of plot, characters and the setting was phenomenal.

Writing style: 4/5

I loved the writing style of The Scorpio Races. Somehow, Steifvater made me feel the vibe of the island and understand the setting better through her writing. Incredible. Steifvater has a way of describing Thisby that makes you feel like you're there with Puck and Sean and the waterhorses. Her style is atmospheric and evocative, and I loved every little bit of it.

The pacing was maybe the only weak spot. As interesting as the plot and the characters were, sometimes the pacing moved too slow and I started to get a little bored. I thought the races would be longer (literally longer, like days or weeks) rather than a 5 minute race, so I was expecting the description of the race itself to take up a lot of the book. Instead it was a very tiny little section at the end, and most of the book was lead-up to the race. I wish there had been a little bit more action.

Plot: 4.5/5 
The plot of The Scorpio Races was fabulous. The combination of the legend combined with the realistic and complex society and the interpersonal conflict was fascinating. The way that Steifvater combined the fantasy aspect with the conflict that occurred between characters creates multiple layers of plot, which I loved. It definitely kept me interested.  

World-building= yes. Stiefvater came up with so many minute details about the world and the Races that made me feel like I was actually there.

Bonus: I also love horses, horse racing and mythology, so the subject matter of The Scorpio Races was right down my alley. 

The only weak side (as I mentioned earlier) is that there was a lack of major plot elements. The book sometimes felt like one long exposition and the Races themselves made up such a minute aspect of what actually happens. I would have liked to see more details of the race itself: more action

Ending: 3/5

I was lukewarm about the ending. There was a lot to appreciate and feel excited about, but I also felt like it was wrapped up in a nice little bow and everything worked out perfectly. That didn't feel realistic, especially after all the lead-up conflict. But yes, okay, I did cry a little still. So.... mixed feelings on this ending.

Best scene: Probably the race itself or the very end scene

Reminded Me Of: Hidalgo

Positives: Strong characters and development, slow romance, world-building, writing style

Negatives: Pacing, pure-evil villains were unrealistic, the ending was a little too perfect

Cover: Not my favorite. I don't particularly understand the red color scheme and I think the font and image are both pretty boring.

Verdict: Fantastic world-building and characters make up for the slow pacing of this unique fairytale

Rating:  8.2 / 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!