Saturday, March 29, 2014

Review: Eve by Anna Carey

Title: Eve
Author: Anna Carey

Genre: YA Dystopian
Publisher: Harperteen

Length: 336 pages
Original Publishing Date: October 4th, 2011
Series: Eve #1
Where I got it: Powell's Bookstore

Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her.

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust...and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.

Main characters: 4/5
I like how Eve was kind of a goody two shoes and a little unlikeable at times to be honest. Having a character that is unlikeable might alienate them to some, but I think it can also humanize them. For a girl who is described as beautiful, intelligent and kind, it was nice for her problems to be drawn out early. Compared to Arden, she was whiny, unequipped for the outside world, and was a bit of a brown-noser. Eve gained some confidence and hardness in this new world which was a nice development.

Secondary characters: 3/5

Caleb was physically different than a lot of love interests: he has dreadlocks which I've never encountered before. I liked Caleb, but ultimately he was bland and didn't stand out. There was nothing special about him. Arden was a perfect foil to Eve: prickly, hardened and didn't care what others thought. The interactions between them brought out the best and the worst of both. However, besides Arden, most of the minor characters were one-sided, or developed entirely around a flaw. Others had odd moments where their actions didn't reflect their characterization.

Writing style: 2.5/5

I wish there were more time between the intro and the reveal of the big secret. I wanted to be immersed more into the world building of the "utopia" that Eve thought she was living in before that was ruined and the dystopia was really revealed. Carey's writing style was fast paced with effective descriptions, however it lacked a bit of grace in some parts. The language was basic and utilitarian. Ultimately, the pacing felt a little rushed in some parts where I encountered problem after problem for Eve and I just wanted a deep breath. 

Plot: 3.5/5
There wasn't a whole lot of originality to the plot which was a little disappointing. I feel like there are so many dystopians out there that there needs to be an ounce of originality and uniqueness to some aspect of the book to make it stand out from the rest. The plot was very similar to The Handmaid's Tale. However, this aside, the rest of the plot was mediocre. It almost seemed like it lacked direction and there were some parts that I didn't understand.
Ending: 2.5/5
The ending was not quite a cliffhanger but there was definitely a twist. Obviously as a reader I was a little frustrated but it was effective in making me want to read the next book.

Best scene: When Eve and Caleb first met

Reminded Me Of: The Handmaid's Tale

Positives: Making a flawed character engaging, Caleb's unusual look, the writing pace (mostly)

Negatives: Too quick transitions at beginning, unoriginal plot, flat secondary characters, ending

Cover: The range of colors is beautiful, and I love the imagery. The font is beautiful but not my favorite.

Verdict: An unoriginal addition to the YA dystopian genre that was still a fun read. 

Rating: 6.2/10 (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, March 22, 2014

Review: Awkward by Marni Bates

Title: Awkward
Author: Marni Bates
Series: Awkward #1
Goodreads Summary:
"Mackenzie Wellesley has spent her life avoiding the spotlight. At Smith High, she's the awkward junior people only notice when they need help with homework. Until she sends a burly football player flying with her massive backpack and makes a disastrous - not to mention unwelcome - attempt at CPR. Before the day is out, the whole fiasco explodes on YouTube. And then the strangest thing happens. Suddenly, Mackenzie is an Internet sensation, with four million hits and counting. Sucked into a whirlwind of rock stars, paparazzi, and free designer clothes, she even catches the eye of the most popular guy at school. And that's when life gets really interesting..."

Main character: 3/5
Mackenzie was charmingly cute, but sometimes her "awkwardness" was a little over the top. I get it, the book is entitled "Awkward" but sometimes it was a little too much. I loved that she was flawed. It was a little stereotypical, but the fame did change her and she had to realize that.

Secondary characters: 3/5
Mackenzie's friends were so good about making her realize her flaws too. I loved Corey, Melanie and Mackenzie's brother Dylan, although I realize that Jane was a little MIA by the end of the book. As for Logan, at first I thought he was just after Mackenzie for the fame (especially during the Lloyd Center scene where he didn't want people to see them with books) but after his secret came out, everything made sense.

Writing style: 2/5
The writing style was easy to read and I could hear Mackenzie's voice coming through loud and clear. As is usual for chick-flick YA books, there was nothing particularly moving or exceptional about the writing style, but it was entertaining. There were a couple grammatical errors which I realize is picky, but hey, I'm an English major.

Plot: 3/5
Yeah, it has been done a million times, but I like the fact that Mackenzie's fame came from her awkwardness and not because she was instantly discovered. A lot of the moments reminded me of The Princess Diaries. One thing I have to rave about: the Oregon setting! I loved all of the references to my state including Forest Grove, Portland, the Rose Garden, Medford/Ashland, Lloyd Center and many more. So cool.

Ending: 4/5
I loved the whole ending. I thought it cleared up a lot about where Mackenzie's life was going to go through a cool plot device. I also enjoyed her realizations about what she had done wrong and what she had done right.

Cover: It fits well with the theme but not instantly my favorite cover style.

Rating: 6.0 / 10 (3 stars)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Review: Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett

Title: Confessions of an Angry Girl
Author: Louise Rozett
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Publishing Information: 266 pages; August 28th, 2012 by Harlequin Teen
Series: Confessions #1

Where I got it: E-book from the library

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"Rose Zarelli, self-proclaimed word geek and angry girl, has some confessions to make…

1. I'm livid all the time. Why? My dad died. My mom barely talks. My brother abandoned us. I think I'm allowed to be irate, don't you?

2. I make people furious regularly. Want an example? I kissed Jamie Forta, a badass guy who might be dating a cheerleader. She is now enraged and out for blood. Mine.

3. High school might as well be Mars. My best friend has been replaced by an alien, and I see red all the time. (Mars is red and "seeing red" means being angry—get it?)

Here are some other vocab words that describe my life: Inadequate. Insufferable. Intolerable.

(Don't know what they mean? Look them up yourself.)

Main characters: 4/5

Rose was a riot; her voice was witty, snarky and almost painfully truthful in some parts. For instance, these are some of the opening sentences in the prologue: "This is a story about a girl with a stellar vocabulary who is four years away from college and a year and a half away from a driver's license. About a girl trapped in a hostile universe where the virginity clock is ticking down- relentlessly- with zero consideration for her extenuating, traumatic, life-altering circumstances". Beyond her voice, Rose perfectly embodied that awkwardness that seems to plague people (see: me) in adolescence. The way that she interacted with Jamie in the beginning was cringe-worthy and endearing. I was torn between thinking Rose was a little stuck up in the way she viewed the popular crowd and partying and agreeing with her. Rose was a lot less "angry" than I anticipated given the title, with some notable exceptions of course. Overall, I think she was more sad, and I really connected with that. Her progression as a character was beautifully done.

Secondary characters: 3/5

Rosie and Tracy's relationship was interesting because it mirrored some friendships that I've had and it was eerily accurate at portraying the rifts that growing up can cause between friends. That being said, I found Tracy to be one-dimensional and hard to like because I didn't understand her motivations as a character. Full disclosure: I instantly loved Jamie because of the fact that he played hockey. After that, I tended to follow Rose's feelings for him, which is the nature of first person narration. Other times, I was frustrated that Rose wasn't feeling the way I wanted her to about Jamie. Regardless of my ups and downs with him, Jamie was surprisingly well developed and his character was thoughtfully complex. I liked that he went through his own conflict just as Rose was going through hers. Angelo was a riot and I loved him just for his comic relief.

Writing style: 4/5

The way that Rozett handled Rose's father was impeccably done. She was able to balance painting a portrait of who Rose's father was without diminishing the absence that was left. The details that Rozett integrated into the writing were awesome! Even the smallest things, like the fact that Rose was reading A Separate Peace which I also read freshman year. I liked that the novel was short because at the end, I was still yearning for more of Rose's witty voice and more of her story, rather than wishing the novel was over. The pacing was perfect: I was captivated and was rarely knocked out of the story by odd wording or parts that were too fast or slow.

Plot: 3/5
The nature of the beast with character driven novels is that they're, well, character driven. That means that the plot falls by the wayside a bit. That being said, everything that was presented was incredibly realistic. As a reader, that's one of the most important things that an author can create because that's how we connect with what we're reading. Even experiences that Rosie had that I'd never gone through were relevant to my and my experiences because of the way that Rose dealt with them and reacted. There were many parts of the novel that could have come off as contrived or stereotypical, but Rozett managed to use them to search inside the mind of Rose and give an accurate portrayal of parent death and how one girl in particular coped with tragedy and freshman year of high school.

Ending: 2/5

The scene before prom was a big downer for me and I couldn't understand why Rose was so okay with how things worked out. Things clicked for Rose at the end and her revelations were surprisingly deep. Take this quote, for example: "Bad things happen whether you're scared or not, so you might as well not both being scared. It's a waste of time." Sounds to me like I need a little Rose in my head all the time. My only problem with the ending was, well, the very end. That cliffhanger! That was a little unfair in my opinion. It left so many relationships up in the air and although I loved the determination of Rose and Tracy, I wanted some actual resolution.

Best scene: Rose vs. Regina

Positives: Rose (both as a character and her surprisingly blunt and fresh voice), Jamie (for the most part), the writing pacing and style, the details that made the story so easy to relate to

Negatives: The ending, the more one-dimensional character of Tracy,

Cover: There's no "wow" factor, but I liked the simple muted tones and picture. 

Verdict: Rose's dynamic and remarkable voice made this novel something special, but it probably would have been better suited as a standalone. 

Rating: 6.4/10 (4 stars)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Review: Chosen Ones by Tiffany Truitt

Title: Chosen Ones
Author: Tiffany Truitt
Series: The Lost Souls #1
Goodreads Summary:
"Life is bleak but uncomplicated for sixteen-year-old Tess, living in a not-too-distant future where the government, faced with humanity's extinction, created the Chosen Ones, artificial beings who are extraordinarily beautiful, unbelievably strong, and unabashedly deadly.

When Tess begins work at Templeton, a Chosen Ones training facility, she meets James, and the attraction is immediate in its intensity, overwhelming in its danger. But there is more to Templeton than Tess ever knew. Can she stand against her oppressors, even if it means giving up the only happiness in her life?"

Main character: 4/5
Tess was an interesting main character. A lot of the book deals with Tess' interior struggle over what the government has told her and what she learns to be true through her father's letters and her time with James, one of the genetically engineered chosen ones. Tess' character development was well-paced (not too slow and not too fast) and I loved the fact that she could still question herself and people around her even late in the book. She was a believable heroine whose strengths and weaknesses were clearly outlined.

Secondary characters: 3/5
One downside of Tess' attempts to alienate herself from others is that we don't get a very broad or well developed secondary cast. Obviously James is the most important one and he is a fantastically developed romantic interest. His personal reflections about what it means to be "soulless" or to be created for a specific purpose were thought-provoking and gave so many more layers to his character than your average run-of-the-mill love interest. I wish I had seen more development of other secondary characters including James' creator, Tess' sisters, Robert, etc.

Writing style: 3/5
Nothing particularly special, but it got the job done and was interesting enough to hold my attention. As I've said before, I feel like a writer's skill is directly tied to how believable they make the plot line and Truitt's writing made the plot incredibly believable. Her pacing was also impeccably done.

Plot: 4/5
I know that the genetically engineered human plot has been done before, but Truitt's world is beautifully crafted and believable. The interactions between chosen ones and naturals was so interesting and subplots with Robert and Emma, Tess' father, etc. also kept my attention.

Ending: 2.5/5
Not as satisfying as I would have liked, but adequate. I was a little disappointed by the pacing; it felt like Truitt was trying to wrap everything up so quickly that things were moving by like flashes of scenes from a movie. Truitt also threw a couple plot points on us in the last few pages that I felt deserved more time to be tasted and understood.

Cover: Everyone probably knows now that I love the pretty dresses on covers. The cover was definitely pretty, but I didn't like the tagline or the series information in the middle of the page.

Rating: 6.6 / 10 (4 stars)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Review: The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors

Title: The Sweetest Spell
Author: Suzanne Selfors
Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairytale Retelling
Publishing Information: 416 pages; August 12th, 2012 by Walker Childrens

Series: Standalone
Where I got it: E-book from the library

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"Emmeline Thistle, a dirt-scratcher's daughter, has escaped death twice-first, on the night she was born, and second, on the day her entire village was swept away by flood. Left with nothing and no one, Emmeline discovers her rare and mysterious ability-she can churn milk into chocolate, a delicacy more precious than gold.

Suddenly, the most unwanted girl in Anglund finds herself desired by all. But Emmeline only wants one-Owen Oak, a dairyman's son, whose slow smiles and lingering glances once tempted her to believe she might someday be loved for herself. But others will stop at nothing to use her gift for their own gains-no matter what the cost to Emmeline.

Magic and romance entwine in this fantastical world where true love and chocolate conquer all.

Main characters: 2.5/5

Now, there's nothing wrong with a main character who has memories as a newborn... just kidding. That's the first sign that your character is on her way to being the "special" one who defies laws of nature, and that's just what Emmeline was. After being protected by cows who kept her alive after she was deemed unworthy as a newborn, Emmeline later gains her gift. As a character, Emmeline was naive and innocent, but that allowed the reader to learn about situations and people through her eyes and form our own opinions as she did. I liked some of the quirky characteristics about her, like her connection to cows and her curled foot. The big negatives that came up with Emmeline's character were that she was bland and lacked a personality, and that I felt like I'd seen her character a thousand times. She was a typical Mary-Sue type character who just happens to be beautiful, have a special talent and transform from the "ugly duckling" into the "beautiful swan".

Secondary characters: 3/5

Owen was sweet and kind, but I he was very one-dimensional for a long time. It was tough to get a read on him, even though he had his own chapters in his point-of-view. Later in the novel, he really gained his own voice and I found myself liking him more. But there still wasn't something that truly defined him as a character other than his love for Emmeline. Griffin was quirky because he was so obvious about his biggest flaw, but even he developed as a character throughout the novel and I found myself liking him simply because he was so open about his flaw. Beau, though he came into the story later, was a different way of using a character as a plot device. That being said, there were some unique things about him that allowed him to develop as his own character: his unique love for his kingdom, his role as an inventor, and his relationship with the Baron. One quirk was that most of the secondary characters were men except the queen and one milkmaid, and neither of them was portrayed in a very good light. Just something to ruminate over.

Writing style: 3.5/5

I don't mind the writing style matching the setting in most cases; if you're writing a historical piece then your narrator and dialogue should match that time period. But there were a couple moments in this novel where that writing style was just too much: the "aye"'s and the "oaf"'s. Still, Emmeline's voice was bitingly witty and funny, which made the read a fast one. So much of the writing was obvious, but so much so that it seemed like Selfors made it intentional. Griffin's immediate reaction to search for his mirror after being cut made it obvious how self-absorbed he was and I wished it was a little more subtle. The alternating point-of-views was really confusing to the point that I often had to stop reading and go back and think about who was narrating. If there had been some header at the beginning to signal a change in POV, I think that would have made it infinitely more clear. The story also moved at a breakneck speed; this is weird for me but I almost wished it would have moved a little slower so I could savor the story and details.

Plot: 4.5/5
At first I wasn't sure about those quirky names (Root, Seed and Furrow were the town names)and the allusions to real places: Anglund instead of England, the River Time instead of the Thames, Londwin instead of London, Kell instead of Celt, etc. Even the premise of Emmeline having the connection to cows was a little ridiculous. But I realized that this is one of those books that you just have to go with. Once I suspended my disbelief, I was sucked in to the story. The worldbuilding in this novel was unique: I loved the idea of chocolate being such a precious substance, and the husband auction was a different twist on the customs of marriage. The rewritten history was fascinating to me and overall the alternate universe was done really well. One thing I didn't like was the convenience of a lot of plot points, such as when Owen just happens to show up at the end when Emmeline had thought he'd already left.

Ending: 3/5

I loved the justice and how the matter with the gift was handled. Although I like larger, grandiose schemes, I liked the one that Emmeline and Beau put together. I mentioned this already, but I thought a couple plot points fell into place too conveniently. I thought the way that the romance ended was perfect; with each person giving up something and getting something in return.

Best scene: Learning the real history of the Kells

Positives: The worldbuilding/alternate universe, the fast paced writing, the details

Negatives: The alternating POVS, sometimes the writing was a little too fast, some characters were a ltittle one-dimensional

Cover: It looks very mystical, dreamlike and fairytale-esque, which matches some of the general themes of the novel. Wish there had been some chocolate on that cover though!

Verdict: Once you suspend your disbelief, this fantasy romance is so much fun to read!

Rating: 6.6/10 (3 stars)