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!