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!