Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

Title: The Book of Broken Hearts
Author: Sarah Ockler
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Length: 352 pages
Original Publishing Date:May 21st, 2013
Series: Standalone
Where I got it: Audiobook from the e-library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.

Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?

Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong?

Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.

Main characters: 5/5

Jude, a sweet and stubborn youngest daughter, makes for a fascinating main character and narrator. Her family dynamics are so clearly laid out in the novel that it added exceptional complexity and depth to her. Jude was one of the most realistic characters that I've read in a while. She could be irrational at times, emotional and thoughtless, but it was all realistic and regardless, I found that I loved Jude.

Emilio appeared at first a stereotypical bad boy, but he pleasantly surprised me. He had a lot of his own personal demons to fight and he had a wonderfully sweet and down to earth side that made his perfect for Jude.

Overall, I loved these main characters and their personal development, as well as the timing of their relationship and the sweet/sexy mix of their interactions.

Secondary characters: 4.5/5

Ockler not only created two complex main characters, she gave us a whole slew of beautifully made secondary characters! I'll start with the weak points: Jude's mom. We simply don't see much of her and don't understand her point of view! Compared with the rest of Jude's family, she seemed underdeveloped.

On the other hand, Jude's sisters were a tornado of fun and drama. Mari, Celi and Lourdes each had their own crazy personality and seeing them interact with Jude gave each of them added facets of depth and realism. They were so quirky and fun, I could imagine them as my sisters!

And Jude's dad.... I don't have any experience with Alzheimers, but Ockler's depiction of Jude's father was heartbreakingly perfect.

Writing style: 4.5/5

Ockler's writing style moved effortlessly through Jude's feelings, emotions, and the happenings of that summer. While the subject matter could be heavy, Ockler's writing was not too weighty or slow. There were heartwarming sections, light and funny parts, and then the parts that were tough and emotional. The pacing was perfect, and kept me interested without seeming to jet by. There weren't any big twists or secrets and major plot elements, but Ockler kept me entertained nonetheless.

Plot: 3.5/5 
As I mentioned earlier, there definitely weren't major plot elements that contributed to the flow of the overall plot. Sometimes, I did miss the action and I wanted some actual events, rather than just talk about feelings and what was happening, but Ockler handled the lack of major plot well. The elements worked well together though as well, the only thing that I questioned was the major impact that the pact had on Jude. I don't know if I would have taken it quite so seriously if I were here.

Ending: 3/5

I like the note that the book ended on, one of hope and determination for the future, but I felt that the ending was a little unmemorable. Ultimately, I felt like I wanted more from that ending, though I'm not sure what that would be.

Best scene: Any of Jude and Emilio's interactions!

Reminded Me Of: Before You 

Positives: Amazing main and secondary characters, beautiful writing

Negatives: Characterization of Jude's mother, lack of major plot elements, unmemorable ending

Cover: Makes the novel seem lighter than it actually is. I think it does it a bit of a disservice.

Verdict:  An entertaining and heart-wrenching romance with realistic and emotional family elements

Rating:  8.2 / 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, January 24, 2015

I Wish I Had Time To...

Welcome to the newest feature on the blog: things that I wish I could do, if I didn't work two jobs, live off of barely enough sleep, and toeing the line of getting sick all the time. 

In today's installment, I wish I had time to decorate my room. I'm awful at keeping things organized, let alone having the time and creativity to decorate it, but I wish I did.

In college I had a photo wall with pictures and letters from my friends. I transferred part of it to my wall at home, but it's sort of the lovably ratchet version of this one by the Free People Blog:
I recently got a gorgeous ombre tribal print comforter to cover my bed and some perfect throw pillows, but the next step would be to organize all my books. Wow, what an accomplishment that would be.

My room needs some life, you guys! I need to buy some cute trinkets and accessories, some clocks and artwork and little twinky-dinks to make myself happy! If only I had the time...

Um, can this just be my room?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Review: Fuse by Julianna Baggott

Title: Fuse
Author: Julianna Baggott
Genre: YA Dystopian Science Fiction
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Length: 480 pages
Original Publishing Date: February 19th, 2013
Series: Pure #2
Where I got it: Audiobook from the e-library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
We want our son returned. This girl is proof that we can save you all. If you ignore our plea, we will kill our hostages one at a time.

To be a Pure is to be perfect, untouched by Detonations that scarred the earth and sheltered inside the paradise that is the Dome. But Partridge escaped to the outside world, where Wretches struggle to survive amid smoke and ash. Now, at the command of Partridge’s father, the Dome is unleashing nightmare after nightmare upon the Wretches in an effort to get him back.

At Partridge’s side is a small band of those united against the Dome: Lyda, the warrior; Bradwell, the revolutionary; El Capitan, the guard; and Pressia, the young woman whose mysterious past ties her to Partridge in way she never could have imagined. Long ago a plan was hatched that could mean the earth’s ultimate doom. Now only Partridge and Pressia can set things right.

To save millions of innocent lives, Partridge must risk his own by returning to the Dome and facing his most terrifying challenge. And Pressia, armed only with a mysterious Black Box, containing a set of cryptic clues, must travel to the very ends of the earth, to a place where no map can guide her. If they succeed, the world will be saved. But should they fail, humankind will pay a terrible price...

Main characters: 4/5

How do I compare Fuse to Pure? They are both so amazing in their own ways! In Fuse, Pressia continues to grow and evolve as a character. She becomes more independent and confident in herself and what she wants to accomplish. This is great.

What isn't great is the progression of her relationship with Bradwell. I wanted to slap them both. Honestly, I felt like Pressia and Bradwell took kind of a backseat in this sequel, and I was okay with that.

Partridge and Lyda have their own journeys in this sequel. I liked learning more about Lyda and I felt like I respected her more, but there were still some moments where I was just not having it with her. And just personally, I don't like where her subplot went. Partridge's exploration back into the dome was curious, but I wanted more development, rather than following him around a new world again. Just glad about where he ended up in the end!

Secondary characters: 5/5

Ughhh, okay, El Capitan and Helmud melt my heart every time. Every time, I swear! They are so beautifully developed, especially Helmud in this sequel! Baggott really created some beauty in these characters.

The Mothers were fascinating. They showed up a bit in Pure, but in Fuse we really learn more about them and they are so complexly intriguing and darkly gorgeous in their creation.

Writing style: 5/5

Baggott's writing style is beautiful. I can't say enough about the thoughtfulness that she puts into her dialogue, her descriptions, and her pacing. Even though this book is lacking in action compared to the first, I was constantly on the edge of my seat, waiting for what would happen next. I find that in some series, the second book is often the weakest. In Fuse, there were definitely some minor pacing issues (such as the whole cabin Bradwell/Pressia thing) and some weird surges in time, but they were minor compared to everything that Baggott does so wonderfully. The best part is that with each word, sentence, paragraph and chapter, Baggott entrenches you so deep in the atmosphere that you feel like you'll never leave.

Plot: 4.5/5 
As I mentioned earlier, I think the plot could have been inflated with some more action, but overall I was happy with the direction of the plot and the inclusion of the elements. Partridge's mystery in the dome was a unique subplot and I loved what happened after, although I felt like some parts of it were rather convenient. As always, the science aspects are fascinating and quite obviously well-researched, though Baggott seemed a little rushed in this sequel, almost as if she knew that she had explained the concept once before and sort of rushed you through the basics before moving on again.

Ending: 3.5/5

Some parts of the pacing were a little off: there were some slow parts, and some parts that moved way too fast. I liked the cliffhangers, and the set up for the third book didn't really feel like it was solely set-up, which some other sequels have major problems with.

Best scene: All of them? No, probably the end scenes

Positives: Everything

Negatives: Some minor pacing issues

Cover: Simple and gorgeous

Verdict:  I don't know if I've read a sequel recently that was done as beautifully as this one

Rating:  8.8 / 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, January 14, 2015

Review: Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

Title: Birthmarked
Author: Caragh M. O'Brien
Genre: YA Dystopian
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Length: 361 pages
Original Publishing Date: March 30th, 2010
Series: Birthmarked #1
Where I got it: Audiobook from the e-library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the walled Enclave and those, like sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone, who live outside. Following in her mother's footsteps Gaia has become a midwife, delivering babies in the world outside the wall and handing a quota over to be "advanced" into the privileged society of the Enclave. Gaia has always believed this is her duty, until the night her mother and father are arrested by the very people they so loyally serve. Now Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught, but her choice is simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying.

Main characters: 3/5

Gaia is a generally likable main character who goes through the necessary phases of a good developing heroine: she begins ignorant and slightly entrenched in the way of her dystopian government, a disaster or tragedy changes her existence, and slowly but surely, she begins changing; gaining a backbone and fighting back against the government. However, I was disappointed because nothing about Gaia particularly stuck out to me. I like that she was realistic; that sometimes she could be rash or naive or frustrating, but there wasn't anything that made me say, "Hey, I really like this girl".

Secondary characters: 2.5/5

Yay for slow and subtle developing relationships! The romance between Leon and Gaia was so slow, it practically didn't happen... oh wait... Regardless of the molasses-pace of the developing romance, I actually really liked Leon. He had that bad-boy thing going for him, with a hint of vulnerability.

A lot of the other secondary characters were a little half-baked. By this I mean, I liked them, but I wanted more from them in terms of complexity and development. Myrna was interesting and I liked where her character was going, but then she just sort of disappeared.

Writing style: 2/5

The biggest problem with O'Brien's writing style was the pacing. It was so slowwwww.... Especially in the middle of the book, where Gaia enters the Enclave, the writing pacing becomes so slow that I wanted to fast forward my audiobook! Absolutely nothing happens plot-wise, and yet O'Brien chooses to write every moment of it, so I felt almost as agonized as Gaia must have!

Beside the grievous pacing issue, I also felt that O'Brien had some minor plot holes and lack of research that made the writing unrealistic sometimes.

Plot: 2/5 
I was extremely disappointed in the world-building. I really didn't feel the atmosphere of the "sunbaked world" and the Enclave wasn't really developed enough, especially their relationship with the outside sectors.

The concept itself was a little different than we normally see in dystopian and I really liked the idea behind it, but O'Brien's execution was weak. Everything was described in a very detached and clinical way, and I didn't really feel that the main conflict was worth the intense trouble it caused. It became rather contrived, in my opinion.

Ending: 1/5

Nope. I wasn't having it. The ending seemed so rushed and then something big and exciting happens but I was questioning it and the randomness and then suddenly the book was over and it was like, cliffhanger much? Nothing was answered and I'm sure the next book will hold all the answers but honestly, there is nothing to make me come back on this one.

Best scene: The one where Gaia and Leon dress up to try and sneak out

Reminded Me Of: The Giver meets The Hunger Games

Positives: Interesting concept, mediocre main character, slow developing romance

Negatives: Forgettable characters, half-baked secondary characters, pacing, world-building, weak plot execution, ending

Cover: I know the color scheme is a little stale, but I actually really love the font and the way it jumps out, paired with the texture of the wood.

Verdict:  I was unimpressed with this dystopian, which had few aspects to save it

Rating:  4.2 / 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, January 7, 2015

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Title: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: YA Dystopian Paranormal
Publisher: Harper
Length: 338 pages
Original Publishing Date: November 15, 2011
Series: Shatter Me #1
Where I got it: Audiobook from the Library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
I have a curse
I have a gift

I am a monster
I'm more than human

My touch is lethal
My touch is power

I am their weapon
I will fight back

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior

Main characters: 3/5

Juliette got on my nerves at the beginning of the novel. Mafi was trying to prove a point about her ability, but it became frustrating to listen to Juliette complain about how she can't touch anyone and be so scared. Luckily, I liked the way that she changed. Juliette became much more strong-willed and I loved seeing her ethical dilemma and how she responded. Yay Juliette!

Adam was sweet and kind and everything, but he was a little bland in some ways. I should say, my audiobook skipped out at one point and I missed the entire section on how he helped Juliette as kids, so maybe that would have helped his complexity. Bottom line, sweet but unmemorable.

Secondary characters: 4/5

At first I didn't think I'd like Warner very much, because of the one-dimensional villain aspect. However, as the novel went on, I found that Warner increased in depth and complexity and I ended up really liking what he added to the plot.

Unfortunately, there really weren't that many other secondary characters, which was disappointing. As much as I liked the weird complexity of Warner, I wanted more from everyone else (aka, more James & Kenji please?).

Writing style: 2/5

There was a lot to like about Mafi's writing style, but also a lot that I really really didn't like. Most of the negative aspects, for me, were due in part to Mafi's execution being over-the-top. For instance, the crossing out of the lines was sometimes too much and got a little distracting, but I did like how it gave me insight into Juliette's mind.

Another example is Mafi's intensely flowery language and metaphors. Her language is beautiful, but when these metaphors are used so extensively and overdramatically, it got old quickly. Also, the pacing of the plot was incredibly slow and I got bored quickly.

Plot: 3/5 
As always, I do my research about what others thought of the book (which I'm sure is controversial). I noticed that some people didn't like the fact that this book was both dystopian and had a paranormal aspect to it. To that, I respond the same as I did to the people who didn't like the genre mash-up of Frozen: you complain that you're tired of the same plot and the same genre, and then you complain when an author wants to change it up? I applaud Mafi for the combination of genres, which I think she pulled off far better than another book I read recently, Under the Never Sky.

However, moving on. As I mentioned earlier, there was a lack of exciting action and some things were incredibly convenient happenings in the plot.

Ending: 2/5

The ending took the story in a new direction; one that I didn't care for. This new direction reminded me of another large franchise of movies that destroyed some of the novelty and uniqueness.

Best scene: When Juliette starts taking control of her power

Reminded Me Of: X-Men 

Positives: Juliette's character improvements, Warner, the unique writing style

Negatives: Juliette at the beginning, bland Adam, few secondary characters, way TOO much of the metaphors, similies, etc., the ending

Cover: I like it. Like, everything about it.

Verdict:  It seems like this book is really divisive, but I felt sort of lukewarm. Props to Mafi for trying something new with the writing style, but it was just overwhelming for me. 

Rating:  5.6 / 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!