This blog is no longer used. If you would like to continue reading/seeing my blog, please visit:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cover Reveals--Starling, Fractured Light, and The Crown of Embers

Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: 2012
"Love is just the beginning... of the end." Mason Starling is a champion fencer for Gosforth Academy, but she’s never had to fight for her life. Until now. When a ferocious storm rips through Manhattan and unleashes terrifying creatures onto Gosforth’s campus, Mason barely escapes alive. Without help from the mysterious stranger who appeared in the midst of the storm, she might not have made it at all. But now, in the aftermath, Mason’s life begins to spin dramatically, mystically out of control, and the only one who seems able to help her is the stranger who can remember nothing but his name: Fennrys Wolf. As Mason and Fenn uncover more about Fenn’s past and the strange events that surround them, they realize that Mason’s family — and its dark allegiance to the ancient Norse gods — is at the center of everything. A predetermined fate seems to be closing in on Mason, but is it possible to change one’s destiny? Readers who fell in love with Lesley Livingston’s Wondrous Strange trilogy and those who love Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series will be captivated by the sweeping romance and pulse-pounding action of Starling.

GORGEOUS cover. Seriously. This sounds so good, and the cover is of course gorgeous.

The cover for the sequel to Beautiful Dark was also released. The covers are based around an angel theme.

Publisher: HarperCollins

Release Date: September 2012

When she wakes up in unfamiliar surroundings, Skye knows something terrible has happened to her. But it’s not until she hears Asher, the dark, rebellious angel she fell in love with, that the memories of Devin and his shocking betrayal come flooding back. Skye returns home, but with the knowledge of who she really is, nothing can ever be the same. As she tests the limits of her newfound powers, Skye discovers that she’s capable of far more than anyone could have imagined. Both the Order and the Rebellion want her for their side as war between the factions looms. She can’t forgive the Order for nearly killing her, but something holds her back from embracing the Rebellion. A Fractured Light picks up right after A Beautiful Dark‘s shocking cliffhanger ending and is perfect for fans of Lauren Kate’s Fallen and Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush saga.

So pretty! I love the fonts.

The cover for the sequel of The Girl of Fire and Thorns was also announced. It's just as goregous as the first.

Publisher: Greenwillow
Release Date: 2012
Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone’s power. That is not all she finds.

Super pretty, and it connects to the first book well. What do you think about the covers?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What Boys Really Want by Pete Hautman

National Book Award winning author Pete Hautman lets us in on the secret. Lita is the writer. Adam is the entrepreneur. They are JUST FRIENDS.So Adam would never sell copies of a self-help book before he'd even written it. And Lita would never try to break up Adam's relationship with Blair, the skankiest girl at school. They'd never sabotage their friends Emily and Dennis. Lita would never date a guy related to a girl she can't stand. They'd never steal each other's blog posts. And Adam would never end up in a fist fight with Lita's boyfriend. Nope, never. Adam and Lita might never agree on what happened, but in this hilarious story from Pete Hautman, they manage to give the world a little more insight into what boys and girls are really looking for.

In the past, I've read a few of Pete Hautman's other novels. His books are very sweet, contemporary books kind of stripped down to the essence. I enjoyed his other reads, and when I found out about his newest release, the romantic comedy What Boys Really Want , it was one of my must-haves for 2012. 

The story felt a little too heavily based on romance, but I enjoyed the read. 

Adam and Lita are friends. JUST FRIENDS.They've been best friends forever, both firmly in their own roles: Adam is the entrepreneur and Lita is the writer. Adam comes up with the idea to write a book, though, shaking up their roles and making both of them unsure of their identities. Adam decides he will write a book on what boys want -- hence the title of the novel -- and Lita turns her attention to matchmaking her friend Emily with her crush. Their friendship becomes more and more distanced, though, as Adam becomes more and more engrossed in the book and people become more interested in reading his book. 

This book is really refreshing. I mean, a boy-girl friendship? Where neither of them are interested in dating the other or harboring a secret crush on the other? Fantastic. I love boy-girl friendships and I have lots of guy friends. I thought this was a really refreshing part of the story. The friendships are done very well, and they make up a large portion of the novel: Lita and her friends, Adam and his friends, and Adam and Lita's friendship are very prominent. The book is also really funny -- there are a lot of humorous moments and they all are realistic while being hilarious. So in some parts the book is really refreshing. But there were also issues I had. The romance is obviously a key part of the book. I expected it to be a big part of the novel, and it is. There's a major subplot with Lita attempting to hook up her friend Emily, and both Adam and Lita gain love interests. I liked the love interests, Blair and Brett, but my issues were more with the love subplot. Throughout the entire book Lita had been fixtated on her plan, and she wanted to make sure Emily got the guy of her dreams. But at the end, the subplot kind of fell apart. Emily started to date her crush, and while their relationship ended realisticly it seemed like a low ending. The entire book had been working up to some kind of interaction between them, and I expected it to end a little better. The two characters moved on so quickly it made me wonder why the author had even inserted the subplot. 

The other thing I want to note is that Adam does self-publish his book. I have nothing against self-publishing -- I've read many great books that were published by their authors -- but I did wish that Hautman had discussed traditional publishing/self publishing a bit more. He had a character state that he disliked self-publishing, and another character who was published traditionally, and briefly explained the traditional publishing route (writing the book, editing, getting a literary agent and then having the agent go on submission). I did think it would have been interesting to have more on this topic, and kind of make for some interesting parallels to Adam's way of publishing compared to the traditional way of publishing shown by Lita's mother. Overall a strong plot and a good story with some confusing subplots and some things that could have been addressed better. 

The characters were fantastic. Lita and Adam both had very distinct personalities and narrations. It was easy to tell that Adam was a boy and Lita was a girl, which doesn't always happen with double-gender POVs. The dialogue was very realistic and sounded like real teenagers. The other characters were also very developed, and the best friends -- a trope that sometimes creates flat characters -- were also developed. The love interests were both interesting, and I loved how Hautman broke down gender stereotypes with his love interests while still giving the interests their own personalities. Brett was very into auto mechanics but also enjoyed English lit and Blair acted skanky but wasn't as skanky as she seemed. There's also a fun twist about Brett and Blair at the end but I won't give it away. :) Very strong, realistic characters. 

Hautman's writing is very realistic. His characters all sounded like teenagers, and that reflected in his writing as well; the narration sounded like how a teenager would speak and act. His writing's also very funny, and he's a very good humorous writer with a good sense of how teenagers act. 

If you enjoy contemporary YA this would be a good read for you, and if you're interested in romance and "he said, she said" stories you would probably also enjoy this read. I had some issues with the book but it turned out to be a good story and I'm glad I chose to read it. 

A lovely contemp. 

Four stars.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How To Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Jill MacSweeny just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she's somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one. Mandy Kalinowski understands what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she's sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It's harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?
As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy--or as difficult--as it seems.
Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives,     about the many roads that can lead us home.
This book was brilliant. 

If you've read any of my reviews, you probably know that I usually start with a description at the beginning. This description usually explains how I came to read the book and what I thought about it in a few concise sentences. These introductions can be about a paragraph or two, and are usually longer than I'd like them to be. 

But for How to Save a Life , I have nothing else to say. Besides the fact that this book was brilliant. 

Seriously, I could end the review right here -- because "this book was brilliant" perfectly explains How to Save a Life . And I'm almost tempted to just end the review here, just tell everyone GO BUY THIS BOOK and post this review online

But, no, I'll go ahead, fine, write a decent review where I critique -- no, gushabout this book. Because, and I'm going to say it again, this book is brilliant. 

The story switches back and forth between two perspectives: Mandy and Jill. Jill's father, who she was very close to, has recently died. Jill has fallen into a depressive state, becoming bitter and cruel to everyone around her. Jill's parents had been very into working with foster children, but their work was cut short by his death. Jill's mother, Robin, still desperately wants a baby, so she strikes an online agreement with Mandy, a nineteen-year-old pregnant girl. Mandy will live with Jill and her mother for the remainder of her pregnancy, and once the child is born Robin will adopt the child and Mandy will return to her hometown. Jill is strongly against the idea, thinking that her mother simply wants a baby to replace her deceased husband. Mandy, timid and afraid, is worried that her secrets will be unveiled and Robin will kick her out from their house. The two girls must try to work out their differences together, and try and understand their separate issues and problems. 

This is by no means a plot driven novel. This book is all about the characters. But first, I will admit that I wasn't interested in reading a book about teen pregnancy. It seems a bit too....out there, gimmicky in almost a way. I for one hate teen pregnancy shows -- especially considering the fact that those girls get themselves in horrible relationships and lose their babies due to poor decisions -- and I was worried Zarr would make the pregnancy plot silly or stupid. But no. She did it in her brilliant way -- note that I overuse the word brilliant in this review -- and made the pregnancy storyline relatable, interesting, and realistic. And yes, the plot ends somewhat predictably, but does it matter? No. You really feel for the characters, you really want them to have their wonderful happy endings.There's really nothing else to say about the plot besides that; it was slow moving at times, yes, but it was very, very interesting and fascinating and a great look at teen pregnancy, its effects, and human emotions. From that descriptor -- pregnancy, effects, human emotions -- it could seem like a lot to fit in one novel, but Zarr makes it work perfectly. 

The characters are really what made me love this book. Zarr allows you to see into both Jill and Mandy's heads, letting you see both of them and making you relate to both of them so, so much. You really feel their pain and forgiveness and really hope that everything will be okay, that everything will be alright in the end. That's the strength of this novel, allowing you to see and understand and feel so much for these girls. I really felt for both Jill and Mandy. They had such distinct voices -- Jill's hard and tough, Mandy's slightly naive and lost. I wanted them to have their happy endings, for everything to turn out okay. But all I could do was read, flip through the pages to an ending that I hoped for -- and loved. I loved all the characters, really; the slow burn of romance with Ravi and Dylan, both fully-fleshed out characters; Robin with her hopes and dreams and pains of her own; and even Jill's father, Mac, who is a major character as well. The characters were amazing, and I really felt their pain and needs and dreams. 

Zarr's writing is gorgeous. Simply gorgeous. I've said in other reviews before that I went through and read the cadence of the words, feeling every rhythmic beat and feeling in the word. I did the same here, for Zarr's writing. Her writing is simple but so evocative, and I loved the cadence of each and every word. I will definitely be adding the rest of her books to my to-read list. Brilliant. 

So in a nutshell, I loved this poignant, brilliant book that reminds me why I love contemporary YA so much. If you like contemporary YA, or really just YA in general, you should read and savor this book. I will be seeking out Zarr's writing in the future. 


Five stars.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cracked by K.M Walton

Sometimes there's no easy way out. 
Victor hates his life. He has no friends, gets beaten up at school, and his parents are always criticizing him. Tired of feeling miserable, Victor takes a bottle of his mother's sleeping pills—only to wake up in the hospital. 
Bull is angry, and takes all of his rage out on Victor. That makes him feel better, at least a little. But it doesn't stop Bull's grandfather from getting drunk and hitting him. So Bull tries to defend himself with a loaded gun. 
When Victor and Bull end up as roommates in the same psych ward, there's no way to escape each other or their problems. Which means things are going to get worse—much worse—before they get better….

 I am something of a contemporary nerd. A total contemporary nerd. There, I said it, I have outed myself -- contemporary YA is my favorite genre and I love contemp books. So I had wanted to read Cracked for a long time, since the cover and synopsis were released. 

My issues with the book were larger than I'd hoped they would be but I still enjoyed the novel. 

Bull and Victor hate each other. This is not some kind of low hate, like hating pepperoni or sausage on your pizza or hating a particular band or TV show, but true hate . Bull has bullied Victor all throughout school, and Victor fantasizes about hurting and killing him in his head, while Bull simply thinks Victor is annoying -- and takes the pain out on him. They both have troubling home lives, with Victor living with parents who ignore him in pursuit of their own happiness and Bull living with an abusive mother and grandfather. After two incidents in which Victor attempts to kill himself and Bull attempts to kill his grandfather, the two are sent to the same psych ward and end up in the same room together, and need to work out their problems with each other. 

The plot was fairly good, though more romance heavy than I'd expected. The plot moves at a fairly quick pace and events happen quickly. The pace is a bit overwhelming with how fast the events move, since Bull and Victor are only in the psych ward for five days. Though the pacing was fast, the events were interesting, flowed well, and made sense, and for a while the plot seemed very interesting and unique. But as I reached the end, the plot started to unravel. The book became a lot more romance based as the story went on, and while this isn't a bad thing it seemed to come out of nowhere, and all of a sudden the romance was becoming a lot bigger. Both Bull and Victor fall in love and startromantic relationships by the end of the novel. The romance was sweet but could be verging on the edges of insta-love, as the characters had known each other for very few days in the psych ward before falling in love. However, I understand that in situations like the ones the characters were in people tend to grow together faster, so that's fine. The other issue I had with the plot was that it ended up way too neatly. I was glad that the characters ended up in a happy place and were able to recover from their issues, but it seemed unlikely to have everything suddenly become sunshine and rainbows. (This part is a spoiler for the book.) Victor's nana moves in with him to stand up for him, he starts a relationship with Patty and is happy; Bull gets to live with Frank the cemetary guy and his grandfather dies and everything is perfect. It seemed very unlikely for everything to just end up being absolutely perfect, with no issues at all. The plot was good but seemed to end up too perfect and the focus on the romance seemed a bit much. 

The characters seemed to be the strongest point of the book. Bull and Victor were both very relatable and good characters. It did seem a bit cliche for them to both have such serious problems; that seemed almost like a setup for the book. However, Walton made both her characters very sympathethic and interesting. I cared for both Bull and Victor, understanding their issues and problems. One issue I had with the characters was their relationships. I didn't really understand Victor's relationship with Nikole. They shared a close friendship and maybe love, but grew apart from each other and distanced by the end of the book. Bull and Victor's relationship with each other at the end was also confusing; they had grown closer but at the same time drifted apart, and didn't seem to have strengthened as much as I thought they would. 

Walton is a strong writer, and she writes male perspectives very well. Both Bull and Victor had strong voices that were different from each other and sounded like teenage boys. Her writing was very fluid and fresh and she handled teen dialogue and expressions very well. She's a strong writer and someone to watch. 

Cracked was a strong novel but didn't quite make it up to my expectations. If you like contemporary YA or "edgier" books, as well as books set in mental instuitions and dealing with mental issues, this would be a good book to try. 

Three point five stars. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse by Lucas Klauss

Phillip's sophomore year is off to a rough start. One of his best friends ditches him for a group of douchebags. His track coach singles him out for personalized, torturous training sessions. And his dad decides to clean out all of the emergency supplies from the basement, even though the world could end in disaster at any moment...and even though those supplies are all Phillip has left of his dead mom. Not that he wants to talk about that.But then Phillip meets Rebekah. Not only is she unconventionally hot and smart, but she has seriously great boobs. And she might like him back.
As Phillip gets closer to Rebekah, he tries harder and harder to turn himself into the kind of person he thinks she wants him to be. But the question is, can he become that person? And does he really want to?

 Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse , I think, is one of those books that you really either love or hate. If you're interested in more religious themes, like questions of religious identity and faith, this book will be a good read for you. If you aren't interested in such themes and shy away from faith, this book probably won't be a good fit for you. I think what will mostly determine the book's popularity is how many people are interested in such a faith-focused narrative. Just something to keep in mind, if you're deciding whether to read the book or not.

I will say, first, that I am interested in such religious themes and contexts. And I will say that I did enjoy this book. 

Phillip is attempting to get through the school year. He runs cross country with his friends, but his tough relationship with the coach (who he has nicknamed Ferret) and the fact that he and his friends are growing apart makes running tough. He is obsessed with the apocalypse and his family is attempting to recover from his mother's death. Phillip meets a girl named Rebecca and they start a relationship. Rebecca is extremely religious and asks Phillip to join her youth group and participate in other church activities. As he gets more and more engrossed in the religious community, hoping to cultivate his relationship with Rebecca, Phillip must decide if he wants to turn into the person she wants him to be.

The plot was pretty good. It curved and twisted, and the revealing of Phillip's mother's story was carefully layered and made sense. The story was poignant and interesting and it seemed to be going well for a while. But it reached almost a spot of predictability, where everything suddenly seemed to be turning predictable. I guessed the ending about fifty pages before the end, and I wasn't surprised at all by the overall conflict resolution. The religion aspect, the part of the book people always seem to want to know more about, was handled well. Klauss does mention some of the negatives of being an evangelical Christian and following their beliefs (several topics are discussed, including gay marriage and whether someone should go to hell if they don't believe in Christ) but he showed respect to the religion and its followers. So the plot was really going fine for a while, but it became predictable towards the end. The ending was sweet, though, and left open a brighter future, in a happy, open ending. 

The thing that I felt really redeemed the book, and made me push up the rating a few stars, was the characters. Klauss' biggest strength seems to be in his characters. Phillip really developed, turning from an insecure teenager to someone much stronger; Rebecca's relationships (with her father, etc) really improved; Phillip and Ferret's relationship changed; his relationship with his friends changed. This book is really developed around relationships, and how they change and grow. The characters interacted very well and the dialogue sounded like how teenagers speak, which is a pretty good accomplishment. Some of the characters' relationships did end on an unsurprising note, but they had been so well developed I didn't mind; I wanted for them to have their happy endings. I applaud Klauss for writing relationships well; it seems to be one of his strengths as a writer.

Now, onto the writing. I was thinking hard about the writing as I read. In a lot of the critical reviews (think Kirkus et al), they mentioned that the writing was clipped and hard to read. I kept an extra eye out on the writing, looking for any issues. I didn't really find much of any. Sometimes the writing wasclipped, but the majority of the time the writing sounded good. The writing sounded like a teenage boy would, and do teenage boys sometimes think and speak in clipped and fragmented sentences? Yes. So I applaud Klauss for once, again, writing a good story that sounded like a real teenage boy.

This definitly was a strong debut, though if you are disenterested in religious themes it probably is not for you. If you don't mind religious themes and are interested in contemporary, I would add this to your reading lists.I'll look for Klauss' next book. A strong, smart, and fresh debut.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Clarity by Kim Harrington

When you can see things others can't, where do you look for the truth? This paranormal murder mystery will have teens reading on the edge of their seats. Clarity "Clare" Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. It's a gift. And a curse. When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare's ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case - but Clare is still furious at the cheating jerk. Then Clare's brother - who has supernatural gifts of his own - becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away. Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most?
love mysteries. I really do. I love finding out the hints and twists and intricacies of a story, figuring out whodunit and trying to solve the mystery before the characters. Most of the things I've written are mysteries, and I'm not embarrassed to say that several mysteries top my "all-time favorites" list.

Another thing I love is girl detectives. Most people know the most famous ones -- Nancy Drew, etc. I haven't been able to find as many girl detectives in YA -- correct me if I'm wrong. There are girls that solve mysteries, but none that really act as detectives, working together with the police and their friends to solve the case (as Clare and her friends do in this novel). So I was excited to read this book, hoping it would be a good mystery with a fantastic girl detective. I was even more excited when I read the Publishers Weeklystarred review, which stated that "Clare is a teen detective for the 21st century". 

So I was very excited to read the book. 

It had its flaws and shortcomings, but it turned out to be a good mystery with a strong female character. 

Clarity "Clare" Fern lives in a small town along Cape Cod with her mother and brother Perry. The three of them each posses supernatural gifts: Clare is a psychic; Perry is a medium; and Mrs. Fern is a telepath. They live in a pristine Victorian home, running a business giving psychic readings to people, which causes the townspeople to scorn them and brings in tourists. The town of Eastport is peaceful and calm, filled with tourists. When a girl is discovered murdered, though, Clare is asked to solve the case and team up with her friend and the son of the town's new detective, using her powers. She soon suspects that her brother is involved in the case, and may be the murderer, and must find the truth that he is innocent. 

Now, the plot follows a pretty interesting curve. Harrington knows what she's doing. She carefully tosses out clues, leaving you to decide if they're the truth -- or false herrings. The plot was very twisty and curvy, and she did the mystery well. It's hard to figure out whodunit, but the clues carefully show the way towards the final answer. There was one qualm I had with the plot. The book seemed to wrap and end up too neatly. All of a sudden everything was fine, the mystery solved, the only thing that seemed hanging was the romance (and from the beginning that seemed to be left for a sequel and the rest of the series). The outcomes of some of the characters were also fairly obvious, and seemed to be wrapped up just as predictably. I feel like I'm being vague here, but there are too many spoilers. So in a nutshell, the plot was intriguing and fascinating, and very mysterious, but wrapped up neatly with unsurprising results for the characters. 

Clare was a very strong heroine. She knew what she wanted and how she was going to get it, and she had close ties to her family members. She was a realistic character and very well-rounded with flaws and strengths. She also had a strong sense of humor, a snarkiness that didn't go too far or simply fall into the background, and a snarkiness that made me laugh several times aloud. The author also did well showing how she solved the mystery; she became upset, got frustrated, etc. The love interests felt a bit more iffy. Gabe was a nice guy but his "secrets" started to annoy me. His character seemed built more on the secrets than his actual emotions, feelings, thoughts, and personality. I personally liked Justin better. Harrington portrayed him well, and he really felt like an ex-boyfriend: hopeful but resentful towards his former girlfriend. He also seemed to be further developed and have more of a personality than Gabe had. 

A brief note on the supernatural elements, as they are a key part of the novel: the supernatural elements were well developed and interesting. Clare, Mrs. Fern, and Perry's powers all made sense, and the author showed and described the powers in a realistic way. The one qualm I had was how the Ferns didn't believe in psychics being able to see the future. This statement was never really backed up like the rest of the paranormal features, and didn't really make sense. I did like how their assumptions of people with that paranormal gift changed by the end. 

The writing was crisp, clear, and fluid, simply getting to the point in a sentence without adding in too many unnecessary adjectives or verbs. Harrington's writing also sounded realistically like a teenage girl ("SkankyMcSkankbag" anyone?) and used Clare's snarkiness and humor wisely. 

If you're interested in mysteries, this is a strong, sweet read with a love triangle and a clever, twisting mystery. I'll keep an eye out for the sequel, and while I had my issues, this was a novel I truly enjoyed as just as fun, sit-down-and-read book. 

In My Mailbox (6)

In My Mailbox is a meme run by Kristi at the Story Siren where readers post what they recieved in their mailbox this week.

So this week was kinda slow on the books, but here we go! My lovely and caring mother gave me a bookstore gift certifcate for Valentine's Day.

I bought

 Irises by Francisco X. Stork


Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

From Netgalley
The Raft by S.A Bodeen

How about you? What was in your mailbox? Leave a link or comment below. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

IMM (3)

In My Mailbox  is a weekly meme run by Kristi at The Story Siren where readers show what they received in their mailboxes. 

This week was book shopping week! This means I can show an actual picture! From my webcam that sucks! All the book titles will be backwards but it should work.

I recieved five books:

Everything You Need to Survive the Apolcolypse by Lucas Klauss
Cracked by K.M Walton
What Boys Want by Pete Hautman
Legend by Marie Lu
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

That's all for me this week, how about you? Leave a link if you want me to check yours out.

(Side note: Sorry for the absence. Three new reviews will be pounding onto the blog this week.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kiss Crush Collide by Christina Meredith

What Leah did--only she really shouldn't have--one hot night at a country club party.
What Leah has--only she really shouldn't have--on the guy with the green eyes, the guy who is not her perfect boyfriend, the guy who does not fit in her picture-perfect life, the guy her sisters will only mock and her mother will never approve of. Not in a million years.
What happens when everything you always thought you wanted--having cool friends, being class valedictorian and homecoming queen--runs smack into everything it turns out you really do want.
Kiss. Crush. Collide.
For Leah and Porter, summer is only the beginning.

 My reasons for reading this book were very skewed. Almost like the book itself. I had zero plans to read this novel; most of my friends disliked the book and I don't enjoy reading romance, which the book is centered around. Then a librarian friend of mine asked me if I would read and review the book for our public library. I agreed, because she's my friend and I love reviewing books. But from the beginning I had a feeling this book just would....suck. And I'm sad to say that my prediction -- which I wholeheartedly hoped was wrong -- came true. 

The book is essentially a "pretty rich girl" story. We've all seen those, whether it be in a novel, on TV, a movie, or elsewhere in the media. The stories are similar: pretty rich girl is super rich and super super selfish, everyone hates her but she thinks she's all that. Then something comes along, whether it be a *hot* guy or some major life-changing event like losing all her money or having both of her rich mogul parents die. With the help of said *hot guy* or some other person who helps her get over the major event in her life, pretty rich girl learns that she doesn't need to be so selfish, that she really can just be normal and not have to follow the rules of society, and she changes into a better, more interesting person. 

Kiss Crush Collide follows this stock formula almost perfectly. There's a hot guy, Porter; an overprotective mother; "perfect" sisters; and a mean girl turned friend. 

But it strays away from the stock plot designed by Hollywood in one aspect: the main character never changes. Leah begins the novel as a spoiled, rich girl and ends the story barely changed. She still thinks of herself as goregous; she still thinks that she's better than her sisters. I can understand if the author wanted to show that she never changed, that she was so selfish that she was unchangable; but with the many events that happen to her throughout the story, it seems ridicolous for Leah to not change. Shouldn't every character have an arc? Does it need to be a good arc, or even a positive arc? No. But a character should change in some way, whether it's for the better or for the worse. 

It makes it hard to relate to Leah, as she's so superficial. She goes to the pool and comments on "how hard" it is to have everyone staring at her, how she'll "never get used to it" and how some people are "lesser than I am, and they'll never get better". The entire book is populated with selfish quotes. And those selfish quotes last from the first to the last page. It makes it extremely hard to read and enjoy this book. I didn't care for Leah. She was stupid and vapid and lame, and frankly, someone I'd stay far far away from. 

And Porter/John Duffy/JD/Duffy-- what the heck was up with him? First, I could never keep his name straight. He introduces himself to Leah as "Porter", but then tells her about a hundred pages later that that's not his real name; no, he's lied to her, it only says "Porter" on the back because that's his job: porting cars at a fancy club that Leah's family belongs to. He tells her she can call him John Duffy, JD, Duffy, the works -- and Leah chooses Duffy. Then, at the end of the novel, he buys a coat that says "Porter" on it and Leah remarks how AMAZING! and WONDERFUL! it is that he has that coat. He was essentially a stock character, with the programmed "guy from the wrong side of the tracks" and the sweet, smoldering looks and beautifulness. 

So Porter and Leah kiss in a country club and BAM sparks I never really felt their romance; Porter seemed like a nice guy but I never really connected with their love. I never really felt that passion, those sparks Leah kept commenting on. I wanted to see the love and the passion. I wanted to grin and smirk when they had cute moments. But I never felt the passion. It seemed so flat and boring to me. The steamy cover seemed to suggest a steamy romance; instead the romance fell flat. 

The rest of the characters -- hmm. They, too, fell for the same stock characters as Leah and Porter-whatshisface. The mother was a stock character, a strong woman who never changed but only was uber harsh and mean. The sisters were almost identical; they never seemed to have any differing personality traits that made me seperate them from each other. Valerie the mean girl's plot was predictable, Shane's plot didn't surprise me either. 

Also speaking on the plot, it was....strange. Porter leaves halfway through the book due to a misunderstanding, and then just disappears. So much for the love interest. Yorke (I had to go look up her name, seriously), one of the sisters, was mentioned being pregnant at the end of chapter sixteen. No one mentions the pregnancy again until chapter thirty. Yes, that's fourteen chapters. The plot seemed to meander and just be boring the entire time. 

Now, it might seem like I hated this entire book. I didn't. There were two redeeming factors for me, personally: the writing and the strength of the family dynamics that made me up this from one star to one point five stars. 

I thought the author handled the family dynamics well. I don't mean that she portrayed the family in a caring way; this family is essentially dysfunctional. She didn't necessarily portray them in a unique way, either; like I mentioned before the family characters seemed stock and boring. But she really portrayed the dysfunctionality well, with Leah's mother's expectations and her sister's relationships and her father's misunderstanding. I really felt trapped, as her mother made horrible decisions (yelling at her daughters, ignoring them, threatening to disown them) and her father made a blind eye. These situations were hard to read at times but they really seemed realistic to the kind of dystfunctional nature Leah lived in. And the truth? At the end, the dysfunctionality hasn't changed. But that's realistic; situations won't change that fast. 

The other thing I liked was the author's writing. I mentioned this recently in my review of If I Die : the writing was very fluid and easy to read. It makes for a quick read, if a hard and difficult one to plod through. 

I would really only recommend this to people who really enjoy romance or *hot guys*. Otherwise I'd recommend skipping this and picking up other, better romance novels. Also, in case anyone is wondering: I won't be recommending this to my librarian. :) (I am recommending a couple of the other ARCs she got me though -- no worries :D). 

One point five stars. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Until I Die by Amy Plum

Kate and Vincent have overcome the odds and at last they are together in Paris, the city of lights and love. As their romance deepens there’s one question they can’t ignore: How are they supposed to be together if Vincent can’t resist sacrificing himself to save others? Although Vincent promises that he’ll do whatever it takes to lead a normal life with Kate, will that mean letting innocent people die? When a new and surprising enemy reveals itself, Kate realizes that even more may be at stake—and that Vincent’s immortality is in jeopardy. In Die for Me, Amy Plum created a captivating paranormal mythology with immortal revenants and a lush Paris setting. Until I Die is poised to thrill readers with more heart-pounding suspense, spellbinding romance, and a cliff-hanger ending that will leave them desperate for the third and final novel in the series

 So last year I read Die for Me , the first in this planned trilogy about renevants. I enjoyed the story but it had some flaws, and for a while I almost regretted buying the book. But I was interested in reading the next book, and when a friend of mine offered to send me her ARC, I gladly accepted. Now, after reading the second book, I've decided that I do like this series, if it has some flaws, and I don't regret buying book one anymore. 

Until I Die was a sweet read, a bit predictable and unsurprising but still good.

The book picks up again in Paris, France, where Kate and Vincent have continued their relationship. Due to Kate's issues with the "death" part (ie, when Vincent rescues someone from death he dies for a short amount of time) of Vincent's abilities, Vincent has decided to try not to die so they can have a stronger relationship. Charlotte and Charles, following a battle with the numa (renevant enemies) have left the home for protection and safety. The numa seem to be in hiding and all the renevants are on high alert. Jean Baptiste, to replace Charlotte and Charles and keep the renevants' safety intact, has sent in two new renevants: Violette and Arthur. Kate and Vincent continue their relationship in peaceful bliss but soon Kate realizes that Vincent's very immortality is in danger. Now, I found the plot to be pretty predictable. I guessed who the mystery person hurting Vincent was right away, Kate's reaction to said person, and the ending I spotted from a mile away. The ending is kind of a cop-out. [ Vincent gets killed by Violette. (hide spoiler)]. It's really all set up for the sequel. The mystery isn't as strong as it was in the first novel, and this book at times falls prey to "second book syndrome". The ending is really set up to show how Kate is vulnerable, and how her life has changed. Until the ending, though, the book seemed very strong plotwise. Plum introduces new plotlines often but they were done well and made sense for the story. The story seemed accelerating for a good ending, but the ending messed up, frankly. The plotting was very tight and strong but everything fell apart at the end; otherwise the plotting was strong.

The characters, I think, remain my favorite part of this series. Kate is a strong heroine who's capable. She goes and hunts things out, tries to help her friends, and wants to be helpful. She doesn't moan and complain about woe is me, I can't be with my true luvvvvv... instead she tries to enjoy her relationship nonetheless. She was very strong. However, sometimes I thought Kate seemed almost too mature for her age. She had flaws but came off much older then she would probably act. I understand that the situations she was in -- her parents' death, being exposed to a *new world* would make her mature more quickly -- but sometimes she seemed so much more like an adult than a teenager. Vincent was a bit more of the brooding hot guy in this one. He has more secrets and refuses to answer Kate's questions. He intentionally hurts himself to try and protect her, and tries his best to not "die" for her sake. It was sweet, if a bit unlikely. Still, I did feel sad with what happens to him at the end. The other renevants are just great. My personal favorite is Charlotte, and Plum really develops her in this book, unrequited love and sadness abound. She handles it well, though, and she's a strong character. If Plum was ever to write some kind of spinoff, Charlotte would be a good lead for a spinoff. Ambrose and Jules and Gaspard and all the boys were awesome, very strong and protective as well as being hilarious. I liked how the author handled Charles, putting him in a situation with others who were having the same issues he was.

The writing...hmm. I'm more unsure on what to write here. Plum has very crisp writing. Her writing's to the point, crisp, clear, and fluid. It's easy to read. Sometimes the French she included was difficult to grasp, and as some phrases were never explained I became confused. The writing was easy to read, though. That's really all I can say -- it's an easy read due to the fluidity of the writing.

I'd recommend this more if you liked the first novel; a lot of the same issues people had with Die for Me cross over into the sequel. I found the ending to be unsatisfying and the mystery predictable, but I enjoyed reading the book nonethless. If you like romance books, books on mythology, or enjoyed the first novel in the trilogy this would be a good book for you.

4 stars.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Mara Kalman

I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

 I need to start this review with a warning. It isn't a bad warning in particular. The warning simply is this: I didn't enjoy A Series of Unfortunate Events much when I was younger. I liked the macabre tones of the novels, but I always felt a bit disconnected as I read the entire series. Warning aside, I was eager to read a copy of Handler(aka Lemony Snicket)'s first YA novel, a collaboration with artist Mara Kalman. 

Now onto the specifics. The novel easily could have become gimmicky, and people were very interested in the concept of the novel itself when the book was introduced to the world. But Handler took a gimmicky plot and made it interesting, and it is no wonder the novel was awarded a 2012 Printz Honor. The book essentially resolves around the course of the relationship--the first meetings and dates, the highs and the lows, the fights and eventually the breakup. Min has recently broken up with her boyfriend Ed and the book is written as a letter to explain "why we broke up." She also attaches a box, filled with memorabilia gathered through the course of the relationship, to accompany the letter. Kalman's illustrations show the objects.

Now to the characters. As stated at the beginning of this review I could not relate to Handler's characters. I don't know if it was my young age, the book, or how different the series and this novel are, but I related to these characters far better. Min I really related to, with her questions of identity and relationships and how everyone finds her "arty". You really feel her pain and sadness, as it becomes apparent that Ed may not even read the story or look at the objects she has collected. I related to Ed far less, but I think that was the author's intention : we want to root for Min,not the person who broke her heart. I understood both Ed's good and bad sides, and he was a very well rounded character. But while his actions represented his character and made sense, it was hard to like him because of what he did to Min and his choices. 

The writing was the one part where I struggled and took off half a star. Handler writes the novel in vignettes, essentially, as Min remembers every event of the relationship and each of the objects' meaning to the relationship. Because Min is writing directly to Ed she refers to him as " you" during the writing. This makes sense for the novel but it is very jarring at first. Sometimes I would forget "you" was Ed. Handler also uses very little dialogue tags, with pages and pages devoid of tags. This was hard to read, and sometimes I had no idea who was speaking. Other than those two qualms Handler's writing was very fresh and fluid.

Side note on the art: I'm no art critic but the drawings were very fresh and fluid. I received an ARC in a giveaway and many of the drawings were missing from the galley. What I saw of the art, however, was very impressive.

Why We Broke Up is a fantastic book. If you enjoyed Handler's other novels or like epistolary novels this is a book for you, and I think many people would enjoy it. It's a great novel deserving of awards and I'm glad to have read the book.

Four point five stars(4.5)