Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: Speechless by Hannah Harrington

SpeechlessBook: Speechless
Author: Hannah Harrington
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Pages: 288
Rating: 4 Stars

Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can't keep a secret.

Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.

Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she's ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.

But there's strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she's done. If only she can forgive herself.
"Hate is...it's too easy," he says. His face is calm, calmer than it has any right to be, his eyes not wavering from mine, like he's so completely sure of what he's saying. "Love. Love takes courage."

As cheesy as it sounds, in context it was actually very emotionally heartrending.

I can't argue that Speechless is amazing or spectacular, but I can argue that it is one of the more trustworthy books out there. It will take you on a girl's journey to becoming a better person (since the book itself has a fair amount of cheese, I decided to insert a lot into my review as well), but even better, it will make you believe that it's possible for a person to change.

The book begins with a stereotypical mean girl, someone who goes to parties, gets drunk, laughs at people as they're insulted. She's not the instigator, but the follower. Her best friend dictates what she wears, who she hangs out with, what she does. Basically, she doesn't have control of her life. And you don't like her at all. I didn't. I especially didn't like her best friend. I wanted to punch the lights out of her, especially as the story progressed.

But then something big happens. Something that I won't ruin for you guys, since it surprised me a bit. It's actually something that I could see happening in a high school. Anyway, it happens, and Chelsea (the MC), is wracked with guilt over it because of how she actually endangered someone's life. So she takes a vow of silence.

Harrington spins the silence aspect remarkably well and realistically, starting from Chelsea's difficulties with getting through to her teachers that she's serious about the vow, and the fact that she has to stand and be insulted because she can't speak for herself. It's so painful to read because of her helplessness and the terrible way that people treat her, but you know that that's what would happen if someone had committed a mistake like hers.

The interesting thing about the debacle is that it goes both sides. Chelsea's hated by the popular people because she ratted out the criminals, but she's also hated by the other side because she caused the problem. So she's stuck, and she has nowhere to go.

But then, like the summary promises, she meets people she probably would have overlooked or been contemptuous of otherwise, and she discovers they're much more forgiving, even after what she's done. It actually reminded me a bit of Sarah Dessen's work, particularly The Truth About Forever, especially the part with the diner and how she meets this motley group of people through it.

Sam is adorable. Actually, he's a bit too adorable to be real. Why aren't there boys like him at my school? Dorky but cute ones who can quote movies and books? Jeez. I wouldn't be itching to go to college if there were guys like him still in existence. Despite the impossibility of this dorky but adorable species of male, he seemed wholly real in the book, and despite Chelsea's misgivings about him and his dislike of her, both of them come around in a way that's completely believable.

Another book this reminds me of is Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, in that it's also told from the point of a "bitch," and though you find it hard to like the MC, she redeems herself in the beginning. These kinds of books are always a gamble, since there's a very high chance that readers will still hate the MC regardless. However, Harrington and Oliver do a wonderful job with this. Though Chelsea becomes a better person through her experience, she still retains that snippy, bitchy aspect of herself.

I liked the multiple facets that Harrington gave to her characters, even Kristen (though I still don't like her and I would've liked her to be punched in the face, and this part could have been developed more), and I loved Asha, though she might dance the line of stereotypical. But kudos to Harrington for putting her in such an important position in the book, considering many authors' circumvention of non-white characters. In addition, I awwhed at the end with Noah and Andy, because how could you not? I think Speechless is a good example of the underlying tensions in high school, maybe even the world, and I think Chelsea's journey to self-discovery (cheeeese) is one that most people would enjoy reading.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Review: The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa

The Lost Prince (The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten, #1)Book: The Lost Prince
Author: Julie Kagawa
Series: Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten
Publication Date: October 23, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them.

That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs—including his reputation—begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he’s dare to fall for.

Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister’s world—the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myths and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten.

My name is Ethan Chase. And I may not live to see my eighteenth birthday.
[Ash] glanced over his shoulder. smirking. "Care to join me, Goodfellow?"
"Oh, ice-boy. A moonlight stroll with you? Do you even have to ask?" 

I missed Ash so much in this book. So much that it hurt.
Come back, Ash. I'll do anything. I'll have your babies. I don't think you understand the sacrifice I'm making here.

And that little snippet of Puck. It made me feel so nostalgic. 

I think that was the main problem I had with this book. I didn't really feel anything for the characters. For the first half, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Meghan and Ash to appear again. Then, in the second half, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for them to come back. 

Ethan is an ehhh character. I didn't really like reading the book from his perspective, because, let's be honest: he was a bit of a whiny brat for the first part. He does get better, though, in the last hundred pages. That's when he starts kicking some ass instead of just going "dammit, dammit, dammit... ooh, shiny swords" all the time. 

Mackenzie... I didn't like her much, just like Ethan. She was too persistent, and it kind of bothered me. Especially when she insisted on sticking her nose into Ethan's business and following him around. Even after the big revelation in the end about her, I couldn't turn my entire attitude towards her around. Also, I have a feeling that Kagawa is going to turn her into a faery or something and make her immortal off the tears and laughter of children.

I'm just hypothesizing here. 

Also, the book starts veeery slowly. I had the same problem with The Iron King, when it takes a couple chapters for Meghan to see Ash, and even longer for her to get out of her boring, real world and into the Nevernever. It seems to take Ethan twice as long in this book, and it's not very fun hearing him complain about his life and seeing him be a jerk to everyone who comes across his path. 

A lot of people have mentioned how Meghan appears once, and Ash and Puck only come out of their moonlight lovin' twice. Well, it's true. And it makes me sad. But at least they appeared. I'm thankful for that, especially since I was really sick of the characters. Actually, Ash's and Meghan's child (CHILD. THEY HAVE A CHILD. SQUEE.), Keirran, was intriguing. I think I need to read Iron's Prophecy to understand what's going on with him, but I think he's going to become evil. Which is not very cool. Anyway, I found him a lot more interesting than Ethan. This book might have been more interesting if it had been written from his perspective. 

However, if we move past the lackluster characters to the plot, we will find a vast improvement. This book centers on the Forgotten fey, and it's pretty creepy. They basically are these fairy-ghost-zombie things that appeared in The Iron Knight, and they're making their dramatic comeback. It's very creative, and of course, Kagawa still possesses her unique flair for making the magical setting of the land of Fey come alive. The ending is actually really disturbing, especially the part where Ethan's stuck at the bottom of a giant hole (talk about hitting rock bottom, eh? punpunpun.) I was a bit disappointed as far as climaxes go, since Keirran sits there and goes "durrr" while Ethan's dying. But he wakes up, so that's good. 

My feels are apathetic towards this book, but I can't deny that I like the idea that's forming here. As long as Kagawa keeps her characters developing, writes with that same magical style, and gives me more Ash, I think I'll enjoy this series!

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (7)

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. Basically, follow me and say hi in the comments, and I'll follow you back! 

This week's features: Book Me! and Awesomesauce Book Club.

Q: Worst cover? What is the worst cover of a book that you’ve read and loved?

A: I actually thought the cover for City of Bones was really ugly. It looked really messy and I had no idea what was going on, so even though I always saw it at the library, I never touched it. Then I read The Infernal Devices and decided to give it a try, and to my surprise, I actually enjoyed it a lot.

Also, none of the covers for the Vampire Academy series are that appealing, but the storyline is amazing. Thought I'd mention that.

There's my story! What's yours? Comment and let me know!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Review: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Catching JordanBook: Catching Jordan
Author: Miranda Kenneally 
Publication Date: December 1st, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 281
Rating: 2 Stars
What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though-she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university.

But everything she's ever worked for is threatened when Ty Greeen moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he's also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan's feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart's on the line?
This may just be a coincidence, but now I get why they didn't show the people's heads on the character! Oh, that little plot twist in the middle. I don't know why I didn't see it. Of course Jordan couldn't just be a badass tomboy; she had to regress to being a whinging teenage girl at some point!

The crying.
Jordan acting like a total girl, and mentioning that Ty is "hot" as an excuse for why she's dating him when she obviously has feelings for someone else. 
The crying.
Tyler being a crybaby...?
Mediocre writing that's very choppy at times (One phrase where the coach "stares into" Jordan's eyes, which is a bit weird.)
The crying.
The fact that Jordan uses Sam's last name, Henry, so much that I completely couldn't connect him to the his first name. And I happen to like the name Sam very much.
Lots of welling eyes and pooling tears and however different ways to describe crying.
I'm beginning to sense a pattern here, are you?

Sam and Jordan's friendship. Very sweet, and I especially liked the part with the football charm and how he picked wildflowers for her.
Brief moments of hilarity, like when Jordan cries into Luigi's face (what?).
The happy ending.

In conclusion: 
Feelings towards this book are lukewarm at best. All the crying just didn't do it for me. It actually angered me to the point of writing a post ranting about it, which can be found here. Liked the football and the fact that it was contemporary, but I didn't like Ty at all, and I had no idea what was going on with him. He was just there as a catalyst for Jordan's realization that she loved someone else, and after that, he pretty much disappeared. It was all HenryHenrySamHenry after that. And tears, of course. Let's not forget that.

I'm sad. I need something good to read.
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Friday, August 17, 2012

Blog Post: Crying in Fiction

I don't normally write blog posts about a certain issue in young adult literature, but there's been something I keep coming across that I feel needs to be brought up. And that is the issue in books written from a female's perspective nowadays that always seem to favor a certain action to outlet emotion. 

If you hadn't guessed already from my Audrey Hepburn gif (she's probably the only one who can make crying look pretty and sophisticated), this action is crying

I don't have an issue with crying. It's a great way for me to let out frustrations, and it's true: I do feel better afterwards. But what I can't handle is it being a constant in books, something that an author resorts to because he/she can't find any other appropriate way of showing how a character is feeling. 

My first experience with the female's consistent resort to waterworks appeared in Die for Me by Amy Plum. The first time Kate (the main character) cried, I shrugged it off. Sure, it was a wimpy way to deal with the situation, but I'm not living in a paranormal setting with the guy I'm interested in dying left and right to save people. So she had a reason. Sort of. 

The second time, I grimaced a little. But I kept reading. But this is the section that really did me in: 
What do you do after reading the most romantic love letter--the only love letter, for that matter--you've ever received? I walked over to the bed and, climbing up onto its high mattress, sat down beside Vincent's body. I cupped his cold face with my warm hand and then, stroking his hair with my fingers, began to cry.
This pissed me off. Majorly. It implies that crying is the only way for women to express their emotions, and that just is not true. How many times did I have to deal with Kate's eyes "welling with tears" or some other variation of crying, just because she didn't know what to say, or she was too overcome with love?

Crying is a sacred thing. I'm not joking about this. Crying is something that we should be ashamed of doing, because it makes us vulnerable in front of others, and vulnerability is something we shouldn't parade in front of people. But YA authors are overdoing it to the point that it's not vulnerable, but rather weak and pathetic. There's a difference.

What I despise even more is when authors write main characters who are supposed to be strong but end up crying every time the male lead or someone else says something a little sharp. Take the book I'm currently reading, Catching Jordan, for example. Jordan is supposed to be this tough football player, and her position as the only female on her team makes her hardened to the ways of the sport and guys in general. But enter hot guy Ty and her sudden realization that she's in love with her best friend, and she's crying all over the place, skipping practice, skipping school. Gone are all the principles that she set for herself; instead, she has retreated into a weak shell, and nearly every time she talks to someone, it ends in tears.
I get into my truck and slam the door shut and bang my forehead on the steering wheel. Through my tears, out of the corner of my eye, I see Ty come back, and he and Henry start yelling at one another outside my truck. I turn the ignition and drive off.
And I won't mention Ana Steele from the Fifty Shades Trilogy, who cries because she's too scared and Christian's too much of a domineering asshole for any action to be taken. Her best friend actually says she "never cries," when in reality, that's what she does half the time. Yet another example of an author compromising her own principles just to take a shortcut during the writing process.

I'm not a feminist by any standard. I don't hate on chivalry, and I like it when guys are a bit protective. Obviously, women should also know how to protect themselves, but it's a nice thing to know someone cares enough to go the extra mile. However, I can't deal with this constant putdown to women, like the only thing we can do is run away and cry in response to emotional turmoil. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of seeing females pushed down to such low standards, like we can't protect ourselves any other way. But I also think it speaks of an author's inability to translate emotions into writing; they can't find any other way of articulating the character's response to an event, so they make her go into a bawling fit instead. After all, nothing gets across better than crying, right?

The truth is, there are so many ways to show the range of emotions. Just take ourselves, for example. I write when I'm pissed off or sad. I know one of my friends plays tennis hard when he's angry. I know people who call their friends, who write bad words on bathroom stalls or throw things around. The fact is that there are other options, and any one can be tailored to fit the personality of the character you're trying to show. It's a disservice to the reader and your own creations to resort to crying because that's the easiest way out. But crying doesn't mean anything if that's what happens 90% of the time. Treasure those tears! They're best used sparingly.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (6)

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. Basically, follow me and say hi in the comments, and I'll follow you back! 

This week's featured blogs: The Book Reaper and Ed & Em's Reviews

Q: What blogger inspires you? It can be any kind, it doesn’t have to be a book blog.

A: A blogger I've always admired is Wendy from The Midnight Garden because she writes such wonderful reviews. Even when she's saying something snarky, she makes it seem sophisticated, and though she doesn't employ many gifs or anything, her words say enough. Also, she's so polite and sweet when you're talking to her, and it makes her a great person in addition to a good reviewer. 


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (6)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that allows us to appropriately squeal over upcoming releases.

Crewel by Gennifer Albin
Series: Crewel World
Publication Date: October 16th, 2012  
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Crewel (Crewel World, #1)
 Incapable. Awkward. Artless.

That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: she wants to fail.

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to embroider the very fabric of life. But if controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and wove a moment at testing, and they’re coming for her—tonight.

Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her Dad’s stupid jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because once you become a Spinster, there’s no turning back.
I've been waiting for this ever since I saw the artistic cover. It actually looks sort of scientific, probably because of the geometric figures. The plot sounds amazingly creative, and I'm anxious to get my hands on this book! 


Review: Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

Sweet Evil (The Sweet Trilogy, #1)Book: Sweet Evil 
Author: Wendy Higgins
Series: Sweet Trilogy
Publication Date: May 1st, 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: 1 Star

Embrace the Forbidden

What if there were teens whose lives literally depended on being bad influences?

This is the reality for sons and daughters of fallen angels.

Tenderhearted Southern girl Anna Whitt was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She’s aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but Anna, the ultimate good girl, has always had the advantage of her angel side to balance the darkness within. It isn’t until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage and her willpower is put to the test. He’s the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna.

Forced to face her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?
This book has everything I hate. I'm not kidding.
  1. An idiotic, annoying heroine.
  2. A love triangle.
  3. More telling than showing.
  4. Info dumps.
  5. Douchebag love interest.
  6. Things that happen that make no logical sense at all. 
The things I could say about this book... If you saw my comments as I read, well, you'd understand. I'm surprised this has such a high rating. Because of it, I had high expectations, and they all came crashing down the moment Anna opened her mouth and started talking about her appearance, how she was soooo plain. But I kept going, hoping that maybe Kaidan, the love interest, would redeem the story. I mean, if you're going to throw good and evil together, there should be some serious chemistry, right?


All Kaidan turns out to be is a knife-wielding, wannabe bad boy who lays every girl in a ten mile radius under the pretense of "working." I found his need to have sex with at least one girl every night extremely distasteful, since he wasn't being forced into it, as shown by his later ability to just drop his work whenever he chooses.

But Anna still chooses to follow him like a simpering puppy.

You know why this book is 1 star? I'll tell you why. The main character.

People expect stuff from young adult books nowadays. They expect a girl who can kick asses and take names as well as she can pull off a ballgown, who's as smart as she's pretty.

I don't expect that. Sure, it's nice, but it's becoming the norm, and I want something different. Anna could have been that, but she failed completely. Here are some quotes that show just how insufferable she is:

A vibrant energy rushed through my body as the pieces slammed into place. Oh, dear Lord. I was in love with him. And there wasn’t a thing on earth, in heaven, or in hell that could have stopped me.

Spare me. She barely knows the guy. He's the first guy she's been attracted to, and she's ready to face heaven and hell? Bella Stewart, come on down! I think we've found you a buddy.

We couldn’t just stand there loitering. I made a quick decision to trust them and hoped it wouldn’t turn out to be one of my naive moments.

So. She decides to go into the company of potentially dangerous people to avoid LOITERING? Priorities, girl. Sort them.

“Look, Jay, I’m going to be honest with you, even though it’s embarrassing. I’m one step away from stalking him.” My voice shook. “All I do is think of him. If there were no such thing as caller ID, I would call him all day just to listen to him talking on his voice mail. I’m having an extremely difficult time getting over him. If I see him again...”


What's probably even worse is Jay's reply, which is: "'Sorry, man... It's cool.'"

But it doesn't stop there...

I dealt with the pain by shutting down. The more time asleep, the better. I missed school a few times, just to lie in bed. Failed a major test. Lost weight. But I knew time would heal the ache, and everything would be okay. I could move on. I would come back to life. Eventually. But not yet.

Remind you of anyone yet? Take the vampires and replace them with angels, and voila! You get Sweet Evil. There is nothing about this book that's interesting in the least. Not crybaby Anna and her pathetic obsession with Kaidan, who basically strings her around and gets laid every night anyway. Oh, and he also makes "masculine growing sounds" and gives her "crushing stares," not that I have any idea what any of those mean.

Not her best friend, Jay, who acts like a wannabe gangster and cheats on his somewhat-girlfriend. And not her friends, who represent sins and don't really give a crap about the chaos they induce.

There was also too much drinking and substance abuse in this for me to be okay with it. If Higgins was trying to teach us anything, it was that it's easy to get fake IDs and that drinking is totally okay as long as we know when to stop. Also, you can apparently dump illegal drugs out of your car window...

I'm pretty sure the people who know when to stop wouldn't be drinking in the first place.

The idea with the Dukes and their children was an interesting one, but Higgins has botched it in a way that's so annoyingly stereotypical that I was begging for the book to end and put me out of my misery. The writing is subpar, with words that don't really mean anything and illogical sentences that make no sense. I wouldn't have read on, but Higgins pulled a dirty trick. The relationship between Anna and Kaidan reaches no closure, and if there's one thing I can't deal with, it's unclosed relationships. So I'll be reading on. Hopefully, Anna will get over herself (not likely), and Kaidan will stop being a douche (even more unlikely).
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Friday, August 10, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (5)

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. Basically, follow me and say hi in the comments, and I'll follow you back! 
This week's featured blogs: Compelled by Words & The Bookshelf Review

Q: What would you do if you had to start your blog again from scratch?

A: I don't think there's much I'd change, actually. I'd probably try to learn more about HTML and coding, but that kind of stuff requires a ton of time, and I remember the long days spent freaking out over design before I launched my blog. I like my URL, and I'm happy with my blog. Things definitely could have been worse!


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review: Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

Shut OutBook: Shut Out
Author: Kody Keplinger
Publication Date: September 5, 2011
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 273
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it's a civil war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part,Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy's car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend's attention

Then Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: She and the other players' girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won't get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don't count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. But what Lissa never sees coming is her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling...
I think I know what Shut Out wanted to accomplish. I think it wanted to be a rahrah womanhood book, but in the end, the preachiness of the entire thing turned me off. If it had just been a light-hearted read about a bunch of girls trying to get back at their boyfriends without all the fanfare about sex and how it doesn't define a person, I would've enjoyed it much more.

After reading The DUFF and being too disgusted with it to finish, I didn't really have high hopes for this book. But after reading, I have to admit it's better than Keplinger's debut. The premise is interesting: a sex strike? Some things weren't believable to me, especially the fact that everyone was having sex in this high school (or something close to it). In my experience, there are select people who can be classified as sluts or whores, but the entire population as a whole usually doesn't start having these huge debacles with sex until later. Call me jaded, but I'm graduating high school, and I'm a bit sick of the stereotype that high school athletics are breeding pools of sex and debauchery, because really, they're not.

The main character pissed me off. Lissa was whiny, neurotic in a bad way, and a complete bitch to everyone, including but not limited to her best friend and the potential love interest. I found it difficult to believe it was so easy for her to repair her friendship with Ellen. And the fact that Cash (what is with the name? Bleech.) first became attracted to her because she was beautiful?

Urgh. And she was given this sad background, with the dead mom and wheelchair-bound dad, but I never could summon up much sympathy for her, which was also a problem when I read The DUFF. It's funny because I liked virtually everyone else. I liked the slutty best friend, who had these tiny nuggets of wisdom when they mattered. I liked Mary and Finn, and their adorable relationship with each other, which I would've preferred to learn about over Lissa and Cash's lackluster one. I even liked Kelsey. I liked all the girls, because they did what was right when it mattered.

But Lissa didn't. Lissa pretty much offended everyone, but they welcomed her back. For a couple of chapters, I had to deal with her repeating We have to win. We have to win, as well as her endless droning about how guys suck, and her gigantic text blocks of inner monologue where she mused over how sex is okay and being a virgin is okay and OKAY I GET IT. I've never read a book that preached so obviously as this one did, and I did not like it. At all. It ruined the story, it ruined the main character, and it ruined the experience.

Giving this 2.5 because despite the way the storyline annoyed me, there were some random moments that squeezed a couple chuckles out of me. And Cash was too perfect to be true, despite his name.

In unison, they stripped off their shirts and tossed them onto the grass. An audible sigh--like the ones you hear on a sitcom that is "filmed in front of a live studio audience"--filled the room. It was almost funny, really. Such a strong reaction to a bunch of shirtless boys.

Of course, Lissa had to come in and ruin it by shutting the window and forbid the girls from looking. What's wrong with looking, I ask you?

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Waiting on Wednesday (5)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
  Series: The Lynburn Legacy
Publication Date: September 11, 2012
Publisher: Random House 
Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?
I've never read anything of Sarah Rees Brennan's, but the cover and the blurb of this book are both vrey intriguing! I like the name of the village, heh.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)Book: Grave Mercy
Author: R.L. LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin
Publication Date: April 3rd, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 549
Rating: 3 Stars

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?
For while I am Death’s daughter and walk in His dark shadow, surely the darkness can give way to light sometimes.
Killer nuns? Historical fantasy? Right on!

I wasn't all that interested in the first couple chapters. Well, the first chapter definitely got my attention. First chapters that involve almost-rape always capture my attention. I think that's what they're supposed to do. But after that, things got a bit ehhhh. Okay, convent with lots of poisons that Ismae is fortunately immune to. Lots of man hating, as well as a class in which women can learn how to seduce...? Some interesting side characters that you think are going to have greater importance but end up popping up only once or twice throughout the story. Most of all, there was a lot of preaching about how killing a man is better than...doing anything else with a man. Yeah.

One heart cannot serve two masters.

The political intrigue was good stuff. It takes some serious logic to think of all the plots and pitfalls that come with being a duchess. Although, I didn't really get the duchess. She didn't really do anything useful except be pale yet determined (???)  all the time. While we're on redundancy, I have to mention that there was a lot of elbow grabbing and iron grips. What's with that?

 In addition, I want to point out that despite the gigantic problems that arose, they were all solved relatively quickly and efficiently. Duchess can't get a good husband? Here comes a man who just happens to have just lost his wife and has both looks and a formidable army! French whore (I don't call her this, the abbess does. Are nuns allowed to call other women whores? Huh.) and her son might be traitors? Just swear an oath and be spared from death (why didn't they do this sooner...?) I just don't think problems that concern a country's future can really be solved so easily. Then again, this IS a YA novel. Can't expect serious fiscal-crisis-stuff. That would ruin everything. Just like it's ruining America now. Ahem. Moving on!

The romance made me roll my eyes a healthy number of times. Example:

Perhaps Mortain knew I could not kill him even if he bore the marque. I cannot kill the only man I have found it in my heart to love.

Of COURSE he's the only man. You were locked up in a convent for most of your life until you met him! 

Anyway, Ismae sort of bothered me. She was way too good at everything she did, and even though I have great admiration for her collection of poisons and that badass bracelet she uses for strangulation (or something of the sort), there's no way for one person to excel at killing and hiding the way she does. Just... nuh-uh. No way. And that part at the end where she saves Duval? Totally expected something like that. The only problems she seemed to have concerned her angsting over him and the way she completely lost all of her nunnery smarts whenever he came into the picture. 

I do have a soft spot for Duval, though. He's way too sweet and perfect, which is how I like my fictional men.

“I know some call him oath breaker, for although the oath he swore to Saint Camulos required him to stand and fight, he turned his back on the fighting and instead carried me to safety. But as he explained to me later, what good is fighting if what you are fighting for is lost?”

Deep stuff. Anyway, Grave Mercy is how I've come to expect all these paranormal/fantasy/whatnot young adult novels to be. Now authors are trying to throw in kickass heroines and swoon-worthy males at an alarming frequency, and I don't think I like it. But you could definitely do worse than this book. Thus, 3 stars.
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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1)Book: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Series: Raven Cycle
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 408
Rating: 4 Stars

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.
 Gansey, she warned, but she felt unstable and dangerous. I just want to pretend, Gansey said, the words misting on her skin. I want to pretend that I could.

First of all, I received this ARC from a Goodreads giveaway, and I spent an appropriately long time fawning over the cover after it arrived. So thanks, Scholastic, for making a girl go crazy over a...painted raven.

I approached The Raven Boys dubiously, since I've read Stiefvater's books, and I got the sensation that they were either really boring, spent too much time on details, or the guys were total pansies (Sam, not Sean. I liked Sean, even though it took him a while to get to the point.). Thus, I am happy to say that this book did not do any of these, and that I think it's the best of Stiefvater's writing that I've seen to date.

The book starts with an unhealthy dose of intrigue, and I was forced to pay attention to each word said, since all of them seemed to have some hidden meaning that would be unveiled towards the end. Also, Stiefvater's gorgeous writing continues to play a large part, except now it's actually relevant to the story. Her style is very well suited to the sort of atmosphere she creates in The Raven Boys, one that's normal on the outside but throwing off sparks of hidden magic on the inside. I was less dissatisfied with the world-building in this book, though there is the fact that it doesn't extend beyond Blue's weird home and the Gansey's apartment. Everything else is fantastical and otherworldly, and Stiefvater does a wonderful job of creating these other worlds apart from the real one.

 I do want to note, however, that Stiefvater seems to really like the word dusty. Just an observation.

What I loved most, however, as I loved about The Scorpio Races, is the uniqueness of the characters that she creates. Not only Blue and Gansey are people worth loving for; Stiefvater makes the side characters matter in a way that not all authors can. I cared about them. I cared about Adam and the fact that he's more than a scholarship student, I cared about Ronan and the fact that he's still living with some sort of secret, I cared about Noah and the way he likes petting Blue's hair. They're all so distinct from each other, it's impossible to forget them. Blue's mother and her psychic friends are also not exactly forgettable.

Where do you live?
Adam's mouth was very set. "A place made for leaving." 

You'll have to forgive me for my sparse quotes; I didn't really take copious notes while reading because I was too busy flipping pages. But my point is that everything the characters say and do is special, and you keep an eye on their words. I certainly did. They also throw in a little humor on the side that adds another dimension of reality to their world, even though it's nothing like ours.

One thing I really felt cheated on, though? The relationship. From the get-go, Blue's warned that she'll cause her true love's death. She's incessantly warned of this, and she mentions it multiple times. She meets four boys who are very much available (okay, maybe not emotionally, but you get my drift). She shares some tiny, cute moments with Adam, like when he gives her a puny bouquet or the infrequent hand-holding. But there was almost nothing with Gansey except for some weird visions. After reading the blurb, I fully expected their relationship to at least solidify in this book, but I got nothing of the sort. The quote I gave you guys at the beginning of the review? It's a lie. IT'S ALL A LIE. I mean, I didn't make it up. But it's one of the few teasing morsels that Stiefvater tosses to us.

I don't know about you, but I don't like SCRAPS.

If you come into this expecting a deep, all-encompassing love, be ready for disgruntlement. I only hope that Stiefvater develops this in her next couple books, or else I will be a very unhappy girl, indeed.

Now that I think about it, I didn't really like Gansey any more than I liked everyone else. He did always seem like a guy with too much free time on his hands, despite our glimpses into the emptiness inside him. I think my favorite of the guys is Ronan, considering his bitter past and the little affection he lets seep through. If you ask me about my favorite character, though, it'll always be Chainsaw. Oh, Chainsaw. So much love for that black feathered beast.

I'm very excited over what's happening next! Gansey and Blue better do it soon.

Thank you to Scholastic Press for sending me an ARC of this book.
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Review: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Stormdancer (The Lotus War, #1)Book: Stormdancer
Author: Jay Kristoff
Series: The Lotus War
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
My rating: 4.5 stars

This didn't happen. This was a dream. Tomorrow, I will wake up and realizing I dreamed all this stuff about bigass thunder tigers and Japanese people dying.

Oh, who am I kidding? This book was awesome, and it is everything it says it is.


From the moment I read the blurb of Stormdancer, I knew it would be something amazing. The premise is captivating: a feudal dystopian (ironic) Japan with Iron Samurai and a weed that's sucking the life out of a previously beautiful country. And after reading Kristoff's own review of his book, I was expecting a lot out of it: creativity, romance, high adventure... Basically, all of the things I would look for in different books seemed to have culminated in this one. But what I hadn't expected was for this book to completely tear me apart in the way that it did.

I'll have to admit that the first part of the book didn't interest me much at first. There were long blocks of text that described the setting in precise detail, and for someone like me with the attention span of a gnat, it was difficult to read through them despite Kristoff's gorgeous style of writing. I think I did a lot of my skimming there and missed a bunch of facts about the background of the society, which came back to taunt me afterwards. However, the long-winded descriptions almost completely stopped being an issue in the second and third parts. That was when Kristoff began focusing on the action and plot development, not so much the setup. And boy, does Kristoff do a good job with action. It's so vividly told, and the weapons are so vicious, you're pulled in the moment blood starts to spill. And Kristoff leaves no survivors. Everyone comes out with some sort of injury or trauma, which is a welcome relief from the annoying part when the heroine is always saved by some dreaaamy guy.

Speaking of the love story in this book...

It completely threw me for a loop. I had inklings that it might happen, and Kristoff didn't really let us know Hiro (the hot samurai, if you were reading my status updates) very well. His and Yukiko's relationship seems mostly founded on lust, but AGHHHH. I couldn't believe it, still. I think it's because no author has done that to the main character's obvious love interest. Now, I have no choice but to put my support behind Kin, although I didn't like him that much. He seems a bit girly and weak, but he has an entire series in which to reassert himself.

That said, I don't think I liked the love in here. It played a measly part, especially since Yukiko spends 200 pages dreaming about some guy with creamy jade eyes, and we only get him for fifty before he goes stark raving mad. I don't think you could even count it as a romance element. It was more a couple secret smiles and sexsexsex at inopportune moments. 


I think the huge blocks of description in the first part and the romance were my only issues with the book. Oh, and a little bit Masaru & Kasumi & Naomi. I know it's feudal Japan and whatnot, but I didn't like it. It made Masaru and Naomi's love much less authentic and believable.

Criticism over! Now, onto what made this book amazing.

BURUU. Oh, Buruu, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
First of all, the majesty and power that Kristoff gifts Buruu with. Yet the way his thoughts are twined with Yukiko's makes him much more human and vulnerable. Kristoff can write animals. Like... I don't know how to explain it, but he's great at it. Maybe in a past life, he was a griffin. But that part with Yukiko's dog, Buruu, dying? I started telling my friends about it and how it was so sad and they were just looking at me with are you a psycho?  looks on their faces. But I really like Buruu. Especially the way he loves Yukiko and his devotion to her towards the end when he has to choose between flight and her. It gave me chills.

THE WOMEN. Despite her somewhat bad decisions with Hiro (but he was sexy, so I'll give her that), Yukiko's a badass. She can kick some serious butt. But not just her. Aisha, I thought, was a wonderful character. I like that Kristoff empowers his women but preserves their femininity. There are some astute observations about the way men treat them, but it's not preachy, and the women fight back. It's great. It's just great.

SETTING. Shima is a complicated place, and the fact that it's set in Japan requires a bunch of study. Well. Kristoff took that concept, and he conceptualized the crap out of it. I don't even know if that makes sense; I may just be blubbering now. Despite the long lines of description in the first part, he begins utilizing action and adventure to paint the image of the world, and I loved the elements of Japanese culture that I saw. It made it so much more exotic and beautiful than some lame, humid forest in the middle of Washington or something.

THE END. The end blew my socks off. It was so heartrending, climactic, and altogether shocking. Prepare the tissues, because you'll be saying goodbye to many characters that you learned to love during the novel.

And that's all I'm going to say. Read the book and find out for yourselves! This one was so amazing... I wonder what the next one will be like.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for giving me a chance to read and review this book.
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