Saturday, October 19, 2013

Blog Post: Our Newest Seasonal Flavor: Betrayal

We've moved on from the old material with its bad guys, mustachioed villains, red-eyed demons. Jack the Ripper, who murdered people. Team Rocket, so intent on ruining Ash's quest for more Pokemon. Swiper from Dora the Explorer. Even in the Harry Potter series, there was no question that Voldemort was evil. Though he's set apart from the flatter antagonists because his life story is actually explained, he is still the person to defeat, the person beyond redemption. But lately, things have changed. Young adult authors are beginning to employ a new technique in their writing: betrayal.

Perhaps it first started with Paradise Lost, when we saw things from Satan's point of view and realized that maybe even the most canonical of villains can be a soul crying to be saved. The idea has evolved since then, obviously. While before, villains were made from people with dark pasts and twisted ideas, nowadays authors are experimenting with friends, family, lovers. The more intimate the relationship is, the better the betrayal. A popular example would be Jace from Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments. Those of us who are committed to his relationship with Clary, our protagonist, were crying for him as we watched his struggle between joining his father and being with the girl he loved. It happened again in City of Fallen Angels, except this time the puppet master was a different person. Although it was almost the same formula, people were on tenterhooks waiting, fearing what this new Jace would do. Dimitri, from Vampire Academy. We desperately grabbed onto those moments when he locked Rose up but didn't kill her, ignoring the fact that he pretty much became a crazy stalker. What about Patch, from Hush, Hush? A complete dick, to be sure, and he never made it clear whose side he was working on. But there was something strangely enticing about him, so that even as he kissed other girls and went behind Nora's back, we melted every time he showed up in her dreams or looked at her.
These situations all have something in common. The books I've chosen as examples all have love stories. Majestic, passionate love stories that easily sweep readers right along with them. These couples go through so much together, from fist fights to deaths to sex. And that's what makes the betrayal cut so much deeper. How can someone capable of so much love end up doing such horrible things? And that's exactly what makes them so redeemable. All these guys are amazing. Sweet, strong, utterly masculine, yet with such disturbing pasts that our pity is roused. It's fun. It is undeniably fun to take an inspiring love story and twist it to prove how far this frail notion of love can stretch. Why do you think there are so many retellings of epic love stories? Now Romeo wants to assassinate Juliet (Juliet Immortal) and the Big Bad Wolf is one sexy motherfucker (Scarlet). So far, the couples come back together stronger than ever. 

YA is a rapidly evolving genre. At some point, readers got tired of reading about one person battling the forces of evil. So authors decided to give them a mate, and the two of them could battle while exploring their sexual attention. When that got old, too, authors decided, it's obviously not enough for the protagonist to be battling some blatantly evil characters. Why not have her fight someone she loves too? It's a great turn of events that suddenly adds so many pages to a story. Not only does she now have to defeat the forces of evil, the protagonist must also convert her man back to humanity without killing him. It's easy to read about someone murdering a bad guy because, hey, he deserved it, right? But never would you condone the murder of someone you've seen in his moments of weakness and passion, the way we saw Jace, Dimitri, and countless others. The best authors insert a measure of humanity into their characters that it cripples us so that we can't think clearly. Of course he's evil. Of course he kills people. Of course he has blood on his hands. But I can't let him die, I just can't. 

And so this is an interesting plot development. At its best, we're thrown onto an emotional rollercoaster where we can never be quite sure as to someone's salvation. At its worst, it's a twist and another way for the story to go. Betrayal adds another layer to stories so that they're not so black and white anymore, and that's the reader's worst fear and the author's greatest advantage. A story where the boundaries are smeared and characters' intentions are never quite transparent is a story that retains its mystery and encourages people to keep reading. It's also an opportunity for there to be immense character development. I know I'm hoping to see how Alina is changed after the battle in Siege & Storm. I'm not saying that somebody must be stabbed in the back for a story to be a success. Just look how interesting Harry Potter is, even when we know all along who he's going against. In no way do I believe Hush, Hush is a work of art, and that's probably because it overdoses completely on making Patch a confusing combination of good and evil. If you ask me, I'm still waiting for the day that an author decides to take a fan favorite and keep him evil forever. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Blog Post: Calling All Readers!

photography  | via Facebook

This really has nothing to do with anything at all, but since it is related to reading and appreciating fiction, I think I'll throw it out there.

If any of you have heard of FictionPress, you'll know that it's a site where many authors start out. S.J. Maas first posted Throne of Glass on there, although she called it Queen of Glass instead. The feedback she got was part of the motivation for her to get her book published. S.C. Stephens also first introduced Thoughtless there.

There are so many other beautiful stories on FictionPress, and the wonderful thing about the authors on there is that they don't feel any need to fit into a particular category or to cater to the masses because they aren't writing for fame or royalties. They're writing because they want to hear what curious readers have to say about their work, and they're writing for themselves. Obviously I can't speak for the general masses, but most of us don't write because we want to become authors. We write because we already are authors and because we have stories we want the world to know.

While it can be annoying sometimes to sift through the piles of not-so-good stories on FictionPress (one of the disadvantages is that bad grammar is rampant), there's also that breathless sensation when a story captures your attention. I've spent many a night under my pillow, reading late into the night because I was desperate to know what happened next. I was struck by the poignancy of the stories there, of the intense love and fanaticism that they encouraged.

I wanted to encourage people to visit FictionPress, to try it out, whether it be reading or writing. If you're out of books or just want a change but don't want to deal with the bad stories that could be clogging up the website, and you love romance like me, try out the SKoW website. Also known as Some Kind of Wonderful Awards, it revolves around stories that stand out in multiple categories, from best MC portrayal to Best Breakout Author. They've just started a new round of nominations, so many fresh stories will probably be popping up. And maybe after you've read all the stories on there, you can try to find your own hidden gems on FictionPress. Trust me, there are many, though you have to search for them.

Review: Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

Unravel Me (Shatter Me, #2)Book: Unravel Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Series: Shatter Me
Publication Date: February 5th, 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins
Rating: 3.5 Stars

tickticktickticktickit's almosttime for war.
Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.
She's finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.
Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.
In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam's life.

What I think of Juliette:

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What I think of Kenji:

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What I think of Adam:

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What I think of Warner:

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In terms of problems from Shatter Me, this book still has them. We still have no idea why the world is decaying and why animals are dying. The prose, while not as obnoxious as it was in the first book, is still pretty heavy. I really don't think the strikeouts are necessary. They add absolutely nothing to the plot, and I would've enjoyed the story more if it wasn't Juliette narrating. I thought Destroy Me's prose was actually pretty good, since Warner didn't go overboard with his descriptions like Juliette does. Juliette is still annoying as hell, from her self-pity to her inability to control her own hormones or tears. In addition, she enjoys stuttering uncontrollably and rambling on and on about how she can't speak or how she's in pain. When she was told to interrogate Warner, she barely tried and instead held small talks with him. How fascinating her self-control would be, if only it existed. Now, there are places where her uncontrollable yapping does help, especially in chapter 62. Hot damn.

Kenji and Warner carry this novel all the way through. I was drooling over myself in boredom before Kenji took control of the situation and basically bitch-slapped Juliette in the face multiple times with his words. It was awesome. I can appreciate Mafi's self-awareness in this novel, but I still don't think Juliette changed much. She still whines and cries, despite all of Kenji's attempts to tell her to get over herself. The other characters are explored as well, and I like the insights into their lives that we get. I don't know how I feel about Castle yet; the way he treated Warner did seem kind of brainless, but oh well.

Warner, Warner, Warner. I was bemoaning the fact that I'm starting to crush on the bad guys in books instead of the guys the MCs should end up with to my friend. Warner is dark chocolate. Dark and sinful, with the barest tinge of sweetness. Especially in this book, we see so much more of his humanity and his capability for redemption. He develops into a person who has done bad things, who recognizes how hard it is to feel, and who wants to redeem himself for the people he cares about. Where Warner is dark chocolate, Adam is white chocolate. Not authentic, and so sweet it's liable to give you diabetes. Only good in small amounts. Mafi obviously focused a lot of her efforts on the other characters, but in doing so, she skipped over Adam's character. He makes no progress in this book; the only times we get to see him are when he corners Juliette in dark tunnels and begs her to take him back. I have to agree with Warner when he tells Adam that he doesn't deserve Juliette. While it baffles me as to why anyone would want to deserve Juliette, Adam doesn't accomplish anything. Instead, it seems like he's just there to prove everything Warner says about him correct.

A lot more shit goes down in this book, and the plot actually does take direction. It's an improvement, and I'm really hoping for some more chocolate in the next book, dark or white. But not milk. I hate milk.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Blog Post: A Discourse on Male/Female POVs

The YA world is one that is constantly changing as authors try to escape the norm and experiment with newer ideas. Whether these ideas are of any merit, however, is still up in the air. One of them, the subject of this blog post, is the idea of alternating male/female POVs. Usually, these points of view are from the main characters of the book: the girl saving the world and her love interest, or vice versa. Most times, it's the girl who's saving the world, though (feminists unite!).

The reason for this is that the authors experimenting with this sort of writing are almost always female. I know we've all had those moments reading books from only the female perspective where we wonder what the guy is thinking. I especially had that moment towards the end of Siege & Storm by Leigh Bardugo, when I was desperate to know what Mal was thinking and whether his feelings towards Alina remained the same, etc. Many authors write for their audiences, and when their audiences are dying to know what the guy is going through in parallel with the girl, they're happy to oblige. Whether they do it well is another thing altogether.

Alternating POVs are a double-edged sword. You want to keep the reader interested, but you don't want their interest to only lie with one character and make the thoughts of the other character obsolete. You also don't want to make your two characters sound the same or throw in a ton of irrelevant stuff that could've easily been covered with just one character. The best alternating perspectives build suspense, and gives each character an individuality that couldn't be seen with just one voice. You wouldn't think it given the frequency with which alternating POVs are popping up in fiction, but they're much, much harder to write than books with one lead. Think about all the effort gone into a main character: their quirks, their flaws, their background, how they're going to develop through the plot, how they react to their circumstances. Now multiply that by two (or three, or four, or God forbid, five like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which actually wasn't a bad book). And that's only having separate characters. If one of the characters is a male, well, the problem is compounded.

While this may be sexist, males and females do have different ways of thinking. Feel free to interpret that however you want, but it's true. They handle their problems in different ways, and if an author writing a male adopts a female perspective, readers will notice. Take Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover, for example. I couldn't connect Will's actions to anything a man of his age and maturity would do. His affection is smothering, he's too desperate, and at one point, he locks himself in his girlfriend's bedroom so she can't kick him out of the house. I know guys don't show all the things they're thinking, but that doesn't mean their brains work the same way that women's do. In Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma, Lochan's and Maya's thoughts could easily be mixed and confused for one another, although that detracted nothing from the whirlwind of angst in that book. When women write from male perspectives, the men usually end up being more sentimental. Rarely have I seen success, although Cassius from Anna Dressed in Blood is a pretty good depiction of the average male, who thinks about attractive women but also dedicates a lot of his brain space to killing and other mundane things. And the thing is, after reading the male perspective, do you really respect the lead's love interest the same way? I know after reading Will's POV in Point of Retreat and Perri's in Into the Never Sky that the guy just doesn't hold the same sort of appeal. In Into the Never Sky, I was still interested in Perri's story, but his intrigue was gone. For me, I prefer glimpses, not a full-on striptease of a guy's character, such as it is with Akiva in Daughter of Smoke & Bone and Gansey in The Raven Boys. What I don't like are guys like Sam from Shiver and Day from Legend, who completely overdo the meaning of sensitive. 

In conclusion, I admire authors who can make two completely different characters and alternate stories between them without getting them confused. But I also greatly admire authors who go the normal route and tell a beautiful story from just one perspective. Either way can be successful, but there may be many more pitfalls associated with the former, especially when a writer is experimenting with opposite sexes. Women tend to overdramatize the males they write, although male authors so far don't seem to have this problem with their female main characters. A part of that may be attributed to the fact that the girls in YA fantasy/dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels nowadays need to rely on their strength and handiness with weapons and warfare to survive. But both male and female writers can write bad characters. It comes down to knowing strengths and learning from weakness. A true writer is someone who can put him/herself into the mindset of anyone.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)Book: Siege and Storm
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha
Publication Date: June 6, 2013
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co
Rating: 5 Stars

Darkness never dies. Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long. The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.
I AM IN MOURNING. Which is why I crawled out of my hole to post this review on my blog.

Not only am I mourning that awful cliffhanger and the fact that I won't get to read the next book until next year, I am mourning Mal, Alina, Genya, David, and all the other characters that Bardugo has mercilessly tormented throughout this book. I've never had my emotions manipulated so harshly before. This book is more scarring than a bad breakup. And seriously, what is with all the attractive but damaged men in this book? I guess you just can't have it all.

If you follow my reviews, you probably noticed that there was a lot of this:
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In between all the crying, though, I forgot to mention that there was also a lot of this:
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To be honest, Shadow and Bone didn't make that much of an impression on me. The only things I really remember about it are Russians and the Darkling turning out to be more than a fancy vampiric incarnation. This sequel, I suspect, will stay with me much longer. Like its predecessor, I got through it all within two days. If there's one thing that Bardugo does perfectly, it's her pacing. It's not extremely fast or slow, it's Goldilocks's ideal porridge.

Where Shadow and Bone was tamer, more of an introduction of all the things that the characters of Alina's world were capable of, Siege and Storm dives right in, beginning with the Darkling resurfacing and a romp on a couple of different boats. Immediately, you have to appreciate the world Bardugo has created and the intricacy of each aspect, from the mythical creatures that roam it and the elaborate hierarchy of the Grisha and royalty. I must say, I love the names she's created for each part of her world. They make me want to visit Russia and make me momentarily forget that if I do visit, I won't be able to say anything besides "Da, Kapitan." In between all the political intrigue and fighting, Mal and Alina get their moments. But these moments are so fleeting, I was always left wanting more, and that was basically what tortured me throughout the entire book. It's like watching a slow-motion car crash; you see the void widening, yet all you can do is helplessly read on. Anyway, the problem of the Darkling explored in the first book basically lays eggs and expands to horrifying proportions, but I'll let you all enjoy the gory details when you read the book, though I feel like I'm discouraging people from reading it...

I love Mal. I really do.

“No, Alina. You came here for Ravka. For the firebird. To lead the Second Army.” He tapped the sun over his heart. “I came here for you. You’re my flag. You’re my nation."

How can you not love him? Even in the end when he was pissing me off, I still loved him. I must add that the end with Alina and him really disappointed me. I just want someone (preferably Leigh Bardugo herself) to tell me that this isn't true and that they'll get their happy ending. But what are the chances of that? I mean, all hell has broken loose. There's no way. "The love she always thought would guide her." God, I'm so bitter and sad right now. To all the people who are shipping the Darkling and Alina, you guys are so twisted. He's psychotic. Yet there are parts of him that are disturbingly human, and it's just AUGH. It's freaky. Oh yeah, and while I'm extolling the males in this book, Sturmhond. Nikolai. Hohoho. Alina can take Mal. I'll take him. He's a bit confusing, and we're never too sure what his intentions are, but he's really got the cocky thing down. I look forward to a further exploration of his personality in the next book. That is, if Bardugo doesn't kill him off before that happens... She's getting a bit bloodthirsty and power hungry. Like Alina! Hahahaha. Bad joke. Okay. Moving on.

Alina is such a strong character. I'm not really a fan of the whole there is darkness within me and I'm sinking into it but there's nothing I can do struggle. But Bardugo maintains this balance between Alina's darkness and her determination that I couldn't help but admire her and go NOOOO *sob* when bad things happened because of her. Through her actions, I could understand the huge burden placed on her shoulders and how hard it was on her to make everyone happy, how the knowledge of how she was to be responsible for an entire world was eating her up inside. She's stupid, fearless (though it could be argued that those two are the same thing), determined, and strong. She is really the driving force behind this entire book, and so, so human.

There are fewer light-hearted moments in this book, though there were still snatches of dialogue that made me laugh. Part of me wishes for those simple, happy moments between Mal and Alina to be back, but I know that those are gone. The awful cliffhanger can attest to that. Also, I've heard rumors of a fourth book... Which only means my suffering is going to be prolonged another year. Shit is going down, and I want a front row seat. If you want one too, I suggest you read this book immediately and pester Bardugo until she has no choice but to urge her publishers to hurry up.

P.S. Never ever entrust your nation to someone named Vasily.
P.P.S. Apologies for any harsh words or incoherency in this review. I am not in the most eloquent of states right now.

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Goodbye and Good Books

I'm writing this post to conclude my short and not-so-illustrious book blogging career. With all the frenzy surrounding my graduation and going off to college, I'm finding less and less time to read the books I love and even less time to blog about them. I might write on certain issues in the literary world now and again on this blog, but my posting will get even more infrequent than it already is. I'll still continue reviewing fiction on Goodreads, since it's faster than all the HTML and copy-pasting that I have to do with this blog. Thank you to everyone who chose to follow my blog and comment on my posts, and who were able to afford a chuckle to any of the lame jokes that I attempted to insert into my reviews. I wish you all the best, and may we all have a never-ending supply of good books.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Review: Insomnia by J.R. Johansson

Insomnia (The Night Walkers, #1)Book: Insomnia
Author: J.R. Johansson
Series: The Night Walkers
Publication Date: June 8th, 2013
Publisher: Flux
Rating: 2 Stars

It’s been four years since I slept, and I suspect it is killing me.
Instead of sleeping, Parker Chipp enters the dream of the last person he’s had eye contact with. He spends his nights crushed by other people’s fear and pain, by their disturbing secrets—and Parker can never have dreams of his own. The severe exhaustion is crippling him. If nothing changes, Parker could soon be facing psychosis and even death.
Then he meets Mia. Her dreams, calm and beautifully uncomplicated, allow him blissful rest that is utterly addictive. Parker starts going to bizarre lengths to catch Mia’s eye every day. Everyone at school thinks he’s gone over the edge, even his best friend. And when Mia is threatened by a true stalker, everyone thinks it’s Parker.
Suffering blackouts, Parker begins to wonder if he is turning into someone dangerous. What if the monster stalking Mia is him after all?

I, like everyone else, got pretty interested in the premise of this book. It's always interesting to see how authors twist the whole concept of dreams and how they influence reality. Insomnia reminded me of Wake in the way it makes dreaming a curse. The entire tone of Insomnia is creepy and dark, and it's easy to feel just as confused as the main character, Parker, about who the real victims and instigators are.

The beginning and end of the book were interesting, but I slogged through the middle. I didn't feel very invested in any of the characters, least of all Parker. Johansson was doing a balancing act with making the main character a possible antagonist, and in this case, I didn't think it was very well done. I never really empathized with Parker's situation or wanted to believe that he wasn't the one doing all the stalking and causing all the chaos. Most of the time, I was sick of him being melodramatic and creepin' on other people when I think there could have been more reasonable ways of dealing with his many situations. In addition, his whole issue with sleep isn't clarified enough for me to buy it completely. First of all, why is he still able to function like a normal person and play soccer (minus all the ogling of his co-captain's sister-in-law)? Second of all, how come he can take naps and not have dreams? Some of the stuff just doesn't add up. Or maybe I just missed stuff while being bored.

The other characters are equally flat. I do like the fact that Finn and Addie were so supportive of Parker, but they were just that. Neither of them did anything beyond that, and I just can't shake the feeling that they're nothing but two characters who will help Parker out of sucky situations. Mia, the girl that Parker thinks is his salvation, is nothing more than a girl who had a crappy past that she was trying to run from. In the end, I definitely felt like she didn't deserve any of the stuff that Parker or anyone else did to her, but is that all she is? The engineered subject of our pity? What happened to the spitfire in the beginning of the book, who did have a comeback or two to Parker's? That part of her seemed to disappear the moment a threat appeared.

I guess Insomnia is more contemporary and grittier than I expected, and I didn't really like that. I enjoyed Wake by Lisa McMann more, though, and it was still pretty firmly rooted in reality. Maybe my dislike has something to do with the main character, Parker, who doesn't seem to do much. There is an interesting idea that the next book will hopefully expand on more, but I don't think I'll continue with the series.

Thank you to Netgalley for giving me the chance to read and review this book.
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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns
Book: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Publication Date: October 16, 2008
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Rating: 3 Stars

I never really understood what people meant by the John Green formula until I read this book. The mysterious, cool, distant girl, the slightly geeky boy, and the journey. It's very reminiscent of Looking for Alaska, which I think is part of the reason I didn't like it as much. Looking for Alaska is my least favorite John Green book, and I think that if I hadn't read that, Paper Towns would've gotten a higher rating from me. As it is, I think it's just a better done regurgitation of LFA.

There are some things about John Green's writing that I really enjoy, despite the repetitive formula. I like how he uses symbolism and how his books usually revolve around one clear concept (in this case, paper towns and facades). Some people might see it as needlessly rehashing something, but his ideas are usually pretty unique and about stuff I've never heard of. Also, his dialogue and characters never fail to make me laugh. The road trip in this book was my favorite part. It was so isolated from everything else and it really brought the friendships among all the characters into perspective. The way they all come together for a 23 hour car ride and the strangeness of the situation highlights John Green's capacity for imagination. Out of all the characters, my favorite character was Radar because he didn't suffer from the melodrama and selfishness that the others had. I didn't have much patience for Q and Margo's dramatics. In fact, I didn't understand how they went from not really talking to each other at all to suddenly in love. For Q, it's understandable. But why would Margo give him the time of day after years of not really interacting with him? Doesn't make sense.

The book is exciting, I'll give it that. I wanted to keep reading. But I got tired of Q's obsession with the projection that Margo was giving off, and I guess that was kind of the point. However, it was too reminiscent of Pudge's angst after Alaska's disappearance. I probably need a break from John Green before I pick up another one of his books.

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Review: Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker

Ten Tiny Breaths (Ten Tiny Breaths, #1)Book: Ten Tiny Breaths
Author: K.A. Tucker
Publication Date: December 11th, 2012
Publisher: Papoti Books
Rating: 3 Stars

Kacey Cleary’s whole life imploded four years ago in a drunk-driving accident. Now she’s working hard to bury the pieces left behind—all but one. Her little sister, Livie. Kacey can swallow the constant disapproval from her born-again aunt Darla over her self-destructive lifestyle; she can stop herself from going kick-boxer crazy on Uncle Raymond when he loses the girls’ college funds at a blackjack table. She just needs to keep it together until Livie is no longer a minor, and then they can get the hell out of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

But when Uncle Raymond slides into bed next to Livie one night, Kacey decides it’s time to run. Armed with two bus tickets and dreams of living near the coast, Kacey and Livie start their new lives in a Miami apartment complex, complete with a grumpy landlord, a pervert upstairs, and a neighbor with a stage name perfectly matched to her chosen “profession.” But Kacey’s not worried. She can handle all of them. What she can’t handle is Trent Emerson in apartment 1D.

Kacey doesn’t want to feel. She doesn’t. It’s safer that way. For everyone. But sexy Trent finds a way into her numb heart, reigniting her ability to love again. She starts to believe that maybe she can leave the past where it belongs and start over. Maybe she’s not beyond repair.

But Kacey isn’t the only one who’s broken. Seemingly perfect Trent has an unforgivable past of his own; one that, when discovered, will shatter Kacey’s newly constructed life and send her back into suffocating darkness.
“I don’t hate you. I could never hate you. Give me your heart, Kacey. I’ll take everything that comes with it.”

For all the times this Uncle Raymond dude is mentioned in the summary, he sure never appears in the book. At all. Really, you get what this book is about if you just read the last two paragraphs of the blurb.

I thought this book was interesting. It kept me reading, and I was curious to see what would happen. I got a little caught up in Trent's hotness too, but then again I always do that. I liked Tucker's writing style; it didn't drag, and it definitely could have. Why? Because nothing happens in the first half of the book. Kacey settles down in Miami with her sister, Livie, starts working at a strip club as a bartender with little experience, and avoids her hot neighbor, Trent.

A lot of things that happened in this story made me wonder if this was all possible. Running off to Miami without being found by your legal guardians, miraculously finding people who are that good with tons of cash to spare, getting a job at a club where the bouncers and the owners are complete gentlemen... I don't know, seems a little too perfect for me. Maybe I've been reading too many my-life-is-shit novels or something.

After the initial wow-that-guy-is-sexy phase, I started getting really annoyed of Trent and Kasey's reaction to him. Fine, he's really hot. But do you have to mention how you can't speak and your legs turn to jello every single time you meet eyes? Also, I'm sorry, but he's a stalker. There is no way to get around it. It's mentioned later that he has followed Kasey's life for months before he actually met her, and that is just creepy. Somehow, people think it's okay when the hot guy does the stalking, but stalking is still stalking. It's still the act of creeping on another person without his/her knowledge.

Here's the run-down of this novel:
30% Trent staring at Kasey
40% Kasey thinking about Trent
20% Kasey and Trent sexy times
10% actual substance

To conclude, 90% is about Trent. And he's pretty important, but come on. I thought the book was about Kasey healing herself, not her depending on some guy to do it for her. The unveiling at the end definitely gave me a good shock, though I feel pretty stupid for not foreseeing it earlier. I actually got more interested because of it. The book would've been pretty boring and less fucked up if Tucker had left the twist out, although it might still have worked. I thought everything was too easily solved with the epilogue and last chapter. I don't know if therapy is that miraculous. Maybe it is. But the way everyone seemed to come together again... Like the rest of the book and its characters, it seemed a bit too perfect. I didn't think Tucker spent enough time exploring the other characters for the conclusion to make sense; if she'd laid off a little on Trent and Kasey, there might have been some real, believable development in relationships. As it is, this book is interesting if you like runaway snakes and sexual tension.
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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices, #3)Book: Clockwork Princess
Author: Cassandra Clare
Series: The Infernal Devices
Publication Date:  March 19th, 2013
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy.

Tessa Gray should be happy - aren't all brides happy?
Yet as she prepares for her wedding, a net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute.
A new demon appears, one linked by blood and secrecy to Mortmain, the man who plans to use his army of pitiless automatons, the Infernal Devices, to destroy the Shadowhunters. Mortmain needs only one last item to complete his plan. He needs Tessa. And Jem and Will, the boys who lay equal claim to Tessa's heart, will do anything to save her.
You are not the last dream of my soul. You are the first dream, the only dream I ever was unable to stop myself from dreaming. You are the first dream of my soul, and from that dream I hope will come all other dreams, a lifetime’s worth.

"I had hope enough to take out those old dreams again, to dust them off and give them to you."

"...yours is not the kind of love that can be redeemed only through destruction."
Can I say that after reading A Tale of Two Cities, all of these references suddenly make so much sense to me now? My God, my AP Literature teacher should've just let me read Clockwork Princess instead of harping continuously about how Darnay was the better man (which he was not).

I think this book is the best of Clare's that I've read so far, in that it ends the way the final book of a trilogy should end. Not the way City of Glass did, with more space for more books and unresolved endings. The epilogue has been controversial, and it reminds me a bit of the epilogue for the Harry Potter series. I recall that when people were messaging Cassandra Clare and wailing about whether the ending would make them cry, she said somewhere that it was a bittersweet one. And that's exactly what it is. Something Cassandra Clare really specializes in is not giving people what they want. Most people wanted that happy ending, that assurance that all Tessa's problems would be solved with some miraculous magic. There is magic, but there's also the reality of Tessa's situation and of her immortality. Unlike with The Mortal Instruments, I didn't get the feeling that Clare was pushing the envelope with her plot or the powers that are unveiled.

People have already said things about the love triangle and how beautiful it is, and I'm inclined to agree. Of course, I was a Will/Tessa shipper all the way through (if you couldn't tell through all the Will quotes that I used), but the way that all three of them love each other equally is something that's powerfully expressed throughout the series. Their love for each other is equal parts burdensome and joyful, and no character was left without honor.

One thing about Clare's books that always gets me is how I never seem to predict what will happen. She throws in a lot of curveballs, some more convincing than others. I'm really sad to see The Infernal Devices trilogy end because I loved everything about it. I loved the characters, their humor, the setting of 19th century London. There is a certain subdued power behind the series that I didn't get with The Mortal Instruments, and I hope that Clare brings it back in her next Shadowhunters series rumored to be set in the 1900s which I just stumbled upon in a review O_O (thank you, Maja).

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Review: Wait for You by J. Lynn

Wait for You (Wait for You, #1)Book: Wait for You
Author: J. Lynn
Series: Wait for You
Publication Date: February 26th, 2013
Publisher: J. Lynn

Some things are worth waiting for…

Traveling thousands of miles from home to enter college is the only way nineteen-year-old Avery Morgansten can escape what happened at the Halloween party five years ago—an event that forever changed her life. All she needs to do is make it to her classes on time, make sure the bracelet on her left wrist stays in place, not draw any attention to herself, and maybe—please God—make a few friends, because surely that would be a nice change of pace. The one thing she didn’t need and never planned on was capturing the attention of the one guy who could shatter the precarious future she’s building for herself.

Some things are worth experiencing…

Cameron Hamilton is six feet and three inches of swoon-worthy hotness, complete with a pair of striking blue eyes and a remarkable ability to make her want things she believed were irrevocably stolen from her. She knows she needs to stay away from him, but Cam is freaking everywhere, with his charm, his witty banter, and that damn dimple that’s just so… so lickable. Getting involved with him is dangerous, but when ignoring the simmering tension that sparks whenever they are around each other becomes impossible, he brings out a side of her she never knew existed.

Some things should never be kept quiet…

But when Avery starts receiving threatening emails and phone calls forcing her to face a past she wants silenced, she’s has no other choice but to acknowledge that someone is refusing to allow her to let go of that night when everything changed. When the devastating truth comes out, will she resurface this time with one less scar? And can Cam be there to help her or will he be dragged down with her?

And some things are worth fighting for…

I can basically dumb this book down for everyone else who hasn't read it yet with 10 basic sentences.

1. Girl with dark, secret past that she's ashamed of telling to anyone because it'll make people see her differently moves to a new place.
2. Girl tries to avoid deep connections with other people, especially attractive males who seem to be potential boyfriend material.
3. Girl runs into Boy on first day of class (literally). Boy is attractive (surprise!).
4. Boy is very interested in Girl even though Girl turns down his every advance (actually, maybe that's exactly why he's interested...).
5. Girl finally lets Boy in. They do lots of fun things, like going to a drive-in theater, meeting parents, feeding each other eggs...
6. Girl finds out that Boy is definitely worth it, and so she pushes him away.
7. Boy and Girl fight because Girl is still insecure even though Boy has made it completely clear that he would do anything for her.
8. Boy and Girl get back together because they're both masochists (especially Boy).
9. Boy and Girl fight again because Girl can't get over anything and would rather cry.
10. Boy and Girl get back together and Girl suddenly decides to forget her past and move on.
11. SEX. Or, as Avery words it, "swesomely amazing sex."

I definitely was reminded of Beautiful Disaster while reading this. It's the exact same formula, with less throwing things and abuse on the male's part. Actually, I think Avery is pretty much guilty of all abuse in this book. I must say that if there's one thing that Armentrout is good at, it's her male leads. Despite all their moments of douchiness, they turn out to be upstanding men, and that's what Cam was. He had astonishingly good moments. There was this one part when Avery says, "Cam, you're a good guy" and he replies with, "I'm only good with you." Pretty heart-melting stuff. His biggest character flaw was getting involved with the hot mess that was Avery. I don't know what to think about the way sexual abuse is addressed in this book. I thought it was overdone in that it was mentioned too much without any details, and it told me nothing new. In a way, it was more a device to further the plot than anything else. In addition, there was an explosion of spelling/grammatical mistakes, and some of the characters have the tendency to speak like middle schoolers who still have to put quarters in the swear jar.

Overall, I didn't really enjoy this. Unlike a lot of people, I actually like the tired, trite formula, just because I'm a sucker for the cliche. But I guess this moment was bound to happen sometime. Now I'm going to expect to bump into a hot guy my first day at college, and what a disappointment that will be.

P.P.S. Still don't get the title. It was like it was drawn out of a hat marked "Typical YA Romance Titles," and then J. Lynn forced it to relate to the plot.  

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)Book: Throne of Glass
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass 
Publication Date: August 7th, 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Rating: 4 Stars

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for four  years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another.

Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
Not a bad book to pick to bring me out of my fantasy drought. I've been a frequent FictionPress member, and I remember finding out about all the people raving over Queen of Glass, which was the original title of this novel. Imagine my disappointment to find out that it was removed, and then imagine my excitement to find out that it was slotted for publication. I was pretty darned excited for this book because assassins. Killing! Blood! I love killing. And blood. I guess you can't really have one without the other.

Anyhow, I'll come right out and say it: this book does have problems. It has problems with world-building, and it has problems in the way that Celaena is touted as a world-famous assassin when she never actually assassinates anyone. She just threatens to rip out eyeballs and cut heads off. Which is not bad, but I would've liked a better demonstration of her abilities. There's also the love triangle. I don't have too big of a problem with love triangles; unlike many others, I'm actually waiting for a love triangle that will actually fulfill the purpose of a love triangle, as in it is an equilateral love triangle. Not a scalene or isosceles one. Not a Twilight-esque one where everyone knows who the main character's going to end up getting married and having half-vampire babies with. Throne of Glass nearly accomplished that because I'm really uncertain whom Celaena is going to end up with. The tests themselves aren't very important to the rest of the story, even though they seem to be emphasized in the book summary. There are nebulous references to Celaena's past and the formation of the kingdom of Erilea, but not enough to really form a cohesive other world.

However, I still gave this book four stars. When I was a sad little surfer on FictionPress, looking for stories that didn't mix up your and you're or alternate between first and second person, I would've gotten through this story in a day. It has a fascinating premise, some creative ideas, a heroine who isn't a simpering whiner, and court intrigue. But given all the books I've had exposure to, this isn't anything special anymore. But it kept me interested, and I didn't really notice the flaws until I put it down when I was done and thought about it. The last scene in the end when Celaena is fighting Cain, I was hopping up and down in the middle of Spanish class. And we were about to take a quiz. But I think that Maas does a good job with the action, and I didn't have a hard time visualizing what was happening. I also liked the descriptions of Celaena with her dresses and primping, though it got a bit too frivolous sometimes.

What I really enjoyed was the relationship between Celaena and Chaol. I never liked Dorian very much because although he did have ulterior motives besides playing lapdog to the king, he still seemed too much like a jaded pretty boy. Their interactions were more spurred by physical attraction than anything else. Celaena and Chaol, on the other hand, verbally spar. But when it's important, they have an understanding of each other that goes deeper. I hope we get more than just a couple glimpses of that in the next book. In conclusion, I liked the book. I like any books that manages to keep my interest. It's only when I write this review that I really acknowledge what it was lacking. On a happier note, my thirst for YA fantasy novels has been awoken again! I'll quench it once I finish the other five books I'm reading...
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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

The Lost GirlBook: The Lost Girl
Author: Sangu Mandanna
Publication Date: August 28th, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Rating: 4 Stars

Eva's life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination--an echo. She was made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her "other," if she ever died. Eva spends every day studying that girl from far away, learning what Amarra does, what she eats, what it's like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.

But sixteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything and everyone she's ever known--the guardians who raised her, the boy she's forbidden to love--to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive.

What Eva finds is a grief-stricken family; parents unsure how to handle this echo they thought they wanted; and Ray, who knew every detail, every contour of Amarra. And when Eva is unexpectedly dealt a fatal blow that will change her existence forever, she is forced to choose: Stay and live out her years as a copy or leave and risk it all for the freedom to be an original. To be Eva.

From debut novelist Sangu Mandanna comes the dazzling story of a girl who was always told what she had to be--until she found the strength to decide for herself.

But I don’t have a sword. My shield is broken. I don’t know what is and isn’t honorable anymore. And now I’ve sent my knight away.

It took me a long time to finally get to reading this book, but I guess the wait was worth it. I've hear raving reviews about it for a long time, but when I initially read the blurb, it didn't really appeal to me. After all, we've already seen lots of stories about girls who switch spots in life. True, there's a more supernatural twist added to this premise, but not enough to change the supposed outcome (girl adjusts to new life, finds new boy to love, makes friends that she never would've made otherwise, etc). Really, it should have all the elements of a feel-good chick lit.

But that's not what The Lost Girl is about. It's comprised of three parts. In the first, we learn about Eva's peaceful life in a cottage beside a lake, surrounded by people who love her but always with the looming concern that one day, she will have to serve her purpose. She exists for another person, and it's difficult because she must imitate every facet of her Other's lifestyle. In this part, I really appreciated the kindness that humans are capable of, especially in the way Eva's guardians behave. Although they follow the rules, the small allowances they make are what endeared me to them. Sean, especially, is wonderfully portrayed as logical but sweet. In my opinion, the first part is the best portion of the book: Eva's world and her conflict is beautifully portrayed, and the way it all comes screeching to a halt adds to the drama.

In the second part, Eva adjusts to her new life. What I loved about this was her frequent memories of her old life and the bittersweet nostalgia that those memories are tinged with. I liked her new family, and I thought there was a nice balance between their belief and disbelief that Amarra was still alive. It was relatively normal and typical, until she starts breaking the rules. The third part is when she finally goes on the run.

What stands out about this book is not its idea, but rather the way it's executed. The emotions running through it--desperation, hope, desire--are almost tangible. Each character is well-written, though maybe not as three-dimensional as I'd hoped. I can't say I absolutely loved the book, but I liked the precision that characterized its structure. I couldn't really get sucked in because I was always dubious about the idea of having an echo replace a loved one. What kind of person could convince him/herself that a copy is the same as the original?

At any rate, I enjoyed the book, especially the sweet love story and Eva's struggle for freedom. It's not the most intricate plot I read, but I definitely think this is a worthy debut.

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Review: Pivot Point by Kasie West

Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1)Book: Pivot Point
Author: Kasie West
Series: Pivot Point #1
Publication Date: February 12th, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: 4 Stars

Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . .

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.

This book packs a punch, it really does. I've been reading positive reviews about it for a long time, and so I was pretty excited when I won it through First Reads. When I started, I wasn't too blown away. The story centers around Addie, who has the ability to see two alternate fates when she's forced to make a decision. She decides to use the power when her parents divorce and she has to choose who she'll follow: her father, to the "normal world," or her mother in the world she's used to.

The superpowers themselves aren't that amazing. They're very similar to your typical X-Men powers, from moving mass to erasing memories. What really surprised me was how Kasie West wove the plot. She approaches it in a different and creative way by alternating between the two possible futures that Addie sees. We know which choice Addie is experiencing by the definitions that precede the chapters, which either have a word containing PARA (for Paranormal) or NORM (normal, obviously). I bet some of you are like, "Well, duh. What else could they be for?" but I actually only figured this out when I was 3/4 through the book. Call me stupid -_- I thought they were just dumb definitions that were supposed to somehow hint at what the chapter was about.

My favorite part was probably Addie's Norm life. I think that's because of Trevor. He's adorable and quietly confident, as opposed to Duke. Duke is the very exemplification of any annoying YA teenage boy: charming, cocky, making the girls drool (I do not drool over football players who think they're cool, thank you very much). I was like "Oh God, love triangle" when I started reading about Duke and Trevor, but it turns out that it's not a love triangle. Addie's choice of boys is made from the very start, and I think West deserves points for subtly hinting at who really is the boy for Addie. Back to Trevor; his love for comics was a surprise, and I really enjoyed it. The approach that Addie takes to finally telling him about her secret is interesting. I doubt many girls who are hiding their supernatural abilities from unsuspecting, cute high school boys use a comic to get their point across. Addie's final choice absolutely broke my heart, since I was rooting for the other option. Hopefully, things will get better in the second book...

Anyway, apart from the boys, I really enjoyed the plot. I do find Poison a bit random and believe that West should've expanded on why the Bureau decided he was the one guilty. Also, I'm still waiting to see why there's such a big deal made about the fact that Addie is Divergent and not Clairvoyant. Other than that, I was way hooked on the last couple chapters. The ending definitely threw me for a loop; I wasn't expecting so many secrets kept. And when you step back and think about the book and the way that West chose the characters that she did to have certain powers, you really have to admire the way she strung everything together so that all of these choices are relevant. All in all, this book has restored my faith in YA.

Also, Trevor and Addie 5EVA.

Thanks to HarperTeen for giving me a chance to read and review this book.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Review: Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

Going VintageBook: Going Vintage
Author: Lindsey Leavitt
Publication Date: March 26th, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Rating: 4 Stars

When Mallory discovers that her boyfriend, Jeremy, is cheating on her with an online girlfriend, she swears off boys. She also swears off modern technology. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in 1962, Mallory decides to "go vintage" and return to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn't cheat on you online). She sets out to complete grandma's list: run for pep club secretary, host a dinner party, sew a homecoming dress, find a steady, do something dangerous. But the list is trickier than it looks. And obviously finding a steady is out . . . no matter how good Oliver (Jeremy's cousin) smells. But with the help of her sister, she'll get it done. Somehow. 
This book caught my interest the moment I learned that the main character had a certain violent streak and a love for chips with salsa and cream cheese. Also, there's apparently this thing called milk toast, and it sounds so disgustingly DELICIOUS.

Anyway, back to the book. It's exactly like the summary says. A girl finds out that her boyfriend's been cheating on her with an internet chick named, of all things, BubbleYum. How do you take someone with a name like that seriously? Mallory finds out about BubbleYum, she gets mad while her boyfriend is in the kitchen (where he belongs, sexists), and she throws a virtual book at his virtual icon and makes him bleed. Then she posts on his Friendspace that he's a massive tool and runs out of the house.

Of all the dramatic exits in the world, that is probably one of the best. Just leaving your boyfriend to see that you've told all his friends he's a massive tool on a social network. Imagine the look on that guy's face! It probably looked something like this:

I have to say, I admire Mallory for her courage. There were a lot of times that I thought she'd crack and go back to Jeremy, but she never did. And nothing about her experience is contrived. It does take her a while to get over him and move on, but it feels natural when it happens. 

Example: He looks marginally tortured. Before I can let pity creep in, I have to remind myself that his torture is self-inflicted and only .083 percent of what I feel. 

Yeah, Jeremy's kind of a douche. I don't know what else I learned from this book about him except that he's half Asian and a douche. I hope those two aren't related. Speaking of relations, let's talk about his cousin, Oliver. Actually, I'll just show you guys some quotes spoken by him or about him.

"Five minutes of talking to you is more entertaining than a lifetime knowing Jeremy. So either you came to your senses, or he did something stupid." 

 He's written an extensive list in tiny, slanted caps. No writing tablet or smartphone. He's a pen-and-paper lister, a beautiful and dying breed. 

I've seen people laugh at funerals, so why not be giddy post-breakup? Especially around a guy who makes life feel so effortless, like a meteor could crash into his car and we would just shrug and take the bus.

What really stands out about Oliver is his sincerity. A lot of the guys from YA novels are now too cool and too disdainful, relying on their looks to get all the girls drooling after them, so I liked that Oliver was so effortlessly hip. In the beginning, he seemed like another stereotype, but I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of dedication he put into the pep club and the way he goes about pursuing Mallory. The moment she observes that he's only perceived as a hipster because he doesn't hold back with his thoughts was the moment I loved him. With Oliver, I totally wouldn't have minded if he wasn't as hot as Mallory said he was. His personality more than makes up for any appearance defects.

The plot itself is interesting, and it hops along pretty quickly. I loved Mallory's sister, Ginny, and how easily she jumps into the List. Lots of sisterly love in this book. Her character isn't explored too deeply, but I wasn't expecting much from that aspect of the relationship. The List itself poses an interesting challenge, and it reminded me a lot of how technology is making us dumber. I mean, when's the last time one of us went to the library to research? And did MLA citations the right way? I've been inputting those suckers into the laptop ever since I discovered and copy-paste. It was fun to watch Mallory dodge the hurdles of technology while avoiding her ex and any possible feelings for adorable Oliver at the same time. Quite a task. 

I've mentioned before that Mallory is a pretty strong girl, especially when it comes to staving off Jeremy and his desperation to have a homecoming date (ugh). But I don't really appreciate her flakiness, especially when she just decided to blow off Oliver. She says she's a flaky person, but there was no need to add an irrelevant character flaw where it wasn't needed. I do like that for a long time, she made her life revolve around Jeremy and ignored extracurriculars and everything else. It's a good lesson, especially since many girls (probably boys, too) try to find an identity through having a significant other.

There were a lot of issues in this book that I didn't anticipate, like the conflict between past and present, the way we like to romanticize the past and say the present is never as great as what happened before (Midnight in Paris, anyone?), and the mistakes we've all made and how we try to go about solving them. There were multiple storylines with Mallory's mother, father, grandmother, and sister. As a result, each problem is solved quickly with a messy resolution. However, this could also be because the problems were too deep to be solved with a simple hug or a family sit-down.

All in all, I loved the concept behind the book and reliving the vintage era. So much fun. While the whole thing about technology warping our lives and making us forget ourselves tends towards overexaggerated sometimes, it's to be expected when you're reading from the eyes of a teenage girl. Very adorable book if you feel like feeling happy.

Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury for giving me the chance to read and review this book!
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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Review: Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols

Such a RushBook: Such a Rush
Author: Jennifer Echols
Publication Date: July 10th, 2012
Publisher: MTV Books
Rating: 2 Stars

A sexy and poignant romantic tale of a young daredevil pilot caught between two brothers.

When I was fourteen, I made a decision. If I was doomed to live in a trailer park next to an airport, I could complain about the smell of the jet fuel like my mom, I could drink myself to death over the noise like everybody else, or I could learn to fly.

Heaven Beach, South Carolina, is anything but, if you live at the low-rent end of town. All her life, Leah Jones has been the grown-up in her family, while her mother moves from boyfriend to boyfriend, letting any available money slip out of her hands. At school, they may diss Leah as trash, but she’s the one who negotiates with the landlord when the rent’s not paid. At fourteen, she’s the one who gets a job at the nearby airstrip.

But there’s one way Leah can escape reality. Saving every penny she can, she begs quiet Mr. Hall, who runs an aerial banner-advertising business at the airstrip and also offers flight lessons, to take her up just once. Leaving the trailer park far beneath her and swooping out over the sea is a rush greater than anything she’s ever experienced, and when Mr. Hall offers to give her cut-rate flight lessons, she feels ready to touch the sky.

By the time she’s a high school senior, Leah has become a good enough pilot that Mr. Hall offers her a job flying a banner plane. It seems like a dream come true . . . but turns out to be just as fleeting as any dream. Mr. Hall dies suddenly, leaving everything he owned in the hands of his teenage sons: golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson. And they’re determined to keep the banner planes flying.

Though Leah has crushed on Grayson for years, she’s leery of getting involved in what now seems like a doomed business—until Grayson betrays her by digging up her most damning secret. Holding it over her head, he forces her to fly for secret reasons of his own, reasons involving Alec. Now Leah finds herself drawn into a battle between brothers—and the consequences could be deadly.
I like all the different ways you can spin a contemporary novel. You can focus on only characters, and the setting doesn't matter. You can focus on an idea, like a girl pretending to date someone else, and that idea is the overriding aspect of a story. Or you can focus on the way characters travel through a setting. I especially like ones that incorporate something new, be it a traveling circus, a different country, or a high school with strange traditions. The novelty always gives me a rush (haha). And I thought I'd find the same thing with Such a Rush. Sadly, that didn't happen.

I don't have much experience with Jennifer Echols's writing; this is my first glimpse at one of her books. However, I do compartmentalize her with the period of life that I spent reading about melodramatic relationships and sex between teenagers that seemed too fake and too fast. I'm talking books like The Other Boy by Hailey Abbott and The Au Pairs. I didn't read many of those kinds of books, just because I found the material extremely repetitive and shallow. Such a Rush didn't seem like that kind of book, and I found the concept of a girl learning to be a pilot really interesting. It's definitely something you don't regularly see in a book. Also, I can't say no to a sexy bad boy, which is what Grayson is, supposedly.

In the beginning, I got into this book with all the excitement that Leah has on her first flying lesson. I've never read anything that depicted life in a trailer park to the extent that this book did, so it was a harsh glimpse into the way life is for people. However, I did feel that sometimes it was portrayed to the point of overkill because of the number of times Leah mentions the "whores on the beach" or the pitbull. Although Leah says time and time again that she isn't bitter about people having more than she does, the way she flies off the handle every time somebody questions her about her life makes those statements hypocritical. I can't hate her entirely, though; she takes what she has and runs with it. She's exceptionally driven, and I never wanted to strangle her at any time through the book, except maybe when she did that cutting at the throat motion, just because it seemed like a rude and random thing to do.

Now, the other characters. Grayson is a bipolar douchebag. He keeps assuming Leah is a whore, blackmails her into dating his brother for his own purposes, and despite all his sweet words, he still wants her to continue doing what he tells her to do. Alright, he's muscular, has curly blond hair, and always wears aviators and a cowboy hat. That's all really great, but not exactly a good reason for a person to fall in love with him. There is some depth to him, considering how he changes after he almost crashes his plane and after his father's death, but that could have been explored further instead of just being used as an excuse for his assholery. Alec and Molly are equally infuriating. I probably hated Molly most because she dragged Leah to a party even when Leah explicitly did not want to go. Molly is selfish and bitchy, a classic rich girl who puts herself first. Alec is one-dimensional and vindictive. The conflict in the book wasn't much of a conflict, since everybody seemed to already know what the problem was.

My greatest problem with this book is that it seemed supremely unrealistic, both in the way the plot unfolds and in the way the characters treat each other. Sure, Leah might be desperate, but it doesn't make sense that she would befriend people who treat her like trash and rub their richness in her face. There were also periods that Grayson or Leah would say something that was supposedly profound but sounded more like a preachy let-me-rub-a-moral-lesson-in-your-face line. I couldn't connect to any of the characters because I didn't find any of them that likable, and none of them possessed much depth. Also, why is the cover (gorgeous as it is) of a girl with straight hair when Leah harps so much over her curly hair?
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Friday, January 4, 2013

Feature & Follow Friday (10)

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 are: Galavanting Girl Books and Lost in Thought.

Q: What New Years Blogging or Writing resolution have you placed on yourself?

A: I'm not too sure about blogging; I'm pretty happy doing what I do, and I think that's all the time I have. Since I'm going off to college soon, I'll have even less time, but I do want to keep reading as much as I can (100 books goal this year), since there are tons of interesting books that are coming out in 2013 (refer to my New Year's Readsolution!).

I also write on the side, and I just want to finish something of all the works in progress I have clogging up my files. I'm this close to wrapping up almost three of my stories, but I just haven't been able to sit down and finish.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Review: Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara

Lovely, Dark and DeepBook: Lovely, Dark and Deep
Author: Amy McNamara
Publication Date: October 16th, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Rating: 3 Stars

Since the night of the crash, Wren Wells has been running away. Though she lived through the accident that killed her boyfriend Patrick, the girl she used to be didn’t survive. Instead of heading off to college as planned, Wren retreats to her father’s studio in the far-north woods of Maine. Somewhere she can be alone.

Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal’s hiding out too. When the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won isolation, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her.
Before this book, if someone had approached me and said that it was possible to write a 350 page novel that basically revolves around a teenage girl angsting in a forest, I would've called bullshit. But this book proved me wrong. Apparently, teenagers can have a lot of angst. Enough to fill 350 pages. I don't want to blaspheme Lovely, Dark and Deep though, because at its heart, it's a beautifully written book. The writing is poetic and conjures up images in a way that a regularly written script of dialogue and hasty descriptions can't. One of the first things that clued me into the prose was the quote on the front jacket flap:
I came here because it's pine-dark and the ocean is wild. The kind of quiet-noise you need when there's too much going on in your head. Like the water and the woods are doing all the feeling, and I can hang out, quiet as a headstone, in a between place. A blank I can bear.
I still can't believe she compared herself to a headstone. She's basically saying her life is a cemetery. This should have been enough of a clue that I was about to venture into depression-land, but apparently it wasn't enough to drive me away.

The entire time I was reading, I kept imagining myself in this silent forest, the kind of forest you find in the east. The trees have heavy snow-covered boughs, and the only sound is silence. Other times, it seemed that this book had submerged me like a rock in the ocean, where everything is muffled but in clarity. This is the world that Wren seems to move through. After her car accident, when she sees her boyfriend die before her eyes, she's lost and can't seem to find meaning in normalcy anymore. The grief in this book is potent, and I had to take breaks from the book because there were times when I thought it would take me under and not let go.

Wren is a tormented character; she takes midnight jogs in the forest and basically wanders around, oblivious to everything around her. It wasn't so bad in the beginning, but as the book went on, I found it really hard to like her. There's an amount of grief that i can deal with, but the way she treated the people around her seemed too harsh. Her decisions were so childish, especially when she decides that she hates Nick, that I couldn't feel sorry for her. She hates quickly and falls in love equally quickly. Cal remains two-dimensional; although his illness gives him character, I never felt like I truly understood him or what he and Wren found in each other beyond their mutual knowledge of what grief feels like.

What I did like, besides the writing, were the side characters, like her father, Mary, and Zara. Although there's not enough exploration into each, their personalities are warm and offset the coldness that seems to surround Wren. When they appear in the book, despite Wren's sulky responses to their attempts to help, they seem to be beacons of hope and recovery. The normalcy they provide becomes more frequent, and I think McNamara did a good job of inserting them into Wren's life slowly but surely. I would've liked her to come to terms with her mother in some sort of way, but I guess the point of that and what happens to her and Meredith are both evidence that there are some circumstances in life that change everything, and there's not much we can do to change it back.

Lovely, Dark and Deep is a heavy novel, but it doesn't have enough momentum. As I mentioned in my introduction, it's 350 pages of teenage angst. The end didn't seem like an end because the story cuts off, and maybe McNamara intends for us to imagine the rest of Wren's life, now that she's learned to care about others again. At any rate, the story just seems like one prolonged moment, and I have a hard time finding a plot in it. It could have been cut down a lot more so that the sadness was more profound and seemed less like it was dragging on. Also, the fragmented sentences sometimes interrupted the flow of things, especially since the rest of the writing was poetic and smooth.

Well, that's that. I'm exhausted from this book. Time for some Julia Quinn! 
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