I enjoyed how it explored the idea that maybe the thing you've dedicated your life to isn't the thing you want to do anymore, but it didn't get gross...moreI enjoyed how it explored the idea that maybe the thing you've dedicated your life to isn't the thing you want to do anymore, but it didn't get gross about it. Sophie Flack presented a shy but powerful novel about what it means to be alive.
I liked it for its shameless quirkiness but I felt like I didn't get enough sense of the main character to become truly embroiled in the flow of the p...moreI liked it for its shameless quirkiness but I felt like I didn't get enough sense of the main character to become truly embroiled in the flow of the plot.
It wasn't what I was expecting, but I can see the brilliant threads of genius that so many of today's dystopian wri...moreOriginally posted on The Authoress.
It wasn't what I was expecting, but I can see the brilliant threads of genius that so many of today's dystopian writers have fastened onto and expanded on. Short, brilliant, remarkable. A reminder that even small things like color are exceptionally important.
It was almost as if I were reading the "original" of something, as if Lois Lowry single handedly crafted the template for young adult dystopian literature. The Giver featured an overly controlling, seemingly perfect world without proper emotions or color, and fields of work are chosen for you, as well as the person you would marry. These are aspects that many of today's writers have taken and toyed with, trying to pick apart and decipher. It was amazing to see what I now consider to be the "original" young adult dystopian.
I was a bit dissatisfied with its length, though. I have become so conditioned to three hundred plus page novels, that it was a touch startling to see a story begin and end all within a hundred and eighty pages. For this reason, I thought things could have been greatly expanded on. (Really, though, that's what today's dystopian has done: expanded on the bare-bones idea laid down by Lois Lowry.)
I didn't connect with it on a visceral level. It had the kind of chaotic, ethereal style that I associate with older books and while I liked the main character, Jonas, I didn't totally connect with his story. I saw it, and appreciated it, from the point of view that this was the book that most likely inspired today's dystopian writers. So while I didn't enjoy it enough to be giddy and excited over it, I appreciate(less)
Maggie Stiefvater brought me to this story. When I found out that she would be writing a middle grade novel for a multi-author, multi-platform series, I had to get in on it. (I mean, hello. Maggie Whose-Mind-Is-Made-Of-Awesome Stiefvater.) I didn't have a lot of experience with Brandon Mull outside of the thirty pages I read of Beyonders. (I will finish that book, I promise.)
Before I go into all the things that made Wild Born great, I just want to note my one complaint: the length. Come on! This book exemplifies why I dislike reading tiny books: I'm skeptical that any sort of real plot or world building can be shoved in any satisfactory way into a book less than 300 pages. While there was plenty of world building and a delicately woven plot, I could sense its potential roaring right under the surface, desperate to break out and shine.
Despite the unsatisfactory length, I loved so many things about Wild Born:
The characters were diverse without being obviously polar opposites of each other. It's so easy with a four-hero template like this to be overly obvious. Brandon Mull did an excellent job creating interesting dynamics between each of the characters, so that while they didn't trust each other or necessarily get along, they were a group knitted together by their individual ties. (Think the character set of The Avengers.)
I love the world of Erdas and how distinct each culture is from each other. Again, though, I wish that it had been longer so that there could have been more time spent on the settings of each place. Despite this, Brandon Mull did a fabulous job establishing the feelings of each place.
The plot was interesting, if a bit cliche and easily predictable. It still kept me engaged and entertained. The ending was that of a fantastic adventure story, leaving plenty of room for another journey.
I also had the chance to try the online game. (Though I haven't actually done anything besides create my profile and animal.) I love how this is multi dimensional. If I had read this as an eight-year-old, I would have been all over it.
Saying that, I do understand why the book is so short: because it is targeting a much younger age than I happen to be. I feel like I've been set up by MG authors like JK Rowling, Eoin Colfer, and especially Rick Riordan. But Brandon Mull told a great story in a very short span of time. I'm excited to see what Maggie Stiefvater has to add to the adventure, and how this series is going to grow the older the characters become.(less)
Though there are many middle grade series and authors that I hold dear, I don't overly explore the middle grade genre outside of the authors I have already subscribed to. I had a lot of mixed feelings over Lauren Oliver's young adult books (Delirium, Before I Fall) but what I could never deny was how wonderfully breathtaking her writing style is. Jim Dale was the one who piqued my interest in Liesl & Po with the simple fact that he narrates the audiobook. He also did Harry Potter. When I heard an excerpt from the audiobook, I had to pick it up. When I saw it at a bargain book store, I grabbed it. And I am so glad I did.
What I expected was the stereotypical middle grade novel: something with some overly simplistic writing and characters that were flatly grandiose puttering along to a plot that could be predicted from another planet. What I got was the tale of three adorably fleshed out characters racing through the pages, chased by eyebrow-raisingly creepy villains, in a world that is instantly recognizable for its genius but enchantingly exotic shadows.
What I admired about Lauren Oliver's take to this straightforward plot was how she pulled the simple bones of the plot like soft taffy until they were an entirely different shape. The original idea was the still there -- a tale of an accidental switch by an abused apprentice, and a girl closeted away by an evil stepmother -- but it came alive. Lauren Oliver made it feel not so much created as discovered.
The illustrations added another layer of atmosphere to the already jam-packed story. They piqued my interest when I browsed ahead, and then painted a deeper picture when I came upon that part of the story. The illustrations helped me imagine how the author must've imagined the characters, and that brought a certain flavor to the reading of the story, seeing how the author meant it to look.
Liesl & Po was a fantastic story with a bittersweet ending. It is certainly a book that I will proudly carry on my shelves, and also one I may take the time to reread in the future. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone.(less)
If I had read Ender's Game when I was eleven, or even as old as fifteen, I would not have come out of the story the same way I have now. The movie brought me to this story, but the book captured me in the way only an excellent novel can. While rife with disturbing elements, it is the effectiveness of the setup and the humanity of the story that makes it such a good book. And while books that try to force uncomfortable things in the faces of the audience are a turnoff, Orson Scott Card expertly wraps the disconcerting themes around Ender, a character, while so high above everyone else, including the audience, is so desperately human like the rest of us. What Orson Scott Card does in Ender's Game is something that is missing in today's novels.
What struck me first about Ender's Game was how well Orson Scott Card understood human behavior. The way he implemented that into the story made it come alive, and I found it fascinating. As a writer myself, I struggle with trying to bring my characters to life by realizing that they have their own opinions. It was easy for me to understand the energy of a character right away, given how well Card presented them.
I've heard people say that it's hard to connect to Ender because he's so young. Also, he's so young and smart. I see where that comes from, because I had a difficult time believing I was reading about a six-year-old, too. I pictured a twelve-year-old in my head, so when I was reminded how young he was, it jarred me out of the story. Yet I feel that it's fitting to have him so young. Some say this makes him had to connect to. To me, it isn't about connecting with the main character, but understanding them. I connected to Ender on a single aspect and that was struggling to successfully integrate into a group of your peers. I still greatly enjoyed Ender's character, despite our differences, because I don't have to be his soulmate in order to get something out of his character and his story.
The plot was straightforward, up to a certain point, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment. To me, the story was about Ender and his internal struggles. Also, Card brings up moral issues, like colonization, the purpose and right to wage war, and the exploitation of basic human rights. Some big stuff. So when I said that Card is doing things that are missed in today's novels, that's what I meant. The Big Stuff. Card goes for the jugular and doesn't let go for anything. That killer instinct for storytelling is what has today's YA novels falling harmlessly into the mainstream.
Ender's Game packed a punch when it came out of the gate back in the late 70's, but it hasn't lost any of its potency. It was a well-crafted and excellent story that is definitely worth a gander, even if you aren't into sci-fi. (And if you aren't, this may be just the thing to pique your interest.) Now that I have read it, I definitely want to continue the story and I most definitely want a copy on my shelves.(less)
I was hesitant to pick this one up since dystopians aren't usually my thing, but I was interested in the dynamic between a bounty hunter and his prey, and how the summary seemed to promise something different, something that would have me falling head over heels for the dystopian genre. Having read it, I'm so glad my spidey senses tingled. With its engaging writing style, depth-defying world and lovable characters, Midnight City is a distinctive addition to the young adult dystopian genre, and a new favorite of mine.
Midnight City was immediately engaging. Mitchell has a masterful command of plot structure, evidenced by the way he starts with external threats that bind the characters together, and then building to a threat that affects them all. And they were threats that mattered to the characters, that affected them directly. Every chapter had a conflict that made sense; nothing felt haphazardly thrown together. This kind of cohesion, in addition to breathtaking action scenes, kept me glued to the pages from start to finish.
The book came alive like a movie in my head. I could envision, with near perfect clarity, how these characters moved, thought, and interacted. What's more, every bond they formed made sense. The progression of their relationships weren't botched by a rush to get them to where the author wanted them. I could fully understand their goals, how they were shaped by their personalities, and how they would come to align. I cheered for them 100%.
My enjoyment of the story was only heightened by Mitchell's edgy writing style. Though a little rusty in some areas, it complimented the story perfectly. I liked how it sporadically alternated between points of view from chapter to chapter, giving the story a depth that otherwise would've been missed.
That was one of the best parts: the depth of the world. I liked how Mitchell built in the history naturally, without having to resort to dedicating a chapter to explaining how the world got to the way it was. I loved the detail that went into the Assembly, and into how the world had changed, without bogging down the story or making it too incomprehensible. It was easy to understand, and to admire.
Midnight City was an incredible dystopian, one that I would love to return to again. I'm so excited for the sequel!(less)
The Dead Girls' Dance wasn't a huge step up from Glass Houses in my opinion of it. The characters were good, but not exceptional; the world was expanded well enough; and, luckily, it wasn't a rehashing of the first. It was still very superficial and "bubble gum" like, but what made this installment distinctive for me was how the stakes were high. (No pun intended.) But I'm still not finding it "oh my goodness" amazing.
Like the first book, Dead Girls' Dance lacked a sense of depth. It left me wondering, "Why should I find this important?" I did feel more of a connection with the characters, though, because I'd already read a book about them, but while their quips were hilarious, their dynamics weren't thrilling me. That was my issue with most of the story: I was left utterly un-thrilled.
Claire was my central issue in Glass Houses. Here, she was fine. Still a complete flake, but not wholly useless, either. Although, I certainly raised my eyebrows over her desire to still head to class when she knows full well that leaving the house will get her killed. With Claire, I was always thinking, "If you're going to get threatened, kidnapped and potentially sucked dry by a bunch of creepy vamps, it might as well be for a better reason than wanting to go to class."
I thought the plot for Dead Girls' Dance was much better than Glass Houses. It had a bit more cohesiveness; I understood the stakes better. What I didn't understand was why the title was "The Dead Girls' Dance" when the dance didn't mean a whole lot in terms of how it impacted the story. Besides that, it was exciting and interesting and packed a few twists.
What I loved most, hands down, was the humor. Kudos for books that make me laugh. Glass Houses was excellent in the humor department, and The Dead Girls' Dance continued that excellence nicely. So if I got anything out of it, it was a great laugh.
I'm a bit on the fence about whether or not I'm going to continue with the series. I've been told they get better with time, but after two books that were only "meh," I'm a bit skeptical about putting a lot of time and effort into the series. Still, I'm interested, and that counts for something.(less)
I picked up Miss Fortune Cookie in response to seeing it everywhere -- on blogs, on people's profile picture, on Goodreads status updates. Out of sheer irritation, I looked it up to see what the heck all the commotion was about, and I was surprised to see that it looked like a very promising, cute book. I immediately checked it out from my local library and buzzed in anticipation for the moment when I would finally be able to read it. It was worth the wait. Miss Fortune Cookie won me over with its instantly likable main character, Erin, and the passion behind the presentation of Chinese-American culture. But what really got me was that it felt true.
Truth in fiction may seem, at first, to be a bit of a paradox. Readers will tell you, however, that fiction is the best gateway to the truth. Miss Fortune Cookie, despite its...creative elimination of swear words (s***!), felt like something that could really happen in a way that differentiated itself to me from other contemporary novels. There was something there that really connected with me. Maybe it was the nerdiness of Erin in the way she compacted truths down to equations, or the love for her family and culture, or struggling with college choices. Whatever it was, there was a shard of truth there, and it resonated with me.
I think what won me over wholly, though, was the main character, Erin. I loved her innocently sarcastic and self-deprecating narrative, as well as her sarcastic and self-deprecating humor. And although she had some dim moments, don't we all? Things that generally irked me about a character made me love Erin all the more.
Lack of passion in a novel is the bane of my existence, but Lauren Bjorkman has passion in spades. From the details that neatly frame Erin's tiny, shoebox apartment to the way Bjorkman carefully crafted Mrs. Liu's speech, I could sense the painstaking effort and heart that went behind the story. It made the exotic culture of Chinese-American lifestyles to come through loud and clear for me. (Also, I got a kick out of the presentation of Asian stereotypes that happen to be very true. One of my good friends from high school is Asian, and would probably get a real kick out of this book.)
With the humor, charming cultures, and wacky adventures, Miss Fortune Cookie is a real gem of young adult contemporary literature. And at just under three hundred pages, it's a short, fun read for anyone who wants a good story.(less)
Kendare Blake single handedly turned my intrigue and curiosity towards the ghostly side of creepiness. Where normally I stay far, far away from anything with the mere suggestion of skin-crawling terror, Kendare Blake's work, first with Anna Dressed in Blood and now Girl of Nightmares, has brought me a new appreciation of things that go bump in the night. I think in any other case, I would cast a questioning glance at the author's mental stability after seeing the product of their work, but with this book -- with its refreshingly three dimensional characters, exciting plot and great narrative -- I'm willing to make an exception.
The one thing that worries me with sequels of any kind, whether it's a part of a long, drawn out series or just a duology, is a rehashing of the first book. With each new book, I expect a deeper and thorough progression of the characters and a plot that explores the world instead of sticking to the same set of possibilities. Girl of Nightmares really impressed me with the way the world, and the characters, expanded.
The characters had to be my favorite thing about this book. I cheered for and admired them in Anna Dressed in Blood and that admiration only grew with Girl of Nightmares. I think specifically of Carmel: I loved seeing her gain dimension and progress as a character. Normally, side characters are shoved ruthlessly aside to make room for all of the main character's drama, but Carmel was a solid presence. In fact, all of the characters were nuanced. They lacked the picky, petty, cookie cutter melodrama that tends to sand down the finer grains of a character. In this respect, they all had a strong sense of realism, so it made it nearly impossible for me not to sympathize with them as they went to hell and back (literally).
The "there" that she's referring to is the Tower of London, the castle-like fortress that sits on the north bank of the Thames. It's touristy and historical, the site of numerous tortures and executions, from Lady Jane Grey to Guy Fawkes. Looking at it as we cross the Tower Bridge, I wonder how many screams have bounced off the stone walls. I wonder how much blood the ground remembers. They used to put severed heads up on pikes and display them on the bridge until they fell into the river. I glance down at the brown water. Somewhere underneath, old bones might be fighting their way out of the silt.
Cas's narrative made it so easy to slide into the story. Full of great zingers and one liners, I love Cas's blatant insolence and dry humor. This style of Anna Dressed in Blood carried over brilliantly to Girl of Nightmares. With clear, concise imagery, Kendare Blake's writing style really brings out the creepiness in clear cut descriptions. The effect is uber chilling. It's incredibly easy to picture the action like a movie, which only heightens the suspense and drama.
Not that the plot needed the extra help. Constant action, always something interesting happening. I loved how it was perpetually moving forward. There were no boring or useless fillers; everything had a purpose, impact. The stakes kept building and building, pushing the characters, forcing them to make choices, to question themselves, to make sacrifices. The climax... Ah, climaxes that make me want to cry are always memorable. The bittersweet ones are the worst, aren't they?
Girl of Nightmares was an epic book. I loved every page. I must have it for my shelves.(less)
At least once in your life, a book comes along that forges an instant connection before page one is even started. Skinny was that book for me. I knew, from the moment I heard Donna Cooner give her story behind Skinny, that I wanted to read it. I have always had private issues with my self image, but what drew me to this book was the concept of the little voice in the back of your head having a name: Skinny. With a Cinderella-esque format, a brilliant main character held up by brilliant supporting characters, and a little shoulder devil, Skinny was the book that, for me, could do no wrong.
I say "Cinderella-esque" because it is not a retelling of Cinderella with a few shoddily hidden parallels. Cooner curves the story so that it is entirely its own creature. From the moment I started it, I couldn't put it down. I loved the main character, Ever (though I will forgive her for her name), with her edgy narrative voice that was tinged with a depth that went beyond the pages. My only issue was how I wished -- so wished! -- that she would stand up for herself more. But even when she didn't, I could deal with it, and move through the story with her without it diverting my attention.
I love Lauren Myracle's blurb for Skinny:
The best -- and truest -- depiction of the joys and pangs of transformation I've ever read. Deeply moving, totally addictive, utterly fabulous.
I love how Skinny wasn't about preaching the warning signs of obesity or low self esteem. It was a beautiful story of a girl who transformed inside and out, so it doesn't come off as depressing or heavy. While it dealt with a very big subject and showed the not-so-friendly sides of human interactions, I didn't feel weighed down when I closed the book. I felt enlightened! It was a book that I could fully identify with, and learn from. And I loved that.
Cooner's writing style was simple and elegant, and effortless morphed between scenes of skipping and laughing happiness, to edgy betrayals and bitter anger. It carried along a story that built to a climax that had me grinning like a moron in my chair. Cooner packed a thrilling conclusion within a mere few pages. It was electric.
Skinny is a book that crosses boundaries. It's a book that can be read by anyone and everyone, because there isn't a person out there who doesn't feel insecure about something. Or who doesn't that that little voice of doubt niggling in the back of their mind. With its wit and universal message, Skinny is a book I'd recommend to anyone.(less)
I don't like vampire books. Just a little quirk of mine. So the one and only reason I picked Drink, Slay, Love up was because it was written by Sarah Beth Durst, who blew me away with her unbelievably wonderful fantasy novel, Vessel. People told me, "Oh, you liked that? You'd totally love Drink, Slay, Love." And I just thought, "It's...a...vampire book." But I did pick it up. Thank God.
I love books that make me laugh. What surprised me here was the way humor was used. Drink, Slay, Love was not some light, fluffy spoof. So while it was a lot of fun, the humor was more along the dry and sarcastic side rather than ridiculous and unbelievable. (But okay, I'll admit the unicorn thing did push a limit or two.) I didn't expect something deep and rich with complicated feelings, nuanced characters and a plot that actually challenged the characters instead of being conveniently inconvenient. But that's exactly what I got.
Another expectation busted? Pearl's awesomeness. Huzzah for awesome vampire main characters. I thought she would be irritating and shallow, but she never even gave my nerves a mean glance. Not even for a second. That rocked. I loved how her transition from soulless predator to vulnerable teenager was portrayed as a slow evolution that was believable and sincere. I backed Pearl up 100%. I wanted her to live (so to speak), to find her happiness, and succeed at her mission. Having so much sympathy with the main character let me sit back and enjoy the story.
I was thinking the plot might be a little on the sketchy side. I mean, there's a unicorn. But only a few things warranted an eyebrow raise. The stakes were well defined (no pun intended) so I understood from the get go what Pearl stood to lose if she pushed the boundaries of her world. There was constant motion and conflict, always something to move the story forward, and the plot twists challenged the characters, didn't let them slide by with only a few scrapes.
All of this was accented with a great sense of humor and underlined with a sweet romance. I liked how the humor was more sarcastic and snarky than goofy and unbelievable. And the romance. Ah, amour. I think that I saw the signs of a Durst trademark. In Vessel, the romance built up naturally and here, too, in Drink, Slay, Love, the romance did not take center stage but instead was something else the main character had to work through. I really liked how this wasn't a romance, but more of a coming-of-age story.
Sarah Beth Durst has finally given me the opportunity to say that there is only one vampire book I like, instead of declaring I dislike them in general. Drink, Slay, Love was a fun tale of vampirism, action and a dash of romance, all laced with a snarky humor that had me giggling from start to finish. A great read.(less)
There's a reason I never watched any of the Jason movies (weren't there seven of them or something?) or The Exorcist. Somehow, there's a huge difference between the urban fantasy world of Twilight and City of Bones with the vampires, werewolves, and warlocks and what Debra Chapoton brought to life in Sheltered.
I was glued to the pages, but mostly out of fear of stopping than morbid fascination. I am a total scaredy cat, but this was a whole different kind of creepy. It was psychological. Debra Chapoton paired the physical demons with the mental ones and the effect was spine tingling. Maybe my lack of spooky experiences made me uber vulnerable to suggestion, but regardless, the effect was immediate and lasting. I almost couldn't get through it because I didn't want to be freaked out.
Sheltered surprised me with how it appeared to be ordered chaos: a string of seemingly linear events tossed in with mystery but all told with an omniscient POV that I haven't seen outside of the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. In a single scene, the POV would switch between three different characters seemingly at random. At first I was a bit put off by this because it would happen without pause: no marker that said it was now being told from Ben's POV. An interesting style that, I think, worked for the story.
Sheltered took on a different kind of story for me. I was more concerned, mentally, for the creepy things going on than for the development of the characters or the world-building. Only upon reflection did I think about how much I didn't really like one of the characters, or the romance. It was the tiny details of the possessions that I found myself focusing on, not the characters themselves.
While Sheltered was not a story I would seek out myself, I think anyone who wants a good spooky read for Halloween has found a good one.(less)
I was nervous to pick up Valkyrie Rising. I had a feeling after reading the synopsis that the potential awesomeness of the story could be easily eclipsed by a shoddy romance, but I liked the idea of Norse mythology finally entering the mix of mythological stories in young adult literature. I thought Valkyrie Rising would be a story of courage, sacrifice, love and adventure, but I was wrong. Tera Lynn Childs blurbed Valkyrie Rising, saying that it was a "perfect girl-power romance." I highly disagree. I hope this won't be held as the standard of perfection for a girl-power adventure story. Weighed down by amateur-style writing and a weak, uninspiring main character, I couldn't bring myself to even finish the book.
The writing style was my main issue. Everything was told to me -- I couldn't sit back and experience it myself. When the main character, Ellie, experienced a strong emotion, like fury, it was merely stated as this:
I was too fast and way beyond being reasoned with. I would crush Astrid or die trying. Anger howled through me, fueled by the certainty that I could win this fight if I was clever and bold enough. (p. 203)
There were gems hidden among the rough, but they were few and far between and buried under unpolished prose. For example, "anger howled through me" is a great phrase, but Paulson follows it up with telling the reader that Ellie was "certain" about the impending fight. It wasn't infused with Ellie's anger, leaving me totally unaffected. This style permeated through the entire book, and I had a hard time wading through it.
My other main issue was Ellie herself. She was so melodramatic. She made huge assumptions based on little to no evidence. This was a side effect of Paulson not building the stakes properly. If I, the reader, can't understand the significance of something, then Ellie's reactions just make her come off as a spazz. Also, the writing made Ellie come off as a fraud. It squashed her character development by cramming an entire character arc into a single paragraph. I couldn't understand her at all.
I was very disappointed with how poorly the atmosphere was delivered. Norway, being such an unexplored setting in young adult books, should've been rife with details. Only, it wasn't. I couldn't get a sense of the world at all. Ingrid Paulson left too much to the imagination. I had to pause in order to construct the details myself and as a reader, I shouldn't have to put in that kind of work. I wish Paulson had taken some time to weave the world into the prose, but she merely set up the setting in a single introductory paragraph whenever the setting changed.
The romance left a lot to be desired. I noticed that a lot of the story was spent talking to boys, or Ellie interacting with boys, or Ellie thinking about boys. I understood that Tuck was an angel incarnate, but let's try to keep our panties on. Ellie's relationship with Tuck was fraught with holes. Ellie would go in one direction of thought only to backtrack and go another way. Being on such unstable footing was a big turnoff when it came to how Ellie and Tuck's relationship progressed.
Finally, there was no passion. This was an adventure book, where was the blood-pumping action? This was a romance book, where was the heart-wrenching dedication? This was about bravery, so where was the courage? I just couldn't sense any passion behind Ingrid Paulson's words. I was left thinking, "Why should I care?"
Valkyrie Rising may have worked for me if I felt Paulson had thrown herself into the story and owned it, but with the second-rate writing style, irritating main character and flimsy plot, I just couldn't find a reason to invest in it.(less)
When I first started into What Happens Next, I didn't know that it was a book with a strong theme of weight loss and self image running through it. Frankly, I didn't know quite what to expect. Certainly it wasn't the multi-dimensional main character, or the absolutely amazing romance, or the fantastic story. Of course I wished for all those things, but I was glad when that's exactly what I got.
The main character, Sid, had her flaws. But it was her flaws that gave her that third dimension. She was realistic by being many different things, not just a one-sided, cardboard cutout heroine. She was chaotic at times and had her hypocritical moments, but I felt she had a good heart because she was incredibly loyal to her brother, and family was important to her. As were her friends, even though they weren't stellar to her. And she was feisty! There's a single scene that sticks out to me where Sid is particularly (and hilariously) vindictive and it makes me laugh just thinking about it. That kind of lasting impression is the result of her awesome character.
What I loved most about the romance in What Happens Next was that it didn't get in my face. It took a backseat to the main theme, and having an emotional theme take the spotlight was a breath of fresh air. It also didn't carry that feeling of inevitability. From the synopsis, it's easy to deduce that Corey "The Living Stoner" Livingston is going to be a love interest, but it wasn't presented that way in the book. There was no insta-love. It felt incredibly natural. That kind of slow-growing romance let the arc of the character development shine through, so I saw how the romance shaped Sid instead of overwhelmed her.
Sid's story was amazing. Colleen Clayton doesn't focus on the horror (which I appreciate) but rather on the aftermath -- hence the title What Happens Next. It isn't depressing like a lot of close-to-home topics are (for example, Dreamland by Sarah Dessen or Willow by Julia Hoban) but instead it's an inspiring and hopeful story of how a teen can recover after a physical and emotional trauma.
I had a few issues with the writing style. It was distracting in the beginning, like it took Colleen Clayton a while to find her stride. I could see where it started to improve because the number of diamonds in the rough started to multiply exponentially. By the end, except for a few cheesy moments, I was very impressed with the way the writing style allowed Sid's story to flow effortlessly.
A great story that would definitely appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti and Laurie Halse Anderson.(less)
Rules of Attraction was an incredible story with two cheer-worthy main characters bundled together with rib-cracking humor. While this book wouldn't win any awards from me for writing style, Rules of Attraction was teeming with undeniable wit and a great story of romance.
Rules of Attraction is a rehashing of Perfect Chemistry. It was set up the exact same way as the first only with a "new" situation: the plot progressed the exact same way and, since it dealt with a lot of the same characters, it made the similarities more recognizable. My main problem was the climax. This quote by Robert McKee put my issues with Rules of Attraction's plot exactly:
If [the climax] fails, the story fails... If you fail to make this poetic leap to a brilliant culminating climax, all previous scenes, characters, dialogue, and description become an elaborate typing exercise.
Coupled with Simone Elkeles's a little too-simplisitic writing style and her tendency to tell and not show, the supposed "action scene" to cap off the book really fell flat and left me with the bitter taste of disappointment.
I cheered for the romance, though. Despite how inevitable the progression of the characters' relationship was, the two of them made me smile and laugh and sigh with frustration. Carlos and Kiara are definitely not a boring couple: their constant banter, their power plays, the give-and-take... It all culminated into a relationship to cheer for. Also, I think Simone Elkeles did an excellent job in alternating between the two main characters. (Quite a few scenes made me blush, though. Maybe not an issue for readers who're seasoned in the more risque side of romance novels, but I'm still in denial over slowly losing the innocence of my childhood.)
I wouldn't pin any writing awards on the cover of this book. While the style (mostly) worked to set a humorous and heart-breaking tone for the story, it wasn't as in depth as I would've preferred. I was mostly drawn in by the humor because almost any book that makes me laugh is considered a keeper on some scale.
I think, for all its faults, Rules of Attraction would make an excellent movie. It's a bit more original that Alex and Brittany's story in Perfect Chemistry and more enjoyable a story overall.
I hesitated slightly about picking up Chain Reaction, the third book, right away, but then I read the excerpt that came in the back of Rules of Attraction and was instantly hooked.(less)
I read Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac and had attempted Elsewhere but overall, Gabrielle Zevin wasn't on my list of...moreOriginally posted on The Authoress.
I read Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac and had attempted Elsewhere but overall, Gabrielle Zevin wasn't on my list of all-time favorite authors, or even authors whose work I would check out again. So it was with more than a little skepticism that I pulled All These Things I've Done off the shelf of my local library. The very cover captured my interest: chocolate is contraband, caffeine illegal? Already, my spidey-senses were tingling. What All These Things I've Done accomplished was deepen my suspicion of the dystopian genre.
In a word, sassy. From the main character -- Anya (or Annie) Balanchine, daughter of murdered chocolate crime boss -- to the romance to the world. Everything was electric with attitude and rife with the possibility that anything could happen at any moment. Maybe there'll be a rush of teen romance, or maybe someone will die. Maybe both?
Clever from the dialogue to the politics to the world, my only complaint was the writing style. The journal-like prose wasn't exactly unattractive but it was jarring at times, because suddenly my easy reading pace would be interrupted with phrases like "I mentioned about a hundred pages ago et cetera" and "I'll get to this later." To me, if you're going to break down the fourth wall, you've gotta go big or go home, and Gabrielle Zevin didn't seem to really hit this on the head. But I loved Anya's voice, because she was so easy to get behind.
With its clever premise that delivers fully on the awesomeness and the damaged but cheerworthy main character, All These Things I've Done far outstrips the big hits in today's dystopian YA fiction. It is a story that explores, among other things, what it means to protect family and how far should you go to keep a promise, and what sacrifices you're willing to make.
What gets me like an iron poker to the ribs is why this book isn't at the top of the NYT bestselling list and having a movie made of it and being adored worldwide. If someone were to ask me for the most underrated book I've read, it would be this: All These Things I've Done. Gabrielle Zevin created an utterly unique world with realistic characters that would rival any NYT bestseller today.(less)
Perception presented an interesting concept: GAPs (genetically altered person) who live on expanded life spans and reside in glorious cities that give no reason to venture into the "outside." Technology is all there is -- ComRings replace cell phones and circular clocks are a thing of the past. I loved the world and the idea that this is what we could become, and I enjoyed the thought put into how technology has created a mass rift between social classes. However, I didn't enjoy much else.
The writing was extremely unpolished. It allowed for little depth, making the characters superficial and the plot haphazard. It was all telling and no showing, and while there were little gems hidden, they weren't nearly enough to sustain my interest alone.
At first, I thought that my dislike for the main character, Zoe, was based on the fault of the writing. As I read, however, I started to frown at her actions: her inconsistencies and selfish, conceited thoughts. I feel that, had there been more depth, I could've understood why she did what she did, but there was no thought process behind her actions. Zoe was incredibly underdeveloped. She reacted to things in a predictable (if dramatic) way, and was constantly fluttering between beliefs. I couldn't get her at all.
While I liked the world, I couldn't fathom the plot. Something was wrong, I understood that, but I didn't really care. Her brother was missing, but that didn't explain all the things Zoe did to try and understand why he was gone. It got boring. There seemed to be a whole lot of nothing going on.
Ultimately, the story wasn't for me. While I liked the idea and the world, I couldn't get past Zoe's antics or get into the plot.(less)
I've always been a huge fan of Patricia Briggs, ever since I picked up the first Mercy Thompson novel (Moon Called) at my good friend, Smash @ Smash Attack Reads, request. This short story in the On the Prowl anthology is the prerequisite story to the Alpha & Omega series. I've already read and fell in love with the Alpha & Omega series, so starting in on a short story where that series began was a sure win for my affection.
If you've never read anything by Patricia Briggs, taking a look at this short story would be a good test drive to see whether you, dear reader, would enjoy pursuing her work. For patrons of the Alpha & Omega series, this short story really set up the series nicely. Though the events were alluded to in the first book, Cry Wolf, it was merely given as background information to provide a foundation for the story.
The one thing I absolutely love about Patricia Briggs' writing is how she can pack so much character into a few paragraphs. There's an immediate sense of both Anna and Charles's characters as the POV switches between them and this skill, though very helpful for writing an appealing short story, carries over into her full length novels as well.
Even though I've read the entire Alpha & Omega series, reading this short story makes me want to read it all over again. (Which, as a matter of fact, I'll be doing since I read them before but never reviewed them.) Patricia Briggs created a well-balanced, well-rounded story with nothing forced or sloppily done.
So, dear reader, try this out for a test ride and see how far you can get without completely falling in love with the story.(less)
I had all kinds of wild expectations for The Assassin's Curse: there had to be romance, but not of the sneak-in-through-the-window-and-watch-you-sleep variety; the main character had to be kickass but not untouchable and immovable; the world had to be fully realized and epic; and, the plot had to be exciting and fresh. For a woman with such a sugar-topped name as "Cassandra Rose Clarke," she sure knows how to write a story to surpass all expectations.
The world of The Assassin's Curse makes me want to toss my computer aside and head for a pirate ship. While Clarke's writing style wasn't fantastic, it fit the story. So as I read, I could easily imagine the chatter of the day market, the rush of a hot desert wind, and the crash of waves against a ship on the open sea. I loved the design of the assassins with their desert masks, of how their tattoos and eyes glow like Avatar arrows. But, I feel like Clarke's only scratching the surface in this first installment, like she's just laying the foundation and secretly chuckling, "You ain't seen nothing yet."
Which reminds me of Ananna's character, a girl of many layers. The absolute refusal of an arranged marriage has been around since Romeo & Juliet, but would Romeo's father have sent an assassin after Juliet for marrying his son? Would Juliet have fought back, accidentally saved the assassin's life and end up bound to him? Didn't think so. Ananna's character was on a knife's edge: if she got too cocky, she would risk coming off as fake and irritating, but if she strayed too much to the soft side, she'd appear fluffy and superficial. Ananna was a girl who took a stand, called people's BS (even the dude she took a shining to), and backed up her arguments. I loved how her insecurities were not shrouded by bravado in her narration. She was strong, but not without empathy.
I could totally get into the story. While the writing style could've been a little deeper, could've stood for a little more polish, it had a certain... je ne sais quoi. But what was important was that Clarke knew how to develop the story in a way that heightened the suspense while delving deeper into the characters. The stakes were laid out starkly, so that I understood perfectly why Ananna would quake with fear, or rise to face her attacker.
The Assassin's Curse is what I would shamelessly call "masterful." I was hooked from page one, and had such difficulty putting it down! And when I did manage to yank myself away from the page, the characters would follow me and stalk me while I went about my day. I love books that manage to do that, invade my world so thoroughly. And with the way Assassin's Curse ended, I'm on tenterhooks for the next book, which doesn't come out until June?! If it's one mark against Assassin's Curse, it's how much I fell in love with it and how much it makes me want the sequel, which I'm going to have to wait forever for!(less)
It is always a sad occasion to see a series end. Trilogies are especially the worst because you know it's coming. With a longer series, there's always something else to look forward to. Trilogies are more "get in, make them love you, break their hearts on the way out." From book one, Veronica Rossi snagged me with her electrifying world, her lovable characters, and exciting plots. Into the Still Blue was a brilliant capper to this fantastic trilogy.
One of the biggest things that sticks out to me about this trilogy is how emotionally involved I get with the story. The characters, with their wit and enthusiasm, turn me into a yelling maniac -- "What?! He did not just saying that! Is he asking to get punched in the face!?" -- whenever I pick up the book. When things get crazy for Perry and Aria, my entire college campus hears about it.
My one complaint about Into the Still Blue specifically is that there seemed to be a step down in Veronica Rossi's writing style. On multiple occasions throughout this book, I thought that a section seemed to be more like a rough cut first draft than something that had undergone death defying scrutiny. There was a lot of telling, an overview of the action, and a lack of internalization on the character's part. This created leaps in a character's thinking when they should be taking baby steps.
But Into the Still Blue was a great read, and a great capper to the Under the Never Sky trilogy. As the climax neared, I didn't realize I was on the very edge of my seat and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, until my dad told me afterwards, "I thought you were going to bite off your knuckle." Veronica Rossi has always managed to pack a ton of action into a mere four hundred page book. She starts immediately with the action, and it hardly stops until the last page.
I was so excited to get to Into the Still Blue but now that it's over, I wish I had waited a bit longer. Aria and Perry and Roar are fantastic characters with a fantastic story, and it's sad to see their stories end. I hope, one day, Veronica Rossi will revisit the world of the Still Blue, for the stories that still lurk there.(less)
This was...amazing. I don't know if I would necessarily recommend this to someone who has yet to read Under the Never Sky, simply because the story is set up under the assumption the reader knows what is what and who is who, etc. However, if you've read Under the Never Sky and loved it, I have a strong conviction that you'll love this, too. Roar was a beloved character in Under the Never Sky for many readers, so given that this novella is set entirely in his point of view will appeal to the many fans Roar has accumulated.
I loved the insight. Veronica Rossi created a whole new voice. Roar was given a breadth that we readers didn't get to really see in Under the Never Sky. There was a whole swath of vulnerability and longing underneath all that wit and bravado. Though I would never have thought Roar underdeveloped before, I still loved the further depth that came from a story from his point of view. He seems much better fixed in my mind now.
With her brilliant writing style, Veronica Rossi captured, and gave depth to, the already-explored world of the Tides, making it come alive within the sixty pages. The world of the Tides had become faded in my mind in the time since I'd finished reading Under the Never Sky. This novella brought it back to life almost instantly. Veronica Rossi has created a world that I absolutely would love to live in.
Roar and Liv is a great sampler of Veronica Rossi's work. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Under the Never Sky.(less)
Salvation set a fire under me the very moment I found out that it existed. I fell head over heels in love with Anne Osterlund's previous books, Academy 7 and Aurelia (and later, Exile). So I knew beforehand that Salvation was very likely to win my heart. And it did. From page one, I was captured. Enthralled, really, by the main characters and the story that wove around them. I liked how Romeo & Juliet it was without seeming like a cheesy remake, and also how the plot was slightly predictable, but exciting all the same. Salvation was a fantastic read, with a set of characters I'd love to have lunch with. Over...and over...and over again.
I was already familiar with Anne Osterlund's envious talent for crafting such depth-defying, lovable main characters, but it still blew me away how much I fell for Salva and Beth, both separately and as a couple. Both had characteristics that I could identify with -- like Salva's loyalty to family and culture, and Beth's need to take her life onto a higher plane. When the two came together, it was electric, though not perfect. The imperfections were what drew me into their relationship like an obnoxious third wheel. Even when they realized their feelings for each other, it didn't magically lay a smooth path before them, and I think that was my favorite part about the book. It made their relationship deep and more realistic.
I love the wealth of culture imbued throughout the story. Reminiscent of Simone Elkeles' Perfect Chemistry series, there are bits of Spanish thrown in. Which, if you're a veteran of the Fuentes brothers, you know is completely hot. But besides that, there was the topic of how Mexican immigrants live in this country and I liked how Anne Osterlund presented and handled it. It gave the story a core of truth that I really enjoyed.
I also enjoyed how the plot progressed. With the essence of a Romeo & Juliet style romance, and fraught with just as much tragedy, I was glued to the pages as the story unfolded. What a breathtaking ending! With an expert hand, Anne Osterlund brought each of the characters to a climax that was both split with tragedy and filled with hope. And while some of the scenes were a bit of a cliche, I was too much in love with the characters to really see them that way.
Salvation is a fantastic addition to Anne Osterlund's repertoire. It was so much fun to read with its subtle humor woven amongst brilliantly devised characters and an exciting plot. Even knowing that I was going to love it, I'm still taken aback at just how much I would turn out to love it. I can't wait for Anne Osterlund's next book.(less)
Unremember made a huge splash when it first entered the blogosphere. The interesting cover drew my eye, but I wasn't overly enthusiastic about the kind of story that the summary promised. A plane crash? Amnesia? A boy? (Of course.) But I was still set on reading it at some point. When I did, I was disappointed.
Right away, something was lacking. The writing felt very amateurish, like I was reading a promising first draft. The writing style didn't seem to fit the story, either. I was expecting something else, something more ethereal with an edge. The bland style just left my mind drifting, instead of keeping me engaged.
It's important that I get a sense of the narrator right away, but Unremembered felt like reading a biography and not a first-person account. Perhaps it's her amnesia? She certainly came off like a blank slate. I couldn't get a grip on her, or really start to care about the fact that her entire life was gone from her. I kept getting the impression that this would have been better as a movie, just from the bit I've read. Words on paper doesn't seem to be doing it any sort of justice.
I didn't get very far into it. The writing style and the character could not capture my interest. Perhaps it would have turned out to be good had I continued reading, but I didn't want to take the time and effort that would be required.(less)
My first experience with Melissa Marr came in the form of her novel, Wicked Lovely. I was left unimpressed with it and uninspired to pick up anymore of her books, but I've learned from experience that an author can start out a bit rusty and develop into this whirlwind of awesomeness. Unfortunately, the whirlwind hasn't come for Melissa Marr yet. Five years between publications and I'm having the same problems with Carnival of Souls that I had with Wicked Lovely. Interestingly enough, they're the exact. same. problems: Shallow characters and boring plot wrapped together in totally amateurish writing.
It took a bit of dedication on my part to get into the throes of the story. From the scarcity of descriptions, I was left fumbling to anchor myself in any kind of atmosphere, making me hesitate to invest in the story. The way the story was presented left me confused about the stakes -- when a character acted, I didn't get the supposed "risk" behind it. Only by the time I was some two hundred pages in did I understood the switches and plot twists, but I couldn't feel them resonating through the characters as I should have.
I didn't sense any kind of depth from the characters and I think it was mostly due to the writing and not as much off the fact they were just shallow characters. Marr's writing style lacks any sort of passion. It was made up of all telling, losing much of the emotion, depth and shock value in the deadpan prose. And while the story had an edge, the prose ill-fitted the story. Everything was described to me, not shown, so I wasn't fully aware of how dark the The City was supposed to be, or how dangerous the witches were, or how Mallory felt as she lived a life in constant danger. Everything fell flat.
Occasionally, romances can swoop in to save the day if the hero or heroine happens to be appealing. This is not the case here. Not only were Kaleb and Mallory as flat as the rest of them, but the romance was of the insta-love variety and a major turn off. I grew immensely agitated at the "I love you's" carelessly thrown around and the proclamations of undying love and protection. It just came to: Ugh.
There was also little plot to speak of. While events progressed in a linear fashion, the "mystery" was hardly a head-scratcher. And not only that, but there was no climax. Despite the fact that the rest of the story hadn't held the telltale signs of a story building to a tipping point, I paused a few pages away from the end and realized that I'd just read the climax. It had passed me by without ceremony. The mystery that had been apparent a hundred pages ago was revealed to little fanfare and the characters were now in a classic "this is just the beginning" kind of ending. It's never a good sign when a reader breathes a sigh of relief as the book closes.
I was hoping that I would be blown away by Carnival of Souls, but it failed to deliver. As a slew of books separate Carnival of Souls and Wicked Lovely and yet the latter shows no sign of improvement, I'm most likely not going to pick up another one of Melissa Marr's books.(less)