Quick & easy read for fans of contemporary YA romance
In Dare You To, Beth Risk lives with her drug-addicted mother under the constant threat of p...more Quick & easy read for fans of contemporary YA romance
In Dare You To, Beth Risk lives with her drug-addicted mother under the constant threat of poverty and violence. When she's sent to a rural town to live with the uncle that left years ago, Beth struggles to find a way to save her mother and get back to the few close friends who have helped her. Though local golden boy and baseball star Ryan Stone's life appears blissfully easy in comparison, there's more simmering beneath the surface of his family's perfect façade. When Beth and Ryan's lives intersect, sparks fly and each learns that the expected path in life might not always be the best one.
While DARE YOU TO was a bit formulaic, this book was a quick and easy read that will appeal to fans of Simone Elkeles, both in its style of alternating male/female points-of-view and its overall light tone, despite the serious topics involved. One notable strength of the novel was Ryan: he was a great male lead who treated Beth with respect. Though there were some moments when he acted a bit chauvinistic, these instances seemed realistic for his character and the small-town climate in which he grew up. While I always knew where Beth and Ryan's relationship was headed, it was nice to see the progression from attraction and lust to something deeper. In addition, I appreciated how the sex scene was handled; the story featured a virgin hero and did a very good job depicting how sex can be an exercise in trust, not just desire. I also enjoyed the secondary characters, especially Ryan's friends Chris, Logan, and Lacey. The interactions between these friends and their classmates depicted small-town rural/suburban life well without mocking it.
This novel didn't work for me on all levels, though. Some very serious issues were presented in the book (e.g., drug abuse, domestic violence, poverty), but they were glossed over and resolved too easily, even if somewhat sadly. Similarly, significant changes in Beth's character seemed to happen too quickly to be believable, and she felt less developed as a character than Ryan. While I liked Ryan's character, he did some things that seemed to contradict his "nice guy" persona, while also sometimes seeming too idealized to be real.
Even with these misgivings, I enjoyed reading DARE YOU TO and think it will have a wide fan base. This installment was a definite improvement over my experience with McGarry's first book (Pushing the Limits), and I look forward to reading the final book in the trilogy (Crash into You)) when it comes out.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.(less)
Entertaining & creative retelling of Little Red Riding Hood hits the spot, 4.5 stars
In Scarlet, Scarlet Benoit, a young woman living in France, i...more Entertaining & creative retelling of Little Red Riding Hood hits the spot, 4.5 stars
In Scarlet, Scarlet Benoit, a young woman living in France, is becoming increasingly worried about her grandmother’s recent disappearance. When a rough stranger named Wolf suggests he might be able to help find her, Scarlet hesitantly trusts him to lead the way in an effort to save her grand’mere. Half a world away, Cinder is coming to terms with her new identity and trying to find a way to escape the deadly clutches of Queen Levana. Soon, Scarlet and Cinder’s paths collide as secrets are revealed and new dangers arise.
Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles is a series that has taken me by surprise. After enjoying but not loving the quirky Cinderella retelling in Cinder, I approached Scarlet with a bit of hesitation. After I started reading, though, that hesitation was quickly gone, and I devoured this novel in two days. The plot, the pacing, and the characters all drew me into the story and had me turning the pages to see what would happen next. At first, I was a bit frustrated by the flip-flopping between the tales of Cinder and Scarlet – a world apart from one another and seemingly unconnected – but Meyer seamlessly combined their stories as the novel progressed with surprising twists and plot reveals I wasn’t expecting.
Scarlet was a great character, a self-sufficient young woman who could take care of herself and who was passionate about saving her grandmother. With the signature cape replaced by a threadbare red hoodie, Scarlet was a perfect modern replacement for the original naïve Little Red. Wolf, the street fighter with a mysterious past, also had great appeal. Though I don’t normally fall for alpha-male characters, Wolf won me over with his combination of unexpected vulnerability and a damaged past. I also appreciated that the story and characters in Scarlet felt older and more mature than those in Cinder. Scarlet was college-aged, and the romance between Scarlet and Wolf was very swoony and intense without ever being inappropriate for younger readers. Familiar characters like Cinder, Iko, and Prince Kai also all return, and the introduction of the cocky but hilarious Captain Thorne added levity to a story where situations for the characters are growing increasingly tense.
Though I loved this book, it didn’t make it into five-star territory for me due to a few small complaints. The book can’t stand alone because it is part of a series; the romance, despite its swoon factor, was predictable; and the story, albeit a fun and romantic romp, didn’t have the long-term emotional impact that I want or expect from a five-star read. As an entertaining and creative futuristic retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, however, this book definitely hit the spot.
With this tale of Scarlet, Wolf, and the increasing unrest between Luna and Earth, Marissa Meyer has made me a fan. I can’t wait to see what happens next in the coming books of the quartet, Cress and Winter.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy. (less)
Strong relationships & better world building make for solid sequel, 3.5 stars
Through the Ever Night opens just where the first novel left off: Ar...more Strong relationships & better world building make for solid sequel, 3.5 stars
Through the Ever Night opens just where the first novel left off: Aria and Perry are seeking each other through the shadows of the borderlands after months apart. Though their reunion is sweet, the relief is short-lived as they return to a tribe that doesn't trust Dwellers and where Perry's new position as Blood Lord is questioned. When distrust and danger force them apart, Aria and Perry must work separately to save the world and those around them from falling apart.
Though I wasn't impressed with Rossi's debut novel, Under the Never Sky, I picked up the sequel because I was intrigued enough to see where Aria and Perry's journey led next, and I'm very glad that I did. Not only did this novel move along better than the first, but many of the problems I experienced with the debut were absent. Quick, fast-paced plotting had me turning pages to see what happened next, and many of the world building issues were cleared up, even if in convenient ways.
The greatest strength of the novel, however, laid in its depiction of complex and meaningful relationships between the characters, including that between Perry and Roar, Perry and the band of Six, and Perry and Marron. Most notably, the relationship between Roar and Aria was a standout. Except for a few moments of hesitation or questioning from others, Aria and Roar's relationship was never fraught with unnecessary romantic tension; instead, it was portrayed as a supportive and resilient friendship between a man and a woman, something not often seen in a young adult novel. The relationship between Perry and Aria also felt less forced and more real, and talks of scents and senses added to their relationship this time instead of distracting from it.
While I did enjoy reading this, it's not a book that struck me deeply or that stayed with me long after reading - it was simply a fun, action-filled adventure-romance. The novel was very much a middle book, in that there was the expected distancing of the lovers and the fight to come back together. Anyone familiar with this genre can also foresee what lies ahead in the final book in terms of the conflict between the outcasts and those in power. As a character, Perry also seemed too perfect. Despite the described concern of his tribe regarding his ability to lead, readers will not find a single undesirable trait in him. Though I love reading about a `good guy' hero, this portrayal seemed unrealistic, especially given the rough way Perry was portrayed in the first book.
Even with these qualms, I'm glad I took another chance on this author and was able to immerse myself in the world of the Never Sky for a few days. In the final book of the trilogy, Into the Still Blue, I hope that Rossi maintains her focus on the characters' relationships as they forge ahead into an uncertain future.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.(less)
3.5 stars. Best one in this three-book series with characters who are actually likable and fun to read about. Repetitive descriptions remained, esp. d...more3.5 stars. Best one in this three-book series with characters who are actually likable and fun to read about. Repetitive descriptions remained, esp. during the sex scenes, but I found myself actually enjoying this one overall and feeling for the characters. (less)
Strong protagonist, action, and romance combine for solid read, 3.5 stars
In Rift, the prequel to Andrea Cremer's Nightshade series, readers get a gli...more Strong protagonist, action, and romance combine for solid read, 3.5 stars
In Rift, the prequel to Andrea Cremer's Nightshade series, readers get a glimpse into the origins of the Keepers and the Witches War of the 15th century. The daughter of a noble, Ember Morrow must leave her family after her 16th birthday to serve the mysterious order of Conatus. Though most fear the knights, Ember readily embraces the life of battle and purpose the order provides. Once training begins, she finds not only her skills tested, but also her wit and her heart. Dark powers soon start to infiltrate the group, and Ember must decide where and with whom her allegiances lie.
Though I had a rocky relationship with Cremer's other Nightshade books, I really enjoyed Rift once I got past some slow parts in the beginning. Ember was an able and spirited protagonist with a strong sense of self. Though a bit reckless at times, she doesn't complain or expect others to rescue her. Action scenes were well-described and plentiful, and the author's prose painted beautiful images of the Scottish highlands cloaked in gray fog. The slow-building romance was another highlight with its swoon-worthy love interest who was both strong and masculine but also considerate and effusive. Even though it's a prequel, Rift can also be read on its own as the satisfying start to a new series, and the story ends in a place where a reader can look forward to the next installment without being left on a terrible cliffhanger.
As mentioned, Rift was slow to start, however, and I felt bogged down during the first 100 pages by some character interactions and historical information that wasn't always clearly explained. Ember became too adept as a knight too quickly to be believable, and the romance blossomed from little sparks to full devotion in too short of a time near the end to feel truly natural. The story line about the split within Conatus also wasn't nearly as engaging as hoped, and I found myself rushing through those sections to get back to Ember's story. Overall, the story just felt a bit light on content where there could have been more development.
While I might have found a few stumbling points, Rift is the best thing I've read by Andrea Cremer, and I'm already looking forward to the sequel (Rise). In it, I hope Cremer develops the swoony romance even more and provides greater tension to the emerging story about the split that leads to the Witches War.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy. (less)
In Insurgent, Veronica Roth’s much anticipated sequel to Divergent, the stakes are even higher. Tris and a small group have escaped after the simulation that killed countless people, but their struggles are far from over. Possible war looms between the factions, and Tris and Tobias are among those most wanted by the different sides. Tris must grapple with grief, guilt, and deception as sides are declared and choices must be made, including ones that threaten her and those she loves.
Though I enjoyed the first book, Insurgent was even better with clearer world building, stronger character development, and more intricate plots twists. Like Divergent, the story reads quickly and easily, but this installment has a much quieter, somber tone. Tris, Tobias (Four), and all of the survivors are dealing with the emotional and political fallout after the simulation, and it shows. All of the characters, including those the reader loves and those who are despised, are fleshed out more and given added layers. Tris’s struggle to move forward while burdened by grief and guilt is portrayed in a way that feels real and poignant. Though she engages in a lot of selfish or thoughtless actions in this book, all of those actions seem like honest attempts to deal with her loss, her choices, and how she should best work to honor those she loves. Tris and Tobias also continue to bring the swoon with simple words and small touches, despite having problems. Their relationship encounters major hurdles in this installment, but they are all reasonable and justified given what’s happening. The relationship they share provides a much-needed counterpoint to show that love and connection is worth fighting for and is possible even in a world that’s falling apart.
In addition to these strengths, the plot was unpredictable and gripping. The novel is full of unexpected alliances, betrayal, action, and rebellion on multiple fronts that keep the story moving. The world building also improved dramatically over that of the first book. I really enjoyed being immersed in the different factions, and the author’s description of each group allowed me to imagine them clearly. I also understand now why some information was withheld in the first book, given some of the significant plot reveals.
Even though this book was great read, I still experienced a few bumps. The story starts immediately after the end of Divergent with little to no recapping of events, so it took me a little while to remember or figure out who certain people were or what had happened previously. A few typos and continuity errors pulled me out of the story, and some betrayals/alliances/connections seemed a little too convenient to allow certain parts of the plot to move forward. The book also suffers a bit from middle-book syndrome in that it can’t stand on its own, and the ending leaves off in a dramatic place right after a big reveal.
Overall, though, Insurgent is an impressive sequel that leaves me eager to see where the author will take the story next. Given what’s revealed at the end of this novel, I can’t imagine how Veronica Roth could wrap up the series with only one more book, but it’s no matter to me, as I plan to keep reading whatever she offers.(less)
In LINGER, Maggie Stiefvater takes the reader back to Mercy Falls and the world of Sam and Grace. A few...moreEmotions and writing linger, but plot does not
In LINGER, Maggie Stiefvater takes the reader back to Mercy Falls and the world of Sam and Grace. A few months into his cure, Sam is starting to embrace his new humanity, albeit skeptically, while Grace seems less and less comfortable in her own skin. Isabel continues to wrestle with the aftermath of her brother’s death, and new pack member Cole surfaces as a cocky and potentially dangerous disruption. As all four grapple with their own doubts and inner demons, they are left to uncover whether love (of oneself, of each other, of humanity) will be enough to allow them to survive.
Compared to SHIVER, this book sat better with me due to its writing, character development, and the absence of any off-putting overtones to the animal-human relationships. As always, Stiefvater draws in the reader with lyrical writing, burning imagery, and an amazing ability to evoke emotion. Due to her talents, there are scenes in this book, namely one with Cole and a deer, that won’t soon leave me. Character development also remains as another one of her strengths; Stiefvater’s ability to show the damage within each character in this novel was superb. As new leads, Cole and Isabel stood out in their exploration of their broken selves and how they related to one another through this filter. The writer’s ability to transport me back to the rawness and immediacy of one’s emotions as a teenager was also remarkable. In addition, this installment expands and complicates the mythology regarding the wolves, their curse, and their cure.
Despite these many strengths, LINGER let me down in some ways, just like SHIVER. Told in first-person, the chapters alternated between four different voices. Though I enjoyed the addition of Isabel and Cole as narrators, each character’s voice was not always distinct, and the frequent switching of voice mid-chapter often felt abrupt. Pacing slowed and dragged in the middle third. The book’s ending was predictable and heavily foreshadowed, even if the path to get there was a mystery. Also, unlike the conclusion of SHIVER, which felt distinct and finished, this book closed with the most cliffhanger-like ending I have encountered from Stiefvater. While things changed for the characters emotionally, the plot didn’t move forward a great deal.
Even with these concerns, I’ll continue to look forward to reading anything Stiefvater writes. I hope that the final installment in the trilogy, FOREVER, provides a satisfying conclusion to the series and a little bit of healing for everyone involved, even if not in expected ways. If you’re looking for something with the same beautiful writing but more action, I highly recommend Stiefvater’s faery books, LAMENT and BALLAD.(less)
In Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie, the follow-up to Holly Black's Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale, the reader is taken to a...moreNot so valiant of an effort
In Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie, the follow-up to Holly Black's Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale, the reader is taken to a different realm of Faerie, deep in the boroughs of New York City. After high school student Val catches her mother in an act of betrayal, she runs away and starts living with a rough group of kids in the subway. Drug use and addiction, violence, and ties to Faerie appear, including a plot to frame someone for murder. Through this, Val copes with her changed life, her growing addiction, and the dangerous situations that surround her.
Compared to Tithe, the writing in Valiant was stronger (but not strong), with fewer abrupt jumps between scenes. Things also seemed to make more sense. There's more character development, but not a lot. I was left feeling ambivalent towards her characters again. While valiant on a few occasions, Val isn't that remarkable as a character. It also becomes apparent that Black doesn't have a knack for developing romantic or sexual chemistry. In both Tithe and Valiant, the romance starts with a scary male character who acts horribly toward the female lead, and, in the next scene, she's falling for him. It's very odd and unsatisfying.
The faeries in the novel are used more as a device to talk about teen runaways, homelessness, and addiction than as a fantastical element, which was disappointing. The profanity is also turned up a notch, with frequent uses of the f-bomb and similar. However, that's not as disconcerting as the animal cruelty, drug abuse, sexual coercion, and violence described. However, Black admittedly does do a good job of removing any romance from the idea of running away and using drugs.
I finished reading this book a few days ago, and I can't even remember much about it. That's how much it didn't stick with me. If you're looking for a faery series with better writing, better plot, and more character development and romance, I would recommend Maggie Stiefvater's Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception and Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie or even Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series. (less)