Have you ever had a book that’s unique and impossible to put down and all kinds of awesome, but once you reach a certain point, the magic starts to faHave you ever had a book that’s unique and impossible to put down and all kinds of awesome, but once you reach a certain point, the magic starts to fade? Luckily, the excitement of the first part far outweighs any disappoint in the last, but I thought it was interesting that the exact same thing happened with the another book I’ve read (and loved) by the same author: Not That Kind of Girl. A lowdown on THE LIST: imagine waking up one morning, walking through the doors of your high school, when suddenly you discover one of that school’s time-honored traditions: a list of the prettiest and ugliest girls in every grade.
What Vivian does brilliantly is incorporate so many different characters into the drama– there are a total of eight characters in the main cast, and I never found myself at a loss when it came to their individual worries, motivations, and personalities.
In the hands of anyone else, the teenagers in this book could’ve easily become a seething mass of stereotypes and cliches. I’m so used to the typical catty popular girl now, that I was flat-out surprised when the select few who were recognized as being at the the top of heap weren’t one-sidedly mean. This doesn’t mean that they’re all just hiding a secret heart of gold either; they’re similar how high school students can really be– quick to dismiss their past wrongdoings, not perfect angels but not complete antagonists either.
It also could’ve been easy to lose track of who was who, but Vivian’s characterization is down-to-earth yet distinct. I had a clear picture of who everyone was, from the naive freshmen to the practically battle-scarred former best friends, to the rebel who decides to go all out against the list and everything it stands for. One of my doubts was answered pretty quickly as the school’s principal tried to figure who was behind the making of the list, and the truth is quite the plot twist.
I'd give this borderline four stars; I really love Siobhan Vivian’s style– it’s honest (at times brutally so), and it pulls you in, and I think she’s one of the best at writing realistic high school settings. Each character gets equal time in the spotlight, and the premise goes in interesting directions. Life isn’t much easier whether you’re labeled as the prettiest or the ugliest; it’s the type of message that would usually make me roll my eyes, but the way it was handled was done so well that I came to change my mind. The big reveal and the final line is pretty shocking, but the reason that the score isn’t higher is because it didn’t feel quite believable to me given that the rest of the book was so grounded. Still, this is the type of twisty contemporary story is well worth your time, and it sends a clear message not by preaching to the audience, but instead by using its diverse and believable cast to its full potential....more
What if you could log on to your computer one day and see your Facebook profile– decades into the future? Emma and Josh are about to find out, and FacWhat if you could log on to your computer one day and see your Facebook profile– decades into the future? Emma and Josh are about to find out, and Facebook hasn’t even been invented yet. The discoveries they make bring up difficult choices: what if you decide that your future isn’t everything you wanted it to be? Do you try to change it, or should you let fate run its course? Because every day Emma checks her profile, the details are different depending on her actions in the present. While she is disappointed to find herself jobless with a possibly cheating husband, Josh has everything he could ever want. He’s happily married to the most popular girl at school, living in the best neighborhood in town.
The possibilities are staggering, and it’s definitely a fascinating premise. It’s fun to go back to the nineties, especially since it seems not so long ago, but the way internet and technology changed how we live is kind of crazy in comparison. There are plenty of not-so-subtle hints that love reminding you of the setting, and it’s pretty fun to see the two characters discover this mysterious Facebook thing. Once the novelty wears off, however, there’s nothing to truly carry the story; the conflicts and possibilities are not compelling enough, and midway through the book I that slow, sad feeling that I couldn’t bring myself to care about their situation.
That’s the one glaring area where THE FUTURE OF US is really, really lacking– the characters. Maybe it’s hard to settle on personalities and keep them consistent in a collaboration, but Emma and Josh are so void of character that it’s hard to care what happens to them and their futures at all. It’s almost shocking how little effort was put into making any of the cast a fully-rounded person, instead they’re all just kind of… there, carrying out actions of the cool concept of the book. There’s also the mandatory best friends with one or two defining traits (‘smart’ or ) but I really couldn’t stand how I finished the book and all I was left with was the impression that Emma is quite whiny, while Josh is nice and likes to skateboard.
Of all the cliched elements in contemporary novels, That Bad Thing That Happened can be a great way to add suspense to a story, or it can just be a lazy way that just screams plot device. It’s more of the latter in this case. In both POVs, you’ll be told again and again that they used to be friends, until That One Thing happened. Then you’re left desperate to know WHAT HAPPENED, ALREADY??? until the very end until the big flashback reveals itself; it’s used in Cracked Up to Be, Sweethearts, and a ton of other books with varying results, and let’s just say that it’s not all that suspenseful here.
It's just not that much more than average. I’ve heard great things about both of these authors, but just because it’s a collab doesn’t mean you can completely forget about expectations that readers might have from your previous works; I can’t help but feel that there wasn’t a huge amount of effort put into THE FUTURE OF US. The writing is also pretty minimalistic, and it’s not that it should be over-the-top and flowery, but something other than basic actions would make it more of an engaging read....more
ASHES, ASHES is a terrifying reminder of how much I hate camping. Okay, personal bias aside, the survival aspect is a huge part of the story, and theASHES, ASHES is a terrifying reminder of how much I hate camping. Okay, personal bias aside, the survival aspect is a huge part of the story, and the details are so realistic that it didn’t take too much of a leap in imagination to envision Lucy’s harrowing life in post-apocalyptic New York. It’s not glamorized in any way; life is tough, and I loved how what she actually needs to do to survive isn’t just brushed aside.
It does take a while for the plot to kick in, though. While I appreciated taking the time to get to know our protagonist, the background information kind of all came out in one infodump instead of being revealed in a natural, gradual way; it was alienating, but nice to get the set-up out of the way, too. Once Lucy decides to join the other survivors, things start to get interesting. (It is a hundred or so pages later, though.) I thought that the secondary characters ranged from interesting/entertaining– Sammy, Grammalie, Henry– and boring/stereotypical: Aidan and Del being the main offenders. Aidan in particular was the ideal love interest and any love triangle that got in the way was pointless since we know it wouldn’t last.
One of the aspects I loved was the S’ans’ presence. There are the typical zombie-like victims of the plague, the Sweepers, but the S’ans were more unique; they humanized what could’ve been any old human-race-obliterating epidemic. I was genuinely surprised to discover that one of them was related to Aidan, and that familial relationship was touching, especially because having family was so rare in a setting like this. Henry was the typical charmer, but at least he was more interesting than Aidan. Ah well, at least Aidan wasn’t a rebellious bad boy; a little bit of complexity would’ve made his relationship with Lucy a lot more interesting, though. Del was the clingy jealous girl through and through. Even character development didn’t do much to change my opinion of her.
All in all, ASHES, ASHES is a well-written post-apocalyptic novel that doesn’t break new ground, but uses elements that know and love with some decent (if underdeveloped) characters and memorable survivalist details. The ending left me wanting more; and there’s just enough unanswered business for a companion novel, which I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up....more
Another detective novel, although CLARITY happens to have a supernatural twist; it’s a fantastic idea for a mystery, as Clare combines her powers withAnother detective novel, although CLARITY happens to have a supernatural twist; it’s a fantastic idea for a mystery, as Clare combines her powers with sharp thinking, living up to the potential that such a premise can have.
Kim Harrington hasn’t only created an intriguing female lead with curious powers, but also an entire family with links to the supernatural. The characters are reasonably well-rounded, but the familial bonds seem stronger– this is a nice change from the clichéd romance that eclipses the whole story. Predictably, the new detective’s handsome son is pulled into Clare’s search for the truth, but at least it’s not love at first sight; Clare and Gabriel have to learn to get along with each other, while Clare’s relationship with her ex is another different pairing.
The writing is trimmed down and unembellished, making the story fly by. It starts where it ends, interestingly enough, and the events that lead up to the prologue pull you in more and more as the plot thickens. It’s much shorter than the typical paranormal novel, but nothing is lost– in fact, getting to know Clare’s small town was just as absorbing without padding pointless details to increase its length.
CLARITY is a great start for what will hopefully be a series of paranormal mysteries; we’ve only just been introduced to Clare as she discovers her skills. Watching her develop them further is sure to be a treat....more
Although the beginning of STRINGS ATTACHED was a little disorienting, it wasn’t long until I had been completely and utterly absorbed into Kit CorrigaAlthough the beginning of STRINGS ATTACHED was a little disorienting, it wasn’t long until I had been completely and utterly absorbed into Kit Corrigan’s life in 1950′s New York. The dialogue and every day descriptions of life during the time period are simply perfect; it’s completely believable and easily one of the best parts of the book.
About the confusion I had at the start: it just took too long for anything to start happening. There’s a good deal of exposition before any real plot point comes into play; every other chapter or so is a flashback to months or years prior to the actual plotline. Once I had read a few chapters, I didn’t really feel like I wanted to continue– there’s a darker backstory hinted at, but there’s not enough tension for me to keep reading.
Once Kit’s life takes a turn for the unexpected, Judy Blundell’s skillful writing really stands out. She won the National Book Award for What I Saw and How I Lied, and STRINGS ATTACHED is very similar in tone and atmosphere. Although Kit seems to have stumbled upon a fortunate twist of fate, she gets embroiled in a whole other plot filled with murder and grey on gray morality… which I loved. Even though her love interest, Billy, is absent and is mostly conveyed through flashbacks, the romance was very well done. Highly recommended for fans of historical settings, intrigue, and smart writing....more
Reading WITHER is an interesting experience. I felt a little like Rhine– the prose and pretty dresses and lavish details seemed intoxicating at a glanReading WITHER is an interesting experience. I felt a little like Rhine– the prose and pretty dresses and lavish details seemed intoxicating at a glance, but there was something off about it. Something that didn’t quite make sense, didn’t let me fully immerse myself in the story.
The writing is gorgeous and almost effortless. It’s almost impossible to put down, despite the fact that nothing outside of Rhine’s daily life in the mansion happens. You could lose yourself in DeStefano’s writing, and completely ignore the fact that a lot of things don’t make sense– and by the end of the novel I was so captivated that it almost didn’t matter. Almost. I still have a lot of unanswered questions about the logic behind the dystopic elements of the world.
The first thing that seemed contradictory was the fact that the population is dying out, and by all means young, fertile girls would be having as many children as possible. And yet they’d still shoot a van full of girls, just because they didn’t make the cut for the wealthy? Those gunshots are brought up again and again in the story, and they really demonstrate the ‘danger’ of Rhine’s society. But it seemed like they were just there for shock value.
The Governor’s mansion seemed almost anachronistic in this futuristic world. It felt like I was reading a Victorian novel, until Rhine sees a glimpse of the outside world– and everything is carrying on as usual. There are movie theatres and bright city streets, beaches and harbors. But Rhine’s childhood memories make it seem like she’s living in a chaotic, scavenger post-apocalyptic world. I’m not sure if it’s deliberate or if they just couldn’t decide on how this society actually works.
World-building issues aside, the characters are marvelous. Three-dimensional characters can be pushed aside for a shocking premise like this, but WITHER surprised me by having a brilliantly vivid cast. I thought Gabriel and Linden were a little flat, but Rhine’s fellow sister wives, Jenna and Cecily, were so well-written. Cecily is polarizing– she practically scared me with her enthusiasm for her situation, and she can be outright horrible. But she also had my sympathy in other scenes… she was never out of ‘character’, just a girl with lots of different emotions. And Jenna was my favorite character. There’s a lot of showing, not telling with the characterization– just the way I like it.
WITHER is a standout in the wave of dystopian novels to hit shelves. DeStefano isn’t afraid to kill off characters and has gift for writing strong characters, but the society she created just didn’t make sense to me. Still, this is beautifully written, elegant, even. I can’t wait for the sequel....more
SUBJECT SEVEN is, unsurprisingly, a fast-paced novel, but the first-person narration is so direct that each page flashes by like rapid fire. The storySUBJECT SEVEN is, unsurprisingly, a fast-paced novel, but the first-person narration is so direct that each page flashes by like rapid fire. The story and dialogue is similar to a comic book, but some of that action is lost in book form. Nonetheless, it’s a taut thriller that can be as violent as The Hunger Games and has a mysterious plot line to raise the suspense level even higher.
The plot begins with a bang, and I was as confused as the ‘ordinary’ teenagers who are pulled in Subject Seven’s twisted plan. The POV switches between a large cast of characters, and without warning– sometimes it’s frustrating trying to keep track of who’s who, but for the most part you’ll be so into the action that you won’t mind. This is a book that definitely doesn’t shy away from violence. There are also gruesome details about cruel scientific tests, and the death toll rises as the stakes get higher and higher.
Subject Seven himself is a character who is perplexing; should we be sympathize with him as he takes down the people who created him? Or should his extreme tactics (read: kill them all) make him too harsh to be the ‘good’ protagonist we’re accustomed to? It’s hard to understand what goes on in his head (despite the first person POV), but the inclusion of other, more typical, teens helps lessen the disconnection between reader and protagonist. (Or is he the protagonist?).
It makes me wonder why SUBJECT SEVEN wasn’t published as a graphic novel; it’s not bad, by any means, but it feels like it would’ve been better suited for a different medium. If you’re looking for a action-filled thriller with hints at conspiracies and other similar tropes, however, you should very well pick up a copy....more
DARK MIRROR could have been wonderful, but it ultimately lets a fascinating plot line turn into a standard, clichéd, tiresome romance. The premise ofDARK MIRROR could have been wonderful, but it ultimately lets a fascinating plot line turn into a standard, clichéd, tiresome romance. The premise of a school for people with hints of magic ability worked wonders for a certain other series, but this is no Hogwarts; Lackland Abbey is a reform school, since anyone with magical powers is shunned from society.
‘Magic’ can range from flying to telepathy to weather control, but there aren’t any sort of rules or order to it all. (Rule isn’t quite the word I’m looking for, but it’ll have to do…). What I’m trying to say is the laws of the fantasy elements of the story are random and fit whatever need the plot happens to turn to. The lack of sense stops DARK MIRROR from being above average and instead it’s a very run-of-the-mill story where nothing much happens.
The romance isn’t subtle at all. Tory spots a good looking dark haired man and launches into a paragraph of his physical features before fellow students gossip about how powerful his family is and so on, and by the end you can guess where that leads. Tory also meets a set of bland stereotypes, including the catty roommate and outcast ally.
DARK MIRROR isn’t particularly ambitious, and neither the magical elements nor the characters live up to their potential. It is, however, a decent read that could use some improvement in future installments....more
This is the kind of story that’s just incredibly fun to read– entertaining characters, humorous situations, quirky dialogue, and the type of setting tThis is the kind of story that’s just incredibly fun to read– entertaining characters, humorous situations, quirky dialogue, and the type of setting that makes you want to hop on a plane as soon as possible because it’s described so enticingly.
It wasn’t long (I’d say about two or three pages) before I was won over by Anna; she’s interesting enough that her voice is unique and refreshing, but she’s wonderfully believable as a character. Stephanie Perkins really knows how to write in a authentically teenage voice (I also loved how there’s liberal use of caps lock. I can’t remember the last time I saw that in a book!). I have to admit, I was sceptical going by the sly title and fluffy premise alone, but I really came to like Anna more and more as the story went on.
ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS is a pitch-perfect romantic comedy. There’s friendship that gradually turns into love, a colorful cast of side characters, and a fast-paced ending where things take a gut-wrenching turn for the worse. If there’s something I have to be a little critical about, it’s the way some of the characters outside of Anna’s circle of friends were so two-dimensional. Because romantic comedies are also known for some stereotypes; the catty popular girl who’s only purpose is to be nasty, the drove of guys who are so obviously unlikable compared to St.Clair, etc. Anna even points out some of these tropes, stating that Amanda Spitterton-Watts is the ‘biggest cliché’ at school, but it only makes this adorable book a little less enjoyable.
Although there are some stock characters, Anna’s family was incredibly refreshing. I loved how her dad writes sappy, melodramatic love stories (a take that to Nicholas Sparks haha) and that when she returns to visit her family, her mom and little brother are hilariously believable– just as annoying as the real deal at times. St. Clair’s parents are a lot more… dramatic, but it does mean that their relationship woes aren’t the only source of conflict.
Anna’s story isn’t always smooth sailing; sure, being sent to France hardly sounds as terrible as she makes of it, and St. Clair is obviously interested in her as soon as they meet, but it’s not as perfect as I thought it would be. There’s some hilariously awkward moments, and it’s usually melodrama-free.
I’m glad that ANNA took off in the blogosphere, because I probably would’ve overlooked it otherwise; I read it in a few short sittings, and I can’t help but have a smile on my face after reading the last few sentences. This is the book that can appeal to almost anyone– even if you don’t consider contemporary as one of your typical genres....more
It’s easy to brush aside Anna Godbersen’s new series as simply historical fiction with a dash of scandal added in so that it appeals to teens, but BRIIt’s easy to brush aside Anna Godbersen’s new series as simply historical fiction with a dash of scandal added in so that it appeals to teens, but BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS is written so fluidly, and the descriptions are so lavishly detailed, that it’s hard not to enjoy getting sucked into such a dazzling world. I can honestly say that I have never read any other novel set during this time period– and it was also quite surprising how it didn’t take over the plot or characterization, either.
The three young ladies that the story focuses on are all equally developed, and, more importantly, they never sound like modern-day teenagers and their socialite lives during the Jazz Age. And even if their mannerisms make sense given the context of their lives, Letty, Cordelia, and Astrid still experience thoughts and dreams and ambitions that people still go through today.
As you can expect if you’ve read The Luxe books, there are plenty of depictions of what everyone is wearing, but it doesn’t impede the vivid tone of the story. It might seem implausible that things go so smoothly for Letty and Cordelia as soon as they step off the train in New York, (especially Cordelia’s effortless ride to the luxurious life), and the plot seemed to disappear midway through; nothing really happened for a hundred pages. But the foreshadowing from the prologue is irresistible; of the three girls featured in the book, “one would be famous, one would be married, and one would be dead.” The only way to discover their fates is to keep reading, and the fast-paced, intrigue-filled last part of the novel hints at the danger that is so lacking in the beginning of the book– it seems as though the big city isn’t as perfect as they had thought. This is a welcome development, and this is a series to watch out for....more
MERCY is a strong addition to the already saturated paranormal romance market, but it has an intriguing mystery behind it that places it apart from yoMERCY is a strong addition to the already saturated paranormal romance market, but it has an intriguing mystery behind it that places it apart from your typical story of fallen angels.
What makes Mercy’s near constant amnesia more than just a plot device is the fact that her condition also leads her to question herself, as a person– this, combined with other plot threads involving disappearances and secrets makes MERCY a very compelling read. The first person narrative places the reader at the heart of her internal struggle, while very effectively making us as involved in the mystery as well.
The questions that Mercy seeks answers for aren’t that hard to solve once you get considerably far into the book, and instead of feeling on the same wavelength as the main characters, I would’ve preferred if things weren’t quite so obvious. And even with a good amount of distinct plot elements, MERCY also contains much of what you would expect from a paranormal romance. There’s the standard social drama, school life interspersed with those “visions” and ominous dreams that seem to be packaged with any story with a supernatural twist. Thankfully, it avoids a plot-consuming love triangle and has its own unique take on angels.
With a jarring start that gradually picks up pace, MERCY is an interesting blend of the paranormal, weaving angels and lost identities with an ongoing mystery. A sequel is sure to follow this solid debut....more
What I found most interesting about my read-through of THE ETERNAL ONES was that the romance wasn’t the strongest point at all; in fact, I thought itWhat I found most interesting about my read-through of THE ETERNAL ONES was that the romance wasn’t the strongest point at all; in fact, I thought it was kind of weak. We literally know nothing about Ethan/Iain, except that they loved Haven in a past life… hardly any discernible character traits, and most of the plot you’re split by the possibility that Iain is a cold blooded killer. (Hardly soul mate material.) And I couldn’t find any reason for them to be together at all… even their romance in their past lives wasn’t really elaborated upon. We’re told that they have an undying love for one another, but it isn’t really shown.
So now we have a book classified as a ‘romance’ that deals with love, but the actual aspect isn’t very appealing at all. Which isn’t a problem, because what THE ETERNAL ONES succeeds at is this: being an excellent mystery. There’s careful development of the setting, the concept of reincarnation is slowly built upon, and it all builds up to a fantastic, heart-stopping race for Haven to discover the truth and save herself. Unfortunately, the action takes a LONG time to arrive, because nothing much happens for more than half the book, which is generally unacceptable for people with short attention spans.
And I really need to devote an entire paragraph to Beau, Haven’s best (and only) friend. I’m starting to notice more and more stronger supporting characters, instead of the bland, one-dimensional friends who only serve as a prop for the main character’s problems. Beau had more personality than a good half of the other characters combined, plus some to spare. ...more
The fact that I haven’t read PERFECT CHEMISTRY (blasphemy! I know) lets me enjoy this book in its own right, without a single comparison to it’s bestsThe fact that I haven’t read PERFECT CHEMISTRY (blasphemy! I know) lets me enjoy this book in its own right, without a single comparison to it’s bestseller debut-companion novel. I’ve heard nothing but praise for Simone Elkeles’ romance stories– they’re a standout in that genre, where most relationships you’ll find in YA include at least one paranormal vampire/werewolf/faerie/merman (…what else is left?) of some sort. RULES OF ATTRACTION was satisfyingly gritty, utterly real, and I’m hooked. Absolutely hooked.
Romance is all about the characters, and their chemistry makes or breaks the story’s effectiveness. Carlos has the whole bad boy thing going on, and he comes across as quite the jerk, which naturally gives way to character development. On his own, I probably would’ve grown tired of his barbed personality, but the fact that he couldn’t be any more different from Kiara provides an excellent display of the good old ‘opposites attract’ adage.
While I like a good romance as much as the next person who comes along, reading a book where that was the main crux of the whole book changes things. You know how people feel the need to insert some cardboard cut-out romance into a perfectly good movie just for the sake of it? Those only end up lacking, but you won’t find any problems like that in RULES OF ATTRACTION.\, where the romance takes center stage. It’s taken me long enough to try a book by Simone Elkeles, and let’s just say I’ll be hunting down her other novels as soon as possible!...more
There’s something lovely and poetic about the title of this book, THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. It sounds full of hope, a little sad, up to your own interpretThere’s something lovely and poetic about the title of this book, THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. It sounds full of hope, a little sad, up to your own interpretation at first. How is it significant to the plot? What deep meaning does it hold? Nothing seems to tie it directly to grief, love, and loss, like the synopsis might suggest.
Well, maybe because it isn’t exactly all about grief and loss.
Make no mistake– this book is not about death. Well, in a way, it is, but it doesn’t dwell on it. We never get to mourn for Bailey, and we never get to know her enough as a person to feel sad for her absence, but it’s the way Lennie is affected that moves us and summons up all those emotions that we associate with grief.
Jandy Nelson writes in a sensitive yet direct manner, and Lennie’s voice is strong and very real. It sounds like any teenager at times, and at others, the writing takes a poetic leap of faith and some passages are really, really wonderfully written. And the bits and pieces of Lennie’s verse-like notes that are strewn throughout the chapters are downright amazing; the book wouldn’t be the same without them.
Loose plot threads are left hanging by the conclusion of this heart-tugging love story– I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me, but the ending is simply too sweet to criticize. Let’s just say that the scattered bits of poetry actually came together and made sense within the context of the plot, in a way that I would have never expected.
We could do with more of the unexpected in books. It’s not often that something leaves you breathless in surprise and then smiling in a dumb, silly way, but the ending for THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE is one of those that feels inexplicably right; like when you turn the last page and just know that the story is done and resolved....more