I am not much of a Middle Grade reader. You could say that I sort of skipped a step in my rea...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
I am not much of a Middle Grade reader. You could say that I sort of skipped a step in my reading repertoire while growing up, jumping directly from children’s books like Magic Tree House to YA like The Hunger Games. Maybe I should go back and fill in that gaping MG hole now, because The Star Shard exceeded expectations.
I was waiting for simplicity and frankly, not much depth. This is a MG faerie fantasy after all. Plus, I admit that my opinion of MG is not terribly high (very hypocritical, I know, since I haven’t read a lot of MG). I was, however, not prepared to be bombarded by the deliciousness that is this slightly rustic high fantasy world and a 12-year-old heroine that displays a lot more common sense than the average hormonal-driven and air-headed YA protagonist.
Our darling main character Cybril is a slave on the Thunder Rake. Sold into this giant wheeled city at an early age, Cybril survives, as per Master Rombol’s orders, by singing for crowds during market days. There are snippets of lyrics spread throughout The Star Shard and even complete sheet music for two of the songs. Is that not the coolest supplementary material you’ve ever seen? And then of course, we have Loric, the faerie lad with the silver eyes and enigmatic smile -- as much as young boys’ smiles can be enigmatic, I suppose. Cybril and Loric develop an awkward fascination with each other that later fleshes out into an adorable friendship and maybe even a relationship-to-be.
With a plot fraught with twists and turns, skeleton keys and potion-induced beauty, The Star Shard reads like a clear well of water. It’s refreshing and free of angst or love triangles. Just pure adventure. And two little children desperately sprinting together toward their shared finish line, hand-in-hand.
This is what I hoped Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist could have been. This is the type of c...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
This is what I hoped Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist could have been. This is the type of contemporary YA that I wouldn’t mind reading every day. Kind of like how the Asian-ness in me wouldn’t mind eating rice for every single meal until old age renders me toothless and unable to chew. (Hopefully that sad, sad day will never come.)
Now, I don’t think an extended and super girly squeal would qualify as a review, so let me attempt to explain with the wonderful English language why I adored Graffiti Moon.
1) I actually like all the characters, even the secondary ones. Each of them had their own little moment in the spotlight, and you can’t help wanting to pinch their little cheeks and coo endearments at them. This might not have been appreciated, as all the characters were either high school seniors or older. But psh, details, details.
2) Lucy and Ed get to know each other inside out -- not physically inside out; get your mind out of the gutter -- before attraction appears. This concept is so obscure in YA nowadays that I feel like giving medals to every author that takes the time to develop relationships.
3) The graffiti described in here makes me want to fly to Australia and go on some sort of wild graffiti tour through the streets. Maybe I just live in a different sort of neighborhood, but I’ve only seen about two pieces of graffiti in my entire town, and they were simply uninspiring words drawn out in gigantic bubble letters. I would love to see painted, sleeping birds and lonely boys standing with blankness in their faces on random walls as I walk around.
Doesn’t Graffiti Moon just sound like a gorgeous read? Well, the reason the novel received 5 stars is mostly because:
4) I want this to happen to me, too. (Hmph, laugh all you want… I give you permission.)
I’ve already picked up a copy of Ms. Crowley’s A Little Wanting Song and am excited to read another one of her lovely novels.
Book Source: ARC from Random House Children's Books via NetGalley(less)
This novel should come with a free one-way ticket to Guatemala, a ragged backpack, and a male...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
This novel should come with a free one-way ticket to Guatemala, a ragged backpack, and a male companion who just so happens to be a cute diving instructor afflicted with Wanderlove.
Umm hmm, where can I get me some o’ that?
Although in all seriousness, Wanderlove is a perfect story for your typical escapist. Those familiar with Central American geography will recognize the countries Bria (what a lovely name) and Rowan (what a lovely boy -- Do I sound pedophilic? He’s older than me, OK?) trek through on their eventful two week journey. The descriptions make me want to jump into my (nonexistent) car and drive down south. One particularly striking scene is the Río Dulce, or sweet river, which apparently resembles the white flower-filled sea in Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Visiting that river is now on my bucket list.
Our two main characters -- Bria and Rowan -- are beyond endearing. Both are trying to run away from their pasts, and their chemistry is undeniable. We are spared any sort of desperate pining from either of them, which is a relief, since no one enjoys pining characters anyway. The two argue, they exchange stories, they list taboo subjects, and they have a fair share of comfortable silences. The girl with the lovely name and the lovely boy with the ponytail make a lovely couple.
To add on to that all that loveliness are the drawings included in the book. Since Bria is an aspiring artist, Ms. Hubbard supplied some of her own sketches to supplement the novel, and the pictures are gorgeous. She could probably draw her own Wanderlove graphic novel if she wants.
Anyway, I’ve obtained a copy of Ms. Hubbard’s debut novel, Like Mandarin and can’t wait to read something by this author again.
Book Source: ARC from Random House via NetGalley(less)
To adopt the slang of the stereotypical blonde, blue-eyed SoCal surfer dude: “Ashfall wa...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
To adopt the slang of the stereotypical blonde, blue-eyed SoCal surfer dude: “Ashfall was hella legit, man!” It features an epic adventure of survival in the face of natural adversity, adaptation amidst chaos, and a frantic love that is equal parts desperation and need. Ashfall is going to appeal to a wide variety of readers, as it has something to offer every single one of you out there.
I would have liked Ashfall a lot more, too, if not for the beginning. We are dumped right into the middle of a volcanic eruption and the series of unfortunate events -- you see what I did there? -- that follows, and yet, the novel seems to drag on and on. It literally took me 7 days to read the first 1/4 of Ashfall and 1 day to read the rest. So yes, pacing was a problem.
Besides that, I enjoyed the novel. There was a good balance of gore, fighting, starvation, and discovery. Our protagonist Alex is brave and foolish and horny (like most teenage boys), and the love interest Darla is the definition of kickass. She’s the one stitching up axe wounds and smushing liquefied rabbit brain on animal hides -- don't ask -- while Alex struggles not to puke in the background.
Ashfall is an intense new post-apocalyptic novel that falters a bit in pacing but is otherwise a very engrossing read. It’s a great way to heighten your chances of surviving the next supervolcanic eruption, too!
Wait, looks like Californian surfer dude is back with a bit of reassurance: “Since no supervolcanoes will erupt for probably another few million years, you can chillax, OK? Here, have a beer.”
Book Source: ARC from Tanglewood via NetGalley(less)
Penelope has known no world beside the video game universe Edda her entire life. Living as th...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
Penelope has known no world beside the video game universe Edda her entire life. Living as the only human avatar in a land of electronic beings, she bears the title Princess and scripts weapons into digital existence for Lord Scanthax as aid for his expanding empire. As a young girl, she was eager to please the cold Lord father figure. But as Penelope matures and discovers her lack of freedom and the reality behind her emaciated human body, fed through tubes and always plugged up to a game console to access Edda, she decides to exact revenge on the beings who have taken advantage of her trust and innocence. While Edda readies for battle for yet another conquest, another band of travels led by Cindella and Ghost from the universe Saga are gathering forces. Nothing is resolved until peace is achieved.
Edda was quite a unique book. I am not an avid gamer myself (aside from the odd Pokemon game here and there), but the novel still managed to capture my attention at the very beginning. Well, to tell you the truth, the interest began to wan as I continued through Edda, and by the end, I was glad to finally read the last word and close up the book.
The novel was definitely written quite well, something I hadn’t originally expected, given the subject and setting of Edda. However, even the hard-core fantasy fan in me had trouble getting into the storyline. The viewpoint jumps from Penelope’s struggles in Lord Santhax’s castle to Cindella and the others’ journey through the electronic realms. What bothered me to no end was the lack of tension, I suppose. Penelope spends the entire novel plotting, and Cindella spends the entire novel traveling and killing things that got in their way. The resolution was short and took up only about 30 pages out of the 440 page book.
Although the novel was not my cup of tea, Edda will appeal to fantasy and sci-fi fans alike, and of course, gamers will enjoy the references to gaming spread throughout.
I love Karou: her eccentricities and her secrets, her bright blue hair and her drawings of mo...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
I love Karou: her eccentricities and her secrets, her bright blue hair and her drawings of monsters. She is the exact opposite of those spineless heroines who act like doll-puppet hybrids and follow whatever the guy counterparts tell them to do. Karou instead attacks her guy counterpart with Chinese crescent-moon blades. The difference is obvious, yes?
Then there is the fact that the book centers around Prague. Prague! Some place that is not the US or England or France. Do you have any idea how refreshing that is? Although Karou zooms in and out of this city -- this reality, even -- throughout the novel, we still get to catch glimpses of lovely Prague and its “ghost tours” and cathedrals.
And of course, the plot is deliciously twisted and full of so many weird elements that they all somehow come together and successfully contribute to the novel’s uniqueness. There are rooms filled with nothing but jars and jars of teeth. There are scuppy necklaces that give you teeny, tiny wishes. There are puppet masters and dressed like the reflection of moonlight across the water. Really, I have never read anything quite like Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It’s just so strange.
I love its strangeness.
This novel also features a wonderfully done star-crossed romance. Who knew that was even possible in YA? It’s a dark romance, too, full of sacrifices and misplaced trust. But it was also sweet and oh so satisfying.
Although the ending of Daughter of Smoke and Bone is not a cliffhanger, per se, I still want more. Now all I can do is shake my fists in the air and implore Ms. Taylor to publish the sequel as soon as possible. Or maybe I’ll take the less violent route and just read this book again. And again. And again.
Truth be told: this story could have been written in less than 100 pages. The plot was s...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
Truth be told: this story could have been written in less than 100 pages. The plot was simplistic and anticlimatic. The conclusion just a bit too easily resolved for my taste. But I will read more from Ms. Morgenstern.
Because the entire book tasted like honey.
I'm serious; if you buy a copy of The Night Circus and lick the cover, it would be sweet. This book is beautiful writing at its finest, with amazing word choice and descriptions galore. it makes me pity my circus-less childhood. it makes me pity the world because Le Cirque des Rêves is only a figment of the author's imagination. It makes me pity myself, because the only way for me to experience Le Cirque is through the printed words across the page.
Reading this book was like dreaming.
Quite apt, since Le Cirque des Rêves does translate to the Circus of Dreams. However, if the entire novel was one long dream, it would be a very jarring and bumpy dream rather than a smooth one. For some odd reason, Ms. Morgenstern felt the need to jump from here to there to some other place and then back again in her narrative. It's like living some sort of weird parallel life at five different instances in time all at once. This contributes to the lack of tension in the novel, too. Whenever we get to the high point of a chapter, all of it suddenly disappears as we jump to another time or place with another set of characters.
Knowing what I do now about The Night Circus and its plot imperfections, I would still have read it. If only to walk through Les Cirque des Rêves through the characters. if only to visit the Ice Garden and the Anthologies of Memory and the Cloud Maze through another's eyes.
Book Source: ARC from Knopf Doubleday via NetGalley(less)
With gorgeous manga-style illustrations, Manga Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice is a compe...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
With gorgeous manga-style illustrations, Manga Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice is a compelling representation of the Bard's famous play about the Jewish moneylender. The three intertwined plots -- Antonio's bond with Shylock, Bassanio's suit, and Jessica's escape from her cruel father -- are all brought together in an undoubtedly less intimidating way than Shakespeare's original play.
Having read and thoroughly dissected almost every single word of The Merchant of Venice as a student recently, this manga still managed to provide me with new insights and details that might not have been noticed from reading the actual play.
An interesting aspect of the volume: word choice. It reads like Shakespeare's original, although it isn't quite the same -- yes, I dug out my copy of The Merchant of Venice and compared the two. The manga uses the same writing style, vocabulary, and similar sentence structure, but is slightly more condensed. I vastly prefer this method to a simple rewrite of the great Bard's words, as most of Shakespeare's lyricism was not lost.
Manga Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice is a great introduction into Shakespeare for those who feel the urge to curl up in a fetal position each time the Bard's name is mentioned. And for Shakespeare fanatics, the volume is a fresh new look at greedy Shylock, self-sacrificing Antonio, and beautiful and cunning Portia.
Tess finally has the chance to leave the Lisles she has served since childhood. Spoiled, dema...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
Tess finally has the chance to leave the Lisles she has served since childhood. Spoiled, demanding, and utterly obnoxious, the head of the Lisles family has decided to relocate her children, Tess, and two other servants to America via the Titanic. Tess is happy to oblige and plans on resigning the second she sets her foot down on American soil. But there are mysteries aboard the majestic vessel, mysteries that are somehow tied to the unknowing Lisles. It all started with a wolf in a dark alley and a handsome protector. And now, it is so much more.
Fateful’s synopsis alone will draw tons of interested potential readers. Werewolves on the Titanic? Now that is something that will either turn out mind-blowing and original or simply a sad little carbon copy of standard PNR. Fateful lands somewhere between these two extremes.
Although the novel did not make me restructure my existence or reevaluate my values or anything, it was addicting. I just can’t help but want to know more about what happens to our heroine. Fun and fluffy. If I had to write this book review in three words, they would be fun and fluffy.
However, I shall conclude with three warnings to possible future readers:
1) Fateful is afflicted with an extreme case of unexplainable attraction. Love at first sight, as some would say. I know this bothers a lot of people -- myself included. This portion of the plot made me frown.
2) While Tess is a heroine that fights savagely for her own safety, she basically swoons whenever the love interest is near. Said love interest -- named Alec, if you’re curious -- also repeatedly asks Tess to stay away from his for her own safety. Of course, Tess does not heed the warning. Déjà vu? My frown deepened noticeably.
3) Lastly, the Titanic setting felt more like a crutch than an actual component of the story. The ship was mentioned when it was needed, and pretty much ignored when it was not.
Even with all this frowning, the irrational part of my mind enjoyed reading Fateful immensely. The rational part, however, is a lot pickier, as you have hopefully noticed. Anyone looking for a fun and fluffy novel with a slight edge will be more than satisfied with Fateful.
Gwen Frost is being forced to attend Mythos Academy, an elite school set apart to train kids...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
Gwen Frost is being forced to attend Mythos Academy, an elite school set apart to train kids who just so happen to be descendants of various mythical warriors. Of course, Gwen doesn’t believe in any of the supernatural skills her classmates supposedly possess. The only type of magic she actually accepts is her own and that of her own family. When the school’s most popular girl, the icy Valkyrie princess Jasmine, is murdered right in the library next to a stolen mythical artifact called the Bowl of Tears, Gwen is determined to get to the bottom of the entire situation. It’s never a good idea to poke your head into other people’s business, though. So the results? Who else is to blame but yourself?
Touch of Frost belongs to the new batch of paranormal stories that all seem exactly the same, only with different character names and fantastical elements. This novel’s back story is a mishmash of tons of various warriors -- from Norse gods to ninjas. While that is certainly a nice idea, it’s never really delved into. Except for a few key warrior gods, all the others felt extraneous and were barely mentioned at all.
The characters aren’t especially mind-blowing, either. You have the blonde mean girl clique, the quirky and unpopular heroine, and the hot bad boy who falls in love with the heroine anyways; just the same formula used over and over and over again. The character with an actual personality was Vic, the ancient magical sword, who has a grand total of about five lines in the entire novel. That is just sad. A sword beats out all those other full-fledged human characters? Sad, sad, sad.
Touch of Frost is quite a cliché, but lovers of stereotypical teen paranormal stories (I know there are a lot of you out there) will devour it with glee.
The dragon slayer designation obviously belongs to Emma Jones, what with her top combat exam...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
The dragon slayer designation obviously belongs to Emma Jones, what with her top combat exam scores and famous dragon-slaying mother’s legacy. No one can dispute that fact until Curtis Green, the relative newbie at Burtonwood Academy, snatches the coveted title right out from under her nose. Assigned as a fairy slayer instead and humiliated with the job of chasing these little winged critters around shopping malls, Emma is quick to jump to action when a large dragon-like creature is seen attacking a school bus, bypassing the school’s meticulously placed and calibrated wards in the process. Well, no one can actually see this gargantuan and evil-looking creature besides Emma and her archenemy Curtis. As she sets out to eliminate this threat, Emma unearths secrets about her deceased mother and the history of the elemental creatures’ descent into her mostly blissfully oblivious world.
Now this is the type of YA paranormal story that actually delivers in both pacing and originality. The world-building occurs right alongside the story, which just keeps rolling along after Emma discovers the elusive attacker almost no one else can see. As a stand-alone novel, the author did a remarkable job in wrapping up the conclusion by answering questions and simultaneously leaving a few threads untied. The writing style is not overly sophisticated, and while this doesn’t subtract from the overall flow of the novel per se, it left something to be desired.
Onto the characters: both the main and side ones are multi-faceted and actually have personalities -- from horoscope and techie-geek Loni to betting and pet cockroach-obsessed Trevor. Emma and Curtis’s interactions are cute in a slightly gushy way, whereas Loni and Trevor have a seriously hilarious rapport going on. These four are adorable. Simply adorable.
Fairy Bad Day is a unique combination of boarding school life and paranormal creature-slaying teens told in a snarky narrative that makes the novel quite a joy to read. I will be looking into other books by Amanda Ashby.
Elayne has lost all hope for her father’s recovery as he battles leukemia, and it is with a f...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
Elayne has lost all hope for her father’s recovery as he battles leukemia, and it is with a feeling of defeat that Elayne sits down with him one night and cracks open the old volume entitled The Maid and the Unicorn. Elayne reads of the story of the magical weaver Francois Robochon, his daughter and her namesake Alice-Elayne, and the escape from Goloth, Land of the Fabulous Beast on the back of a unicorn. Even as Elayne scoffs at the fantastical story, her father insists on its authenticity and presents a supposed unicorn horn passed down from Elayne’s ancestor to her as a gift. It isn’t until Elayne comes face to face with tapestries depicting the great unicorn and woven with the initials AE that she finally realizes the truth, although the realization does come just a bit too late. Plunging head-first into the Land of the Fabulous Beast, Elayne seeks to discover a cure for her father and possibly save Goloth from its tyrannical ruler, the descendant of the weaver Robochon’s murderer, King-Elect Leo.
The Hunt of the Unicorn turned out to be a lot more than I’d originally expected. The beginning was a bit heavy on the info-dumping, but the authors chose a more creative method. We read about the entire history and back-story as Elayne herself reads from The Maid and the Unicorn, and her commentaries certainly added to the story.
It took me 80 pages to get into the story, and the rest of the book flew by as a result. We are introduced to fascinating Moonspill, handsome Leo, joking Marc, sweetmeat-addicted Amaryllis, and other charming or back-stabbing characters as the story progresses. My favorite being the two-headed amphisbaena snake, who, upon meeting Elayne, proceeds to exchange their knowledge of the language of the beasts with her for her knowledge of modern English. It is quite entertaining to hear the snake, especially the Baena half, speak in a mix of Olde English and “teenspeak.”
The Hunt of the Unicorn is a great addition to the plethora of unicorn books out there. It stands out among the rest, too.
Nothing but a ginormous orange sandstorm signals the approaching danger that fateful day Saba...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
Nothing but a ginormous orange sandstorm signals the approaching danger that fateful day Saba’s darling twin brother Lugh gets kidnapped from Silverlake and taken away bound up in rope. Desperate and broken-hearted, Saba -- with the unwelcomed and unshakable presence of her little sister Emmi -- sets out to bring Lugh back. When the two girls are temporarily detained in Hopetown, Saba learns of the Sun King and the reason for Lugh’s capture and allies herself with the warrior Free Hawks and the ever infuriating cage-fighter Jack. Renewed with hope and greater numbers, the group starts out on a trek through the land. Their one goal: Lugh’s freedom, and possibly liberation for all.
Holy crap in a cup (Young, 379). This novel was an exciting ride reminiscent of other great high fantasy novels; well, only without all the fantastical elements. The action picks up right from the start, and the story doesn’t slacken in intensity until the very last page. Great side characters and creatures like the hellwurm -- which totally reminded me of those sandworms in Frank Herbert’s Dune series -- combined to become a great backdrop for the adventure and the two main characters Saba and Jack.
These two had their fair share of aww moments. Saba is head-strong but obviously has a soft side for the guy. And Jack, cocky and teasing, contains just the right amount of magic to balance out Saba’s stubbornness. The chemistry between the pair is a cool blend of fake contempt, attraction, jealousy, and mutual affection. Saba, mostly in denial about her feelings toward Jack, is facepalm-inducing at times. But overall, they are one well-matched and well-paired couple.
Blood Red Road is a great dystopian debut. Don’t be discouraged by the slightly mediocre cover; an epic tale awaits you within its pages.
Book Source: eARC via Simon & Schuster Galley Grab(less)
It’s certainly been awhile since I’ve cried this hard over a book -- at two different spots,...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
It’s certainly been awhile since I’ve cried this hard over a book -- at two different spots, too. Ms. Sheehan, I demand my tears back immediately in an aesthetically pleasing and preferably crystalline container so my future children may have the option of putting it into a Pensieve and learning about all my failures and secret loves and whatnot.
Right, now that that’s over…
Readers looking for a genuine science fiction novel with a complete setup and intricate technologies will be sorely disappointed with A Long, Long Sleep. If I had to attach only one tag to this novel, it would just be romance. Not dystopian or adventure or self-discovery; just romance. This book was more of a 2-star if one only takes into account the characters and plotline. However, the slightly weird but still passable romance really tugged at my heartstrings and receives 5 stars from me. A 4-star rating was settled on because I tend to prioritize my emotions over logic (I am a teenager after all; blame the hormones). And I think the last time I cried for a book was during my third re-read of The Book Thief. It’s about time something else had the same effect.
Let’s just get this out of the way: Rose is an idiotic heroine, even she admits it. She acts idiotically. She thinks idiotically. She runs away from her problems idiotically. You get the drift. Weirdly, when Rose converses with Otto, a blue-skinned genetically-modified alien-human, she uses words that otherwise would not be part of the average idiotic teen’s vocabulary and sounds mildly intelligent, if not at least self-reflective and mature. In short, Rose sounds nothing like her usual self during these conversations, which bothered me to no end.
A Long, Long Sleep also explores parental abuse, something I found to be very surprising, given the sci-fi setup. You can’t help yourself from feeling growing sympathy for Rose, and I suppose that subtracts from her idiocy just a tiny bit. At least Rose is, for the most part, loyal to Xavier -- stupid Xavier. Now, Xavier isn’t necessarily a dull young man. I actually know nothing about Xavier’s intelligence since it was never mentioned. But Xavier, you stupid, stupid boy.
I will be looking out for Ms. Sheehan’s future books, as I’m willing to overlook some aspects of her novels just so I can enjoy other parts of it. Really, that’s just another way of conveying how much of a sap I truly am...
Book Source: ARC from Candlewick Press via NetGalley(less)
Yes, you read it right: nothing happened in the entire 400+ novel. Oh, mundane events occurred, all right. Laurel went to school. She went to her therapist. She cried on her bed. She got a job at the animal shelter. But nothing of significance appeared on the horizon. The novel was a gigantic blob of nothingness. I don’t know about you, but when I pick up a piece of fiction, I expect to be dazzled or touched or experience some sort of change in the way I view the world. If I really wanted to bore myself with blobs of nothingness, I would pick up my Physics textbook instead.
I do realize that 1-star ratings are quite harsh since an entire team of people dedicated time and money on this piece of writing, only to have it hated on by a reviewer they kindly provided an ARC to. But hey, we have standards, and any book I think was a waste of time to read receives only 1 star.
OK, since Laurel’s parents and brother pass away in a car accident near the beginning, you would expect the novel to be about healing and dealing with grief. But no, Laurel basically mopes around for a while and then dives into an entire vat of boy drama. Would you be worrying about boys when your entire family has just passed away? Sending flirty emails to your next-door neighbor, whose mother also died in the same car accident? No. No, you wouldn’t.
While the characters themselves don’t get on my nerves, their interactions are quite infuriating, with Laurel and David being the prime example here. It is understandable that both would be unstable after the deaths of their families and that seeking solace with someone who knows what you’re going through helps with the pain. But the romance between these two; I mean, really. Laurel obviously pines after David for a good part of the novel, and David isn’t even around half the time. But then one day, the author decided to wave her magic wand and poof, they’re a happy couple. Not every single YA novel needs romance, you know?
I understand how others might have been moved by The Beginning of After, but this novel was not for me.
Book Source: ARC from HarperCollins via NetGalley(less)
Willow has always been psychic. Simply grasping someone’s hand will give her access to a...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
Willow has always been psychic. Simply grasping someone’s hand will give her access to a person’s possible futures, which Willow views as branchings off a tree. When her classmate Beth unexpectedly asks for a reading, Willow is plunged into a world of deadly, human-consuming angels and slowly begins to understand the intricacies of cattle farming -- or human aura trafficking, whichever term you prefer. As the angels become aware of Willow’s existence and decide that they want her dead, Willow is whisked off on a daring escape plan with angel assassin Alex, and the two set off on a road-trip to save themselves and perhaps the entirety of humankind. It turns out to be a trip filled with deception and gun chases and auto theft; after all, these aren’t peaceful little fluffy-winged angels we’re talking about here.
Angel Burn contains a set of very untraditional angels and two extremely cute main characters -- and here, I seriously stress the word cute. The evil angels’ background acted as a great hook, and the author knows exactly how to create enough suspense to prevent the reader from putting down the book. The alternating perspectives are slightly disjointed at times, but overall it succeeded in portraying the feelings of various characters. Willow is the only one honored with first person, and in my humble I’m-not-an-editor-but-it’s-ok opinion, the author would have been better off simply keeping her in third person like the rest of the characters.
Kudos to Miss Weatherly for giving Alex and Willow time to get to know each other before proceeding to the lovey-dovey stage. However, once they got to that stage, the cheesiness began to overwhelm. Now, I am generally a proud enjoyer of cheesy romance novels; still, there were some scenes that morphed my aww, they’re so adorable into an ugh, guys, please stop before I start puking rainbows.
All in all, this novel was a surprisingly great read. I am looking forward to the sequel, Angel Fire.
Book Source: ARC from Candlewick Press via NetGalley(less)
April Bowers is Miss Invisible. Well, Miss Invisible with an oddly incurable bra stuffing add...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
April Bowers is Miss Invisible. Well, Miss Invisible with an oddly incurable bra stuffing addiction. She dreads starting sophomore year without her best -- and only -- friend Haley by her side. However, after a surprising incident that involves a cute skirt and some borrowed lip gloss, April finds herself invited to enter the exclusive clique of popular Britney Taylor. The thing is: no one gets to be that popular without a couple of haters. And April, desperate to attract the attention of the new boy she nicknames Mr. Hottie-Body Brentwood, is willing to try anything to improve her abysmal social ranking. But does that anything include tolerating the controlling Britney?
This book made me chuckle, at least at first. I was charmed by April’s snarky narrative and attitude. She was endearing in a younger sibling sort of way -- weird, considering the fact that she and I are both high school sophomores. As I got deeper into the book, I ended up getting more and more annoyed at April. She felt so artificial, along with all the other characters in the story. April’s friend Haley seemed especially fake. I would physically wince each time the two girls conversed on the phone. Their stilted conversations remind me of the script of some badly-written teenybopper TV drama.
The plot also lacked development. I know it’s impossible to fit every little detail into 200+ pages, but I felt that the humongous time skips in the story weren’t incorporated well enough. It was like walking down a flight of stairs and suddenly stepping through a missing step. Whoosh. Quite an uncomfortable feeling, you know?
Overall, The Lipstick Laws is a cute and slightly fluffy story about facing the mean girls of high school and accepting yourself for who you are.
Book Source: ARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley(less)
Two broken people, destroyed by circumstance and the irreversible passage of time.
There is Tom -- the uni drop-out who spends his time pining for the girl whose heart he broke so many winters ago. Drowning in regret, he finds solace in escape, just as his alcoholic father blots out the world when life becomes too much to handle. And then there is Tom’s Aunt Georgie, confused and yearning for understanding after that one little event that fractured her life, even though the one person who can mend her is the one who broke her in the first place.
This is the story of the rediscovery of hope, as bits and pieces of Tom and Georgie’s lives continue to chip off and crumble in front of their weary eyes. This is where the healing begins.
I would never have given this book a second glance if shown its American cover: A boy guitarist in a striped shirt? Come on… How much more unoriginal can you get? However, I’ve had the luck to read a few of the brilliant Melina Marchetta’s works before and have thoroughly enjoyed every single one. To say that I was excited to start The Piper’s Son would be the understatement of the century.
Who would have thought that Marchetta could take something that resembled a cheesy Asian drama in character and plot and portray it as something so raw and real? You have your heart-broken protagonist with the messed-up family and the unrequited love and an adult counterpart with a marriage ripped apart by an affair. As usual, angst is always present, snaking its way through the story and leaving slimy trails of betrayal in its wake. It takes talent to write cliché into something of beauty and sadness and growth and forgiveness. Even though this book is as far from the fantasy genre as you can get, The Piper’s Son was magical. Yes, realistic novels can be magical, too.
And despite the almost depressing feel of the synopsis, there is also an abundance of humor – puns, sarcasm, and witty remarks about random things such as a certain grandfather’s bum in super short jogging shorts and the mortification that accompanies said shorts during morning jogs around the neighborhood.
A sort-of sequel of Saving Francesca but with a side character as the main one instead, The Piper’s Son is one of those rare books that deserves a re-read. Even the second time will be as engrossing as the first.
After reading a whole slew of horrible reviews of The Girl in the Steel Corset, I had me...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
After reading a whole slew of horrible reviews of The Girl in the Steel Corset, I had mentally prepared myself for a train wreck. Well, I confess: the novel didn't turn out that badly for me. It wasn't exceptional, but it didn't enduce fits of hair-tearing frustration, mostly. Perhaps I've been desensitized by the unhealthy amount of mediocre YA I've been reading lately.
The characters here are pretty much your standard set of YA heroes, although Finley managed to annoy me quite a bit more than the average heroine. That girl, for the life of her, just doesn't seem to be able to make up her mind about anything. Oooh, Griffin is so handsome. But wait, Jack is hot, too. I'll just blame my attraction on the two warring parts of my personality! No. Just no. And guess what? In case one love triangle isn't enough, we've got two! Aren't you excited? Ugh, at least the two triangles don't overlap. Imagine what a mess that would make. A love hexagon?
The background of the novel comes across as completely random. There are beasties that have cool powers and are apparently harvested from the center of the earth and machines that do your chores or suddenly turn evil and just attack people. Add the Aether, a spiritual plane inhabited by the dead, to all that, and you've got an overload of fantastical elements that don't really coexist nicely with each other.
The Girl in the Steel Corset does not succeed in distinguishing itself from typical YA despite its steampunk flare and gorgeous cover. However, it is still a notch above a lot of YA out there simply because it presents the stereotype in a slightly altered package.
Book Source: ARC from Harlequin via NetGalley(less)
Kate enters the town of Eden with a mother who is on the brink of death and a hope for a bett...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
Kate enters the town of Eden with a mother who is on the brink of death and a hope for a better future that is fading bit by bit with the passage of time. As she drags herself through the motions of daily life, weird begin to occur around her. Her new frenemy is raised from the dead after an accident that definitely involved a large quantity of blood, and the only explanation Kate gets from the incident involves a certain dark-haired boy -- Henry, who later claims to be Hades, the infamous god of the Underworld. Kate soon finds herself participating in seven unknown tests to save her mother and help determine the future of the Underworld. A lot of responsibility for an eighteen-year-old, eh?
First off, gorgeous cover. The model’s white dress creates a nice contrast with the dark green fronds and plants in the background. Although that model looks like she’s 25 instead of Kate’s 18, that’s totally beside the point, right?
So here we go: Kate, Kate, Kate. If you existed in real life, you would be receiving death threats from readers of The Goddess Test. It’s one thing to be self-sacrificing and slightly clueless, but dearie, your lack of comprehension of life in general makes me want to go strangle some cute fluffy squirrel in the woods. I know you have a brain. Please use it.
And as various other reviewers have mentioned, the Greek mythology implemented in the plot was stretched just a wee bit too much. None, and I repeat, none of the Greek gods were virgins and/or particularly saint-like in any way. They cheated and murdered and raped and committed incest. Need I go on?
The Goddess Test presents modern twist of the myth of Hades and Persephone that strays a bit too far from the original. Combined with annoying characters and background inaccuracies, the novel was somewhat of a chore to get through. Although I suggest that you read the novel yourself and formulate your own opinion. Who knows? You might just end up joining the legions of reviewers who adored the book to death.
Book Source: ARC from Harlequin via NetGalley(less)
Charlie hates Fielding, and vice versa. What do you even expect? The two have been practicall...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
Charlie hates Fielding, and vice versa. What do you even expect? The two have been practically glued at the hip against their will for the last four years as promotion for their popular hit tween TV show Jenna & Jonah’s How to Be a Rock Star. It isn’t until the paparazzi pick up on a vicious rumor about the pair that they are forced to escape to an obscure beach house to ride out the publicity wave. Among the blessed quietness that accompanies obscurity, Charlie and Fielding proceed to discover something surprising: they really don’t know each other at all.
Jenna & Jonah’s Fauxmance is the type of novel that would correspond to some sort of crème-filled chocolate doughnut in the delightful world of food. It is definitely sweet, but eating too much of it will induce episodes of barfing. While I enjoy this type of bubbly and extremely non-surprising teeny bopper lit, they must be enjoyed in moderation. I mean, just look at the book’s cover. So very pink. Even the book jacket itself resembles some sort of doughnut.
The novel has its fair share of aww moments and some other facepalm ones. Unlike other bubbly novels, the two characters weren’t annoying most of the time, which made reading through this quite a breeze. Charlie and Fielding are quite dense about each other, though. And sometimes you just can’t help yourself from wanting to smack the two atop the head with something heavy, maybe an anvil of some sort.
Jenna & Jonah’s Fauxmance is a great pick for people who find delight in light, fluffy teen lit.
It was definitely the mirror and the earthquake that started it all. One moment, Addie is str...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
It was definitely the mirror and the earthquake that started it all. One moment, Addie is strolling through the crumbling streets and frantic crowds of Seattle; and the next, she is amongst weirdly dressed people who apparently make a habit of injuring each other with bricks. It is in this parallel world that Addie meets Reg and discovers the Jewel, a professional theater and any budding actress’s dream. When she is offered a job as assistant director, Addie makes every effort to return to this old version of Seattle as frequently as possible. When events in each world seem to almost mirror each other, Addie realizes that there is a lot more at stake than her own desires.
I am often weary of time travel books, as it is very easy to butcher them. However, I enjoyed The Jewel and the Key immensely. The fact that I had never heard of the Industrial Workers of the World, an organization central to the novel’s plot, was very surprising considering the long hours I’ve spent in various high school U.S. history classes. The author’s incorporation of history and theatrical arts sets up a great background for the novel.
Also like every other YA story, there is lurrrve. What seems like a love triangle at first quickly becomes more of a line segment or a diatomic covalent molecule (if you are in a particularly chemistry-oriented mood like yours truly). The object of Addie’s affections is young Reg, a flamboyant actor with quite a dramatic personality. Their relationship was adorable, and the conclusion succeeded in stealing a few tears from me. I actually went back and reread the ending a few times after finishing the novel. I guess it can be described as bittersweet without going overboard with cheesiness. Mostly, it was just heartbreaking.
The Jewel and the Key is a quaint historical novel that packs quite a punch. It also contributed to my lack of sleep, as I couldn’t stop myself from reading late into the night instead of sleeping like the rest of the normal human beings in my time zone.
You’re just one of the many 25-year-olds in Manhattan with a monotonous life and equally (if...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
You’re just one of the many 25-year-olds in Manhattan with a monotonous life and equally (if not more) monotonous job. Well, until the day zombies take over. Gruesome killing on every street corner; an unhealthy abundance of blood, gore, guts, and brains. Your survival depends on you -- solely you – and the decisions you make with each turn during your race for victory. Die, become a zombie, or perhaps, stay alive until the very end -- it's all up to you.
Maybe I was deprived as a child, but I was never given any Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) books. Reading through Max Brallier’s Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? turned out to be quite an experience. Peppered with interesting characters that slather raw meat juice on themselves to imitate zombies and others that are just alarmingly trigger-happy with a machine gun, this book was an intense read. That is, if you don’t mind dying and instantaneously resuscitating yourself a couple hundred times.
Of course, the burning question here is: can you survive the zombie apocalypse?
Relic Master Galen Harn and his apprentice Raffi know that all is not well the moment they se...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
Relic Master Galen Harn and his apprentice Raffi know that all is not well the moment they set foot in the settlement that had boldly requested their help a few days before. Drawn by curiosity and the possibility of discovering a relic, the pair nevertheless decides to venture into the castle-like fortress that is the settlement’s stronghold and soon come to regret the decision. After an unpleasant meeting with the leader Alberic, Galen and Raffi are off once again -- this time in search of a thieving Sekoi that had ravaged the settlement and the Crow, who, if found, would prove to be very helpful to Galen indeed. Carys, an orphaned girl in search of her father, soon join the group on their journey to the dark city of Tasceron, where both the Sekoi and the Crow were rumored to be found. However, the Watch is always present at every turn; their deception knows no bounds.
Having read and tremendously enjoyed Ms. Fisher’s Incarceron duology, I was, to say the last, excited to get my hands on the Relic Master series. While Incarceron seems to be geared more toward young adults, The Dark City reads more like a middle grade novel to me, albeit an intense and still relatively interesting one.
The world-building present in The Dark City is subtle and yet comprehensive. The use of magic by Galen and Raffi, while not extensively clarified, was explained enough to be understandable and not overwhelming. The cast of characters were quite darling, also, with their own little quirks and secrets. Even though the plot tended to drag noticeably in the beginning and middle parts of the novel, I think the ending was a success overall.
Book one of the Relic Master series, The Dark City will appeal to middle grade fantasy lovers and readers who are willing to plunge into the fantastical world of the magic-wielding Order and the seemingly omniscient Watch.
Koumail knows exactly who he is: Blaise Fortune, undisputable and abandoned-through-a-train-a...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
Koumail knows exactly who he is: Blaise Fortune, undisputable and abandoned-through-a-train-accident French boy. Even as the seven-year-old flees the collapsing Soviet Union with Gloria, his beloved mother figure, Koumail knows that there will always be a safe haven for the faux mother-son duo in France. It turns out to be a journey fraught with hard work and starvation, doubt and heartbreak. Through it all, Koumail merely has to recite one sentence -- just one -- to make sure he still has the strength to continue. My name is Blaise Fortune and I am a citizen of the French Republic. It’s the pure and simple truth. Or is it?
Wow, A Time of Miracles is a little 200+ page novel that packs quite a punch. Translated from French, this story is told as an extended flashback laced with intricate details and told in flowing prose. Originally, the synopsis failed to impress me, and I started this book with a feeling of dread, often reminding myself of the fact that I could simply write a scathing review to vent my feelings afterward. Well, I apologize profusely to this book. To put it simply: I was blown away. This is just a simple story of a boy and a woman, escaping oppression and searching for freedom. And yet, it was also emotional and gripping all at once. Ms. Bondoux definitely succeeded in drawing out the reader’s sympathy for the two characters.
And Koumail, oh Koumail -- funny, sweet, and fiercely protective of Gloria. It isn’t possible for someone to not like this little boy. He entertains with his antics, his blind faith, and the three true loves he meets on their short journey. Even while Koumail’s begging in front of a random restaurant in the icy coldness, he’s still alight with hope.
A Time of Miracles is a surprisingly moving historical novel. It is one of those books you close with a quiet sigh.
Orphaned at a young age, Grace and Lily Parkes barely scrape by living off of the revenu...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
Orphaned at a young age, Grace and Lily Parkes barely scrape by living off of the revenue from their watercress-selling operation. When Grace -- barely sixteen herself -- gives birth to a stillborn baby boy, she embarks on a train ride that causes her to crash head-on into two individuals who ultimately come to define the sisters’ messy future. And what a messy future it is, for the entirety of legal London is abuzz over Grace and Lily, two oblivious heiresses to a huge fortune left by their deceased father. A desperate race for the money ensues as the affluent families in London begin to plot for ways to take advantage of the Parkes sisters, and the trusting girls step right into these well-woven traps. Eventually, a boy will rescue one girl, and she will stop at nothing until her sister is by her side once again.
Fallen Grace is one of those novels you chew through slowly because of its meticulously and beautifully described setting. Ms. Hooper delivers a stunning portrayal of 17th century England, complete with opulent characters and an abundance of child beggars; even the King and Queen make a random appearance. However, the plot turned out to be rather slow in the beginning. I kept waiting for the pacing to pick up: it never did. The entire book felt like an easy rambling walk -- unhurried and enjoyable, until you get bored and decide to run like a maniac and feel the wind in your hair instead.
A nicely written novel nevertheless, Fallen Grace will appeal to avid readers of historical fiction.
Seriously, I was expecting so much. This is Romeo and Juliet we're talking about here. It's only the best known romance in the history of English lit, right?
OK, I digress. The next generation might just consider Twilight to be the best known romance of all time. Shame on them. Such poor, misguided souls...
I thought R&J's ages caused all their interactions to take on an almost laughable quality. Two teenagers falling in love and getting married the next day? Psh, call me cynical, but that is just a wee bit too fast, eh? I understand that R&J's naivety adds to the realistic feel of the play, but it just didn't work for me. It doesn't help the situation, either, when, for some incomprehensible reason, one's English teacher feels the need to point out and explain every single innuendo Shakespeare included. After which the idiotic freshman guys in my class would guffaw and snicker-punch each other, and I would just die a little bit inside.
How dare they blaspheme Shakespeare in such a lowly manner in my presence...?
Anyways, I thought the only redeeming quality of Romeo and Juliet was Shakespeare's beautiful writing. He has such a way with words, but I'm sure everyone who's read him knows this already. Romeo has some great lines. Incredibly melodramatic when put into the context of the story, but beautiful nonetheless.
Next up in class is The Merchant of Venice. Hopefully it will be more similar to Macbeth, which I enjoyed immensely last year.
Tidbit of random: If only I could write like Shakespeare is a thought that constantly goes through my mind every time I read one of his magnificent works. Like that's every gonna happen.
An article recently came out in the Wall Street Journal that generated quite a buzz in the young adult book community. It basically slanders every YA novel out there that is “dark” by their standards and indirectly blames the books for familiarizing and possibly prompting trauma, violence, and profanity within the average teen. Shine received an honorary place in the article and was complained about quite a bit. So, dear Ms. Gurdon, author of said article, I am a teenager. I have read Shine, among tons of other “dark” novels. Do I now feel the inclination to begin stimulating the nearest meth business or sexually assaulting my classmates? No. No, I don’t. Not at all.
Since I’ve read Ms. Myracle’s Internet Girls series prior to Shine, I simply dismissed her as a frivolous author. Well, all my expectations disappeared down the drain as I read the first page, which featured a newspaper clipping detailing the attack of a gay teen in the tiny town of Black Creek. The novel goes on to describe the protagonist’s search for the truth about what really happened to the teen, an old childhood friend named Patrick.
Ms. Myracle’s writing created a sort of thick and somber atmosphere throughout the book, which was appropriate given the gravity of the topic. Her characters are easy to sympathize for, and the mystery involved was not overly obvious or completely impossible to solve. A multitude of touchy subjects were tackled and handled delicately. Overall, I enjoyed Shine a lot more than I’d originally thought I would.
Even with all the hate and despair in the story, I finished the novel with a feeling of hope. Yes, WSJ article, maybe it wasn’t a happily ever after, maybe the characters experienced things no one should go through. But there is hope and healing everywhere if you look hard enough.
Book Source: ARC from Abrams Books via NetGalley(less)
Since the Rose accident, Sydney has been branded as a disgrace in the Alchemist community. Wh...moreThis review may also be found on A Thousand Little Pages.
Since the Rose accident, Sydney has been branded as a disgrace in the Alchemist community. When Keith -- that arrogant jerk -- shows up with a method for her to redeem herself, Sydney jumps at the chance. The pair is sent to California as guardians for Jill, the Moroi princess who has recently suffered and barely survived a brutal attack. Posing as students in an obscure private school in Palm Springs should be an easy task. However, a chain of events have already been set into motion at this sunny “haven,” and the Alchemist-vampire posse is right in the middle of it.
Perhaps I’ve been subconsciously persuaded by the scathing Bloodlines reviews out there. Or maybe I just felt like Last Sacrifice was the conclusion of Vampire Academy, and spin-offs wouldn’t do the original series justice. I have no idea.
But Bloodlines failed to impress me as much as its predecessors did.
You notice right away that the Alchemist Sydney, who has now inherited the important job as narrator, lacks the sarcasm and attitude that characterizes Rose. This naturally causes the reading to seem a bit dryer and less humorous. I’m being petty here, as the character Sydney is supposed to be serious and obedient, but this little observation did contribute to a lower rating than the standard 4-stars I’ve been giving the rest of the Vampire Academy series. It’s hard not comparing the two.
Even with a different set of main characters -- aside from Adrian -- Ms. Mead still manages to stun with wonderfully done plot twists. I admit: I was cocky and seriously thought I had the entire plot figured out about a quarter through the book. Never have I been more wrong, and I apologize to Ms. Mead for underestimating her. I thought the novel did start out a bit slowly and ended up putting it down multiple times in the beginning. I was hooked eventually.
Although Bloodlines is a teeny step below the rest of the Vampire Academy series, it is worth reading for the thrilling conclusion. Old fans will be glad to see Adrian back in their lives, too (I know I was).