I've debated on what I should write in this review space. Usually I'm a pretty sarcastic person, flinging jokes left and right to entertain during wha...moreI've debated on what I should write in this review space. Usually I'm a pretty sarcastic person, flinging jokes left and right to entertain during what could be a really dull review. But for this, I'm less inclined to since I'm close to the source material, witnessed the production of this book and contributed two pieces.
This is a non-profit book, so none of the contributors are making any money from this production. You can buy it for $.99 (it's the lowest price LuLu let us set it) or you can read it for free here.
So I'll just ramble about my Random Off Topic Feelings.
I've been dealing with Goodreads/author drama for two years now. And I remember when I first joined Goodreads, I didn't know that authors were even on this site, let alone reading reviews. My thought was, "WHY? Why would a person want to read my insignificant thoughts on their book?" At the time, my reviews existed only to entertain myself and my very small group of friends. It was fun and exciting to find people who loved to read as much as I did, so it's no surprise that Goodreads quickly became my favorite Internet place to visit. But then the drama started, and little by little I found my joy for reviewing dwindling.
I don't review or read as much as I used to, which has me feeling some kind of way. I'm ashamed to admit that I've struggled writing reviews. I second guess words or phrases. Will the author flip out over this one star review? Will the author send his/her band of loyal fans to downvote my review on Amazon? Is this review too controversial? Will someone accuse me of bullying someone? It's maddening. It's gotten to the point where I cringe sometimes when I see a notification on certain reviews. There were already too many fucking people in my review space... and now there's Goodreads too.
I won't lie that I feel personally betrayed and hurt by how Goodreads has done a few things. Some of that stems from things that aren't publicly known (and they'll stay that way, so don't even begin to ask me) and some of it from the part of me that is just fed up with being singled out. It's happened a little too often for my liking this year and I'm just so over the bullshit.
This is getting rather depressing, so I'll make my point. Seeing the production of this book has reminded me why I love the people on Goodreads when I was starting to forget. To see first hand the determination and dedication from people who I've followed and admired for years was incredible. Their drive and motivation to continue on and power through when I felt my own waning is inspiring. These are my people with their flaws, controversies, passion, sophistication, crude humor, sarcasm, irrelevance, brilliance. In true Pitch Perfect flavor:
I don't think I've ever read a story about cheaters. I'm not sure if this was a conscious decision or if it was for fear of it remi...moreActual rating: 3.5
I don't think I've ever read a story about cheaters. I'm not sure if this was a conscious decision or if it was for fear of it reminding me of that corny reality TV show that's somehow STILL airing. (WHY? TELL ME WHY.) Plus, there's always the issue of actually sympathizing with the cheater, not an easy feat. But While You're Away surprised me. I was able to connect and understand the main character, Sarah Westlake, and her reasons for her infidelity. That doesn't mean I'm agreeing with her decision at all, far from it. (I want you all to know that I just resisted a Cheater-Cheater-Pumpkin-Eater reference despite it's non-relevenace.)
What I liked best about While You're Away is Sarah's down to earth voice. She reminds me of my teen self in some ways with her shyness and social awkwardness. At least one of those blasted traits has lingered with me through adulthood, proving that some things never change, but I digress. Sarah's perfect boyfriend, Dave, is the opposite. He's outgoing, a flirt and everywhere he goes, he feeds off of a crowd's energy. This works well for his and Sarah's band, Dasa, but often leaves Sarah lonely and put-out from seeing him flirt with so many girls. That doesn't discount Sarah's love for Dave because she does genuinely care for him as he does her. However, it gives Dave's character a flaw in his seemingly perfection. Sarah doesn't blame her infidelity on him, which I was happy to see, but you can tell that this factor of lack of attention does play into it.
Then we have bad boy Will. He's new, thrilling and completely off-limits to Sarah. Not only does she have sweet and caring Dave, but Will is also taken. Yet through one weird moment at a party, in Sarah's loneliness, she ends up making out with Will and later hiding it from Dave. And while she does feel bad about the betrayal, a part of her is intrigued with the connection she felt with Will.
Finally, I really enjoyed the Holbrook's writing style as I am a sucker for pretty writing. It's not flowery or poetic in the way you'd find Lauren DeStefano's or Tahereh Mafi's. It's more straightforward realism with Sarah's conflicted feelings particularly when Holbrook describes her feelings about Will and why she's so drawn to explore the connection further.
"I felt split in pieces, and none of them matched. It turned out that it was possible to feel guilty and elated at the same time. To be ashamed and emboldened at once. Though it had been wrong to even try it, I wanted another taste of Will."
If there were one thing I would have loved more of, it's more back story between Dave and Sarah. We are shown how they met and why they decided to start Dasa, but the reader is primarily introduced right into the infidelity scene. Though, it's entirely possible that more will be revealed as this story wears on since there are a total of six pieces. I usually prefer reading a book from cover to cover, without interruption, but I do think in this case, it works out well when you're able to leave readers on small cliffs like this gem:
"This felt like the beginning of something. A seduction that dared me to imagine what might come next. I felt like I'd been waiting for this. Needing it, even without knowing."
Because of this, I'm left internally cringing at Sarah and Will's choices, secretly rooting them on and shaking my head at the can of worms they're opening. It's funny how that happened. When did I become both the demon and the angel on Sarah's shoulder? So I think it goes without saying that I'll be continuing. Like Sarah, I'm in too deep to stop at just part 1.
e-ARC was received from the publisher via NetGalley. Thank you!
I should start this review with a disclaimer: I am friendly with this author and I have a lot of respect for her as a fellow b...moreActual rating: 1.5 stars
I should start this review with a disclaimer: I am friendly with this author and I have a lot of respect for her as a fellow blogger. However, I hope to review this book with as little bias as possible. Also, this is a review of an early e-ARC and I've been informed that the finished copy may have had a few significant changes. I'll try and indicated that, but I haven't checked the e-ARC against the finished copy, so please keep that in mind while reading this review.
Initially I was very excited to start Unbreathable because not only is Sci-Fi one of my favorite genres, but I also love when books take place on different planets or in space. I figured Unbreathable would fit the bill since it's toted at a Sci-Fi adventure. Unfortunately, I didn't end up loving it as much as I thought I would.
About half of Unbreathable's problems could have been solved if the pacing was a little slower. The beginning was entirely too fast and didn't give the reader a chance to get to know the main character, Lissa. Instead, we are dumped into a situation, given a brief background and expected to simply keep up with the events that followed. The problem with that was that Lissa supposedly undergoes quite a bit of character development after she starts combat training. Afterwards, we are told how much of a shy girl she was, how she was now stronger and more confident. But since we didn't get to know Lissa before that event, there was nothing there for me to make that connection or see that growth.
Laziaf's writing style also conflicted with the pacing. The use of short sentences and very descriptive passages was lovely by itself, but made the book feel like it should have been moving slower vs. the events happening back to back.
2. Character Development
I didn't connect with any of the characters and disliked them for the most part. There's an evil queen, an evil brother, the love interest, the girl with the power to save everyone. It was all very run of the mill and lacked depth. Why was the queen evil? What was her motivation? It felt like she was evil for the sake of being evil. There was also Mia's character that confused me. What was her purpose besides being a filler character? There wasn't anything more to these characters besides what their role involved plot-wise.
Why did Lissa seem to forgive everyone, even the bad guys? Oh, you've killed off people forever and even tried to kill Lissa and her family/friends and now you're dying or you're sorry? No problem! Lissa will forgive you! Not every character can be redeemable, but that is exactly what happened in Unbreathable. It didn't make Lissa seem forgiving or mature, but the contrary: naïve and lacking self-preservation.
3. The Romance & Plot
If you prefer your Sci-Fi with a stronger romantic focus, then there is a chance Unbreathable will be for you. However, if you are like me and prefer the romance to take a backseat to the plot and action, Unbreathable may disappoint you. Even though the events and plot moves fast, the romantic scenes were well-written and were clearly the strongest parts of the novel. In fact, if Laziaf's next novel were a contemporary romance, I'd be all over it.
As for Unbreathable's romance, it tried to do entirely too much. There was the main romantic arc between Lissa and Julian that could have been sweet had it had proper time to develop. Then, there was the side romance between Lissa and Rowen that was strange, creepy and uncomfortable.
At the same time, the main focus of the book is supposed to be the race for earth, but those parts are rushed just to get to the next kissing scene (the best parts of the novel were the kissing scenes). I would have liked if Unbreathable made up its mind on what kind of book it wanted to be. Did it want to be an epic love story with a Sci-Fi backdrop (Space Opera) or did it want to be the action novel that it was marketed as? Trying to accomplish both of these things, left the book wide open to plot holes and, ultimately, feeling incomplete for me.
I didn't really buy the love between Julian and Lissa, though, this may be due to the beginning moving too fast. Their feelings did seem to develop very strongly and quickly, allowing Lissa to call Julian "The One" not long into their relationship. This was very unbelievable to me since Lissa had been raised in isolation from everyone besides her father. She had zero experience with boys and love (something she admits to), but somehow ends up falling for one of the first boys she interacts with.
Then, enter Rowen, the bad boy. I believe his romance with Lissa was introduced to give Lissa more choices, but he was not redeemable in my eyes and I really don't understand why Lissa liked him, and eventually, confessed to loving him in the span of a few days. (This may be one of the things that is changed in the final copy.)
I just couldn't ship these peeps.
In conclusion, Unbreathable didn't measure up to my expectations. I needed more plot, more character development and better world building to connect to the story. While the premise promised an exciting adventure, I found it lacked the action and finesse to pull it all together.
e-ARC was provided by the author for an honest review.
What the hell am I? I thought. Too old to be a real teenager, too young to drink. Old enough to die in a war, fuck grown men,...moreActual rating: 4.5 stars
What the hell am I? I thought. Too old to be a real teenager, too young to drink. Old enough to die in a war, fuck grown men, and be completely confused about what I was doing with my life.
One of the most important points I see argued when it comes to the classification of New Adult novels is, where does it fit? The debate seems to be evenly spit with each side categorizing it as either YA or Adult with a smaller portion claiming it is of its own category. And I get, because it is a hard to place, especially when YA itself frequently blurs the lines. In the case of Unteachable, however, I think the above quote really nails down what some are trying to say. There is a time in our lives when people feel neither teenaged or adult, neither fully grown or child-like. Certain privileges are afforded to you, while others remain outside your grasp. Through it all, you struggle to find a way to fit into this small space that passes by in the blink of an eye.
It would be a mistake to call Maise your average teenager, because she's far from that label with her drug dealing mom and broken home. Forced to grow up at an early age and take care of herself, she sees the world entirely differently than her classmates. But she also seeks out older male lovers to fill the void of a male figure in her life.
Thanks, Dad, for leaving a huge void in my life that Freud says has to be filled with dick.
Maise is blunt, unpredictable, hot-headed, strong-willed, independent, flawed, brave, passionate and insecure all in one. After a night of of passion with a guy she meets at a carnival, she finds out that he is her new film teacher. Instead of breaking things off like she probably should have, they explore the limits of their relationship. Secret meetings away from school and make-out sessions after class make up the most of their relationship. But things get complicated when other classmates start to notice Maise's odd behavior and familiarity with their teacher and the risks the couple start to take.
My face lit up with dark glee. "I can be discreet. I can be Harriet the fucking Spy."
Unfortunately for Maise, she was no Harriet the Spy. And if anyone remembers what happened to poor Harriet, she got sloppy and found out by the end. The moments when Maise did a few stupid things had me shaking my head. It was fascinating to see their relationship because Maise constantly wondered what it was about Mr. Wilke that attracted her. Was is a legitimate connection between two people? Or was it just the taboo of having private after school sessions her teacher?
Is falling in love with someone twice your age gross, weird, amazing, or all of the above? The secrecy insulated me in a vacuum-sealed bubble. I could only ask myself, How does this feel? Is this good? Is this right? And the only answer I ever got was my own echo.
I couldn't help but wonder if Maise was even emotionally ready for such a relationship when it seemed to turn into an obsession for her. Suddenly, keeping Mr. Wilke was all she could think about, she second guessed herself more, she got desperate for his attention and jealous. But at the same time Mr. Wilke displays uncertainty of the "rightness" of his actions and struggles with his feelings for Maise.
"I can't hold on to you. You're like that shooting star. Just a trail of fire in my hands."
I admit to being drawn to this book simply for the taboo factor. As much as I love YA, every once in a while, it's nice to branch out to something completely left field. I mean, realistically, there is only so much pent-up sexual frustration, coupled with teenaged wangst, I can take before my head explodes. So thank goodness that Unteachable was around to give me the sexy times and love in such a poetic, lyrical way.
Part of falling in love with someone is actually falling in love with yourself. Realizing that you're gorgeous, you're fearless, and unpredictable, you're a firecracker spitting light, entrancing a hundred faces that stare up at you with starry eyes.
What I loved best about Unteachable was Raeder's prose. I love how Maise is a pretentious protagonist without actually seeming unrealistic. *Cough* The Fault in Our Stars *Cough* I love how hard I could relate to her feelings of not truly fitting into her world or society. I love how she could infuriate me on one page, make me laugh on another and root for her fiercely by the last. I love how Raeder's prose wrapped itself around my brain like a blanket and set off fireworks in my mind.
"I'm not pulling the age card, I swear. But there's something I believe. You should love something whole you have it, love it fully and without reservations, even if you know you'll lose it someday. We lose everything. If you're trying to avoid loss, there's no point in taking another breath, or letting your heart beat one more time. It all ends." His fingers curled around mine. "That's all life is. Breathing in, breathing out. The space between two breaths."
And I love how by the end of this book I cared so deeply for the characters, my feels fell out of my eyeballs.
Very rarely do I see myself re-reading a book, but, guys? THIS BOOK. I would re-read the shit out of it. In fact, I would read anything Raeder wrote. Unteachable is a gem that gave me a bazillion happy sighs. It's lyrical, brilliantly addictive and passionate. HIGHLY recommended.
*And since Unteachable had so many delicious sexy time moments and it's a Kindle lending title, I'm sending it to Kat for some Cuddlebuggery Reading Time. ;)
Recently, I've been reading really depressing books that have both horrified and fascinated me. But out of all of them, Charm and Strange and now Forg...moreRecently, I've been reading really depressing books that have both horrified and fascinated me. But out of all of them, Charm and Strange and now Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock takes the cake for tackling tough, taboo issues. In this case, suicide. Now, the last suicide book I've read was Thirteen Reasons Why and this book can easily be compared to that. But instead of the story being told from tapes from the deceased and another MC, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is told play-by-play from Leonard himself. His voice is real, broken, hurt, confused and relatable. He wants to be seen, remembered. He wants people to acknowledge his existence. So on his 18th birthday he takes his grandfather's war gun trophy and sets out to kill his former best friend and himself.
When we are introduced to Leonard, he immediately fills the reader in on his plans, though the ultimate reason why is revealed along the course of his day as he gives away personal items or gifts to four people he regularly interacts with. While Leonard calls them friends, we find that this doesn't accurately describe those relationships. Two mostly tolerate or accept his presence in their routine, but unlike most of his peers, they communicate with him in some way despite being weirded out by his differences. Leonard is vastly different from his classmates and that is quickly apparent in his reasonings and speech. He sees the world and challenges things normal teenagers wouldn't think about. This doesn't do Leonard any favors regarding his popularity, but he brushes this off as ignorance on their part.
The thing about Leonard is that he's such a smart character, but he never comes across as pretentious like some characters from other equally morbid novels. (This is me giving The Fault in Our Stars the stink eye.) It's easy to see why he's misunderstood and underestimated, but such a shame to read about such a lonely kid. His situation depressed me on a serious level and I just wanted to give this guy hug. He doesn't have friends his age or even the support of his family. His mother spends her days in New York, living her dream working as a designer and his father is nowhere to be seen, leaving Leonard to mostly fend for himself. Thankfully, Leonard is not entirely alone and when the climax hits, he does begin to see there are people who care about him.
If there is one piece of criticism I do have it was the way the Letters From the Future were introduce. In certain chapters of the book, the narrative and setting switches and their isn't any notice. I'll admit to be completely caught off guard to this and confused as to how it held any relevance to the story until after his teacher mentioned them in class. Leonard also has moments when he references footnotes in his narration, which is generally not a style that I love since it causes me to flip back and forth from the footnotes to the story. Word to the wise, reading this one on your kindle might be a royal pain in the ass.
All in all, I'm really glad I decided to check Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock out. It's a very different story, the kind I'm not used to reading. But just like Thirteen Reasons Why and Charm and Strange, it's one I'll probably be thinking about for a while. Highly recommended.
ARC was provided by the publisher for an honest review. Thank you!
Before we even get this par-TAY started, I'm going to throw something out there: This was not a bad book. I'm saying this now because I know I'm about...moreBefore we even get this par-TAY started, I'm going to throw something out there: This was not a bad book. I'm saying this now because I know I'm about to be the black sheep when it comes to Sins & Needles. So before everyone in my Goodreads friends list comes out with their torches and pitch forks, guys, I can totally see why you all love this book.
Alright, now that we've got the basics out of the way, strap in because I'm about to light it up. BTW, yeah, spoilers 'cause that's how I roll.
Sins & Needles started off very strong for me. The main character, Ellie Watt, has a great presence and voice. She's someone I'd even consider badass... at first. Obviously, her profession demands nothing less with her being a con artist and all. But for once in her life, Ellie feels like she's had enough and goes home to Palm Valley. It's there where Ellie must now face the ultimate human challenge: Getting a job. But just as her first and only attempt fails, in comes Camden McQueen. Ellie is instantly attracted to this tattooed stud-muffin, but doesn't recognize him as the bullied goth from high school (and former best friend). Anyway, they hit it off and somehow end up on this wild Bonnie and Clyde type adventure.
Up until around 50%, I was feelin' this book somethin' serious. Like I said, Ellie has a great voice and the writing wasn't bad either (even though I do think it was stronger in the first half). But somehow along the way I found myself caring less and less about finishing the book. Here are three reasons why my happy cat died along the way complete with pop culture references FTW (because obviously I was bored enough to soundtrack my review):
Ellie is one special character. She makes a living from conning men out of money left and right. She meets them on internet dating sites (She fed me lies while she cast her spells...), pretends to be their girlfriend for months (Save me, she's a liar... ) and then makes off with their cash (Gypsy woman robbed me of my best...). Your ability to love this novel is really going to be dependent on if you can relate to her situation and past. Or at the very least, sympathize with her. I thought I could. I mean, I tried really, really hard to. I liked the idea of a con artist trying to go legit and finding love along the way. It's just the way Ellie went about it that bothered me.
So check it, Ellie goes back home and tries to get a job at ONE LOCATION, fails, sees Camden McMoneyPants walk in, and says, "Fuck it. I'll just rob him." (Trifling friend, indeed.)
Actually, I kinda am...
I know, I know. It's all she knows and she's used to just taking from everyone else, but that is no excuse to me. And honestly, I think Ellie was just being lazy and I can't stand lazy people. I wanted to shake her and make her get off her ass and get a job. But no, instead she tries to rob Camden because obviously that's way easier and more logical.
But wait! Ellie is JUSTIFIED because the world has wronged her. I get that Ellie was a flawed character with a lot of issues, but hasn't anyone ever told her life isn't fair? *this is me playing the world's smallest violin* I understand that Halle was trying to show the other side of the coin where a person doesn't make the right decisions. My issue is that I couldn't understand WHY she was making them.
If you had a tragic accident due to a career choice made by your parents, what would you do?
A. Choose a different career when you grew up. B. Choose the same career path of your parents because of... reasons.
Guess what Ellie chooses? That's right, B! Makes complete sense, right? (I’ve got that lefty curse... Where everything I do is flipped... And awkwardly reversed) But it gets better because this is Ellie-fucking-Watt we're talking about.
So Ellie's parents tried to con a drug lord and she ends up paying the price by getting acid poured all over her leg. I'm not sure I would go back to the same drug lord with the intention of conning him alone, because, ahem, he's a DRUG LORD. But she finds love in one of the drug lord's right hand men, Javier. Surprise: it doesn't work out and she steals his money and car. Look at your life, Ellie. Look at your choices! The girl is addicted to Making Bad Decisions. Intervention, I say!
You would think after that huge fail she would quit while she was ahead, but nooooo. She goes on to con more and more men, leaving a trail of bread crumbs until eventually her past catches up to her.
Now, there are two really big bones I gotta pick with Ellie here. First, why does she never throw away her cell phone? What kind of con artist keeps the same phone from con to con? A shitty one. (Somebody get my phone... So I can throw it in a public pool and watch it float...) Second, how did Javier continue finding her? Her cell phone is my obvious guess, but it was clear the cell phone was not even thought of in this case and Javier seemed to locate her a little too well. All the reader is given is some one liner from Mr. Creep, saying he'd always find her. Sheesh, I can't believe she thought that was romantic at some point. And yet, she never fully takes responsibility for her actions. (I don’t look innocent with this big, big mess on...)
I really don't think novels with dysfunctional relationships are for me. I'm a firm believer in the idea that if you don't have your own shit together, perhaps you should not get involved with someone else's. This might have something to do with how well I understand them, which is virtually nil. My only exposure to them is Fifty Shades of Grey and a page of Beautiful Disaster. I'm sure we all can agree that those characters need to sit down with someone and get some well-needed advice.
No, not you, Tay-Tay. *skip track*
Ellie's uncle warns her about getting involved with Camden and urges her to focus on getting on her feet. That makes sense considering it was her entire point of returning home and begging for a place to stay. But right after Camden discovers Ellie's plan and double crosses her, they go on the run together. Ellie's off in her corner of the hotel hating Camden and Camden is off is his corner hating Ellie and secretly thinking of raping her so that he can humiliate her just as she humiliated him in high school. (I want your drama... The touch of your hand...) Wait, what? I'm raging right about now. Are you telling me this Grown Ass Man is still angry about something that happened YEARS AGO in high school? But wait, he also loves her. Does your head hurt? Great. Here's an ice pack.
But that's not even the half of it. Ellie in turn resents Camden because she got caught trying to rob him. She keeps saying things like, "How could he do that to me?" And I'm like, WTF, dude. You broke and entered his house and tried to steal his money. Also, she loves him and he's howt and she can't stop staring at his abs because, yeah, there goes his shirt... again. (I want your leather-studded kiss in the sand...)
So somewhere along the lines they stop hating each other so much because, due to Ellie's stupidity, a character dies. Then she's all, "loosen up my buttons, baby," sexy time on a car and declarations of love. (Love-love-love I want your love)
"I hate you, Ellie Watt," he whispered, lips coming closer to mine, "because I still love you after all these years.”
So all the while I'm having this internal "discussion", if you will, with Ellie. I'm grilling her about this "love" that she has with Camden.
"What is your deal?!" I scream at her, grabbing her shoulders.
(It’s the way I’m feeling I just can’t deny...)
"Oh, really? You love him, huh? And where did you find this love? I bet it was In A Hopeless Place."
(But I’ve gotta let it go...)
That's a yes, isn't it?
I might not be an expert on love and relationships, but their... whatever-you-wanna-call-it... doesn't make sense to me. But I get it. Sometimes you can't decide who you love or whatnot. However, seeking revenge on someone you claim you've been in love with for years? Does not compute. This is probably an indication of where my personal beliefs just got in the way of sympathizing with the two characters. I couldn't suspend logic long enough to simply go with it.
So, yeah. Not my kind of book. I couldn't relate to the story, the characters and their subsequent decisions despite the strong start. Clearly, I am in the minority with not loving Sins & Needles, so feel free to tell me to kick rocks, blow bubbles, throw stones and STFU.
Okay, let's start this review off with some straight-up trufax. On my own, it's possible I may not have chosen this book to re...moreActual rating: 3.5 stars
Okay, let's start this review off with some straight-up trufax. On my own, it's possible I may not have chosen this book to read. That's not because the blurb didn't sound interesting, it's just that out of all the other YA sub-genres, Paranormal Romance is the one I have a very inconsistent streak with. Which is unfortunate because when it's done right, I fall in love with the story. My start with The Collector reminds me of what happened with Obsidian. I kept seeing it all over other's twitter avatars and hearing about it on a few blogs I follow (you know the drill), but somehow that simply wasn't enough for me to actually say, "Hell yeah. Sign me up." But that was a mistake because The Collector had me LOL'ing from beginning to end.
The thing about this book is that you are not going to like Dante at first. He's an anti-hero who will partly grind your nerves so bad you'll see red. He's the most conceited, selfish, slightly womanizer-ish, sarcastic little prick. And he knows this. Hell, he'd probably respond by saying:
But the thing about Dante is, that deep down he has a good heart. Throughout the story, we see his good growing stronger and stronger through his interactions with Charlie. When he first meets her, he's pretty mean to her. I mean, she's the sweetest girl and he's preying on her like a vulture. I just wanted to toss him out a window, for real. But thankfully, Dante has tons of character growth and becomes somewhat of a standup guy by the end.
That's not to say this is a perfect book. While the writing style and characters were all right up my alley, the second half did seem noticeably weaker than the first. I really think this may have been due to the Big Guy vs. Boss Man mythology. The Collector isn't preachy at all, if you're worried. But I did have a hard time believing that Dante's BFF, Max, didn't know how his Boss got kicked out of heaven. Another thing: there are only 6 Collectors for the entire earth? They must have been putting in some serious overtime.
Still, I really was enjoying myself so whatevs. I'll allow it.
The best part is Dante's voice. HILARIOUS. Scott created a very entertaining character who was really distinctive. When I first read the blurb, I thought it was a little ambitious:
Dante Walker is flippin' awesome, and he knows it.
All that sentence did is make me turn my head to the side and emit an, "O RLY?" But the thing is, that blurb really shows the tone of Dante and the novel (unlike other blurbs that mislead people).
So here are 3 very good reasons why Dante Walker is flippin' awesome:
1. What up, gangsta?
I'm trying to think of the best way to describe this guy. The one thing that sticks out in my mind every time is that he's like a mini gangsta. Which, I guess, makes sense considering he does work for Hell and he calls his "employer" Boss Man. And seriously, all I needed was for him to start rapping.
But unlike Jamie Kennedy from Malibu's Most Wanted, Dante is cool. Know why? Well, that brings us to the second reason.
2. Check my swag, yo.
And I'm not talking about that fake wannabe stuff. Sure Dante's a bit full of himself, but he backs that shit up. Because he possesses one thing I think it was incredibly smart of Scott to include. It allowed me to like just a small piece of him until his redeemable qualities showed up.
"Girl, I got swag for days."
And then Dante says things like "fo' shizzle" and I start thinking that he's secretly one of Snoop Dogg's love children.
Park it like it's hot, Snoop!
3. His relationship with Charlie and the gang
Charlie and Dante are the most unlikely PNR couple I've ever encountered so far. I really didn't expect sparks to fly between the two because their first interaction began with Dante turning his nose up. He considers her undesirable, "unpretty", a waste of his time and good charm, etc. Charlie's beauty is something he doesn't understand at first and tries convince her a change is in order. Fortunately, Charlie's lovely qualities have an effect on him and he not only starts to develop a conscience, but feelings for her. He sees how much her friends love her, how despite her background she made something better out of it. It causes him to really look at his own life's actions.
I'll never understand the friendships Charlie has. Friendships where it doesn't take cash or hookups, or saying the right things to stay in the circle. No, Charlie's friendships are different. She tries to protect her people, and they in turn protect her. They accept each other's imperfections and support one another. My friends weren't like her friends, which makes me wonder if I ever had any at all.
I loved seeing his character develop.
And then you have his interactions with the other characters. Scott really brought everyone to life with her wit and charm. I kept bookmarking my favorite quotes until I realized I was damn near highlighted every other page. She spread her awesome out evenly and it resulted in hilarious dialogue, a lot of the times between Charlie's best friend, Annabelle, and Dante.
"In this trunk," she says with a serious face, "is God's gift to women." "Chocolate?" "No." "Midol?" "What? No." "Tampons?" "Stop guessing," she says.
Reading The Collector was like listening to a great rock CD. There are songs I love more than others. There are songs where I find myself singing along. There are ones that make me laugh and the ones that pull at my feels. And let's not forget the slightly annoying ones with the lead singer screaming into the mic. ;) But every last one of them is memorable. I think The Collector will appeal to a lot of readers, especially those with an awesome sense of humor. Even the reluctant ones like myself.
ARC was provided by the author. No favors or monies were exchanged for review, but wouldn't that be awesome?
Whenever I look at What's Left of Me and Once We Were's covers, I can't help but to think that the cover artist truly gets this series and how clever...more Whenever I look at What's Left of Me and Once We Were's covers, I can't help but to think that the cover artist truly gets this series and how clever he/she is. This always gets me excited because I love seeing the cover actually mean something to the book. As much as I love pretty dresses, it's the depth and complexity that I really crave. It's the kind of cover that you don't quite understand just by looking at it, but as you start reading, pieces of the puzzle fall into place. If What's Left of Me's cover shows Eve, the recessive soul, struggling to find her voice and strength, then Once We Were depicts two souls (the outlines of the face), two distinct personalities, searching for their own identities. But how independent can you be from someone who you share a body with? Someone who has a different set of hopes, dreams and goals? And what if you were the recessive, finally in charge of some of the bigger decisions? How do you cope with the newfound responsibility? And what if you screw up?
"Maybe I really had been meant to fade away."
In Once We Were Addie and Eva are presented with something they'd never thought were possible: the ability to "go under", where one soul would purposefully fall into an unconscious slumber to allow the other privacy. This works out well for relationship purposes, allowing Eva and Ryan some much needed alone time (because, yikes!, talk about awkward when you're trying to make-out with your boyfriend), but it also allowed something Addie and Eva never really encountered before, keeping secrets. And unfortunately, those very secrets continued to push them further and further away from each other.
And unlike in What's Left of Me, I found myself growing increasingly more frustrated with Eva as she and Addie continued to go in different directions. Their chemistry, bond and fierce determination for one another was what made it easy to connect with their story. But this time around Eva, who now gets a taste of freedom, becomes very wrapped up in the plans for a revolution that she forgets to pay attention to Addie. It's interesting how the two have switched roles in that regard and how it's Addie who begins to take more of a backseat. It's also interesting how different they really are and how little I realized this in book one.
“But the thing is, sharing hands doesn't mean sharing goals. Sharing eyes doesn't mean sharing visions. And sharing a heart doesn't mean sharing the things we love.”
I'll admit, it was difficult for me to connect with Eva due to the decisions she made and risks she took. However, Once We Were was Eva's time to find out who she is, and in that search, mistakes were to be expected. My biggest issue was the fact that she continued putting not only herself and her sister in danger, but the people who rescued her and her friends as well.
As soon as an opportunity arrived for Eva to be apart of something big where she could help change the system, she stopped thinking things through, started keep secrets, lying to those who cared about her, agreeing to compromising situations that put her sister at risk. At times, I started having conversations in my mind with Eva, going all Uncle Ben on her: "With great power, comes great responsibility." Yada, yada, yada. But I had to keep reminding myself that this is a character who isn't used to making such HUGE decisions. The redeeming factor is that she does recognize how terribly she's been to her sister and to others. She does try and fix her mistake at great sacrifice to her own person. So, Eva is far from being a terrible character, but Once We Were does show her flaws more, and sometimes at a more frustrating degree.
As expected, Kat Zhang's writing is beautiful, fluid and mesmerizing. It was one of the things that caused me to fall in love with What's Left of Me and I was so happy to see that continue here. This time around we were also treated to some sections of prose that's written in verse to show the passage of time when Eva "goes under." During that time the verses had a whimsical quality, that made me think of
in a pool
hot summer day
relaxing in the sun
Still, Once We Were didn't capture my attention the same way What's Left of Me did, and I did struggle a little to get hooked. Thankfully, the last third does pick up, but I was disappointed to have waited so long for it to do so.
What I was really curious for was more world building. I wanted to know how the rest of the world views hybrids, and since Eva and Addie's knowledge is limited, so is the reader's. This time around there we have a new character named Henri from central Africa who's able to give us a small glimpse at how the other nations few the Americas. However, their conversations are few and far between and I would have loved to know more about the other countries' views on hybrids. I'm hoping that'll be discussed more in book 3.
Final thought: Once We Were mainly focuses on Eva and Addie as individuals instead of just one person. They spend more time apart, losing the connection I had with them from What's Left of Me. But I do think this experience has really brought them closer and has set the stage for the final book in the series. With so many questions remaining unanswered, I'm eager to find out what happens next!
Sometimes when I hear of professional critics or other authors looking down on the YA genre, I can't help but to shake my head...moreActual rating: 4.5 stars
Sometimes when I hear of professional critics or other authors looking down on the YA genre, I can't help but to shake my head and pity them. "The Young Adult genre is for kids!" they cry. "There's no depth!" they exclaim. And then I read a book like Fault Line and it's clear that those people have no idea what they're talking about. What other genre is able to connect so deeply with people of all ages? What other genre can push the limits as much as YA does and have us re-evaluate the way we see the world through the eyes our childhood we may have long moved past?
Fault Line is not an easy book to read. It's raw, gritty and dark, but it's important. It doesn't tell a new story or one we're unfamiliar with. It highlights a situation in a way that really forces the reader to address the effects of how our society has dealt with rape and how it continues to shape how we view the victim. For me, Fault Line really resonated and made me cry. This will be a book that lingers.
Ben meets Ani and is immediately smitten with her. Her blunt and straightforward personality is not something he's used to and causes him to keep on his toes. Much of the book's first half focuses on their romance and relationship. Their first date, awkward feelings, first kiss. It's sweet the way they fall for each other. You can tell they both care for each other deeply and it eventually develops into love. They're just normal teens, doing what normal teens do.
Unfortunately, all of this unravels after Ani attends a party Ben decides not to go to and the consequences of that night changes everyone. At the party, Ani is gang raped by a group of guys and left passed out with no recollection of the event of the night. In the aftermath, she is left broken, a former shell of the girl she used to be, unable to move past the traumatic experience.
Ben and Kate, the friend who was with her at the party, are guilt-ridden as they are plagued with the what-ifs and could-have-beens. Ben blames himself for not attending the party with Ani. Kate blames herself for not keeping a better eye on her best friend. And Ani. Ani blames herself and everyone, and in the process, losses her self-worth and identity.
This book was so incredibly written. Sure Fault Line could have been written from Ani's perspective, but it would have lost Ben's obsession with fixing Ani, his horror of seeing is girlfriend self-destruct and the domino effect it had on his own life and family relationships. His narration is not always comfortable as he says things or does things that he doesn't mean. However, it was so realistic because he's just a kid, trying desperately to protect and help heal Ani.
Ani and Ben's character development is not going to work for everyone. There's no doubt that her and Ben's life spirals out of control. Ani, who was once the talented artist and jewelry creator, barely smiles and suffers from Rape Trauma Syndrome. Ben, who has the promising future as swimmer and a potential scholarship, can no longer muster up the motivation to get in a pool and becomes obsessed. These characters do develop, just in the most heartbreaking way possible.
It's going to confuse some readers and anger others. But it's also going to raise important questions on victim-blaming, a central theme of the novel. Who is to blame for Ani's attack? Is it Ben for not going to the party? Kate for not protecting her friend when she thought something was wrong? Or is Ani the one to blame for consuming alcohol? For making out with guys, table dancing, announcing to the crowd she would hook-up with the guys? Did all those things make her rapable?
These questions don't surprise me and they do show up in one form of another from Ben, Ani herself and the student body. But they are only a distraction from the real issue, because victim-blaming serves only one purpose: it takes the blame away from the one person who deserves it the most, the rapist.
"I heard one of them say something to his friend like 'We're gonna love this ride' when he was going upstairs with her."
This is, unfortunately, how our society works. All one has to do is look at the most recent rape cases in the media. Just think about what happened with the Steubenville, Ohio rape case. The victim-blaming was astounding. "Oh, she was drunk. She doesn't even remember, how does she know she was raped. She was asking for it. She agreed to it." Ani's situation isn't so different.
I think about this book and then I think about all the other women out there whose story I don't know or hadn't heard because she was too afraid or chose not to speak up or the attack was covered up. As a community and society, we generally suck when it comes to crimes against women and seeking justice for victims.
"Although the police are investigating the party, chances are, they won't pursue it."
Instead, we reason it away: Maybe she was confused. She was drunk. She probably wanted it.
"Could've been roofies, though. I've seen chicks act like that when they're buzzing on Special K. There was a bunch of E going around at the party too."
"Ani, it's still considered rape if you weren't fully conscious. You didn't really make those decisions. You have to be sober to consent."
And make excuses: Maybe she had a history of doing what she did? Maybe she was just "one of those girls."
"I'm not really a jump-in-the-sack-after-the-first-month kind of girl."
Blame other parties: Maybe it's just how she was raised. Probably a broken family or the parents weren't involved in her life.
"When you asked me to have sex with you, I thought I should get her opinion on the whole thing. I knew I wanted to, but we'd only been going out for like a month and sometimes my judgement gets a little skewed by your sexy baldness."
"I figured my mom might help me see through all the hormone drama so I could look at things rationally."
Sympathize with the rapist: But the guys who were with her were equally drunk! They didn't know what they were doing because they were wasted, too.
"Yeah, a couple of guys came down talking about the show. They were the ones who called her the hot little Manhole."
(Interesting how they were sober enough to remember it, tell their friends and brag.)
But again, why do those things even matter? How are saying any of these things better than Todd Akin's "Legitimate Rape" comment? It isn't. But this is how things are. This is how society deals with rape cases in the media. We feel like we just don't know enough to call it rape. And while we sit around in our comfortable, familiar skins debating an incident we were miles and worlds away from, victims and their families suffer. This is the reality.
But Fault Line is not a grandiose mystery novel where the main character sets out to discover the truth of that night. Its focus is on how Ben and Ani cope in the aftermath of her attack. It's about a victim struggling to reclaim her herself. It's about feeling powerless with helping the person you love, watching how one situation ruins a person to the point where they aren't the same anymore and might never be again. What do you do? Run away? Tell someone the secret that's not yours to tell? Stand by that person when it seems they don't even want you around anymore? There are no easy answers.
I should warn readers that this book does not have a happy ending. In fact, some will find it very unsatisfying because of its openness. However, I found it very realistic. The road to Ani's recovery would most likely be hard and long and the novel ends with her at her worst. I'd like to think she eventually gets better, but that doesn't always happen in situations like this.
If I have one negative thing to say, it's on the prologue. It didn't think it was necessary and detracted from the final scene in the novel. (view spoiler)[I know some have complained that the lighter was added for shock value, but I didn't feel that. Foreign objects used in gang rape is, unfortunately, not uncommon. (hide spoiler)]
This is going to be The Book That Divides. Personal views and experiences are bound to play a factor in how each reader receives Fault Line. Some people are going to love Ani, while others will hate her. Some may question the incident, while others will strongly connect with it. Some are going to question Ben's actions, while others applaud. Either way, Desir has us talking and with a topic that is so very misunderstood, that's never a bad thing.
Highly recommended for older teens and joint reading for younger teens with their parents.
ARC was received via Edelweiss from the publisher. Thank you!
More reviews and other fantastical things at Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)