Thursday, 30 August 2012

Slammed by Colleen Hoover

Slammed
by Colleen Hoover

Summary: Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she's losing hope.

Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope.
Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.
Warning: This is one of those weird reviews that has a positive rating but the review doesn't seem particularly positive - I tried to fix that, but couldn't, sorry.

In the beginning, I didn't like this book. I'd seen so many people gush about how awesome it is, so many 5 star ratings of it, and I kept turning the pages wondering what they were all talking about because I was just totally indifferent to most of the story, kind of disliked the main character, was bothered by the romance and thought the writing was irritating.

When I say the "beginning" - it took until about 150-200 pages (it's somewhere over 300 long), for those feelings to really change, and when those things stopped bugging me and I started enjoying the story, the plot got very soap opera-ish.... but I was okay with reading that (perhaps because I have an unhealthy addiction to the Australian soaps, Neighbours and Home and Away, so I can handle those kinds of plot lines).

I didn't like the insta-love that was going on, and couldn't really figure out why Will would even like Lake so much - she didn't come across as anything special and was pretty damn annoying and childish at times and just... I didn't get it. But somewhere along the way, I started liking it and I'm not even entirely sure why that was, but my opinion by the end of it, if I just went by how much I enjoyed the story overall instead of factoring in all the things that bugged or bored me, I'd rate it 4 out of 5 stars (factoring in the negatives, it lowers to about 3 stars...first part of the book, the bit I referred to as the beginning even though it was about half the book, that bit alone, I'd rate 2.5 stars - so yeah, kind of mixed feelings but I went with 4 because I think enjoyability overall matters more).

I liked Willl and I loved the relationship he had with his little brother. Same with Lake, she bugged me a lot throughout the book but I really liked the way she was with her little brother, it was sweet and one of the main things in the book that kind of redeemed her as a character.

The grief in the book - her dad died the same way mine did, so that should've gotten under my skin and it just didn't. The way it was written felt so hollow, I wasn't convinced by it at all, it made me feel absolutely nothing (when it's done right, it'll hurt - I'm reading a Sarah Dessen book now too, barely a few chapters in and it already had me crying, and it's not even for the character entirely, it's just that I related to what she was going through so much that it made me remember the worst of those feelings all over again). But there was one scene later, that I can't mention details of without giving spoilers, that did manage to make me cry - it just wasn't the dad thing.

I wasn't the biggest fan of the poetry (although, the one called Schooled - I loved that one) - it may be because it's supposed to be slam poetry and so the impact it could have had, should have had, was kind of lost because it wasn't being said out loud with all the emotion poured into it but just the written version? Wasn't fond of most of it.

...This review seems more positive than negative, but that's because I genuinely don't know what it was that turned the tides for me and made me go from not really liking the book much to giving it a 4 star rating, I just know that I enjoyed it and I'm glad I read it (so much so that I will probably buy a physical copy of the book when it's out to have on my shelves - I read the e-book version).

I guess that's all I have to say.

Later.

p.s. Will and Lakes last names were Cooper and Cohen... The OC flashbacks. =P

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

I apologize in advance for how long this review is....
Beautiful Disaster 
by Jamie McGuire


Summary: The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate percentage of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance between her and the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University's Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.
So there was a bit of drama surrounding this book/author, and it put me off reading it until now. I've seen some very negative reviews of it and some reviews that gush about how awesome it is. Me? I liked it, I can see where both sides are coming from.

In the beginning, I was annoyed reading it, there were things that bugged me:

The story was basically that old cliché of the promiscuous bad boy that every girl wants who changes his wicked ways for the one girl who doesn't swoon at the very sight of him and they deny their blatantly obvious feelings for a while, then when they get together, it's all rainbows and butterflies until a series of ridiculous and easily avoidable misunderstandings keeps them apart and angsty and heartbroken before the Big Happy Ending.

And of course, it uses the even more annoying cliché: she's a virgin, all the other girls are sluts/bimbos/whores who, because they dared to act on their sexual impulses, somehow deserved to be treated like crap because of that.

I get the appeal of reading a story like that - it is entertaining in a weird way and for some girls it is like reading that bad boy fantasy (you know the one: taming the bad boy, who really is a good guy deep down, he just needed to find the girl worth changing for), but I don't like how the other girls seem to be dumbed down or subtly slut shamed or made to seem like they're worth less or something.

It was a bit fanfic-ish in the way it was written - that's not my way of saying it was written badly, because it wasn't, but... just something about it. The things that happened, the things they said and did, the trying-too-hard dialogue, the character types... they reminded me of the way it feels reading fanfiction (and little things like Travis being this epic fighter who never loses, he fights against pros and guys twice his size who have trained, and fights when he's outnumbered by skilled fighters - and yet he doesn't work out, he doesn't lift weights or train and he smokes and drinks and doesn't live the healthiest lifestyle, but we're supposed to believe he never loses).

There were probably other things that irritated me in the beginning (when I say beginning, I mean the first 100 pages or so), but after a while, either they weren't so bad or I was just too caught up in the story to be annoyed by them anymore (genuinely don't know which).

The characters... I had issues with them, sure, but it didn't hate them, even when they were being frustrating or stupid or annoying or ridiculous, I still found myself rooting for them and enjoying reading about them and how messed up they are. Their relationship was far from healthy. That's the thing I see criticized most in the negative reviews: the relationship (Travis was possessive, horribly insecure, he had a horrible violent streak and although it wasn't aimed at her ever, it was still... well, boy has issues, big issues. There was definitely a weird codependency going on too.).

And I get that, I do - I get why some people don't want to read about that. But I disagree with the ones that say it supports abusive relationships or that it's romanticizing it, and I really disagree with the people that criticize people for liking the book like it makes them a bad person.

I love the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, that does not mean I approve of rape. I love the book Stolen by Lucy Christopher, doesn't mean I approve of kidnapping. I love The Hunger Games, it doesn't mean I approve of kids being forced to kill other kids... Get the point? The relationship in the book is not a healthy one, but liking the book anyway doesn't mean someone approves of that kind of relationship. You can disapprove of the reality of something while still being able to read about it in fiction.

The book does make it clear that their relationship is messed up (hell, even the title implies it) - it's messed up, but they love each other (and I'm sure there's a lot of people who know how it feels to love someone they shouldn't, to love them even if logic and common sense tells them not to), and as bad as they can be together, they make each other happy and they were friends too, not just boyfriend/girlfriend, so I liked that (although, even their friendship was a bit warped).

They're worse off, and more destructive, without each other (and the abusive thing: Abby kept choosing him, choosing to be with him or get back together with him--even when she had chances to walk away--but it never came across really as her staying because of a victim mentality, it really did seem like she loved him/was happy with him/was miserable without him and, again, co-dependency was a big factor in their relationship and they seemed okay being that way. Is it healthy? No, but adults can make their own decisions), so in the book, I wanted them to end up together and work through their issues (while in reality, I'd think they're maybe better off apart - and in therapy, or together in therapy). Kind of like with Wuthering Heights.

I don't think it romanticizes an abusive relationship the way some books do (lookin' at you, Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray) - I haven't read a positive review of the book yet where the person came out of it saying how swoon worthy Travis is, or saying they want a relationship like that... the ones I've seen acknowledge that the relationship is messed up and that that was kind of the point of the story.

A book becomes dangerous if it portrays an abusive relationship as an ideal, as something people should want - and I've seen people finish books like the ones I mentioned above and gush about how they want their own [Edward/Jacob/Christian/InsertAbusiveFictionalDouchebagsName] and that's when you should worry and get all pissy about the portrayal of a bad relationship in a book, when it's portrayed as being right.

I dunno... this is a really rambling review (and I'm ill and tired, so my thoughts may be coming out a tad more muddled and rambling than usual).

In the end, book entertained me, in the same way TV shows like Gossip Girl entertain me: it's addictive, has its trashy moments, the plot isn't the most realistic or believable, the relationships aren't the most healthy but reading about them is interesting anyway and sometimes you find yourself rooting for bad characters to get a happy ending with someone because they become a better version of themselves with that person than they are alone.

As far as I'm concerned, it's fine to like books in that way. Not every book has to be the best kind of book, sometimes you just need something a little trashy and mindlessly entertaining to read  and you don't need the best writing or the best plot or the best characters to enjoy the experience of reading it.

And I'm going off on a bit of a tangent. I want to talk about one huge annoyance I had with the book, but before I get to that, the rating: I'd rate it 3.5 stars out of 5. It hooked me, I enjoyed reading it. There's some people I definitely wouldn't recommend the book to, because I know they'd hate it or the relationship would make them mad (you probably know if you're that sort of person), but if you're one of those people who sometimes likes this kind of thing, check it out. *shrugs*

The Big (and pretty ridiculous, nitpicky) Annoyance:

Names. Abby's names.

I'm fussy with names - a bad character name can bug me for an entire book (*nods at The Host by Stephenie Meyer* Wanda/Wanderer? Really?). Now, the name Abby is fine... Abby Abernathy is a bit of a daft full name. But what annoyed me was the nickname Travis gave her.

He called her Pigeon. Sometimes Pidge.

Now... It doesn't annoy me in the way it seems to annoy other people who have read the book. No, it annoyed me for a personal reason (or at least, the personal reason made me more aware of it annoying me).

My name is Alanna. People tend to call me Lanna or Ali or Lanny. My two best friends (and a few other people)... They call me Pigeon/Pidge (I call them Roo and Batman). Have since we were about 18.

And it just irritated me beyond belief and got incredibly awkward sometimes reading a character being called that. What made it annoying was the way it was written. He called her that all the freaking time.

Seriously.

In a conversation, you don't say people's names often, you don't say them at the end of nearly every sentence. It's awkward if you keep saying someone's name when it's obvious who you're talking to.

Also: My friends call me by my nickname when talking to each other or to me, but they wouldn't introduce me by that name to people I've never met before or refer to me by that name to people I barely know - because it's their nickname for me not one that everyone calls me, it'd be weird to introduce me that way. It's Alanna first, nicknames come later. Travis calls her Pidge/Pigeon to everyone and it was just weird and awkward and annoying.  

And if we're having a serious discussion, they do call me Lanna sometimes too, because the silly nicknames aren't always appropriate - I could probably count on one hand the number of times he actually called her Abby and still have fingers left over.

I was probably more sensitive to all this because it's my nickname too, so it did register with me every time it was written, but yeah - it bugged me, the frequency it was used and the way it was used... it made the dialogue seem clumsy and odd at times. Maybe it was done intentionally, maybe one of his character quirks was that he liked saying her name a lot, but it was annoying. I nearly hated my nickname by the end of it (which is saying something, considering it hasn't bothered me much in all the years I've been stuck with it).

...And I'm done with my silly rant now. I'm so fussy with names and nicknames, it's ridiculous.


I'll shut up now.

Later.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendra Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood
by Kendra Blake


Summary: Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story...

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.
 Before I get to the review, I really should clarify that I read this book while stuck in a major reading funk and I genuinely don't know whether the issue was me (trouble concentrating thanks to other stuff in my life) or if the problem was the books I was trying to read (ones that didn't hook me, didn't wow me etc.). Basically, I don't know if my opinion of the book would've been different had I read it at a different time, or if the book just didn't do it for me.

Now, onto the review part of this review... The book was okay. It wasn't amazing, it didn't make much of an impression on me - I've seen a lot of people gushing about how awesome the book is, I just don't agree.

The premise was interesting, it started out kind of like the TV show Supernatural (awesome show, go watch it), only it lacked the spark that story had, it didn't get under my skin, I didn't really feel anything for the characters or particularly care about what happened to them.

Really, I don't know if the reason I finished the book was because it was keeping me entertained, or because I was determined to finish a book to try and force myself out of my reading funk - I think it was the latter, really, because I started the book well over a month ago and kept putting it down (if I like a book enough, it'll be done in a few days at most).

The characters were nice enough, I really liked his mum and the fact that she knew about what was going on instead of the cliche where the parents are kept in the dark for silly reasons. Thomas was cute, Carmel was interesting - I liked that she was given more depth than just being the airhead popular girl stereotype. I liked Anna, as a character on her own, but wasn't fond of the romance (didn't hate it, just didn't like it/wasn't rooting for it to happen).

Really, I liked all the characters I was supposed to like - just not enough to emphasize with them or really care about them or for them to linger with me when I finished the last page (the only bit that came close to making me care was Anna's back story - there was no spark there, and it felt insta-love-ish, only it didn't seem like love, it was too... bland).

I read the book at night, in the dark (reading by the light of my laptop, not good for the eyes, I know) and I live alone - but there was only one scene in the whole book that came close to creeping me out. But, my horror sensitivity is pretty low - I've been into horror stories since I was about 7, I'm not easily scared. But I did enjoy the atmosphere the book had.

I really think I may have liked the book a bit more if I had read it at a different time, so don't let my review put you off. It really wasn't a bad book, I'd rate it 3 stars out of 5, it just didn't impress me much, beyond keeping me mildly entertained for a little while (well, I say a little while, but reading it dragged out for 6-8 weeks). There's a sequel, I don't really have much interest in reading it - at least, not right now, maybe at some point, I dunno.

If it sounds interesting, or you're into this genre, then I do think you should check it out - as I said, I've seen plenty of people gushing about the book too.

And I think that's all I have to say - sorry, I hope my reviews get more frequent and less... meh. I miss reading and reviewing.

Later.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Review: The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

The Lost Girl
Sangu Mandanna
Balzer and Bray
[August 28, 2012]

Eva’s life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination—an echo. Made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, she is expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her “other”, if she ever died. Eva studies what Amarra does, what she eats, what it’s like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.

But fifteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything she’s ever known—the guardians who raised her, the boy she’s forbidden to love—to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive.

What Eva finds is a grief-stricken family; parents unsure how to handle this echo they thought they wanted; and Ray, who knew every detail, every contour of Amarra. And when Eva is unexpectedly dealt a fatal blow that will change her existence forever, she is forced to choose: Stay and live out her years as a copy or leave and risk it all for the freedom to be an original. To be Eva.

From debut novelist Sangu Mandanna comes the dazzling story of a girl who was always told what she had to be—until she found the strength to decide for herself.

I'm not even sure if I can properly review this book. It's just...so freaking incredible.

So, Eva was insanely awesome. She was tough and intelligent, clever and strong. Despite having to be someone else, she never lost who she was. Eva was Eva and I loved Eva. I loved every stubborn piece of Eva. 

The story itself is fantastic and pretty unique. I doubt it's the first of it's kind, but it's the first I've ever read. And although it's really a paranormal read, it also reads a lot like a contemporary novel, so that's a fun little surprise. I loved the twists and turns and the utter darkness and despair that seemed to drip from the pages. There were happy moments, but they were always shadowed with the truth and the fact that Eva could never be Eva. Then there's the ending which is amazing and shocking and just...yes. <3

Sangu Mandanna's writing is lovely and lyrical and beauty. I could drown myself in her talent and her genius and I will probably read anything this woman writes. She's just this incredible story teller and I'm both inspired and intimidated by her talent. 

The Lost Girl is largely about grief and how we as humans handle it. Amarra, the girl who Eva's supposed to be, was in a lot of people's lives and she was important to them. All of them are looking for Eva to be something to help them past the grief and each person uses Eva differently. I thought it was a really incredibly commentary on family and friends and relationships. Just...ugh. I can't even describe how incredible this book is.

Nothing I say will adequately describe my love for this book or how fantastic it is. There aren't enough words in the world to do that. Just, please, trust me. And go pick up The Lost Girl. 

--Julie

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Book Haul (130)

Julie:

Remember when I was all "Book buying will be slowing down! Less hauls!" Well...that hasn't gone too well so far. But...I'm trying?

Loaned:
Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis
The Sweetest Thing by Jill Shalvis
Christmas in Lucky Harbor by Jill Shalvis
Lucky in Love by Jill Shalvis
At Last by Jill Shalvis
Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis

Massive thanks to Mitali and brought these to me as a welcome-to-NYC gift. They all seem awesome and I'm looking forward to reading them!

Purchased:
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

I had a copy of this, as some may remember. But when I shipped it to get signed, it disappeared forever. So, when I found a copy at The Strand, I had to get it. And yes, I went to Books of Wonder AND The Strand and walked out with one book.

How did your week go?

--Julie

Lanna: 

First of all: I am so failing at blogging recently. I'm not sure if it's an issue with me (likely) or the books I've been trying to read, but I'm just finding it ridiculously hard to finish books recently. Seriously, there's a stack of like 8 books beside me that I've started in the past two weeks but none are hooking me and just... it's driving me nuts.

Not sure if I've just been reading the wrong books or if it's just because things have been happening that have stressed me out to the point where I can't concentrate, but - yeah, I'm working on it.

...Just wanted to explain that. And to point out how awesome Julie has been, because she's been keeping the blog updated. Anyway, onto the book haul part:


 For review:

Secrets, Lies and Locker 62 by Lil Chase - Not really my kind of thing, but I'll give it a try.

Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs - Sounds awesome.

Bought:

A Note of Madness and A Voice in the Distance, both by Tabitha Suzuma - I think these may be companion novels or a one is the sequel to the other? Not sure. Tabitha is awesome though, so I wanted to check out her other books.

Size 12 is Not Fat
and Size 14 is Not Fat Either, both by Meg Cabot - It's actually a bind up that I got. Blame Julie for me getting those, she made me want to read them even though I had no desire to do so before.

Death Watch
by Ari Berk - I think I saw this one on the ChapterChicks youtube? Maybe? Not sure, but it looked interesting.



I also got a few Kindle books (note: I don't have a Kindle, just the computer app - I hate reading e-books, but I caved with these ones):




Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron - I've been meaning to read this one for ages, I actually ordered a copy but it got lost in the post so I just got the e-book this time (plus, I want to read it now because there's rumours Kristen Stewart is meant to play in the movie version and I want to read the book before her being linked to it puts me off).

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire - I've heard awful things about this book, which is off putting and bad things about the author, which is even more off putting but then I saw a few good reviews and decided to give it a chance.

Jenny Pox
by JL Brian - Someone in a LJ community I'm a member of recommended this (can't remember, it may have been a free one? Not sure.)

Sound Bites: A Rock and Roll Love Story
by Rachel K. Burke

Later.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Over You by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Over You
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
HarperTeen
[August 21, 2012]

After the grand explosion of her relationship, seventeen-year-old Max Scott developed what every girl in the history of the world has been waiting for: a way to get over being dumped. Now Max is the go-to guru for heartbroken high-school girls all over NYC. But when her ex unexpectedly shows up in her neighborhood, Max’s carefully controlled world starts to unravel. With her clients’ hearts hanging in the balance, Max will have to do the seemingly impossible: get over him once and for all.

Brilliant at bringing humor to the trials and tribulations of the lovestruck, #1 New York Times bestselling authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus have crafted a tale that will resonate with any girl who has ever been in love or had her heart broken. It brims with smart observations, features a pitch-perfect teen voice, and will attract fans of Jenny Han, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Barnholdt. Readers are sure to fall head-over-heels for this sharp spin on breaking up, making up, and getting even.

This book was a super light, fun read that was a bit too shallow for me.

So, I kinda liked Max? I have mixed feelings on her, which really could be a good thing. Very real to life, you know? She made stupid decisions. She had a tendency to be overbearing. She was also kind of creepy. But Max also meant well and wanted to be a good person. She wanted to reach her ultimate goal and I admire that.

The story was actually really interesting. There were a few points that annoyed me, a few I didn't see coming, and a few that made me happy. I really liked the ending. I went in expecting this light, fun story and I got something a bit deeper an darker than that, but otherwise largely what I thought it would be. Like a lot of contemp YA, there was some hidden depth to Over You.

However, I think the writing was the major weak point for me. I was never drawn in and personally, I think way too much attention was paid to fashion and clothing. I don't need every detail or designer, you know? The narrative was also kinda choppy, so the voice was a bit off and I just couldn't get sucked in. But this is largely a personal thing, so it may not apply to everyone.

Over You is not the kind of book I'd normally read, but it was quick and entertaining and while not memorable or awesome, still a pretty good read.

--Julie


Friday, 24 August 2012

The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners
Libba Bray
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 
[September 18, 2012]

Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies."

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer--if he doesn't catch her first.

You know, I don't scare easily. But when it's 4 am and you're reading about a serial killer who's also a ghost and you come back to your room and find your laptop shut itself off then restarted...and managed to open Word and Chrome without you? You get really effing scared.

This book was nothing that I expected but everything I hoped for.

I'm a long time fan of Libba Bray. I can go on and on about her talent and genius. I even wrote one of the essays that got me into the college I'll be attending in the fall about the Gemma Doyle trilogy's impact on my life. 

But let's just sum it up: Libba is one of the most masterful writers out there. The Diviners has quite a few narrators, many of them only telling a chapter before moving on. Sometimes the narrator wasn't even a person. Every single narrator had their own distinct voice, their own style. Everything they tell us is crucial to the story. Despite being one of the longest YA books out there (I'm pretty sure Libba's going for a record), I was hooked for most of the book.

While I was attached to some level to each character introduced, I never really FELT for a character. I wanted them to be okay, but I never got the attachment I want. Each one was a fun narrator, but either they weren't in it enough or they just weren't likable enough. But this is one of those few books where I was okay with that. The story was enough for me.

Though I didn't like the characters as people, I still kind of liked them? It's hard to explain but I wanted to like them. I can see their potential for growth and who they might be. I loved seeing them use their skills and each obviously had some redeeming qualities that touched me enough to give me some attachment. Libba clearly doesn't want character development to just happen, she wants her characters to work for it over the course of the series.

This was such a rich, well built story. It was obvious Libba put in a lot of time and dedication. So much research was done for the time period. There was a lot of elements, a lot of little things, that all tied together in the story to make it work. A lot of twists and turns and close calls that scared the crap out of me.

The ending was rapped up all well and good...and then the last chapter. While not a cliffhanger, it makes you anticipate what will happen. Where can the story go from here? What are these two talking about? HOW MUCH MORE SCARED WILL I BE?

Basically, this is an incredible book with something for everyone. Amazing world building, complex characters, romance, action, murder, horror, incredible writing...everything. Pick. Up. This. Book.

--Julie

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Defiance by C.J. Redwine

Defiance
C.J. Redwine
Balzer + Bray
[August 28, 2012]

Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.
Where do I even begin with this book?

Rachel is basically the strongest heroine ever in so many ways. She overcomes more obstacles than I could ever imagine during the course of the novel. When Defiance starts, she's already proved she's pretty strong and loyal and brave. But during the story she grows and develops more and becomes one of the strongest heroines I've ever read. She's truly tested, emotionally and physically, and she doesn't back down, not for good. I can honestly say, I admire Rachel.

And then there's Logan who's just fantastically logical. Logan might be one of the most relatable (for me) characters I've found in YA. He's always thinking about his actions and the potential outcomes based on an action he could choose, which is something I find myself doing a lot. He's incredibly intelligent and clever. He's a fast learner and he knows how to get what he wants and I admire that. As we meet Logan and we see Logan through Rachel's eyes, it becomes really easy to love him.

The side characters were all really intriguing. There's the Commander, who's probably one of the most evil characters out there, to Rachel's friend, who's so sweet. Each character was developed well and I found myself loving each of them, even the Commander. I have a love/hate relationship with him that I fear is going to grow as the series goes on. But the other characters were all easy to form an attachment to, no matter how long they were in the story.

Then the story itself was incredible. Journeys and seriously evil dudes and creatures and all kinds of things. There's twists and turns and some tears had to be shed. The characters go through so much and just slhkfjdlhdh. I loved this story. I really, really did.

Then there's the fact that C.J's just an awesome writer. With so much action, the pacing had to be good to make sure we didn't get overwhelmed and it really was. It slowed down at just the right moments and gave you a breather then picked back up again. And the itself writing was just so beautiful and wonderful and I could drown myself in C.J's words and be happy.

So, basically, Defiance is awesome and I love it and it's easily one of my top books of 2012. You need to be all over this book, seriously. You won't regret it. Do it.

--Julie

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors

The Sweetest Spell
Suzanne Selfors
Walker Childrens
[August 21, 2012]

Emmeline Thistle, a dirt-scratcher's daughter, has escaped death twice-first, on the night she was born, and second, on the day her entire village was swept away by flood. Left with nothing and no one, Emmeline discovers her rare and mysterious ability-she can churn milk into chocolate, a delicacy more precious than gold.

Suddenly, the most unwanted girl in Anglund finds herself desired by all. But Emmeline only wants one-Owen Oak, a dairyman's son, whose slow smiles and lingering glances once tempted her to believe she might someday be loved for herself. But others will stop at nothing to use her gift for their own gains-no matter what the cost to Emmeline.

Magic and romance entwine in this fantastical world where true love and chocolate conquer all.
This was a really sweet, fun fairytale.

Emmeline was kind of bland as a character. Her biggest character trait at first was that she had a curled foot and cows really liked her. She did grow into more while going on her adventures, but she never had a really strong personality. I liked her and all but she was identified by what she did during the story, her relationship to others and what she could do for others as opposed to who she really was. This was an important part for a lot of the story, but even when it wasn't important, she didn't become anyone else.

Owen Oak had a bit more going on. He was lively and brave and somewhat defiant. I liked Owen more than I liked Emmeline. He was just this really sweet character and reminded me a lot of James McAvoy's character in Becoming Jane, both in looks (though, brown eyes) and personality. 

I really would've loved to see more from other characters. Like the king and queen, Emmeline's dad,  some of the other dirt-scratcher families. Some of them seemed like they could add a lot of entertainment to the story, while others could've made it a bit darker. I would've liked to see more of their touch.

The story was told from both Owen and Emmeline's perspective and it was kind of annoying. There was no real pattern to how the chapters split up and their voices weren't really different. It would always take me a few paragraphs to really be sure of who I was reading about. Otherwise, the writing was simple and fun.

I really liked the plot of The Sweetest Spell. It was dark but also kind of silly at times. The balance wasn't perfect, but it was pretty good. There's a lot of twists and turns and traveling. All of the traveling. It would've been nice to have a better sense of where everything was or some kind of map.

The Sweetest Spell was a fun read. Not particularly memorable or special, but a good way to pass the time. And it's certainly unique!

--Julie

Monday, 20 August 2012

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

Enchanted
Alethea Kontis
Harcourt Children's Books
[May 8, 2012]

It isn't easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.

When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.

The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past - and hers?
I adored this book.

It's no secret that I love fairy tales. But do you know how few retellings of The Princess and the Frog there are? SO FEW, GUYS. I was so pumped when I finally heard about this one (and also that cover? CAN WE DISCUSS MY NEED FOR THAT DRESS?).

This is such a unique spin on it, too. There's so much more to the "princess" than we'd ever expect and I really came to adore Sunday and her family as we learn about them. And then it's still not so simple to get the happily ever after. There's so many layers to the story and family history and drama and intenseness. It was really incredible.

And then the world itself was so richly built. It was different and full of a very intriguing royal family and Sunday's awesome family and tradition and magic. It was really well crafted, but I still look forward to learning more about it in future books.

I adored Sunday and Rumbold. On their own, they were both adorable and sweet and lovely. And then when they were together I just wanted them to kiss each other and be happy because they were so perfect for each other. I cannot with how wonderful this romance was. Just...so endearing and awesome.

And Alethea's writing is so wonderful. It was fun and light and just...so unique from anything I've read before. She has such a strong voice and sense of herself as a writer and it lead to Sunday and Rumbold really knowing themselves.

Not to mention, this book is technically a stand-a-lone. While Alethea's sold two more books about two of Sunday's sisters, it was a good while after this book was released and it's totally capable of being read on it's own. (But I'm still jazzed for the sequels.)

Honestly, this was a really well written, totally unique spin on an underrated fairy tale and I loved it. Enchanted is definitely a book for the fairy tale lovers of the world.

--Julie

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Book Haul (129)

...Oops?

Purchased:
A Matter of Scandal by Suzanne Enoch (ebook)
The Assassin and the Empire by Sarah J. Maas (ebook)
Not Quite a Gentleman by Jacquie D'Alessandro (ebook)
Maid to be Mine by K.L. O'Keefe (ebook)
Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne (signed)
Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear
Awkward by Marni Bates

For Review:
Crewel by Gennifer Albin (egalley)
Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick (egalley)
The Archived by Victoria Schwab (sampler/egalley)
Josie Griffin is Not a Vampire by Heather Swain

And...yeah. I technically bought Monument 14 for myself, but I loaned it to a friend that day and then another friend is borrowing it now. I grabbed Innocent Darkness because Suzanne is a lovely person who included me in her acknowledgements (<3<3<3) and Awkward came highly recommended by Pam at Bookalicious.

And, uh, yeah. What'd you guys pick up this week?

--Julie

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Behind the Books (3)

Julie:

1.) You may notice I tend to do these around kind of major life events. So...this post won't be any different.

2.) I move out of my house tomorrow. I'm going 45 minutes away to my college dorm. My roommates won't show up until Monday, so I'm on my own for the night. Everyone's acting like it's a huge deal, but I don't really feel like I'm leaving. I still feel like I'm heading back to high school in a few weeks. Maybe it's because I know I'm coming to visit in less than two weeks and then again two weeks after that. I just don't have it in me to be freaking out...yet.

3.) Last weekend, we threw my mom a surprise 50th birthday party. We started planning in...I guess March, so it's really nice to finally have it done and not worry about hiding things. Two of her brothers came, one from way upstate and the other from Virginia. My siblings came as well, from Florida and D.C. We ate a lot of food, she opened presents (my older siblings and I split the cost of a stand mixer, which she's wanted forever. One of her friends got her candy underwear), the baseball team won their game. Good time all around.

4.) I'm in a country music phase, lately. I still like some of my usual pop songs (Fine By Me by Andy Grammar, especially), but country's been dominating. Maybe it's a summertime thing? James Otto, Luke Bryan, and Dierks Bentley are the main three.

5.) I've also been in a romance novel phase, which makes reading YA difficult. I'm not bringing any with me, but my Kindle has tons. Ah well. Do you have any favorite romance novels? Particularly of the historical variety?

6.) I did a guest post/interview over at Fiona Paul's blog with some advice for new bloggers. You can check it out here. She's doing a whole series this month with a lot of different awesome bloggers.

And uhhh...yeah. Time to go do ALL THE THINGS.

--Julie

Lanna: 

Hello. I never know what to write in these sorts of posts, because most of the personal stuff I'd include usually end up being bad things that have happened in my life and I just... don't want to go there, you know? So, yeah, that leaves talking about non-bookish things that I've been into recently but when I start that, the lists get crazy long, but meh, I'll try. Here goes:

1. Web series: I've been really into these recently, some I've been watching for a while, others are ones I've stumbled across or other bloggers have made me aware of them (talking to you there, Harmony). Here are links to some of my favourites:

Lizzie Bennet Diaries - Obvious one, right?

 Squaresville - Cute, also starring the girl who plays Lydia in LBD, she's awesome.

 Wendy - based on Peter Pan and starring the pretty dude who plays Caleb on Pretty Little Liars as Pete, I approve. It's cheesy and a bit fast paced, but that's just how web shows go - I'd love it as a TV series.

 Dating Rules from My Future Self - Harmony's fault. Awesome. And the lead actresses in the first two seasons are fab.

Talent - I only liked the first series of this, and it has the girl who is the lead in The Lying Game in it - the second series was just... meh, I stopped watching but the first wraps up the story nicely anyway.

First Day - This one was just cute. *shrugs* I liked the second series too.

Lauren - This one is more serious and it's only 3 episodes long. It's about a woman in the military who is raped and it just deals with the attitude towards women in the military and difficulties they can face. It stars Troian Bellisario, who plays Spencer on Pretty Little Liars.

2. Music: I love music and I love all music but I go through phases of being more into certain genres than others. I was going to list some music I've been listening to recently, but instead, here's a link to the music I've posted on my tumblr (I've been listening to way more than that, obviously, but that'll do). I like that site (not tumblr, although that too), you just put in the persons tumblr name and it'll show you all their audio posts, filtering out all the text and pictures and stuff.

Also, these girls.

 
Lennon and Maisy Stella - Lennon is 12, Maisy is 8 and they're more talented than I could ever hope to be... seriously, they have videos up of Maisy playing the ukulele and guitar like a rock star when she's like 5 years old, I can't even master one simple song on my ukulele (granted, I don't put much effort into trying but they make it look so easy).

Also, I like this song:

I adore Ron Pope, I wish he'd release a studio version of that song.

3. Some TV shows I've been watching recently (most of the TV shows I watch are between seasons right now, so - yeah... I've not been watching much and these aren't my favourites really, but they keep me entertained):

Teen Wolf - I started watching this when it first came on but lost interest, then rewatched the first episodes this year and got hooked. Stiles and Derek are awesome. And Lydia. And Stiles' dad.

Awkward - Season 2 isn't quite as good as season 1 was, but I still like it. If you haven't seen it, don't let the MTV aspect put you off checking it out.

Hart of Dixie - This is actually between seasons right now but I went and watched all the episodes of the first season and it's just a funny, cute show and I love the cast. 

Sherlock - This was one I kept intending to watch but put it off for ages, I finally caught up with all the episodes that are out (there aren't many), but it's really good. The Sherlock/Watson friendship-bromance type thing is awesome.

Borja - Not as good as The Borgias, but it still held my interest seeing as it's based on the same family. This take on the characters is really different than The Borgias was, I'm not sure if I'd have enjoyed it more or less if I wasn't comparing it to the other show, but I don't regret watching it. 

Covert Affairs - Not gonna lie, probably the main reason I like the show is Auggie. A blind CIA agent who is made of adorable? Yup. And his relationship with Annie... best friends, feelings, sparks, jlkjfbv.

4. I've been writing more recently. I was in kind of a writing funk, so it's nice that is finally ending. I'm not good at writing, but I love it anyway. I'm a member of a writing community on LJ and I wrote a one shot for this months writing challenge and... yeah, that was fun (and it always kind of baffles me when the feedback is good) *shrugs* I have a tumblr where I upload little scraps of writing/thoughts, I need to update it more though (clicking the writing below will link to it if anyone is interested):


5. My best friend is awesome, she's letting me wear Converse to her wedding (I'm a bridesmaid. although I'm not looking forward to that part), I've decided to wear these ones -- assuming she sticks with the decision to have midnight blue dresses:


Annnd, I think that's all I can think to say. What movies/TV shows/web series have you been watching? What music have you been into recently? (I'm always looking for new music).

Later.

Friday, 17 August 2012

How to Introduce YA

For any of you who may not know, I'm leaving for college on Sunday and I'll have three roommates showing up on Monday.

I've been talking to two of my roommates and three of us are pretty big readers, but we're all over the board. I'm all about YA and romance novels, while they loved classics and literary fiction. We all agreed that it might be a good idea for us to each bring some books we love and swap them out, giving us a chance to expand our reading horizons.

I've decided I'll be bringing up to 10 books...but I'm not totally sure which books to bring. I want to bring the best of what YA has to offer, but also a variety. That way if one genre or type of book doesn't work for them, I'll have something else. I can definitely swap out pretty easily; home isn't too far away and I have to come back fairly often. But I want to start out with THE best of YA.

So far, I'm thinking The Fault in Our Stars, Beauty Queens, and Between Shades of Gray. Maybe The Hunger Games, since I'm not sure they've read it and I loaned out Divergent.

But..are these good representatives of what YA can be? Are they too popular to be worth bringing? Do I want to bring a bunch of more-obscure titles or start out with the more well known? And whats really the best idea?

So, help me out here guys. Which books are the best ones to break a newbie into YA?

--Julie

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Killables by Gemma Malley

The Killables
by Gemma Malley

Summary: Everyone accepted that people were different physically. But inside? Inside, they were different too. You just had to know how to tell, what to look for. Evil has been eradicated. The City has been established. And citizens may only enter after having the 'evil' part of their brain removed. They are labelled on the System according to how 'good' they are. If they show signs of the evil emerging, they are labelled a K ...But no one knows quite what that means. Only that they disappear, never to be seen again ...
My thoughts on this book are - confusing. It feels like it's the first book I've been able to finish in a while (total reading funk, I must've started reading about 12 books then put them down again) and I enjoyed reading it - I think that's what matters most, that it kept me entertained and that I enjoyed it, but if I think about the book too much then my opinion of it lowers.

Lets start with the world. It's... it's interesting, I guess, but it's nothing special. I don't think I need to tell you that there's been a flood of dystopian YA novels since The Hunger Games became a hit, and that's fine, I love dystopian novels, but the problem with that is that it's getting really difficult to find one that feels fresh and original, like it's bringing something brand new to the genre. While interesting, the dystopia created in this book didn't feel like anything special, it didn't stand out. I wasn't buying into the world 100%, but I was able to suspend disbelief enough to enjoy it anyway, even if I did find it lacking in some areas.

The writing - well, the book started off totally hooking me but then it got a bit repetetive and boring, but it picked up the pace again. The repetetiveness, that was probably down to the fact that the city in the book had a very cult-ish feel to it, the characters were being brainwashed so it was expected but not fun to read about.

The romance and the family stuff in the book were what kept me interested the most, I think. But even those, if I think about them too much, I find I have issues with them.

I can't discuss the family ones without spoilers but the romance... in the beginning, Raffy was the only character I really liked but as the book progressed, he seemed kind of childish, too prone to mood swings and tantrums and that bugged me but I still liked him... and then of course, it just had to have the beginnings of a love triangle, didn't it *facepalm* I like the other corner of the triangle, but - gah. I just - I have issues with it, it just seemed so out of the blue and then when feelings are being revealed it just does not make sense.

And I'm probably not making sense because I'm trying to discuss this without giving spoilers and it's just not working well (and now I'm rambling, sorry). My issue with the love triangle is - age, and if you read the book you'll understand what I mean by that (it's less about the age difference and more about something the second guy says that makes the age thing dodgy, about when he first started having - feelings).

There seemed to be a few inconsistencies in the book, a few errors (like, Raffy is mentioned as being labelled B but then like a chapter later, he's referred to as being a C and then the age thing - I think the age thing may have actually just been another one of those unintentional inconsistencies, like the author wrote something, forgot she wrote that then wrote something later that contradicted the first thing or made it seem strange and then the editor didn't pick up on the mistakes). It didn't bother me too much, but it's something I noticed.

Overall, I liked the book, I liked the characters and if I suspend disbelief and try not to overthink the book and the realationships then I find myself really enjoying it. I will probably read the sequel when it's out.

If you like dystopian novels, then I do recommend this one, but if you're sick of the genre or are only interested in reading really unique/original dystopian novels then maybe give this one a miss because I don't think it brings anything new to the table. I'd rate it 3.5 stars out of 5.

Later.

p.s. Seriously, sorry for how rambling and all over the place this review probably is.

p.p.s. I hate the title of this book, because it's basically a spoiler. As soon as a certain thing in the book is mentioned, you know what the title means and it would've just been better off if it was more shocking when the truth is finally revealed.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Mini-Review: Falling Under by Gwen Hayes

Falling Under
Gwen Hayes
New American Library
[March 1, 2011]

Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life in the small California town of Serendipity Falls. But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, Theia knows she's seen Haden before- not around town, but in her dreams.

As the Haden of both the night and the day beckons her closer one moment and pushes her away the next, the only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards him is stronger than her fear.

And when she discovers what Haden truly is, Theia's not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul.
I wasn't sure what to expect going into Falling Under. Would I love it? Hate it? I guess I'm somewhere in the middle.

One thing I had seen from some people were comparisons to Twilight and I definitely understood that. While definitely not exact, the relationship seemed kinda similar to me.

Mostly, this book just wasn't memorable. I felt very "meh" when reading it and now I only remember a couple of vague details. I just wasn't wow-ed. I was...briefly entertained and then quickly forgot about this book.

--Julie

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Legend by Marie Lu

Legend
Marie Lu
Putnam Juvenile
[November 29, 2011]

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.
I expected to enjoy Legend, but I did not expect to LOVE it.

First of all, our main characters are fantastic. I absolutely loved the strength and intelligence that June and Day both possessed. They were clever and bright. The story's told from both of their perspectives and their voices were really unique and distinct.

And this story? God, this story. It was this roller coaster of awesome and I don't even really like roller coasters. So...a water slide of awesome? Yeah, we'll go with that. There were all these twists and turns and the synopsis does NOTHING to cover all that happens. So much action and adventure and amazing.

And the romance? srfknhdfhjndfhg THE ROMANCE. I'm such a sucker for forbidden romance, y'all. I knew this would be a major source of joy for me, but not to the extent it was. It was adorable and wonderful and SA-WOON.

Marie Lu is honestly an incredible writer. Like I mentioned, it's told from two perspectives. Not only does she have her own voice as a writer, but both characters had their own voice. And I'm so emotionally invested in this book because she's just such a masterful writer.

Basically, I love this book so hardcore, you don't even know. I'm dying for Prodigy and I just...I need all of you to read Legend so you can suffer through to January with me, okay? And then when it's released and I have to keep waiting to read it, I need you to tell me it'll be okay and someday I will get to experience it's awesome. Got it? Good.

--Julie

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Demon Trappers: Foretold by Jana Oliver

The Demon Trappers: Foretold
by Jana Oliver

Summary: Riley’s always known that Beck had a chequered history, but she’s not prepared for what it actually means to be in love with a guy with this many dark secrets. Now that he’s finally admitted to himself that he’s in love with her too, there’s no more hiding the truth about his past. And as it turns out, fending off a demon apocalypse is nothing compared to what’s to come...

So, as I've probably mentioned in reviews of the previous books in this series, these books contain two of my writing pet peeves: accents (particularly Scottish ones) written phonetically and alternating points of view. A book ticking two of my pet peeve boxes and me loving it anyway? Sign of an awesome book.

I adore this series and I loved how it ended in this book - I was smiling like a total dork through quite a bit of it (okay, mostly because the romance in this one was pure adorable and what I've wanted to happen from book one started happening).

There isn't a whole lot I can say without giving spoilers. I love the characters, Riley is fierce but kind of normal girl at the same time and I love that. And Beck - well, he's lovely, I'd like to keep him. The side characters were great too, and Jana Oliver is one of those authors that can make me hate characters and then have it switch to love and back again, they're never all good or all bad, they all have their flaws and merits. And the setting - loved it. I love how real the world felt, even though it had angels and demons and all those sorts of things roaming around.

This is probably the shortest review I've written on this blog, but that's all I can think to say. This is a really awesome series, I'd rate it 4 or 4.5 stars out of 5 (both the book and the series as a whole).

Later.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Book Haul (128)

Julie:

Certainly a lighter week compared to last week!

Gifted:
A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare
On These Silken Sheets by Sabrina Darby

Thanks so much to Suzanne!

For Review:
I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore
The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore

Thanks to HarperTeen for these books!

So, that's all I got this week. Anything interesting for you?

--Julie

Lanna:


 Bought:

Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James - Purely because it'll bug me to leave the series unfinished.

A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James - Julie's fault.

For review:

Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick - Really enjoyed the first book, my review is quoted on the ARC cover. :)

The City Sons by Tom Pollock - Never heard of this one, but seems interesting.

Later.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Heist Society by Ally Carter

Heist Society
Ally Carter
Hyperion Books CH
[February 9, 2010]

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.
Julie, you've never read a book like this? What changed your mind?

Excellent Question, Self. I picked up this book because Ally Carter kept tweeting about Hale in a tux! Shirtless! Shirtless more! Shirtless again! And I can be that shallow (also, what kind of situations are these people in that he can always be shirtless?)

But also because a lot of people I know really seem to like this series and Ally Carter seems pretty cool.

So, this isn't My Type of Book. But the story was enjoyable and fun, despite the high stakes. It was nothing like I usually see in YA and while I wasn't super in love with the story or anything, I definitely enjoyed it.

The characters were the real selling point for me. I really loved how clever and loyal Kat was. I loved that she was not going to back down from her beliefs unless it was necessary. I also really loved Hale. He was funny and witty and as wonderful as I'd hoped he would be.

Ally Carter definitely has a lot of writing talent. I sped through this book because I was captivated. She's seriously earned her reputation.

So, this is a quick, fun read with awesome characters and an interesting story line. I'm definitely hoping to pick up book 2 in the future!

--Julie

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Mini-Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling 
Kristin Cashore
Harcourt
[October 1, 2008]

In a world where people born with an extreme skill - called a Grace - are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.

When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graces with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace - or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.
Here's your disclosure: I read this book in February. It is now August. Do the math.

I really liked Katsa and I REALLY liked Po. They were both interesting characters and just...lovely. Even if Katsa does have to kill and torture people. I mean...it wasn't her choice.

The story was really interesting and definitely took some turns I didn't expect. Especially towards the end? Like...total shock to me, some of what happens. I loved reading it and getting totally stumped about what would happen next.

And there is romance of the awesome variety. I really, really loved how their story ended in this book. It was different and wonderful and just...yes. All the yes. *hugs romance*

Graceling is well written, well developed, and has some epic things going on between the covers. While I didn't fall head-over-heels super-in-love like most people seem to, I did really enjoy Graceling and fully intend to read Fire and maybe read Bitterblue if I can ever get my hands on it.

--Julie

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas


Throne of Glass
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury USA Children's
[August 7, 2012]

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. 

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. 

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

I wasn't sure what to expect going in. I loved the concept and some people I really trust loved it. But some people I really trust also hated it.

Celaena....oh this girl. She had a lot going for her and she was an interesting read but...she was basically perfect. Beautiful, talented, clever, witty, had all the guys falling for her. Her only real "flaw" was her arrogance. It wasn't something I really minded while reading, but when I was done, I noticed it. And I know it was the big problem for a lot of people I know that didn't like this book. But she was complex and interesting and not what you'd expect an assassin to be. I thought she was pretty badass and strong.

The story itself was really intriguing. I mean, a bunch of criminals fighting to become the ultimate assassin? Then they start getting killed off? It was an awesome story filled with insane twists and things they don't explain in the summary. There was so much action and drama, but it never felt like too much or too made up for the sake of drama. I honestly loved this story.

Now....I think Lanna described the romance portion best in her review (basically, I agree with the whole thing, honestly). This is another one of those rare cases of love triangles done right. Dorian and Celaena were so adorable and cute together and slhgaedgjlnsgs. But...Chaol and Celaena were so adorable and cute together and sflgsnjfhgfsn. I just...I don't know guys. They were so perfect and lovely and I would like the three of them to make something work.

There were a lot of characters in this book and not all of them got a ton of page-time, but most of them were super well developed. I really felt like I knew most of these characters, I understood them as well as Celaena did.  There's this one character that we only actually meet like three times, but Sarah manages to convey him so well in those brief meetings.

Which brings me to the writing. Sarah's totally earned her Author Badge. She earned all of the fame she had from FictionPress and she definitely made a good decision in deciding to publish it. The writing is brilliant and engaging and rich. Celaena's voice was never too heavy or too light, it was distinctive. Sarah tells an incredibly brilliant, complicated story as well as some of the veteran writers.

I just...I loved this book, guys. No it wasn't perfect, but I loved it anyway. And I'm so glad I still have all but one of the prologue stories to read because I don't want to just be done with this world and I definitely don't want to wait another year to read book 2.

If you love fantasy, subtle-but-awesome romances, and really well built characters, you should be heading to your nearest bookstore now. Or clicking a "Buy Now" button if you don't want to/can't get to a bookstore.

--Julie

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