Sunday, June 30, 2013

Book Review: Ink

On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they'll both be targets.

Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.  Quoted from Goodreads

I'm a bit conflicted about this book. There were elements I absolutely adored and then certain aspects that bothered me. Still, overall, it's a fun read, one you should definitely check out if you love YA literature.  

First, things I love.  I thoroughly enjoyed all the Japanese culture references.  This book practically oozes Japanese lifestyle and traditions as see through Katie Green, the American transfer.  She made the perfect interpreter for everything that was going on because she was the outsider experiencing it for the first time.  But she wasn't exactly an ignorant outsider.  Her aunt lived there, she had friends, and she studied about the place where she was living, so she never came across as stupid or clueless, just a good interpreter.  Plus, the book is replete with phrases in Japanese (spelled out in English, obviously, not the characters) that you could look up in the back of the book.

I also really liked all the Japanese mythology the book is based on and how it was translated into the moder world. The magic system was fascinating, as were the characters it affected and what, exactly, it did to them. It also led to four very different, very separate problems (or villains).  I won't give them away, but I love when a book has pressure from more than one angle.  It sort of embodies the saying, "the enemy of my enemy is . . . my enemy."

So what's my hangup?  Well, despite the exotic location and subject matter, this book follows the stereotypical ya formula point for point.  Hot, mysterious, possibly dangerous boy who only the girl understands? Check.  Possible love triangle?  Check. The girl is special in some way that no one quite understands? Check. Insta-love? Check. Girl recently suffered an emotional trauma? Check.  The list goes on.  So if you're looking to mix the expected in a fabulous new location, look no further.  It's not that this book isn't good, but it follows a tried and true pattern that will probably work with a lot of people.  I just wish it didn't follow it so completely.

My second problem was with Katie.  Don't get me wrong, I mostly liked her character.  I thought she dealt with her change of location and the loss of her mother really, really well.  Seriously, for the most part she's a normal, well-adjusted teen dealing with a difficult situation that keeps getting worse. My one problem with her was her fascination with Tomohiro.  I get it's not normal to see a person's drawing move, but she pushed things too far.  He accuses her of being a stalker, and she totally was. She follows him on her bike (especially acquired for this purpose), joins the club he's in, etc. 

In the beginning, she believes he just cheated on his girlfriend and got another girl pregnant. He also acts like a jerk to her every single time she sees him, and she's still following him around?  As far as she knows, he's with his pregnant girlfriend. She even sees them hugging on the bridge, swollen belly and all, and she still stalks him! It just pushed things too far for me.  Even though the whole situation is explained away later, it seemed forced, and there were some chapters there that I really didn't like Katie at all.

After the whole mythology secret thing comes out the book gets a lot better.  The action picks up, the conflict really begins to happen. I just wish the author had chosen a better way for Katie and Tomohiro to end up together.  It was too insta-love/stalker fest for me.  

So would I recommend this book? Yes.  It has some great elements I really enjoyed.  Just know what you're getting into from the beginning and try not to judge Katie too harshly for those few chapters when you honestly can't understand what in the world she's thinking.  The villains and the mythology were fantastic, as was the setting.  For me, the end of this book was more of a 4 star thing with the stalker chapters averaging more of a 1.5, so I'm awarding this book 3 stars.  Still, I have really high expectations for the next one.  There is so much potential for this series, I'm hoping it lives up to it.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Flashback Friday: The Elite

Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending. Quoted from Goodreads


Okay, so I read this book a month or two ago (long enough for me to call this Flashback Friday at this point) but for various reasons never got around to reviewing it.  This does not mean it was a bad book, just that my life got a little crazy and there may have been a small communication error. But I liked it. I really did. More than I actually thought I would. I'm always a little scared to read the second book in a series.  It can be amazing, but for so many series, it can be the slump between the beginning and the end.  Luckily, The Elite kept the same pace as the first book, and now I can't wait for the third book to come out.

What this book probably did the most was give us a real, concrete villain.  I admit, it only really happens at the end, but instead of just a girl's love story and some strange people who attack the palace for some unknown reason, we get someone in this book who we can actually hate (and hopefully defeat in the third one).  While I realize that a lot of times evil doesn't have a face or a concrete villain, I'm glad they created one in this book. 

Other things I loved . . . Maxon. He's not perfect, just like America isn't, and while sometimes they grew closer together, other things pushed them apart.  I like that he isn't 100% devoted to her at this point.  I know it sounds funny, but with her running around with Aspen, he deserves to explore other relationships. Plus, before the Selection, he didn't really know many girls and hadn't had any relationships before. With him caring for other girls, it makes it better when he and America finally do get together in the third book.  (Yes, I'm pretty sure that's where this is headed. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'll be really disappointed if I am.  I am absolutely done with Aspen. He feels like he's thrown in there to add a bit more conflict, give America a choice, etc. but he doesn't really come across as a serious contender.  Just another reason for America to be confused about what she really wants. Sorry, but that's just my opinion.)

This book we do get a bit more sorely needed world building.  We learn a bit more about who created the caste system and why, plus what (maybe) the rebels are after.  Okay so the rebels still need work, but I'm hoping we learn a lot more in the third book.  Plus, we get a few ---well, I hesitate to say fun because they aren't necessarily pleasant, more interesting than fun side stories with other characters (like Marlee).  I really liked Marlee's story in this book. The one character I'm most disappointed in, though, is Celeste.  She wasn't half as mean or vindictive in this book---besides one specific scene I won't spoil for you.  

Anyway, this book is a nice 3.5 stars for me.  There were things that bugged me, but other things I enjoyed.  All in all, it's a nice, standard second book.  It doesn't really slump, but it doesn't bring the story to the next level.  It mostly just kept going right where The Selection ended.  Still, it made me excited for the final book. Honestly, there's probably not a lot of mystery about how this will play out, but I'm excited to get there.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book Review: Going Vintage

When Mallory’s boyfriend, Jeremy, cheats on her with an online girlfriend, Mallory decides the best way to de-Jeremy her life is to de-modernize things too. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in1962, Mallory swears off technology and returns to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn’t cheat with computer avatars). The List:
1. Run for pep club secretary
2. Host a fancy dinner party/soiree
3. Sew a dress for Homecoming
4. Find a steady
5. Do something dangerous

But simple proves to be crazy-complicated, and the details of the past begin to change Mallory’s present. Add in a too-busy grandmother, a sassy sister, and the cute pep-club president–who just happens to be her ex’s cousin–and soon Mallory begins to wonder if going vintage is going too far.  Quoted from Goodreads


This book was plain, cute fun. It was a delightful mix of getting over a breakup/first love, journey of self discovery, and contemporary romance.  Seriously, everything was really well done, but with a light, funny veneer to keep it from being sad or depressing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

First there's Mallory.  She's sweet, funny, and an excellent main character. She really grows and discovers who she is through the course of the book, and it's not just because of her romance with her ex's cousin. I love her relationship with her sister.  They were both supportive and there for each other.  Actually, her sister is hilarious and I would love to read more about her. 

Some of her other relationships are a bit more complicated.   Her grandmother, who she admires so much she decided to "go vintage," wasn't quite what I expected, but in a great way.  Her relationship with her mother, well . . . that one was interesting.  It's kind of the loose end to the book, and I liked that. It makes the book more authentic. Everyone else's story plots got nicely tied up.  Oh, not unrealistically, but things were resolved. This one wasn't.  Sure, there was a bit more understanding, but there are still tons of problems there that need to be worked out.  

As for Jeremy, he was the perfect ex.  He's the kind of guy where he really did do something wrong, and he and Mallory did have some serious issues.  At the same time, you can see why she was with him for a year.  You understand, if not condone, where he was coming from and how he rationalized what he was doing.  I loved the dimension to his character, it contrasted beautifully with Oliver.

Ah, Oliver.  He really was excellent.  There was no insta-love here.  They grew closer by talking together, laughing at each other's jokes, and spending time with each other. He relationship served to highlight why Mallory and Jeremy would never have worked even if he hadn't been cheating. Plus, he's just quirky and cute.

As for the whole vintage thing, I love the way it was done.  It gave Mallory the time to step back and figure out who she really is outside of "Jeremy's girlfriend."  She was able to figure out her thing, and appreciate what she had now. Plus, it brought her closer to her grandmother, but again, no quite in the way I was expecting.

All in all, this is a great read.  It's fun, complicated, and sweet.  It's a perfect coming of age/post-breakup/romance, and you really should check it out. I'm giving it a wonderful 3.5 stars. It was well done from the writing and dialogue to the characters and development. Plus it's just plain fun.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: Born of Illusion


A gifted illusionist, Anna assists her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage shows and seances, easily navigating the underground world of magicians and mentalists in 1920s New York. For Anna, the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini - or so Marguerite claims - handcuffs and sleight-of-hand illusions have never been much of a challenge. The real trick is keeping her own gifts secret from her mother: because while Marguerite's power may be a sham, Anna possesses a true ability to sense people's feelings and foretell the future.

But as Anna's powers intensify, she experiences frightening visions of her mother in peril, which lead her to explore the abilities she's tried so long to hide. And when a mysterious young man named Cole moves into the flat downstairs, introducing Anna to a society that studies people with gifts like hers, she begins to wonder if there's more to life than keeping secrets.

As her visions become darker and her powers spin out of her control, Anna is forced to rethink all she's ever known. Is her mother truly in danger, or are Anna's visions merely illusions? And could the great Houdini really be her father, or is it just another of Marguerite's tricks?
From Teri Brown comes a world bursting with magic, with romance, with the temptations of Jazz Age New York --- and the story of a girl about to become the mistress of her own destiny. Quoted from Goodreads


They say don't judge a book by it's cover, and in this case, it's so totally true.  Okay, maybe some of you like this cover.  That's fine, but I'm not a fan.  In fact I sort of put off reading this book, despite some really positive reviews, because I didn't much care for it.  Okay, hated it.  Still, I'm glad I picked it up because the story inside is absolutely worth it.  

There are so many things I loved about this book. First, the setting. There's something tangible about the world Teri Brown created.  She absolutely captured the essence of the '20s and the magician craze (and mediums.  you can't forget the mediums).  We even get a few cameos by Houdini, which totally caused me to look up a bunch of his tricks on youtube. Really, the setting was superbly done and one of the biggest draws of this book.

Don't worry, though, the characters also lived up to the world through which they moved.  I especially enjoyed (loved/hated) Anna's relationship with her mother.  It's not one you would ever want to emulate, don't get me wrong. It's disturbing and sad on so many levels, but it was delightful to read.  Her mother was such a great character, and Anna's relationship with her was complex, fascinating, and easily the core of the novel.

Anna, herself, was also a great character. She was ambitious and cleaver but had her weaknesses. She had a few glaringly stupid moments, but most of those were overshadowed by her cleaver ideas.  Her relationship with the other characters was also fun.  I loved watching her go from a friendless girl to one with a solid support system. She got a best friend, a beau, even something of a grandfather figure.  Because of who she was, she met with so many interesting people.  I especially liked the mob boss who does her a favor.  I can't wait to see what he demands in return.

As for the romance, it's a love triangle of sorts, but one of those that never fully develops, and it's pretty obvious from the beginning who the winner will be.  Both boys have their selling points, and honestly, I kind of enjoyed the way it played out.  It was never I love you both, but more plays a part in her deciding who she wants to be.  Each boy represents a different lifestyle and who she chooses plays into who she decides to become, but she doesn't become who she wants to be because of some boy.

As for the ending, it was one excellent twist paired with an obvious one.  Honestly, part of me couldn't understand why one of the villains (the main one, the one she discovers second) wasn't obvious.  It was this cluelessness in Anna that drove me crazy in the end. I couldn't understand why she didn't put the pieces together.  As for the other villain, well, that was did take me by surprise.  I won't say there weren't clues, but it was a far better twist, one I didn't really see coming.  

Still, this is a great book. It's a strong 4 stars for me, and I can't wait for the sequel. It perfectly captured an era and peppered it with complex, delightful characters.  I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction or the paranormal because it does a great job of blending the two.  Plus, while there is absolutely a sequel in the works, it wraps up enough that you aren't left hanging at the end, forced to suffer until the next book comes out.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Book Review: Confederates Dont Wear Couture

Libby's best friend and fabulous fashion designer, Dev, hatches a plan to jet down South and hawk his period gowns to the wives and girlfriends of Civil War re-enactors. With a pang, Libby abandons her plan to visit her boyfriend, Garrett, in Boston and jumps at the chance to help run "Confederate Couture," and let her inner history nerd loose in a 19th century playground. 

But Libby and Dev aren't whistling Dixie for long. Between the constant travel from battle ground to dusty battle ground (with no Starbucks in sight, mind you), blistering heat, and a violent ghost set on romantic revenge, they quickly realize Alabama's no sweet home. And the boys. . . well, let's just say Libby's got the North and the South fighting for her attention. 

Confederates Don't Wear Couture is another hilarious, historical romp from Stephanie Kate Strohm!  Quoted from Goodreads


This is such a cute follow up to Pilgrims don't wear Pink.  It's light, fun, and a great way to dip your toes in history.  Despite the fact the book is contemporary, you can't help but pick up all sorts of historical tidbits, as seen through Libby, the bubbly, fashion conscious, history nerd. 

Just like its predecessor, the author loads up on the historical details. You can tell the author has done her homework. The book is full of fun facts that anyone who likes history--especially Civil War history--will eat up, and explores why some people are so dedicated to reenactments (and why other people hate them). Basically Libby's love of history is infectious.  Even if history isn't really your thing (and there are plenty of characters who don't get the whole attraction), the story is a blast.

We get to see a lot more Dev this time around, and while he may be a bit of a stereotype, he made me laugh. Plus he made Libby the most amazing dresses, you can't help but want to steal him as a best friend for that alone. Garrett, too, is back, and as nerdy and in love with Libby as ever. Plus we get a whole host of new characters to enjoy.  Instead of wide-eyed ten-year-old girls, we get a bunch of boy scouts who run around hitting on Libby, a whole slew of Civil War re-enactors, and one very attractive southern gentleman. 

Okay, this book did suffer a little bit from second book romance syndrom. After establishing Garrett and Libby as a couple in the first book, the author had to do something to keep it interesting, so we get the standard: new love interest, lack of communication, rampant misunderstandings, etc.  Still, the story is great, and while I could have done without so much relationship drama, I liked the way in ended.

Plus, we get another ghost!  Yes, that's right, Libby has become the ghost whisperer for fake ghosts. I actually really liked the ghost aspect. It came with a twist that was beautifully set up but I never saw coming. 

All in all, this is a fun half historical, half contemporary story. It's just one of those books that makes you smile, with a great main character with a strong voice.  It's a delightful 3.5 stars for me.  If you haven't picked up Pilgrims don't wear Pink, you need to check it out, then move directly onto this book. Actually, you could probably read this book without checking out the first one, but you'll enjoy it more if you do. Regardless, when you're done,  you'll be stuck like me, eagerly waiting for the next one.  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Shorts: Son of Sobek

In this e-book short story by Rick Riordan, Carter Kane is investigating rumored sightings of a monster on Long Island when he runs into something else: a mysterious boy named Percy Jackson. And their meeting isn't exactly friendly. . . . Includes a sneak peek chapter from HOUSE OF HADES, Book Four in the Heroes of Olympus series.  Quoted from Goodreads


Such a fun short story.  There were all sorts of hints that Carter and Percy lived in the same world, albeit with different magical systems, but it's wonderful to see them interacting. I love seeing Percy from Carter's POV, and the different abilities they both bring to the battle. 

I also really enjoy how finding out about Greek mythology and demigods changes Carter's world.  It's one of those stories where it really doesn't change the outcome of either series, but it's a wonderful idea to play with.

While the story was short, there's plenty of action.  It's fun seeing Percy and Carter's different strengths   I also liked the way he involved the regular kids in the fight . . . well sort of. The battle they have to fight isn't earth-shattering like it is when you get a whole novel (more like one of the bumps along the way), but it's still an important fight, even if it's not on a global scale.  Plus there are hints of a greater issue going on that just makes the entire thing exciting. Honestly, I'd love to read another one, maybe even a series of novellas where Percy and Carter, or maybe Sadie and Annabeth work together.

My only complaint with the story is we only get it from Carter's POV. I would have liked to see what Percy thought of the whole situation and of Carter in particular.  I don't know if they ever will actually make a series when all of these different characters come together, but it would be fun.

 All in all, this is exactly what I'm looking for in a novella.  It's fun, action packed, and absolutely unputdownable.  If you want a quick fun read to hold you over until the House of Hades comes out in October, you need to check this out.  It's an amazing 4 stars for me and a must read for all Rick Riordan fans.  I'm just hoping there are more in the future.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Book Review: Star Cursed

With the Brotherhood persecuting witches like never before, a divided Sisterhood desperately needs Cate to come into her Prophesied powers. And after Cate's friend Sachi is arrested for using magic, a war-thirsty Sister offers to help her find answers—if Cate is willing to endanger everyone she loves.

Cate doesn't want to be a weapon, and she doesn't want to involve her friends and Finn in the Sisterhood's schemes. But when Maura and Tess join the Sisterhood, Maura makes it clear that she'll do whatever it takes to lead the witches to victory. Even if it means sacrifices. Even if it means overthrowing Cate. Even if it means all-out war.

In the highly anticipated sequel to Born Wicked, the Cahill Witch Chronicles continue Cate, Maura and Tess's quest to find love, protect family, and explore their magic against all odds in an alternate history of New England. Quoted from Goodreads


Excellent book!  Loved it. Star Cursed stars just where Born Wicked left off.  Cate is miserable about leaving her sisters and Finn, but they're all reunited in one way or another soon enough, and the action just keeps on going.  No middle book slump for this series. The Brotherhood is still evil and repressive, the Sisterhood manipulative, and Cate torn between what she wants and everyone else's expectations.

Seriously, I love this series.  It's one of those you can't put down.  There's so much tension coming from everyone and so very few people Cate can trust, it's hard to stop reading. I really love the way Jessica Spotswood handles everything.  There are problems on all sides, and things are escalating   Nothing is black and white.  The Brotherhood is mostly evil, but then there are good men working on it like Finn who are only trying to save their families.  Same with the Sisterhood.  Some of them really are good, trying to save girls and provide safety for young witches.  But others are power hungry, willing to sacrifice people for their own power.  Plus, the ending!  It's just as horrible and impactful as the first book, leaving you feeling like you've been punched in the gut and you don't quite know how you will recover without the third book. 

 Everything else is also up to par.  I really liked how I got to know Tess better in this book.  In the first one she was mostly just Cate's youngest sister, but she didn't play nearly the role that Maura did.  I really liked the way she developed more in this book.  She's only twelve, but she grows up a lot and is a comfort to Cate, especially with what is happening with Maura.  Oh, Maura.  She's irritating and tragic all at once. I won't give anything away, but she continues down the path she began in the first book.

Finally, Cate and Finn. I loved them in the first book, and they get even cuter in this one. I thought with the change of location we would loose a lot of the characters from the first book, but besides Cate and Finn's parents, everyone is here, and their stories get to continue.  Harwood becomes more of a frightening reality. In contrast, there's also some hope on the horizon.  Common people are starting to turn against the Brotherhood, following the patter of the witches' downfall hundred's of years before.

Basically, you need to read this series.  It's a fascinating alternative history, oozing with suspense and tension.  There's so much peril and manipulation, oppression and rebellion, I love it. It's a enchanting 4 stars for me, and I can't wait for the next book to come out. I'm just praying it doesn't take as long as this one to come out.  I'll admit, her writing is good and the story superb, but like I said, that ending killed me.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Book Review: The Beautiful and the Cursed

Ingrid Waverley is a young woman to be reckoned with. Faced with her brother's mysterious disappearance after an abrupt move to Paris, she is determined to discover what has happened to him. Soon she and her sister Gabriella are drawn into a Parisian underworld more terrifying than they could ever have imagined, but watching over them are two impossible (and impossibly handsome) young men. Luc is a 'Dispossessed', an ancient gargoyle whose sworn duty it is to protect the humans who inhabit his abbey. Nolan has secrets of his own too. He is a member of the Alliance - a shadowy group dedicated to keeping Paris safe from the demonic forces that threaten to destroy it.
Secrets, danger and hidden powers stalk the girls in this beautifully imagined paranormal romance that will keep readers gripped from beginning to end - and one thing is for sure - you'll never look at a gargoyle in the same way again . . . Quoted from Goodreads


I have really mixed feelings about this book.  I love the idea of it: gargoyles, a girl with mysterious powers, a missing brother, Paris.  It's all set up to be amazing.  And part of it was, but then part of it wasn't.

Here's what I liked.  Gargoyles.  Okay, so they're called the Dispossesed in this book, and they were kind of awesome.  They hate but guard humans. They're cursed but regularly visit with angles (which, okay, is part of the curse).  Basically, they were a rich, diverse group of characters, and I really liked the mythology and their role in the novel.  I'm kind of jealous of the British cover because I think it gets this book a little bit more right, though the girl looks way too modern.

Second, the mystery that is Ingrid.  I mean, a girl who can call lightning from her fingers? Awesome, especially over a hundred years ago.  Plus, she's this beautiful, blond helpless looking thing, so I loved that she was given an excellent power that was made for nothing but destruction and fighting.  Beautiful contrast.  Plus there's her twin bond with Grayson.  You never know if it's related to her powers or just a simple twin thing, but I liked how she she knew when he was in trouble and the connection they had.

Of course that leads in to one of the things I didn't enjoy as much about this book.  The multiple viewpoints---Grayson's in particular.  I get that you're supposed to think, "oh no, what horrible things Grayson is going through.  They have to save him fast," but I don't think what you gain from his POV made up for loosing they mystery of where he was and what had happened to him.  In fact, besides one or two twists in the end where we learn the bad guy's main motive and plan, there really wasn't a lot of mystery.

Then there's Gabbie.  While I liked the sister's bond and that she wanted to fight despite her distinct lack of powers or training, I found her story a lot less compelling than her sister's.  Sure, she and Nolan were cute, and maybe even made more sense as a couple than anyone Ingrid was set up with, but she also ended up being a damsel in distress more often than not.  I'm hoping her role grows more in the next book, because she has a lot of potential, but her story was less compelling for me.

As for the romance, well, it sort of suffered from the typical YA problems.  The main love interest, well . . . he's forbidden.  And immortal.  And cursed. And not human.  In fact, they could die if they get together.  Sound familiar? Then there's the other guy. And he's just that,  the nice other guy.  Of course Ingrid is attracted to him because he's the safe, sweet contrast, but he's not Luc. Like I said, Gabbie's romance worked a little better for me, though I'm still team Luc all the way.  What can I say, I'm a sucker for those forbidden romances.

Despite some of the problems, there's a lot going for this book. There's tons of action.  Honestly, it was more violent than I first expected, full of dead bodies and hellhounds.  We have the mysterious Alliance, and of course, there are the Disposessed (gargoyles), with all their internal conflicts.  It's definitely not a slow book by any stretch of the imagination.  Really, it's an exciting 3.5 stars for me.  Yes, there were a few problems, but all in all it was a fun adventure, and I'll absolutely be reading the sequel.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Book Review: The Avery Shaw Experiment

When Avery Shaw’s heart is shattered by her life-long best friend, she chooses to deal with it the only way she knows how—scientifically. 

The state science fair is coming up and Avery decides to use her broken heart as the topic of her experiment. She’s going to find the cure. By forcing herself to experience the seven stages of grief through a series of social tests, she believes she will be able to get over Aiden Kennedy and make herself ready to love again. But she can’t do this experiment alone, and her partner (ex partner!) is the one who broke her heart.

Avery finds the solution to her troubles in the form of Aiden’s older brother Grayson. The gorgeous womanizer is about to be kicked off the school basketball team for failing physics. He’s in need of a good tutor and some serious extra credit. But when Avery recruits the lovable Grayson to be her “objective outside observer,” she gets a whole lot more than she bargained for, because Grayson has a theory of his own: Avery doesn’t need to grieve. She needs to live. And if there’s one thing Grayson Kennedy is good at, it’s living life to the fullest. Quoted from Goodreads


This book was exactly what I've been craving.  Seriously.  I'm actually pretty picky about contemporary books.  Put a little fantasy or paranormal creatures in a story, maybe a hint of action, dystopia, or scifi, even alternate history, and I'm much easier to please.  The thing is, I don't like books about cancer or teen pregnancy.  It's not that they aren't valid issues and they should be explored.  They can help so many people, but I read to escape and to be entertained.  If I want deep literature, I go to the tried and true classics  that have stood the test of time, not a book dealing with the death of her father. Again, valid issue, and I'm sure it's excellent and moving, etc.  It's just not for me.  This book, however, is exactly what I'm looking for in rom-com YA.  

What I like about this book is it is cute, sweet, and funny.  I love the banter between Grayson, Avery, and some of Avery's nerd friends (her best friend Libby was kind of hilarious).  I like how the girls in the school are nice.  It's not that there aren't mean girls, but Grayson makes sure Avery avoids them.  The parents were totally realistic.  They were involved in their kids lives, and though not perfect, they were trying. There's also very little angst in this book. That sounds a little weird since Avery suffers from anxiety and this is a high school book, after all, but it was really refreshing. 

I'll be honest, the biggest selling point is probably Grayson.  He's just an adorable character and so sweet to Avery. He's the perfect counterpart to Avery's anxiety-riddled, science-geek persona.  While this book focuses on Avery's growth and broken heart, Grayson changes just as much as she does.  He's a great character, and the book shows why they are absolutely perfect for each other as their relationship develops.

I also really loved the duel POV.  Most books like this are just from the girl's POV, so it's refreshing to see things from a guys perspective.  Plus the author had a lot of fun with Grayson's introduction into Avery's more nerdy social circle.  It also added character to the book switching between the two.  Both their voices were distinct, so you never wondered who was actually telling the story.

All in all, this is a light romantic comedy that I absolutely adored.  Yes, with the exception of the whole experiment angle it's a story that's been done before, but that didn't lessen my enjoyment of it at all. The relationship never moved too fast, but developed realistically.  It made me laugh and kept a grin on my face the whole time.  Sure there were awkward moments and sad parts, but it was, over all, a happy book, and I loved that.  Really it's a solid 4 stars for me, and has guaranteed that I'll be keeping track of what Kelly Oram writes from now on.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bargain Books!

I've suddenly discovered tons of cheap e-books right now.  Maybe because everyone wants their book to be read over the summer, maybe because they have a sequel coming out, I don't know, but it's great for us readers. Here's some of the best bargains I've found, so check them out below.

$2.99 Hex Hall - Rachel Hawkins

See, so many, many books at amazingly, wonderfully low prices (though I have no idea how long they'll last).  I love finding a book I've been wanting to read or own for just a few dollars. A couple of stand outs for me: The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Hex Hall, Also Known As, Mind Games, The Trouble with Flirting, and Mila 2.0, although there are a bunch of other excellent books listed here. These are the one's I was most surprised about or excited for because they're mostly rather new and I really enjoyed them.  And, I'll admit, there are a bunch up there I haven't read yet, but this does make me want to check them out.  Anyway, enjoy browsing, and if you come across another great deal, let me know.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Review: Reboot

Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.
The perfect soldier is done taking orders. Quoted from Goodreads


Yes, I realize this book came out over a month ago, and I'll admit, with all the hype, I probably should have read it right off.  But the 5th Wave that came out that same week, as well as If I Should Die, so it got pushed back.  And then back a little more.  Now, I'm kind of glad I did, because this was just the type of book I was in the mood for.  Action? Check.  Interesting world-building? Check. Romance? Check.  Kick-butt heroine?  Check.  Excellent villains? Check.

Basically, there are a bunch of compelling reasons you should read this book. First, I'll start with Wren 178.  She's strong. It's interesting watching her character turn from a hollow, bloody killer to someone who makes her own decisions and moral code instead of just following the orders of others.  And by the end, she's still not perfect, so plenty of room for grown in upcoming books.

Then there's the world-building.  I love this concept. People coming back as something between living zombies and human robots, who actually can find their humanity but have to work for it? It's bizarre, but absolutely works in the story.  It also makes me excited for book two.  I can't wait to see how a community composed of reboots would work.  By the end, Wren was showing a lot of very human tendencies, and I'm curious how their community with contrast with the book's human ones.

Now for the action.  Honestly, it's a lovely blend of physical violence (like I said, half zombie, half robot, with only a smidgen of humanity left), especially in the beginning. Maybe even too much violence, depending.  The best part of it is, as Wren becomes more human, her choosing violence as the answer to everything goes down.  She kills less people (so, yes, warning, there is a bit of killing in this book), and finds different ways to incapacitate them.  Not to worry, though.  Just because the flat out violence goes down, doesn't mean the action does. It just gets better.  There's suspense, prison breaks, impossible situations, and encroaching madness just to keep things fun.

Then there's Callum, the boy who started it all.  Part of me loved him. He's sweet, cute (without being the most beautiful creature ever---yep, that about sums up half of the YA love interest's descriptions), and the reason Wren 178 changes. Here's also where my one problem with the book sort of came in. Don't get me wrong, I fully support one person helping another to change, but this one was a little fast for me. This is nothing against Callum's character. I like him a lot, and he's perfect for Wren. I just wanted a few more scenes between Wren and Callum where she questions her whole lack of humanity.  Instead, the romance was a little bit rushed.  First he's weak, then suddenly she'll challenge her whole world for him?  It just happened too fast.  I wanted one or two more scenes, one or two more weeks of working together before they became that committed.  

Still, if you're looking for a good half dystopian/half scifi adventure with a liberal dose of romance and tons of action, look no further.  This is an exciting 4 stars for me, and I can't wait to read the next book. This book really did have an excellent first book ending.  It wraps up the immediate, small problems, and promises a respite from everything that plagued them in the first book, while still promising action, adventure, and mystery in the books to come. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Trailer Tuesday: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug trailer

 So excited. Honestly, what's left to say? Excellent three part adaption of a beloved book.  I'm sold. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Book Review: The Book of Broken Hearts

When all signs point to heartbreak, can love still be a rule of the road? A poignant and romantic novel from the author of Bittersweet and Twenty Boy Summer.

Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.

Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?

Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong?
Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.  Quoted from Goodreads


I'll admit right up front, I'm going to be a little bit unfair to this book. Here's the thing, expectations matter to me.  If I want an apple, a banana isn't going to cut it.  That's sort of the case with this book. Don't get me wrong, it was a good book, but it wasn't really what I was looking for. Call me shallow, but I wanted more of a light teen romance, and this wasn't it.  Crazy, I know.  Based on the book blurb what else could it be? I really should have picked up on the word poignant.

By my ranking, here's what the book is really about. 1) a coming of age story. Yep, that's the real story of Jude.  It's how she grows up.  2) Jude's relationship with her father and his dealing with alzheimer's. While this was sweet and sad all at the same time, and handled really well, it got one word (ailing) in the description.  And finally, 3) Jude's romance with Emilio.

I know I almost always give my rating at the end, but not this time. It's only getting 3 stars from me. Most of this book, I kept hoping it would morph into something it wasn't because of the blurb. I wasn't looking to suffer through Jude's father's decline with her or watch Jude grow up because of this.  It was well written, just not what I was looking for that day.

Okay, I'll stop beating the expectations horse.  This book did have some wonderful things about it.  I love Jude's family and their relationships.  Her parents, sisters, and even friends each get their own distinct personalities, despite their limited page count. The author did a good job at getting the family dynamic down, especially the heartbreak of loosing their father over and over to alzheimer's.  Jude's in an interesting position in her family, baby/only child, and I really liked seeing her relationship with her older sisters.  

The romance was cute.  Emilio as adorable and just what Jude needed that summer. Still, that circles back to her family and Jude's growing up. Falling in love with him, sort of let her work out her relationships with her sisters and become her own person.  Even the ending was almost more a tribute to her father than a purely romantic adventure with her boyfriend. 

Honestly, if you're looking for a great coming of age story, this is it.  There's heartbreak, growing up, sadness, and romance, all thrown together over one long summer.  If I had know this from the beginning, I'm sure the book would have earned more stars, so now you're warned.  It's an excellent book for what it is, it just wasn't want I expected it to be.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sunday Shorts: The Emperor's Soul

Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic. Condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s scepter, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Though her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead. 

Probing deeply into his life, she discovers Emperor Ashravan’s truest nature—and the opportunity to exploit it. Her only possible ally is one who is truly loyal to the emperor, but councilor Gaotona must overcome his prejudices to understand that Shai’s forgery is as much artistry as it is deception. 
Brimming with magic and political intrigue, this deftly woven fantasy delves into the essence of a living spirit. Quoted from Goodreads


Wow. Just wow.  What can I say, Brandon Sanderson has done it again, better than ever.  The story has a great message to it, but I'll leave that for you find out. 

Seriously, I really did enjoy this book. It's one of those that are thought provoking, but at the same time has enough action and political intrigue that it isn't just about exploring an idea.  The magic system, once again, is amazing.  It's creative and complex, while being utterly believable.  

The same goes for the world building. Despite the short length  it's rich and detailed. 90% of it takes place in one room, and still you can't stop reading.  It's set in the same world as Elantris, and while I've read that book, it's been a  few years, so I honestly didn't make that connection until the author stated that in the end.  I see the similarities, now, but you absolutely dont' have to have read Elantris to enjoy this book.  Even the magic system, while similar to Elantris, comes at it from a completely different angle.  Plus it takes place in a different kingdom, far from the events of that book.

As for the characters, I loved them. Shai is more than just a forger, she's an artist.  It's interesting watching the way she handles different situations. She's brilliant, complicated, and extremely competent with everything she does.  I love cleaver main characters, and she is pretty much exactly the kind I love reading about best. Gaotona is also great. He's well drawn and complex and balances Shai and the story perfectly.  Shai and Gaotona both grow throughout the story as they come to understand each other.  As for the emperor . . . well, the story is about his soul, and I really love how that whole element was handled.  

In the end, this is just a  great book.  It's not the world or the magic system that sells it, though they are both wonderful, but the story itself  and the ideas it explores that keeps you reading. It's an excellent 4.5 stars for me.  It's short, and part of me wanted it to be longer, but at the same time, it was the exact length it needed to be.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Book Review: The Girl with the Iron Touch

In 1897 London, something not quite human is about to awaken 

When mechanical genius Emily is kidnapped by rogue automatons, Finley Jayne and her fellow misfits fear the worst. What's left of their archenemy, The Machinist, hungers to be resurrected, and Emily must transplant his consciousness into one of his automatons—or forfeit her friends' lives. 

With Griffin being mysteriously tormented by the Aether, the young duke's sanity is close to the breaking point. Seeking help, Finley turns to Jack Dandy, but trusting the master criminal is as dangerous as controlling her dark side. When Jack kisses her, Finley must finally confront her true feelings for him...and for Griffin. 

Meanwhile, Sam is searching everywhere for Emily, from Whitechapel's desolate alleyways to Mayfair's elegant mansions. He would walk into hell for her, but the choice she must make will test them more than they could imagine. 
To save those she cares about, Emily must confront The Machinist's ultimate creation—an automaton more human than machine. And if she's to have any chance at triumphing, she must summon a strength even she doesn't know she has . . .   Quoted from Goodreads


Well, this is another excellent installment in the Steampunk Chronicles.  Note, this is not a trilogy, so though this is the third book, this isn't the last in the series like I thought.  I'm okay with that.  It's a fun series with interesting characters. Plus I don't have a lot of other steampunk series I'm in the middle of right now, so this adds some variety.

Basically this book was pretty much on par with the first two.  All the old characters are back (including their old nemesis and the delightful Jack Dandy) and some new ones---one in particular I'm intrigued by, though she also . . . well, I can't really say for spoilers, but it's pretty obvious from the beginning why she was brought into the story.  Once again something sinister is happening. This time, the main plot is Emily's kidnapping, though there are the secrets Griffin is keeping, to add another layer of intrigue.  It also helps keeps Finley as the main character, since Emily and Sam take center stage this time around.

What I enjoyed most about this book is how much happened in just a few days.  It kept every moment vital, from the strange, albeit exciting opener, through the real meat of the story, and on to the slightly ominous conclusion.  The action kept me turning pages, and while the multiple viewpoints didn't allow for a lot of mystery, it still kept things tense.

The nice thing about the steampunk genre is that I can excuse so many things that I couldn't in straight historical fiction.  For example, Finley and Emily are far more modern than most women back then, but it works because it's steampunk.  I'm not cringing like I do in other books when they do something I don't think they would do in the time period because everything is different.  All the main characters have special abilities.  The Aether is half magic, half science, which helps explain all the differences, and it totally works.  It's a fun believable world Kady Cross has created.

The romance gets pretty tied up in this one.  I mean if we're going for Victorian standards, I guess we're still waiting for the marriage proposal, but Emily and Sam finally declare their love for each other, and Finley convinces Griffin that she's not half in love with Jack Dandy.  Like I said before, while I still think of Finley as the main character despite the multiple viewpoints, I really thing Emily and Sam stole the show in this book.  Their romance was sweeter, in my opinion. Finley and Griffin's was more dramatic, to be sure, but it seemed over emphasized compared to the last two books, almost to give both of them more page time, instead of regulating them to the secondary characters they were this time around.  Still, I'm happy to finally see them officially together.

All in all, this is a fun continuation of the series.  If you haven't read the first ones, you should give them a try. While this isn't the last one, it mostly wraps things up, so you can survive until the next installment. for me it's an enjoyable 3.5 stars.  It was a fun, slightly different adventure from most YA (though it still contains some of the standard tropes), and I'm glad it didn't end with this book.