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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Book Review: Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk

Release Date: April 14, 2015
Author: Liesl Shurtliff
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Length: 304 pages
Source: Library Audio Book

Jack has always been told that giants are not real. But if that’s the case, how do you explain the huge, foot shaped pond in the yard, or the occurrence of strange and sudden storms in which the earth quakes and dirt rains from the sky?

When his father is carried away in such a storm, Jack gives chase in the only logical way: by trading the family cow for some magic beans that will give him access to a land beyond the clouds. He arrives to find that the giants themselves have giant-sized troubles. With the help of an overachieving little sister, a magic goose and a chatty cook (who is not interested in grinding human bones into bread, thank you very much!) Jack sets out to save his dad and save the day.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Jack is a trouble maker. Named after his many-times-great grandfather, Jack has always dreamed of being a hero and slaying giants, except as everyone has told him, giants aren't real. So without any giants to fight Jack spends his time causing mischief and mayhem. However, one day giants come down from the sky taking near everything and everyone in Jack's village with them. Now, with only a handful of giant "magic" beans Jack must figure out how to save his town and maybe solve the giants' problems as well. Jack is a very fun character, he's mischievous and likes to pick on his little sister. Though he isn't without a heroic side. He's not a heartless character who creates mischief with no regard to others, his worst crimes are purely accidental. He's a strong well-defined character who I believe will be very relatable for a younger audience.

World Building: Everyone knows the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, a story about a boy who climbs up a beanstalk to steal golden treasures from a giant. Well, this story is a little different. I was interested to see that this book wasn't a typical retelling. Instead of only focusing on the Jack and the Beanstalk story, there are other fairy tales woven throughout this much larger novel. We see tales such as the Elves and the Shoemaker, Tom Thumb, Thumbelina, and even hints of King Midas. I love it when authors add other fairy tales in with their main retelling, it, in a lot of ways, really brings this world to life so much more. The giant world is really incredible, to them, they aren't giants, so they call people Jack's size elves, and because of that, it's very easy to see how the fairy tales about smaller creatures can fit so well in this tale. I mean, it almost seems perfect for this type of retelling. There is also a bit of magic within this story and I really love how the magic was approached, it wasn't some end all be all thing that can nearly defy the laws of the universe, there's a give and take which I felt was really well ingrained into the story/

Predictability: This is probably one of the best books when it comes to a balance between predictable and unpredictable. Well, at least for me it is. Since this is not only a Jack and the Beanstalk retelling it made it harder to know what exactly was coming next. There were certain things that were pretty predictable, There were even things where I knew something or someone would be a very important part of the story but it would be hard to put my finger on just how the person or thing would help move the plot along.

Ending: So, I have to say, for the most part, I was really impressed with this ending. It does deviate from the traditional, Jack chops down the beanstalk and kills the giant, ending. And how the author changes it and fits it in with the main plot was done well. I have to say, though, everything wrapped up before the epilogue came about. If you've been around here a while you know I love a good epilogue, however here it felt extraneous, all it really does it beat in the not so subtle lesson of the book even more.

Rating:


So, it wasn't that I didn't like this book, I really did, but it's more that I know if I was a lot younger I would have thoroughly enjoyed this a lot more. My only real problems with this book were the underlying message was a bit too obvious and pronounced and the epilogue wasn't really necessary.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Book Review: Rogue Wave (Waterfire Saga #2)

Release Date: January 6, 2015
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 313 pages
Source: Library Book

Serafina, Neela, Ling, Ava, Becca, and Astrid, six mermaids from realms scattered throughout the seas and freshwaters, were summoned by the leader of the river witches to learn an incredible truth: the mermaids are direct descendants of the Six Who Ruled-powerful mages who once governed the lost empire of Atlantis. The ancient evil that destroyed Atlantis is stirring again, and only the mermaids can defeat it. To do so, they need to find magical talismans that belonged to the Six.

Serafina believes her talisman was buried with an old shipwreck. While researching its location, she is almost discovered by a death rider patrol led by someone familiar. . . . The pain of seeing him turned traitor is devastating.

Neela travels to Matali to warn her parents of the grave threat facing their world. But they find her story outlandish; a sign that she needs to be confined to her chamber for rest and recovery. She escapes and travels to Kandina, where her talisman is in the possession of fearsome razormouth dragons.

As they hunt for their talismans, both Serafina and Neela find reserves of courage and cunning they didn't know they possessed. They face down danger and death, only to endure a game-changing betrayal, as shocking as a rogue wave.

    

Review:

Protagonists: After learning about their destinies Serafina and the other mermaids descended from the Six who Ruled much search for their ancestors' talismans in order to enter the prison where Abaddon is being kept and defeat him. I was really disappointed to discover that while Ling makes an appearance for some of the book, only Serafina and Neela have chapters told from their perspectives. I was hoping and expecting that after the first book we'd see a wider range of perspectives and be able to learn more about these other mermaids. That being said though there isn't much to be done about it and from the looks of it we'll check in with the other mermaids before too long. In this book though Serafina seeks to discover more about the talismans and where they were hidden and Neela heads home to try and warn her parents of the incoming danger and to regroup, however they both encounter roadblocks on their path and need to find new strengths within themselves in order to succeed.

Romance: I honestly wasn't expecting as much romance as this book had. I'm not too sure what I can say and what will give away what I'm trying to avoid saying, but here goes. First off the only one of the six mermaids to have a romance in this book, that I caught on to, is Serafina, and her romance is complicated in more ways than I can easily explain. First off there is the fact that she feels like she's falling for Blue while she's betrothed to Mahdi, but she's not sure of Blue's condition after the raid that Sera and Neela barely escaped from. Then there's the fact that Sera does still have feelings for Mahdi, but he's not the same as he used to be, and now she's not quite sure where her heart lies. Before I go too far and ruin something or everything, I just want to say that I really enjoyed the romance in this book. I was really able to see where I wanted Serafina's romance to end up, and was able to really root for where it's going.

World Building: Now we're going to talk more about the fact that aside from some scenes with Ling the only two of the SIX main mermaids that we see are Serafina and Neela. I have nothing against those two characters, in fact since getting to know them so much from the previous installment I really like them. That being said though, since we only get two POVs for some reason the story feels smaller than it should be. Granted we find out a lot about the talismans and where they might be, but I can't shake this feeling that this book isn't quite a complete story or installment. I mean I know there are two more installments in the series so it wasn't like I was expecting the entire story to end in this book, and there's enough accomplished to where I feel as though I can't call it a filler book, but it more feels like part one of two for a standard installment. I don't quite think this is a bad thing, but that almost empty feeling doesn't really make it a good thing either.

Predictability: Don't you just love it when you predict a large twist an entire installment before it's revealed? I mean seriously I did that with at least TWO twists in this book. That's not to say that this book is extremely predictable, there are twists that blew my mind because I didn't see them coming, and there were other things that were just unexpected. Even with the twists that I called an entire installment before, there were still aspects of those twists that caught me off guard. By the way those are some of my favorite twists, when you believe you have everything figured out only to realize you don't know the half of it.

Ending: I think one of my biggest problems with this book, and why I didn't feel as though it was an entire installment and only felt like part one of two was the fact that the final climax of the book was such an internal and passive thing. I don't mind books where there's no big battle at the end of the book, but I always expect some final confrontation whether it be physical or mental, however in this book it was a lot more political. We discover so much more about the schemes going on in this ocean and that all leads up to discovering who's really in charge in one of the best twists I'd ever seen.

Rating:


This might be unfair of me since I did really enjoy the book, in fact I cannot wait until I get to the next installment, however there was just something lacking, whether it be too little POVs or no real final confrontation, I just didn't feel right giving this book 5 stars.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Book Review: Been Here All Along

Release Date: August 30. 2016
Author: Sandy Hall
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Length: 240 pages
Source: eGalley via NetGalley

Gideon always has a plan. His plans include running for class president, becoming head of the yearbook committee, and having his choice of colleges. They do NOT include falling head over heels for his best friend and next door neighbor, Kyle. It’s a distraction. It’s pointless, as Kyle is already dating the gorgeous and popular head cheerleader, Ruby. And Gideon doesn’t know what to do.

Kyle finally feels like he has a handle on life. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, and social acceptance as captain of the basketball team. Then, both Ruby and Gideon start acting really weird, just as his spot on the team is threatened, and Kyle can’t quite figure out what he did wrong…

    

Review:

Characters: Wow there are a lot of characters in this book. Well actually, not a LOT, only four POVs, but since each chapter might switch between two or three POVs, it got a bit too much sometimes, but I'll talk about that in a while, first let me introduce you to the cast. First, we have Gideon, a very organized and highly intelligent individual, who' only claim to nerddom is a love for Lord of the Rings, and sooner or later he realizes that he's starting to have feelings for his best friend. That friend would be Kyle, a bisexual captain of the basketball team who's recently having a bit of trouble in school and if something doesn't change his future athletic career might be in jeopardy, and if that's not enough not long after coming out as bisexual to his girlfriend, she starts acting a bit weird.  The other two POVs are Kyle's girlfriend Ruby, who has some sub-plots of her own, but they're too tied up in the main story for me to talk about here, and Ezra, Gideon's older brother, who comes home after trying and failing to make it big as a surfer and finds a role to play in this story. Okay, I'm going to level with you guys, I wanted to like these characters, and it's not even that I dislike them, but they just didn't seem real to me. They weren't over the top or anything, or really even two-dimensional, it's just that I couldn't find myself caring about them. There were times when I felt something, but it never really lasted, which kind of made it worse since there was so much untapped potential.

Romance: I think it goes without saying that if I couldn't find myself caring about the characters that I couldn't really find myself caring about the romance. Again, it isn't even that the romance is bad, but the situation is a bit weird. With this being such a short book there wasn't a lot of time for things to be drawn out, but the way everything went down just feels a bit weird. This book definitely has pacing issues and the romance is one of them. I will say, though, that there are times in which Gideon and Kyle have some chemistry, and they are, during some parts kind of cute together, but if I compare it to most of the romances I've read, it just doesn't tug at my heartstrings as forcefully as the others.

World Building: This book is weird. Not in terms of plot per se, but in terms of how it's paced and formatted. Like I said before, I feel like there are not only too many narrators but with the POV switching at the very least once per chapter, even though there are prompts letting the reader know when the voice is switching, it can get confusing sometimes. Then there's the plot itself, it's not weird but it does feel very cliche. Minus the LGBT aspects, it almost feels as though this story is pulled out of a cheesy teen romcom movie. Then there's the writing. The writing was very bland. There was nothing about the writing that pulled me into the story. I've read cliche stories before, things that you'd see in cheesy movies, but as long as the writing is good it's easy to see past flaws like that, but everything in this book felt very clinical, I couldn't sense any real emotion behind the words, the author fails to paint a good picture of the scene and instead resort to naming off near useless facts and telling far more than showing.

Predictability: This book didn't really have any twists, I mean, there were things that I supposed were supposed to be twists, but given how cliche this book could be they were easy to see coming. The only time I wasn't really able to predict where this story was going to go wasn't because there was good foreshadowing or the author set it up, but more that it didn't go in line exactly with the cliche. For the most part this book just sort of flowed. It never really had any mysteries or unpredictability hidden in its depths.

Ending: I want to say this ending made up for everything, that it made me change my mind about things for the most part, but it didn't. In fact this ending kind of fits right alongside everything I've said about this book so far. It's cliche, it's easy to see where everything is going to end up and while towards the end there are a couple of moments that lightly pluck at my heartstrings, for the most part, as sad as I am to say it, I was just happy that this book was over.

Rating:


I had such high hopes for this book when I wished for it on NetGalley and actually got it I was so stoked, but it soon became apparent that this story just isn't for me. It's too cliche, the writing doesn't do anything for me, and while the main couple is kind of cute together, there's just too much about this book that feels like a hot mess.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Blog Tour Book Review: The Shadow Hour (The Girl at Midnight #2) + GIVEAWAY!!!


Release Date: July 12, 2016
Author: Melissa Grey
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Length: 432 pages
Source: ARC Received for Blog Tour

A battle has been won. But the war has only just begun.

Everything in Echo’s life changed in a blinding flash when she learned the startling truth: she is the firebird, the creature of light that is said to bring peace.

The firebird has come into the world, but it has not come alone. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and Echo can feel a great and terrible darkness rising in the distance. Cosmic forces threaten to tear the world apart.

Echo has already lost her home, her family, and her boyfriend. Now, as the firebird, her path is filled with even greater dangers than the ones she’s already overcome.

She knows the Dragon Prince will not fall without a fight.

Echo must decide: can she wield the power of her true nature—or will it prove too strong for her, and burn what’s left of her world to the ground?

Welcome to the shadow hour.

    

Review:

Characters: Much like the first installment in this series, this book is told in the third person point-of-view of a variety of characters. We have Echo, our main character, who despite all her misgivings and doubts manages to keep her sarcastic humor in high supply, even rubbing off on other characters along the way. Caius, the former Dragon Prince, will do whatever it takes to see the war between the Drakharin and Avicen races come to a peaceful conclusion, but there are others out there who wish to see the destruction of one or both races. After our two main characters, there are our more secondary characters who still provide the voices for various chapters. Dorian, Caius's best friend, and loyal confidant, who while trying to help out on this mission of peace finds himself involved in a love triangle he'd never expected. Ivy, Echo's best friend, finds herself willing to put her life on the line to save not only her best friend but her entire race. Finally, we have Jasper, the ever so charismatic thief who joins this ragtag group of friends on their quest, in it for the glory he soon found another reason to stay, however, someone from his past might just jeopardize his slowly blossoming romance with the one-eyed Drakharin guard. I love all of these characters, in addition to being incredibly smart and capable characters who can get the job done despite their own misgivings, they all seem to add a sense of humor to the story as well. Instead of being a constantly serious urban fantasy these characters make it come alive with their individual personalities and senses of humor.

Romance: Remember when all we had to deal with in the romance department was Echo's easily predictable love triangle and a small one on one romance blossoming between Jasper and Dorian. Yeah, remember it while you can because this book just makes things a lot more complicated. On the Echo front, she doesn't know how she feels about Caius, or well, she knows how she's feeling she just isn't quite sure if what she's feeling for him are feelings of her own or those prompted by Rose's ever lingering conscious in her body. If that's not enough her romance with Rowan, which I still can't take seriously, might not be as over as she thought. On the Echo romance front, I think I can see where the author's going and while it's a tad on the predictable side, I'm actually interested to see how it will all eventually pan out. Then we have love triangle #2. I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that this second love triangle is, again, nothing I took seriously, maybe I should have, but I didn't. This author is pretty transparent when it comes to where these characters' hearts lie, but I do really enjoy reading these awesome romances.

World Building: Ah, it feels so good to be back in this world. After the events of the previous book, our characters are in hiding but are soon coaxed from their hiding space when it's revealed that after unleashing the firebird, there was another, far darker force, unleashed as well. As it's said, every action has an equal and opposite reaction and the opposite reaction to the firebird is terrifying. I have to say I loved this world building, as our characters grow, so does this world and at first I thought that introducing a different and more malevolent power in the second installment, after finding the firebird, would feel gimmicky or like the author was grasping for some new entity to fight, but it feels pretty seamless. With new introductions and new characters come background on old and familiar characters. We learn more about Echo's life before she met the Ala, we learn more about Caius's quest to find the firebird and the information he has that can help fight this new evil, and we get a greater understanding of Jasper's past and what or who made him what he is. As this story grows I can see an end in sight and cannot wait to see how everything builds towards the crescendo of the series.

Predictability: I have to say, for the most part, this book wasn't all that predictable. Don't get me wrong, there were definitely moments where I nearly screamed that I called something, but they weren't all that common. In fact, most of my theories, while true in a very vague sense, turned out to be a lot more wrong than right. The foreshadowing in this book is pretty incredible, with a mix of what's to come and misdirection this book does it's darndest to make sure that certain twists aren't revealed until the author wants them to be.

Ending: You guys, this ending, this ending is both a relief and a torture. At first, I thought we had seen the final climax, the big action packed moment right before the cooldown period, but in a sense, it felt too far away from the end, then it came, the real final climax, and it was epic. Not only that but then I'm expecting this big cliffhanger and trust me, while there are things that are going to leave me in torturous agony until next year when the final book comes out, the actual ending of this book isn't really a cliffhanger. There's no final twist or secret reveal, no, while the end doesn't exactly plateau, it doesn't plummet either.

Rating:


I've been trying to figure out if this rating is a surprise or not. While I did feel that the first book had one too many similarities with some other YA series, it was a solid and fantastic first installment, however, I felt like this installment hit it out of the park. I was captivated by every chapter and when it finally did end I was already craving the next installment. The Savage Dawn cannot come soon enough!

About the Author:


Melissa Grey was born and raised in New York City. She wrote her first short story at the age of twelve and hasn't stopped writing since. After earning a degree in fine arts at Yale University, she traveled the world, then returned to New York City where she currently works as a freelance journalist. To learn more about Melissa, visit melissa-grey.com and follow @meligrey on Twitter.

Website  | Blog | Twitter  | Instagram | Pinterest |  Goodreads







Giveaway:


1 winner will receive a paperback of THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT, US Only.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Book Review: League of Strays

Release Date: October 1, 2012
Author: L.B. Schulman
Publisher: Amulet
Length: 288 pages
Source: eGalley from NetGalley

This suspenseful debut follows a group of teenage misfits in their delicious quest for revenge on those who have wronged them at their high school.

When a mysterious note appears in Charlotte’s mailbox inviting her to join the League of Strays, she’s hopeful it will lead to making friends. What she discovers is a motley crew of loners and an alluring, manipulative ringleader named Kade. Kade convinces the group that they need one another both for friendship and to get back at the classmates and teachers who have betrayed them. But Kade has a bigger agenda.

In addition to vandalizing their school and causing fights between other students, Kade’s real intention is a dangerous plot that will threaten lives and force Charlotte to choose between her loyalty to the League and her own conscience.

    

Review:

Protagonist: After moving to a new school all Charlotte wants is a new start. However, when the girl who's done nothing but pick on you and was mean to you your whole life just so happens to move to your new school too, well, let's just say Charlotte didn't get her wish. One day she finds a not inviting her to join the League of Strays, a group dedicated to getting back at the people who've wronged them, and at first drawn to the enigmatic leader, Kade, Charlotte figures it would be nice to give bullies a taste of their own medicine. Soon, though, she finds out that revenge isn't so sweet, and that her growing feelings for Kade might lead her into greater danger. Honestly, for awhile I didn't know what to think of Charlotte. She isn't necessarily an unlikable narrator, but she's highly impressionable and while she keeps her sense of right and wrong, her judgement gets a bit clouded. Like most main characters, however, she grows and changes of the course of the book, some for the worse, but mostly for the better, finding her voice and learning when to put her foot down and decide what she wants for once. And so, I eventually grew to really like her character and the person she becomes.

Romance: This romance is rife with complications. At first, I was annoyed thinking that Charlotte's feelings for Kade were growing too fast, but before too long it's obvious why the writer wrote her character and her feelings for Kade the way she did. I don't want to give anything away, but right from the get-go, this romance felt off to me and it's clear that this isn't your typical "bad boy with a heart of gold" romance.

World Building: Going into this book I expected it to be dark, don't get me wrong, but I never expected it to be as dark as it is. I had expected a dark contemporary and instead received a dark psychological thriller. Again, I am at a loss for words on what to write for contemporary world building. The high school setting was very well designed and did a fantastic job at mixing some of the all too realistic cliches, in with a bit more grounded high school experience. I don't really know how else to explain it, but it was just at that perfect tipping point between realistic and a caricature of what people to believe is the average high school experience and it made for a very lively and realistic setting for this story. The League itself and the plans they come up with are both diabolical, but there's this sick satisfaction before the shit hits the fan where you want to see some of the people taken down a peg, but as the synopsis warns, things get out of hand really fast.

Predictability: With my unease for this story guiding me, I thought I knew a lot of what was going to happen. Not in that smug way where I think I have every twist and turn pegged out, but more in that way of since I thought I saw where the author was taking the story I thought I might be one step ahead. I wasn't completely wrong, but I wasn't right either. This book wants to trick you, scratch that, this author wants to trick you and I am nearly certain that even if you know that going in, you'll still be tricked by what goes on in this book.

Ending: I love endings like this. I especially love them in standalone novels. This is book has the type of ending where everything is really wrapped up, but not everything is an idealistic, it all worked out and there are no scars remaining, type of ending. As this book heads into the final climax it's obvious something big is coming, something that will change the story and lead it on into the final stretch. That being said, though, what I expected to be the final climax kind of wasn't. Instead, after that epic climax where things begin to shift, there's a smaller one near the end. One that begins to really end this story once and for all, and again, it ends with everything all wrapped up in a nice bow, but not before showing you that there are still consequences for the events of this book.

Rating:


I wasn't expecting to give this book 5 stars. Obviously after reading it, the thought did occur, but as I wrote this review I began to realize that, of course, it gets five stars. This book was fantastic, I loved the story and the message behind it, and I love that the message wasn't a huge thing constantly beating the reader over the head and... now I think I've run out of things to say. If you're looking for a great YA psychological thriller, look no further than League of Strays. P.S. I'm seriously kicking myself right now for not picking this book up sooner.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Book Review: Second Star

Release Date: May 13, 2014
Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Length: 248 pages
Source: eGalley from NetGalley

A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers.

Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete's nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she's falling hard for Pete.

A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up--and the troubled beauty trapped between them.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Wendy Darling's brothers have disappeared. Being surfers who constantly chased the next big wave she and her parents believed that's what they had done, until they never came home. Even though the case is closed and her parents believe her brothers are dead she hasn't given up hope. After graduating high school she finds herself looking for them and stumbles upon a group of squatters led by the charismatic Pete. Soon she finds herself even closer to figuring out what happened to her brothers, but soon enough her search leads her to Jas a local drug dealer and Pete's nemesis. I really like Wendy. Ever the optimist she never gives up hope of finding her brothers, even when almost everyone else says that she should. She's a strong and stubborn character who even when she finds herself caught between two guys never loses sight of her goal. I really enjoyed her journey and her development as this story unfolds.

Romance: Here's the thing, there's a love triangle in this book. Now normally I'm not a fan of love triangles since it's usually very easy to tell where the main character's heart lies. As they are sorting out their feelings for two people the reader usually already knows which makes it very aggravating to constantly read their indecision. However, even as the second love interest, Jas, becomes a contender for Wendy's heart, I was never quite sure where the story was going to go. I could see pros and cons with both guys and I love how the author did a fantastic job of making sure that the reader couldn't quite see who she'd choose. Since this is a standalone there is a choice made in this book, it's done in a nice and realistic way, neither of the romances was really rushed and since this is such a short book there wasn't really any agonizing over Wendy's choice. I'm very happy that there was not only a love triangle done right, but one done right in a standalone nonetheless.

World-Building: Going into this book all I knew about it was that it was a contemporary Peter Pan retelling, and I thought that it sounded like a nice summery book. However, I wouldn't call this a retelling. Much like some other "retellings" I've read, such as Gena Showalter's Alice in Zombieland, this is more inspired by the book rather than a straight up retelling. Characters share the same names, some even share similar motivations, but the story is almost completely different. That's not a quality I disliked, as the story was very compelling, but I kind of felt that if the author gave the characters different names I wouldn't have been able to really pick up on a Peter Pan vibe. That being said the author did create a fantastic story filled with surfing, romance, and mystery. The writing is so incredible is nearly made me want to drive out to the nearest beach and go surfing.

Predictability: This book did a pretty bang-up job in terms of predictability. At first I thought I had all the answers about where this story was going to go, but before I knew it I began doubting nearly everything. There was a fair bit of foreshadowing, but not really all that much which gave a sense of unknowing to the story. There are quite a few twists and turns to this story, some that aren't that hard to see coming, and a more that feel more like a wave crashing into you. Overall, it was a very twisted story and I was delighted to see how unpredictable it could be.

Ending: *sighs* This ending wasn't quite what I expected or hoped for. In the final climax of the book, there are quite a few twists, but it's almost over before it really begins. Then we have a fairly long cooldown period where things don't quite get wrapped up. If this wasn't a standalone novel I wouldn't have cared as much, there would still be time to fully wrap things up, and while there was enough wrapped up so that I wouldn't go crazy, it still wasn't enough. This really disappointed me because since this is such a short novel it felt like there was still space to finish the book in a much more complete way, and while I respect the author's right to end it where she did and almost understand why she did, I just can't help this sense that this story isn't quite finished.

Rating:


I feel bad for knocking a star off the rating, but how the story ended really bothers me. If the story up until that point hadn't been so phenomenal I wouldn't have cared so much, but because I loved it so much the disappointment at not getting a completely wrapped up ending was that large. All in all though if you're looking for a great summer read with some classic influence I'd highly recommend adding this one to your list!

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Book Review: Heartbeat

Release Date: January 28, 2014
Author: Elizabeth Scott
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Length: 304 pages
Source: eGalley via NetGalley

Does life go on when your heart is broken?

Since her mother's sudden death, Emma has existed in a fog of grief, unable to let go, unable to move forward—because her mother is, in a way, still there. She's being kept alive on machines for the sake of the baby growing inside her.

Estranged from her stepfather and letting go of things that no longer seem important—grades, crushes, college plans—Emma has only her best friend to remind her to breathe. Until she meets a boy with a bad reputation who sparks something in her—Caleb Harrison, whose anger and loss might just match Emma's own. Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death—and maybe, for love?

    

Review:

Protagonist: Emma's life turned upside down the day her mother died, it happened so suddenly and without warning. There was no accident, no one to blame, not really, just a brain clot that left her alive on minute and dead the next. Now her mother is being kept on life support so the baby growing inside her might have a chance to survive, but Emma doesn't care, besides the numbness is a rage for her stepfather, for making her mother get pregnant, and for keeping her alive just so he can finally have his son. Emma just floats through the world now in a cloud of grief, numbness, and anger. If you haven't caught on, Emma is not a likable protagonist, it's understandable why she's hurting, even why she blames her stepfather, but dear Lord she's dense. Part of me constantly just wanted to shake some sense into her. Obviously over the course of the book she gets better and learns to see past her haze of rage and see what's really going on, but it does take a while.

Romance: I actually really enjoyed this romance. Normally I'm not a big fan of the bad boy with a heart of gold romance trope, mainly because usually the love interest isn't really a "bad boy" but due to a misunderstanding or snap judgement because of the way he's dressed he's labeled that way. But I found that this author actually did a great job of mixing a broken "bad boy" and out broken protagonist and have them begin to fix each other and be that understanding support the other has always needed. The romance isn't' particularly slow burning, in fact there's a near instant connection, but it does take a while for their feelings of friendship and companionship to grow into something more. Usually I see authors jump the gun to get to that next milestone, but I appreciate how this author just sort of let them get to know each other and lean on each other before the romance was added to the mix.

World Building: I never know how to begin this section when it comes to contemporary novels. I mean I understand the author creates a world, even if it exists within the boundaries of our own, but it's not as though I can talk about a magic system of political intrigue in a book about an angry high school teenager who is completely lost in the world. So I'll start with this. I felt like there was a disconnect between reality and this world. I mean, it's realistic sure, no magic or whatever, but I just don't quite buy some of the characters. While I'm not particularly sheltered, I do know there's more types of people in this world than I can even fathom, but even knowing that it's still hard for me quite buy not only some of these characters but the high school setting. It's hard to describe, but as I said it just feels like a slight disconnect from reality, like the author has a vague idea of how high school is really like these days and mixes that with a few stereotypes. I'm sure that's probably not true, but it's the best way I could describe it. Besides the disconnect however, I really did love this world and the author's writing is unbelievable beautiful. There were passages that if I was reading almost any other author's writing would have barely affected me or only made my eyes water, but this author was able to make tears stream down my face in certain scenes.

Predictability: I almost want to leave this section out entirely. I mean it's not like there weren't great twists to this story, but it was more that I was so engrossed in this story that I never took the time to really think about what would happen next. I mean I always had a vague idea of how the story would end, but I never though about specifics, and when there was a twist or something unexpected happened it was never this big shocking thing, just something that made sense even if I didn't call it. I guess what I'm saying is regardless of how easy this book is to predict, it's much more about the story than it is about the surprises.

Ending: Again, I'm at a loss for words. I mean there was no final climax, no huge confrontation, just life happening, even if it is fictional. The thing is there isn't all that much I can talk about here without giving something away so I'll just make this section short. Everything was wrapped up well and while the ending was the tiniest bit more idealistic than I wanted or expected, the author did a fantastic job at balancing the ending and the subplots very well.

Rating:


So, in all honesty, if it wasn't for that disconnect, those few aspects of the world that I almost couldn't believe, this would get five stars. The writing is incredible and while the main character will get on your nerves incessantly just like she did for me, if you're a fan of harder contemporaries I'd highly recommend this book.

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Book Review: The Scourge

Release Date: August 30, 2016
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Length: 368 pages
Source: Gifted ARC

As a lethal plague sweeps through the land, Ani Mells is shocked when she is unexpectedly captured by the governor's wardens and forced to submit to a test for the deadly Scourge. She is even more surprised when the test results come back positive, and she is sent to Attic Island, a former prison turned refuge -- and quarantine colony -- for the ill.

The Scourge's victims, Ani now among them, can only expect to live out short, painful lives there. However, Ani quickly discovers that she doesn't know the whole truth about the Scourge or the Colony. She's been caught in a devious plot, and, with the help of her best friend, Weevil, Ani means to uncover just what is actually going on.

But will she and Weevil survive long enough to do so?

    

Review:

Protagonist: Ani lives in river country with her family and a whole host of others. With no real motivation other than cultural differences she and the other River People are ostracized by the townsfolk and treated as second class citizens. So it's no surprise when Ani finds herself harassed by the governor's wardens, but being captured and tested for the newly resurfaced plague known as the Scourge is a shock she doesn't quite understand. Once she finds out she has it and she and her best friend are shipped off the the quarantined Attic Island the discover more than an island of sick folks. I really like Ani, she has a hard time staying out of trouble and stands up for what she believes regardless of the consequences. She's not perfect, like everyone she has her flaws but works overcome them over the course of this book. She's a strong character and for the amount of injustice flung upon her she's going to need all the strength she can get.

World-Building: Jennifer Nielsen always does a great job with world building, especially for a Middle Grade title it's hard to find the line between too much and not enough. Everything in this book is so well described and even though the majority takes place on an island that used to be a prison, we still learn more about the world outside. There are flashbacks and key pieces of exposition from other characters that let us know more about other countries, small influences of political intrigue, and the country of Keldan itself. Before I get into my oncoming rant/explanation I do want to address that for those who enjoy them, there is a bit of a romance in this book. It's not really a real subplot but it is there. I've seen a growing trend with some books where it seems authors will pick on their main characters in the form of one or multiple seemingly completely evil individuals who take it as their God given responsibility to make the life of our protagonist the worst it can be. This usually results in a game so rigged against our hero that it seems nigh impossible to win. While I don't have a problem with adversity for our hero, I do have to admit, sometimes as is with the case of this book it can seem a bit too cruel at first, but as aggravating as it is watching the deck get stacked against our hero, if they come through to the other side in a realistic way, the rush is totally worth the torture.

Predictability: I don't know how many times I've said it before, but I'll say it again; Jennifer A. Nielsen is the queen of twists. That's not to say that there aren't predictable twists, but for the most part this author always does a fantastic job of having just enough foreshadowing here, a good re herring here, and viola! A twist that's not only hard to see coming, but that looking back makes total sense. As I said before there are fairly big things that were predictable, but never in the way I expected. Most of the time the most expected thing would occur in the most unexpected way.

Ending: As this book headed into it's final chapters I could see that while this book would wrap up all in one book, that if the author wanted there could be more books in this world. This isn't unusual for me to think in a standalone, but in this one I could almost taste a second installment, but at the same time, I knew that not only wouldn't it happen, if things went the way I saw them it wouldn't quite fit with the characters. That being said the end to this book was pretty unbelievably awesome. The final climax was a mix of tension and hilarity, all leading up to a great, if not a tad too idealistic, ending chapter. The final chapter acts as an epilogue and wraps up the story even more, in that way that almost literally puts a final period on the end of this story.

Rating:


As with most of my five star reviews recently, this wasn't really a surprise, though there was a moment in the book where I almost knocked it down half a star, my aggravation was eventually made up for by a thrilling plot, a deep mystery, and the constancy of friendship.

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