Aug 30, 2012

Book Review of The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: September 4th, 2012
Pages: 416
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Source: ARC from publisher and TLC Book Tours


Blurb: From The New York Times bestselling author of The Lotus Eaters, a novel of a California ranching family, its complicated matriarch and an enigmatic caretaker who may destroy them.


When Claire Nagy marries Forster Baumsarg, the only son of prominent California citrus ranchers, she knows she's consenting to a life of hard work, long days, and worry-fraught nights. But her love for Forster is so strong, she turns away from her literary education and embraces the life of the ranch, succumbing to its intoxicating rhythms and bounty until her love of the land becomes a part of her. Not even the tragic, senseless death of her son Joshua at kidnappers' hands, her alienation from her two daughters, or the dissolution of her once-devoted marriage can pull her from the ranch she's devoted her life to preserving.


But despite having survived the most terrible of tragedies, Claire is about to face her greatest struggle: An illness that threatens not only to rip her from her land but take her very life. And she's chosen a caregiver, the enigmatic Caribbean-born Minna, who may just be the darkest force of all. 


Haunting, tough, triumphant, and profound, The Forgetting Tree explores the intimate ties we have to one another, the deepest fears we keep to ourselves, and the calling of the land that ties every one of us together.


Review: This was a really weird book for me. Parts of it I enjoyed reading, I could tell the author knew how to weave a wonderful story, but it never really pulled me in. The book is divided into four parts, and for the first two, I wasn't really enjoying the book all that much. But once Minna entered the picture, I really became interested in where she came from and what she was all about. I never really liked her as a character (or any of the other characters, for that matter), but I did find her enigmatic and I wanted to know more.

The main problem I personally had with The Forgetting Tree were the characters. I didn't like ANY of them. Well, I sort of liked Octavio, but he wasn't in the book long enough, and I wasn't able to develop a bond with him. The rest of the characters were just selfish, annoying, whiny, insane, or any combination of those characteristics.

Claire, our protagonist, was not a character I could root for or even really understand. I didn't GET her motivations. This is hard to talk about without spoilers, but I will just say this. Throughout the book she was a doormat and once Minna came into the story, she let Minna walk all over her and control her, even to the point of cutting off contact with her children, letting the ranch fall into disrepair, and harming her health. Didn't get it. At all. I guess I am just not empathetic toward that type of person. I felt much the same about most of the characters, but more so toward Claire just because she was in the book most often.

Here's the thing though. I can handle unlikable characters if I am enjoying the story, the writing is beautiful, or there is something else about the book I am entertained by. And I really wasn't with this book. Once we got into Minna's history and why she was the way she was, I found myself enjoying it more. But by that point, there were only 150 pages left in the book. 

The writing was pretty uneven. I hated the writing style in the beginning. I was finding unnecessary comma splices, fragments, and the writing was awfully comma happy, which is a thing I personally cannot stand. That tapered off toward the middle of the book, and I found myself wondering if it was a stylistic choice. Either way, I did not really care for it. After the halfway point, I actually really found myself enjoying the writing and turning the pages. I appreciated that finally, the book had a good flow. I'm not sure what happened there, but the reason why I think it was stylistic was because of the whole Minna equation. Once she entered the picture, Claire went through a personality change--a bit of a metamorphosis--and I think the writing was trying to emulate that. It didn't work for me though. 

As far as plot goes, for me the beginning was really slow. The death of Josh really didn't do much for me because I didn't feel anything for the characters. But once Minna entered the picture (see a recurring theme here?), I found myself enjoying more of what I was reading. This is why I gave the book three  stars. It was quite a page turner at a certain point. And I really did appreciate the way the author incorporated theme and symbolism into the book's structure. But ultimately, I just didn't fall in love with this book the way I was hoping I would. It is a definite possibility that this could totally be a "me" thing. I think the right person really would enjoy this book more than I did.

Who do I recommend this book to? Lovers of the weird, lovers of books that make you uncomfortable, and readers that like psychologically strange works. If you like your head to be messed with and don't mind feeling confused, I think you may be the reader for this book. 

Ultimately, I just didn't get the point, and the ending left me wondering what it all was for. 



To purchase a copy of The Forgetting Tree from Amazon.com, click here: The Forgetting Tree: A Novel. I am an affiliate, so please, PLEASE, buy from my links. :)

Aug 26, 2012

Guest Review of Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout


Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: May 8th, 2012
Pages: 361
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Source: This is a guest review by Heartless Lyn.


Blurb: Hailing from Florida, new girl in town Katy Swartz arrives in West Virginia after her mother decides to uproot the family, moving away from the loss of her husband. Katy discovers that she is the new neighbor of the Black family–Daemon and his twin sister Dee. Daemon does very little to help Katy feel welcomed, while Dee and Katy become close friends. When Katy becomes involved with the Blacks, her life begins to change from normal teenage blogger and high schooler to something more. From that point on, nothing is the same. Katy is attacked, threatened, and ostracized by others in her small West Virginia town. Slowly, Katy begins to understand that Dee, Daemon, and the entire town is surrounded in mystery, lies and paranormal occurrences. As Katy begins to uncover the secrets of the mysterious twins, she lands right in the middle of a war between two unnatural races, and her own life hangs in the balance.


Review:  First and foremost, I didn’t have high expectations for this book. Many of my friends went crazy for it, but when I read the description, I thought that it was going to be another book attempting to ride the Twilight coattails. To be frank, there was little action until I was about 30% into the book. Up until then, trivial, small events occurred, while Daemon’s hot, god-like body played center stage. So imagine my shock when I got sucked into the book and ended up really enjoying Obsidian. I found this book to be realistic, addictive, and best of all, sincere.

I don’t want to give anything away about the storyline, but the culture that Armentrout creates is executed with substance and style. The physical attraction, the family alliance, and the budding relationship between each character were a tasteful example of how YA should be written. No side-swept best friends, no insta-love, and no flimsy paranormal elements to destroy the book and send it to the DNF pile.

Katy, thankfully, is a well-rounded character. Avoiding the Mary Sue complex, she is a shy, book blogging shut in that has no idea she is beautiful until it is pointed out (Sidenote: why does this keep occurring in YA books? Girls, it is okay to know and admit that you are beautiful. It doesn’t make you any less of a person to look in the mirror and acknowledge that you are a beautiful person. Don’t wait until a guy comes along to convince you that you are so). Her relationship with her mother is a strong, well-defined balance of power and friendship. If you go to the bookstore, it seems that every other book throws the main heroine into the role of head-of-household. It happens, but it has run its course, and frankly, it's overused and poorly accomplished. I believe that some authors do not take into account that this situation changes a young person. They do not escape from it well-balanced and without issues. Thankfully, Armentrout dodged this YA bullet and creates a mother that needs her daughter, but does not become dependent on Katy. She is a grieving mother who dives into her own storyline as she tries to move on and find her own companionship. Katy’s character was a surprise to see in fiction aimed for young adults. She's just a typical teenage girl, but she becomes special because she befriends one of the twins. She’s not a secret princess or the last of some ancient and powerful race. Dee and Katy become friends, and by proxy, Katy is yanked into the supernatural world of her next door neighbors.

Daemon. Here it is: I just did not like him. He emotionally abuses Katy, constantly calling her “not good enough” and saying that he and his sister deserve “better." Often in the story, he physically traps Katy and shadows her every move. There is a reason for his actions, but his redemption doesn’t go as deep as his horrible attitude. Then he tries to crawl back and make good with her, only to repeat the cycle. Not something I would encourage girls to read and accept. Even his godlike status annoyed me to no end. And constantly saving Katy from a horrible demise (bear, bad buy, truck) left a bad taste in my mouth. Daemon, sad to say, suffers from a touch of Gary Stew-ism. The author makes a plea bargain for Daemon (that under all of the layers of hate and snootiness, he just wants to be normal as well). A decent side shined through from time to time, but not enough to convince me that he was a decent person. The random, stalker-like run- ins by Daemon really rubbed me the wrong way. Katy does get to reverse the roles and come to the rescue herself which is a nice switch, and I tried to like Daemon, but the guy is just an ass. Despite this fact, the chemistry and attraction between Katy and Daemon was still wonderful to read. The love-hate relationship was the true center of the book, but at least it played out at the right angle. Kudos to the author! One of the factors to help save Obsidian from the romance-only pit of hell is the select portions of the book that are not dedicated to Katy and Daemon’s “true love forever” tension. Katy actually has friends, and spends quality time with her new-found circle. Even the beautiful arch rival, Ash, blends well into the storyline. The competition has her own moments of nasty and sweet, which adds to the wonderful depth of the entire story. She doesn’t spend her entire time in the book obsessing over her crush, thinking about the hot boy, or bemoaning that she is incomplete without a boyfriend. Rock on, Katy, rock on.

Dee is another character in the book that I wish to discuss. She is the twin of Dickhead Daemon, and shares his extraordinary good looks, and contains powers of her own. When I started the book, Dee’s character was in danger of coming across as needy and clingy. Dee was the embodiment of loneliness but she tugged at the good ole heartstrings with her constant need for a friend outside of her own kind. Dee was charming, sweet, and there were many times that I wished I could have hugged her. Dee was also the instigator, dragging Katy into their world. Daemon’s concern for his sister helped hold the storyline in place. It is nice to see that some books still value family as well as friendship. I hated that she and Ash were often left out of the fighting. Sadly, it was the boys who were responsible for the fighting and the stalking of the enemy.

Obsidian was a harmonious blend of romance, supernatural, humor, and sweetness. If you love the metaphysical genre, then this book is a must-have.



To purchase Obsidian from Amazon.com, click here: Obsidian (A Lux Novel). The Kindle edition is only 4.99. And yes, I am an Amazon affiliate and I earn a commission if you purchase through my links. So PLEASE do so. :)


 Thanks for the wonderful review, Lyn!!

Follow Lyn on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Heartless_Lyn


Aug 25, 2012

Giveaway of Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Time for another 5 star giveaway! I usually wait a little between review and when I actually do the giveaway, but since I loved this book SO MUCH, I just couldn't wait and had to post it right away. This time I am giving away Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. All year long I have been giving away books I have assigned a 5 star rating to. The books I have given away so far are: Five Flavors of Dumb, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Shadows on the Moon, Inhale, Shadow and Bone, Girl in Translation, Insignia, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and NOW...Stormdancer

I received a copy of Stormdancer from Netgalley and I fell in love after the first 30 pages. From that point until the end, I was mesmerized and unable to put the book down. Whenever I had a moment to read, I was running back to Stormdancer. There is a very good chance that this book will be my favorite book of 2012. The majority of my blogging friends loved it, and so did I. This one is a winner with almost every reader I have talked to. And now YOU have a chance to own your own copy!

I am posting the blurb below if somehow you have missed out on hearing about this book.


Blurb: A DYING LAND 
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger—a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.




If you are interested, you can read my 5 Star review of Stormdancer here.

This giveaway is International. If you are in the US, I will be shipping from Amazon. If you are international, I will be shipping from The Book Depository. This giveaway is for a hardcover copy of Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. You can read the synopsis and other reviews on Goodreads here. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Contest will end on 9/02/12 at midnight.

One email address per household. One Twitter account per entrant. Winner has 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. I will be checking and disqualifying any entries that are trying to cheat and game the system.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Aug 23, 2012

Book Review of Stormdancer (The Lotus War #1) by Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: September 18th, 2012
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Steampunk, Adult, Dystopia
Source: NetGalley


Blurb: A DYING LAND 

The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST

The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger—a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.


A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL

Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

Review:  I have read many good books this year. A few have been amazing. But there is always one that stands out more than the others. There is always one book that stands the test of time and you know will remain a favorite for years to come, possibly forever. For me, Stormdancer was that book. 

Yes, there is a lot of hype surrounding this book. Yes, many book bloggers and early readers have been fangirling like wackadoos. It's easy to think that maybe the reviews are overcompensating or being overly nice because the author has a huge online presence on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook. He is truly a nice guy and I think I quite like him, but that would never affect the way I feel about a book. If I hated it, I would say so. But I can readily stand up loud and clear and tell you personally that this book lives up to ALL the hype.

I don't even know what to say. I have three pages of notes and bunches of status updates, but nothing sounds right when I type it. Let's try this:




That's right. This book was so utterly brilliant, I don't even...there are no words. I normally don't include GIFs in my reviews. But how do I describe my love for the characters and the writing and the freaking magnificent world-building when there aren't enough words in the damn dictionary to describe everything I felt? Seriously, the tension in this book. It's a page turner. There were times while reading when I was pretty much like this:



Alright, let's get serious. I am going to just copy directly from my notes, since they are truthfully what I was feeling while I was reading. First of all, you should know this was a 5 star book for me from around page 30 until the end. It started with the writing being outstanding. I was in hushed awe of the beautiful prose. Then I was flabbergasted by the detailed--but never tedious world-building. Slowly but surely I found myself falling in love with Yukiko, Buruu and all the rest. The development of the characters, even the minor ones, showed the true skill of the author. When there are a lot of characters in the book, but each one has an individual voice and personality, well that's pretty impressive.

Stormdancer is published by Thomas Dunne which is an imprint of St. Martin's Press. I normally don't talk about the publisher in my reviews, but I feel here it is necessary because it is an adult imprint. This book has bigtime crossover potential, but I wouldn't call this a YA book. The subject matter is serious, there are some dark themes (environmental and religious), and it is definitely almost too complex for the YA genre. By using an adult imprint, the publisher has the ability to introduce this to a wider audience which is as it should be. I think there will be many different types of readers that enjoy this book. Some teens, some adults, but I think I would agree with the decision to use an adult imprint and not YA.

The environmental message is essential to the book because it is such an important component in the setting. Shima is a dying land due to the farming of Blood Lotus. EVERYTHING in Shima runs on Blood Lotus. Since this is a steampunk setting, you know how important fuel is. Not only is it important in their daily lives, but they also smoke it as a drug. And it's addictive. Yukiko's father is addicted to smoking lotus. The farming of lotus is polluting everything in Shima. The soil is dying, the plant life and animal life are almost extinct, and the terrible air quality forces the citizens of Shima to wear mechanical masks which most people cannot afford. People get sick and die a slow agonizing death if they do not protect themselves from the pollution in the air. There are more secrets to the production of Blood Lotus that are revealed later on, but I hope this paragraph gives you an idea of how detailed and depressing this world truly is. I kind of feel like Shima was a character in the book; perhaps the strongest character of all.

And if Shima was the strongest character, Buruu was my favorite character. It's not difficult for me to get attached to animals in literature and movies, but Buruu was something truly special. I don't want to ruin him with spoilers, but he was written in a way that made him multi-dimensional. He jumps right off the page. Buruu is not an ordinary animal; he is a mythological beast with a voice all his own. It's a voice that I think anyone with a heart will fall hard for. This is not to say that the other characters are not strong--they are--but Buruu steals every scene he is in, and even some that he isn't. I LOVED him. 




The writing was absolutely gorgeous and the plot will hook you like no other. This book is a page turner. For serious. I don't think this is a book for everyone; I think the descriptions and sensory language may be too rich for some. Stormdancer is a moderately paced book with a ton of action, but it does take a certain amount of patience and if you are the type of reader looking for a quick payoff, you won't find it here. If, however, you are looking for an epic story to get emotionally invested in (and I mean that--I sobbed more than once) with characters that feel truly real, and a setting that you can almost taste and feel, then I think this is the book for you.

I sobbed upon finishing this book. It was such an emotional experience. I think this is probably my favorite book of the year so far. Top ten ever, maybe. Either way, it is a must read. The plot twists will have your jaw on the floor and immediately upon finishing, you will want to reread this book. I know I did. Every time I thought this book couldn't possibly get better, it did. Again and again. And I'm out of words. Fin.


To purchase Stormdancer from Amazon.com, click here: Stormdancer (The Lotus War Book One). I am an affiliate, so if you purchase a copy, please use my links. :)


Aug 20, 2012

Book Review of Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy #1) by Sarah Rees Brennan

Publisher: Random House
Release Date: September 11th, 2012
Pages: 370
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: NetGalley


Blurb: Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.


But all that changes when the Lynburns return.


The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?
Review:

Have you ever had a vision of the perfect book in your mind? Pictured a setting, a theme, the storyline and characters? Maybe this makes me strange, but I always have. I've always pictured this big gothic manor in the woods--there definitely has to be a creepy forest--and it always has some form of magic (maybe witches) and a healthy romance between two teens. Obviously I am just talking about the young adult genre here, but Unspoken covered all of these things and then some.

I had heard great things about Sarah Rees Brennan before. I'm not sure I will ever read her Demon Lexicon series (it doesn't really interest me), but I jumped at the chance to read this one. The blurb really pulled me in, and I am happy to say that  it was as delightfully creepy as the blurb makes it sound. The story was really entertaining and I had a ton of fun reading this book. But if there is one area in which Unspoken stands out, it is in the characterization of its protagonist Kami. 

Kami was strong, funny, sarcastic...she's basically a fearless badass. She is definitely NOT your typical YA heroine. She would never be dependent on a man, and she would certainly never let a boy control her. She is independent all the way and she truly knows who she is. She's easy to root for. Her dialogue was witty and I couldn't wait to hear what she had to say next. Or do next. She's possibly my favorite protagonist of the year so far. It's a tight race but she really brought something special and new to the table.

The writing was pretty fantastic as well. The tone was sometimes whimsical and sometimes very serious, but it was always what it needed to be at the right time. I loved the author's word choices. The dialogue was humorous and I found myself laughing often. I don't think it's the type of humor that will agree with everyone, but I think fans of dry humor and intelligent comedy will enjoy it. 

If there is one thing to complain about--and believe me when I say there isn't much--it's that there were a couple of spots where I felt the writing was a little choppy and could have used better transitions. But this is a very minor detail and I really only noticed it, at the most, three times. The book is also a little of a slow starter. It takes a little bit of patience, but it finally got going for me around page 102. So if you are the type of person who gives up at page 50, DON'T. Stick it out a little longer. It's worth it. The beautiful writing and setting should be enough to get you there. 

The mystery completely fooled me. All along I was trying to figure it out, and I did get a few things right, but mostly...not so much. I felt kind of stupid, but at the same time, I really love it when an author manages to get one over on me. It's part of the reason why I truly enjoyed this book. The clues are there, the foreshadowing works, but it's hidden well, and that is the mark of a talented writer.

In closing, just a checklist of all the things I enjoyed:

~Dialogue
~Characters, especially Kami and Angela.
~The humor. This book was just really funny. Kami's dad was full of fabulous lines.
~The writing. Vivid, whimsical, creepy, and exactly what it needed to be at all the right times.
~The mystery. You will be fooled. And if you aren't, you are much more intelligent than I.
~The setting and sensory language. Brilliant and so vividly written. 

Bottom line: This is exactly the book I needed at the right time. I've read several disappointing books in a row and this book hit the dang spot and made me love reading again. 



Photobucket



WIN!!!


To order a copy of Unspoken from Amazon.com, click here: 
Unspoken: The Lynburn Legacy. I am an Amazon affiliate, so PLEASE buy from my links.

Book Review of Silver by Talia Vance

Publisher: Flux
Release Date: September 8th, 2012
Pages: 384
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: NetGalley


Blurb: Brianna has always felt invisible. People stare right past her, including the one boy she can't resist, Blake Williams. But everything changes at a house party where Brianna's charm bracelet slips off and time stands still. In that one frozen, silver moment, Blake not only sees her, he recognizes something deep inside her she's been hiding even from herself.


Discovering she is descended from Danu, the legendary Bandia of Celtic myth, Brianna finds herself questioning the truth of who she is. And when she accidentally binds her soul to Blake, their mutual attraction becomes undeniable.


But Blake has his own secret, one that could prove deadly for them both.


Bound together by forbidden magic, Brianna and Blake find themselves at the heart of an ancient feud that threatens to destroy their lives and their love.

Review: Silver was loaded with a lot of fun and interesting mythology. The writing wasn't bad. Unfortunately, that's all I liked about this book. There was a bad love triangle, unrealistic characterizations, a shallow storyline, and just what I felt to be some really bad messages to be sending.

Yes, I know, this is fiction. I happen to analyze every piece of literature I read from ALL angles. If you are not the type of reader that looks a little deeper and really tries to get into the themes and messages in a book, then this review may not be for you. But I do. And there were times in this book when I got pretty angry. Let me explain.

I didn't particularly appreciate how the females were portrayed in this book. Haley, Christy, and Brianna were more like frenemies than friends. They were stereotypical characters and part of the reason why I felt this book was just so, SO, shallow. They treated Brianna like a second class citizen. They didn't want her to go after a guy she liked just because Haley liked him too. But at the time, it didn't seem like Austin had any interest in Haley. And Austin was the first guy that Brianna had ever kissed. Haley had the leadership role in the group and therefore she got to choose any guy she wanted. Haley had never even mentioned Austin before. 

There were a couple of spots of slut-shaming. And y'all know how I feel about that. Good thing I was over a hundred pages into this book or it would have ended up flying at the wall. Well, maybe not a good thing for the author. I would have stopped reading and not written this review. And I am JUST getting started. 

Let me describe the girls in this book for you. We have Haley, the leader of the group--the beautiful one, snobby and self-entitled; she treats Bri like crap most of the time because she just can. Then there is Christy. She's the stereotypical girl who loves sex and is portrayed as being the "s" word that I will not say and somehow a negative character. Oh, and she's also air-headed.  At one point she says that she thinks Sigmund Freud is a senior at their high school. Yes, really. Then there's Bri. See if this sounds familiar. She's the quiet invisible girl who thinks she's ugly. But she really isn't. She's actually hot but the bracelet her grandma gave her to wear makes her almost invisible and plain looking. I mean, WOW. This was some original characterization. *sarcasm*

Then there is the love interest. Or love interests. Yes, there is a love triangle. As if this book weren't bad enough, on top of it all is a crappy love triangle. For a major portion of the book, Blake treats Bri like crap. He's a player with girls always hanging all over him and she chases after him and follows him in her car and is a pathetic hot mess. She keeps a record of 57 JOURNAL ENTRIES summarizing their encounters. She says this is because she wants to chronicle how invisible she is, but still. She has been obsessed with this guy for a LONG TIME. And he is a TERRIBLE PERSON. And she stalks him. And lets him say rude things to her. Brianna is not an emotionally healthy girl. This is not normal teenage behavior.

Blake continues to reject her, all the while blaming it on the bracelet that makes her invisible. Which very well may be true, but I guess what I am saying is that I just think the ideas in this book are pretty gross. That a guy treating a girl like that can be justified by a bracelet. Treating a girl like Blake treats Bri is never okay, no matter what the reason. He tells her he cares about her, and then the next time she sees him, there are two girls hanging on him. And then there is Austin. He actually treats Bri well and seems to care about her, but she can't date him because her friends won't let her. 

SPOILER WARNING! Now here comes the fun part. About halfway through the book, Blake all of a sudden turns into Prince Charming and Austin starts acting like a shithead. Without ANY warning whatsoever. It completely did NOT fit the characterizations that the author had built up. It was a load of crap and it came out of nowhere. Terrible writing. I got over that part though, and once I knew who was who, I was able to enjoy some of the final pages of this book. Like I said, I enjoyed the mythology. It was the characterizations and themes I had an issue with.SPOILER END.

Before this review gets too long (too late), I'm just going to quickly bullet point the other issues I had with this book:

~Too much dialogue and a lack of sensory language.
~Some of the writing is choppy and doesn't flow well.
~The idea that women are called "breeders." GAG ME. Misogynistic.
~There were times when the author infodumped when it would have been told better through dialogue. 
~Corny metaphors. See the quote below for an example.
~At one point, a girl who was cheated on blamed the girl her boyfriend cheated with. Sexism. Gross.

I actually did like the twist. But that's as far as my like for this book goes. I am going to close with the corniest line in the entire book, in my opinion. Although there are many.


"Bathed in starlight, his light, eyes shining silver. His lean legs are visible beneath the cloth that ties just below his waist. His chest is bare. And when he smiles, my stomach does enough double back handsprings to make the varsity cheer squad."
Photobucket


No. JUST, no. This one is not recommended. If you choose to read it, do so at your own peril.





Aug 18, 2012

Book Review of Outpost (Enclave #2) by Ann Aguirre

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: September 4th, 2012
Pages: 336
Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult
Source: I received an ARC from MacKids in exchange for my honest opinion.


Blurb: Deuce’s whole world has changed. Down below, she was considered an adult. Now, topside in a town called Salvation, she’s a brat in need of training in the eyes of the townsfolk. She doesn’t fit in with the other girls: Deuce only knows how to fight.


To make matters worse, her Hunter partner, Fade, keeps Deuce at a distance. Her feelings for Fade haven’t changed, but he seems not to want her around anymore. Confused and lonely, she starts looking for a way out.


Deuce signs up to serve in the summer patrols—those who make sure the planters can work the fields without danger. It should be routine, but things have been changing on the surface, just as they did below ground. The Freaks have grown smarter. They’re watching. Waiting. Planning. The monsters don’t intend to let Salvation survive, and it may take a girl like Deuce to turn back the tide.


Review: I was really looking forward to the sequel to Enclave. I really enjoyed that book and it is definitely one of my favorite post-apocalyptic novels. But before I go forward with my review of Outpost, I need to give you a little background on what I thought of Enclave back then and what I think of Enclave now.

When I first started reading YA again, Enclave became one of my favorite reads immediately. I was new on the blogging scene, and I was still finding my feet and developing my tastes in literature. It's no secret that other bloggers influence your tastes and help you develop your own. I started reading reviews of Enclave and thinking about the way Stalker was portrayed as a love interest, even though he was the former leader of a gang that raped women to propagate their numbers, and possibly did some raping of his own. And I realized how damn YUCKY that was. I'll talk about that more later in my review of Outpost, but let's just say that I still like Enclave and think the story is great, but I do believe it was a TERRIBLE decision to turn Stalker into a love interest and make the romance between Fade and Deuce into a love triangle. 

This bad decision of a love triangle continues into Outpost. I can see places where the author tries to make Stalker into a good guy and prove to the reader he is a changed man, and that may very well be, but he should still NEVER be a love interest. I was literally (yes, literally) nauseous over this. It was never actually said whether he raped any of the girls himself, but I'm going to have to assume that he did since it was never stated that he didn't. I'd like to show you the big fat paragraph I wrote about the situation while reading this book.


"You can't turn a former rapist into a love interest. You just can't. I understand he has regrets. He was in a gang and they did it to keep their numbers up. For survival, which I still don't like, but whatever. But you can't just turn around and have that guy be a romantic lead. Apologetic, yes. Maybe even an anti-hero. But not a love interest. This guy should never be allowed to touch a woman in that way again. Makes me sick, honestly."


And it's true. I could easily see him being a friend, someone who fought with them, and helped them stay alive. Someone that maybe sacrifices himself for the good of the group. But not a love interest. Ick. He was like the Jacob of this series. Deuce loves Fade but she kept thinking that maybe Stalker was better for her because he was tougher and had been through more. He keeps coming back for more and she keeps turning him down. The problem is that Deuce actually thinks that Stalker is a great guy. But he's not. I don't care how he acted in the book, I can never forget where he came from. It's pretty gross. But I think I've said enough on that.

I also had issues with Deuce. She's not all that likable in this book. She was actually a snob. I don't know how many times she pissed and moaned about the townspeople and acted like she was better than them. And she wasn't. She kept calling married/committed men and women "breeders." It was remarked upon that the townspeople didn't like that she called them that, and yet she continued to do it. Learn from your mistakes. You live in a different society now and you need to adapt. Who are you to think you are better than them because they believe differently than you? I just really did not like her character very much. 

This book was paced all over the place. I could have slept through the first 70 pages and not missed much at all. Nothing happened. Compared to the breakneck pacing of Enclave, most of this book was a snoozefest. So don't expect this to be as exciting as Enclave because it is not even close. Towards the middle, there are some exciting scenes with the Freaks, and then it picks up from there. But you have to muddle through a lot of set-up and infodumping to get there. 

The one thing I can rave about is the writing. Ann Aguirre is a talented writer. And I love reading her words. They jump off the page and flow really well. That is clearly her strength. But her characters and the messages they are sending need work. She needs to quit with the love triangles and bad characterizations. I hate love triangles. They are old news now, and I know this series was already headed in that direction and it was impossible to change it, so perhaps I have just outgrown them. I don't mind love triangles if they are done well, but this one was terrible. I want a relationship between Fade and Deuce. Not this gimmicky Stalker crap. I'm tired of him coming between them when he shouldn't even be a consideration for a romance in the first place. 

As far as the world-building goes, you don't learn much more in this book. It says in the author's note in the end that you will have to wait for book three to get the answers you are seeking. So as to how this post-apocalyptic landscape came about in the first place? You will receive NO answers. There are a couple of questions about the Freaks themselves that are answered, but that is ALL you are getting. I was disappointed in that. I think the background of a dystopian landscape is so important for believability. So the entire time I am reading, I feel like I am missing something because I don't know WHY things are the way they are.

I know it doesn't seem like I liked this book much, and maybe I didn't. I'm really invested in this series and so I was a little lenient with my ratings because I really care what happens to these characters. Well, I care about Fade and Tegan anyway. Deuce can go play in traffic for all I care. But what can you do? It just felt like a completely different book than Enclave

I guess that's it for my review. I was disappointed. I expected more. But I will still finish out the series and read book three. Might as well now. 



Buy a copy of Outpost from Amazon.com here:  Buy Outpost. I am an Amazon affiliate, and I will earn a commission if you buy from my links. So please do! MWAH!


Aug 17, 2012

Book Review of Origin by Jessica Khoury

Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: September 4th, 2012
Pages: 372
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Source: ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Blurb: Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home—and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin—a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.

Origin is a beautifully told, shocking new way to look at an age-old desire: to live forever, no matter the cost. This is a supremely compelling debut novel that blends the awakening romance of Matched with the mystery and jungle conspiracy of Lost.


Review: I had been looking forward to reading Origin since I heard about it last year some time. The premise sounded original and really entertaining. And you know what? It truly was. I didn't end up caring for this book very much, but it does have some good things to offer, and I'm going to get those out of the way first.

I can tell that Jessica Khoury did lots of research and did it well. She nailed the flora and fauna of the Amazon rain forest and made it come alive. The book was atmospheric and the setting is not one you encounter often. That part of the book was truly a pleasure to read. It was easy to get lost in the book and feel like you were really there with the characters. The beautiful prose helped as well. The thing is, I would have gotten lost in the book even more if I had actually liked the characters and subject matter.

I liked ONE character in this book. And the Jaguar. That was it. Pia was unlikable to me. She was naive, weak, and as someone who was supposed to be immortal, I found her pretty pathetic. Eio made a misogynistic statement early on that really pissed me off, and once that happened, there was no redeeming himself (see my Goodreads status update for the comment). Though I do not think he was a bad person, he did nothing for me as a love interest. I didn't believe in the chemistry between Eio and Pia, and I really wish they had remained friends. They were only together for a few scenes before it was true love. I wouldn't call it instalove, but it was pretty damn close. Does there HAVE to be a romance in every young adult book? That's why I enjoy reading YA by male authors sometimes. They usually focus on the story and less on the romance, if there even is one. 

I also had issues with some of the dialogue. Some of it felt unnatural and really clunky. It wasn't that bad, I just had issues with everyone being SO SERIOUS all the time. Everyone spoke in perfect English, there was never any slang, and I just felt like the characters (except one) were all cardboard cutouts. I was just very underwhelmed. There was no one to root for. Hard to explain, and I know some are enjoying this book, so it could totally be me.

I mentioned in my status updates that I would not read this book if you are an animal lover. I still stand by that statement. You will be horrified. There are several scenes of animal torture and testing in Origin. One is in the opening pages, there is one in the middle, and then towards the end, there is one so bad I ended up sobbing and having to skip over most of it. Don't do it to yourself. They were REALLY hard for me to read. And though I understand why they were included in the story, I found them to be too much. Too graphic. And almost as if they were just added for shock value.

To top everything all off, I was pretty unimpressed by the ending. I agree with the way the author wrapped things up, I just found the writing and style anticlimactic. I did feel the ending was a little too tidy, though I am not sure there was another way to end it. It was pretty predictable and a little too happy for me. I saw it coming. Sometimes the bittersweet is better. It's not all happily ever after, but most of it is. 

Ultimately, I was just really unimpressed with this book. I'll be honest, I was expecting a lot, and it just did not live up to the hype. Definitely readable and I made it to the end, but it's not one I can recommend. Though it is getting mixed reviews, so you may want to try it if you are okay with the things I mentioned. I will definitely try this author in the future. She can write, but this book didn't do anything for me.




Aug 15, 2012

Giveaway of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

I haven't been reading as many 5 star books lately as I was earlier in the year. As a result? Less giveaways. I hate that, but what can ya do? I'm only putting my seal of approval on FANTASTIC books. I don't give away that star rating often. So far this year, I have given away Five Flavors of Dumb, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Shadows on the Moon, Inhale, Shadow and Bone, Girl in Translation, Insignia, and now I am giving away The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente! THAT is a mouthful. I won a copy of this book way back when from a blog giveaway. Thank you to whoever that was. I finally got around to reading it and I'm so glad I did. It was unfrickingbelievable! The characters are some of the best I have read this year. And it is such an intelligent and whimsical book. Check the blurb below to see if it is something you would be interested in.


Blurb: Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.

With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.


If you are interested, you can read my 5 Star review of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making here.

This giveaway is International. If you are in the US or Canada, I will be shipping from Amazon. If you are international, I will be shipping from The Book Depository. This giveaway is for a paperback copy of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. You can read the synopsis and other reviews on Goodreads here. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Contest will end on 8/22/12 at midnight.

One email address per household. One Twitter account per entrant. Winner has 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. I will be checking and disqualifying any entries that are trying to cheat and game the system.





a Rafflecopter giveaway

Aug 14, 2012

Book Review of The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: Septermber 1st, 2012
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult, Historical
Source: I received a physical ARC of this book.


Blurb: A spine-tingling tale of steampunk and spies, intrigue and heart-racing romance! When Katharine Tulman's inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.


Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.


As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle's world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it. With twists and turns at every corner, this heart-racing adventure will captivate readers with its intrigue, thrills, and romance.
Review: The Dark Unwinding was definitely one of my favorite books of 2012 so far. I wanted more than anything to give it 5 stars, but in the end, I couldn't. The writing wasn't perfect and I did find it dry in a couple of places. I found it a little too simple as well. I thought there were a couple of places in toe book where things could have been explained better, and I was left confused trying to interpret events for myself. I had to go back and re-read and I hate that more than anything. To me, that's an automatic one star deduction. And it makes me mad that I had to do that. But as far as the negative goes, those are really the only complaints I have. 

Now I get to talk about the fun stuff. And the one thing that blew me away in this book more than anything were the characters. WOW. WOW. I cannot express in words how much they won me over. Especially Uncle Tully. I mean...I have no words. He is possibly one of the sweetest, most intelligent, and wonderful characters I have ever had the pleasure of reading about. He jumps off the page. He is so well-developed, and he is REAL. What's that? He's not real? *punches you in the face for saying that* I was so emotionally involved in this book that I was worried I was going to be devastated. The other characters were great too but Uncle Tully was the best. My favorite thing was how he called Katharine "Simon's baby." It just warmed my heart. I do believe Uncle Tully was Autistic. It was never specifically stated (unless I missed it) but implied. And I absolutely LOVED the portrayal of the disorder. I think the author did a FANTASTIC job painting it in a respectful way. Uncle Tully is a character you will absolutely fall for. You WILL NOT feel sorry for him because he is a unique character with wonderful traits. The other characters respect him and treat him as an equal which is as it should be. 

The story was incredibly entertaining. There is a mystery to solve, but also, Katherine has a decision to make. You will know right away which decision it is going to be, but it is an enormous amount of fun getting there. You will fall in love with the setting which is a character in itself, and you will want to walk this estate and be a part of this story. The Dark Unwinding is the type of book you escape into and do not want to put down. For me, the rest of the world fell away, and it was just me and this great, GREAT book. Like I said earlier, in places the writing was a little too simple for me and I wish a couple of things had been explained better, but it's a memorable book that you will want to add to your personal library immediately. I don't re-read many books but I can easily see myself re-reading this one.

I know some are classifying this one as steampunk, but I don't really agree with that. There are a few steampunk elements, but for me it needs more than that to fit the genre. It's more of a historical novel for me, and it certainly isn't fantasy which is another genre classification I am seeing. 

As for the romance in the book, it was sweet and I loved it. I usually don't care for the romance in YA books, but this one never overpowered the story. It was always about the story first, then the romance, which is just how it should be. Lane as a character is a love interest you can get behind. He is respectful, romantic, and he genuinely cares about the estate and Uncle Tully. He wants what is best for every character in this book, and yet he is still brooding and sexy. He had personality, and whenever her showed up in the book, he lit up the scene. He is one of many reasons you should read this book. 

I loved almost everything about The Dark Unwinding. I would recommend it to anyone who loves heartfelt characters, an intricate story, an atmospheric setting,  and strong world-building. 


To purchase a copy of The Dark Unwinding from Amazon.com, click here: The Dark Unwinding.

Aug 13, 2012

Book Review of WANT by Stephanie Lawton

Publisher: InkSpell Publishing
Release Date: June 7th, 2012
Pages: 318
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Blurb: Julianne counts the days until she can pack her bags and leave her old-money, tradition-bound Southern town where appearance is everything and secrecy is a way of life. A piano virtuoso, she dreams of attending a prestigious music school in Boston. Failure is not an option, so she enlists the help of New England Conservatory graduate Isaac Laroche.

Julianne can’t understand why Isaac suddenly gave up Boston’s music scene to return to the South. He doesn’t know her life depends on escaping it before she inherits her mother’s madness. Isaac knows he must resist his attraction to a student ten years his junior, but loneliness and jealousy threaten his resolve.

Their indiscretion at a Mardi Gras ball—the pinnacle event for Mobile’s elite—forces their present wants and needs to collide with sins of the past.

Will Julianne accept the help she’s offered and get everything she ever wanted, or will she self-destruct and take Isaac down with her?

Review: WANT by Stephanie Lawton was one of those books you stay up all night reading. It was impossible to put down. I don't say that about very many books, but this one kept me reading until the early hours of the next day. It's not a perfect book, but what it does have is a great story and compulsive readability. 

If you love books with a music theme and background, you probably will enjoy WANT. I loved the way the author wrote the music scenes. The sensory language was fantastic and so well written. I appreciated that the protagonist was a fan of Rachmaninoff. She's  not the only one. I really did appreciate the usage of classical music. I'm generally a big fan of books with a music theme. This one was no different. 

The characters are also extremely well-developed. You may not like them, but there is no denying that they are flawed and in possession of a multi-faceted personality that jumps off the page. Even Julianne's mother, who I hated (you are supposed to), was a character full of depth. I believe that writing great characters is the author's strength.

As far as the writing itself goes, it could have used a little work. Let me explain. Except for the music scenes, I found the rest of the book to be lacking in imagery and sensory language. There was almost too much dialogue. I could have used less telling and a little more description. 

I also had other issues with the dialogue. It didn't flow as well as it could have. Dialogue tags were practically nonexistent. That's bad. You don't want excessive dialogue tags, but you also have to be able to tell who is talking. I found in quite a few areas that I didn't know who was speaking, and I had to read backward to make sense of it. There are many different types of dialogue tags. There are plenty of different ways to practice using them, and it takes skill, but I couldn't find it here, unfortunately. I found most of the scenes with conversation jarring, and there were A LOT of scenes with dialogue.

I was also annoyed and a little creeped out by Julianne constantly calling her father "Daddy." She's a grown woman. I'm not saying no one does this, but I do think in real life that the word is used sparingly. Most people use it when they are trying to be cute or sweet. It's not something that's generally used every day. It got annoying. And then some of the characters would call Julianne's father "daddy" too. It was really...strange, and it made me uncomfortable. It's totally a personal choice, I know that, but it needs to be noted. It bothered me. 

You will find a love triangle in this book. If that bothers you or you are tired of them, you probably won't like this one. BUT...I did think it was remarkably well done. Both of the love interests are interesting characters. I can see women being fans of both of them. They have flaws, they feel like real people, and I really believed in Julianne's confusion. I understand why she had a hard time making a choice. 

As far as the rest of the story goes, there are many plot details I would like to chat about, but I can't without spoiling things. I had a few issues with the theme of abuse, and I didn't particularly care for the way Isaac treated Julianne. There were things he did that angered me, but more than that, I was angered by Julianne's reaction to the things he did. When a man grabs your arm and causes a lasting bruise, you don't feel flattered or LIKE that kind of attention. But Julianne did and I kind of think that this sends the wrong message. Julianne was a messed up character herself, but I still didn't care for that reaction.

As far as the way the book ended, I thought it was abrupt. I thought a few of the loose ends could have been tied up better. But I do agree with the way the author ended the story. She did the right thing and I think it was important and almost the ONLY way the book could end. It probably will disappoint a few readers, but what can you do?

I know it doesn't seem like I liked this book much, but I did. I just had some issues. I could easily recommend this book to the right person. It's definitely not a book for everyone. Music lovers, fans of young adult romance, teen angst, and a lot of drama will probably like this book. It really depends on what your reading preferences are. If you decide to read it, please feel free to stop by and tell me what you thought.



To purchase a copy of WANT from Amazon.com, click here: Want.
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