Friday, December 30, 2011

My Best and Worst of 2011 and Most Coveted of 2012

Yep, those good old year-end posts where book bloggers get all nostalgic about the books they read and loved during the year. Me? I also get nostalgic about what I don't like because bad books and good books are equally important to me. First, here are my top five favorite books read in 2011 in reverse order (links go to my review of the book):

5. Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
4. Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
3. Shine by Lauren Myracle
2. Entwined by Heather Dixon
1. Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

And now we get to my five least favorite reads of 2011 in reverse order (links go to my review of the book):

5. Halo and Hades by Alexandra Adornetto (They tied.)
4. Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
3. Flecks of Gold by Alicia Buck
2. Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter
1. Watched by Sharde Richardson

Honestly, I think the Halo/Hades duo is the worst of all of them despite it not being number one, but I expected those to be bad. In my twisted little mind, books I expected to be good but were bad are much worse than books I knew would be terrible.

Part three of my post: My most coveted novels of 2012! There are so many beautiful, interesting books lined up for 2012 and these ten (in no particular order) are the novels I'm looking forward to the most. Links go to the Goodreads page:

1. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
2. Body and Soul by Stacey Kade
3. Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh
4. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
5. Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
6. Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins
7. Immortal Hearts by Ellen Schreiber
8. Hallowed by Cynthia Hand
9. When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen
10. Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Ah, 2011. A year of shit going down in YA (Katie Crouch's badly-received Slate article, the YA Saves movement, the Bitch Magazine debacle, the YA Mafia, the Wicked Pretty Things anthology pretty much falling apart thanks to its editor, Shine being nominated for the National Book Award and then withdrawn to much outrage, just to name what comes to mind immediately), plenty of good books, just as many bad books, friends made over books, friends lost over books, authors behaving quite naughtily, the loss of some great authors, and a partridge in a pear tree the discovery of great new authors.

I think I'm looking forward to 2012. More good books, more bad books whether or not I know they'll be bad, big changes coming in my life, and so much more. I wish everyone a happy new year and may you read as many great books as you can stand!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Entwined by Heather Dixon

Title: Entwined
Author: Heather Dixon
Publisher: HarperCollins/Greenwillow Books
Release Date: March 29, 2011
Pages: 480 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Bought it thanks to Epic Reads Epic Deals, which reduced the price of this ebook and nine others to 99 cents. It's still going through January 31st, 2012, so check that out while you can if you have an ebook reader. More publishers should do stuff like this. JUST SAYIN'.

Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.
 
The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.
 
Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.
 
But there is a cost.
 
The Keeper likes to keep things.
 
Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

Review:

In this retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Princess Azalea and her eleven sisters are in mourning after the loss of their mother, who died after giving birth to the twelfth princess, Lily. Locked up inside their home and pushed away by their father at a time when they need each other the most, the girls are miserable... until they discover a magic passageway that leads to a land of silver and beauty. The Keeper, the man that is trapped there, extends an invitation to the girls, allowing them to come back every night and dance their troubles away. Such an offer comes at a price and Azalea must find a way to put an end to the Keeper before he hurts her loved ones.

For having such a large cast, you would think it would be easy to start mixing up characters and be unable to remember who is who and who likes what. Wrong! Each and every one of the twelve princesses has their own traits and makes it easier to remember who is who. I certainly never mixed up Jessamine, the princess that rarely speaks, with Ivy, who loves to eat Personally , my favorites were Delphinium and Bramble. Girls with a flair for the dramatic (the right kind, the kind that does not irritate me) are so much fun and yet so hard to find. Well, Bramble is more enthusiastic than dramatic, but it's close enough. I love them both.

The writing flowed so well and more than a few times, it was. It brought to mind the Theatre Illuminata series by Lisa Mantchev, which is the absolute best thing it could do because I love that series to death and beyond. Here's one little snippet that made me giggle:
"Is d-dancing allowed?" Clover stammered.

Azalea bit her lip and turned her head away.

"Oooh!" Delphinium lifted a dainty hand to her forehead, closed her eyes, and fell back onto the wood floor. Thum-thump thump.

She lay on the floor, unmoving.

"Oh, get up, Delphi," said Bramble. "When people really faint, they bang their heads up on the floor. It's very unromantic.
There's the strangest similarity between the Keeper, a pretty creepy man I had fun reading about and whose twist I saw coming but OH WELL, and the lead love interests in many currently popular YA paranormal romance books (none of whom shall be named because we know who they are). If I had to compare how certain YA "heroes" act toward their leading ladies and how the Keeper treats Azalea, I would have to say they're almost alike. The difference? The Keeper is the antagonist, not a love interest. What does that say for the state of some of the love interests in YA right now? Not a lot of good, I'll tell you.

Okay, I admit, that was a very cheap shot. I'm full of them today.

Yes, Entwined had a few issues. It develops slowly and the little bits and pieces that are given out at a time might not be enough to keep all readers invested. Heck, I was loving each and every page and even I had trouble keeping my attention on it sometimes! (Okay, maybe that was because I was watching InuYasha while reading much of the novel.) Anyone looking for an actiony book that moves quickly will be pretty disappointed. I should take a star off for it. Will I? No! I am so in love with this lovely, lovely book that it gets its lost star back. It has inspired me to happily squee and as regular friends and readers of mine might now, I AM NOT SO EASILY INSPIRED TO HAPPILY SQUEE OVER BOOKS (unless kittens are involved).

Bonus, but did you know that this author is awesome? Because she is. I found her blog when I was looking to see if she was busy writing away on any other books at this time (and woe, I do not think she is) and she's so funny! Like the little comic strips that show up and how back in March 2011 when her book first came out, she had a giveaway of her book where you entered by coloring in one of three pictures in any medium you wanted and sending it in. This was one of said pictures:



I will not lie: I laughed. I laughed and said, "Oh, that is so Bramble." Fans of fluffy novels so adorable that you start squealing, "This is so effing cute!" (which I have been doing since before I even finished the book) need not look any further. Here is your next read.

5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Ignite by Kaitlyn Davis

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Title: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Pages: 387 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Amazon Vine-provided ARC

Even in the future, the story begins with once upon a time...

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

In this thrilling young adult debut novel, the first of a quartet, Marissa Meyer's rebooted fairy tale introduces readers to a heroine and a masterfully crafted world that isn't the Cinderella you remember--but it's the one you won't forget.

Review:

It’s been nearly 126 years since the end of the Fourth World War and world peace, but another threat just as deadly as war has developed: letumosis, the blue fever. Cinder, a cyborg and the best mechanic in all of New Beijing, is devastated when her stepsister Peony contracts the disease, she is sent away to become a test subject so a cure might be found. What doctors find when they test her and her slowly developing feelings for Prince Kai throw her into the struggle against the Lunar Empire and lead her to uncover secrets about the past she can’t remember. The fate of the entire planet may rest on Cinder’s shoulders.

The world in which Cinder resides has a lot than can be explored--and that most likely will be explored later, since Cinder is the first of a quartet. Unfortunately, little of that world is explored deeply in this first book; it's more of an introduction. It's one I had a lot of fun reading about and was almost always entertained by, but an introduction nonetheless.

Cinder the character was such fun to read through the eyes of and get to know; though there were momentary shifts to two other points of view, most of the novel is seen through Cinder's eyes in third-person. Her developing romance with Kai never completely won me due to its insta-love-esque beginnings and a lack of investment in them, but as separate characters, I like both of them. One thing I wanted more from concerning Cinder was a deeper exploration of her. So she's a little over a third cyborg--how much of her is really her? How much might come from her circuitry? Could she have artificially intelligence but be programmed to think she is a human?

The biggest strike against Cinder as a novel is how painfully predictable the biggest twist of the novel was. From page 50 onward, I was nearly jumping in my seat and shouting in my head, "I know! I know! [sorry, not telling you]" but the twist was not revealed by the novel until the last ten pages or so of the book. Spending nearly 350 pages with the knowledge of the big twist and the book's refusal to confirm it until the very end was frustrating and it never fares well for books to be so predictable.

For most of the novel, I cruised through with little regard for the characters or investment in their various predicaments. It wasn't until the climactic scene at the ball that I finally, finally got into it and started caring about everyone. It's not a good sign that it took so long, but having that happen late in the game is better than it never happening at all, right?

Cinder was both less than I expected it to be and much, much more. That may not seem like it makes sense, but it does. I suppose I can say I recommend it. It isn’t perfect by a long shot and yet it’s still a fun ride that will surely improve with each book.

4 stars! (But let's call this more of a 3.5, hm?)



What am I reading next?: Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Burn Bright by Marianne de Pierres

Happy holidays, everyone! I hope everything is going well for you. May 2012 bring good tidings and even better books for all of us.

Title: Burn Bright
Author: Marianne de Pierres
Publisher: Random House Australia
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Pages: 316 pages (paperback)

Into a world of wild secrets and deadly pleasures comes a girl whose innocence may be her greatest strength.

In Ixion music and party are our only beliefs. Darkness is our comfort. We have few rules but they are absolute . . .

Retra doesn’t want to go to Ixion, the island of ever-night, ever-youth and never-sleep. Retra is a Seal – sealed minds, sealed community. She doesn’t crave parties and pleasure, experience and freedom.

But her brother Joel left for Ixion two years ago, and Retra is determined to find him. Braving the intense pain of her obedience strip to escape the only home she’s ever known, Retra stows away on the barge that will take her to her brother.

When she can’t find Joel, Retra finds herself drawn deeper into the intoxicating world of Ixion. Come to me, whispers a voice in her head. Who are the Ripers, the mysterious guardians of Ixion? What are the Night Creatures Retra can see in the shadows? And what happens to those who grow too old for Ixion?

Retra will find that Ixion has its pleasures, but its secrets are deadly. Will friendship, and the creation of an eternal bond with a Riper, be enough to save her from the darkness?

Listen well, baby bats. Burn bright, but do not stray from the paths. Remember, when you live in a place of darkness you also live with creatures of the dark.

Review:

After her brother's escape from their strict home to Ixion, the land of never-sleep and ever-night, Retra and her family are assigned a warden and watched 24/7. After so long without her brother, the one person who made her life in the Seal South bearable, she decides to follow him to Ixion and convince him to come with her--not back to their home, but somewhere else. The flashing lights, parties, and people she encounters on Ixion threaten to distract her. Who are the Ripers, and what is the secret behind Ixion that they're trying to keep hidden?

Two days was all it took me to finish Burn Bright after pining after it for close to a year. The mix of a great main character in quiet Retra, just enough details dropped in to keep the reader interested, just enough details left out to keep the reader going, and a dystopian world all its own kept me hooked and up later than I should have been just so I could finish reading. Maybe it helped a little bit to be thrown in and forced to pay attention so I wouldn't miss anything.

Yes, another dystopian. I know, I know, there are a million dystopian novels and series out there right now and while some are good, most aren't worth the paper they're printed on or their large advances. This novel right here is one of the good ones.  I'm not big on the dystopian trend and never have been, so I hope it means something when I say it. Ixion is a world to remember and while a smart reader may pick up the hints and figure out the big secret before it's revealed, it remains shocking nonetheless.

While I did love Burn Bright, it still had its issues. The explanation as to why minor antagonist character Cal was the way she was didn't work for me; I still felt she was a cardboard character that could have been written better. The cycles of Retra asking people something/other characters infodumping on her and someone asking Retra what happened to her/she tells them/the other character is shocked got old quickly. As beautiful as the world of Ixion sounded and as lush as the descriptions were, I had a lot of trouble coming up with a mental visual of Ixion and all its churches and clubs.

This may be the one time I wish I lived in Australia. Though the thought of living there makes me think OH MY GOD GIANT EFFING SPIDERS ARACHNOPHOBIA IN OVERDRIVE or something along those lines, it would mean I could have easier access to a copy of Angel Arias, the second book of this trilogy. If only I had the money to order it right now... Time to start saving, I think.

I really want to see this published around the world so more readers can enjoy it, so everyone who wants to see it brought to their country should:
4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Entwined by Heather Dixon

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Watched by Sharde Richardson

Title: Watched
Author: Sharde Richardson
Publisher: Jolt Books
Release Date: May 30, 2011
Pages: 278 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.

Mikayla doesn't want much: just to rock out to her favorite band, become the next Kwiki Stop video gaming champion, and keep her Q-tip habit under control. What she does want is the sight of the sudden and inexplicable dark auras around everyone to stop. Problem is, those auras are demons and Mikayla is the last trait holder with the power to ban them. Which is a total buzz kill.

To make matters worse, the town folk of Sulphur Springs don't look the same, and her classmates are a little dark in the eyes. There are murders, suicides, reckless skinny-dipping, gratuitous use of Q-tips, and newfound powers that Mikayla must learn to control.

Her past becomes present when a shape-shifter tells her what her true identity is, and how to keep the demons of hell form nipping at her Converse. Through him she'll discover who to trust, who to kiss, and how valuable her abilities are to the right beings. Because the evils of Hell aren't staying down without a fight...

Or without her soul.

Review:

Getting shot on what she thinks is her seventeenth birthday is the last thing Mikayla expects. She's just the average teenage girl--okay, maybe sticking Q-tips up her nose to make herself sneeze and not being able to remember anything from before she was thirteen isn't normal, but she is who she is. After she wakes up in the hospital for the second time in her life, she suddenly finds herself capable of seeing auras. According to Lucas, who says he is the Sentry meant to serve her, these auras are demons and Mikayla has to stop them. It's going to take a lot of skill and a lot of Q-tips.

Oh wow. And when I say that, I really mean oh wow. It's really such a shame Watched turned out like this. I expected the best and I got what is doubtlessly some of the worst I've ever read. It was even getting vaguely intriguing when I stopped reading as some of the worldbuilding kicked in, but I was so disgusted and upset by that point that I refused to keep going.

We will start with Mikayla's attitude toward the suicide of a fellow student, a quiet girl named Sidney Smaw. On Mikayla's birthday, the same day Mikayla is shot by what turns out to be a demon, Sidney hangs herself in her basement, and Mikayla sees a news report about a vigil for Sidney while laying in bad at the hospital. This is what the main character has to say:

"The anchor's voice rose over the soft wailing of the piano in the background. She didn't leave a note. She didn't say goodbye. She died on my birthday. I didn't know why yet, but I was pissed. The camera man panned over the faces again--some crying, others sniffling, most blank. Sidney Smaw, for whatever reason, killed herself. I wanted to scream at the TV. Wanted to toss F-bombs all over the place.

"But not for her.

"I wasn't the type of person who gave two flips about rules, but she broke the big one, you know. Sidney Smaw copped out. And they mourned her. All I could think about was my birthday, my skin burning instead of seventeen candles, the smell, the shooter--my shooter. How nothing mattered except to stop the world from turning, to stop time long enough to escape the bullets, to escape him. To forget. On that day--the day I begged to live--Sidney freaggin' Smaw handed her life over like lunch money.

"So why the hell were they crying for her? (Watched, p. 30)"
Has anyone heard of Phoebe Prince? After months of being bullied, reportedly because of her Irish accent and brief relationships she had with a senior football player and another male, she died by hanging herself in a stairwell leading up to the second story of her apartment on January 14, 2010. Her twelve-year-old sister discovered her body later that day. Phoebe was only fifteen. Six teens at her school were indicted on felony charges including assault with a deadly weapon, statutory rape, violation of civil rights, criminal harassment, disturbance of a school assembly, stalking, and additional delinquency complaints against three defendants, all of them female minors related to what their bullying of Phoebe. In May 2011, all six were sentenced to probation and community service after pleading guilty to lesser charges.

Yes, something terrible happened to Mikayla. This does not give her the right to play the victim when she has no idea what might have been going on in Sidney's life and what led her to that decision. For all Mikayla knows, Sidney was bullied just as badly as poor Phoebe Prince. I have never, never, never seen a book handle such a delicate subject as teen suicide handled so poorly and with such insensitivity. Sure, Mikayla might just be angry, but anger tends to bring out our true feelings on a subject. How can I be sure that isn't the case here?

Later on, it comes to light that some demons get out of the Nether Legion when people commit suicide. The demon that shot Mikayla wouldn't have gotten out when it did if Sidney hadn't killed herself when she did, so the blame for Mikayla being attacked indirectly falls on Sidney. "If she weren't so weak... Her copout let them in--the demons, (Watched, p. 84)" says Mikayla. I need no words. This speaks for itself.

On page 96, Mikayla finally takes the time to reflect on Sidney's suicide. "Maybe she wasn't such a copout after all. Maybe she had a little nudge in the wrong direction from a Somber [a demon specializing in suicide]." Too little too late. That was not enough to placate me because I got the distinct vibe that "they're being copouts" is what she really thought about people who killed themselves, and she would have kept on thinking that about Sidney's death if she didn't learn about demons. When the book is indirectly putting Sidney at fault for what happened to Mikayla, it nearly cancels out any reflections of "wow, that was horrible of me to think that."

Next is large problem number two: the slut shaming. Anyone that knows me and my taste in novels knows I hate it when girls are called sluts, shaming them for daring to be sexual or act in the way the person calling them that name doesn't like. Mikayla? Oh, she loves calling people sluts both indirectly and directly, and this is yet another reason I can't stand her or this novel.

There are two types of girls presented: the Tara Dandeaus, or the girls that have a lot of sex (said character is described as "one of those freaky/my dad was a preacher/I let guys motorboat/have secret F-150 sex kind of girls (Watched, p. 63)," and the Mikaylas, hot commodities because they are virgins are so hungry for because they're "unexplored territory." The boys are all sex-hungry for those lovely virgins they haven't yet explored. A new girl named Bianca comes to school and quickly settles in hanging out with the jocks, and Mikayla calls her a mattress. You know, because so many people are laying (on) her? Clever? Yeah right. Try revolting. Double standards, virgin/whore dichotomy--it's all here.

And the girl who dares to act sexually toward her fiance (called her "betrothed" in the novel, but it's the same thing)? She's a slut too--a slut puppy, as Mikayla calls her. Yeah. So whether or not you're in a relationship with someone, you're sluts for being sexual, ladies. (News flash: WRONG. So many levels of wrong there that I can't wade through it all.)

So the larger problems are out of the way. I had plenty of small problems too.

I was under the impression when I paid for the novel that I would be paying for the final copy of the novel, not an error-riddled first draft. I rarely count typos against a novel because no one's perfect; typos happen and occasionally, one or two will sneak through all the editing stages and make it into the final novel. This time, there were so many errors and they were in such basic areas as possessives that it ultimately distracted me from the novel and made for a worse experience, so I will count it this time. Books like this are why I am the Screaming Nitpicker.

Watched tried so hard to make Mikayla sound like a normal teenager, and some of the phrases she utters have come from teens I know (like noobs and someone's blood being made of win (Mikayla says this exact phrase on page 145)). The problem is that teens that talk like that annoy the living daylights out of me whether the person saying it is fictional or real and I'm not the only one that feels that way. In trying to make Mikayla realistic, she becomes as irritating as the itch within your cast that you can't scratch.

Oh, and this might bother some people, but not me. I'm only taking the time to mention it because I know it turns off many readers. Mikayla is a pottymouth--a really bad one, too. I don't worry about how much characters curse because I still curse more than most of them on a daily basis, but not everyone is like me in that respect. If cursing-heavy characters or novels irritate someone, this will not be their book.

So maybe you understand why I'm angry now and why this novel upset me so much. I might have phrased this a different way, but it was either do this and let all that nasty anger fester inside of me. I'm selfish, so I chose to take my anger out on the book instead of letting my anger run rampant through my system.

In case you're angry too and need to calm down or if you just need something to do, I suggest watching the Let's Play videos by Mangaminx. In case you have no idea what they are, Let's Play videos (LPs) are videos in which people play video games and make commentary while doing so. I don't watch many LPs--in fact, Mangaminx's are the only ones I watch--and she is often hilarious while scaring the pants off herself with horror games. I personally recommend watching her LPs of Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Even when you're just watching it all unfold on video, the game is so atmospheric. You'll be so terrified soon enough that you'll forget about being angry, especially once you get to all the parts featuring Mr. Face.

This one is a big fat DNF. I'm not going to waste my time on a book that makes me angrier with each page. I've had enough of the conflicting arguments of "Why did you finish the book if you didn't like it?" and "Why should your review mean anything when you didn't finish the book?" so anyone who wants to use either one can kindly not comment. You will get no response and your comment will be deleted.

What am I reading next?: Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ash by Malinda Lo

Title: Ash
Author: Malinda Lo
Publisher: Hachette Book Group/Little, Brown and Company
Release Date: August 11, 2009
Pages: 264 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.

In the wake of her father's death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, her heart beings to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash's capacity for live--and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

Review:

Orphaned before she was even a teenager, Ash is no better than a slave in her stepmother's home, working to pay off the debt Lady Isobel believes she owes for being her father's daughter. Ever since she was a child growing up near the Wood, Ash has believed in fairy tales and stories the philosophers from another kingdom dismiss as nothing but follies. Upon venturing into the wood one night, Ash meets the fairy Sidhean and comes to develop a strange friendship with him that could become more. Her feelings only become more complicated after meeting Kaisa, the King's Huntress. One a fairy prince, one a beautiful huntress, both of them people Ash loves. Who should she choose?

Oh, how badly I needed this book to be good. My last book was a disaster and a half, so I ran to this in hopes it would cheer me up. Not to mention this lucky find in a used bookstore turned out to be signed by the author herself, which made me want the book to be wonderful even more. It didn't turn out as well and I'd hoped it would, but Ash was still a great retelling of the well-known Cinderella story.

Ash, Sidhean, Kaisa, and Ash's stepfamily all have the potential to be great characters, but their depths aren't explored deeply enough. I didn't have any real investment in the characters, and I didn't feel any true connections between the characters either. The romance of Ash and Kaisa was sweet, but I wasn't particularly attached to it or convinced by it.

Often, I wondered where the conflict was. Was the old vs. new theme also supposed to be the conflict of the book? There is no real plot, and Ash is not a strong enough character for the novel to be character-driven. Nevertheless, I kept turning the page in no small part due to the writing.

Ah, the writing. Sometimes, the narrative read as though a storyteller and I were sitting in front of a fire. The storyteller told me the story of Ash as I sat there basking in the fire's warmth, letting Ash's story come to mind and become more vivid with each word. Other times, it felt like nothing more than a story that overdosed on telling instead of showing. Some scenes like the hunt were vivid, but most of them failed to stick with me.

Speaking of the old vs. new theme, that had to be my favorite part of the book. Ash's choice to either cling to her old life (Sidhean) or embrace what was new and present (Kaisa), the conflict of the greenwitches and old ways with the philosophers and their new ways--above all else, this is what stayed with me. It may have been just a small piece of the story, but I still loved it. If you can be open-minded and not have a fit if a fairy tale retelling veers from the well-known tales, try Ash and see how you like it.

And a tip for readers? Always do research on a book you're considering or look at the copyright page at the very beginning of the book. After the small project I did on Goodreads reviews of Ash, I feel this is something everyone should keep in mind.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Watched by Sharde Richardson

Friday, December 16, 2011

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

Title: Crescendo
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Release Date: October 19, 2010
Pages: 427 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Read it on my Kindle

Crescendo (Hush, Hush, #2)Nora Grey's life is still far from perfect. Surviving an attempt on her life wasn't pleasant, but at least she got a guardian angel out of it: a mysterious, magnetic, gorgeous guardian angel. But, despite his role in her life, Patch has been acting anything but angelic. He's more elusive than ever and even worse, he's started spending time with Nora's arch-enemy, Marcie Millar.

Nora would have hardly noticed Scott Parnell, an old family friend who has moved back to town, if Patch hadn't been acting so distant. Even with Scott's totally infuriating attitude Nora finds herself drawn to him - despite her lingering feeling that he's hiding something.

Haunted by images of her murdered father, and questioning whether her Nephilim bloodline has anything to do with his death, Nora puts herself increasingly in dangerous situations as she desperately searches for answers. But maybe some things are better left buried, because the truth could destroy everything - and everyone - she trusts.

Review:

Oh, Crescendo. I always told myself I wouldn't read it, but I wanted so badly to join in my friends' discussions of the many problematic elements of this series. If they could suffer through it, why couldn't I? (And maybe just a little bit of it was my contrary nature responding to the "Be Nice" BS But only a little.) I couldn't do that without reading all the books currently available, so into Crescendo I dove. I regret this. I regret every minute wasted on it.

This series is discussed enough for its problematic content, but it really gets kicked up a notch in this book. A scene late in the book where people just stand around and laugh at Nora when she's trying to get away from Scott made me want a trash can. It troubles me that the word "no" does not seem to exist in this series, as Nora can only ever come up with excuses not to do something with a guy, which will lead to him trying again later in hopes of there not being an excuse anymore, instead of giving him a flat-out no.

Nora. Oh, Nora. I thought I hated this brainless, immature, slut shaming, unapologetic, overly angsty monster of a human being in the first book, but she's five times worse in Crescendo. She goes full-blown psychotic on everyone. Breaking into people's houses multiple times, considering suicide over Patch not being with her anymore, indirectly and directly calling Marcie a slut more often than she can come up with a coherent thought of her own,... And this is our main character who, if my reading of the text is correct, we are supposed to support despite--no, because of--her actions. She takes a sledgehammer to the lives of everyone she knows while trying to get her happy ending and I don't see why I'm supposed to like her.

Just when I thought Patch couldn't get any worse, he did. The way he jerked Nora back and forth, pushing her away one minute and pulling her back in the next so they could make out, disgusted me and almost made me feel sorry for Nora that she's trapped in such a toxic dynamic with this man. How the reader is expected to view Patch gave me a nasty case of whiplash. In the first book, we're supposed to find his innuendos, controlling behavior, manhandling, and general asshattery romantic and sexy. Now we're supposed to hate him for it? Which one is it? I hated him in both books, but this case of mixed messages reveals exactly what is wrong with Patch's character.

I am not always the most grammatically correct person on the Internet, and I get even less sensible in the real world because verbal communication is difficult for me, but Crescendo often makes less sense than I do in either world. There are numerous sentences that read horribly despite an arguable technical correctness. For example: "She should have learned her lesson at Bo's and stayed home. And so should have I (Crescendo, 28%)." All it takes to fix a problem like this is different phrasing, but the book can't even do that much.

Inconsistent characterization for the sake of conflict is a big pet peeve. In the first book, few people objected to Nora getting close to Patch, especially not Nora's best friend Vee. Now everyone, especially Vee, is against him. One minute, Vee is boy-crazy. The next, she's 100% dedicated to her new beau Rixon. The mom is brought in simply to act as another barrier between Nora and Patch and a slew of minor characters get thrown in just to try and drum up some more conflict when it's never going to happen. Crescendo and conflict are incompatible.

Not that the book would have been good if any of those characters were more consistent. Just as it happened in the first book, the prologue gave everything away. For all the talk of the archangels, they're never actually a threat. We're constantly told the archangels are watching and breathing down Patch's neck, but he and Nora get away with so much that it makes the "threat" the archangels are supposed to pose nonexistent and makes them look like idiots. This is a disservice to the book and slander toward the archangels.

All the evidence I need to prove how unhealthy Patch and Nora's relationship is can be found in this book. Scott and Patch are undeniably the same kind of person: the bad boy who will take a girl and put her through hell. She can recognize that Scott is this kind of person and has no problem saying so, but she refuses to recognize Patch is the same way. I thought she did for one moment, but her eventual forgiveness of Patch renders that null and void. Neither of them can leave the other alone after the breakup and just when Nora feels ready to move on, Patch pulls her right back into his trap. Once again, I almost feel sorry for Nora. Close but no cigar.

The most maddening detail of their endless relationship angst? Neither party is sympathetic. Nora is downright obsessive, contradicting, and psychotic. The main difference between Patch's behavior pre- and post-breakup is that there were less innuendos post-breakup, but we're supposed to hate him for his behavior in this book when readers were supposed to find it sexy in the last book. This controlling douchecanoe of a man jerks Nora back and forth, but she's stealing from other people's homes because of him, and they both treat each other horribly. I wish both of them would die, preferably by being tortured to death by axe murderers.

And in the end, Nora forgives him. All that manhandling and controlling behavior and playing hot-and-cold with her that she hated him for when they were broken up? She forgives him for all of it. Based on my readings of Hush, Hush and Crescendo, I feel Nora only had a problem with his controlling behavior in this book because they were not together. If they had still been dating, she would have been fine with it. That this is supposed to be okay and readers are supposed to find this romantic makes me sick yet again. This book made me fill up my vomit bucket.

But I will admit one thing: This book made me cry... because it was so terrible. I also cried for Marcie. Marcie, who never had a chance as a character. Marcie, who is slut shamed at every turn while the reader is supposed to think Nora is the "good girl" (and as I elaborated earlier, Nora is anything but). Marcie, who is the closest thing to a complex, flawed character this series has but is here mainly for readers to hate by slandering her at every turn. Marcie, who is bullied and degraded more by Nora than she ever bullies Nora in return. She is not a good person, but Marcie is far more likable than Nora. Heck, I think Marcie's worst crime is having no idea what it means to be tactful--kind of like me.

Going on would be no problem because the problems in this book are endless, but twelve paragraphs is enough and I wanted to get started on the long road to healing. I was supposed to read Silence after this to continue what I lovingly dubbed the Speak Up mini-project, but I can't do it. If this one was so bad it made me cry because it was so terrible, how am I supposed to be able to survive Silence and eventually the fourth book? I can't, man. I just can't. I'm signing off and grabbing a better book.

0 stars! (And I would give it negative stars if I rated books that way.)


What am I reading next?: Ash by Malinda Lo

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (15)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

I read the first two books in the Ghost and the Goth series earlier this year and promptly flipped out over their fluffy goodness. It may have helped that both were read immediately after two of the worst books I've had the misfortune to read in my short little life. Piles of dog poop shaped to look like books would have been better after the two books so terrible I shall not name them in this short post. Anyway, I'm eagerly awaiting Body and Soul despite knowing it marks the end of the series. At least I can always reread them!

Body and Soul (The Ghost and the Goth, #3)Body and Soul
by Stacey Kade
May 29, 2011

The Ghost

I’ve been trapped in the body of Lily “Ally” Turner for a month now. Talk about a fashion crisis on an epic scale. What worries me more, though, is sometimes I catch Will looking at me like he thinks I’m Lily...or that he wishes I were. Without the good looks of my former self, I don’t know who I am, or if who that is is good enough. I need out of this mess. Now.

Will and I have been looking for a solution, one that would separate me from Lily without killing her. But it’s not going well. Then, when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, we run into Misty, my former best friend and boyfriend-stealer extraordinaire, who claims she’s being haunted...by me. Seriously?

I’m determined to get to the bottom of who’s pretending to be the spirit of Alona Dare (while I’m pretending to be someone else) and then get the heck out of this body. Or die trying...

The Goth


I’ll admit it. It’s really weird to look at Alona but see Lily. I do know the difference, though, contrary to what Alona might be saying. And Alona is more than a pretty face to me, not that she would believe that.

Our one lead for some help in this messed up situation might be a page torn from the yellow pages-—the “Psychics” section-—I found in my dad’s stuff. One of the “fakes” seems a bit more real-—and odd-—than the others. Before I can investigate further, though, Alona is off and chasing a ghost that’s probably nothing more than a figment of Misty’s guilty imagination. Now Lily’s family is freaking out because she didn’t come home, my mom is ordering me to stay out of it, and something is definitely wrong with the person formerly known as Lily “Ally” Turner...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey

Title: Haunting Violet
Author: Alyxandra Harvey
Publisher: Bloomsbury/Walker
Release Date: June 21, 2011
Pages: 344 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.

Violet doesn't believe in ghosts. But they believe in her.

After spending years participating in her mother's elaborate ruse as a fraudulent medium, Violet is about as skeptical as they come in all matters supernatural. Now that she is being visited by a very persistent ghost, one who suffered a violent death, Violet can no longer ignore her unique ability. She must figure out what this ghost is trying to communicate, and quickly because the killer is still on the loose.

Afraid of ruining her chance to escape her mother's scheming through an advantageous marriage, Violet must keep her ability secret. The only person who can help her is Colin, a friend she's known since childhood, and whom she has grown to love. He understands the true Violet, but helping her on this path means they might never be together. Can Violet find a way to help this ghost without ruining her own chance at a future free of lies?

Review:

Raised from a young age by a mother aiming for the stars and a father she knows nothing about, Violet is used to going along with her mother's schemes, like her claims to be a Spiritualist when she is nothing but a fake assisted by Violet and Colin, an orphan boy they took in. Being part of her mother's scheme has made Violet a skeptic, but then Violet starts seeing ghosts for real. One in particular, a girl named Rowena who mysteriously drowned the year before, keeps appearing to Violet and it's obvious her death was no accident. Violet will have to solve this murder to keep the same fate from befalling Rowena's sister Tabitha--or worse, Violet herself.

Violet's struggle with her mother, finding herself when she has to be surrounded by the lies her mother tells, and her developing gift felt so real to me and I came to care for her as if she were a real person. Sure, the novel is fairly low-stakes and there isn't much urgency in the threat posed to her, but Violet is such an interesting character that it doesn't matter. You care so much about how it's going to turn out after her gift turns up and her mother's fraud is revealed and her own gift is shoved into the spotlight that it drives the novel just as well as any urgent threat would.

None of the details jumped out at me as blatantly anachronistic, so that's always a good thing. The way the text would scratch at how confined young women were at the time in what they could do made me smile, but I wish those little moments could have been better expanded on. The Victorian Spiritualism fad isn't a subject I've had much interest in before, but being able to look behind the curtain and see how Violet, Colin, and Violet's mother pull their illusion together has changed that. I'll have to look for more information about how the tricks were pulled off. I know such manipulations are horrible, but I find them almost respectable. Manipulation doesn't happen very easily.

The only problem I had with Haunting Violet was that Violet's prim-and-proper-Victorian-girl voice sometimes got too dry and it made reading the novel feel less entertaining and more like a chore. These moments were only occasional, thank goodness. For most of the book, Violet's voice was clear and almost wry at times as she described the social confinements of women at the time and all the work that went into making a fake seance appear real.

Thanks to its well-researched Victorian details, the behind-the-scenes sort of look at the fraudulent Spiritualists of the time, and the way it pokes at how wrongly women were treated at the time, among many, many other details I don't care to list off after talking about them above, Haunting Violet receives a special honor. When I go to college next fall, I'll be taking my entire library of 300+ physical books with me, but most of them will be ebooks. Only the best of the best will go with me as physical books instead of ebooks and Haunting Violet has earned its place in those ranks.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Ash by Malinda Lo

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Title: Anna Dressed in Blood
Author: Kendare Blake
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Pages: 316 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story. . .

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

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

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

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

Review:

As a hunter of all things dead and the son of a man who did the same work, Cas Lowood has spent much of his life traveling with his family, now reduced to him, his mom, and their cat Tybalt after the murder of Cas's father by a ghost. Their next destination is Thunder Bay, Canada, where a young girl called Anna Dressed in Blood haunts her old home and kills everyone who steps inside, be they an encroaching vagrant or a nosy teenager. When Cas confronts her and she demonstrates her overwhelming power, she miraculously spares his life--multiple times. As Anna's situation becomes clear to him, Cas vows to do what he can to help her.

I'm afraid I'll have to put some blame on my friends here as to why I didn't love Anna Dressed in Blood as much as they did. (No, none of you are allowed to troll me for this. You know who you are.) So many of my friends read the book before I got to it and had it so hyped up that my expectations were immense going into it. I expected it to be hilarious, scary, heart-wrenching, and so much more. It was heart-wrenching at points, but not the other two. It feels terrible to let my silly expectations knock off a star like they're doing, but it doesn't feel right when I try to give it that star back.

Although the book is not scary, Blake writes some genuinely creepy scenes I found myself enjoying immensely. (Except for one close to the end because... well, even saying why I was uncomfortable would be a spoiler of the highest degree.) Cas's narrative voice is smooth and reads well; Cas got on my nerves sometimes, but he was a good narrator, certainly one of the best male narrators I've encountered in YA recently. Of the entire cast of characters, only Cas and Anna won me. Everyone else came off blah to me and the romance didn't connect with me.

The title character, the homicidal Anna Dressed in Blood, is the true star of the book and steals the spotlight from Cas, and she is why the book will remain memorable despite my so-so feelings about it. Her characterization is fantastic and all the work that went into making her such a complex, sympathetic character shows in how well it works. Anna and Anna alone is what has me hooked for the sequel Girl of Nightmares, out in August 2012.

One thing that bothers me about the novel is how little the people care about strange happenings. Three very unusual, very vicious murders and a disappearance happen in about two months in their area, but all that goes into it are a few days of being on the news and one search party? That doesn't quite work for me.

I wish I could have fallen in love with Anna Dressed in Blood (the book, not the character; I love the character), but it just barely won enough of my heart to make me stick around for the next book. Sometimes, I should ignore my friends so situations like this don't happen again.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Friday, December 2, 2011

H.Y.P.E. Project: Die for Me by Amy Plum

Title: Die for Me
Author: Amy Plum
Publisher: HarperCollins/HarperTeen
Release Date: May 10, 2011
Pages: 341 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it for the H.Y.P.E. Project (details here)

Die for Me (Revenants, #1)My life had always been blissfully, wonderfully normal. But it only took one moment to change everything.

Suddenly, my sister, Georgia, and I were orphans. We put our lives into storage and moved to Paris to live with my grandparents. And I knew my shattered heart, my shattered life, would never feel normal again. Then I met Vincent.

Mysterious, sexy, and unnervingly charming, Vincent Delacroix appeared out of nowhere and swept me off my feet. Just like that, I was in danger of losing my heart all over again. But I was ready for it to happen.

Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Because Vincent is no normal human. He has a terrifying destiny, one that puts his life at risk every day. He also has enemies... immortal, murderous enemies who are determined to destroy him and all of his kind.

While I'm fighting to piece together the remnants of my life, can I risk putting my heart--as well as my life and my family's--in jeopardy for a chance at love?

Review:

After her parents' deaths in a car crash, Kate lives with her older sister and grandparents in the heart of Paris. The pain is ever-throbbing in her chest and she spends all her time floating around museums and sticking her head into books instead of trying to move on. Vincent dares to accost her when he sees her at a cafe and Kate decides to give  him a chance. Why not? It's not like there is any other guy in the picture. As they grow closer, she discovers his secret: he is a revenant, a being compelled to give their life to save others. But Vincent has enemies in the numa, polar opposite beings compelled to destroy lives, and both Kate's heart and her life could be in danger if she stays with him.

Characters

Unfortunately, the characters let me down. While certain secondaries like Charlotte won me and the cast of Die for Me is a marked improvement over the casts of some of the other novels I've read during the course of the H.Y.P.E. Project, the main characters Kate and Vincent inspired only indifference in me. Disappearing Parent (or grandparent in this case) Syndrome struck again so Kate would have less supervision when falling for Vincent. Their connection was too-much-too-fast for me and I didn't completely understand what they saw in one another.

And just a little thing? I hate the role Jules fills. You know, that flirty friend of the male lead, the one who later becomes a love interest to the heroine. I have seen this irritating, almost-never-done-right character in two books straight and three or four in the past month alone. Authors, quit it. Stop writing this character. I beg you.

Plot/Pacing

The pacing was all over the place and the plot liked to play peek-a-boo. The book starts off with a fight scene under a bridge involving the numa and the revenants, but then it slows down while Kate and Vincent get to know one another. The mystery of finding out what's going on with Vincent drives the reader to the reveal around page 100, but the pace almost comes to a halt for around 150 pages while the plot pokes its head around the corner every now and then to giggle, then tries to pretend it's not there. Then we come to the end and OMG STUFF! Then more over-the-top romance and the book is over. What little plot there is to the novel is solved over the course of it and could function as a stand-alone if needed.

Themes/Conflicts

The strongest point of the novel is Kate's genuine conflict about whether or not she wants to keep seeing Vincent. Her parents are recently dead and she's still torn up inside over it, but she starts falling for Vincent and slowly getting better. Then she finds out his secret and that if she gets into a serious relationship with him, she'll have to endure the pain every time he dies saving someone. Even if he comes back to life, the pain will still be there. This is the one point of the novel I stand up and applaud for. The overdramatic way this is set up as being true love and no one ever considers that this could be just another relationship between two people gets at me, but I digress.

Whether or not you mind that a boy is the reason Kate begins to heal is unique to the reader. I minded it a little bit, but not enough to impact my opinion of the novel. At the very least, she questions whether or not she is being expected to save Vincent. Most heroines don't get that far.

Writing

The descriptions of Paris were lovely and it was great to experience a change in setting to the beautiful City of Lights from the usual small-town America settings of YA paranormals. Otherwise, I found the writing unremarkable. There were no muttered "wow"s or mental markings of good passages from me.

Logic

Refreshingly, Kate made logical decisions most of the time. When she feels Vincent is acting strangely and thinks he could be doing something he shouldn't be, she does the smart thing and runs the hell away. Though I was overall unimpressed by the novel, this is another quality of it I can respect: that Kate has a brain. Kudos for being one of the few fictional Kates I've gotten along with lately. Other than that, all is well in the world of logic--or as well as it can be in a paranormal novel, but that's why suspensions of disbelief exist.

Was it worth the hype?

To sum it up, how much a person will enjoy this book is directly proportional to how much they mind reading a novel derivative of Twilight. I do not make comparisons to that novel easily--you could check and see that this is the first time I have directly compared a novel to Twilight. For me in particular? Twilight and I have a nonaggression pact. I don't care about it and we leave each other alone. This is good for Die for Me because I don't mind the similarities as much, but what creates protection one way creates a problem another way: I couldn't emotionally invest myself in it.

Die for Me both manages to live up to its hype as something different in a sea of the same old trite novels and does not live up to it. For all the tropes it twists around, it still falls into the same cliches and is at its heart a paranormal romance. Readers who buy Die for Me thinking it will be more than that will be sorely disappointed.

Bonus cover section

While I like the final cover of Die for Me due to its bold covers and the swirls (kudos to the illustrator Johanna Basford because they really are lovely), I am more partial to a draft cover I saw back when the novel was first being advertised. At least, I think it was a draft cover. Maybe it's an international cover. This is what I'm talking about:


While I can see why the publisher would change the cover and I think they made a good choice, there's something I like about this old cover. The bold red boat, perhaps? The reflection of the title in the water? I'm a sucker for reflective images on book covers like that.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick (Just don't ask. I'm being an idiot again.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (14)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

I'm side-eyeing this book something fierce because the whole using-alchemy-to-change-bodies detail feels yanked straight out of Fullmetal Alchemist, a show I loved in junior high and just recently got back into upon my discovery of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Trying to call it fresh equals me calling BS, but I'll still give The Alchemy of Forever a try. I may scream and I may nitpick, but it takes a little more than that to put me off a book.

The Alchemy of Forever
by Avery Williams
January 3, 2012
256 pages (hardcover)

Seraphina’s first love made her immortal…her second might get her killed.

Incarnation is a new series that introduces a fresh mythology perfect for fans of bestselling series like The Immortals by Alyson Noel and Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

After spending six hundred years on earth, Seraphina Ames has seen it all. Eternal life provides her with the world’s riches, but at a very high price: innocent lives. Centuries ago, her boyfriend, Cyrus, discovered a method of alchemy that allows them to swap bodies with other humans, jumping from one vessel to the next, taking the human’s life in the process. No longer able to bear the guilt of what she’s done, Sera escapes from Cyrus and vows to never kill again.

Then sixteen-year-old Kailey Morgan gets into a horrific car accident right in front of her, and Sera accidentally takes over her body. For the first time, Sera finds herself enjoying the life of the person she’s inhabiting—and falls for the human boy who lives next door. But Cyrus will stop at nothing until she’s his again, and every moment she stays, she’s putting herself and the people she’s grown to care for in great danger. Will Sera have to give up the one thing that’s eluded her for centuries: true love?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Title: Hourglass
Author: Myra McEntire
Publisher: Egmont USA
Release Date: June 14, 2011
Pages: 400 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Read it on my Kindle

Hourglass (Hourglass, #1)
One hour to rewrite the past . . . 

 For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.

Review:

This review is dedicated to my dear friend Cillian, who read Born at Midnight in exchange for me reading Hourglass. Sorry about that, Cillian. You got the worse end of the deal there.

This book didn't turn out to be a good fit for me, but I do have some praise to give it. Hourglass was very readable and positively flew by. Truly terrible books feel like they go on forever, but the novel's liberal use of small cliffhangers at the end of every chapter made me hardly notice as I blew through the novel. Sure, I was skimming that last section, but it was still quick. While Emerson is... well, I'll get to that in a minute, the writing itself is easy to read, lending a hand to that great pacing. The idea Kaleb's character is a good one, but the execution will be given some attention later too.

Now for what I didn't like. This section is much lengthier.

Angst angst Michael Michael Michael Michael more angst about parents Michael Michael Michael Michael Michael Michael Michael Michael Kaleb Kaleb boys boys boys boys OMG I can't choose between them Michael Michael Michael Michael Michael. Throw another few moments of angst in as needed.

That was the main character Emerson's mind in Hourglass from beginning to end. She spends so much time putting down other girls, including her own best friend ("If [good-looking best friend Lily] didn't have a wicked sense of humor and more loyalty than a Saint Bernard, I would probably hate her on principle alone."), drooling over boys, making sweeping generalizations about teenage girls, and overall being one of those characters you wish would think with their brains and not their sexual organs that I am embarrassed to be a fellow teenage female. She is one of the most unpleasant narrators I've come across in a while.

When I was ten, I was a moron. Why? I shoved a wrench into an electrical socket and got the piss shocked out of me. Multiple times, Emerson mentions the electricity coursing between her and Michael, such literal electricity that it blows light bulbs (and I swear I'm not kidding). It's supposed to be romantic, but all I could think of when she was describing it was my own shock from the electrical socket, which was not fun or orgasm-inducing. Like with all heroines that do the same thing because this is hardly an isolated incident, I wondered what she was thinking. Not good description right there.

In fact, description does not seem to be the book's strong point. With the way he had to arrange his face until he could settle on the right expression, I was under the impression our romantic lead Michael was really Mr. Potato Head. (Come on, you know Mr. Potato Head is sexy.) Emerson had a terrible tendency to overdescribe Michael. It's awesome Emerson wants to do him. Really. Heroines who aren't afraid to think of or have sex safely earn extra points with me. Too bad Emerson lost those extra points and then some by constantly going on about about how hot he is. I can only take so much.

And then when he fogged up a glass with his hands--think about that because something is wrong with that picture--I couldn't resist the joke that he was a hot potato. Yes, I am occasionally punny. It's genetic. Shut up.

This quote pretty much exemplifies my problem with Emerson and Michael as a couple and it can expand to describe my problem with many popular couples in YA now:

""I don't know what any of this means, but I know that when I thought you were gone, I couldn't breathe. It felt like half of me was missing." I kept babbling, my edit button not only broken, but completely obliterated. "I'm seventeen. Who feels like this at seventeen?"" (Hourglass, 90% on my Kindle)
Partway through, Michael tells Emerson about the Novikov Principle, an important element that keeps them from messing up the timeline too badly with their time traveling. Just one problem there. Michael only knows about the Novikov Principle because of Future Emerson, who appeared to him and told him. Future Emerson only knew because Past Emerson knew, who only knew because Michael told her. Where is the starting point of this important piece of information? I have seen many plot holes as a reader, but this is the first one I've ever seen that produces a literal hole if put to a diagram in the mind.

Maybe it would have been easier to get into the "OMG Kaleb likes me and I kind of like him, but I really like Michael, but Michael might not like me back and he might like this other girl and OMG" love triangle drama if I actually liked anyone involved. I hated Emerson, Michael, Kaleb (while the idea behind his character was a good one, the execution of it as that typical flirty friend/third part of love triangle was terrible)--overall, the novel needed stronger characters, especially stronger female characters.

Hourglass tried to up the drama at the end with two mentions of the "powers that be" and no explanation of what/who they are or why they are able to keep people like Emerson from using their powers. I would think that would come up earlier in the novel, but I'm getting off-task. The attempt to make it dramatic and keep readers around for the sequel Timepiece didn't work on a reader as reluctant as I was. If you're looking for a quick read that you don't plan to think much into, just something for your brain to munch on while on a plane or something, this seems like a good choice.

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: Die for Me by Amy Plum

Friday, November 25, 2011

Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Title: Audition
Author: Stasia Ward Kehoe
Publisher: Penguin/Viking Juvenile
Release Date: October 13, 2011
Pages: 458 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it

When Sara is offered a scholarship with the prestigious Jersey Ballet, there's no way she can turn down the opportunity of a lifetime. But to take it, she must leave her family and friends for a strange city. Suddenly, she's thrust into a life of endless ballet class and rehearsal, of juggling schoolwork with hours in the studio, of constantly being critiqued, corrected, and judged.

Overwhelmed and lonely, Sara connects with Remington, a brilliant up-and-coming choreographer. Though he's too old for her, sparking scandal at the studio, Sara is thrilled to become Rem's muse. But as the secrets pile up and Rem's innovative dances start to attract wider attention, Sara wonders whose dreams she's making come true.

Debut author Stasia Ward Kehoe spins an intense and romantic page-turner about the deeply flawed yet irresistible world of ballet.

Review:

The scholarship to Jersey Ballet so she can become a better ballerina is supposed to be a dream come true for small-town Vermont girl Sara, but it's not turning out to be so wonderful. The other ballerinas with their sleek techniques and perfect movement make her feel inadequate and it isn't easy to juggle schoolwork with all the hours spent practicing at the studio. Miles away from her friends and family, her only comfort is her illicit relationship with Remington, a combination student/choreographer/teacher six years older than her. She's infatuated and creates wonderful dances with him, but is dancing her dream anymore? Could she have a new dream now?

Sara's character arc is a fulfilling one and the novel's style communicate her loneliness, feelings of inadequacy, and other such emotions perfectly. The choice to write it in verse was a good one; it would not have been such a memorable novel if written in prose like most of the novel I read are. I felt bad for her because of how lonely she was and missed being at home, but she could be so frustrating! I nearly screamed at her multiple times about how bad Rem was for her, but it took her until nearly the end to realize it. It was all part of her character growth and self-acceptance, I know, but that doesn't make it not frustrating.

Audition is a slow-burning, character-driven kind of novel. Seemingly unremarkable and perhaps boring at first, it slowly warms up until the realization comes that hey, this is really good! Depending on how much one likes novels written in verse and such slow-burn novels, this can be a quick read or a very slow one. For me, it was quick; though there were six days between me starting the novel and finishing it, I read it for only three of those days and got through large chunks at a time, as large as two-hundred pages at once, because I could not put it own. I just had to see when Sara would realize enough was enough with Rem.

A lot of my friends are unimpressed by verse novels or don't care to read them because it's not their style. For those, I recommend looking for a library copy or online excerpt to try it out and see if this will be one they might like. If you're someone that can adapt to any style for the sake of a good story with a compelling heroine and, give Audition a second look. Also recommended if you want to learn more about the grueling world of ballet (and considering I want to learn more about dancing for an idea I have on hold, this was a huge help).

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Die for Me by Amy Plum

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (13)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

Most of the time, angel books and I do not get along. I don't know what it is, but I rarely like them. Then along came Unearthly during the course of my H.Y.P.E. Project (which is so terribly out of date now with hyped books and yet I know I don't have the time/money to adjust it and read more current books) and I fell in love with it. Hallowed is yet another 2012 novel that comes out near my birthday, so yet another one I can point people to as something to give me a a gift!

(And it makes me so sad the publisher won't give me access to it through NetGalley. I guess they don't like me because of negative reviews I've given to some of their titles, such as Starcrossed. Oh well. I'm not going to turn into one of those bloggers who thinks they're entitled to an ARC, so I'll be patient. But that doesn't mean I'll stop requesting. Oh, no.)

Hallowed (Unearthly, #2)Hallowed
by Cynthia Hand
January 17, 2011
416 pages (hardback)

For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought. Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

Described by Richelle Mead as “utterly captivating,” Unearthly received outstanding reviews, garnered accolades from New York Times bestselling authors, and was named an Indie Next Pick. In this heart-wrenching sequel, Cynthia Hand expertly captures the all-consuming joy of first love—and the agony of loss. This beautifully woven tale will appeal to fans of Lauren Kate, Becca Fitzpatrick, and Aprilynne Pike.

(Yes, it is I who crossed that out. That kind of comparison will scare off readers, not bring them in. Trust me, this series is nothing like those books; it's far better than any of them.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (12)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

There was a pretty little novel I read a few months ago that I absolutely loved: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh. I've been eagerly awaiting the second novel Enshadowed since then, and you can imagine my face when I realized it was pushed back from January 2012 to August 2012, two years after the release of Nevermore. You know the classic D: for expressing sadness on the Internet? That does not even begin to cover it. Still excited, though. I will be patient (and it can be a going-away gift instead, since I expect to be moving away for college around that time)!

 Enshadowed (Nevermore, #2)Enshadowed
by Kelly Creagh
August 28, 2012
560 pages (hardback)

While Varen remains a prisoner in the dream-world, Isobel is haunted by his memory. He appears to her in her dreams and soon, even in her waking life. But is she just imagining it? Isobel knows she must find a way back to Varen. She makes plans to go to Baltimore. There, she confronts the figure known throughout the world as the Poe Toaster—the same dark man who once appeared to Isobel in her dreams, calling himself “Reynolds.”

Isobel succeeds in interrupting the Toaster’s ritual and, in doing so, discovers a way to return to the dream-world. Soon, she finds herself swept up in a realm which not only holds remnants of Poe’s presence, but has also now taken on the characteristics of Varen’s innermost self. It is a dark world comprised of fear, terror, and anger.
 
When Isobel once more encounters Varen, she finds him changed. With his mind poisoned by the dream world, he becomes a malevolent force, bent on destroying all—even himself. Now Isobel must face a new adversary, one who also happens to be her greatest love.