Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cover Squee (1)

There are plenty of cover memes out there I could do, but I wanted one that was purely mine. So welcome to Cover Squee, a Saturday book cover memewhere I unleash my inner squeeing fangirl on book covers. Here's how it goes:
  • Three covers I love and my take on them;
  • one cover I dislike and want to give a good-natured poke to.
Past covers, covers of unreleased books, international covers--it makes no difference to me. I practice the equal opportunity squee.

My three lovely covers:

Initial reaction: "Why hello there." Shit you not, that's what I said when I found it in the bookstore yesterday.

What I love: The eerie feel of the image because of the fog and dark lighting. What could all that fog be hiding? The dog (because I think we need more dogs on book covers). The model's dress.

What I hate: the two disruptive lines across the middle of the image (near the lantern and the model's head). Why is she walking a dog in the graveyard while wearing that dress? Pretty-cover dresses tend to lack that kind of logic.

Between this and another novel with a less impressive cover, I chose this book. It's now sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read.

Initial reaction: GIMME NOW.

What I love: How subtle the image is. The way I focus on the intricate font and the hand holding the ring. The way Tiki's tattoo is on the model's wrist; I love that small touch and didn't notice it until just now.

What I  hate: That the novel itself failed to take away my breath the way the cover did. Review here.

Initial reaction: Hm...

What I love: The serene vintage feel of the cover thanks to the lighting. The way the title and the flowers are like tattoos on her back. The pastel colors.

What I hate: I can't tell straight away what it has to do with the novel, though that might change once I read it. If I didn't have a soft spot for vintage feels and soft colors used right, this never would have stood out to me.

The cover that leaves me less impressed:

"How dare they decapitate me and half-bury me in the flowers! As soon as I develop telekinesis and can get myself off the ground, they are dead. I've never been so angry in my life!"

You want to join in the squeeing fun? Go right ahead! I can't seem to find a free linky widget that will work on this blog (I've been searching for well over an hour), so leave a comment if you end up making a Cover Squee post of your own. Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Taken at Dusk by C.C. Hunter

Spoilers like whoa, readers. By the time you finish this review, you'll know a lot about Taken at Dusk and the Shadow Falls series.

Title: Taken at Dusk
Author: C.C. Hunter
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: April 10, 2012
Pages: 380 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: ARC swapped with another blogger
Purchase: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Book Depository

Kylie Galen wants the truth so badly she can taste it. The truth about who her real family is, the truth about which boy she’s meant to be with—and the truth about what her emerging powers mean. But she’s about to discover that some secrets can change your life forever…and not always for the better.

Just when she and Lucas are finally getting close, she learns that his pack has forbidden them from being together. Was it a mistake to pick him over Derek? And it’s not just romance troubling Kylie. An amnesia-stricken ghost is haunting her, delivering the frightful warning, someone lives and someone dies. As Kylie races to unravel the mystery and protect those she loves, she finally unlocks the truth about her supernatural identity, which is far different—and more astonishing—than she ever imagined.


One star? Not zero like it was with the last two books? You're seeing things right. Taken at Dusk was terrible from beginning to end just like its predecessors, but it showed itsy-bitsy signs of improvement. Kylie is still a terrible person and a poor character and the plot barely has any idea what it's doing, yet it's a start.

So the positives: there was something driving the plot of the novel at least half the time. The disappearance of Kylie's grandparents was easily forgotten, but there was the occasional visit from Red and the threat of things trying to kill her (I was always cheering for nature to win that battle, as I'm sure you can guess). When it came up that her boyfriend might be controlling her, Kylie demonstrated the presence and use of .5 brain cells (only .5 because she was still a dolt) by getting worried about it. Fantastic! Entire chapters passed by without a comment from me.

Well, that's it for the praise. Otherwise, this is just as badly written, badly plotted, and easily poked at as the other two books. From panties on fire (she really should see a doctor about that--and take her most recent partner with her) to so much soda that it drowns an Italian fish (but the book does not specify if that much Diet Coke will drown a Vietnamese or Chilean fish), some of the unintentionally hilarious lines in this book can't be made up.

We finally find out what Kylie is! Are you ready for this?

She's sexy and she knows it.

A chameleon. Came right out of the book. The way I read it, she can transform into whatever supernatural being she wants to be, complete with their brain pattern and powers. So she's not the sexy strutting chameleon pictured above. She's just your average Mary Sue in a sea of girls coming out of Hogwart's sorta-secret Sparklypoo house. Characterization is still poor and this is evidence of it. Now that I have saved you about 1,000 pages of reading just to find out what she is, let's move on.

I'm not sure I've seen them do much campy stuff at this camp. You've got your basics of getting up and going to bed, Campmate Hour, the occasional campfire, and eating meals. Does my mind skip over Kylie participating in activities or exercises meant to foster better relationships between the different groups of supernaturals? It's always about her love drama or her friends' love drama or someone trying to kill/kidnap Kylie or scenes meant to fluff up the book. Boring!

The series tend to make a lot of funny word choices. By funny, I mean borderline problematic. Fredericka, the werewolf who loves Lucas and hates Kylie and is overall a piece of cardboard, is often called a she-wolf, reducing her from a person to an animal. I've seen it multiple times where Kylie referred to her boy toys as "sexy as sin" or something along those lines. Why keep comparing boys to sin? Is a girl liking a guy really that bad? What, are girls going to be sluts next just for looking up at a guy through her eyelashes?

There appears to be a quota for unfortunate implications in this series because there's a new one every book. This time around, we have a character one of Kylie's love interests used to have sex with. She is as sweet as can be and never treats Kylie or her friends badly, but Della calls her a slut and the other girls don't exactly object. When the three of them decided to befriend the character, I felt sorry for her. She deserves better than people who call her names behind her back. I really thought this series grew out of the slut shaming, but apparently now. So they're friends, her interest in Derek is no more, she's caught in Kylie the Mary Sue's trap...

And then she dies.

Yeah, calling a female character a slut for having sex with one of Kylie's love interests when Kylie was hardly speaking to him anymore, and then killing her off later? Not a fantastic move.

We also had Kylie, who is a pretty terrible person, being compared to Mother Teresa multiple times with narrative support of characters from all different perspectives complimenting her. What a way to insult the legacy of Mother Teresa: compare her to a judgmental teenager who sees other girls as rivals, slut shames rampantly, and is overall a narrow-minded bucket of vomit. (What? I've got to get creative now that I've decided to drop the use of gendered insults.) Mother Teresa was not perfect, but she's far above Kylie's level.

But you guys. You guys. I think I might not actually bother with the next book, Whispers at Moonrise. This is my cat-scratch series and also something reliably terrible that makes me appreciate the good books more, but now it's showing signs of improvement. It was only a baby step forward, but that's not good. When you follow a horrible series solely because it's horrible, why keep following it when it starts to improve? Same old shtick here: fans will love it, non-fans won't, etc. At least there was minute improvement. Maybe that will make me stay away next time.

1 star!

What am I reading next?: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle

Title: When You Were Mine
Rebecca Serle
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Pages: 334 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Simon & Schuster Galley Grab (specifically, the author tweeted the link)
Purchase:  Amazon; Barnes and Noble; Book Depository

What's in a name, Shakespeare? I'll tell you: everything.

Rosaline knows that she and Rob are destined to be together. Rose has been waiting for years for Rob to kiss her--and when he finally does, it's perfect. But then Juliet moves back to town. Juliet, who used to be Rose's best friend. Juliet, who now inexplicably hates her. Juliet, who is gorgeous, vindictive, and a little bit crazy...and who has set her sights on Rob. He doesn't even stand a chance.

Rose is devastated over losing Rob to Juliet. This is not how the story was supposed to go. And when rumors start swirling about Juliet's instability, her neediness, and her threats of suicide, Rose starts to fear not only for Rob's heart, but also for his life. Because Shakespeare may have gotten the story wrong, but we all still know how it ends.


When You Were Mine boasts a problematic premise that originally warded me away from it. In Romeo and Juliet, the infamous play this book is a modern retelling of, Romeo is a fickle dickbag who dumps the woman he is supposed to love for someone else he met while trying to see her. He is the problem, not a victim of the problem. In When You Were Mine? Romeo is merely the victim of Juliet, who stole him from Rosaline. I side-eyed the book over this, but I gave it a try when the chance to review it came along. It couldn't live up to its horrible blurb, right? Some great books have had terrible blurbs.

It turns out the book lived up to its blurb after all.

The first seventy pages grated on me so badly that I nearly gave up. Rose describes one of her friends as "bleating" and I side-eyed her further over her views of how girls have the "subtle ability to warp actual circumstances into something different.: Even when she says she's not trying to say girls get delusional, that is pretty much what she's saying. Her friends Olivia and Charlie aren't much better; they resemble the mean girls who spread rumors and give people negative nicknames they can't get rid of. Their characters and most other supporting characters have all the depth of a drop of water.

I can hardly begin to describe all the problematic issues this book helps perpetuate. A minor one is exotification--one character who hails from Belgium referred to by his name (Jhone) only once and is called the Belgian for the rest of the book. Reducing someone to their nationality? Not funny. Encouraging slut shaming and saying a girl's sexual activity defines them? Not funny. Encouraging girl hate by immediately labeling a new girl as "competition" to the main character? Not. Fucking. Funny. The largest ones, the Taylor Swift Syndrome and making Juliet out to be a man-stealer, are discussed a little later.

The nicest thing I have to say is that Rose has great chemistry with her love interests when having romantic interactions with them. When she and Rob are on their date, their awkward yet sweet interactions were fantastic. Once Rose starts growing closer to Len after Rob has left her for Juliet, their scenes feel real. Len is probably my favorite character, seeing as he is the main voice of reason throughout the book. I also appreciate that the book does not take pains to do what other retellings do and present Romeo and Juliet (in this case, Rob and Juliet) as being truly in love. You can't mistake it as anything other than a disaster in the making.

We all know what Taylor Swift Syndrome is, right? In case you don't, I'll explain (and I use heteronormative terms because that was the case in this book; the genders of those involved can change): Girl Next Door loves Boy, but Boy doesn't quite realize that yet. Then along comes Mean Girl, who sweeps Boy away and "steals" him from Girl Next Door. Once everything runs its course, Mean Girl gets her "just desserts" and Girl Next Door has Boy. This gains its name from Taylor Swift because her song "You Belong With Me" and the music video for it exemplify this situation well.

I hate Taylor Swift Syndrome passionately. As the events run their course, I feel Girl Next Door often turns out to be more of a mean girl than Mean Girl, who comes out of the situation looking like the real victim. Her only crime is going for the guy she wanted. Taylor Swift Syndrome is pretty much the story of When You Were Mine and instead of siding with Rose, I side with Juliet. She is the true victim and I wish I could give her the support she needs.

No one ever tells her that Rob and Rose were involved, you see. Why is she shamed for going after a guy she likes when no one, including the guy or her own cousin, will tell her he is involved with someone else? She's not a mind-reader. It's like knowing a child will go in the cookie jar and refusing to tell them that doing so is going to get them in huge trouble. Despite what the characters claim, Juliet did not steal Rob from Rose. Rob left Rose for Juliet just like Romeo did in the play and he is still a dickbag for it. Juliet is still the victim, not a man-stealer like the book tries to make her out to be.

Do we really need more girl hate in YA? Do we really need more slut shaming of someone whose only crimes are being proactive, showing some skin in an outfit, or not sticking to outdated gender roles? I don't think we do. We need far less of it.

To be fair, there was massive improvement in the last fifty pages. Depth I'd been searching for the entire time came out and it at least tries to stop demonizing Juliet. Unfortunately, the efforts will be in vain; between cultural views the book perpetuates and reflects in equal measure, previous characterization of Juliet, and the details of the rumors being spread about it, what is done to "redeem" her (in quotation marks because as I have explained, she didn't do anything wrong) will not be enough. If you're sick of girl hate and Taylor Swift Syndrome, stay far away. Save yourself the time and pain.

1 star!

What am I reading next?: Coraline by Neil Gaiman