Tuesday, January 31, 2012

review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

pub date: February 14, 2012
publisher: Walker and Co
pages: 304
source: NetGalley
appeals: Robin Hood, retelling, romance, adventure
content: rather gritty--real life hardships, violence

This was a lot of fun to read. One of Robin Hood's merry men, Will Scarlet, is actually a girl masquerading as a boy. It was a premise I enjoyed. I haven't read Robin Hood or any other retellings (that I can think of right now, anyway), so it was new and fun for me.

There was a lot of and adventure and fighting and gore, which made it exciting and fun to read. You might think it would make a good boyish book, but I don't think it is so much. Though Scarlet is pretending to be a boy, I felt it had a definite feminine feel to it.

One aspect of the story I didn't so much care for was Scarlet told her story in commoner-slang (for lack of a better word). It made sense that she did, but I must admit it rather bugged me, especially when the book was 300 pages. It got a little old, and at times downright annoying. Scarlet was supposed to be about seventeen, but she seemed so much younger to me. Maybe fourteen. I think her use of language was part of the reason she seemed so young, but she also cried a lot and her reactions to some situations seemed young, too.

Overall, it was a fun book and I enjoyed it a lot. But beware of the commoner-slang and you'll need some patience with Scarlet. She has some growing up to do.

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in. It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

Monday, January 23, 2012

review: Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

pub date: February 7, 2012
publisher: Putnam
pages: 326
source: Library Thing Early Reviewer
appeals: historical, paranormal, witches, magic, family
content: some sweet kissin

I enjoyed this book. I thought Spotswood's world was interesting, as were her characters. I was mislead by the cover. I assumed the book took place in present times, but it's America in the past sometime (the mid 1800s or so?). Now, does that girl on the cover look like she lived 15o years ago? She's showing her knees! And has a seductive look in her (very make-uped) face! So, yeah, I felt a little mislead. But I still enjoyed the book.

Cate's world is controlled by the Brotherhood who preach against witches and accuse many innocent girls of possessing magic. Which makes it hard for Cate because she is a witch, as are her two younger sisters.

I liked the story. I appreciated what Cate was struggling with and the decisions she had to make and how she strived to protect her sisters. I especially, really, really liked the romance in the book. It was very well done.

I did have an issue with the magic possessed by some witches. I don't like magic that has the power to mess with other's minds. I just think it's too powerful. It makes it so there's no balance between good and evil. So that bugged me.  

Also, I am so FRUSTRATED!!

****Slight spoilers follow...proceed at your own risk...****

I am frustrated on two counts, the first being that Cate is an idiot at times. She finds this important information in her mom's journal that involves all three sisters AND SHE WAITS AND WAITS AND WAITS TO TELL HER SISTERS ABOUT IT because ... well, I'm not really sure why. Except that the plot depended on the misunderstanding between siblings. Withheld information to move the story along is a plot device I loath. The more I think about it, the more it bothers me.

(also, as a side note...what the heck is Cate's mother doing keeping a diary the last year of her life that says, explicitly, that her daughter is a witch? Information that can potentially kill her daughter? why write that out on paper and put her whole family in danger? Don't get it...)

Second, though I am okay with the unresolved ending (but only because I have to be and I have hope in the rest of the series resolving the mess that this book ends with), I am not okay with the way Cate handles herself. Similar to frustration #1, at the end Cate once again doesn't discuss things with her sisters, leaving it to a woman she hates to explain her actions--which will not bode well for the next book. ARG. I am soooo upset about it, and so the last two pages of the book rather tainted my opinion of the whole story.

****Okay, slightly spoilery part of this review is over****

I enjoyed book for the most part. Really, I did. I just get so frustrated at times with characters who do dumb things. And withheld information just to make the plot work.

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they're witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word . . . especially after she finds her mother's diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family's destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren't safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other

Thursday, January 19, 2012

review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

pub date: June 7, 2011
publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
pages: 459
source: ALA Midwinter 2011
appeals: survival, family, future, dystopia
content: some swearing, violence

Wow. I've had an ARC of this book on my bookshelf for a year and I just barely picked it up. Ugh! I should have read it a year ago!

In the beginning I struggled. Saba writes her story phonetically and without punctuation or quotation marks. Which is hard reading! I wasn't a big fan and it wasn't a book that was quickly read because of this.

However, it didn't take me long to get so immersed in the story that I stopped noticing the strange spellings and lack of punctuation. By fifty pages in, it was easy reading and it did read quickly.

Saba...is an interesting character. There is much about her that is appealing as a heroine, she's strong and courageous and brave and proactive and smart. But she's also kind of annoying in that she's so also so hell bent on rescuing her brother, her one-note tune got annoying at times. And she was so selfish and mean at times. Or all the time, until she grew at the end. So while she was frustrating, it was also very real. Her motivations and actions were understandable and real.

Jack is absolutely wonderful. He had some really great lines. He was really a funny guy. Great to have around when things aren't going so great.

Okay, I love a good love story. And this was a GOOD love story. It was a nice side story, wasn't overwhelming, but so well developed and REAL. (so are we sensing a theme here?) I reread the romantic bits a few times over just because they were so good.

This book has a lot of heart, a lot of adventure, a lot of character.

I have read a lot of people who compare it to The Hunger Games. I can see the correlation. Saba and Katniss have similar personalities and this drive to save their siblings and survive. But this is a different story, original and new. And oh, so wonderful.

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.

Monday, January 9, 2012

review: The Glass Swallow by Julia Golding

pub date: October 28, 2011
publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books
pages: 320
source: library
appeals: fantasy, romance, adventure
content: none

This is a companion novel to Dragonfly. I LOVED Dragonfly. It was so adventurous and romantic. It was just great. This book was okay. It takes place fifteen (or so) years after Dragonfly, about different characters who are not royalty, but common folk.

It took a while for it to really start. The two protagonists didn't meet for a while, and then they did meet, but only for a few pages, before they went off and had seperate adventures, before meeting up again. It was a fun adventure, but I wanted the to protagonists to spend more time together and to see more of their relationship developing.

Like Dragonfly, Golding created another interesting and unique kingdom. She is amazing at world building, at creating such unique and interesting cultures and customs.

A good book, but it fell short of expectations. summary:

She designs exquisite stained glass for the windows of her city. But the law is clear — it is forbidden for girls to be part of the glassmaker's guild. To keep her secret hidden, she leaves home and travels to the strange new country of Magharna.


When he witnesses Rain's capture by a gang of bandits, both his fate and his heart becomes tied to hers. They escape the outlaws, but Peri and his family of falconers are untouchables who are scorned by all, and Rain is not allowed to be part of their lives.

Can Rain and Peri's love survive the prejudices against them? And with the city on the brink of disaster will they be able to stop their world from smashing apart?

Friday, January 6, 2012

review: Girl Meets Boy: Because There Are Two Sides to Every Story edited by Kelly Milner Hall

pub date: December 28, 2011
publisher: Chronicle Books
pages: 204
source: LibraryThing Early Reveiwer
content: sex, swearing

This book of short stories wasn't what I was expecting. I thought it would be a fun, lighter read with insight into how boys and girls view the same situation. It wasn't fun or light, nor did it bring insight. It wasn't even all that enjoyable.

The first set of stories were all about sex. I really didn't enjoy them, so it took me a while to pick the book up and read the rest. And I'm not sure it was really worth my time to have picked it back up.

My favorite set of stories were, "Falling Down to See the Moon," and, "Mooning over Broken Stars." They characters were cute and likable and their story was sweet. I wanted more like them. 

Second favorite, "No Clue, aka Sean," and "SEAN + RAFFINA." 

Looking at the book overall, it was just okay. Overall, too much focus on sex. And I felt like most of the stories were trying too hard to be sensational.

Just give me straight-forward, cute, upbeat, fun stories.  I don't wanted twisted endings. I just wanted a little romance.  

What do guys and girls really think? Twelve of the most dynamic and engaging YA authors writing today team up for this one-of-a-kind collection of "he said/she said" stories-he tells it from the guy's point of view, she tells it from the girl's. These are stories of love and heartbreak. There's the good-looking jock who falls for a dangerous girl, and the flipside, the toxic girl who never learned to be loved; the basketball star and the artistic (and shorter) boy she never knew she wanted; the gay boy looking for love online and the girl who could help make it happen. Each story in this unforgettable collection teaches us that relationships are complicated-because there are two sides to every story.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

review: New Girl by Paige Harbison

pub date: January 31, 2012
publisher: HarlequinTeen
pages: 304
source: NetGalley
format: ebook
appeals: boarding school, mystery
content: a lot of swearing (including the f-bomb many times), a lot of sex, a lot of underage drinking

I am a fan of the book Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, the original novel of which New Girl is based on. It's a great mystery with interesting characters. I also enjoyed Harbison's first book, Here Lies Bridget. So I was excited to read this one.

However, I have some real issues with New Girl, most of them adding up to me not enjoying the book so much. Or really, at all.

Slight spoilers follow. You've been warned.

The plot followed New Girl, or NG, (like in the book Rebecca, we don't find out the narrator's name--which I thought was rather cool), as she attends Manderly boarding school her senior year. She is taking the place of Becca, a student who disappeared at the end of the previous year. Everyone at Manderly loves Becca, especially Becca's former roommate Dana, who is now NG's roommate. Which makes life difficult. Even more difficult is that NG has a major crush on Max, Becca's former boyfriend.

What I thought was interesting in Harbison's retelling of Rebecca, is that not only do we get the story from NG's point of view, but we get flashbacks to the previous year from Becca's point of view. Cool.

My main complaint about this book is Max. He is not a likable person. He's an idiot. The very first night he meets Becca (in the flashback from Becca's POV), they have sex on the beach. And then again a few days later. He doesn't want to date Becca, he just wants to continue to sleep with her. They only start dating "officially" when Becca says she won't sleep with him again unless they do so. Max says, "okay, we can be a couple as long as you keep sleeping with me." What a sleazy idiot!

We're not supposed to like Becca, but I think I'm supposed to like Max. Because a year later when NG shows up, he supposedly likes her for real, for more than just sex, but I kind of hated him. Sadly, NG didn't feel the same way. She really, really liked him. Though I can't really understand why. Their relationship was never developed.

During whole book I wanted NG to run away from Max. Far, far away. And sure, he was manipulated by Becca, but I never felt any pity for him or thought, "poor Max. What a tough situation he's in." He got himself into his own mess by being a sleazy idiot. And though he likes NG for real (supposedly), he won't "officially" start dating her (just sleep with her) because it's all just too complicated. Not only is he sleazy, he's a Wimp, with a capital W. And he really had no personality that I could see. Beyond being a sleazy wimp idiot, of course. From now on I'll just refer to him as SWI. Okay?

So, that was my main complaint. SWI, also known as Max.

But there was more. I felt like Harbison spent more time in recreating the plot line of the original Rebecca then in actually developing an interesting and believable story. I thought the plot moved rather slow. So many times NG confronts SWI and yet nothing progresses between them. They keep kissing, but then ignoring each other, and then confronting each other, then kissing, then ignoring. In circles, again and again. Frustrating, to say the least. I felt like Harbison was just treading time until the year was up and something could actually happen.

Also, there were events that happened that were so out of the blue--there was no build up, no explanation. It just was. Urg! 

SWI wasn't the only character I didn't like. Actually...I didn't like any of them. Dana, the crazy roommate, was the most entertaining, but most every one else was drab and boring. The relationships weren't developed--especially between NG and SWI.

After reading through all of that (and I did finish it--I couldn't stop even though I was so disgusted) the ending was rather...dumb. No twist. No intrigue. Very Disappointing.

So yeah, I didn't like the book so much. My suggestion is to read the original. It's so much better.

They call me 'New Girl'...

Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy, that’s who I am. New girl. Unknown. But not unnoticed—because of her.

Becca Normandy—that’s the name on everyone’s lips. The girl whose picture I see everywhere. The girl I can’t compare to. I mean, her going missing is the only reason a spot opened up for me at the academy. And everyone stares at me like it’s my fault.

Except for Max Holloway—the boy whose name shouldn’t be spoken. At least, not by me. Everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend but she’s gone, and here I am, replacing her. I wish it were that easy. Sometimes, when I think of Max, I can imagine how Becca’s life was so much better than mine could ever be.

And maybe she’s still out there, waiting to take it back.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

review: The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

pub date: January 24, 2012
publisher: Hyperion
pages: 304
source: NetGalley
appeals: virus,
content: swearing, about 5 or 6 f-bombs

This is one of those books that starts out slower, but picks up quickly and doesn't slow down. The situation of the virus unravels slowly, but it is Kaelyn herself and how she deals with everything around her, that propells the story forward.

This is a very engaging story, and I loved Kaelyn as the protagonist. I loved that it was a journal (more like a letter she would never send), because it got to her feelings and observations, but didn't need a lot of descriptions of place. Her voice, her observations, struggles, and hope/dispair really got to the heart of ths situation (and me!) and made it seem very real.

The ending...well, there wasn't much of one. Which, for the record, I am not a fan of authors doing! It's leaving so many unanswered questions, and opening a can of worms for the next book to deal with. I wanted a conclusion! But since I didn't get that, the next book in the series would be nice. Like, yesterday. I don't want to wait for it!

It starts with an itch you just can't shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you'll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.

And then you're dead.

When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s community, the government quarantines her island—no one can leave, and no one can come back.

Those still healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest.

Because how will she go on if there isn't?

Megan Crewe crafts a powerful and gripping exploration of self-preservation, first love, and hope. Poignant and dizzying, this heart-wrenching story of one girl’s bravery and unbeatable spirit will leave readers fervently awaiting the next book in this standout new series.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011's most memorable reads

Wow. 2011 is a thing of the past.

Hallelujah! I'm glad the holidays are over because there was just too much food EVERY WHERE and I've been trying to lose weight, not gain it (and I did--lost 5 pounds in December!!! And it was really hard because food was EVERY WHERE).

But I'm also sad that the holidays are over because tomorrow my life starts up again as usual. I don't think I'm ready for that. 

Anyway, that wasn't what this post was meant to be about. This post is to share 2011's most memorable reads. Late, I know, but I've been a slacker bloggist the past few weeks (months), so this is when it gets done.

And so, here they are, in no particular order:

OKAY FOR NOW by Gary Schmidt
I laughed, I cried, I gushed about this book to all of my coworkers and any friend who had an iota of interest. It's just that good. So much heartbreak, but so much hope. Doug Swieteck is my hero.

WHERE SHE WENT by Gayle Foreman
Since I first read this book in January, I've probably reread it four times. I don't reread books as often these days with such a deep to-read pile, but this one just calls to me. I have a really hard time pinpointing exactly why. I just love it.

This book took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. What really drew me in where the two narrators, Jill and Mandy. I loved their distinct voices, how the perceived each other, and how their world view changed through knowing each other. And it had a happy ending. So few of Zarr's books have true happiness at the end.

DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth
I read this book in one day. I could not put it down. I thought it was original and interesting and exciting and the romance was spot on. Excited for Insurgent.

WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard
This one doesn't come out until March, but I read it back in August and LOVED it. It was so well-written, but more than the plot, it was the characters that won my heart. Rowan is swoon worthy. I'm really impatient for this book to be released. I want to reread it, but since I borrowed it from NetGalley, I have to wait. Sigh.

VARIANT by Robison Wells
It's just fun. And creepy and surprising and exciting. Really good story telling. Highly recommend.

TEXAS GOTHIC by Rosemary Clement-Moore
This was just fun. The romance, the mystery, the setting, the characters. Fluff, but oh so filling.

RUBY RED by Kerstin Gier
I find the cover extremely boring, but the story in side is extremely fun. There is so much humor, as well as mystery and adventure. I was a little peeved at the ending...Gier ended the book in the middle of a scene. How cruel. But still really fun.

EVERFOUND by Neal Shusterman
This is the conclusion to one of my favorite series. It cemented my love for Mr. Shusterman. I met the man in October (I was actually his chauffeur and picked him up at his hotel and took him to the event...did I mention that earlier?) and it is all because of the Skinjacker Series. LOVE this book. LOVE the series. LOVE how it ended.

CINDER by Marissa Meyer
The whole world Meyer created was just mind blowing. I loved how it wasn't just the story of Cinderella in a new world, it was it's own world with hints of Cinderella. Really enjoyable. I'm impatient for the rest of the series.