Sunday, July 7, 2013

Movin' to Bloglovin'

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Now you can follow me on Bloglovin'. Either click the link above or look to the top of the sidebar to the right. I know I'm a little late to the game, but...better late than never, right?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review of Jellicoe Road

At age eleven, Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother. At fourteen, she ran away from boarding school, only to be tracked down and brought back by a mysterious stranger. Now seventeen, Taylor's the reluctant leader of her school's underground community, whose annual territory war with the Townies and visiting Cadets has just begun. This year, though, the Cadets are led by Jonah Griggs, and Taylor can't avoid his intense gaze for long. To make matters worse, Hannah, the one adult Taylor trusts, has disappeared. But if Taylor can piece together the clues Hannah left behind, the truth she uncovers might not just settle her past, but also change her future.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Contemporary fans and some of those who aren't
High point:  The slow, careful exposition
Low point:  When it ended and there wasn't any more :-(
Reader maturity: 13+

Jellicoe Road was amazing! It's rare that a book lives up to the hype (5+ years of it!), especially when it's as polarizing as Jellicoe Road. It seems that bloggers either loved it or hated it. I loved it!

A marriage of simplicity and complexity exists in Jellicoe Road. Taylor is a straightforward character; she says what she means, both to the reader and to her fellow characters. At a distance, she and her story are simple, showing us everything we need to know, but up close, the clean lines of her story begin to tangle and we learn, along with Taylor, that there is much she doesn't know. Melina Marchetta exposes events of 20 years prior with enticing patience, giving the reader just enough information to hazard a guess at a theory over and over again until the end, when all is revealed in the same intentional way. Jellicoe Road satisfied my need for interesting characters, complicated relationships and a tantalizing mystery (or three).

Taylor is one of my favorite YA characters yet. She's bold and no-nonsense with glimmers of compassion and kindness shining through. Her character evolves throughout the novel, yet manages to stay true to the Taylor of Chapter One. She's not like me; I didn't find her "relatable" per se, but she's the kind of book character I'd want to befriend if she came to life.

There are several romantic relationships in Jellicoe Road, and they're as sparse and perfect as the rest of the storytelling. There's no insta-love or even insta-like, just friendships that blossom into something more.

Melina Marchetta masters the art of exposition in Jellicoe Road, from the mysterious identities of The Brigadier and The Hermit to the whereabouts of Taylor's mother. Every word is deliberate, as well as carefully placed. Jellicoe Road is a book I can't wait to revisit. As soon as I finished it, I immediately wanted to read it again!

Title:  Jellicoe Road
Author:  Melina Marchetta
Genre:   YA Contemporary
Year:   2006

Book Source: Won from Words on Paper

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Supernatural Saturday Review: Mercy (Mercy #1)

A fallen angel haunted by her past. Yearning for her immortal beloved. Forever searching for answers.Who will show her Mercy?

Mercy has lost herself. She can’t count how many times she’s “woken up” in a new body, and assumed a new life, only to move on again and again. During the day she survives in the human world on instinct and at night her dreams are haunted by him. Mercy’s heart would know him anywhere. But her memory refuses to cooperate.

But this time is different. When Mercy wakes up she meets Ryan, an eighteen year old reeling from the loss of his twin sister who was kidnapped two years ago. Everyone else has given up hope, but Ryan believes his sister is still alive. Using a power she doesn’t fully comprehend, Mercy realizes that Ryan is right. His sister is alive and together they can find her. For the first time since she can remember, Mercy has a purpose; she can help. So she doesn’t understand why the man in her dreams cautions her not to interfere. But as Ryan and Mercy come closer to solving the dark mystery of his sister’s disappearance, danger looms just one step behind.

Will Mercy be able to harness her true self and extraordinary power in time?
[from Goodreads]
Rating:  3 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Paranormal fans
High point:  The body switch
Low point:  The chapters between when I figured out the mystery and when it's officially revealed
Reader maturity: 15+

Mercy is the kind of book that unfolds slowly, giving the reader information to postulate theories and keep them reading to see if they're right. About 50% of the book does this really well. However, the first few chapters left me confused and searching to see if I was reading a sequel by mistake. The last few chapters weren't as interesting because I had already figured out Mercy's story and figured out the present day mystery.

Rebecca Lim did a good job placing Mercy in someone else's body. Her confusion and reactions made sense. However, Mercy herself was quite critical of not only the body she inhabited but of the other characters all throughout the book, a trait that significantly diminished my sympathy.

I probably won't continue the series due to the angel theme (I won this copy), but I thought the body-switching/murder-solving aspect was entertaining and well-executed.

Title:  Mercy (Mercy #1)
Author:  Rebecca Lim
Genre:   YA Paranormal
Year:   2011

Book Source: Won from Sarah's Urban Fantasy Blog

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Supernatural Saturday Review: Black City

In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable—they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash’s long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught, they’ll be executed—but their feelings are too strong.

When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:  2.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Paranormal fans
High point:  The neat idea to mix dystopian and paranormal
Low point:  The execution of the mix of dystopian and paranormal
Reader maturity: 15+

I had high hopes for Black City. As a combination paranormal-dystopian, it sounded fresh and exciting.

While the idea was certainly fresh, the writing was not. Natalie's mother and Ash were caricatures of the evil parent and brooding boyfriend. There was also a surly ex and obligatory best friend. Aside from the cliches, oft repeated descriptions (e.g. "black bustle dress") and childish main character, I liked the premise. A dictatorship masquerading as a democracy that wipes out 50% of the population as a means to control public opinion? There was so much potential with the endlessly burning buildings, oppressive regime, government secrets and taboo lab experiments, but Black City fell short.

If you'd like another opinion, you can find the Goodreads reviews here.

Title:  Black City
Author:  Elizabeth Richards
Genre:   YA Paranormal & Dystopian
Year:   2012

Book Source: Won an ARC from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review of Wanderlove

It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:  3 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Travel enthusiasts
High point:  Learning about backpacking
Low point:  All the safety issues!
Reader maturity: 15+

Wanderlove isn't good; it isn't bad; in fact, it isn't a novel I feel strongly about at all. There are some books that just aren't for me, and this is one of them. I'm not saying it's "not my cup of tea", but it just didn't speak to me. The writing was fine and the characters were fine and the plot was fine, but none of them moved me to excitement or anticipation.

Part of it is that I spent a great deal of time thinking about what a bad idea it was for Bria to go off with Rowan. She traveled alone, went off with strangers and didn't tell anyone back home where she was. Any one of those could be a recipe for disaster. The point of Wanderlove could be to just close your eyes and leap--and leaps of faith can be fantastic--but in this case, they could also have deadly consequences.

I'm giving Wanderlove a 3 out of 5 because I was interested in the glimpse into backpacker culture, Latin America, and Bria's journey to acceptance. But in the end, my personal preference is for characters who think before they jump.

Title:  Wanderlove
Author:  Kirsten Hubbard
Genre:   Teen Fiction - Contemporary
Year:   2012
Book Source:  Won from Carolina Valdez Miller

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Supernatural Saturday Review: The Girl Who Would Be King

Separated by thousands of miles, two young women are about to realize their extraordinary powers which will bind their lives together in ways they can't begin to understand.

Protecting others. Maintaining order. Being good. These are all important things for Bonnie Braverman, even if she doesn't understand why. Confined to a group home since she survived the car accident that killed both her parents, Bonnie has lived her life until now in self-imposed isolation and silence; but when an opportunity presents itself to help another girl in need, Bonnie has to decide whether to actually use the power she has long suspected she has. Power that frightens her.

Across the country, Lola LeFever is inheriting her own power by sending her mother over a cliff...literally. For Lola the only thing that matters is power; getting it, taking it, and eliminating anyone who would get in the way of her pursuit of it. With her mother dead and nothing to hold her back from the world any longer, Lola sets off to test her own powers on anyone unfortunate enough to cross her. And Lola's not afraid of anything.

One girl driven to rescue, save, and heal; the other driven to punish, destroy, and kill.

And now they're about to meet.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:  1 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Readers of modern day fairytales
High point:  How well the author wrote Lola
Low point:  Lola
Reader maturity: 18+

File The Girl Who Would Be King under "not my cup of tea." It's not a badly written book, by any means, but I didn't like it.

There's something about this book that I find extremely distasteful, and her name is Lola. The story is told from two points of view--Lola's and Bonnie's--something that wasn't clear to me for several chapters (possibly due to the ebook copy I was reading). So there's that...but Lola makes up only 50% of the novel but sours 100% of it for me.

I like the premise--superpowered women, good vs. evil, archnemeses from birth--but even villains need to have a flaw or trait that inspires sympathy. Lola didn't elicit that from me.

There were some great action scenes and Lola's descent into madness was artfully paced, but I couldn't get past the disgust I felt for her inability to empathize or reason. Brute force isn't the most interesting personality trait.

Quite a few others have enjoyed The Girl Who Would Be King (raved about it, in fact), so I'm linking to the Goodreads reviews so you can see some other opinions. The Girl Who Would Be King just wasn't for me.

Title:  The Girl Who Would Be King
Author:  Kelly Thompson
Genre:   Teen Fiction - Urban Fantasy
Year:   2012
Book Source:  Purchased

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review of Pandemonium (Delirium #2)

"So what was your name before?" I say, and she freezes, her back to me. "Before you came to the Wilds, I mean."

For a moment she stands there.

Then she turns around.

"You might as well get used to it now," she says with quite intensity.

"Everything you were, the life you had, the people you knew... dust."

She shakes her head and says, a little more firmly, "There is no before. There is only now, and what comes next."

After falling in love, Lena and Alex flee their oppressive society where love is outlawed and everyone must receive the "cure" - an operation that makes them immune to the delirium of love - but Lena alone manages to find her way to a community of resistance fighters. Although she is bereft without the boy she loves, her struggles seem to be leading her toward a new love.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Dystopian and YA romance readers
High point:  The introspection
Low point:  It left a lot of my questions unanswered
Reader maturity: 13+

As soon as I finished Pandemonium, I couldn't wait to read it again.

I enjoyed Delirium, but Pandemonium had a much bigger impact. It showcases Lena's introspective journey as brilliantly as Delirium but with more forward motion and insistence. Lena makes a lot of personal choices that she left to fate or Alex in Delirium. Her growth occurs in painful spurts, and she's alternately angsty and naive in between, a perfectly organic transition from innocence to action.

There were a few plot surprises (I love surprises!), although most of the novel was either [tiny SPOILER] Lena-in-the-woods or Lena-under-the-ground, so the focus was mostly on Lena as a character (as it was in Delirium). So what made Pandemonium so incredible? Crafting intricate characters and a novel that makes readers think is challenging, yet Lauren Oliver excelled. Pandemonium gave me as many things to think about as its predecessor and furthered  Lena's journey in a way that makes me incredibly excited for Requiem!

Title:  Pandemonium
Author:  Lauren Oliver
Genre:   Teen Fiction - Dystopian
Year:   2012
Book Source:  Purchased

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Supernatural Saturday Review: The Iron Queen (Iron Fey #3)

I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who's sworn to stand by my side. Drag me into the core of conflict so powerful, I'm not sure anyone can survive it.

This time, there will be no turning back.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Lovers of faery lore, faery newbies
High point:  The vibrant settings
Low point:  Meghan's choice of love interest (no surprise here!)
Reader maturity: 13+

To date, I haven't been as excited about the Iron Fey as the rest of the book reviewing blogosphere, but The Iron Queen was more up my alley than The Iron King and The Iron Daughter...mostly.

The Iron Queen featured events that are frequently skipped in other stories. Meghan's growing relationships with Ash (however much I dislike it) and her father, her dwindling relationship with Puck and her drive--and failure--to train to fight make Meghan an accessible and believable (if Faery existed, of course) main character. Those events slow the pace of the novel dramatically but Ms. Kagawa uses the break to fill in plot holes and nurture character development before slowly building momentum. It feels like nothing much happens for the first half of the novel, but I never got bored or lost interest.

Ms. Kagawa's world-building is something I've always appreciated, and she gives the Iron Realm the same attention to detail that Summer and Winter received. Cold and lifeless, without the mischief and passion shared in the other Realms, the Iron Realm serves as the perfect backdrop to Meghan's internal and external conflicts.

The ending, although a tad dramatic for my tastes, was a fine conclusion to Meghan's journey from typical American high school student to Iron Queen. I can't wait to see what else is in store from the Iron Fey.

Title:  The Iron Queen
Author:  Julie Kagawa
Genre:   Teen Fiction - Paranormal
Year:   2011
Book Source:  Purchased

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Supernatural Saturday Review: Charmfall (Dark Elite #3)

High school can be a battlefield, but for Lily Parker, surviving at St. Sophia’s School for Girls is a matter of life and death...

Protecting Chicago from the dark side can be an exhausting job, especially when you’re a junior. So when the girls of St. Sophia’s start gearing up for Sneak, their fall formal, Lily decides to join in on some good, old-fashioned party prep—even if it means not giving demons, vampires and the twisted magic users known as Reapers her undivided attention.

But when a Reaper infiltrates the school, Lily doesn’t forget what she’s sworn to protect. She reaches deep into herself to draw out her magic—and finds that it’s gone. And it turns out she’s not alone. A magical blackout has slammed through paranormal Chicago, and no one knows what—or who—caused it. But Lily knows getting back her magic is worth the risk of going behind enemy lines...
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: YA paranormal fans
High point: Lily and Scout
Low point: The set-up
Reader maturity: 13+

I'd been waiting a long time to check in with Lily and Scout and find out what's going on in the Chicago underground. Short answer:  trouble.

It took me a while to start Charmfall because, while I gave Hexbound (Dark Elite #2) a decent review, I remember being disappointed in the characterization and, to a lesser extent, the direction of the story. Charmfall wasn't par for the course--it had a different feel than its predecessors--but it's a good kind of different. I liked the addition of an outside enemy, an uneasy truce and inter-group cooperation.

Charmfall was great at building tension and suspense with plausible red herrings and a great balance between giving the reader enough information to stay invested but withholding enough to stay interested. My only complaint is that the secondary characters seemed to exist only to serve a singular plot purpose rather than enriching the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed Charmfall's story development and am crossing my fingers for a fourth Dark Elite novel. Now that Chloe Neill got me excited about Adepts again, I want to know what happens next!

Title:  Charmfall
Author:  Chloe Neill
Genre:   Teen Fiction - Girls & Young Women
Year:   2012
Book Source:  Purchased

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Supernatural Saturday Review: Undead Much? (Megan Berry #2)

Megan Berry, Zombie Settler extraordinaire, just wants Pom Squad to trounce Cheer Team in this freakishly funny follow-up to You Are So Undead to Me. But someone's turning coma victims into settler-resistant ├╝ber-zombies, and everyone thinks it's Megan's fault! Well, except for super-creepy male cheerleader Aaron. (Ew!) Meg's also being stalked by a hot, albeit undead, seer named Cliff. Can Cliff's premonitions help Megan stop a zombies-on-ice deathscapade and discover who's really behind the coma-killer crusade before an entire army of undead rise up? And when Megan's boyfriend Ethan grows jealous of Cliff, will it end their intra-Settler romance?
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Zombie fans who want something lighthearted
High point:  The surprisingly deep plot twists
Low point:  There's no more after this!!
Reader maturity: 13+

I wish it hadn't taken me so long to get around to reading Undead Much?. I adored the first book in this series, You Are So Undead to Me, but for some reason, I let Undead Much? languish on my bookshelf for over a year. I'm so glad I finally picked it up, though, because it's awesome, maybe even better than the first.

Undead Much? may not have pulled me out of the reading slump I've been in lately, but it definitely managed to avoid being sucked in. From the cover to the title, Undead Much? appears deceptively simple, merely a throwaway book for an afternoon of reading. But, you guys, it's good, I promise!

For starters, the characters are fantastic. There's a whole slew of people in this novel, dead and undead, and Stacey Jay manages to make them all unique. Even the characters that show up only once or twice have distinct character traits that keep them from fading into the background. Character depth and growth are also impressive, especially in a zombie novel, and Megan, Ethan, Monica and Cliff all come a long way in terms of development over the course of 300 pages. Monica's evolution, in particular, impressed me. I can't say much without giving away some plot, but hers is one of the few transformations of its type that I actually find believable.

Of course, there's also tons of action because this is a zombie novel, with Unsettled beings popping up everywhere...again and again and again! There's a good mix of description and imagination in the fight scenes and a sense of urgency that draws the reader into the melee.

Best of all, Undead Much? is a fun book. While I enjoy serious fiction as much as the next reader, sometimes I just want something fun, preferably something fun and worth reading. Undead Much? is it!

FYI:  Razorbill decided not to continue the Megan Berry series, and there's a huuuge cliffhanger at the end of Undead Much?. I'm disappointed that I don't get to join Megan Berry on any more adventures, but I still think the first two are worth a read. Just make up your own ending! (There's supposed to be an ebook called Undead to the World that wraps things up, but I can't find it anywhere. :-(

Title:  Undead Much?
Author:  Stacey Jay
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Purchased

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Supernatural Saturday Review: Spell Bound (Hex Hall #3)

Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.

Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Fans of Firespell, paranormal and boarding school stories
High point:  The complete package
Low point:  Archer
Reader maturity: 13+
Spell Bound is a great addition to the Hex Hall family. The premise of these books is amazing (boarding school for "troubled" supernatural adolescents, secret scientific experiments, generations-old family feuds), as is Sophie. While the book blurb may say she's defenseless and at the mercy of her enemies, she's really quite resourceful. Hers is one of the best YA characters I've read about because she manages to be strong, while still being feminine, and smart, yet still accessible. (I can't say that I agree with her choices in men, but...)

Action scenes can quickly fall flat in literature, but Spell Bound pulls them off with aplomb. They're incredibly easy to visualize but with enough detail to cause nail-biting (metaphorically speaking; that would be rather hard to do while reading). Everything and everyone is rich in character and backstory with one exception...or rather, two of them:  the guys.

I'm Team Cal, no question, but both Archer and Cal felt very dull to me in the third installment of the Hex Hall series. Sophie's attraction to Archer in Book 1 was understandable, if questionable, and there were some serious sparks flying between Sophie and Cal in Book 2, but Spell Bound actually had me rooting for a guy in a painting! (If you read it, all will be explained. I promise.)

The ending was a fantastic smash-bang mix of action, magic and mystery that I just loved. It's rare for me to get so excited while I'm reading, but it actually made up for the lack of excitement in Sophie's dating life.

Title:  Spell Bound
Author:  Rachel Hawkins
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2012
Book Source:  Purchased