Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Book Review: The Pledge (The Pledge #1) by Kimberly Derting

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
338 Pages

In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she's spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed.

Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can't be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country's only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.



So, I wasn't super impressed.
 
The Pledge follows 17-year old Charlie, a Vendor class girl who has a secret - she can understand all languages of her country. In a world divided by classes with each class only able to understand their own language, Charlie's secret could get her killed. A chance meeting with a member of the Queens Guard almost reveals her secret. Max knows there's something special about Charlie and he's intrigued to find out more. However, Max is hiding his own secret, one that could shatter Charlie's entire world.

Again, another interesting premise but I feel like a lot of backstory was kind of glossed over so that there was more focus on the love story - which don't get me wrong, I love a good love story but this needed more especially since it focused around a revolution. I wanted to know more about the past uprising, the history of the language barrier and how all of that really works, where the Queen originally got her power and a little more of her background so that we can understand her position better. Just more.

One thing I did feel like we got 'more' of was instalove - on both sides. I get that the author wanted to move the story along to get to the conflict but the lack of any relationship building hurt this book. Aside from physical attraction and initial intrigue, I have no idea what Charlie and Max see in each other based on Derting's writing of their interactions. And when Charlie is more concerned about an injured girl holding Max's hand instead of the BOMBS FALLING ALL AROUND THEM I just have to roll my eyes.

I felt that the story didn't really pick up until about 60% of the way through when there is a rebel attack on Charlie's village. Here's where things start to get interesting and the book starts moving at a fast pace. We see members of different classes helping Charlie as she uncovers the truth about herself and her country. Had the entire book read as well as the last 60%, it could have easily been rated higher.




Friday, January 6, 2017

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster for Young Adults
359 Pages

Dante can swim. Ari can't. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari's features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

 
Well wasn't this an awesome surprise. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe came highly recommended to me by a few of my friends and now having read it, I can see why.

15 year olds Ari and Dante meet one summer at the local swimming pool when Dante offers to teach Ari how to swim. This sparks a friendship that goes through many ups and downs and revelations. Despite their opposite personalities - Ari is quiet and reserved, choosing to be alone over other people while Ari is talkative, friendly, and curious; the two become inseparable until Dante's father gets offered a job in Chicago for the next school year. Before Dante leaves, there is an accident that forever changes the tone of their friendship and sends Ari on a downward spiral of confusion where he is constantly questioning who he is and what he wants.

What I loved about this book was the realness of the characters.  Ari, the youngest of 3 siblings who are much older than him, lives in the shadows. His father, a war vet, is quiet, never talking about the demons that haunt him leaving Ari to feel this gap between them that he can't quite bridge. The fact that his older brother is in prison doesn't help either. His parents never talk about him and Ari feels like he's a stranger - there's this emptiness in his heart where his brother should be but he just can't fill it. This leaves him stuck in his own head. When you live in a house where people don't discuss feelings and secrets are hidden, that passes to the children. When Ari meets Dante, he doesn't quite know how to react to Dante's openness.

Another thing that really stood out to me was the parents. Most YA books either don't feature the parents or they show them in a harsh light. Here, both sets of parents were present. Even though Ari's dad had trouble communicating, when the time came, he was there for his son. He showed other ways of caring even if he couldn't talk about it. And Ari's mom was a constant source of love and support. Then there was Dante's family. They shared the openness of their son. They welcomed Ari into their homes and hearts without question. Both sets cared and actually parented. I feel this is just so missed in YA and I loved all of the family interactions. Actually, the one time I teared up was during a conversation between Ari and his dad.

This story is about two boys figuring out who they are and what they wanted in a time where life is it's most confusing. Despite it's slow start, this one sucked me into their lives and I know they will stay with me for years to come.

Fun fact: I kept forgetting this was set in the 80's.
 




Tuesday, December 27, 2016

ARC Review: Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen
360 Pages

Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: she’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.

She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad, sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves—the rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

The only rule is: There are no rules.


The only rule is there are no rules
Hailed as being a cross between Black Swan and Fight Club, Lost Girls is a game of catching up. A game of cat and mouse. Rachel goes to sleep and wakes up on the side of the road a year later. She has no memory of the last year or where she's been for the past two weeks. She also doesn't recognize herself in the mirror. Gone is the Taylor Swift loving preppy ballerina and in her place is this blond haired punk rock rave girl. Her best friend is no longer her best friend. Her new group of friends is a ragtag team she never would have dreamed up. And she's suddenly dating her long time crush. Oh and she can fight.

Not really knowing anything about this book going in, I was intrigued by the story. A girl wakes up a year later with no memory of where she's been - see, I interpreted that as her having been gone for an entire year when in fact she was only gone for two weeks. Something happened in those two weeks that caused her memory to black out the past year. Over the course of the book, we get the pieces and slowly start putting together the mystery of Rachel's past. 

So, did I like it? I think so. It definitely kept me interested because I really wanted to know what happened to Rachel. Did I feel satisfied with the outcome? I don't know. It wasn't what I expected and I think it threw me off a bit, but it was different. Here's where I got to hand it to Destefano, it was unique. Rachel had a relationship with her parents and brother - something that is rare in YA. It showcased fiercely protective people - both friends and family. And it showed a different side of "bad girl".

I decided on 3 stars because something was a little off. I didn't connect with any of the characters emotionally. Having everything told in a Memento type fashion (starting at the end and rewinding) may not have been the best choice for this. I feel like a lot of character development was lost because we only got to know people through flashbacks. It was hard for me to understand Rachel's new friendships because we never saw them. It's hard to root for things when you don't experience them. But I would recommend it for people who are looking for something different in YA.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Book Review: Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers #1) by Brenda Drake

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: EntangledTeen
400 Pages

Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books—rescue them from a demonic hound.

Jumping into some of the world's most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik's world and her own, before both are destroyed.






This one had all of the makings to be a great book but it feel a little short. Which was sad to me because the premise was so cool and that cover is beautiful.

One day while in the library, Gia watches some hot guy vanish into thin air. Well, actually, into a book. When she accidentally follows him, she's thrust into this world of magic that's more tied to her than she knows. Suddenly her life isn't her own anymore and her coming has been is part of an ancient prophecy and she basically has started the apocalypse. Whew...that's a lot to take in - one would think.

One of my issues with the book was how everyone just fit. Gia finds out she's part of this mystical world and she's cool like a few pages later. Same with her father and her friends and everyone else who comes into contact with Gia. Now, I'm not asking for major freakouts, but I just feel like there would have been more of an adjustment period instead of just blanket acceptance.

Also, this line from the blurb "Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them", yeah that's not true at all. Gia says early on that she's never been interested in boys but give it a few pages and suddenly it's all Arik this and Arik that. Oh and don't forget Bastien. Because yes, this needs to be a love triangle.

There were parts that I did like. The fact that a majority takes place in libraries all over the world was pretty awesome. I mean, they can jump from library to library by the pages in certain books. I would love that power! And once the plot was finally laid out, things started happening. This book really hit it's stride about halfway through when Bastien showed up. Missions happened and secrets were revealed.

While I don't buy the love story here at all, I liked the history and the puzzle that's laid before Gia. With the threat neutralized for the moment, our group gets a minor breather before what seems to be the a powerful evil force heading for them.


I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Book Review: Teach Me to Forget by Erica M. Chapman

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: December 2, 2016
Publisher: Merit Press
287 Pages

This is the story of Ellery, a girl who learns how to live while waiting for the date she chose to die.

Ellery's bought the gun, made arrangements for her funeral, and even picked the day. A Wednesday. Everything has fallen into place.

Now all she has to do is die.

When her plans go awry and the gun she was going to kill herself with breaks, she does the one thing she has control over--return it and get a new one. After tormenting the crusty customer service associate by trying to return the gun with the wrong receipt, Ellery gets caught by the security guard who also happens to be someone she knows--the annoyingly perfect Colter Sawyer from her English class.

Colter quickly uncovers what she's hiding and is determined to change her mind. After confessing a closely held secret of his own, he promises not to tell hers. Ellery tries to fight her attraction to him as the shadows of her past cling tight around her, but when she's faced with another tragedy, she must decide whether she can learn to live with what she's done or follow through with her plan to die.



I went into this book knowing that it dealt with very harsh subject matter. Depression and suicides are nothing to be taken lightly so I was interested in how Chapman would present this. And while I didn't agree with the actions of certain people in the book, there was a good amount of realism present.

The book opens with Ellery about to kill herself. She has everything planned out - right down to hiring the cleaning service to take care of the mess so her mother doesn't have to. But when the shotgun doesn't go off (the first six times or so of trying), she gets frustrated and goes to return it. Only she doesn't return it to Walmart where they sell guns, but tries to return it at K-Mart. Even with a receipt showing it was purchased and despite her protests that she was just trying to return a defective gun but just got the stores mixed up, Ellery is still an underage girl with a gun. Obviously security takes notice. The security guard just happens to be someone from Ellery's school, and thus begins her relationship with Colter.

I felt that the author portrayed Ellery's pain as a very tangible thing. I saw some other reviews where people complained that Ellery's was too stuck in one moment and her reason for not living was stuck and repetitive. Since we were reading from her point of view, it made sense to me that she would keep reliving the night her life changed. Guilt and grief are two separate terrible things and can eat away at people if they are not dealt with. I think we were supposed to feel frustrated with her because we could see all of the reasons for her to live, but she could not.

I absolutely adored Colter. He sees that something is wrong with Ellery and tries to show her what to live for. Despite the tragedies in his past, he was focused on moving forward and was trying to understand why Ellery couldn't.

There were a couple of issues that I had and they were why I couldn't give this story 5 stars. First was the amount of metaphors the author uses. There were times where I forgot what the sentence was describing because of how many metaphors were being used. There were just too many. This was something I noticed right off the bat and just knew it was going to bother me if it persisted.

The second issue was how other people dealt with Ellery's depression. It's pretty obvious that she was not okay. Even her faking it was bad. But no did anything. I loved Colter, but when you know someone has planned to kill themselves, you tell someone. You try to get that person professional help. There were two suicidal people in this book, both with noticeable tendencies and nobody did anything about either.  When Ellery finds out a classmate is also suicidal, she decides that while she doesn't want him to die, she won't tell anyone because then he might tell her secret and she's also kind of fascinated with how he's going to do it. It was a little disturbing.

This book reminds me a lot of Thirteen Reasons Why in different ways. Suicide awareness is something that needs to be focused on more. I do wish that this book portrayed how to help someone a littler better than just using the love angle, but it was still a powerful book and the ending seemed to be going in that direction.


 
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.




Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Book Review: Backstage Pass: The Complete Series by Multiple Authors

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: December 5, 2016
Publisher: Entangled Teen

Five irresistible guys…five unforgettable romances

Step backstage with the guys of Seconds to Juliet—the hottest boy band to hit the scene in years—and the girls who capture their hearts. Superstardom has never been so sexy…

Join the fandom. Just click the button.

Aimee and the Heartthrob by Ophelia London
Mia and the Bad Boy by Lisa Burstein
Daisy and the Front Man by Rebekah L. Purdy
Anya and the Shy Guy by Suze Winegardner
Abby and the Cute One by Erin Butler




Since this is a 5 book compilation, I will be reviewing each book individually and then giving a total rating at the bottom.

Aimee and the Heartthrob by Ophelia London 
4 Stars
 

This was absolutely adorable.

Aimee has had a crush on Miles Carlisle since she was a kid. But after learning from her brother that Miles used to make fun of her for following them around, she stopped him cold turkey. But it's kind of hard to avoid someone who is:

a. her brother's best friend, and
b. a member of the hottest boy band on the music scene - Seconds to Juliet

When her brother gets an internship to help S2J on the road, he jumps at it, and because of unforeseen circumstances, Aimee is brought along for the ride.

Miles hasn't seen Aimee in a few years. so it's no surprise that he doesn't recognize her when he first sees her. But once he does, it doesn't matter anyway because best friends' little sisters are off limits. Especially to guys like him who aren't looking for relationships after having previously been burned...twice.

Band books are one of my weaknesses. I love them. Throw in the fact that Miles is British and insert swoon here. Old crushes are rekindled, secrets are revealed, and older brothers are out for blood. Drama, music, and romance. If those sound like things you enjoy, then I'm sure you would gobble this up.

Mia and the Bad Boy by Lisa Burstein
3 Stars


I didn't like this one as much as I've liked others in this series and I think that's mostly due to pacing.

When Mia gets hired as a tutor to a member of her favorite band, she thinks it's the best thing ever. However, once she meets Ryder, she discovers that his bad boy image just means he's an asshole. As 1/5 of the hottest boy band around, Ryder can't afford to let people in. When he decides to step up and get his GED, he wants to do so in secret. Hire a tutor, have her pretend to be his girlfriend, get his GED, leave said boy band to study music at a prestigious school. Easy, right?

Wrong.

Instantly Ryder is attracted to Mia. She's spunky, doesn't put up with his shit, and smart. I'm all for instant attraction, so at least there wasn't insta love. However, the rate at which the romance progressed was extremely fast - like pages, not chapters. I get for such a short book that the author had to move the story along, but since it's contemporary fiction, make it at least believable.

This was riding at a solid two stars for me - just because I didn't feel a connection with anyone, but I bumped it up to three because of the grand gesture at the end. I'm a sucker for those type of things.
 

  Daisy and the Front Man by Rebekah L. Purdy
3 Stars

Daisy wins the ultimate teen dream - her favorite pop star, Trevin, is going to take her to Homecoming. She's over the moon until she gets stood up - in front of the media and everyone in town. Fuming, she starts planning her revenge. She finally gets her chance when she's forced to spend the summer with her father, who just happens to be Seconds to Juliet's main bodyguard. Trevin is in her sights, now she just need to find a way to humiliate him like he did her.

Meanwhile, Trevin has no idea why his bodyguard's daughter hates him immediately. So he makes a bet with a fellow bandmate that he can get Daisy to fall for him. Obviously this is a good idea. Not.

This book had it's cutesy moments and I liked Trevin for the most part. But I had issues with Daisy. While I get that her fangirl heart was broken, why not confront him and ask what happened? No, instead she sulks that he doesn't remember her or what happened. I don't know. Maybe I'm just being too harsh on her, but I felt that she was extremely childish about the entire situation. And her revenge plan? Make him fall for her to crush him later...how does this make you a better person?

I think Trevin can do better, but eh...

 
  Anya and the Shy Guy by Suze Winegardner
3 Stars

Anya Anderson hasn't had the best life. She's been homeless since she was a kid, bouncing in and out of shelters just trying to survive. After publishing an article on homelessness, she gets a job touring with the hottest boy band in the industry. She has one job, follow Will Fray around and find out some interesting dirt. All she has to do is keep her own secrets and find out Will's. That turns out to be easier said than done.

Will Fray isn't...well, he isn't Will Fray. His name is Matt and he's Will's twin brother. Matt is covering for his twin while Will is in rehab. No one besides one other band member know this and the last thing Matt needs is some reporter poking around trying to find his deepest secrets. His goal: Keep Anya away from anything too personal.

This is the fourth in a series and the first one I've actually read. It was a fun read. There were qualities in each that I liked. Matt was loyal to his family and willing to sacrifice everything so that no one knew what his brother was going through. When he realizes that he's falling for Anya, his internal struggle to tell her the truth begins to wear on him. He was both endearing and frustrating. But with Anya being a reporter, you could tell why he was reluctant to be honest.

Then there was Anya. I liked her strength and her determination. She had a crappy life and saw a way out of it, even temporarily. When she starts developing feelings for Matt, who she still thinks is Will, she has to weigh out just how important selling secrets is to what she's feeling for Matt.

The book includes adorable dates and interactions between the two giving us time to watch their relationship grow. The drama was predictable, but I don't think we read these types of books for the suspense. Ultimately, we know the ending. It's just the in-between parts that we're interested in.

 
Abby and the Cute One by Erin Butler
3 Stars

 What a cute ending to this set.

Nathan has been labeled the "cute one" of Seconds to Juliet. Being the only one single left in the group, management has been leaning on him hard to boost their social media ratings. The brilliant idea - have him "date" other celebrities but not settle down. Nathan is willing to do it if it saves the band, but then he meets Abby.

Abby is the newest opening act for S2J and she knows the rule - don't get involved with anyone in the band. But there's a connection with Nathan that she just can't seem to ignore. With neither of them willing to put their careers in jeopardy, they embark on a game of hide the feelings and try to be friends.

This was probably the least dramatic of the bunch with me only getting slightly frustrated with how they let LJ, their manager, control every aspect of their lives. I'm so glad that the other guys finally realized what was going on and they stood up to LJ and really had each others back.

A very fun series and quick to read. 

-----------------------------------
Overall, this was an adorable series. I recommend it for anyone looking for something fun and quick!

I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
  
   

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Book Review: This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
427 Pages

There’s no such thing as safe.

Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.

August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.

Their city is divided.

Their city is crumbling.

Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.

But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?




Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They're gonna come and eat you all.

Imagine living in a world where the things that go bump in the night actually exist. That's This Savage Song. Monsters are real and they live among us. In fact, they exist because of us. They are our shadows born of evil deeds and have divided a city. On one side you can live with the monsters and you will be safe as long as you have the protection of Harker. On the other side, is Flynn domain - the resistance so to speak. They don't allow the monsters on their side (there's an exception) and are basically trying to make the world a better place.

Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
Shadow and bone will eat you raw.

There are three types of monsters: the Corsai, the Malchai, and the Sunai. Basically the Corsai and the Malchai are evil. The Sunai, not so much. While the city is overrun by Corsai and Malchai, there are only three Sunai in existence and they live with the Flynns (see? exception). For the most part they cannot die but are able to kill the other monsters. Leo, Isla, and one of our MC's, August make up the Sunai.

Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
Smile and bite and drink you dry.

So I don't know if it was just me, but I found this book...dull? Confusing? I don't know. I have very mixed feelings about this one. I liked it but I didn't at the same time. I felt that the world and the monsters weren't well explained. I just didn't get it. Maybe I missed the part where she really explained just exactly how the Corsai and Malchai are made. But I just have so many questions about the validity of this world!

Then there were the characters. I wasn't too fond of Kate. The whole book she was pretending to be someone she's not just to get approval from her father. But because of this it was hard to get to know her. Then with August, he was just like this little puppy monster thing. He was a monster (technically) but wanted to be a puppy...sorry, human. He was at least interesting because of the monster part, but take that away and he would have just been boring.

The side characters were predictable - with the exception of Isla, who seems to be the most interesting person/monster/thing in this book and I'm hoping that Schwab includes much more of her in the second book.

Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.

I realize as I write this that it seems like I should have rated it lower than 3 stars, but I did really like the writing style of Schwab. The world she created was interesting, the plot made me want to know more. I just feel like it wasn't seen through. I didn't get that immersion in a book that I wanted. And I wish it wasn't so predictable. 

 



 
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