Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tori's Review: Avalon (Avalon #1) by Mindee Arnett

Avalon by Mindee Arnett
Book One in the Avalon Series
Published on January 21, 2014 by Balzer + Bray
Young Adult | Science Fiction | Dystopian
432 Pages
A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.

Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they're damn good at it. Jeth doesn't care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents' ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he'll go to get the freedom he's wanted for so long.

Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon's cult hit show Firefly.
Jeth Seagrave lives in a world where a police force called the ITA monitors the planets and people can travel at the speed of light in their spaceships using metadrives. In this futuristic world, Jeth works for a powerful man named Hammer Dafoe, who's basically the equivalent to a drug overlord in today, stealing spaceships and metadrives from the ITA.

On one of Jeth's missions, he runs into an ITA agent who's willing to work with Jeth to betray Hammer in exchange for information on Jeth's parents who were murdered by the ITA for treason. This supposed alliance starts Avalon off with a bang, which is something I appreciate.

There are few aspects of Avalon that are memorable--the beginning, Cora, and the ending. The way I see it, Avalon is extremely forgettable. There are strong parts in the novel--again, the beginning, Cora, the ending (in some ways)--but I feel as though the weak parts outweigh the strong. 

Right off the bat, Jeth is thrown into action and being forced to make difficult decisions. The setback in starting a novel right off the bat is that none of the characters' decisions make sense to the reader, because they haven't connected with any of the characters yet. This was Avalon's biggest flaw to me: I didn't relate to any of the characters whatsoever. I could've cared less whether or not Jeth and his crew died, which is sad. 

A really strong part of this book, as I mentioned above, is Cora, a little girl who escaped the ITA's clutches with the help of Sierra, a daring AWOL ITA officer, and the assistance of another AWOL ITA officer. Without spoiling the novel, I'll say that Cora's background made Avalon what it is right now. 

The world-building is lacking immensely. As a reader, I never learned how this futuristic world came to be. These characters are in this universe with spaceships that can travel at the speed of light and practically jump themselves anywhere in space, and yet I'm never told how this was achievable. 

In conclusion, I think hardcore science fiction lovers should stay away from this novel, but newbies or casual readers could pick this up and enjoy the adventure. Although the world was interesting and the plot was definitely adventurous, I don't think this book has what it takes to stick in my mind, considering I've already forgotten half the characters' names. 

(Shame on me. I read a lot.)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Tori's Review: The Iron Knight (The Iron Fey #4) by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa
Book Four in The Iron Fey Series
Published on October 26, 2011 by Harlequin Teen
Fantasy | Young Adult | Romance
399 Pages
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
My name - my True Name - is Ashallayn’ darkmyr Tallyn. I am the last remaining son of Mab, Queen of the Unseelie Court. And I am dead to her. My fall began, as many stories do, with a girl…

To cold faery prince Ash, love was a weakness for mortals and fools. His own love had died a horrible death, killing any gentler feelings the Winter prince might have had. Or so he thought.
Then Meghan Chase - a half human, half fey slip of a girl - smashed through his barricades, binding him to her irrevocably with his oath to be her knight. And when all of Faery nearly fell to the Iron fey, she severed their bond to save his life. Meghan is now the Iron Queen, ruler of a realm where no Winter or Summer fey can survive.

With the unwelcome company of his archrival, Summer Court prankster Puck, and the infuriating cait sith Grimalkin, Ash begins a journey he is bound to see through to its end - a quest to find a way to honor his vow to stand by Meghan's side.

To survive in the Iron Realm, Ash must have a soul and a mortal body. But the tests he must face to earn these things are impossible. And along the way Ash learns something that changes everything. A truth that challenges his darkest beliefs and shows him that, sometimes, it takes more than courage to make the ultimate sacrifice.
NOTE: This is the fourth book in a series. There will be spoilers for the first three books.

I wish The Iron Queen was the last book in the series. Although The Iron Knight wasn't bad and I did happen to enjoy parts of it, that's all that I enjoyed--parts of it. I didn't enjoy the entire book, which I wanted to so badly.

The Iron Knight is in Ash's point of view, and it starts off right where The Iron Queen left off. Ash is searching for a soul so he can go into the Iron Realm to be with Meghan. If you've read my review for The Iron Queen, then you'd know that I'm on Ash's side now. Before you freak out, yes, I was on Ash's side for this book. I don't know how to explain it other than this book was boring. 

The majority of this book is a gigantic filler. It would've made a better novella, in my opinion, not mentioning the weird point of view switch at the end of the series. The only reason I didn't completely write this book off as one that was alright is Puck and Ash's friendship. I ship them. They are awesome together. 

Oh, yes. And Grim and the Wolf. Those two jokers. 

In all honesty, I feel like this book was irrelevant. I get that Ash and Meghan needed a happy ending, but I was totally okay with the ending of The Iron Queen. Ash and Meghan knew that they couldn't see each other because of the lack of Ash's soul. There was closure, and as a reader, I knew very well that those two just couldn't catch a break. I was okay with that. 

I don't have much to say about this book, and for that I'm sorry, but The Iron Knight just didn't do it for me. It wasn't terrible, because I did enjoy the dialog and how it turned out in the end, but pace-wise and relevance-wise, I don't think The Iron Knight was a needed addition. 

If you're not completely dead set on this series and immersing yourself into Faery, I'd suggest skipping this. 

(NOTE: I haven't read the spin-off series, therefore I'm not sure if reading The Iron Knight is imperative if you would like to read The Call of the Forgotten. I'm assuming you do.)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Lindsay's Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle #1) by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Book One in the Gemma Doyle Series
Published on December 9th, 2003 by Simon and Schuster
Young Adult | Fantasy | Historical Fiction
403 Pages
A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy--jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.

Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique.

Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order. A Great and Terrible Beauty is an impressive first book in what should prove to be a fascinating trilogy.
As much as I hate to admit it, I'm a sucker for cute, cheesy romance books without a whole lot of substance. I thought it would be hard to read this book because romance was not the main plot, but I was pleasantly surprised.

A long time ago I remember reading one of the books in the series that my older sister let me borrow. I'm not quite sure which one it was, but even though I don't remember much, I'm left with fond memories of the beautiful place where the girls go. Something about it kept drawing me to this book so I finally picked it up.

Gemma is a wonderful main character. In the times where she's meant to be a proper lady who never speaks her mind, she struggles with keeping her opinions to herself and acting the way she's supposed to. On top of that she's very cunning, making the exchanges with the other girls very interesting and exciting to read because of how the pages turn with her choices.

Her friends, who you dislike at the start of the novel, become very real when you get to know them as Gemma's friends later on. They have valid reasons for the things they do, and even though sometimes they say things that are blatantly uncalled for, you get where they're coming from because of the lives they lived.

Even though the characters were very realistic and relatable, I felt like parts of the world were missing. I couldn't imagine the clothes they wore in that time, what the places in London were like. Maybe it's just me, but I had trouble putting images around the characters because of so.

One problem I had, and I'll try to be vague to keep from spoiling, was what happened at the end. I felt like the chapter touching on it should have been longer and more in-depth for such a big twist, but instead it kind of rushed by. When something big happens you want to know the details, to read what's happening to other characters, but it was over in a few measly pages and then shortly after the book ended. It might be the writer in me overreacting, but I really wanted more.

A Great and Terrible Beauty sucked me right in, making it nearly impossible for me to put down. Even though there was a romance only as a minor sub plot, I hardly noticed it. The book kept me flipping pages to find out what happens after each twist and I honestly can't wait to get my hands on the next one.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tori's Review: The Iron Queen (The Iron Fey #3) by Julie Kagawa

 The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
Book Three in The Iron Fey Series
Published on January 25, 2011 by Harlequin Teen
Fantasy | Young Adult | Romance
358 Pages
My name is Meghan Chase.

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.
NOTE: This is the third book in the series. There will be spoilers for the other two books.

After we left Meghan Chase in The Iron Daughter, we knew that Meghan had chased (get the pun?) Ash into the mortal world, both of them exiled from Faery. After Meghan and Puck being the majority of The Iron Daughter, there's no doubt that The Iron Queen is purely Meghan and Ash. Strangely, I had no problem with this.

If you've read my reviews for The Iron King and The Iron Daughter then you'd know that I wasn't a big fan of the Meghan and Ash coupling. Let's just say that Ash in The Iron Queen definitely converted me. Especially this quote here that Ash said. I died in cuteness. I had to read it over and over again.

"'My name is Ashallyn'darkmyr Tallyn, third son of the Unseelie Court.' Though his voice was soft, it never wavered, and I felt breathless at hearing his full name. His True Name. 'Let it be known--from this day forth, I vow to protect Meghan Chase, daughter of the Summer King, with my sword, my honor, and my life. Her desires are mine. Her wishes are mine. Should even the world stand against her, my blade will be at her side. And should it fail to protect her, let my own existence be forfeit. This I swear, on my honor, my True Name, and my life. from this day on...' His voice went even softer, but I still heard it as thought he whispered it into my ear. 'I am yours.'"

I swooned. Did you?

Other than the swoon-worthy quote I just gave you from Ash, this book completed me. The one thing that this book had that made me want to laugh/hurl was the angst. It was all over the place. Meghan is one angsty (this is not a word, but let's pretend it is) teen, though I have to admit that if I had to save the Faery world at age sixteen while a dark prince is being ice cold (another play on words. Sue me), I'd be a bit angsty as well.

In all honesty, the characters are well-developed in the third book, mostly Ash and Meghan. Those two have come so far since the beginning of the series. I'm like a proud mother. Meghan learned to grow a backbone, and Ash learned what it takes to feel emotion and open up to another person.

The ending was perfect. Sad, but perfect. I won't say anymore in fear of a spoiler, but just know that the ending was everything I hoped for in this series.

This beautifully described almost-conclusion was intriguing and crafted in a way that keeps the reader's attention. The characters are relatable and realistic, seemingly coming off the page like a real life person. As we come to the end of Meghan's journey in Faery, I'm glad to say that I experienced what she experienced. This is a must read if you've read The Iron King and The Iron Daughter. Even if you're iffy about it right now, know that I'm in love with Ash and Meghan after hating their coupling with my soul.

I will end this review with a Puck quote.

"...Puck said, tracing a finger through the dust, drawing a smiley face with the tongue sticking out."

Monday, April 21, 2014

Tori's Review: Tease by Amanda Maciel

Tease by Amanda Maciel
Expected Publication on April 29, 2014 by Balzer + Bray
Young Adult | Contemporary | Realistic Fiction
336 Pages
Emma Putnam is dead, and it's all Sara Wharton's fault.

At least, that's what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma's shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who's ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media.

During the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment—and ultimately consider her role in an undeniable tragedy. And she'll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.

In this powerful debut novel inspired by real-life events, Amanda Maciel weaves a narrative of high school life as complex and heartbreaking as it is familiar: a story of everyday jealousies and resentments, misunderstandings and desires. Tease is a thought-provoking must-read that will haunt readers long after the last page.
NOTE: I received this book from the publisher through Shelf Awareness in exchange for an honest review. 

I really can't stand Sara, her problems, and her friends. The pace wasn't prime either, and I feel like the plot never really "took off" in a sense. The writing was irritating at times, because the author wrote like Sara spoke, therefore there were instances of "like" everywhere. And I could never decide whether or not Emma did the things Brielle and Sara accused her of or not. That's the drawback of the book being in first person--it's biased.

First off, There's a difference between having the characters say those phrases and putting it in the actual narrative. It made Sara seem like a very unintelligent character in my opinion. (*See additional information.)

(pg. 145) Oh, that's what she means. My nice, thoughtful, hot boyfriend. Anyone would want to have him. So I shouldn't be surprised that Emma's trying to, like, climb into his back pocket.

Other than my irritation for her, Sara surprised me. Regardless she was still annoying and dumb and her oblivious attitude toward the severity of her actions made me want to rip my hair out. I'm glad she met Carmichael though or she probably never would've learned that bullying was not okay and that what she did and said to Emma was not okay. Also, it was almost as if she didn't expect court to be so hardcore, and maybe she didn't. Maybe she thought that bullying a student to death wouldn't have any repercussions.

(pg. 306) God, I'm an idiot. This whole thing is rigged. We're not even on trial anymore, but everyone is still playing the game. Playing the system. Or maybe I'm just paranoid. I don't even know.

Emma Putnam. The girl that killed herself or the girl that Sara and her friends killed?

(pg. 307) ". . . For a long time, I thought we were enemies. I thought she'd done things to hurt me--and I did things to hut her back. . . . I know that she was in a lot of pain. More pain than I'll ever really understand, though I definitely understand better now. . . . I don't think that pain is anyone's fault, exactly. . . . But I made that pain worse. For no good reason. . . . and I'll be sorry for the rest of my life. . . ."

I should mention that I don't in any way like any of the characters in this book except Carmichael, and only because he was barely in the book. I felt like they were all very whiny. They never failed to find something in their life that they could complain about.

Other than the life lesson threaded through this book, it was slow. I'm sorry. I liked it and all, but it was freaking slow. And Sara's irritating narrative for the first 75% really wasn't something that I was happy about. Also, the entire book is supposedly about Sara going to court and what her sentence is going to be. As the reader, I never found out what her sentence was. Did she get probation? Did she get jail time? Did she get sued? And the author never mentioned whether it was a civil case or not. (I think it was since Emma's parents were more involved than not.) The plot holes angered me.

In conclusion, it was really the slowness and those loose ends that kept this book from a higher rating or a better review. I'm glad Sara (sort of) felt something about Emma's death at the end, or this would've been a one star review. It was really only the side characters that never really developed, Dylan especially. He was a cheater scumbag in the beginning, and he was a cheater scumbag at the end. I'm really not sure who would enjoy this, because for some reason I feel like I shouldn't have enjoyed this book. Yet I did.

I think this book is just brutally honest in the truth of what teenage girls can be like. What life can be like. It's tough crap, life and drama.

*I am not in any way saying that people who use those phrases as place-holders in speech are unintelligent. (It do it myself.) I'm just saying that putting that in a novel's narration isn't something that agreed with me. I mean no offense to anyone at all.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Why We Don't Use Star Ratings Anymore

Topic: Star Ratings

I've actually noticed that a lot of book bloggers don't use star ratings any longer on their blog. This post is weighing the pros and cons of star ratings, and then I'll explain to you why Lindsay and I decided to not use them any longer. 

  • Pros
    • Feelings on a book at first glance
    • Set-in-stone method of reviewing
  • Cons
    • Doesn't take into account emotions toward a book
    • One's opinion may change on a book later on
    • Rating scale is tedious
    • Sometimes a reader won't read a review if there's a star rating
    • Doesn't allow review to really explain what they thought of the book

The list of cons basically says why we won't be using star ratings any longer. I used to freak out over what to rate a book, but now I don't have to. Star ratings will still be on my Goodreads, but I won't post them here. I've thought about this for a while, and it seems to be that not having star ratings will make my reviews more about what I thought rather than supporting a series of stars that say whether a book is good or bad. 

I just want to be able to state what I think about a book without a scale limiting me to what I should put in my review. 

Do you use star ratings? What do you think of the new change? Let me know in the comments!

Tori's Review: The Forever Song (Blood of Eden #3) by Julie Kagawa

The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa
Book Three in the Blood of Eden Series
Published on April 15, 2014 by Harlequin Teen
Vampires | Young Adult | Paranormal
416 Pages

Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster?

With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer.


Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions—her creator, Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost—the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie.

In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, triumph is short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone.
NOTE: This is the third book in a series. There will be spoilers for books one and two in this review as well as minor spoilers for book three. Very minor, though. Only involving Zeke. (Sorry, guys. Can't write the review without mentioning him.)

I'm going to start this review off by saying, "I freaking called it when I said that Zeke wasn't dead." It's just that there's no way that the author is going to kill of the main love interest in the middle of the series without a really good reason. I just knew that Zeke was alive. I knew it. Okay, I'm done gloating.

This was a highly anticipated 2014 release for me, so forgive me when I say that I was disappointed. I read The Forever Song in two days, but there were many slow parts. Forgive me, but in my opinion The Forever Song lacked the qualities that made me love The Immortal Rules and The Eternity Cure so much. Don't get me wrong, there was a lot of action in The Forever Song, which I loved, but it just wasn't enough for me. My biggest problem with this book would have to be the pace. The plot was nonexistent for the first 20% of the novel or so.

My second biggest problem with The Forever Song would have the be the angst level. Allie and Zeke need to realize that they both love each other and they they're going to be happy together. They need to stop complaining. They had some cute moments in this novel, but the majority of the time Zeke was sulking and Allie was making idiotic decisions based on Zeke's benefit.

Jackal and Kanin will remain my favorite characters in this trilogy. I love that Jackal calls Zeke 'Puppy.' It's so incredibly cute.

"'Puppy, I am getting so tired of listening to you whine about this,' he [Jackal] snarled at Zeke. 'This isn't rocket science. If you don't want to be a monster, don't be a bloody monster! Be an uptight stick in the mud like Kanin. Be a self-righteous bleeding heart like Allison. Or you can stop agonizing about it and be a f***ing monster, it's actually a lot of fun. But for the love of p***, make some sort of decision. If you don't want to eat babies and nail bloodbags to walls, that's your choice.'"

I felt the end of The Forever Song was fitting. The title matches the book's purpose, which is great. Although the end made me sad, it wasn't exactly a tear-jerker, per se. (Then again, I don't cry very often...) I think Kagawa handles endings well, which I appreciate. I love good series endings.

In conclusion, this book had flaws, but the characters make up for the majority of those flaws. I'll miss Jackal since I won't be reading about him anymore, but that's okay. Kanin will always have a place in my heart. I have to admit that I think less of Zeke after The Forever Song, but that's just me. I don't enjoy angsty teens in apocalyptic novels.

The Forever Song is definitely worth it though if you need to finish the series. I find it a great finale. Not particularly the strongest in the trilogy, but it was well worth the read. I'm honored to have made the acquaintance of Jackal, Kanin, Allie, and Zeke. (Sarren? Not so much.)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Tori's Review: The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux on March 4, 2014
Fantasy | Young Adult | Romance
355 Pages
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.
Two words come to my mind when I think of The Winner's Curse: world building.
I think Rutkoski crafted this novel in a way so that readers could feel as though they knew the world that they were in while reading the book. If there's one thing I'm sure about when it comes to The Winner's Curse, it's the setting of the novel. The wars leading up to the entirety of the plot are described in battle strategies, which makes it seem ever more real. Each side of the war had strengths and weaknesses that were clearly discussed in the novel, which I think makes it even stronger. 
While the world building and writing was absolutely amazing, the characters weren't as amazing. Yes, they were realistic, but I just didn't like what they stood for or represented. I get that readers were supposed to fall in love with Arin, but I just didn't. His personality wasn't to my liking. He was resentful and full of hate, not to mention his betrayal toward Kestrel. (Not a spoiler. You discover this within the first 50 pages.) He simply wasn't a character I enjoyed. 
While Kestrel wasn't as bad, she was explained as a superb battle strategist, but as a reader I never really got to see that side of her. She was always fawning over Arin or gossiping with Ronan or Jess rather than planning, which is what's she's known for. Also, in one scene she was dueling with this guy, and she ends up talking to him in the middle of the fight. 
In the middle of the freaking fight, and nobody questions it. If it were a few exchanged words, I'd be okay with it, but this was a full blown conversation. It just didn't sit right with me.

Finally, the last thing that got on my nerves about The Winner's Curse was the fact that by the end of the novel, I felt like it should've been two separate books. 

Book one: Pre-Revolution
Book two: Post-Revolution

With all the hype that surrounded this book, I expected a lot more. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy this book, because I did. I'm just saying that while the world building is lovely, the characters are irritating and just don't make sense. I thought this book was going to be fantasy, but it wasn't. So if you're looking for fantasy, this is not the place. It's more contemporary than anything, to be fair. Still, I'm excited to see what's in store for Kestrel and Arin since the end left us readers at a bit of a loss. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Tori's Review: Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano

Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano
Published March 25, 2014 by Kathy Dawson Books
Young Adult | Mystery | Contemporary
388 Pages
Nearly Boswell knows how to keep secrets. Living in a DC trailer park, she knows better than to share anything that would make her a target with her classmates. Like her mother's job as an exotic dancer, her obsession with the personal ads, and especially the emotions she can taste when she brushes against someone's skin. But when a serial killer goes on a killing spree and starts attacking students, leaving cryptic ads in the newspaper that only Nearly can decipher, she confides in the one person she shouldn't trust: the new guy at school—a reformed bad boy working undercover for the police, doing surveillance. . . on her.

Nearly might be the one person who can put all the clues together, and if she doesn't figure it all out soon—she'll be next.
I must warn you first that I am really into bad boys in young adult literature. I don't know why, but they thrill me. I suppose I liked Nearly Gone as much as I did because Nearly reminded me of myself in many ways. Firstly, I'm very competitive and serious when it comes to my grades. I constantly compete with the smartest kids in my class to set the learning curve (I fail most of the time, but I still try). Secondly, I love puzzles. They confuse the heck out of me, but I love them. Thirdly, Nearly likes bad boys. Yeah, I like bad boys as well.

The best thing about this novel is that I never guessed who the actual culprit was. I usually have a pretty good guess by the end of the novel, but by the end of Nearly Gone, I was completely lost because the person I thought was the culprit was completely and utterly innocent. I love mystery/thriller novels, therefore I was extremely glad that Nearly Gone actually made the reading experience enjoyable for me. I was literally on the edge of my seat while reading in the car.

The characters, in my opinion, were intriguing. Each one had a back story (except the thugs. I really had no idea where they were coming from, but then again, they're thugs) that held weight and wasn't just there. And the killer's motive made sense at the end. Sure, it was a bit warped, but it made sense, which is all I really care about.

For a debut novel, I think Nearly Gone surprised me in a good way. I found this at Costco today, so I bought it, and I honestly didn't expect to read it in one day. I've been in a reading slump lately, so to just pick up and book and polish it off like desert felt amazing. There were a few subjects not touched on like how Nearly could feel someone's emotions when she touched them (I wish this was elaborated on a bit more), but in the end I don't feel like I'm missing out on too much.

I really enjoyed the idea of narcs (Narcotics officer) being in this novel. After watching the movie Snitch, I've been interested in undercover criminals busting drug deals, so this book was perfect for me. I'm surprised to find myself waiting to reread this novel in the future since I don't usually reread. I honestly really enjoyed it.

To touch on Reece's stalker-like behavior a bit, it wasn't all that bad. In his defense, he was told to watch over Nearly. It was only when it wasn't a job for him anymore that it became a little creepy. He breaks into her locker to trifle through her stuff, forces her to kiss him in the hallway, and a few other things like that. Unsurprisingly, I still managed to liked Reece by the end of the novel. A lot. (Like I said, I have a thing for bad boys. So sue me. I'm a young teenager.)

In conclusion, Nearly Gone was an entertaining read, and it managed to keep my interest throughout the entire day, which books these days can't seem to do all that often. I bounce between books a lot, but Nearly Gone kept me from doing that. I can't wait to reread this book in the future. But I do warn you that if you're a person who isn't into bad boys and the justification of bad behavior due to hotness level, then this book isn't likely for you. But who knows? You still might enjoy it as much as I did!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tori's Review: How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love by Ken Baker

How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love by Ken Baker
Expected Publication on April 22, 2014 by Running Press Kids
Young Adult
272 Pages
"Thick. Heavy. Big boned. Plump. Full figured. Chunky. Womanly. Large. Curvy. Plus-size. Hefty." To sixteen-year-old Emery Jackson, these are all just euphemisms for the big "F" word—"fat." Living on a Southern California beach with her workout fiend dad, underwear model sister, and former model mother, it is impossible for Emery not to be aware of her weight.

Emery is okay with how things are. That is, until her "momager" signs her up for Fifty Pounds to Freedom, a reality show in which Emery will have to lose fifty pounds in fifty days in order to win the million dollars that will solve her family's financial woes. Emery is skeptical of the process, but when the pounds start to come off and the ratings skyrocket, she finds it hard to resist the adoration of her new figure and the world of fame. Emery knows that things have changed. But is it for the better?
NOTE: I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

To be truthful, I wasn't completely sure about this book at first. I was about thirty percent in and the characters seemed too unrealistic and too shallow. I thought about how maybe by the end of the book characters' behaviors would be explained in one way or another and that they would grow. Well, I was right. They did.

My favorite aspect of this book was either the characters or simply just Emery's, the main girl's, sarcasm. I'm one to root for the sarcastic, hilarious girl, and Emery's that girl in How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love. Oh, and let's talk about that monster of a title. It's hilarious and it's intriguing; it's what brought my attention to the book in the first place! I usually don't like long titles, but this one I actually like.

Along with the characters' shallowness, I really just didn't like Emery's family. At first (I make a lot of assumptions about books that usually end up being wrong by the end, but oh well) I thought that they were all carbon copies of each other. Angel and their mother are extremely uptight about their weight and are exceptionally superficial. Like I said, originally I thought they were carbon copies of cliches but then I came to realize that Angel was the way she was because of their mother and not because she was simply shallow on her own. There's a scene in the book where Angel and Emery have a sister heart-to-heart, and I loved that particular scene to bits.

This book shows a lot about the structure of a dysfunctional family as well as loyalty and trust, which is something that I also really enjoyed about this book. Although I'm partial to action and adventure, I still do quite like the books that focus around family. Along with family, this book sends a strong message to girls. Despite the fact that losing fifty pounds in fifty days is not healthy, Emery represents somethings that every teenage girl must face in society--rejection. I think by the end of the book that Emery handles the rejection (and approval since she's famous in the book by the end) in such a way that creates a strong female figure for young girls. She's tough and she learns that although the media makes it seem like being skinny is everything, it really isn't.

On a random side note, Emery's menu from when she was fat made me want to hurl. I pride myself on being a semi-healthy human being, and Emery's eating habits did not agree with me whatsoever.

In conclusion, I think this book is well worth the read if you're looking for a fast and fun book. It sends me a good message in my opinion and although I didn't give it five stars or even four, I did enjoy it. It just wasn't a favorite and there were parts about it that I didn't like, particularly the characters. Characters are a big deal to me. They always will be.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Lindsay's Mini Review: Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols

Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols
Series: None
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: ♚♚
Pages: 325
Published by MTV Books on July 10th, 2010
Amazon | B&N

A sexy and poignant romantic tale of a young daredevil pilot caught between two brothers.

When I was fourteen, I made a decision. If I was doomed to live in a trailer park next to an airport, I could complain about the smell of the jet fuel like my mom, I could drink myself to death over the noise like everybody else, or I could learn to fly.

Heaven Beach, South Carolina, is anything but, if you live at the low-rent end of town. All her life, Leah Jones has been the grown-up in her family, while her mother moves from boyfriend to boyfriend, letting any available money slip out of her hands. At school, they may diss Leah as trash, but she’s the one who negotiates with the landlord when the rent’s not paid. At fourteen, she’s the one who gets a job at the nearby airstrip.

But there’s one way Leah can escape reality. Saving every penny she can, she begs quiet Mr. Hall, who runs an aerial banner-advertising business at the airstrip and also offers flight lessons, to take her up just once. Leaving the trailer park far beneath her and swooping out over the sea is a rush greater than anything she’s ever experienced, and when Mr. Hall offers to give her cut-rate flight lessons, she feels ready to touch the sky.

By the time she’s a high school senior, Leah has become a good enough pilot that Mr. Hall offers her a job flying a banner plane. It seems like a dream come true . . . but turns out to be just as fleeting as any dream. Mr. Hall dies suddenly, leaving everything he owned in the hands of his teenage sons: golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson. And they’re determined to keep the banner planes flying.

Though Leah has crushed on Grayson for years, she’s leery of getting involved in what now seems like a doomed business—until Grayson betrays her by digging up her most damning secret. Holding it over her head, he forces her to fly for secret reasons of his own, reasons involving Alec. Now Leah finds herself drawn into a battle between brothers—and the consequences could be deadly.
Though at first the cover drew me in, I've come to hate it. The girl looks plastic, mid-twenties, and nothing like the gorgeous, yet hand-me-down Leah in the book. I think this is my first problem.

The plot flowed nicely, however it didn't really feel like this was actually a book. Everything was calculated in a way that through every setback it worked out in favor for the main character Leah. On top of that, the other characters were also very basic. They had stereotypical personalities like brooding, popular, etc. They were only skin deep, and I wasn't very drawn to them.

Such a Rush was a basic read that I would flip through before bed, trying to quiet my mind. It kept me up some nights having to get through a particularly interesting part, however it's easily forgettable and not really full of substance. Things happened too easily, and it was all webbed together too carefully. I did enjoy reading it, but I don't think I'll be picking it up again.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Life of a Blogger: Handwriting

Life of a Blogger is a weekly meme hosted by Novel Heartbeat!

So what does your guy's handwriting look like? Write me a message, take a picture, and send me the link! I'd love to see (: