Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review: The Devil In The Corner by Patricia Elliott

Title: The Devil In The Corner
Author: Patricia Elliott
Publisher: Hachette Children's Books
Publication Date: March 6th, 2014
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Gothic, Romance
Rating: Three Stars

Summary: Penniless, and escaping the horrors of life as a governess to brutal households, Maud seeks refuge with the cousin-by-marriage she never knew. But Juliana quashes Maud's emerging friendships with the staff and locals - especially John, the artist commissioned to restore the sinister Doom in the local church. John, however, is smitten with Maud and makes every effort to woo her.

Maud, isolated and thwarted at every turn, continues to take the laudanum which was her only solace in London. Soon she becomes dependent on the drug - so is this the cause of her fresh anxieties? Or is someone - or something - plotting her demise?

Is the devil in the corner of the Doom a reality, or a figment of her imagination?

Review:  A dark, gothic feeling book, Devil in the Corner tells the story of Maud, a girl down on her luck and on the verge of being on the streets. Desperate and barely eking out a living, she is relieved beyond words when a letter comes from a cousin of hers, offering her a palce to stay and the prospect of having a home and someday, an estate.

Almost immediately she is plagued by the haunting feeling that something is wrong, though. Is she being followed? What are the intentions of those around her? And all the while she fights against the dreams that plague her, nightmares of her past...

I can find no fault with the writing style, which drew me in and made me curious about the setting - I can practically picture the moldering old house, and Maud's attempts to make her cousin Julianna as comfortable as possible. The alternating point of view between the main character and John gave insight as to the situation from the outside, too, which was interesting in the context of the overall mystery - it leads you on, making you wonder just what is happening, who is innocent and who is guilty in the madness of all the events.

The biggest thing this book suffers from is that it's a bit overlong. More than once I felt that it was plodding along, and that lead me to skim some bits... Which is a shame when you're dealing with a book that's touching on death, romance, jealousy and madness! It felt as though certain ideas were repeated several times, and overall the book would have benefited from some more editing to whittle it into a tighter, faster moving plot.

Fans of dark, dreamy sorts of books should check this out, but I'd say that people looking for a true mystery should give it a pass, as the ending isn't as clear cut as even I would have liked.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Review: Purified by Brian Robert Smith

Title: Purified 
Author: Brian Robert Smith
Publisher: 323 Books
Publication Date: November 27th, 2013
Genre: Science Fiction, 
Rating: Three Stars

Summary: As far as everyone else is concerned, Mason Bushing died over a year ago, but now he’s running from Dr. Harlow who is secretly conducting an unauthorized experiment for a drug he calls Purify. It saved Mason’s life, but Mason is focused on getting what he wants most—his old life back. His plans change when he realizes his wife is more interested in the insurance money she inherited than seeing him alive. His best friend doesn’t believe his story, and the police intend on charging him with fraud and assault after he almost kills his wife’s boyfriend.

Warren is a detective who’s assigned the case. He’s been on personal leave because his wife died. His investigation turns up suspicions of lying, disturbing coincidences, and related homicides.

When Mason becomes the prime suspect, he’s forced to run again.

Imagine having to run from someone who saved your life. Imagine everyone thinking you’re dead, but you’re really alive. Questions, accusations, conspiracies… murder. What if this was all caused by a drug that’s creating the next physical evolution of man? What would you do if you were Purified?

Review: I was sent a copy of this book by the author in return for an honest review.

What would you do if everyone thought you were dead, but the truth was, you'd been plucked from the jaws of death? What if it turned out you'd been saved for experimentation? How do you think the world would go on without you, while you were gone?

All of these questions are faced by Mason, the hero of our story. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, Mason had expected to die but found himself saved for the experiments of a seemingly crazed doctor. You'd think that he'd be happy when he finally escapes, but not everything is as he expected it to be... Not only does he not get the welcome that he expects, but he's not exactly sure just what has been done to him during the experiments he endured.

I think I would sum up this book by saying that it had an intriguing premise but failed a bit in terms of how it was executed.

I was interested in the premise of this book, which is why I accepted the author's invitation to review it. Wanting to know more about Mason's situation and fate was what kept me reading - I mean after all, medical experimentation and conspiracies? That's something I'm always interested in. I sympathised with Mason, who has had the rug pulled out from under him and doesn't quite know where to turn, or what to think. The first part of the book is very much about him finding out that his return to society and his former life isn't going to go as smoothly as he thought.

I think this book would have benefited highly from some crisper editing, however. Some parts of the book are very choppy, such as the first chapter - there's no flow, simply '____ did this. _____ did that.' Short sentences break up the text during the action and make it hard to get caught up in what's going on. Sometimes that is an asset to writing and used to make a point, but in this case it was distracting. It made it difficult to get into the book, and it wasn't until we picked up with Mason's POV that it started to flow more.

Some parts of the book lagged a little, as well. Stuff was going on that I should have been more interested in, but I did find myself impatient for things to pick up and move along - I wanted resolution, and unfortunately, the ending is a bit vague and doesn't really provide it.

I think more delving into the motivations of some of the characters and why they were involved in this would have done more to the book's benefit. Some of the character felt very one note - bad guy muscle, deranged doctor, slightly dumb cop, etc. More depth of characterization would have done a lot to make me relate a bit more to the book.

I'd say that overall this is a fair debut, and I'd be interested to check out this author again as his writing develops.

Review: Sekret, by Lindsay Smith

Title: Sekret
Author: Lindsay Smith
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan Children's
Publication Date: April 1st, 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Paranormal
Rating: Two Stars

Summary: An empty mind is a safe mind.

Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

Review:  I really wanted to enjoy this book a lot more than I did. :/

Set in the 1960's, Sekret tells the story of Yulia, a girl with psychic powers in the time of Soviet Russia. Her father raised her to believe that suppressing her emotions and emptying her mind is the way to keep herself and her family safe, but all that comes to an end when she's captured and made to work for the KGB as a spy.

Yulia is a stubborn, determined character, and I admired that about her. She never really gives up - she retreats and pretends to cooperate for the chance to see her family, to continue planning and to stay safe, but she never really gives in to the position that she finds herself in.

The premise is intriguing - kids captured and forced to work as spies, with the constant threat and pressure of their minds being read by the others, thoughts and traitorous desires betrayed. Psychic powers have fascinated me since I was a kid and I read Escape to Witch Mountain, and that's one of the reasons I was drawn to this book. They're not a unified group, either, set against their captors - the way many of them betray each other reminds me a bit of the Hunger Games, where the situation forces them all to turn on each other.

I'm pained to admit that I found it hard to get through this, however. I don't know what it was about the writing, but it seemed to plod along. I started to read this months ago and set it aside because it wasn't particularly grabbing me and the release date was so far off... I was hoping that I would enjoy it more when I picked it up again, but sadly that was not the case. There were plenty of action scenes and missions but they didn't suck me in, somehow - I didn't feel the sort of connection with Yulia that I would have liked to.

Another thing that rubbed me the wrong way is the men in Yulia's life consistently making decisions for her - for her own good, of course. It's not as though she takes it lying down, admittedly, but she also doubts whether her own decisions were the right thing to do, so it just leaves me with a bit of a sour taste. There's a bit of a love triangle but I...didn't really care who she ended up picking, I have to admit.

I guess I could summarise my reaction to this is that the book was a bit too dry, without the emotional connection that really makes you form an attachment with the characters and the plot. There's nothing technically wrong with the writing, and it's written well, but it just didn't work for me.

Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided through Netgalley in return for an honest review.  

Review: Hot and Bothered, by Kate Meader

Title: Hot And Bothered
Author: Kate Meader
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: March 4th, 2014
Genre: Romance
Rating: Three Stars

Summary: A Fire They Can’t Put Out . . .
Although her baby boy keeps her plate full, Jules Kilroy is ready to take her love life off the back burner. Despite a bevy of eligible bachelors, it’s her best friend, Taddeo DeLuca, who's fueling her hormones with generous servings of his mouth-watering Italian sexiness. But Jules learned her lesson once before when she went in for a kiss, only to have Tad reject her. She’s vowed never to blur the lines again . . .

After a lifetime of excuses and false starts, Tad has finally opened a wine bar, a deal made even sweeter when Jules joins his staff. Lovers come and go, and he’s had his share, but friendships like theirs last forever. Still, ever since he tasted her luscious lips, he can’t stop fantasizing about what could be. Then she signs up for an online dating site—and the thought of his Jules with another man makes Tad’s blood boil. Even if he gets burned, Tad can’t stop himself from turning up the heat this time.

Review:  So, this is the third in a spicy series by Kate Meader, centering around some fiery Italians who love to cook and the way they steam up the sheets in the bedroom.

I really enjoyed All Fired Up so I was excited when I saw this on Netgalley, and even more so when I was approved!

Jules and Tad are best friends, each with their insecurities and hidden secrets. The book starts off with the birth of Jules' son, Evan, and then picks up eighteen months later and goes from there.

It took me awhile to warm up to Tad, mostly because I guess I was seeing him from Jules' perspective and kept thinking that he was really a bit of a prick. Gradually we learn more about him, though, and that means learning that there's a lot he's hiding beneath his exterior, and that being incredibly sexy doesn't mean that a person doesn't have deep wounds that are just healed over enough to be presentable.

Jules has her own self-doubts - she's dyslexic, and has surfed through life by being the pretty, seemingly easy girl, ready to flutter her eyelashes and pretend to not be as intelligent as she is. It's worked, but after her last relationship crashed and burned and left her with a baby, she's ready to take charge and demand respect from those around her.

I liked the sparks and the friendship between Jules and Tad. It's clear that they're close, and they trust each other - they're still learning about each other throughout the book, which I liked. That's the way it works in relationships, you never 'finish' learning about someone, imo.

Of course, as is so common in books like these, you can't help but want to knock their heads together at times! Tad thinks that she's too good for him - and that she agrees with that - and she thinks she's not hot/interesting enough for him. It leads to some frustration on the part of the reader, that's for sure, but that leads to some steamy sex when they finally get around to it.

Unfortunately, this book didn't have the same spice as the last book I read in the series. (I still need to check out the first one.) The dialogue was a bit cringe-worthy at times, too focused on being snarky and witty - I know that people want to read a crisp, fast-paced romance, but I still want to feel as though the characters are real, you know?

I had a big problem with how Tad handled a big conflict that came up for Jules, too. I will admit that it's partly just a personal reaction on my part but it still really rubbed me the wrong way. He questions a decision that she wants to make and does it in a way that I really wasn't fond of, and it soured the book a bit for me.

I did like how Jules takes charge of her life, though. She realises what she wants and what she deserves and she's not going to accept anything less. That I can get behind. She also calls her older brother out on being possessive and even tells Tad off for being slightly slut-shamey. Hell, yes. Feminist woman who stands up for herself, but is also written to show that she doesn't mind it when her lover is a little dominant in the bedroom? Hell yes. We need more stuff like that.

So it's a solid middle ground book for me, in the end. I liked it, and again, my personal reactions to some of the stuff in this book played a lot into the rating. It's a fun, spicy read that I think a lot of people will enjoy, though.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Review: Above, by Isla Morley

Title: Above
Author: Isla Morley
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: March 4th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopia
Rating: Three Stars

Summary: I am a secret no one is able to tell.

Blythe Hallowell is sixteen when she is abducted by a survivalist and locked away in an aban­doned missile silo in Eudora, Kansas. At first, she focuses frantically on finding a way out, until the harrowing truth of her new existence settles in—the crushing loneliness, the terrifying madness of a captor who believes he is saving her from the end of the world, and the persistent temptation to give up. But nothing prepares Blythe for the burden of raising a child in confinement. Deter­mined to give the boy everything she has lost, she pushes aside the truth about a world he may never see for a myth that just might give mean­ing to their lives below ground. Years later, their lives are ambushed by an event at once promis­ing and devastating. As Blythe’s dream of going home hangs in the balance, she faces the ultimate choice—between survival and freedom.

Review: *scratches head*

This book confused me, to be honest. I expected one thing when I read the summary and instead got something else entirely as the book progressed, and unfortunately in this case, it's not entirely a good thing.

Blythe is just sixteen years old when Dobbs, the local librarian, kidnaps her and locks her away in a silo. A survivalist, he believes that the world is coming to an end and that she deserves to be protected from becoming like 'the rest', and that the two of them will save and repopulate the world.

My sympathy was instantly with Blythe, who I respected as a character. She's terrified and lonely, but she never really gives up on getting her freedom back. Although the book opens with her already being with Dobbs, through her memories and thoughts we learn more about her family and her background - the things that she holds on to in order to keep herself going.

The book is dark in a lot of ways, so people should be aware of that going in. Some people may be triggered by the subject matter. In a way the first part of the book reminded me very strongly of Room - I haven't read it, but I know that the similarities are there. Blythe clings on to her hope and determination to be free with everything she has, but it seems as though Dobbs is just as determined, convinced with everything he has that he is right and eventually she will see the light.

Eventually Blythe has a son, and that's where the tone of the book starts to shift a bit - it's not simply about herself anymore, it's about him.

I really did quite enjoy the first half of the book, as dark as it was. There's a poetic quality to the writing that describes how the days blur together for Blythe, her struggles with being locked away, not having much food, dealing with Dobbs and his tenuous grasp on reality.

After their escape, however, things take a turn and this is where the book lost me a bit.

I will be honest and admit that I didn't see the dystopian tag when I chose this book - I took a quick look at the description in Netgalley, and can't see anything referencing dystopia, except for a vague line at the end that could have been interpreted in a variety of ways.

Now, I don't have anything against dystopia! In fact, I LOVE dystopia. I just need it to be done well, and have a lot of world building, and what I got in this book was a bit vague and rambly, and not entirely satisfactory. I also wasn't sure what to think about a couple of lines in the book that came across as almost trying to make it seem as though Dobbs wasn't that bad? Or that Blythe should be grateful to him in some way? Which I mean, is incredibly tough for me, because I totally get Stockholm syndrome and I understand that it's hard not to empathise with your abuser, but it still rubbed me the wrong way.

I'm not sure what this book needed, to be honest. To be expanded? The dystopian edge dropped entirely? I don't know. It just didn't quite work for me, in the end. In theory the overall premise still could have worked and been fascinating, but I was left wanting by the ending.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Review: The Adventures Of Jillian Spectre, by Nic Tatano

Title: The Adventures Of Jillian Spectre
Author: Nic Tatano
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Publication Date: March 14th, 2014
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: Two Stars

Summary: Welcome to the Mystic Quarter...

Jillian Spectre knows what happens after you die.

Because the seventeen-year-old mystic seer can see the future of her clients even after they've passed on. And that's not even her coolest power...

She can be in two places at once. Problem is, her heart can only be in one.

Supernatural abilities aside, she's a typical high school senior torn between two guys. But that gets put on the back burner when she discovers the father she had long assumed was dead is actually alive, with unique powers of his own. He's a technopath, with the ability to interface his mind with technology. And he's got a plan to take down society.

Unless Jillian can stop him.

Review: Sigh.

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I mean, come on! A girl who can read minds? A gorgeous cover? Count me in, I love that sort of stuff. But instead of the fun book I wanted, I found myself getting increasingly bored/frustrated as the book went on, and I ended up skimming a rather large chunk of it.

That said, I have a feeling that this book should be geared towards the younger end of the YA scale, so people should keep that in mind when considering this book.

There's a lot of stuff about this book that may seem highly unbelievable to anyone who sits and thinks about it a little - everything from the dialogue, the way the teens interact with each other, to the overall world that these characters live in. When I think about it, I'm sure that there are a lot of books that I read when I was younger that didn't really have any sort of logical explanation, but I guess it stands out a lot more when you're rereading the book as an adult.

The idea itself is a good one - take a teen who can see into the future and has a few other powers, and follow her adventures! Add in her friends who have their own abilities and a mysterious father and you have the makings for a fun little romp. Nothing wrong with that.

It's just that the execution is what didn't work for me. For one, the writing made me think a bit of Joss Whedon on overdrive - that patently obvious desire to be cool, to have the sort of language that kids will want to read. Apparently Jillian thinks in constant wisecracks and witticisms, and while I appreciate the humour, after awhile it became a bit grating. Maybe some people think in constant comparisions and stuff, but it just didn't feel realistic for me.

I didn't really like Jillian all that much, if I was honest, though maybe that's just because she's a typical teen: simultaneously full of herself and yet doubting herself all the time. Her characterization was all over the place, for me, and again, the dialogue didn't help when she was being snarky all the time. I love me some snark, but I want to see the true depths of the characters, too, and I didn't feel that there was any real depth to Jillian or her relationships.

There are three other main teen characters in this book besides Jillian, and I didn't really feel that we learned all that much about any of them. We know that she lusts after two of them, and that Roxanne is her best friend, but I would have liked more depth, particularly with Ryan and Jake. I know that instant lust does happen when you're a kid - hey, I was victim of it myself - but there still has to be some sort of connection to justify a relationship. Saying that they all grew up together isn't good enough.

This book also suffers from having, well, too much going on, and not all of it well executed. It revolves a lot around Jillian's missing father and her abilities, but then there's also the abilities that her friends have, angels, a connection to hell, mental connections to phones, etc, etc. It felt very disjointed as I read. Idk. Maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind, though I kept reminding myself to think of the book as lighthearted and fun.

Several times I found myself questioning just what was going on, or worse - not caring. We didn't learn anything about the true motivations of the story's main villain, or how exactly he was implementing his nefarious plans - it seemed like we were just supposed to accept what was going on without questioning it...

So again, this might be better for the younger end of the YA scale. The premise itself is cute and will appeal to younger readers.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in return for an honest review. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Review: The Girl In The Road by Monica Byrne

Title: The Girl In The Road
Author: Monica Byrne
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: May 20th, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction, Adult
Rating: Three stars

Summary: Meena, a young woman living in a futuristic Mumbai, wakes up with five snake bites on her chest. She doesn't know how or why, but she must flee India and return to Ethiopia, the place of her birth. Having long heard about The Trail-an energy-harvesting bridge that spans the Arabian Sea-she embarks on foot on this forbidden bridge, with its own subculture and rules. What awaits her in Ethiopia is unclear; she's hoping the journey will illuminate it for her.

Mariama, a girl from a different time, is on a quest of her own. After witnessing her mother's rape, she joins up with a caravan of strangers heading across Saharan Africa. She meets Yemaya, a beautiful and enigmatic woman who becomes her protector and confidante. Yemaya tells Mariama of Ethiopia, where revolution is brewing and life will be better. Mariama hopes against hope that it offers much more than Yemaya ever promised.

As one heads east and the other west, Meena and Mariama's fates will entwine in ways that are profoundly moving and shocking to the core. 

Review: This book may be a struggle for some, it's very surrealistic and dark at times, and much of it is spent in the head of its two protagonists, leading us through a winding tale.

The writing is lush and very descriptive, set against a backdrop of India and Ethiopia, in a time where gender is fluid and people are much freer with their sexuality than they are now, the story contrasting technology with sex and struggle and life and death.

I had a hard time with this book in ways, I skimmed some of it. It winds together the stories of Meena, a girl who awakens with snakebites, and Mariama, a young girl in Africa. Of course the foregone conclusion is that their stories will intersect, but how that happens is the interesting part.

Along with the eerie, almost fairy-tale style of the book at times, the author also draws the reader in with the vivid depiction of the characters we meet. The smallest detail is seen to, and the characters come to life, myriad and fascinating.

This book is much darker than I had expected, more than I had really prepared myself for, and a bit of a mindtwist as you get to the end. I think I'll need to reread it to truly grasp everything that had gone on here, but I think that people who want an interesting, winding story that they can really sink their teeth into will enjoy this. There's a lot to be absorbed and considered, but I think Meena and Mariama's story is interesting enough to delve into.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in return for an honest review.  

Review: The Ward by Jordana Frankel

Title: The Ward
Author: Jordana Frankel
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: April 30th, 2013
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Post-Apocalyptic, Adventure, Romance, Fantasy
Rating: Three Stars

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Ren is a daredevil mobile racer who will risk everything to survive in the Ward, what remains of a water-logged Manhattan. To save her sister, who is suffering from a deadly illness thought to be caused by years of pollution, Ren accepts a secret mission from the government: to search for a freshwater source in the Ward, with the hope of it leading to a cure.

However, she never expects that her search will lead to dangerous encounters with a passionate young scientist; a web of deceit and lies; and an earth-shattering mystery that’s lurking deep beneath the water’s rippling surface.

Jordana Frankel’s ambitious debut novel and the first in a two-book series, The Ward is arresting, cinematic, and thrilling—perfect for fans of Scott Westerfeld or Ann Aguirre.

Review: This will be short, because I mostly just want to give my general impressions. 

First of all, I LOVED the concept for this book. With the reality that the oceans will rise and also the ever present reality of how much water means to us, and how much we take it for granted. I imagine that in the future we will need to grapple with some of the issues present in this book, and it scares me, to be honest. Combine the need to fight off a disease that causes horrible deformations and inevitable death, and you have a book I'm interested in!

As a protagonist, I loved Ren. She's confident and willing to do just about whatever it takes to, no matter what situation she finds herself in, but she still has those she fiercely cares about and will try to protect them no matter what it takes. She's not loyal to anyone except herself and the ones she cares about. 

The combination of fantasy with dystopia is a bit rough, and I think that the author could have taken a bit more time smoothing out the rough edges. It's a bit jarring to be reading about both an apocalyptic future that has a dystopian feel along with elements of fantasy - I think it could have been blended better, though that may be improved in future books. I think that generally first books should lay out the foundations as best they can, however. 

The romance was probably the weakest point - Ren's attraction to her romantic interest seems to be mostly based on physical attraction, and with his complicated history and actions, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I guess I'll leave that up to future books as well.

Review: Best Kind of Broken by Chelsea Fine

Title: Best Kind Of Broken
Author: Chelsea Fine
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: March 4th, 2014
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: Three Stars

Summary: Pixie and Levi haven't spoken in nearly a year when they find themselves working―and living―at the same inn in the middle of nowhere. Once upon a time, they were childhood friends. But that was before everything went to hell. And now things are... awkward.

All they want to do is avoid each other, and their past, for as long as possible. But now that they're forced to share a bathroom, and therefore a shower, keeping their distance from one another becomes less difficult than keeping their hands off each other. Welcome to the hallway of awkward tension and sexual frustration, folks. Get comfy. It’s going to be a long summer.

Review: One of the more bittersweet YA/New Adult books that I've read recently, but in a good way.

Sarah - otherwise known as Pixie - and Levi have known each other since childhood. Now they're grown up and dealing with a whole lot of tension between them, both sexual and otherwise.

The blurb for this is a bit misleading, I have to say - it makes it sound a lot more breeze and shallow than it actually is, and I actually rather enjoyed this book.

The ~obvious sexual tension~ made me want to roll my eyes a bit as the book began, but the obvious deeper connection between Pixie and Levi was what made me keep reading on, if only to figure out just what they were referring to.

I often feel as though romances have to scramble for reasons that are keeping their pairs apart - the 'problems' that get thrown in the way end up feeling a bit cliched, or forced. That can really suck the life out of a book when the reader just wants to roll her eyes and say 'get on with it!'

Chelsea Fine has done a good job of building a real connection between the main characters, though - bonds of friendship and trust - and pain, though we only learn that as the book goes on.

Readers may be frustrated by the back and forth at the beginning of the book - I know that I was, and it was only the obvious fact that there was something deeper going on that kept me going. I like sparks as much as the next girl, but sometimes a girl gets a bit impatient, you know?

Learning that [Charity had died - Levi's sister, Pixie's best friend - made a lot of sense out of what had preceded, and definitely tugged at my heartstrings. To be young and lose your best friend or younger sister so quickly and harshly - I saw friends in highschool be torn apart by the deaths of others in my school, so I could understand the pain and anger that both Pixie and Levi were swept up in.

Reading about characters who have been torn apart by tragedy always makes me root for them and want them to find their way through - this was no different. Both Pixie and Levi have their individual struggles, and I enjoyed the fact that the book was written in a way that let me see into both of their heads - especially since Levi was an outright asshole a couple of times, something I would have had issues with if I hadn't been able to read just what he thought afterwards.

The gradual healing for both of them was something that I enjoyed reading, especially Pixie slowly opening herself up to Levi and to Jenna, her new best friend who is almost patient to a fault. Levi's story wasn't quite as engaging for me, but I still was glad to see him reaching out to Pixie, his love for her evident.

There were a few faults with the book that justify its rating, however. First, I found the relationship between Pixie and her mother to be a bit over the top. Not that there aren't mothers out there who are so awful - there definitely are, undoubtedly. The writing just seemed a bit over the top, though, and I found it hard to swallow the horrendous things that were said to Pixie by her own mother.

Levi's strained relationship with his parents - and the way that it is resolved - was another part that I found difficult to swallow. I can understand HIM emailing them, but why on earth would they not pick up the phone instead of the weird email conversation that we read? For god's sake, he thinks that he's to blame for the death of their daughter and they don't pick up the phone? Urgh. It just didn't work for me.

There were a few awkward bits during the sex scene that got to me, too - mostly comparisons to a wolf or dog howling? Protip: not something that I want to read about during a steamy sex scene!

Still, a poignant, sweet New-Adult book, and better than some others I've read.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Review: Undone by Shannon Richard

Title: Undone
Author: Shannon Richard
Publisher: Forever Yours
Publication Date: July 2nd, 2013
Genre: Romance, New Adult, Contemporary
Rating: Three stars

Summary: Things Paige Morrison will never understand about Mirabelle, Florida:

Why wearing red shoes makes a girl a harlot
Why a shop would ever sell something called "buck urine"
Why everywhere she goes, she runs into sexy-and infuriating-Brendan King

After losing her job, her apartment, and her boyfriend, Paige has no choice but to leave Philadelphia and move in with her retired parents. For an artsy outsider like Paige, finding her place in the tightly knit town isn't easy-until she meets Brendan, the hot mechanic who's interested in much more than Paige's car. In no time at all, Brendan helps Paige find a new job, new friends, and a happiness she wasn't sure she'd ever feel again. With Brendan by her side, Paige finally feels like she can call Mirabelle home. But when a new bombshell drops, will the couple survive, or will their love come undone?

Review: 2.5 stars. A fluffy book that tries to be a bit more than the average romance but doesn't quite get there.

Paige is down on her luck when she moves back down south from Philadelphia, bruised from losing her job and the man she thought was the love of her life. Quick to anger and prickly, she finds it hard to fit in now that her parents are living in a small town where life moves a little slower.

Then she meets Brendan, who infuriates her but makes something kindle inside her, and of course, sparks fly.

I get the idea that Richard didn't want to write just the typical boy meets girl, angst happens, they end up together sort of romance. I respect that, but the book felt a little haphazard in ways, with several underlying plot lines being brought up as ongoing obstacles for Paige, but not necessarily resolved by the end of the story. Not everyone is as welcoming to Paige as Brendan, and small towns aren't without their creeps, either.

Some of the conflict actually happens after Paige and Brendan are happily engaged and even married, which I don't really mind - not all romance novels need to have these milestones be the reward at the end! However, this book fell victim to what I refer to as the whirlwind-romance, and it would have been nice if there had been a little bit more depth to the interaction at the beginning of the book, instead of the feeling that the relationship is developing mostly because of chemistry.

The tragedy in the book felt a bit shoehorned in, almost, a way to insert the conflict that almost separates the couple at the end of the story. It still touched me, though - pancreatic cancer is nasty, and it's taken two of my family members. Seeing Trevor and his family members struggle with its reality made me sad, though the time spent on the progress was not what he deserved, in my opinion.

I do feel that some more time spent on fleshing out this book and really developing it could have been so worthwhile. The outlines are there already, they just need some editing and work - the book could have been a really solid story if it hadn't clung so much to the romantic outline, and instead put more meat into the plot. Some of the conflict felt a bit repetitive as the book went on.

Enjoyable as a light fluffy piece to read for pure entertainment, but don't look for the depth that some great romance books can bring.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Review: Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski

Title: Don't Even Think About It
Sarah Mlynowski
Delacorte Press
Publication Date: March 11th 2014
Young Adult,
Rating: Three of Five Stars

Summary: We weren't always like this. We used to be average New York City high school sophomores. Until our homeroom went for flu shots. We were prepared for some side effects. Maybe a headache. Maybe a sore arm. We definitely didn't expect to get telepathic powers. But suddenly we could hear what everyone was thinking. Our friends. Our parents. Our crushes. Now we all know that Tess is in love with her best friend, Teddy. That Mackenzie cheated on Cooper. That, um, Nurse Carmichael used to be a stripper.

Since we've kept our freakish skill a secret, we can sit next to the class brainiac and ace our tests. We can dump our boyfriends right before they dump us. We know what our friends really think of our jeans, our breath, our new bangs. We always know what's coming. Some of us will thrive. Some of us will crack. None of us will ever be the same.

So stop obsessing about your ex. We're always listening.

Review: A cute, fun little book. Definitely skewed a bit towards the young end of the YA scale, but I still enjoyed it.

What happened when a group of teens, hopped up on hormones and highschool angst, get the flu shot and suddenly become telepathic?

The short answer is a lot of drama.

The perspective in this book jumps around a bit, which I found a little disconcerting though it works in the overall concept of the book. We go from one kid's head to another, and there are a lot of different kids involved in the story, as well, which makes it a little confusing to follow.

Right off the bat there's a lot of angst. Who likes who? Who's smart and who's not? Who's cheating on their boyfriend? Who's shy? Who's snarky behind their friends' backs? And of course, with telepathy comes the drama surrounding everyone else - the parents, the other students at the school.

There were a couple of characters who I really enjoyed reading about - Olivia and Tessa stood out, in part because I could empathise with them moreso than some of the others. That's probably going to be true of a lot of readers - when you have so many characters in one book, different ones are going to speak to different people. Tessa's storyline in particular made me smile.

The one thing I'll say about this book, is that nobody should expect any big insightful answers as to the why of it. The answers are very superficial, but the book's not really about that, anyway - it's about being a teenager and all the problems that come along with it, and dealing with ESP on top of it. It's about the fluidity of highschool and how things can change from day to day even without mindreading going on. The book is also realistic about the amount of sex and cheating and drama that actually goes on when you're a teenager, and I appreciated that - I'm all for media that embraces the reality that teens live with.

I'd probably recommend this most for teens. 

Disclosure: I received this book through Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Review: The Almost Girl, by Amalie Howard

Title: The Almost Girl
Author: Amalie Howard
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: January 7th, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure, Young Adult, Dystopia
Rating: Three of Five Stars

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Riven is as tough as they come. Coming from a world ravaged by a devastating android war, she has to be. There’s no room for softness, no room for emotion, no room for mistakes. A Legion General, she is the right hand of the young Prince of Neospes, a parallel universe to Earth. In Neospes, she has everything: rank, responsibility and respect. But when Prince Cale sends her away to find his long-lost brother, Caden, who has been spirited back to modern day Earth, Riven finds herself in uncharted territory.

Thrown out of her comfort zone but with the mindset of a soldier, Riven has to learn how to be a girl in a realm that is the opposite of what she knows. Riven isn’t prepared for the beauty of a world that is unlike her own in so many ways. Nor is she prepared to feel something more than indifference for the very target she seeks. Caden is nothing like Cale, but he makes something in her come alive, igniting a spark deep down that goes against every cell in her body. For the first time in her life, Riven isn’t sure about her purpose, about her calling. Torn between duty and desire, she must decide whether Caden is simply a target or whether he is something more.

Faced with hideous reanimated Vector soldiers from her own world with agendas of their own, as well as an unexpected reunion with a sister who despises her, it is a race against time to bring Caden back to Neospes. But things aren’t always as they seem, and Riven will have to search for truth. Family betrayals and royal coups are only the tip of the iceberg. Will Riven be able to find the strength to defy her very nature? Or will she become the monstrous soldier she was designed to be?

Review: I'm actually a bit torn on this book, mostly because there are elements of it that I loved, and others that made me want to scream in frustration.

Riven is only fourteen years old when she goes to a world incredibly different from her own, sent there to bring home the twin brother of Prince Cale, one of her closest friends and her commander.

Riven comes from a world that has been torn apart by an android war, a world where creatures call Vectors are commonplace - corpses reanimated to be soldiers. It's a dark world in comparison to Earth, so will Riven be able to find her way and complete her mission?

Sounds pretty cool, right? A young girl, trained to be a fighter, hopping universes to bring someone back, fighting the undead and triumphing over everything! I mean come on, I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was I really going to turn down a book like this? We need more books with fearless girls as confident and competent assassins, because the idea is pretty freaking cool.

What I actually got in the book was a bit more fuzzy, though.

First of all, I liked Riven. I wanted to like her more than I did, but I liked her. She's torn by duty and familial ties, and she doesn't like it when emotions get in the way - okay, something that I can understand, when she's been raised as a soldier. She prides herself in being the best, in not letting anything cloud her judgement, and completing her mission is paramount above everything else. She's gone through a lot in life - she's not particularly close to her father, he just sees her as a tool. Her mother is dead and her relationship with her sister is strained.

All of this makes for a compelling character - I could see where she was coming from, in a lot of her struggles. They made sense to me.

I loved the world, too - it was fascinating in a lot of ways. World torn about by android wars? Hell yes. A world that's drastically different from ours? Hell yes. Reanimated zombie people working as soldiers? Another hell yes. There's a lot to be said for the world that Howard has built and that was, in part, what kept me reading - I was curious, and I was fascinated.

It was just that everything moved far too fast, as is common in so many books, now. I don't know how much time went by in this book, but it wasn't all that long - yet Riven goes through changes of heart that are extreme, her emotions all over the place. Standard teenage fare, admittedly - except she's been trained as a hardened soldier! I expect some inner drama and questioning, yes, but not to the extent that I read in the book.

I'm not sure whether or not the author took the time to think about just how fast a person actually changes their mind when they've been trained all their lives. Admittedly it's not an easy topic for a civilian to identify with - most of us have no idea what a soldier goes through, both mentally and physically. I think that writers need to research thoroughly and really think about how quickly someone indoctrinated with a certain point of view can change their mind, though. If you're writing a character fighting hard against certain emotions and feelings, chances are they're going to win out most of the time, certainly longer than just a few days!

This leads into the relationship with Caden, which, while well written in some ways, was a disappointment in a lot of others.

The advice I seem to repeat over and over again for authors is always the same: SLOW DOWN!!!

It's okay, really. It's OKAY to let relationships develop slowly. Is it that authors are worried that the romance fans won't stick it out, maybe? It's a stupid reason, but I'd rather think that than think that authors actually think that people can learn to ~love~ someone else in the span of just a few days...

Caden was sweet, and gorgeous, of course. Thinking back on it now, though, I'm struggling to put much personality on him. Riven thinks of him in relationship to Cale a lot, and how he's different from Cale. So he's the antithesis of this boy that she knew (who we don't actually know that much about), but we don't learn that much about HIM, either, except that he's smart, a good fighter, and loyal to her (though I'm not quite sure why).

Which is actually a bit of a sidetrack from what I was going to say, which is that Riven and Caden's relationship develops far, far too fast. I'll give Howard credit for writing things well in terms of describing the feelings - no 'omg he's so hot' sort of insta-love. In spite of that, though, the depth just isn't there. Yes, he apparently ~sees her for her~ (apparently on instinct, since any logical boy WOULD NOT trust her), but other than the tension that sparks between them and his apparent determination to see the best in her, I don't know what's drawing them together.

It's a pity, because I don't dislike the pairing - Caden's sweet, and I think he'd be good for Riven. I still need a reason for her to fall for him that's not 'he's like Cale and he likes me' and I need a reason for him to like her that isn't 'she's hot and for some reason I trust her'.

I did like a lot of the secondary characters, though. Nobody is quite the way Riven likes to label them, especially those closest to her - and there are surprises and twists and turns throughout the book, enough to keep me turning the page even though I sometimes wanted to pitch it across the room. (The point where Caden and Riven stop to make out while on a mission in her father's house? THAT WOULD BE ONE OF THEM.)

The Vectors are creepy, and Riven's struggle with her own background is touching, as well. It's a bit too obvious from the title, imo, but I think it'll be interesting to see how it develops in the next book.

Ah yes, the next book... I'm assuming that there'll be one. Would I give it a try? Probably, in spite of all the things I've picked apart here. The writing is engaging enough, and I have hope that Howard will work on the flaws that are mentioned in various reviews of this book.

Disclosure: I received a copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.