Friday, 30 August 2013

Review - Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Series: Standalone
Published by Little, Brown and Company on August 14 2012
Genres: Adult Fiction, Humour, Contemporary
Pages: 330
Rating: 4/5 stars
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. 
Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic. 
To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

I have absolutely nothing negative to say about Where'd You Go, Bernadette. This is a very rare occasion, indeed!

The characters are wonderfully nuanced and even those I couldn't stand (Audrey & Soo-Lin, for the most part) were well-crafted and realistic, though reality was clearly heightened for the sake of hijinks. Audrey was the perfect depiction of an over-involved suburban PTA mom. She was so caught up in making sure everything went perfectly that she was completely unaware that she was acting like a madwoman and, more importantly, that her son had major problems that needed to be sorted out.

My favourite character, by far, was Bernadette herself. She was very clearly the star of the book, and rightly so. She may be slightly mad, with her tirades against Seattle in general and her intense agoraphobia, but she's incredibly entertaining. It actually kind of concerns me how well I identified with her. I had to laugh at the fact that she repeatedly redirected herself when she came to the topic of Canadians.

The pacing here was amazing. There was only one slow spot, around the 90% mark, but for the most part it just flew by. It was well-written, and the humour was spot-on. I'm really glad that I picked this book up when I did. I went into it without a clue of the plot or even what it was about at all, and I'm happy to say that it just made it all the more exciting.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Review - Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

Lost Voices (Lost Voices, #1)
Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
Series: Standalone
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on July 4 2011
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 291
Rating: 2/5
What happens to the girls nobody sees—the ones who are ignored, mistreated, hidden away? The girls nobody hears when they cry for help. 
Fourteen-year-old Luce is one of those lost girls. After her father vanishes in a storm at sea, she is stuck in a grim, gray Alaskan fishing village with her alcoholic uncle. When her uncle crosses an unspeakable line, Luce reaches the depths of despair. Abandoned on the cliffs near her home, she expects to die when she tumbles to the icy, churning waves below. Instead, she undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid.
A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. The mermaids are beautiful, free, and ageless, and Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: they feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks.
Luce’s own talent at singing captures the attention of the tribe’s queen, the fierce and elegant Catarina, and Luce soon finds herself pressured to join in committing mass murder. Luce’s struggle to retain her inner humanity puts her at odds with her friends; even worse, Catarina seems to regard Luce as a potential rival. But the appearance of a devious new mermaid brings a real threat to Catarina’s leadership and endangers the very existence of the tribe. Can Luce find the courage to challenge the newcomer, even at the risk of becoming rejected and alone once again?

Lost Voices is a captivating and wildly original tale about finding a voice, the healing power of friendship, and the strength it takes to forgive.

I love mermaids. I’ve been a mermaid fanatic since the age of four, and it hasn’t let up since. My fascination with mermaids is why it is so frustrating that every mermaid YA book I’ve read, with the exception of Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz, has been incredibly underwhelming.

Unfortunately, Lost Voices is not an exceptional case. It was beautifully written and I loved the premise, but the execution left a lot to be desired. I never felt any kind of connection to Luce, in fact I found her to be quite the Mary Sue and a bit of a wet blanket. She didn’t really do anything except whine. She stood up to Anais a few times late in the book, though with nothing more powerful than the occasional biting comment. All of the other mermaids were severely underdeveloped, especially considering the potential they all had! The room for character development with all of these girls is so spectacular, yet none of them have actual personalities. They were all abused, yet that major aspect of their human lives is rarely made mention of, nor do there seem to be any lasting emotional repercussions. The only mermaid I even kind of liked was Miriam.

The introduction of the main villain, Anais, cemented my dislike of Lost Voices. Anais is my least favourite kind of villain. She’s spineless and manipulative and materialistic (what do you need high heels for, Anais?? YOU DON’T HAVE FEET!). The scenes between Anais and the larvae (mermaids under the age of 3 or 4 who don’t have the motor control or verbal abilities of the older mermaids) were particularly cringe-inducing. The larvae in general made me very uncomfortable. I just wanted to scoop them up and give them all some much-needed cuddles. I really didn’t understand why the mermaids were so disdainful of them.

Another complaint I had was with the pacing. Nothing really happens between 25% and 70%. It’s literally just Luce swimming and singing for almost half of the book. Then, when a plot does show up it is incredibly asinine. I really just didn’t care about the outcome of the plot, and ended up skimming the last 20% just to finish it. It just didn’t work for me. I wanted to like Lost Voices, but there were so many missing pieces and loose ends and the characters were despicable. I won’t be continuing the series, as I have no desire to find out what happens.

Final consensus:

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Waiting on Wednesday - Antigoddess

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. 

Antigoddess (Goddess War, #1)
Antigoddess by Kendare Blake
Series: Goddess War #1
Expected Publication: September 10 2013
Publisher: Tor Teen
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Pages: 336

Old Gods never die…Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health. Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god. These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.
 Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.
 Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath. The Goddess War is about to begin. 
Why I’m Waiting

I really liked Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood, though I still have yet to read Girl of Nightmares. I also really like things that are based on Greek mythology (or any kind of mythology, for that matter), though they are often butchered in the process of modernization. I really hope this one is well done.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

TTT - Most Memorable Secondary Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish
Each week a new topic is given and weeks topic is:

Top Ten Most Memorable Secondary Characters

The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden, #2)

1. Jackal from the Blood of Eden series - I didn’t really pay much attention to Jackal in The Immortal Rules, but he totally stole the show in The Eternity Cure. He pretty much made the book for me.

Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2)

2. Ziri from Days of Blood & StarlightZiri is just the cutest thing ever. He’s so sweet and nice and sad and overlooked. Ziri>>>Akiva, tbh.


3. Laurie from InvisibilityI hated Invisibility, but I thought Laurie, Elizabeth’s hilarious younger brother, was the one bright spot in the otherwise murky waters of the book.

I Capture the Castle

4. Topaz from I Capture the CastleI don’t remember all that much about Topaz except that she liked to play the lute in the nude on the parapets of the castle in the middle of the night. Memorable? I think so.

Naamah's Kiss (Moirin Trilogy, #1)

5. Jehanne from Naamah’s KissI like Jehanne way more than Bao. She may be tempestuous and spoiled, but she means well and it’s evident that she really does love and cherish Moirin in her own way.

First Test (Protector of the Small, #1)

6. Neal from the Protector of the Small quartet - I always wanted Kel and Neal to get together. I knew it wouldn’t happen, but I wanted it to. He was just so cute and they were best friends and it would have been adorable!

The Sky Is Everywhere

7. Gram from The Sky is EverywhereGram was very eccentric, which I liked. She was a welcome relief from some of the heavier subject matter in The Sky is Everywhere.

The Blue Girl (Newford, #15)

8. Pelly from The Blue GirlHe’s a mysterious “imaginary friend” who looks like a cross between a hedgehog and  a boy, with bunny ears and the tail of a monkey. ‘Nuff said.

Hex Hall (Hex Hall, #1)

9. Jenna from the Hex Hall trilogyJenna was my favourite character and I wish she’d been more involved later on in the books. She was a pink-loving, girly-girl, lesbian vampire. How could I possibly resist loving this girl?

Going Bovine

10. Balder the garden gnome from Going BovineHe’s a perpetually angry Norse god who has been cursed into the form of a talking garden gnome. Is there anything that isn’t memorable in that statement?

Monday, 26 August 2013

Review - From What I Remember... by Stacy Kramer & Valerie Thomas

From What I Remember...
From What I Remember… by Stacy Kramer & Valerie Thomas
Series: Standalone
Published by Disney-Hyperion on May 15 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 462
Rating: 2/5 stars

KYLIE: Mexico? What a nightmare! I should be putting the finishing touches on my valedictorian speech. Graduation is TODAY! Wait! Is this a wedding band on my finger??
MAX: It started with Kylie's laptop and a truck full of stolen electronics and it ended in Ensenada. It was hot, the way she broke us out like some chick in an action movie. But now we're stranded here, with less than twenty-four hours before graduation. 
WILL: Saving Kylie Flores from herself is kind of a full-time occupation. Luckily, I, Will Bixby, was born for the job. And when I found out she was stuck in Mexico with dreamy Max Langston, sure, I agreed to bring their passports across the border but there's no reason to rush back home right away. This party is just getting started. 
LILY: This cannot be happening. It's like some cruel joke. Or a bad dream. I close my eyes and when I reopen them, they're still there. Max and Kylie Flores, freak of the century. In bed together. If Kylie thinks I'm giving him up without a fight, she's dead wrong.

Reading From What I Remember was like eating unsweetened chocolate chips to curb a chocolate craving. It was what I was expecting, but it could have been so much better. I was expecting a light-hearted romp of a book, which was precisely what was delivered. Unfortunately I do have standards, even for the fluffiest books, and From What I Remember didn’t meet many of them.

The plot is incredibly far-fetched, but I actually didn’t take that as a strike against it. It was cute and sweet and full of wish-fulfilment, but ultimately it was enjoyable. It was action-packed and exciting and I never got bored (at least not when the narrative was focused on Kylie and Max).

I’m not a fan of multi-POV books. I find that two in one book tries my patience most of the time. This book had five. FIVE. That is way too many POVs, and only two of them were really necessary. The majority of the book is centred around the exploits of Kylie and Max, who accidentally get stuck in Mexico the day before their high school graduation. The other POV characters, Will, Lily, and Jake, were all very secondary, not to mention undeveloped. Will and Lily were by far the worst offenders, as I kind of enjoyed Jake’s chapters for the insight they provided into the mind of Kylie’s little brother who has Asperger’s. What I didn’t like about Jake was that his Asperger’s was his only defining trait. It kind of felt like the authors didn’t do enough research. It was just a pretty shallow portrayal. I was also incredibly offended by the casual use of the r-word as a slur, especially because it was used by Kylie!

Will was the epitome of the gay best friend clich√©. He was essentially Kurt from Glee copy-pasted from a TV format to a novel. He had very little character development and I thought it was stupid that he gets paired up with the first gay guy he meets. It was just too convenient. Lily was equally shallow. She didn’t change at all from the beginning of the book to the end. Her ‘catastrophe’ is revealed early on, but she never feels at all sympathetic or the smallest bit likeable. I would have liked to see a bit more growth in Lily, or at least a realization that wealth and status might not be as important as she thinks they are.

I just didn’t see the point in including Will and Lily as POV characters. It would have been a much stronger book if it had been entirely from the eyes of Kylie and/or Max.

My biggest issue aside from characterization is this line: “Hobbies are for wimps who don’t have the guts to follow their passion.”

I don’t even know where to begin, I get so livid over that statement. It’s such a juvenile sentiment. Are people no longer allowed to have multiple interests? Just because I like reading doesn’t mean I expect to make money off of it. I like singing, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be a pop star. Some things are pipe dreams for a reason. I wanted to be an actor throughout high school, but one day I had to wake up and realise that I just wasn’t talented enough. That’s okay! I have other things that I’m good at, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still act in community theatre as a hobby. I think that yes, Kylie had her heart in the right place in telling Max to pursue photography, but that comment was not an appropriate tactic to use.

Overall, it just wasn’t a great book. It was a quick read and Kylie and Max’s mishaps were quaint and inoffensive, but the level of characterization that I expect just wasn’t there. The writing was also very cringe-worthy, throwing around words like “chillax” (the only example I can recall at the moment). One more thing I really liked was the use of movie quotes at the beginning of every chapter (though I wish that the movie references had been used less frequently in the narrative).

Friday, 23 August 2013

Review - Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead

Gameboard of the Gods (Age of X, #1)

Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead
Series: Age of X #1
Published by Dutton Adult on June 4 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 448
Rating: 3/5 stars
In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military’s most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills. 
When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.

I went into Gameboard of the Gods completely blind. All I knew about the book was that it was the first in a new series by one of my favourite authors, Richelle Mead, and that it wasn’t a YA title.

I wasn’t thrilled by the first 45-50%. It was, to be honest, rather boring. I didn’t feel any emotional ties to the characters, with the exception of Tessa. I was particularly unimpressed with Justin. He was a shallow, self-involved tool. I’m writing this review a week and a half after reading the book and I actually forgot his name. Apparently that is precisely how much I liked reading about Justin. I found the mystery surrounding Justin with regards to the ravens in his head was… uninspired. I didn’t really care that much about what happened to him. I did think that the ravens, Horatio especially, were much-needed to Justin’s psyche. I was elated when Horatio called Justin out on being an asshole (on multiple occasions!), because he was saying exactly what I was thinking.

Mae was kind of bland to me. I found she didn’t really make much of an impression on me either way. In my notes I have written “emotionally stunted robot woman”, so clearly I wasn’t a big fan of Mae while reading, but she doesn’t enrage me like Justin does.

My biggest issue with Gameboard of the Gods is that it needed more character depth. I think that this is partly due to the use of third-person point of view, but I found the characters to be quite stereotypical.
The only character I really enjoyed reading about was Tessa, which is probably due to her being from the ‘provinces’. She read like more of a real person, and I loved reading about her immersion into this new and unfamiliar culture that was quite abrasive towards her.

Richelle Mead’s writing, while different tonally from all of her other books, is a pleasure to read. This book is written in a very cool, unemotional style that I believe was meant to cohere with the impersonal culture of the RUNA. It wasn’t my favourite Mead book by a long shot, but it was clear that the author was branching out and loving every minute of it. At only one point did the writing have any emotional draw to me – when Mead described the cultural isolation of Tessa’s first day of school in Vancouver. That scene was truly perfect, from the way that Melissa and the teachers spoke to Tessa like she was hard of hearing, made her repeat herself because they couldn’t decipher her accent, and generally acted as though she had never set foot in civilization before. Mead captured the feeling of other-ness as she described the “attitude and demeanor that screamed to the world that she hadn’t been born and raised in this glittering, frenetic society”.

The plot of Gameboard of the Gods really didn’t do much for me. Contrary to most of the complaints I’ve read about it, I think I would have been more satisfied if it had been focused more on politics and government workings and less on religious activities. It read more like a series of random scenes compiled in a semi-logical order than a finished product with a beginning, middle, and end. Well, it had a very distinct beginning, it was as it moved into the middle that everything became muddled.

As a final note, I really wish Porfirio had been a nicer dude, because he has the most badass name ever.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Review - Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Arrows of the Queen (Heralds of Valdemar, #1)

Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
Series: Valdemar: Arrows of the Queen #1
Published by DAW on March 3 1987
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Rating: 3/5 stars

Talia, a young runaway, is made a herald at the royal court after she rescues one of the legendary Companions. When she uncovers a plot to seize the throne, Talia must use her empathic powers to save the queen.
The biggest compliment I can give to Arrows of the Queen is that it is very reminiscent of the Song of the Lioness books by Tamora Pierce, which is one of my all-time favourite series even a good ten years after first reading them. It turns out they were actually published around the same time (early- to mid-80s, long before I was even born!) so perhaps the authors were influenced by some of the same things.

The problem with Arrows of the Queen is that it’s a very pleasant read, but it’s kind of dissatisfying. It’s like expecting a big slice of cheesecake and being presented with a sliver of lemon meringue pie – it’s still lovely and sweet and you wouldn’t pass it up, but it wasn’t as delicious as what you had in mind. I feel slightly disappointed by the book, but I’m not entirely certain why. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I never felt truly connected to any of the characters. There were a handful of character deaths that should have been far more emotional to me as the reader than they actually were. I found that the narrative style was focused a bit too much on telling and not enough on showing. I get that there was a lot of ground to cover in such a short book - it covers about 4 years, perhaps a bit more - but I needed more evidence of the growth in character development and relationships than was given.

Apparently Dirk becomes the love interest in later books, which I find quite amusing. This is mostly due to the fact that the moment I read the description of him my mind immediately leapt to the... oddly formed... visage of Benedict Cumberbatch. I spent the rest of the book picturing Dirk as a young Benedict Cumberbatch. It made me chuckle.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Review - My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

My Soul to Take (Soul Screamers, #1)
My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent
Series: Soul Screamers #1
Published by Harlequin Teen on August 1 2009
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Pages: 279 (8.5 hours)
Rating: 3/5 stars
She doesn't see dead people. She senses when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally. 
Kaylee just wants to enjoy having caught the attention of the hottest guy in school. But a normal date is hard to come by when Nash seems to know more about her need to scream than she does. And when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason, only Kaylee knows who'll be next.

I went into My Soul to Take with very low expectations. I've read one Rachel Vincent book before, Stray which I didn't enjoy. At all. In fact, it's one of the worst books I've read this year, but that's beside the point. What I'm getting to is that I was very pleasantly surprised by my second foray into Rachel Vincent's work. There were some things that troubled me about it, but for the most part I enjoyed listening to it. The narrator was easy to listen to, though I noticed a few strange pauses that I think might be due to her temporarily losing her place in the book.

I liked Kaylee - most of the time. She could certainly use more development, but she's sixteen and there are quite a few more books in the series for her to grow up in. I'm giving that the benefit of the doubt. One big problem I faced with Kaylee was her insecurity when it came to Nash. I think this was partially due to the fact that she was kind of right - there was no real reason I could see for Nash to be interested in her aside from their shared heritage. I understood Kaylee's dismay in the scene at Taboo, but after that it just got irritating. The biggest annoyance was that it seemed to me that those thoughts and the way they were worded were simply copy/pasted from one scene to the next. They didn't have any depth beyond "why does Nash like me instead of those pretty, vapid girls who keep hitting on him right in front of me??".

Speaking of Nash, I actually quite liked him at first. And then his complete lack of personality started to become apparent. I hated the co-dependence between he and Kaylee. I think the book would have been much stronger if Kaylee hadn't needed to lean on him for support quite so often. Literally, she physically leans on him for support at the funeral. They immediately became one of those couples who are never apart. Just because you are dating someone doesn't mean you can't do things on your own every now and then.

One of the things that I really liked at the beginning of the book but that was quickly sidelined was Kaylee's friendship with Emma. I find in a lot of YA paranormal books the only relationship the MC maintains is the relationship with the LI, so I was excited at the prospect of a MC with a strong friendship that looked as though it might be given a bit more attention. Unfortunately, Emma ended up being far more of a plot device than an actual character. The only things I know about Emma are that she likes to get drunk at clubs, is more popular than Kaylee, and she has quite a few sisters. It didn't feel like a genuine friendship, which I found really disappointing.

My biggest annoyance, however, was Sophie. She was so hateful and mean and there was absolutely no character development. She isn't given any depth and I found the relationship between her and Kaylee completely unbelievable. Sophie is a stock character who doesn't exist in real life, and she and characters like her are one of my biggest pet peeves. It reeks of lazy writing. It really wouldn't have been difficult to craft Sophie into an actual multi-dimensional person.

On a more positive note, I really liked the mythology and the way it was used. It was painfully obvious that Kaylee was a banshee (or bean sidhe, as is the original Celtic spelling used in the book). I was a little bit frustrated by her ignorance, as it would be obvious to anyone with any knowledge of the creature what she was, but that seems to be a common theme in YA paranormal books, and I accept it as such. The use of Reapers and bean sidhe was clever and I'm interested to read more about Todd and how he exists at all. I'm not sure whether or not I'll actually continue the series, but the possibility isn't off the table.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Review - Pivot Point by Kasie West

Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1)
Pivot Point by Kasie West
Series: Pivot Point #1
Published by HarperTeen on February 12 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Contemporary
Pages: 343
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . .
Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not. 
In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.

I really did enjoy reading Pivot Point, but it just wasn't that memorable for me. I didn't really feel that strongly about any of the characters (in fact, I was constantly forgetting Addie's name) and though I thought the concept was really cool the execution just wasn't quite up to par with what I imagine it could be. Trevor, while nice, was kind of a generic love interest. He certainly didn't make me swoon.

My biggest problem with Pivot Point was Addie's insistence at the end of the book that any deviation from the two paths her Search showed her would result in disaster. Pardon my language, but I thought that was bullshit. It just felt like a cop-out. The author clearly wanted to make it out to be a choice between two evils, but it didn't have to be so. Addie could have stopped Bobby from killing Laila without sacrificing her life in Dallas.

I did really like the writing style. It straddled a line between contemporary YA and paranormal YA, and it did so with finesse. I never felt like I was being bombarded with information about the Compound or abilities. It was all quite seamless and well-integrated into the story. It was really easy to read, and though it took me just under a week to get through it I know I could have finished it much quicker if I'd been so inclined (and had more free time!). It doesn't help that I was distracted by 13 episodes of Orange is the New Black (IT'S SO GOOD LET ME SQUEAL OVER THIS AMAZING TV SHOW FOR A BIT).

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Review - How My Summer Went Up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

How My Summer Went Up in Flames
How My Summer Went Up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Series: Standalone
Published by Simon Pulse on May 7 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 307
Rating: 2/5 stars

First she lost her heart. Then she lost her mind. And now she’s on a road trip to win back her ex. This debut novel’s packed with drama and romance!
Rosie’s always been impulsive. She didn’t intend to set her cheating ex-boyfriend’s car on fire. And she never thought her attempts to make amends could be considered stalking. So when she’s served with a temporary restraining order on the first day of summer vacation, she’s heartbroken—and furious. 
To put distance between Rosie and her ex, Rosie’s parents send her on a cross-country road trip with responsible, reliable neighbor Matty and his two friends. Forget freedom of the road, Rosie wants to hitchhike home and win back her ex. But her determination starts to dwindle with each passing mile. Because Rosie’s spark of anger? It may have just ignited a romance with someone new…

I’m not sure exactly what it is that I love so much about road trip books. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it’s the idea of being stuck in confined quarters with people a la Big Brother? Maybe it’s the definity of having a final destination in mind that is so comforting? Or it could be the constant change of scenery and watching as characters adapt to each new setting they come across? I don’t know, but there was something just a bit off about this. It certainly didn’t do for me what Wanderlove by Kristen Hubbard did (not that I was really expecting it to). It just felt very lukewarm and soggy noodle-y. This book is really lucky it’s short, because if it were 100 pages longer I wouldn’t have finished it. As it were, I read it in about a day and a half (mostly because I locked myself out of the house and had a long stretch of uninterrupted reading time).

My biggest issue with this book was Rosie. She just didn’t really interest me as a character. Her obsession with Joey was off-putting from the very beginning, though she claimed not to be hung up on him. She was a very wishy-washy character and the impulsiveness that she was supposed to have felt more like a character trait the author selected for her and then clung to than an actual facet of her personality. It didn’t feel organic at all.

Additionally, she slut-shames ALL THE TIME. It starts with the girl who Joey cheated on her with, which is uncool to begin with. The 14 year old girl is not to blame for Joey cheating. Joey is to blame for Joey cheating. End of story. It would be bad enough if that was the extent of her judging other girls for their so-called “slutty” behaviour. But oh no, it doesn’t stop there. Rosie  later notices a girl at Dollyworld with huge boobs in a skimpy lycra tank top and comments that she (Rosie) “keeps [her] curves tastefully covered.” Um, you’re at DOLLYWORLD. Also, this girl’s breasts are none of your concern. She goes on to describe Avery, who is pretty much the sweetest girl in the universe, as “so cute in a nonslutty Barbie kind of way”, which I think she actually means as a compliment. There are a few other grossly misogynistic tidbits thrown in sporadically throughout the rest of the book (like when Rosie immediately assumes that Avery’s dad is the one who makes all the money just after being told that her mom is a renowned doctor), but they aren’t all worth mentioning.

I didn’t hate the male characters as much as I loathed Rosie, but they were a little flat. I actually liked Matty and Spencer far more than Logan, but of course she would go for the “hot” guy. I never expected otherwise, though I did find it weird and off-putting that Rosie had romantic entanglements with literally every somewhat age-appropriate male she met (who wasn’t her brother). Their nerdiness was kind of endearing (though I noticed that almost all of the apparent nerdiness happened off-page), and there was one appalling misuse of Yoda linguistics. “Stalk no more, I will not” makes absolutely no sense. Double negative much?

The writing tried way too hard to be funny and when it was trying to be slightly more serious it reeked of amateurism. There weren’t many grammar errors, which speaks highly of either author or editor (or both), but it read like a ninth grade story assignment that was written the night before it was due. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Waiting on Wednesday - The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Series: Standalone
Expected Publication: September 3 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Pages: 432

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.  
One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

Why I’m Waiting
I read The Coldest Girl in Coldtown when it was a short story, and I loved it. I’m a big fan of Holly’s writing and have been since I first devoured Tithe in middle school (that was a long time ago). I try not to let her friendship with the she-devil sway my opinion of her as a person or of her writing. It’s harder than I care to admit. I think Holly Black has one of the greatest imaginations in YA right now, alongside the likes of Laini Taylor, Richelle Mead, and Melina Marchetta. I look forward to everything she puts out (though I still haven’t listened to the third Curse Workers book. Shame on me).

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

TTT - Books With Boarding School Settings

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish
Each week a new topic is given and weeks topic is:

Top Ten Books With Boarding School Settings

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, #1)

1. The Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead - I really need to re-read this series. I don't really remember anything that happened and I have no idea whether or not I've read the later books.

Bloodlines (Bloodlines, #1)

2. The Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead - This series is amazing. I actually like Sydney's story way more than Rose's, and I appreciate that she is a bit older than your average YA protagonist (I believe she's 18 or 19). Also, Adrian >>> Dimitri.

Hex Hall (Hex Hall, #1)

3. The Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins - These books are just so much fun. I didn't love the third one, but the first two were pretty great.

Variant (Variant, #1)

4. The Variant series by Robison Wells - I've only read the first book, but it was pretty fantastic. The writing could use some work, from what I remember, but I was completely enthralled by the story. I loved the way the boarding school was utilized, though I'm pretty sure it won't feature largely in Feedback.

First Test (Protector of the Small, #1)

5. Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce - I had a really hard time choosing between Kel and Alanna. I decided to go with Kel's books because they feature the knight academy in a much bigger role than Alanna's books do.

Looking for Alaska

6. Looking for Alaska by John Green - I didn't love Looking for Alaska, but it was a good book. I actually don't remember most of the events of the book (I have serious book amnesia, it's a problem), but it's set in a boarding school and that is something that I always appreciate! It's also pretty freaking heartbreaking.

A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle, #1)

7. The Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray - I read these books quite a while ago, but I think I' due to return to them sometime soon. Libba's writing is fantastic and, while I would loathe attending it, I love reading about Gemma's school. I do wish a bit more of the novel had been set in India though, as that was one of the reasons I first liked it when I picked it up in the bookstore (I was about 14 at the time and my parents made me wait until it was paperback before they would buy it for me!).

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)

8. The Harry freakin' Potter series by J.K. Rowling - Isn't this where the boarding school craze came from? Everyone wanted/wants to go to Hogwarts. Where else do you find moving stairs and talking portraits and dungeon classrooms? No where, that's where. It's always Hogwarts, and it always will be.

Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss, #1)

9. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - Who wouldn't want to go to school in Paris? Really? I don't know why anyone would pass up an opportunity to study abroad, either during high school or college/uni. If I could afford it, I would be studying in Glasgow or Adelaide or Brussels or Stockholm right now. Really, I'd go anywhere that would take me!


10. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans - Madeline est la v√©ritable OG, non? Anna's Paris has nothing on Madeline's. I was obsessed with Madeline as a child. I watched the 1998 movie on a weekly basis and had about 4 or 5 Madeline dolls (I even had Pepito & Miss Clavel in her habit!). Madeline (and Anne Shirley) is hugely responsible for my infatuation with red hair.