Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Anything For You


Published:  April 10th, 2014
Mayday
By: Jonathan Friesen
Speak
ISBN-13:  9780142412299

Why'd I do it?  I suppose it's the only question that really matters.

Seventeen-year-old Crow will stop at nothing to protect her younger sister -- even if it costs her her own life.  But then she's given a chance to come back and make things right.  There are a few catches, though.  First, she won't come back as herself.  And before she can set things straight, she'll have to figure out what's what -- and things aren't exactly as clear-cut as she remembered.

Review

     Crow has been protecting her younger sister Addy from any harm, ever since she can remember.  It started when their father left, and the girls' mother got involved with a seemingly nice Doctor.  Crow doesn't trust him, and it turns out to be for a good reason.  Now as teenagers, Crow is still trying to protect Addy, this time from a boy she thinks just wants to use her good-hearted sister.  This time Crow winds up in a coma, between the paths of life and death.  She's granted a walkabout, a chance to make things right in her own life.  Crow uses it as another chance to go back as someone else and protect Addy.  But can she actually change anything that's happened in the past?  And how can she stop her own bitterness and pain from devouring what's left of her soul whole?
     I liked the characters in this one.  In a way, Crow reminded me of myself.  Always trying to fix things for other people and never having a life for herself.  But during the walkabout, Crow is given a chance to look back at her life through new eyes and realize that nothing is quite as black and white as she had originally thought.  I liked that Crow got to go back and interact with her younger self.  First as a middle-school-aged girl named Shane, and then as a teenaged boy named Shane.  She's there on the pretext of protecting Addy.  But then she really starts to get a look at herself and the things that she's done, how she has nothing other than her sister.  She starts to care about younger Crow and finds herself trying to save, well, herself right along with Addy.  I liked the ending and while the idea that she couldn't stop some of the bad things from happening might piss off some people, I like that she realized that maybe Addy didn't need as much saving as her own soul did.  Kind of a beautiful concept and I liked the realizations.  The only thing that weirded me out a little was the slight Shane/Crow romance.

VERDICT:  3.5/5 Stars

*I reviewed this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book was published April 10th, 2014.*

Friday, September 12, 2014

Queen of Zombie Hearts (White Rabbit Chronicles #3) by Gena Showalter


Expected Publication:  September 30th, 2014
Queen of Zombie Hearts (White Rabbit Chronicles #3)
By: Gena Showalter
Harlequin Teen
ISBN-13:  9780373211319

In the stunning conclusion to the wildly popular White Rabbit Chronicles, Alice "Ali" Bell thinks the worst is behind her.  She's ready to take the next step with boyfriend Cole Holland, leader of the zombie slayers...until Anima Industries, the agency controlling the zombies, launches a sneak attack, killing four of her friends.  It's then she realizes that humans can be more dangerous than monsters...and the worst has only begun.

As the surviving slayers prepare for war, Ali discovers she, too, can control the zombies...and she isn't the girl she thought she was.  She's connected to the woman responsible for killing -- and turning -- Cole's mother.  How can their relationship endure?  As secrets come to light, and more slayers are taken or killed, Ali will fight harder than ever to bring down Anima -- even sacrificing her own life for those she loves.

Review

     At the beginning of this book things have calmed down a lot since the last one.  Ali and her friends are easing back in to normal life, and her biggest worry is normal, nightly zombie patrol and whether or not Cole will let them go all the way finally.  Nana is supervising their every waking moment, so one night Ali sneaks in Cole's window for some late-night, naughty time.  In the middle of them making out, the house is attacked.  They soon learn that Anima has attacked ALL of their fellow slayers as well, killing four of them and gravely injuring or kidnapping others.  Another side plotline is introduced, with the Witness ghost of Helen, who gifts Ali with some of her own special powers to help in the fight.  She also has a secret connection to Ali's past that comes between her and Cole, due to Helen's betrayal of his mother.  It's an interesting way to create relationship conflict just when things were rock solid.
     The introduction of a street gang of zombie slayers, led by a guy named River, was an interesting addition.  I did feel like there was way too many characters at quite a few points, and got a little bit confused as to who had done what and been in the previous books.  The plot twists regarding Ali's new powers, the true goals of Anima and the connection with Helen weren't necessarily all that surprising, but the action moved at a really good pace in this one and I loved the finality of the conclusion.  The last big shock though (which I won't spoil) had me screaming in rage - in a good way!  The last Witness visit is going to kill you so hard!  All in all, a great end to an interesting series.  And for all you Cole and Ali fans, don't worry too much.  Their ending will make you happy!

VERDICT:  4/5 Stars

*I recieved this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is September 30th, 2014.*

Monday, September 8, 2014

Beyond the Ominous Gates


Expected Publication: September 9th, 2014
Winterkill
By: Kate A. Boorman
Amulet Books
ISBN-13:  9781419712357

Emmeline knows she's not supposed to explore the woods outside her settlement.  The enemy that wiped out half her people lurks there, attacking at night and keeping them isolated in an unfamiliar land with merciless winters.  Living with the shame of her grandmother's insubordination, Emmeline has learned to keep her head down and her quick tongue silent.

When the settlement leader asks for her hand in marriage, it's an opportunity for Emmeline to wash the family slate clean -- even if she has eyes for another.  But before she's forced into an impossible decision, her dreams urge her into the woods, where she uncovers a path she can't help but follow.  The trail leads to a secret that someone in the village will kill to protect.  Her grandmother followed the same path and paid the price.  If Emmeline isn't careful, she will be next.

Review

     Emmeline has a curiosity about things beyond what she's allowed to know.  It's what causes her to break the rules of her settlement and skip services, instead exploring things that are only treasures in her own eyes, natural ruins of another time.  She is shunned by much of her people, for a sin that her grandmother committed, a Stain against their family name: going beyond the settlement walls.  Just as Emmeline begins to feel things for a boy named Kane, the settlement leader asks for her in marriage.  But then her dreams lead her out into the woods, where a dangerous secret lies.  Can Emmeline find out the truth and will it destroy her - or set them all free?
     I had to put this one down and could not bring myself to pick it back up again.  Emmeline seemed like she was being contrary just 'cause, and I couldn't stand her from page one.  The dialectical decisions of the author left something to be desired.  WHY are they speaking French words?  Where are we, what happened to bring these people there, and why after mutliple generations are they (as described in the Goodreads summary above) are they still in an "unfamiliar land?"  I found myself not giving a crap, as the sentence structure was atrocious.  As I saw another reader observe, it felt like most of the words were chopped in half and the sparsity left a lot to be desired for me personally.  In other words, it was driving me absolutely insane.  Not to mention, been there and done that - the gates, the big secret in the woods.  Can you say rip-off of The Village or what?  Just not the book for me, and I wish I would not have even wasted my time.  I seem to be in the minority with that opinion though, at least on Goodreads.

VERDICT:  DID NOT FINISH

*I recieved this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is September 9th, 2014.*

Friday, September 5, 2014

Bright and Fake Things...


Expected Publication:  January 6th, 2015
All the Bright Places
By: Jennifer Niven
Knopf
ISBN-13: 9780385755887

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor & Park in this compelling, exhilarating, and beautiful story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself.  But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister's recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it's unclear who saves whom.  And when they pair up on a project to discover the "natural wonders" of their state, both Violet and Finch make more important discoveries: It's only with Violet that Finch can be himself - a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who's not such a freak after all.  And it's only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them.  But as Violet's world grows, Finch's begins to shrink.

Review

     Violet used to be a happy-go-lucky cheerleader, and all-around popular high school student, who ran a blog with her sister Eleanor.  She was involved in extracurricular activities and had the perfect boyfriend.  Then she was in a horrible car crash that took away her sister, and left her drowning in her grief.  Now, almost a year later, Eleanor is barely making it day by day.  So when the school weirdo, Finch, finds her up on the ledge of the bell tower and talks her down, Violet is kind of annoyed with him.  Finch begins inserting himself into her life, with his inability to understand the word "no" and his larger than life, quirky personality.  Partnered for a project on state "wonders," Violet begins to let her guard down and live life again.  But Finch, who is struggling with crippling depressive episodes, is sliding further down as Violet climbs her way upward.  Can they save each other, or will their story be unable to find a happy ending?
     I have superbly mixed feelings about this book.  On one hand, the portrayal of depression in the character and behaviors of Finch, was very realistic and I appreciated that the author didn't diminish his struggles and make everything get resolved magically at the end of the book.  On the other hand, Finch's quirky, variant personality was a little too "different."  It was a case of the author trying to hard to make him interesting, unpredictable and relatable.  If I want to care about a character, he doesn't need to be so unique as to almost circle around again to Gary Stu status.  Violet was the opposite.  I really thought she was extremely dull, lifeless and just all-around two dimensional.  I understand that she's still grieving her sister, but it was like she was the personification of the color gray.  I liked the writing style and the literary quotes.  Some of the one-liners were awesome.  I just feel like this book spent so much time trying way too hard to be the next big thing, that it delved into cliche territory and overreached itself.  And the ending was believable, but at the same time, contrived to make the reader emotional and tearful.  I myself was emotionless and scoffing.  Overall a decent effort and definitely points for beautiful writing.  But really nothing all that memorable or special.

VERDICT:  2.5/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is January 6th, 2015.*

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rising From the Depths Below


Expected Publication:  January 16th, 2015
Hellhole
By: Gina Damico
HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13:  9780544307100

A devil is a bad influence...

There was a time when geeky, squeaky-clean Max Kilgore would never lie or steal or even think about murder.

Then he accidentally unearths a devil, and Max's choices are no longer his own.  The big red guy has a penchant for couch-surfing and junk food -- and you should never underestimate evil on a sugar high.  With the help of Lore, a former goth girl who knows a thing or two about the dark side, Max is racing against the clock to get rid of the houseguest from hell before time -- and all the Flamin' Hot Cheetos this side of the fiery abyss -- run out.


Review

     Dark humor is something I tend to enjoy as a reader, and Gina Damico's sense of humor tends to run that vein.  I enjoyed her first novel, Croak, and was disappointed not to enjoy the two subsequent sequels nearly as much.  But this was supposed to be a stand-alone novel, so my grabby hands and my sense of faith both made an appearance!  I have somewhat mixed feelings on this book though.  I enjoyed it overall, but wasn't in love with it by the end.  It's definitely not a re-read for me personally.  This is a story about Max Kilgore, a shy, skinny geek kid obsessed with dinosaurs (paleontology).  The only things that he has in life besides his job at the convenience store, paleontology club, and videos games is his best friend Audie - and his Mom, who is in desperate need of a new heart and unable to help with anything.  Max is barely able to keep them afloat and the bills are coming due.  Then he does something stupid, and steals an ugly cat knick-knack from work.  A devil named Burg is summoned and shoves his way into every aspect of Max's life, making it worse and worse.  With the help of a (possible) demon worshipping girl named Lore, can they send Burg back to Hell before anyone gets hurt?
     What to say about Max?  He's barely coherent around other human beings, can't tell a lie to save his life and has a tendency to ramble.  Except for the one petty theft, he's basically a good person.  He just has no filter and needs some socialization - and more friends than just Audie.  Lore seems pretty stand-offish and downright bitchy at first, but as I got to know her better I liked her.  The trailer-trash parents who didn't care, unlikely job at a craft store, and her own checkered past made her the perfect accomplice for Max in getting rid of his devil infestation.  Then there's Burg (a.k.a. Burgandy Cluttermuck), one of many devils, and a complete asshole.  He loves video games, junk food of any kind and reality television.  He wants Max to acquire him a house and refuses to leave till then.  My favorite parts involved him turning into a Llyod Dobler look-alike so he could romance Max's mom and the scene where he gets Max drunk, with a running commentary on a fashion t.v. show!  It got slightly off-focus and confused for awhile in terms of plot, but wrapped up nicely near the end.  I just really hope this stays a single novel.  I recommend it to anyone who enjoys some humor, pop culture references and fluffy reading.

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

**I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is January 16th, 2015.**

Sunday, August 24, 2014

You Would Cry Too If It Happened To You


Expected Publication:  September 30th, 2014
Party Games (Fear Street)
By: R.L. Stine
St. Martin's Griffin
ISBN-13:  9781250051615

Her friends warn her not to go to Brendan Fear's birthday party at his family's estate on mysterious Fear Island.  But Rachel Martin has a crush on Brendan and is excited to be invited.  Brendan has a lot of party games planned.  But one game no one planned intrudes on his party -- the game of murder.  As the guests start dying one by one, Rachel realizes to her horror that she and the other teenagers are trapped on the tiny island with someone who may want to kill them all.  How to escape this deadly game?  Rachel doesn't know whom she can trust.  She should have realized nothing is as it seems...on Fear Island.  

Review

     When I was a kid I used to devour R.L. Stine's books, like they were my favorite candy or something!  I read most of the Goosebumps books, plenty of the off-shoot series, and the choose your own fate books.  But my absolute favorites, were the Fear Street books.  Something about that creepy Fier/Fear family and their curse (along with their tendencies towards evil) really drew me in to their world.  Most of the stories take place on Fear Street itself, which seems to have absorbed its namesake's evil.  Some are about the history of Fear Street and some are about the present.  My favorites were always the ones that combined the two (i.e. the Fear Park trilogy, the Fear Street Saga series, & the Fear Street Sagas [completely different and not to be confused]).  This wasn't one of them, but that's okay!  I was still extremely excited to read it.  There's still a very childlike part of me that loves a good scare.
     This book centers around a girl named Rachel Martin, who is the definition of average.  She's nothing special lookswise, her sister got all the brains, she has a hard time socializing, and her family isn't wealthy.  In fact, Rachel's father lost his job recently and now works at the Wal*Mart a town away at significantly less pay.  Her Mom has been sick with Lyme disease and unable to work.  So Rachel has taken a job waitressing at Lefty's, the local teen hangout, to help with the bills.  Imagine her surprise when wealthy, interesting (if somewhat geeky) Brendan Fear invites her to his birthday party out on Fear Island.  She's always had a crush on Brendan, so she ignores the warnings of her best friend Amy and slightly creepy, possessive ex-boyfriend Mac.  She's going to the birthday party and she has a good time doing it - until people start turning up dead.  Is Rachel going to be the next victim?  Is the island really haunted?  Can she get out of there alive, or will the Fear family's curse of evil claim another victim?
     There have been better books in this series.  But there have been worse too and people need to remember, it's a less than 200-page, pulpy teen horror book.  It's not meant to have deep character development or even be that well-written.  It's sole purpose is to provide the aforementioned horror and bring some scariness into your life!  It was fun reading for me, even if it wasn't the next YA classic novel.  It had some especially creepy scenes, including the deaths (or were they?) of the other kids and a pit on the island that Rachel gets trapped in.  Probably the only thing I really though was overkill, was the taxidermist ghost.  It wasn't creepy, just kind of bizarre.  Also, Brendan Fear is a gamer geek and doesn't really have that spark of sadistic evil in him quite like the other men and women of his lineage.  It was a little disappointing.  The whole thing with the murders was something I had figured out almost immediately.  But then a secondary plotline I wasn't at ALL expecting hopped on the train!  Overall, I enjoyed reading it.  This book definitely took me back to a less complicated time and made me feel creeped out in the most delicious way.  I think it's a great step back into the pond for R.L. Stine and a good introduction to the series for new readers.  A solid effort, for the pulpy novel it is.

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

* received this book from St. Martin's Griffin, on NetGalley.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  The expected publication date is September 30th, 2014.*

Friday, August 22, 2014

Shattered Hearts and Broken Things


Expected Publication:  December 23rd, 2014
This Shattered World (Starbound #2)
By:  Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Disney-Hyperion
ISBN-13:  9781423171034

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn's blood.  Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children.  But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelenting war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner.  But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever.  He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

Review

     This had all the important things that the first book had: adventure, outer space intrigue, romance and character development.  Lots of conflict to keep me busy as a reader.  Yet, I didn't quite connect immediately with Lee or Flynn, quite like I did with Tarver and Lilac in the first book.  Maybe because Lee and Flynn seem to have a much clearer understanding of who they are and where they belong, etc. (not that this lasts for the entire book, but it didn't draw me in to have such self-assured characters).  Maybe it's because I'm such so insecure myself.  Also, Flynn came across as a pretty big idiot.  You're part of a fairly big rebellion, and your first instinct is to kidnap one of the opposing leaders when you have the chance.  Did he honestly believe he could convince his people to peacefully let her go once they had what they wanted?  As if!  Dreamworld buddy, total dreamworld - especially since his sister had been a violent rebellion leader herself, executed for her actions.
     Honestly, Lee was my favorite character and I still wasn't all that attached to her for whatever reason.  I did enjoy the flashbacks into her past.  It gives a deeper insight into the character, especially when you realize the purpose behind them and why Lee never seems to acknowledge these remembrances/hallucinations at all.  The romance in this one just felt too cliched and rehearsed to me.  It never really rang true.  I seem to be in the minority here, so don't mind me - form your own opinions!  So as not to spoil all that much, I will say that the ending resolves the conflict very nicely.  I think any further books will be about different characters again.  The conflict with the corporation owned by Lilac's father has a lot more mileage left in it for Kaufman and Spooner before it starts to get tired.  My favorite part was cameo by Lilac and Tarver (both of whom play a part in the climax of the action, near the end of the book).  I recommend reading this if you've read the first one and it really is a solid second series book.  It just wasn't anything special to me personally.

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

**I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is December 23rd, 2014.**