Sunday, October 6, 2013

5 stars: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

"From the author of the New York Times bestseller Eleanor & Park

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love. 

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?"

Published September 10th 2013 by St. Martin's Press. I received a digital ARC of this story from the publisher.

This was such a sweet story! At the same time though, it was very realistic and a bit gritty. The characters are all well-developed and more realistic than most. Cath, the main character, grows a lot as a person during her first year of college.

While this is an incredibly sweet story that made me cry at the end (such a perfect and wonderful ending--one of my favorites ever), there were definitely tough moments. I could really relate to Cath during them though, and those moments are some of the highlights of the story. For instance, when Cath got to college, she had a hard time fitting in-no, she didn't even really try. There's a scene where she's eating in the bathroom and crying. I'm sure I've been there before. What makes it extra difficult is that her twin sister is at the same college, so she shouldn't be having these difficulties, but her sister is using college as a time to try new things and meet new people. This leaves Cath lonely and upset that her sister has abandoned her and has a new best friend. Plus her sister drinks now and goes out all the time. Cath can't relate anymore, and all she does is stay in her dorm room writing Slash Fanfic. I swear I've been there. Not the fanfic part, but feeling lonely and like I can't fit in, and feeling like a shut-in. The most gritty part of the book is Cath's bipolar father who ends up extra manic with his empty nest and winds up in the hospital. Yep, I've been Cath in that situation before. Also, there's her mother who doesn't want any part of that title and who doesn't live up to any of those responsibilities... plus she asks to be called by her first name instead of "mom." Oh, another thing I can relate to (my mom's great, not talking about her)!

The characters all have very distinct personalities and mannerisms. One thing that really struck me was that while in most stories, boys or girls are described as hot or beautiful or whatever, those descriptions aren't really used here. The main character and her love interest are not conventionally hot. Normally it's not a big deal if the main character isn't, but it's not often that we see a leading man who looks average or has some pre-mature balding going on (like Levi in this story). I thought that was really cool. It just makes it all the more realistic.

Another thing that I found cool is that Cath is this uber-nerd who writes and reads, but Levi doesn't read at all. In fact, he admits to having never finished a book in his life. Working in a library, I can tell you that I get patrons who admit to never reading or to finding that one book (Fifty Shades of Grey is a popular one) that has made them a reader. Again, realistic. I really liked that Rowell didn't harp on that too much or criticize him much for that. Mainly because, what if this is the book that is going to make someone a reader? Yet another thing for a reader to relate to. This isn't seen as a huge flaw to Cath either, which I really love. I know people who don't read, and one of them is one of the smartest people that I have ever met, and she's awesome, and I wouldn't dare hold this against her in a million years. I don't want to get preachy, but I just can't stand these Internet memes that bash people for not reading. Again, maybe they just haven't found the right book yet or they have other issues. Either way, I think it's wrong to judge.

Cath's world was pretty much turned upside-down during the first semester of college, which I know I could relate to. The beautiful thing about this book is how things fall into place and she is able to rise from the ashes like a phoenix and all that jazz. It's empowering and really just very beautiful and heart-warming. 

One of my favorite things about this book is that it's New Adult, but doesn't read like any of the current ones out there. You guys, this is what New Adult is supposed to be! It's a coming of age story that isn't erotica, it's not only centered around a love story, and it's not as formulaic as those other stories. It pretty much reads like a YA story, which is what NA should be-YA situations but with an older protagonist! 

Rowell is one of my new favorite authors. I just checked out Attachments and Eleanor and Park from the library!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

5 stars: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

"'One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.'

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase's family embraces Samantha - even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha's world. She's suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another."

Published June 14th 2012 by Dial Books For Young Readers. 

I'm a little speechless. Thank you, Sarah, for recommending this book to me! I just want to put this book into the hands of every teen and all fans of YA. It's incredibly well-written, and after finishing it (which didn't take long since I couldn't put it down), I immediately checked to see what else this author has written. I got a pleasant surprise! YOU GUYS, I don't like books that come in a series, but I'm thrilled that there will be another book that takes place in this beautiful world that Fitzpatrick created, with these amazingly vibrant and lovable characters.

There are many, many characters in this book... hell, Jase alone has seven siblings and all play a part in this book. The thing is, it's very easy to differentiate between all the characters, and you're never left scratching your head thinking "that name is familiar, who is that again?" Every character has a strong and individual personality. There's George, a precocious 4 year old who is afraid of everything he hears about (black holes, oxygen bubbles in syringes, etc), and Andy, a very girly 14 year old who makes every statement she says seem like a question because of her upwards inflections, and Patsy, a toddler who belts out the words "pooooooooooop" and "boob!" I could go on and on. I fell in love with almost every character--except for two who you are meant to dislike, and it works. The character development is phenomenal and other characters besides the main one have their own journeys that make them grow as people.

One reason why I want every teen to read this is because of some of those journeys. This book covers many "controversial" subjects, like drug use, alcoholism, premarital sex (and no, it's not shown as a bad thing, yay!), etc. We get a good look at these battles, like quitting, or deciding whether to have sex or not and the importance of using condoms and so on. In this story, we see characters make bad choices, and we see consequences, but we also see lessons learned and them moving on from their mistakes. Something I really liked was that nothing was shown as being too easy. Like one character who has to give up some of his addictions; he has to go to 90 AA meetings in 90 days, and it's not like he is cured or anything. He still misses the bad stuff. That seems realistic.

Another great thing about this book that makes it so appropriate for teens is that we get a glimpse into which yard is actually greener. Lots of characters envied others, but it turned out that those people had their own battles too, and that no one was better off than any other person. People looked down upon Jase's family, because his parents had eight children. "There's such a thing as birth control." "The reason why you don't have money is because you have so many kids." People saw them as trash. Well, they actually were happy people, because they were a very tight-knit family with tons of love to go around. This book teaches us not to make judgments about others--good or bad ones.

My Life Next Door had me laughing out loud and crying. I kept exclaiming "I love this book!" while reading it. I just wish I could give it 10 stars!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

4 stars: Find Me (Find Me series, #1) by Romily Bernard

"'Find Me.'

These are the words written on Tessa Waye’s diary. The diary that ends up with Wick Tate. But Tessa’s just been found . . . dead.

Wick has the right computer-hacking skills for the job, but little interest in this perverse game of hide-and-seek. Until her sister Lily is the next target.

Then Griff, trailer-park boy next door and fellow hacker, shows up, intent on helping Wick. Is a happy ending possible with the threat of Wick’s deadbeat dad returning, the detective hunting him sniffing around Wick instead, and a killer taunting her at every step?

Foster child. Daughter of a felon. Loner hacker girl. Wick has a bad attitude and sarcasm to spare.

But she’s going to find this killer no matter what.

Because it just got personal."

Published September 24th 2013 by HarperTeen. I received a digital ARC of this story from the publisher.

This book was definitely a win! It had interesting characters, a really good mystery to solve, and a few different story lines. Basically, I was never bored (well, I was once, but I'll get to that).

If I had to sum up the book in one word, it would be "engaging," so this is a pretty easy read. Plus, you want to keep reading, because you want to know to know who killed Tessa. That mystery just gets more and more interesting as the book progresses. I will say that I found it predictable, but the journey was still fun, and I liked all the buildup. I'm not sure if we were even supposed to be surprised by who the killer was. Again, it really is about the storytelling and what led to how Wick found out who it was, and less about who it was, I think.

I really liked Griff. I'm just going to call that part a love story, even if that's not quite what it is. It was easy to look forward to her scenes with him. What confused me though was why he was so interested in her. I mean she really does her best to push him away, and she's just not that likable, but he still pursues her. Almost to the point of stalking. I've discussed this type of story line with a friend (I don't know if she wants to be called out, so I won't) and I agree with her assessment: this doesn't happen in real life, and girls just wish it would. It's pure fantasy for a guy you like to still pursue you even though he knows all of your faults and you push him away. These two do have similar pasts, so I'm guessing that it's only because he can relate to her better than others.

I mentioned that there was one part of the book that I was not into. This could just be a personal tastes thing, but I hate chase scenes. You know, where there's a big bad and someone is running from it or is chasing it herself. Those scenes need to be short in order for me to be engaged. We're talking like 2 pages long. Unfortunately, that was not the case here. Not to say that it took up half the book or anything, but that it just went on too long for me and I had to put down the book and then push myself to finish it later.

I really enjoyed reading this, and I look forward to finding another book which manages to keep me as engaged (it could take a little while).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

3.5 stars: Spellcaster (Spellcaster series, #1) by Claudia Gray

"When Nadia’s family moves to Captive’s Sound, she instantly realizes there’s more to it than meets the eye. Descended from witches, Nadia senses a dark and powerful magic at work in her new town. Mateo has lived in Captive’s Sound his entire life, trying to dodge the local legend that his family is cursed - and that curse will cause him to believe he’s seeing the future … until it drives him mad. When the strange dreams Mateo has been having of rescuing a beautiful girl—Nadia—from a car accident come true, he knows he’s doomed.

Despite the forces pulling them apart, Nadia and Mateo must work together to break the chains of his family’s terrible curse, and to prevent a disaster that threatens the lives of everyone around them. Shimmering with magic and mystery, New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray’s new novel is sure to draw fans of the Hex Hall and Caster Chronicles series, and fans of the hit CW TV show The Secret Circle."

Published March 5th 2013 by HarperTeen. I listened to the audio book format of this book.

I honestly don't have much to say about this one, because it seemed to be for a younger age group than what I normally read. If I didn't know when it was published or who it was by, I would seriously think that it was an R.L. Stine Fear Street book. So I give it points for the nostalgia factor, plus it did hold my interest. I just wanted something deeper and a bit more grown up. 

I also want to add that the narrator for the audio book is fantastic! 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

4.5 stars: A Little Too Far (A Little Too Far series, #1) by Lisa Desrochers

"Have you ever gone just a little too far?

Lexie Banks has.

Yep. She just had mind-blowing sex with her stepbrother. In her defense, she was on the rebound, and it’s more of a my-dad-happened-to-marry-a-woman-with-a-super-hot-son situation. But still, he’s been her best friend and confidant for the better part of the last few years … and is so off limits. It’s a good thing she’s leaving in two days for a year abroad in Rome.

But even thousands of miles away, Lexie can’t seem to escape trouble. Raised Catholic, she goes to confession in hopes of alleviating some of her guilt … and maybe not burning in hell. Instead, she stumbles out of the confessional and right into Alessandro Moretti, a young and very easy-on-the-eyes deacon … only eight months away from becoming a priest. Lexie and Alessandro grow closer, and when Alessandro’s signals start changing despite his vow of celibacy, she doesn’t know what to think. She’s torn between falling in love with the man she shouldn’t want and the man she can’t have. And she isn’t sure how she can live with herself either way."

Published September 17th 2013 by HarperCollins. I received a digital copy of this story from the publisher.

What drew me to this book? I'll be honest, it looked awesomely bad, and I can't stay away from train wrecks. You know, like I Know Who Killed Me. Can you blame me for thinking that I was going to get something awesomely bad when the summary says that this woman gets it on with her stepbrother and then gets involved with a man becoming a priest?

This was not awesomely bad. It was actually a really great book, that was honest, beautiful, and even educational, which I could tell early on. So while I was reading it for the wrong reasons at first, I was reading it for the right reasons after just 10 pages or so. 

The emotions in this story and the reactions to events that happen all seem incredibly realistic. Lexie avoiding her brother right after making love? Yep, sounds right. That's only a tiny example, but the characters have a lot of dimension and the story has a lot of depth, and within it, each thing correlates with what is currently going on in the story and with what has already happened in the book. It's not hard to start feeling everything that Lexie feels; you can really insert yourself into the story.
Speaking of which, the descriptions of Italy are fantastic. I haven't been there myself, but I felt like I was there or watching a film that was shot there. Desrochers captured the culture, the streets, the food, the architecture, the art, and the accents. It was very vivid. 

The descriptions in the book captured my imagination and piqued my interest; I ended up googling things from the book, because I wanted more information or just to see it's beauty for myself (like the Pieta by Michelangelo). This is why I called the book educational; there was a lot of information about Italy, architecture and art.

What I found beautiful about the story was that Lexie went on this exciting journey--Italy was only part of it, the other part was her receiving her "calling" in life. Her relationship with the sexy Reverend Alessandro Moretti, made her realize what she wants out of her own life (one example is that she learned she wanted a career working with children). Moretti also got a very important takeaway as well, so it was a journey for him too (the sequel to this book is about him).

From the summary of the book, I thought that Lexie was going to meet Moretti and then shag him right away. No, they actually had a friendship... one where you could feel the sexual tension. That relationship was built very slowly, and was actually the perfect pace. It was because of this, that you could feel the electricity when even their knees touched while they were sitting next to each other-this is what is missing from so many books, especially New Adult.

This was such a refreshing New Adult book, which nowadays seem to be erotica or just really formulaic. The only ways that it followed the formula are the following: Trent, her brother, is a musician who rides a motorcycle and has a tattoo (most NA heartthrobs have many tattoos though). Moretti is a tortured man with a dark past. And yes, there are some graphic sex scenes, but that's just a small portion of the beautiful story.

Once Lexie gets to Italy, there are a lot of religious references, and her character is mildly religious too, but this is done in a way where the book isn't actually religious. It's not trying to convert and the constant mention of Jesus isn't going to disappoint an Atheist. Come on, she had pre-marital sex with her brother and has a sexually charged friendship with a man who has taken a vow of celibacy. See, no need to worry about this book!

I also need to add that both Trent and Moretti are amazing guys. You actually want her to end up with both of them in some way. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

2.5 stars: Panic by Lauren Oliver

"Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most."

Expected publication: March 4th 2014 by HarperCollins. I received a digital ARC of this story.

With all that has been going on, it's been hard to concentrate and get into books, but this was the first one in a few weeks that I was able to get into enough to finish. No, sorry, that doesn't mean I loved it, but I really did want to know what the outcome would be.

First off, I have read on Goodreads that people think this is just another Hunger Games wannabe. No, it's not at all. Not even close. This story is realistic and there is no dystopia; just high school seniors in a small town who do dangerous stunts in order to win a lot of money. 

The plot was interesting enough, but I had issues with the way the book was written. It seemed that in order to help with the pacing and tension, Oliver added foreshadowing, which wasn't really foreshadowing, but was blunt spoilers about what was to come. It would have been better if instead of telling us, there could have been some subtle hints along the way or just cliffhangers at the end of chapters instead of spoilers. 

I try to be very careful about what I say when it comes to reviewing ARCs. Like I won't make any comments about grammar or spelling or things that will probably be edited out. If the problems I have with the book do get edited, then it means that Oliver has an amazing editor and has been getting by on that alone. She has been wildly successful! I couldn't understand why when reading this book. The writing just strikes me as amateurish. Time and time again, this would happen: "...hopeful, even-he, Dodge, would never forget." This was from Dodge's point of view and there's no way we could forget that, so why was it necessary to remind us? Sometimes full names were used too. Perhaps I'm nitpicking, but I just found it really annoying. 

The ending of the story seemed rushed and there was no good buildup to it. Everything got wrapped up in a pretty bow, but to me, the wrapped box was empty inside. It would have been a great ending had there been a connection between the beginning and end of the story--there was just nothing linking the two. 

It seemed like relationships or lack thereof were forced. There was little reason for strife between parties, even with the very contrived conflicts. 

This story isn't for the faint of heart; it's very dark and was difficult to read. I honestly didn't get much pleasure out of reading it since many characters aren't that likeable and nothing good was happening to anyone. 

The overall plot isn't that bad, but the writing isn't great. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

3 stars: Also Known As by Robin Benway

"Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.

Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She'll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school's security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover."

Published February 26th 2013 by Bloomsbury Juvenile US.

I don't really have much to say about this one. It was a cute, fluffy story. I began it a week or two ago and it took me a very long time to get through the end of the book. Seriously, I only had about 15 pages left, if that, and I would start reading and fall asleep. Each time, I got about one paragraph further. Then I had to stop and think and try to remember what happened earlier in the book. It's not a story that will really stay with you; it's just a light story that you can read if you need a break from more serious literature. While it took me a while to get through the end, I would still classify this as a very easy read.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

My email address has been wrong for some time!

Hi guys! Apparently my email address ( stopped working shortly after I set it up. Please use The last time my old email worked was on June 6th. I only found this out when I tried to test my email and I never received the emails I sent myself.

Also, I wanted to add why I haven't been updating as much anymore. It's summer and I'm traveling the world! No, unfortunately that's not it. The home buying process has been taking up a lot of time and has been distracting me.

Unrated: Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker

"Kacey Cleary’s whole life imploded four years ago in a drunk-driving accident. Now she’s working hard to bury the pieces left behind—all but one. Her little sister, Livie. Kacey can swallow the constant disapproval from her born-again aunt Darla over her self-destructive lifestyle; she can stop herself from going kick-boxer crazy on Uncle Raymond when he loses the girls’ college funds at a blackjack table. She just needs to keep it together until Livie is no longer a minor, and then they can get the hell out of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

But when Uncle Raymond slides into bed next to Livie one night, Kacey decides it’s time to run. Armed with two bus tickets and dreams of living near the coast, Kacey and Livie start their new lives in a Miami apartment complex, complete with a grumpy landlord, a pervert upstairs, and a neighbor with a stage name perfectly matched to her chosen “profession.” But Kacey’s not worried. She can handle all of them. What she can’t handle is Trent Emerson in apartment 1D.

Kacey doesn’t want to feel. She doesn’t. It’s safer that way. For everyone. But sexy Trent finds a way into her numb heart, reigniting her ability to love again. She starts to believe that maybe she can leave the past where it belongs and start over. Maybe she’s not beyond repair.

But Kacey isn’t the only one who’s broken. Seemingly perfect Trent has an unforgiveable past of his own; one that, when discovered, will shatter Kacey’s newly constructed life and send her back into suffocating darkness."

Published February 12th 2013 by Atria Books. I listened to the audio format of this book.  

This book has a really good rating on Goodreads and I've been wanting to read it for a really long time, but couldn't because my library didn't have it. Imagine my excitement when Audible had it available!

I just... I don't know where to start. This book was simply infuriating. 
  • Objectification is the name of the game. Every description of every adult female included what the woman's body looked like. Repeat mentions too. And whenever a man is in a scene, he can't stop looking at said woman's body. 
  • This is a NA book, so it seems like authors feel that these books must always have naughty material. It just seemed so forced and unnecessary; especially for a book that didn't even really have sex scenes.

  •  *SPOILERS* How do I even begin with this one. So at first I was pissed because Trent seemed like the perfect guy minus the fact that he seemed like a creepy stalker (but hey, maybe he just magically kept appearing wherever Kacey happened to be). I was pissed because Kacey had no redeeming qualities. She's just so unlikable and yet Trent will do anything for her. In fact, he wanted to hold off having sex with her, because she's so damaged from post traumatic stress disorder, that he felt he would be taking advantage of her fragility. He tells her that he wants her to get therapy and that he'll wait for her no matter how long it takes. OK, this dude doesn't know her and she's not likable, so why did this stranger suddenly fall for her and so hard? I was just so pissed while listening to this story. But then it all made sense like 3/4 of the way into the book, and I actually thought it was pretty awesome that the book went in a different direction than I thought it was going (woman is damaged and can't talk about what happened to her, she meets guy, he helps her overcome her issues, and then everything is perfect). It happened almost like that except that it wasn't him who helped her. Well, he indirectly did. Anyway, it turned out that he was a HARDCORE STALKER and was even hacking her email (even before she first met him). I thought the stalker angle was actually pretty awesome since it made sense and the characters in the book knew that it was very wrong and that he was mentally screwed up. So that made me forgive almost everything and it really boosted my rating for this book. Then he shows up again in her life (nooooo) and they live happily ever after. I still don't know what to rate this, so I won't bother. Even if the stalker angle turned out to be pointless in the end since it didn't change anything, I still loved that. Grr had she not ended up with her stalker, I could have given this a 4 star rating!
I don't even think I need to say anything else.

Wait I will say more, because the author did have nice character development. Each character had a very specific voice and his or her own special traits. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

4.5 stars: All Our Pretty Songs (All Our Pretty Songs series, #1) by Sarah McCarry

"The first book in an exciting YA trilogy, this is the story of two best friends on the verge of a terrifying divide when they begin to encounter a cast of strange and mythical characters.

Set against the lush, magical backdrop of the Pacific Northwest, two inseparable best friends who have grown up like sisters—the charismatic, mercurial, and beautiful Aurora and the devoted, soulful, watchful narrator—find their bond challenged for the first time ever when a mysterious and gifted musician named Jack comes between them. Suddenly, each girl must decide what matters most: friendship, or love. What both girls don’t know is that the stakes are even higher than either of them could have imagined. They’re not the only ones who have noticed Jack’s gift; his music has awakened an ancient evil—and a world both above and below which may not be mythical at all. The real and the mystical; the romantic and the heartbreaking all begin to swirl together, carrying the two on journey that is both enthralling and terrifying.

And it’s up to the narrator to protect the people she loves—if she can."

Expected publication: July 30th 2013 by St. Martin's Griffin. I won an ARC from the publisher on Goodreads. 

A big chunk of my rating for this book is because it's so unique and beautifully written. It's a modern day fairy tale, but the protagonist (we don't know her name) is one of the only real-life characters. She can move between two worlds, but the action mainly happens to those around her. The way she thinks and her actions are that of someone in our world. It's a little hard to explain, but to sum it up: imagine yourself suddenly slipping into a fairy tale and seeing all sorts of strange characters and wondrous things. A little like Alice in Wonderland. I really would not be surprised if the second half of the book turned out to be a bad acid trip. You have to know what you are getting into, because the book starts off in our world and everything seems normal, but then things slowly creep into paranormal territory during a party. The transition might not work for some, because it's hard to tell how literal it is, and the narrator's reaction to it isn't quite what you would expect from a real-life character; it both seems like she's not too surprised/confused and that she knows exactly what is going on.

This lyrical story doesn't give a year when it takes place, but my best guess would be around 1994. While this is a YA book, there were references that I'm not sure someone in the young adult age group would get. Also, it felt like Aurora's (that's the narrator's best friend) dad was based off of Kurt Cobain and her mom is the strung out Courtney Love. That makes it a bit more relatable and sets the atmosphere.

My take on the story is that death is personified and there's a message about how Hollywood and stardom steal the souls of those they capture. They kill that inner light that people once had inside, and they make people the property of others. It kind of reminded me of Mulholland Drive. Since this is only book 1, it's hard to know exactly what is going on, but that's my impression from this first installment. 

I will definitely read the next book in the series.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

3 stars: The Shadow Girl by Jennifer Archer

"Sometimes I forget for an hour or two that she's with me. Sometimes I convince myself that she was only a dream. Or that I'm crazy.

For as long as Lily Winston can remember, she has never been alone. Iris, a shadowy figure who mimics Lily's movements and whispers in her ear, is with her always—but invisible to the rest of the world. Iris is Lily's secret.

But when Lily's father is killed in a tragic accident, his cryptic final words suggest that he and Lily's mother have been keeping secrets of their own. Suddenly, Iris begins pushing Lily more than ever, possessing her thoughts and urging her to put together the pieces of a strange puzzle her father left behind. As she searches for answers, Lily finds herself drawn to Ty Collier, a mysterious new boy in town. Together, Lily and Ty must untangle a web of deception to discover the truth about her family, Iris . . . and Lily's own identity."

Published April 9th 2013 by HarperTeen.

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I was to read this book; I had been wanting to read it months before it was released. Maybe that was part of the reason why it didn't meet my expectations.

I think that I had just been expecting more from the book. Things were pretty predictable to me for a while. Plus, it seemed like a romantic relationship for Lily didn't really have a place in this story and that it was forced. In fact, her two love interests (one doesn't even really count, so I won't call this a love triangle) didn't interest me, and that's a bad sign. Iris (the "shadow girl") also didn't interest me. She was one dimensional and had no substance... but perhaps that's why she's just a "shadow." It took me a while to read, because the pacing was off; the only time I couldn't put it down was during the last 60 pages or so.

I'm sorry Jennifer Archer, because I really did want to love it, and I know I even tweeted you about my excitement. This doesn't mean I won't read any of her other books though, because she does write well, so even though this story might not have been for me, another plot might work better when written by her.    

Sunday, June 30, 2013

5 stars: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

"In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to s√©ances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time."

Published April 2nd 2013 by Amulet Books. I received a digital ARC of this story.

Seances! Ghosts! My kind of book!

This was such a wonderful story. It was filled with suspense, some horror, and an interesting history lesson about a very dark and different time in America's past. I really loved that it included real photos from that time period; they helped with the world-building and atmosphere. The story rarely dragged, and it was very well-written. I really liked that it had such strong female characters who were defined by things other than men.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

5 stars: In the After (In the After series, #1) by Demitria Lunetta

"They hear the most silent of footsteps.
They are faster than anything you've ever seen.
And They won't stop chasing you...until you are dead.

Amy is watching TV when it happens, when the world is attacked by Them. These vile creatures are rapidly devouring mankind. Most of the population is overtaken, but Amy manages to escape—and even rescue “Baby,” a toddler left behind in the chaos. Marooned in Amy’s house, the girls do everything they can to survive—and avoid Them at all costs.

After years of hiding, they are miraculously rescued and taken to New Hope, a colony of survivors living in a former government research compound. While at first the colony seems like a dream with plenty of food, safety, and shelter, New Hope slowly reveals that it is far from ideal. And Amy soon realizes that unless things change, she’ll lose Baby—and much more."

Published June 25th 2013 by Harper Teen. I received a digital ARC of this story.

Incredible. Seriously. 

This was one of those stories where while reading it, you can picture everything so well, and you think "this should be a movie or a TV show." And I was even thinking that when I wasn't very far into the book. Then I realized that its TV show counterpart would be The Walking Dead, only that has zombies instead of aliens.

The thing is, I'm not a huge fan of The Walking Dead, so this is way better in my opinion. It was terrifying and filled with suspense, so I could not stop reading. Trust me, there are no issues with pace here.

I'm guessing that the book may have been written in a different order, but then the timelines were weaved together to create a much richer story. You get to see the past and the present and each is consecutive, but interlaced. So you sort of know how things will turn out later, but you don't know how things got to the point they are now. This doubles the suspense since you're seeing two scary stories play out. It was an absolutely brilliant way to write the book.

I've had patrons and others gripe about how there aren't YA books that don't have love stories. This one does not have one (there is a kiss, but that's it). I absolutely love romance in my stories, but I think that if this one had a love story, I might actually be pissed off, like I was with The Madman's Daughter; there is just way too much going on to even worry about boys.

This book was not written hastily. There was so much thought put into every single thing, which made it a very cohesive story with no plot holes. Since it was written in a way that provided a lot of mystery and clues (you don't find out much until the end of the book), it would have been too easy to slip-up along the way and possibly forget to get back to a certain clue or oddity. When things didn't make much sense, I liked how Lunetta actually had the characters know this too, as not to insult the reader's intelligence. This is extremely rare to find in a story, and I can't begin to express how impressed it made me.

OK, there was one tiny thing that made no sense, and since I had an ARC, it's possible it was edited out later. Amy was 13 or 14 when the aliens arrived and her life switched from the Before to the After (before the aliens and after the aliens), yet somehow, she was asked three years later if she had ever taken the SATs (strange question to ask since she's 16 and it's the After) and she replied that she had taken the pre-test. Maybe she did, but I don't know if that's likely. Yes, that is my entire gripe about the whole book, and that's just from two sentences of the 400 page story.

Anyway, this book is truly fantastic and is written incredibly well. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

4 stars: Storm (Elemental series, #1) by Brigid Kemmerer

"Becca Chandler is suddenly getting all the guys; all the ones she doesn't want. Ever since her ex-boyfriend spread those lies about her. Then she saves Chris Merrick from a beating in the school parking lot. Chris is different. Way different: he can control water just like his brothers can control fire, wind, and earth. They're powerful. Dangerous. Marked for death.

And now that she knows the truth, so is Becca.

Secrets are hard to keep when your life's at stake. When Hunter, the mysterious new kid around school, turns up with a talent for being in the wrong place at the right time, Becca thinks she can trust him. But then Hunter goes head-to-head with Chris, and Becca wonders who's hiding the most dangerous truth of all.

The storm is coming."

Published April 24th 2012 by Kensington. I read the digital version of this book.

Thanks to Sarah who loved this book and lent me her Kindle copy! You can check out what she has to say about this series by clicking on her name.

This was a fun story that had really great pacing; I never got bored or felt like I needed to put it down. One thing that didn't hurt was that there was a love triangle. Poor Becca (yeah, another thing the story had going for it, a character with my name) had two cute guys crushing on her and fighting each other over her. Pssh, I think I was kidding when I said "poor girl." One is the new boy Hunter, who is pretty mysterious and intriguing. I feel like almost all YA books in this type of genre have book summaries that say "a sexy, mysterious new guy shows up," but this one really does deliver.

While it is a fun story about teens who can control the elements (earth--things like earthquakes, air--uh oh, tornado, fire--lightning and duh fires, water--um rain storms... yeah, that's not a really cool element to be able to control, and spirit--being able to control all the elements) and the issues that they have, it's not the deepest story. There is character development, but not a huge amount of depth. Some things were also predictable. It's still a good story though!

If you're a fan of this series, read the Lux series by Jennifer Armentrout! And well, if you like the Lux series, read this series! Sarah and I both agree that there are similarities.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

5 stars: Slammed (Slammed series, #1) by Colleen Hoover

"Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she's losing hope.

Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope.

Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.

Published September 18th 2012 by Atria Books.

I loved Hopeless by Colleen Hoover, which is what led me to this book series. You know how sometimes you love a book by an author, but the other books aren't as good? Not the case here! Before I read Hopeless, I stayed away from Slammed, because I didn't think that I would be into the slam poetry angle. You guys, I was wrong, I was so wrong. I fell in love with slam poetry during the first performance in the book, and I could picture it perfectly in my head. Then I started looking forward to more poems! That aspect is so well-done. No. The whole book is well-done. Oh, and I need to find a place here that has slam poetry nights.

Most of the characters are well-developed (there were a couple secondary/tertiary characters that weren't, but they were kind of "extras" since some of the book takes place in a high school class and there needed to be enough characters). Some of the character development is done through slam poetry, which is a creative way to do it. There's also really great character growth, and with that growth came tears. While it might seem that this is just a love story (and such an amazing one at that), it isn't; there's also important story lines about the importance of family and about living life to the fullest. It was those last two story lines that brought the tears. One reason is because the characters, along with all of their actions, are all very relatable. In fact, everything in this book, along with every quote, seems realistic, and that's rare (You Look Different In Real Life by Jennifer Castle is similar in that respect). I guarantee that the characters will make you feel every emotion while reading this story.

The book is completely solid. Aside from Hoover nailing it with her character work, her story has a lot of depth. While it is the first book in a series, this book could definitely be a stand-alone. That didn't stop me from starting the sequel, Point of Retreat, immediately after finishing (this one is the continuation of the story, but it's told from Will's point of view instead of Lake's!). I have an ARC of the third book, and will most likely read that right after as well!

The pacing of this book is also fantastic; I didn't want to put it down, because it was so engaging. Some books are hard to put down, because they're like junk food and they have little substance or even quality, but they're so enjoyable and fluffy; this is not one of those books. This is high quality and a new favorite.

Last but not least, I mentioned a love story. Will is now a new member of my Book Boyfriends list! We are talking swoon central here. Lake is in high school, but Will is a few years older and is a few million years more mature. He's smart, good looking, sweet, caring, and I could go on and on. There are two big things keeping these two apart though, and I can't share, because I don't want to spoil the surprises. Will isn't the best at handling this conflict between them, and it's actually what makes him less than perfect, which in book world makes him the perfect book boyfriend. I mean, aren't the perfect guys (I'm looking at you Stefan Salvatore) boring? This boy can be broody. Sexy broody. And jealous. Sexy jealous.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Doll Bones by Holly Black

"Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . ."

Published May 7th 2013 by Margaret K. McElderry Books.

 My last post was a week ago, and it's not that I haven't been reading, because I have; it's because I keep starting books and giving up since I can't get into them. This includes ARCs too, which I feel obligated to read, but at the same time, if I can't get through the book, I'm not going to torture myself trying.

This was the first book to break the curse. Was it an earth-shatteringly-good book? No. But it was fun and had a nice coming of age adventure story. Only, it didn't, because the characters were 12 years old, so the characters did not become anything resembling adults. They went from playing make believe to going on a real life excursion that resembled their games, plus they ended up more grown up at the end. But in the end, they still decided to continue their make believe games. The issue is that I've only seen this book classified as YA, but it's really for Middle Grade (ages 8-12) readers. I am a bit confused about why this is YA, because the subject matter is nothing  more mature than what you would find in children's books. Yes, the story is longer, but it's not as long as the Harry Potter books. For this reason, I can't give the book a rating, because it feels like rating this and rating the other books on this site is kind of like apples and oranges. The book would be a fun, slightly scary story for a child, but it's not that deep, and it's not going to be a story that many adults will read, like Harry Potter.

When reading it, I was first reminded of "Are You Afraid of the Dark?", which I loved! It could have been one of their stories had it been condensed and scarier, with more action. The book reminded me of the stories I enjoyed in elementary school, like The Green Ribbon from In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz. Just like that book, there were illustrations in Doll Bones as well (and I loved them).

If I knew then, what I knew now, I wouldn't have read this. I almost bought it in the book store (in the YA section), and I'm so glad I got it from the library instead.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

2.5 stars: Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike

"Moving to a new high school sucks. Especially a rich-kid private school. With uniforms. But nothing is worse than finding out the first girl you meet is dead. And a klepto.

No one can see or hear Kimberlee except Jeff, so--in hopes of bringing an end to the snarkiest haunting in history--he agrees to help her complete her "unfinished business." But when the enmity between Kimberlee and Jeff's new crush, Sera, manages to continue posthumously, Jeff wonders if he's made the right choice."

Published April 30th 2013 by HarperTeen. I read an ARC of this book.

First off, Pike made an interesting choice by not making the ghost, Kimberlee, the main character. Instead, the story is told from the first-person point of view of a teenage boy, Jeff, who doesn't know her, but he can see her. It is an odd choice since the story is about the ghost. I think that by making him the observer, the story turned out to be predictable fluff. The main reason why, was because he didn't have an emotional connection to Kimberlee. He describes Kimberlee crying a lot, but it's hard to care since she's an unlikeable character and we can't see the hurt from her point of view. There is one other character with a very emotional connection to Kimberlee as well, but again, we don't see the story from her point of view either, so the reader feels very little. I honestly think this book, if written differently, could have evoked quite poignant emotions from the reader. All I can guess is that it just wasn't meant to do that. Perhaps it was just supposed to be a light-hearted story about being a good person while you're alive and forgiving others. When Kimberlee realizes these things, it's sudden, and again, we don't really know what she's thinking and what her process was.

Like most YA books, there is a love story, but it's not central to the story. It was a case of insta-love; we see Jeff and Sera casually dating, and then all of a sudden, they profess their love after just a few weeks. There was no build-up to get to that point. Even though the story is told through Jeff's eyes, we don't even see his emotions building when it comes to Sera. I think the more appropriate word here is lust and not love. All he wants to do is get in her pants anyway.

I think what it comes down to is that the reader won't feel an emotional connection to the story, nor will it be very relatable.

On the plus side, there are a couple scenes that are written with a good amount of tension, which keep you reading, so that you can find out what will happen next. The book is also an easy read. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

4.75 stars: You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle

"For the rest of the world, the movies are entertainment. For Justine, they're real life.

The premise was simple: five kids, just living their lives. There'd be a new movie about them every five years, starting in kindergarten. But no one could have predicted what the cameras would capture. And no one could have predicted that Justine would be the star.

Now sixteen, Justine doesn't feel like a star anymore. In fact, when she hears the crew has gotten the green light to film Five at Sixteen, all she feels is dread. The kids who shared the same table in kindergarten have become teenagers who hardly know one another. And Justine, who was so funny and edgy in the first two movies, feels like a disappointment.

But these teens have a bond that goes deeper than what's on film. They've all shared the painful details of their lives with countless viewers. They all know how it feels to have fans as well as friends. So when this latest movie gives them the chance to reunite, Justine and her costars are going to take it. Because sometimes, the only way to see yourself is through someone else's eyes."

Expected publication: June 4th 2013 by HarperTeen. I received a digital ARC of this story.

I hate admitting when a book has made me cry; probably because I'm embarrassed or something. The thing is, when writing a review, it helps to be as honest as possible and say everything you think about it and how it made you feel. So here it is... I cried a lot. At first, most of it was out of sadness, because the book is so well-written and you can just feel the pain that all the characters are feeling. It's so palpable and realistic. The author so clearly had the characters express teen angst, jealousy, hurt, and loneliness. But later, I was crying because of good things that were happening to the characters, and at the end I was crying because of the pride I felt for the main character Justine.

This tale is like a modern day Breakfast Club. You have five teens who are required to spend time together, but there is so much tension, emotions, and other feelings between them that have been causing conflict for the last five years. Then as the story progresses, they have to work through their issues and they become closer than ever. Someone on Twitter recently asked if there are any stories out there that focus on friendships instead of love, and this book does just that.

These characters are your typical teens. They have trouble enjoying their lives, because they feel that other people they know have it better than them, or in the case of the main character, she isn't who she thought she would be by the age of 16, and she feels like she's let herself and everyone else down. The teens learn what makes them special, and Justine still feels she hasn't found it at the end of the journey, but then it's pointed out that it was there right in front of her, and that others had seen it. The ending, which resulted in some very ugly crying on my part, is where Justine and the world see how amazing she is. Obviously, this is a book I would recommend that teenagers read since it will show them that they're not alone and it will give them hope that there is a place for them in the world.

I mentioned that this book is realistic; well, I meant every single detail. There are just these tiny things that are mentioned that are so true to life and help make this story the most relatable thing ever. "We sit in total silence now, Felix running his finger in strange patterns on the couch, making the microsuede change grain back and forth." I don't know about you, but I have done that a lot! That's just one of so many examples.

 To say that this book is well-written would be an understatement.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

4.5 stars: Sins and Needles (The Artists Trilogy series, #1) by Karina Halle

"Ellie Watt is used to starting over. The daughter of a grifting team, Ellie spent her childhood being used as a pawn in her parents' latest scam. Now she's much older, wiser and ready to give her con artist life a rest. But returning to the dry desert town of Palm Valley, California means one more temptation than she bargained for - Camden McQueen. Once known as the high school weirdo, Camden is bigger and badder than the boy he used to be and a talented tattoo artist with his own thriving business. Ellie's counting on Camden still being in love with her but what she's not counting on is how easily unrequited love can turn into obsession over time. When Camden discovers Ellie's plan to con him, he makes her a deal she doesn't dare refuse, but her freedom comes with a price and it's one that takes both Ellie and Camden down a dangerous road." 

Expected publication: June 4th 2013 by Forever. I received a digital ARC of this story.

This book is different than all the other ones I have reviewed here, because it is the most mature. The protagonist is 26, and that is the very end of the New Adult age range. No, make that Naughty Adult. Yes, there are some graphic sex scenes. I don't think it's meant to be NA, but as I was reading the book, it seemed like it to me based on the plot. That also explains why I really liked it.

You know when you're reading a book and you think "I wish such and such would happen," but it normally doesn't go the way you would write it? Well, this one did. While reading, I kept picking up on small things and I kept thinking "wouldn't it be great if this was leading to such and such?" and normally, it lead to such and such (I don't really give too many spoilers, sorry)! You could call that predictable, but I wouldn't really say that because most books just don't have the fun plots you come up with in your head while reading, so you can't really see it coming when it does happen.

Now that I've said that, I'll reveal a bit more and say that most of it has to do with the relationship between Ellie and Camden. It played out perfectly. He became the bad boy I wanted him to be. Bad boys like these aren't for all readers, because he's obsessed with Ellie, has control issues, and he's really overprotective. But the thing is, this isn't a story about a good girl being with a bad boy; it's about a very bad girl being with a bad boy. Camden's actions and feelings are justifiable (that's actually a theme in this story... "justified") and she's not some victim... even if Camden does sort of kidnap Ellie, but it's not like it's completely against her will. Ellie is no angel and she's done far worse to others than he does to her; plus she's had way worse things happen to her. As Ellie says before she even comes into contact with Camden, "There wasn't a car or a soul around for miles. It was just me and Jim Morrison and the extreme landscape. The endless sky, the searing heat, the relentless sun that made the highs pop and the lows sink. This was a high contrast land and I lived a high contrast life." This was just how her life was and this was the type of guy she kept ending up with. I have to say that Camden was the best choice out of all the other guys, and he helps her become a better person. Unlike many obsessive, controlling male characters in books, Camden is actually quite nice and isn't abusive. To add to that, he's not only a bad boy but a good boy too! How is it possible? And that's the best combination. Let me just say it, I fell for him. You probably will too.

 Wow, that was really wordy, but it was the best way to describe it. They're both justified in how they think and act, and what you want to happen between them does happen. That's a much shorter way to say it. 

 Ellie is not a likeable character for most of the book, so I was pretty shocked that there were actually two men who were obsessed with her. Two men who she had majorly screwed over. Not the most believable, but it does make it a bit romantic that Camden can love her despite her serious flaws. I'm more confused about what the other man, Javier, sees in her and the great lengths he goes to in order to make her his again. Not the most life-like. Neither is the fact that both Ellie and Camden are having trouble with dangerous gangsters (different gangsters).

Oh well. So yes, there were story lines that were meh, but I really did love this book, and I will definitely read the rest of the trilogy!  

I completely forgot to mention that there were Nine Inch Nails references! This book gets bonus points for that. 


Friday, May 31, 2013

5 stars: The Elite (The Selection series, #2) by Kiera Cass

"Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending."

Published April 23rd 2013 by Harper Teen. I listened to the audio format of this book. 

Click here for my review of The Selection, which is the first book in the series.

While I loved the first book in the series, I actually liked this one better! In fact, it's a book that you can easily read in one sitting, because I sure did!

This installment is a bit darker than the last, because we learn about Illea's past and why the caste system exists. The rebel uprising is a bit more front and center and it starts to make more sense, even if it is a bit enigmatic. A revolution is definitely brewing and America might just become a strong catalyst for it later, because she is already setting down roots. While some were disappointed with the first book, because the dystopia was too much in the background, this book reveals more and it seems like the next book in the series will be a lot more like The Hunger Games than like The Bachelor.  

The love triangle with Prince Maxon and Aspen becomes more intense and dangerous in this book. America learns that there will be very different consequences depending on who she chooses. I don't think I even have a favorite choice; I like both guys and I think both end results would make good stories. My complaint here is that Maxon and Aspen are both written in voices so similar that I had trouble differentiating sometimes; their characters and development are different, but they speak the same way. 

My tiny gripe is that America blushes WAY TOO MUCH. What doesn't make this girl blush?

On the surface, this series seems superficial and like it is about a girl who is just searching for love, but that's not really it. America is a very strong female character who doesn't need either guy, and most of the time, she doesn't chase either guy. She breaks the rules that dictate what a lady should do, and she just doesn't care. Plus, she makes very bold and dangerous decisions that will most likely later result in her being a heroine.

What's not to love?


Thursday, May 30, 2013

3 stars: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle series, #1) by Maggie Steifvater

"'There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,' Neeve said. 'Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.'

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore."

Published September 18th 2012 by Scholastic Press. I listened to the audio format of this book.

Hmm. This was a hard one to rate, because if it was a standalone, I would have rated it lower, but since it's part of a series, I feel like I can't. Let me explain. Since I was listening to the audio book, I thought that my zoning out had to do with me being too engrossed in other things. The thing is, I listen to audio books a lot and that's not normal. I figured that one reason was because there were too many irrelevant parts; a lot could have been edited out. During the book and especially at the end, I was left really confused. At first, I attributed this to zoning out too much. In fact, I wasn't going to review the book here at all, because I thought I missed too much and hadn't followed the story at all. I looked up spoiler reviews on Goodreads and found that I didn't miss anything. The book just had way too many unexplained things throughout it. One of the last sentences in the book made absolutely no sense, but the spoiler posts all said "what did that mean?" YAY, I didn't miss anything and I'm not losing my mind! 

I did get sucked into the story right away though and I did like the characters, which were developed. Everything about the book was good except for all the things that were unexplained and random (plus all the stuff that could have been edited out). I really do want to know what will happen next, because I'm hoping that will explain all the unanswered questions. The thing is, I don't know if I'll be interested enough to read it after having such a confusing experience with this book. It is definitely a unique story though and I loved how magic and psychic powers played a part (you know me and that sort of thing!).

4 stars: Found (Penny Black series, #1) by Stacey Wallace Benefiel

"From the author of the Zellie Wells trilogy comes FOUND (Penny Black #1)the first book in a whole new NA trilogy set in the Society world.

Discover what happened to Zellie, Avery, Melody, and Ben!

And meet Penny Black, a girl with a past that can see the future.
Penny Black hasn’t had it easy. Just about everything you’d expect to happen to a harassed foster-kid turned junkie has happened to Penny. Add in the mysterious power to rewind time, conducting events around her, and it’s a wonder she held up on the streets for so many years. Now, at seventeen, the New Society has found her. Finally, Penny is where she belongs. But that doesn’t stop the visions, or the need to protect the victims shown to her.

Wyatt Adams is excited and intrigued when his sister Melody assigns him to be Penny’s Lookout. Being the youngest, and hopelessly ordinary in the family that created the New Society, has left Wyatt feeling like he has a lot to prove -- and Penny is a big deal. She’s got abilities that surpass any he’s seen before…and pretty much every quality he looks for in a girlfriend, but no one needs to know about that, especially Penny."

Published February 24th 2013 by Write Free. I received a digital ARC of this story.

The characters in this book get horrible visions of the future, which allow them to get to the scene of the horrible event and literally rewind time, so that they can prevent these horrible things from happening.

Here is a Facebook post I made while reading this book:

The dialogue in this book is outstanding. And luckily, a very large portion of the book is dialogue. It makes the story quick to read and very engaging. Even the adults had great things to say! All of this dialogue made it possible for the author to show instead of tell, and that's important.

When I originally reviewed this book on Goodreads, I had somehow completely missed the fact that this is a companion series for the Zellie Wells series. Maybe I was spending too much time noticing the cool cover. This resulted in a much more negative review than the book deserved. I was wondering why there were so many characters and I had trouble keeping them straight. Some were only introduced once and then brought back again later, and I couldn't remember who they were. I also wondered why some characters and character relationships were focused on when nothing was really going on in the story with those characters. Color me confused! It all makes sense once you realize that an earlier series was written about them as teenagers, and this series is about the next generation and features the old beloved characters as grown-ups.

There was also a story line that I really disliked and didn't understand. I'm guessing that story line would have made more sense had I read the previous series. Because those who read the other books probably understand that story line, the author broke her pattern of showing instead of telling; characters started summarizing to other characters what was going on, and it made little sense to me since I didn't understand why and there were lots of pieces missing for me (sorry, sort of a run-on sentence).

The story was very unique, and the author did a good job with the world-building. There was a magnificent and amazing cliffhanger at the end, which sucked me right back into the story (I lost interest during the story line I didn't understand) and makes me anxious to read the sequel. It was a tiny bit predictable, but it still was enjoyable when it happened. The way that scene played out was amazing and unexpected.

 This honestly could be a stand-alone series, I suppose, but you might get annoyed about the same things I mentioned. I will definitely be reading the previous series!