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!

 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Summary of a book based on the cover: The Selection

I did this once before (read it here), and it was so much fun that I had to take another shot at it! This one is for the cover of The Selection.

"America Singer must impress Prince Maxon by selecting the perfect dress to wow him in. When she finds the dress, it is love at first sight, and she knows it is the one. How can the prince not notice her? Unfortunately, it becomes apparent that the dress selection failed when everyone else shows up in dresses of the same color and style. Luckily for America, she is the only one with red hair, so will that be enough to set her apart? She realizes that something else is distinguishing her from the others as well once it becomes obvious how far away everyone stands from her: America has a bad case of body odor. It might be possible for her to hide this fact, but first she will need to stop sniffing herself. This might prove to be tougher than it was to select the right dress.

3.5 stars: To Be Perfectly Honest: A Novel Based on an Untrue Story by Sonya Sones


"Her friends
have a joke about her:
How can you tell if Colette is lying?

Her mouth is open.


Fifteen-year-old Colette is addicted to lying. Her shrink says this is because she’s got a very bad case of Daughter-of-a-famous-movie-star Disorder—so she lies to escape out from under her mother’s massive shadow. But Colette doesn’t see it that way. She says she lies because it’s the most fun she can have

with her clothes on. Not that she’s had that much fun with her clothes off. At least not yet, anyway…

When her mother drags her away from Hollywood to spend the entire summer on location in a boring little town in the middle of nowhere, Colette is less than thrilled. But then she meets a sexy biker named Connor. He’s older, gorgeous, funny, and totally into her. So what if she lies to him about her age, and about who her mother is? I mean, she has to keep her mother’s identity a secret from him. If he finds out who she really is, he’ll forget all about Colette, and start panting and drooling and asking her for her mother’s autograph. Just like everyone always does.

But what Colette doesn’t know is that Connor is keeping a secret of his own..."


Expected publication: August 27th 2013 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. I received a digital ARC of this story.

Guess who I saw today while I was grocery shopping at Price Chopper? TRENT REZNOR! I never would have noticed him (I mean, why would I expect to see Trent grocery shopping in upstate NY?) if he hadn't commented on something in my cart. "What's that?" "Celery root. It's used in.... Whoa, has anyone ever told you that you look like Trent Reznor?" Right after I asked that, I felt foolish, because his wife Mariqueen walked up holding broccoli. "Wait, you're seriously Trent and Mariqueen? What?! I'm going to pinch myself now. I've been a NIN fan since I was 12." They laughed and then invited me to have dinner with them! It turns out that Mariqueen's cousin lives here! Mariqueen stepped away to get something else, and Trent came closer and whispered "we're in an open relationship." 

To be perfectly honest, none of that happened. I tried to meet Trent once with my bestie Emily, but we ended up just standing in the freezing cold for way too long and got chatted up by some guy who tried to say he was Trent's manager or something. Here we are in like 1994 or 1995 sporting our NIN shirts! (And by the way, today is her birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EMILY!)



Oh, you want to hear about the book, right? Well, that's what you will find in the book! The narrator will tell part of the story and then say that she is lying and it never happened, so you never know when to believe her.

 I was a bit unprepared for it, because the info says that it's about 500 pages long. In actuality, it's not a long book, because it's told in prose (in my Kindle app, there are 1,706 locations).

Since it's in prose, and is not meant to be a deep story, there isn't the character development that you would expect. There is character growth, but there isn't much character depth. In fact, two of the lead characters (Collette and Connor) are in no way likable. Collette's little brother Will is definitely the most likable character and most developed. I also enjoyed how Trent Reznor was portrayed. Oh wait, he wasn't in the book.

The story was light, fluffy, and engaging. I was laughing out loud a lot, but I think it was because of how ridiculous Connor's lies were and how Collette was falling for them.

The writing was pretty simplistic, but that, plus the reason why it's short, and why the characters don't have much depth, get explained on the last page of the book.
 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

4.5 stars: Easy by Tammara Webber


"Rescued by a stranger.
Haunted by a secret
Sometimes, love isn’t easy…


He watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior…

The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he’d worked so hard to overcome, and the future she’d put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart.

Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth—and find the unexpected power of love.

A groundbreaking novel in the New Adult genre, Easy faces one girl's struggle to regain the trust she's lost, find the inner strength to fight back against an attacker, and accept the peace she finds in the arms of a secretive boy."


Published November 6th 2012 by Berkley Trade. I listened to the audio version of this book.

As I've explained before, I like to listen to audio books while I cook. For me, Audible is worth the money, because I get a week and a half of enjoyment out of a book instead of a day. So not the case with this book (and some others!). I listened to it continually while doing chores, walking to the post office, and while surfing the Internet. It lasted me less than 24 hours! 

I'm starting to really get into the New Adult genre. In case you don't know what that is, these are more mature than YA books, because the characters are college-age, but usually the scenarios are pretty similar. Since the audience is older, the books are usually naughtier than YA books.

One night, Jacqueline is about to get raped by a student named Buck (why did that name seem too perfect? A little too perfect though, which was a bit annoying), and a mysterious stranger saves her and beats the crap out of Buck. OK, he's not going to stay mysterious for long; his name is Lucas (ooh and he's been watching her for some time and already knows who she is--including her name). Now at first, I was thinking "I know where this is going! He's a knight in shining armor who saved the woman from getting raped, so now he gets to have her right away." No, it is slightly more empowering than that, don't worry. Jacqueline starts taking self-defense classes and becomes bad-ass, so that she can fend for herself. 

At some point in the book, we get a love triangle (yay! extra swoons!), but well, that part was a bit predictable, and I will say no more. I did love it though, and maybe it was supposed to be predictable.  

Anyway, two thumbs up!

 

Friday, May 24, 2013

5 stars: Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1) by Laini Taylor

"Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?"


Published September 27th 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 

I am so excited that I have had a winning streak with the last few books I have read! This one was such a winner. In fact, I can't stop thinking about it, and I wish I had the sequel right now! It was so imaginative. The world building was absolutely incredible... so much so that I did miss a couple things, because there was just so much of a back story to the world that was created and just so many details. It was just so vast. So much imagination! So vivid! You guys, this book has me using exclamation points like they'll cease to exist tomorrow! Same thing with the word "so." Sorry.

Excellent character development too! I absolutely loved Karou (she wished her hair to permanently be blue, so it doesn't need to be dyed unless she wants a different color), her family (the devils who raised her), her best friend Zuzana, and definitely Akiva. Akiva is said to be the most beautiful man (angel, whatever) that Karou and everyone she knows have ever seen. Plus, he's broody and has been through so much sorrow, you just want to give him a hug.

The story's opening hook is "Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well." I was seriously sucked in immediately. Those are perhaps my favorite opening lines ever. You may have noticed that when I review books, I say how surprised I was by blah blah blah, and you might think that's strange because blah blah blah is mentioned in the book's summary that I post. Well, here's a secret... I never read the full summary, because I don't like spoilers. Usually I'll read the first couple lines, or I'll just scan it, and sometimes I won't read the summary at all, because I'm going by word of mouth alone (and if I do read a summary, I'll make note that I MUST read the book, and then I'll make myself forget what it's about--I like to be surprised!). Oh yeah, back to what I was saying. I was surprised that the devil was the female and the angel was the male. Haven't you noticed that it's usually the other way around? That was a nice twist. Although, you can't really assume that she's bad and he's good, because that is so not true.

I really loved the pacing. The story is told in a perfect manner and it slides back in time to provide clarity about what is being discussed (back story for whichever thing). There are a lot of flashbacks and they improved the story, because if the author just told us what happened, instead of showed us, I really wouldn't have liked the twists. They needed explanation, and I couldn't think of a better way. Between the time shifts, perspective shifts, location shifts (even between worlds), I feel like the story was three dimensional, and I saw it from every angle. Plus, I feel like I went on an epic adventure. There was a cliffhanger though and still more questions that need answers, and I can't wait to find out what happens next. Right now, I just want to be back in the world of the book.

4 stars: Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits series, #1) by Katie McGarry

"No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again."


Published July 31st 2012 by Harlequin Teen. I listened to the audio format of this book.

This story was definitely memorable. I say that because even if you really enjoy a book, sometimes for some reason, it's hard to remember what happened in the story even a week after you read it. That's not the case here. There are some audio books I listen to when I'm cooking that turn into listening marathons. Again, not the case here. I pretty much just listened to this while cooking. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, because I sometimes have trouble remembering what happened in books I couldn't stop listening to/reading.

I do have to admit that Echo's name never grew on me. Also, while I love Tara Sands' other narrations, I didn't feel that she should have been selected to play Echo. Maybe that's a reason why I only listened to the book in small spurts. Again, how often I listened to the book isn't really indicative of much (only whether it's a quick read).

What hooked me was having the good girl be forced to tutor the bad boy. It's always fun when there is tension between two characters and they're forced to be together (see Faking It). And so began an intense love story. Both main characters experienced personal growth and became better people just by knowing each other (yay!). There was also excellent character development; even with secondary and tertiary characters! AND just about every character was likable-it takes a good writer to pull that off!

I will definitely read the sequel, Dare You To, but it's about a secondary character from this book, so I believe both can be read as stand-alones.

And on a side note, McGarry tweeted this about the story she's working on now:


I want to read whatever she is writing right now!


 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

5 stars: Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

"Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:

1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen:

1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.

Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy."


Expected publication: May 28th 2013 by Katherine Tegen Books. I received a digital ARC of this story.

Can I give this book more than 5 stars? Please? I was blown away. At first, I was impressed by the writing, and I took notes about what I liked, so that I could improve my own writing. For instance, the character development and amount of detail that went into describing characters, and everything else, was amazing. While we're on the subject of characters, Smith's were 3-dimensional and so vivid. Plus many were really interesting. The introduction of all these new characters into Kiri's life was part of what made her adventure so fun and um adventurey.

The story sucked me in. With such great writing, that was bound to happen, but not all well-written novels are as absorbing. One note I took while reading said "Fun, crazy, mysterious story." That should tell you enough about this book. You know what was really neat? There was a MONTAGE in the book! It was of her playing the piano and all the prep work she was doing to get ready for a recital. 

The pacing was fantastic, except for one part where there was some filler and I had trouble getting through it, but that was not far into the book and it didn't last many pages at all (this was the only negative thing I have to say and it's such a small thing in the grand scheme of things). Once I got past the short hump, the story gained momentum again.

Speaking of momentum, the story starts off with a sane teenage girl. Once she finds out that her sister was murdered, we see how this news triggers a drug-fueled mental breakdown. Things get intense, but it happens at the right pace. Her steady systematic decline (I love NIN) was just right. It was a bit hard to read, because her mental illness was described too perfectly and was so realistic... but who am I kidding, even if it was hard to bare, I could not stop reading!

There was even a love story! OK, there usually is, but this one was in the middle of the madness and was with a somewhat mysterious stranger, which is always the most fun in books.

Kiri goes on an incredible life-changing journey, and I'm so happy I got to take it right along with her. Is it realistic for her to suddenly become sane at the end? No, so that doesn't happen, because that takes time, meds, and therapy, but the book ends on a positive and perfect note (hehe, she's a musician... NOTE. Yeah, yeah, I'll stop).


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

4.5 stars: Our Song by Jordanna Fraiberg

"Olive Bell has spent her entire life in the beautiful suburb of Vista Valley, with a picture-perfect home, a loving family, and a seemingly perfect boyfriend. But after a near-fatal car accident, she’s haunted by a broken heart and a melody that she cannot place.

Then Olive meets Nick. He’s dark, handsome, mysterious . . . and Olive feels connected to him in a way she can’t explain. Is there such a thing as fate? The two embark on a whirlwind romance—until Nick makes a troubling confession.

Heartbroken, Olive pieces together what really happened the night of her accident and arrives at a startling revelation. Only by facing the truth can she uncover the mystery behind the song and the power of what it means to love someone."


Published May 2nd 2013 by Razorbill. I received a digital ARC of this story. 

Poor Olive; she died and when she came back to life, she had lost everything (people treated her differently because they thought she had tried to commit suicide, so there was awkwardness all around her).

This is one of those inspirational tales that shows you that if you hang in there, it gets better. She doesn't get her old life back, but an even better life. Mainly because she no longer has the douchiest boyfriend on the planet.

I really liked this story. Just about everything was perfect: the character development, the range of emotions I felt while reading it (yes, I cried) and the world-building. I really can't decide how I feel about the explanation for "she’s haunted by... a melody that she cannot place." It's not something I would have guessed, and it seems like the best answer for solving the problem of "How should I make this story be inspirational?" I really don't know if I like it or don't like it, mainly because it is so far from what I had guessed it was. OK, enough of that, because you have no idea what I'm blabbing about. I also like that even though this was a love story, Olive was still a strong character who didn't need a boyfriend.

It was very touching and was about strength and possibilities that are in our grasp that we can't see yet, but will. I'm so not a sappy person, so it's hard to write that, but it's true.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

5 stars: The Selection (The Selection series, #1) by Kiera Cass


"For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself--and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined."


Published April 24th 2012 by HarperTeen.

May I just say how shocked I am that I rated this 5 stars? Before I started reading, I figured it would be a 3 star book. 

I really am sick of the series trend; you know how every book written now is part of a series from the start? However, this series is the exception to my irritation. Yes, I'm irritated that I don't know what will happen next, but for the first time since The Hunger Games, I am excited about reading the sequel and I want to now (and that is why you are seeing this review on this site, because by now you should know that I will be reviewing the sequel too)! 

I think that one aspect I really liked and was surprised by was that America did not want any part in the Selection, and she had no dreams of becoming a princess or of leaving her caste. A better and more glamorous life was attainable, but instead, she wanted her life and a relationship with a boy in a caste below her. Awwwwwwwwww. And when she gets to the castle, she's given beautiful dresses and amazing things, but she requests pants instead! And she gets her own maids, but she feels weird about that and she does her best to treat them as equals! See why I love this book? America, you are humble and good. Oh, oh, and America doesn't give a damn about dating the prince; she even knees him in the groin, yells at him, and tells him she just wants to be friends. See, not at all what I was expecting.

Plus, there is a love triangle! YES! AND The Bachelor is my guilty pleasure, and this book has a similar premise.

One reason why people didn't like this story was because they were expecting a dystopia, and while there was one, the book does not center around that; the dystopia just kind of fiddles around in the background. I still think the dystopia matters though, because it is the sole reason why the Selection is such a big deal and why it can be so life changing. Don't read it for the dystopia though, because even though it is a critical part of the story, the story won't center around it.
 
Bye bye now, time to find the sequel, The Elite

Update: Click here to read my review of The Elite.

 

Monday, May 20, 2013

3 stars: Night School by C.J. Daugherty


 SUCCESS! I met my Bout of Books goal! 4.5 books in one week. Today I finished Night School.

"Allie's world is falling apart...

She hates her school. Her brother has run away. And she's just been arrested.

Again.

Now her parents are sending her away to a boarding school where she doesn't know a soul.

But instead of hating her new school, Allie finds she's happy there. She's making friends. And then there's Sylvain, a suave French student who openly flirts with her. And Carter, the brooding loner who seems to have her back.

Soon, though, Allie discovers Cimmeria Academy is no ordinary school. Nothing there is as it seems. And her new friends are hiding dangerous secrets."


Expected publication: May 21st 2013 by Katherine Tegen Books. I received a digital ARC of this story.

The cover of this book and the synopsis made me think that this was a paranormal story, but it wasn't. This was the author's first book and it was written because of a dare, and honestly, it kind of shows. The writing definitely has a Stephanie Myers/E.L. James shine to it... only with bigger words. The writing does show potential, which hopefully will show in her later work. 

It was apparent that the author had a story she wanted to tell, but only part of a story, which started about halfway into the book. It seemed that she wasn't sure how to get to that point, so up until that point, the writing lacks heart and is weak. 
  • There is forced conflict between characters (why is she fighting with this guy--well, I guess just because they'll end up together and this makes things more interesting).
  •  Which leads me to very questionable motives for actions and thoughts, and sometimes we don't get any reasoning for actions or thoughts.
  • Some parts of the story are too contrived (ah, so this random thing is being done in order to end the conflict, so that these two can become a couple!)
You know those books that start of good, and you can't stop reading, but then the story goes downhill (I'm looking at you, Her Fearful Symmetry)? Well, there are too many books like that, and I'm happy to say that this is one of very few books that has the opposite problem, and better problem in my opinion. Yes, the story starts off weak but then gets stronger! The writing improves, because I believe the author finally became interested in what she was writing, since it was probably the story idea that motivated her in the first place. But as I said, I think she just had problems getting to that point in the story and all the build up to that point was tedious for her. 

While the second half of the book was far better than the first half, I still didn't understand the motivations for serious actions during that half. There are several sequels to this story, so I'm sure more will be explained, but the reasoning that was given to us in this installment is just too flimsy. The story was still interesting though, but not satisfying enough.

The good news is that I did really like Carter (you know, the guy she kept fighting with who she eventually fell head over heels for after something random happened) and he was the most well-developed character. Carter, you saved the story!


 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Summary of a book based on the cover


I love these Bout of Books challenges! This one is really fun, so let's get to it. Basically, I'm retelling a story based on the cover alone. This one is for Faking It, which I reviewed here.

"Cade and Max are in love, but they are unable to take the next step in their relationship, because of the purity rings they wear on their fingers. They take their abstinence promise so seriously that they also stay six inches apart at all times. No smooches! No hand-holding! No worries!--this crafty couple found a way to get steamy without the sin. A wooden board sits six inches above where Max lays in bed, which allows Cade to lay above her; she lays there blissfully and he does pushups above her, but in their minds, they're running all the way to home base. But will faking it be enough, or will they have to throw their rings to the ground?

4 stars: Skinny by Donna Cooner


It's day five of Bout of Books! And yay, I finished a book! That feels so good after making hardly any progress yesterday.

"Hopeless. Freak. Elephant. Pitiful. These are the words of Skinny, the vicious voice that lives inside fifteen-year-old Ever Davies’s head. Skinny tells Ever all the dark thoughts her classmates have about her. Ever knows she weighs over three hundred pounds, knows she’ll probably never be loved, and Skinny makes sure she never forgets it.

But there is another voice: Ever’s singing voice, which is beautiful but has been silenced by Skinny. Partly in the hopes of trying out for the school musical—and partly to try and save her own life—Ever decides to undergo a risky surgery that may help her lose weight and start over.

With the support of her best friend, Ever begins the uphill battle toward change. But demons, she finds, are not so easy to shake, not even as she sheds pounds. Because Skinny is still around. And Ever will have to confront that voice before she can truly find her own."


Published October 1st 2012 by Point. 

This was not an easy read, and by that I mean that some parts really had me cringing. The story is about 302 pound Ever who decides to get weight loss surgery. For the first half of the book, she's really mopey, even after her surgery. Plus, she has this voice in her head named Skinny who is really cruel to her. Reading this book was like listening to a friend who is never in a good mood and is always negative. Plus, the author put in all the pre-op and post-op details of the surgery, and I just couldn't take it.

But then things changed. Ever got more self esteem, and she became happier and finally started to like herself. That changed the whole tone of the book, and I caught myself tearing up a lot while reading (mainly out of happiness for Ever). It was like reading a completely different book.

It turns out that the author actually went through some of the same experiences as Ever (having a chair break in a crowded room while she was sitting on it). She even got the surgery! That sheds (HA!) a lot of light on how real Ever's negative thoughts and surgery details were. So the writing is very realistic, but it's so hard to read, because it's not an escape from reality, and is instead the journey through a very tough circumstance. 

The end of this book was absolutely brilliant. It reminded me of the movie Penelope, because at first  it seems like the story is very anti-feminist and that all it takes is a man to love you in order to be beautiful and happy. Then it turns out that the character just has to love herself, and that leads to beauty and happiness. YAY! Well done.

I feel like this story actually helped me. A lot of us have a "Skinny"--it's that voice that says our biggest fears and that stops us from doing certain things and enjoying life. While that voice might never go away, we all need to learn to ignore it. I realize that my own "Skinny" might be holding me back too. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bout of Books challenge: Acrostic Poem

It is day four of the reading marathon! Today... not much progress was made. I have three more days though!

On to today's challenge! I decided to do a poem about Shatter Me. Click that link to read my review.  This poem is a summary of the book.

Seems like no hope
Hottie in my cell
At last, death is coming
Taken captive
Touch me and you'll regret it
Everlasting love
Run away with me

Maybe we'll actually survive
Everywhere, people like me 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

4.5 stars: Variant (Variant series, #1) by Robison Wells

"Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.

He was wrong.

Now he's trapped in a school that's surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.

Where breaking the rules equals death.

But when Benson stumbles upon the school's real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape--his only real hope for survival--may be impossible."


Published September 26th 2011 by HarperTeen. I listened to the audio book format of this book. 




It's day three of the Bout of Books read-a-thon! I'm making good progress so far. Aside from Variant, this week I also finished Onyx by Jennifer Armentrout and I read Impostor by Jill Hathaway. You can click on those links for my reviews. I have two more books to read to meet my goal for this week!

Wow. this book had so many twists and unexpected revelations. I couldn't stop listening, because I had to know what would happen next. Plus, I obviously wanted to know why the school existed and what it was up to! Only parts of that were answered in this first book. 

This falls into the dystopian genre and is filled with action. Like, literal action. There are very detailed fight scenes and paintball game scenes. You get a play-by-play of everything. That was a bit much for me, because I felt that while those scenes progressed the story, we really only needed to know that they happened, and not what happened every minute of them. The action scenes were the ones that dragged the story for me, because I wanted to know, no, I NEEDED TO KNOW, what was going to happen next, so I wanted to get past those scenes! SUSPENSE!
  
So you know how lots of book summaries say "nothing is as it seems," and you groan because that's the most overused statement ever (just like people groan when they see Papyrus in my banner, but dammit, I like how it looks)? Well, in Variant, things aren't what they seem! 
 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Alternate Book Title Challenge


Yesterday's Bout of Books challenge was to write a poem using book spines. Today's challenge is to come up with alternate book titles based on a book's cover or story.

Alternate Title: The Dangerous Hot Guy is Watching You... Always

Since I review recentish books, I haven't been able to talk about my favorite trilogy ever: The Forbidden Game by




When Jenny buys a game for her boyfriend, Tom, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the guy behind the counter. There is something mysteriously alluring about Julian's pale eyes and bleached-blond hair. And when he places the Game into her hands, she knows their connection is comething deeper.

But as Jenny and her six friends begin to play the Game at Tom's birthday celebration, a night of friends and fun quickly turns into a night of terror and obsessive love. Because the Game isn't just a game - it's the seven friends' new reality, where Julian reigns as the Prince of the Shadows.

One by one the friends must confront their phobias to win the Game. To lose the Game is to lose their lives. And that is only the beginning..."


Yes, hot, stalker, bad boys are absolutely the perfect male characters in fiction. Notice, I did say fiction. Guess who is getting added to the Book Boyfriends list? 

4 stars: Impostor (Slide series, #2) by Jill Hathaway

"What if a killer took control of you?

Vee Bell’s gift (or curse) of “sliding”—slipping into the mind of another person and experiencing life, briefly, through his or her eyes—has been somewhat under control since she unwillingly witnessed the horrific deaths of her classmates six months ago.

But just as things are getting back to normal, Vee has a very bizarre experience: she loses consciousness and finds herself in a deserted area, at the edge of a cliff, with the broken body of the boy who took advantage of her on the rocks below.

As Vee finds herself in stranger and stranger situations with no memory of getting there, she begins to suspect that someone she knows has the ability to slide—and that this “slider” is using Vee to exact revenge on his or her enemies."


Published March 26th 2013 by Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins. 

During day two of Bout of Books, I met my goals for that point. On Monday, I finished Onyx (click that link for my review) by Jennifer Armentrout, and on Tuesday, I started and finished Impostor by . YAY! Tomorrow, I plan to start and finish Unspoken by



4 stars: Slide (Slide series, #1) by Jill Hathaway

"Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth--her sister's friend Sophie didn't kill herself. She was murdered.

Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn't actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else's mind and experiences the world through that person's eyes. She's slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed "friend" when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie's slashed body.

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can't bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting distant lately, especially now that she's been spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again."


Published March 27th 2012 by Balzer + Bray.

I wanted to review Slide, because I will be reading the sequel, Impostor, this week during the Bout of Books read-a-thon

This book had such a neat premise; if Vee touches an object that someone else touched and imprinted on (if someone is having a strong emotion while touching an object, that person will imprint on it), she slides into that person's mind. Unfortunately, she faints while this is happening, so it is not as cool of an ability as one would think. Be honest, if you had this paranormal talent, would you touch something that a crush had possibly imprinted on (for example, you're at a concert and a musician throws something of his into the audience)? Just keep in mind that it is a violation of that person's privacy. What if that person is naked and is looking in the mirror?!

Slide was a fun, quick read (I read it on a Sunday). The only thing I didn't really dig was the answer to the big mystery (who was the killer and why?). Other than that, the book kept me hooked and I couldn't put it down.

 Click here for my review of Imposter, the second book in the series.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Book Spine Poem Challenge

Aside from reading goals, there are also challenges this week! This is my submission for the book spine poem challenge:
The Princess Bride
Released
The Poison Eaters'
Dispossessed
Dune Messiah
Under the Never Sky

4.5 stars: Onyx (Lux series, #2) by Jennifer Armentrout

"Being connected to Daemon Black sucks…

Thanks to his alien mojo, Daemon’s determined to prove what he feels for me is more than a product of our bizarro connection. So I’ve sworn him off, even though he’s running more hot than cold these days. But we’ve got bigger problems.

Something worse than the Arum has come to town…

The Department of Defense are here. If they ever find out what Daemon can do and that we're linked, I’m a goner. So is he. And there's this new boy in school who’s got a secret of his own. He knows what’s happened to me and he can help, but to do so, I have to lie to Daemon and stay away from him. Like that's possible. Against all common sense, I'm falling for Daemon. Hard.

But then everything changes…

I’ve seen someone who shouldn’t be alive. And I have to tell Daemon, even though I know he’s never going to stop searching until he gets the truth. What happened to his brother? Who betrayed him? And what does the DOD want from them—from me?

No one is who they seem. And not everyone will survive the lies…"


Published August 14th 2012 by Entangled Teen. 

This is my very first Bout of Books read! No, I didn't read the whole book today, but my goal was to finish it this week, and I did! This means I have four more books to go to meet my goal.

Onyx was better than Obsidian, the first book in the series. You can click that link to read my review. I pretty much felt that Obsidian was the back story and filler for the real story. I was satisfied with the amount of action in this book, and there was finally character growth--I liked Katy this time around; she finally came to terms with her feelings for Daemon (c'mon girl, who in your podunk town doesn't want him?).YES! 

What was really great was that Katy became badass. That girl doesn't need a weapon to ward off the bad guys, because she is a weapon. 

The first book was a quick-read, because it was a pretty simple story with fun characters and a nice little love story (well, love/hate story). This one took me longer to read and seemed more substantial. There was some filler, and that is where I got a bit hung up. Luckily, the last third of the book was all action, so it was easy to read in one sitting.  

I described the first book as a light, fluffy story, and while this book still is brain candy... I... I cried at the end. Not out of sadness! 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

4 stars: The Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter series, #1) by Megan Shepherd

"In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father's gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father's handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father's madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island's inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father's dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it's too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father's genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells's classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect."


Published January 29th 2013 by Balzer + Bray

This book is equal parts Animal Farm (instead of totalitarianism, this was imperialism) and Heart of Darkness, with a hint of Flowers for Algernon. Those books were required reading for me in school, so that should tell you something about this book; it's not junk food for the brain. I honestly wouldn't even consider it YA.

I need to have a whole separate paragraph to explain that last sentence. Yes, it is about a teenager, but not all books about teens fit into the YA genre. It seems to me that in order to give this series a built in audience (YA romance readers), romance was added to the story. There was even a love triangle. Dear readers, I LOVE love triangles. I didn't love this one. In fact, I didn't feel that romance was appropriate in this story. Murder was happening all around Juliet, and her own life was at stake. Plus, she had learned how horrible her father really was, and she needed to deal with that, all while trying to survive. Juliet, there is a time and a place for a rifle and a gun, and this situation required a rifle. Sweetie, the guns can wait several months. This post is intentionally missing the "love story" tag, because no one should read this one for the romance. I couldn't find myself rooting for either guy, and I pretty much booed whenever there was a romantic thought in Juliet's head.

The Madman's Daughter was incredibly well-written (character development, world-building, and so on). Shepherd took Juliet on one hell of a journey--literally; she was on a boat for weeks to get to a far-away location, where nothing was anything like home. While she developed some closure, I wouldn't say that she experienced personal growth. Since this is part of a series, it's possible that we'll see a change later. There was a very incredible twist near the end of the book that I did not see coming. It takes a good writer to pull that off!

While this book was well-written, it just was not for me. It took me over a month to read, and I was sure I would never finish it... but I forced myself. This is a book I could see read in English classes in the future, which is why I can't rate it too low, since it has a message (in my opinion anyway) and good writing. 

Warning: contains lots of detailed scenes with syringes and gore (I had to skim through some parts because of it).
 

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon, May 13th-May 19th



Who?: I'm doing it! Will YOU?

What?: "The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 13th and runs through Sunday, May 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 7.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team."

Where?: At home! During lunch breaks! During commutes! And so on!

When?: Monday, May 13th to Sunday, May 19th.

How?: I'll tell you right now that I am going to slow my roll when it comes to posting reviews. My goal is to read four books. I'm thinking that at least one of those will be an audio book, so that I can listen while cooking, commuting to and from work, and when doing things other things. Three of the books I am considering (mainly because I have some library returns to make) are:

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy series, #1) by



On the outside, seventeen-year-old Madelyne Summers looks like your typical blond cheerleader—perky, popular, and dating the star quarterback. But inside, Maddie spends more time agonizing over what will happen in the next issue of her favorite comic book than planning pep rallies with her squad. That she’s a nerd hiding in a popular girl's body isn’t just unknown, it's anti-known. And she needs to keep it that way.

Summer is the only time Maddie lets her real self out to play, but when she slips up and the adorkable guy behind the local comic shop’s counter uncovers her secret, she’s busted. Before she can shake a pom-pom, Maddie’s whisked into Logan’s world of comic conventions, live-action role-playing, and first-person-shooter video games. And she loves it. But the more she denies who she really is, the deeper her lies become…and the more she risks losing Logan forever."