Monday, October 31, 2011

City of Ashes

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what's normal when you're a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who's becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn't ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary's only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father. 

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father? 

In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City's Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation.

First off, I'm aware that this is my second post in a day after barely having posted for about a week. Sorry.  The lack of power makes my reading go more quickly.

So, this book.  There's not a whole lot more to say about this book that I haven't already said about CoB. Clare still abuses metaphors.  She still has unrealistic dialogue and witty lines.  I still love Jace and Magnus. I still hate Clary and Simon.  Cassie Clare can still tell a story.

I will say that I don't think the cover of this one is quite as gorgeous as the cover of the first. It's still beautiful, a lot better than most, but I just adore CoB's book cover. It's one of my favorite. So beautiful and shiny and eye-catching.

Also, something that I forgot to mention in the last review that bugs me about this series: the magic, and the world-building in general.  I feel like there are no . . . rules. Like their magic and their tricks have no limit.  Clare never clearly defines what different instruments and different creatures/Shadowhunters are and are not capable of doing.  It really frustrates me when this happens in a fantasy or paranormal series, because in doing that you're basically making your characters invincible.  They can get out of any scrape, because some sort of magically magical magic will save them.  They'll find a way to magically heal or project their images or kill something when they should be fucking dead!  So, yeah. That bugged me.

Oh, and another thing--maybe it's just me, but I feel like Clare uses demon poison whenever it would be inconvenient for a person to be immediately healed.  Like, Oh, I can't have you out and about right now? Lol, there was demon poison in your wound. No iratzes for you!

Lastly--Valentine. I just realized I also didn't address him in my last review.  I'm gonna be honest, I like him as a villain. Do I see the similarities between him and He Who Must Not Be Named? Yes.  But something I actually like about Valentine that you will not see in our other famous villain is that Valentine, in the end, is really just a man whose moral compass is skewed, not nonexistent.  Because the fact is, he really believes he is doing right. He believes he is doing what is the best for this world. And I really like it when a villain isn't just pure evil, when there's a reason behind what they do, when they have layers.  

(I lied. That wasn't last. The last thing I wanted to say was that I really liked Maryse's character.  I thought she was very well-developed and really liked the relationship between her and Jace.)

So, yeah. This was more of a ramble than a review. If you want to look for an actual review, look at my review of City of Bones.  For now, just know that my feelings on this series remain the same.
3 stars.

Beth Revis's Gratitude for Books Giveaway

So Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe, is holding a giveaway of 19 books, most signed, and-and!-a box of Turkish Delights.  And to enter? You just have to make a post saying what book you are most grateful for.  You can find it here.

So now . . . the book that I am most grateful for.
I've thought about this one. I've thought about this one well.  There were so many books I could have said, so many books that have changed me and my outlook on life.  But in the end, I chose this book.  And it is not actually my favorite book.  But it is the book I am most grateful for, because it has changed me more than any book I've ever read.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I first read this book months ago. I still think about it today.
Is it a perfect book? No.  Is the writing stunning? No.  No, this book isn't what it is because it is some flawless, gorgeously written book with an insanely creative plot and kick-ass characters.
This book is what it is because it makes you think. Because it makes you just stop and think.
Through Clay's horrified eyes, and Hannah's own voice, we, the readers, our pulled through this book, story by story, seeing how every person on these tapes led to Hannah killing herself.  We watch it slowly piece itself together, and we sit there, horrified as Clay, already knowing how it will all end up.
But what really gets you, the thing that still has me thinking months later, is that these people didn't know what they were doing. Some of them did terrible things, yes. But some of them, what they did, they thought it was harmless. Or if not harmless, certainly not anything of significance. Certainly not anything that mattered.
Certainly not something for a girl to kill herself over.
But it's the snowball effect. It's one thing upon another upon another, gaining power as it rolls on, until its huge weight just . . . crushes her. Boom. Gone.
Maybe you spread around a list like Alex.  Or started rumors, like Justin.  Or abandoned a friend you didn't know needed you. Maybe you thought nothing of it at the time. Maybe it was nothing at the time.
But maybe they're gone now.
This book makes you realize that the slightest thing, just the slightest, tiniest, most inconsequential thing, can have such a huge effect on others.  That you have such a huge effect on others, more than you can ever imagine.  That you want the effect to be good.  That if you knew Hannah, you wouldn't want to be on one of those tapes.
That is why I am grateful for this book.  Because it made me think. About myself, and about others, and myself and others, and everyone else and the people they interact with.  It opened my eyes.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

City of Bones

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder - much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing - not even a smear of blood - to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know.

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare's ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

So sue me, but I still enjoy this series.
And it's not like how I was with Hush, Hush, where I hated it but it kept me interested. No, these books, while I do strongly dislike certain aspects, still entertain me. I still like reading them, and am invested in the story.  Did Cassie Clare plagiarize? Yes. Are they quality literature? Hell no. But they're fun to read. You could call this series my guilty pleasure, I guess.

Cassie Clare's writing . . . what to say about Cassie Clare's writing. I think I'm going to start with the negatives, because I'd like to get them out there.
The. Fucking. Similes.
I'm sorry for those of  you who don't like cursing, I really do apologize, but it was necessary.
The similes.
Those of you who know me know that I am a fan of pretty writing, figurative language, all that good stuff.  But Clare didn't just overuse similes. Oh no.  She spat out simile after simile until they were practically shat upon the page.
Sorry for the mental image, but it's just the truth.
And while some of the similes were good ones, some of them just made no sense whatsoever. And I couldn't even appreciate the good ones after a while because there were just so many.  Flip to any given page in CoB and I guarantee you that you will find a simile there.
Sometimes, Clare had good descriptions. It's true.  But then there were some descriptions that she just used over. And over. And over. And so on.  There were a lot of them, but the biggest ones were probably "glittering" smile and a wolf's "brindled" fur. I feel like she's the opposite of SMeyer in this case; she just couldn't find a thesaurus, whereas SMeyer sort of abused it.
On the one hand, Clare is very good at snappy one-liners and witty responses, as well as good, dramatic lines that can be remembered later on.  What she's not so good at is realistic dialogue.  I just couldn't imagine real teenagers saying 3/4 of the things they said.  The wording was way too sophisticated, and no one is that witty all the time without preparation. 
Still, I will admit that I do like some of her lines quite a bit. Mostly the ones by Jace and Magnus.
Now, I'm not even getting into the whole plagiarism issue. I know certain parts of this are plagiarized, and I don't know which parts, so I'm just . . . yeah. If you're curious, just look it up.
However, the good, the good can be summarized in one sentence: Cassie Clare knows how to tell a story.  Say what you want about her, but she knows how to tell a story and keep you interested and invested in it while she does.  This book didn't bore me, and I did want to keep reading.  And readability, that's an important quality in a book.

So, overall?  There are some serious flaws in the writing, but it moves the story along.

I feel like Clare got it right with every character . . . except her main one and her one main guy. Which puzzles me.
I loved Alec.  I loved that she didn't make him the typical flamboyant gay, and I loved his awkwardness, and his earnestness, and his protectiveness. I loved him, and I was cheering for him when he got pissed at Clary.
I loved Luke.  He isn't perfect, but he's sweet and protective and absent-minded and nerdy and badass and just a really cool guy. I'd love to have him as my pseudo-father.  I don't think Clary realizes just how LUCKY she is to have him.
I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved Magnus.  He just never fails to make me laugh, and despite his flamboyance and sarcasm, he actually does have layers to his personality and character. I adore him.
I . . . was not a fan of Simon. There were some of his lines that I did really like, but he, as a character, was just way too whiny and useless for my taste.  He'd never even told Clary how he felt before (although, granted, she should have REALIZED some time in the past ten years), so he didn't really have the right to get all pissy about her and Jace. I don't know. He just bugged me.
And then, Clary. Our lovely narrator. I will grant you that there were some times that I liked her.  I actually liked her from about the Renwick battle scene to the end.  But for the majority of the novel, I loathed her, because she is, quite plainly, a whiny, ungrateful bitch.  She slaps Jace for saving her life. She yells at people . . . for saving her life.  She shouts at and belittles everyone and never considers that her problems are at least partly her fault.  I can't even count the amount of times that something along the lines of "Rage flowed through her veins" appeared in the book, because Clary just gets enraged quite a bit.
Like I said, there were some times that I liked her, but she really frustrated me for the most part.
Lastly, Jace.
I know some people hate Jace, say that he's too rude or too insensitive or too perfect or whatnot. But if we're being honest, I love Jace.  Yes, he can be rude, and yes, he is very sarcastic, and yes, he is very hard and contained, but if you were raised by a man like his father for the first ten years of your life, you probably wouldn't be a whole lot better.  And beneath the snarkiness and stoicism, there was a vulnerability to Jace that really made me love him.  He had been taught not to be vulnerable, so he tried to quell it, but it was there, and I loved that.

Overall? Some characters were fantastic, some were terrible, so overall I guess it just sort of . . .evens out.

There are some things about the plot that I liked, and some that I didn't.
This plot engaged me.  It made me want to keep reading. I know it isn't wholly original, but I still wanted to find out what was going on(and considering this is a reread, the fact that this still held my attention that much is even more impressive).  I think that something Clare is very talented at is crafting a plot that fits together and is paced well and has just enough twists and turns.
However--one of my big problems was Simon and Clary.
DEAR FREAKING LORD, CLARY.  What is it with you stupid, naive YA narrators? The boy has been your best friend for ten years and you never once realized that he's in love with you? How DUMB are you?
But. Anyway.
Some parts of this did seem rather contrived, and some parts were not very realistic(obviously, since it's an urban fantasy, it won't be realistic in THAT way, but even in fantasy you have to realize that people still act like people). And the one fragment in Jace's POV bugged me, because it was the only instance of his POV in the whole book. And it was not necessary. I think Clare put it there to explain his previous actions and make the reader not too angry at Jace for what he said, or maybe she was trying to ease us into his POV that would be appearing in the next books, but in either case, I think she should have just left it out.
Overall, though, even if it's unoriginal, I like the plot of this book.

Like I said: guilty pleasure. These books are nowhere near perfect, and Clare is a plagiarist, but I still do enjoy reading them.  
3 stars.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Looking for Alaska

First friend. First girl. Last words.

A deeply affecting coming-of-age story, Looking for Alaska traces the journey of Miles Halter, a misfit Florida teenager who leaves the safety of home for a boarding school in Alabama and a chance to explore the "Great Perhaps." Debut novelist and NPR commentator Green perfectly captures the intensity of feeling and despair that defines adolescence in this hip, shocking, and emotionally charged work of fiction.

Miles has a quirky interest in famous people's last words, especially François Rabelais's final statement, "I go to seek a Great Perhaps." Determined not to wait for death to begin a similar quest, Miles convinces his parents to let him leave home. Once settled at Culver Creek Preparatory School, he befriends a couple of equally gifted outcasts: his roommate Chip―commonly known as the Colonel—who has a predilection for memorizing long, alphabetical lists for fun; and the beautiful and unpredictable Alaska, whom Miles comes to adore.

The kids grow closer as they make their way through a school year filled with contraband, tests, pranks, breakups, and revelations about family and life. But as the story hurtles toward its shattering climax, chapter headings like "forty-six days before" and "the last day" portend a tragic event―one that will change Miles forever and lead him to new conclusions about the value of his cherished "Great Perhaps."

This was one of those books.

One of those books where I can acknowledge that it has faults--it's his debut novel, how could it not?--, where I can acknowledge that this could've been even better than it was, yet it was so moving, so powerful, so thought-provoking and beautiful, that you ignore those faults.  It's not that you forget them; if asked, I could still produce a few things that might've been changed.  No, it's just that they don't seem significant anymore. Faults? Who cares about faults? Alaska had faults. Alaska had many faults, and that was what made her Alaska. These faults are what make this book Looking for Alaska, and its beauty and overall message are what make this a five star book. A must read. A classic.

I will leave you with this:

“Thomas Edison's last words were 'It's very beautiful over there'. I don't know where there is, but I believe it's somewhere, and I hope it's beautiful.” 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Top 100 YA Books

So, I've seen this list being posted on tons of book blogs I follow, and I was bored, so I thought hey, why not.  The bold ones are the ones I have read, the underlined are those on my to-read list, and those in red are the ones I love.

Alex Finn – Beastly
Alice Sebold – The Lovely Bones
Ally Carter – Gallagher Girls (1, 2, 3, 4)
Ally Condie - Matched
Alyson Noel – The Immortals (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
Anastasia Hopcus – Shadow Hills
Angie Sage – Septimus Heap (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
Ann Brashares – The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (1, 2, 3, 4)
Anna Godbersen – Luxe (1, 2, 3, 4)
Anthony Horowitz – Alex Rider (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
Aprilynne Pike – Wings (1, 2, 3)
Becca Fitzpatrick – Hush, Hush (1, 2)
Brandon Mull – Fablehaven (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Brian Selznick – The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Cassandra Clare – The Mortal Instruments (1, 2, 3, 4)
Carrie Jones – Need (1, 2, 3)
Carrie Ryan – The Forest of Hands and Teeth (1, 2, 3, 4)
Christopher Paolini – Inheritance (1, 2, 3, 4)
Cinda Williams Chima – The Heir Chronicles (1, 2, 3)
Colleen Houck – Tigers Saga (1, 2)
Cornelia Funke - Inkheart (1, 2, 3)
Ellen Hopkins – Impulse
Eoin Colfer – Artemis Fowl (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
Faraaz Kazi – Truly, Madly, Deeply
Frank Beddor – The Looking Glass Wars (1, 2, 3)
Gabrielle Zevin – Elsewhere
Gail Carson Levine – Fairest
Holly Black – Tithe (1, 2, 3)
J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
James Dashner – The Maze Runner (1, 2)
James Patterson – Maximum Ride (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) 
Jay Asher – Thirteen Reasons Why
Jeanne DuPrau – Books of Ember (1, 2, 3, 4)
Jeff Kinney – Diary of a Wimpy Kid (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
John Boyne – The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
John Green – An Abundance of Katherines
John Green – Looking for Alaska
John Green – Paper Towns
Jonathan Stroud – Bartimaeus (1, 2, 3, 4)
Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl – Caster Chronicles (1, 2)
Kelley Armstrong – Darkest Powers (1, 2, 3)
Kristin Cashore – The Seven Kingdoms (1, 2)
Lauren Kate - Fallen (1, 2, 3)
Lemony Snicket – Series of Unfortunate Events (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)
Libba Bray – Gemma Doyle (1, 2, 3)
Lisa McMann – Dream Catcher (1, 2, 3)
Louise Rennison – Confessions of Georgia Nicolson (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
M.T. Anderson – Feed
Maggie Stiefvater - The Wolves of Mercy Falls (1, 2, 3)
Margaret Peterson Haddix – Shadow Children (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
Maria V. Snyder – Study (1, 2, 3)
Markus Zusak – The Book Thief
Markus Zusak – I am the Messenger
Mark Haddon – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Mary Ting – Crossroads
Maureen Johnson – Little Blue Envelope (1, 2)
Meg Cabot – All-American Girl (1, 2)
Meg Cabot – The Mediator (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
Meg Cabot – The Princess Diaries (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
Meg Rosoff – How I live now
Megan McCafferty – Jessica Darling (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Megan Whalen Turner – The Queen’s Thief (1, 2, 3, 4)
Melina Marchetta – On the Jellicoe Road
Melissa de la Cruz – Blue Bloods (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Melissa Marr – Wicked Lovely (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Michael Grant – Gone (1, 2, 3, 4)
Nancy Farmer – The House of the Scorpion
Neal Shusterman – Unwind
Neil Gaiman – Coraline
Neil Gaiman – Stardust
Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book
P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast – House of Night (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 )
Philip Pullman – His Dark Materials (1, 2, 3)
Rachel Caine – The Morganville Vampires (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
Rachel Cohn & David Levithan – Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Richelle Mead – Vampire Academy (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson and the Olympians (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Rom LcO’Feer – Somewhere carnal over 40 winks
S.L. Naeole – Grace (1, 2, 3, 4)
Sabrina Bryan and Julia DeVillers – Princess of Gossip
Sarah Dessen – Along for the Ride
Sarah Dessen – Lock and Key
Sarah Dessen – The Truth about Forever
Sara Shepard – Pretty Little Liars (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
Scott Westerfeld – Leviathan (1, 2)
Scott Westerfeld – Uglies (1, 2, 3)
Shannon Hale – Books of a Thousand Days
Shannon Hale – Princess Academy
Shannon Hale – The Books of Bayern (1, 2, 3, 4)
Sherman Alexie & Ellen Forney – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Simone Elkeles – Perfect Chemistry (1, 2, 3)
Stephanie Meyer – The Host
Stephanie Meyer – Twilight Saga (1, 2, 3, 4) 
Sue Monk Kidd – The Secret Life of Bees
Susan Beth Pfeffer – Last Survivors (1, 2, 3)
Suzanne Collins - Hunger Games (1, 2, 3)
Suzanne Collins – Underland Chronicles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Terry Pratchett – Tiffany Aching (1, 2, 3, 4)
Tonya Hurley – Ghost Girl (1, 2, 3)
Wendelin Van Draanen – Flipped

What puzzles me is that there are numerous books on here that are most definitely middle grade. Why are they listed as YA? O_o

In any case, there it is.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Name of the Star

The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.
Soon "Rippermania" takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

So, this is my first Maureen Johnson book. I've been meaning to read the Little Blue Envelopes books for a while, but haven't been able to get my hands on them.  I saw the premise for this and I knew I had to get it. Ghosts? Jack the Ripper? London? How much more awesome could you get?
I was right to expect awesome from this. It wasn't perfect, but it was pretty damn good.

It's funny. I've seen several people mention in their reviews that they thought the writing dragged this down, but personally, I don't see where that's coming from at all.  I actually thought the writing in this was great, fairly simple, very good at describing the setting and getting the feel of the scene across.  Is it the sort of writing you spend paragraphs gushing about? No.  But it was good, and it worked for this story. The focus of this book was the plot, not the writing.
My only real problem with the writing was that there were a couple times where people launched into these  little narratives, and I just couldn't see that happening in real life.  Especially with narratives of that length and with so few "ums" and "uhs."
However, the writing in this is very good, and perfect for the story.

I really, really liked Maureen's characters.  The MC, Rory, was fantastic.  Why can I say this? Because she barely annoyed me once throughout the entire book. That is an extremely rare occurrence nowadays.  Rory wasn't an idiot like most YA girls, but she wasn't some genius, she had a good sense of humor and some snark along with it, but not to the point of bitchiness, and she reacted to things like an average girl would react.  I was able to relate to her and feel for her and really slip into the story through her perspective.
I was a big fan of almost all the other characters.  Jazza, Stephen, Callum, Boo, Claudia, Jo, etc.  They were funny and sweet and sarcastic and just plain interesting, and I liked that.  The villain also worked for me, though I did have a big qualm with him, which I shall mention later.
However, there were two characters I was not a big fan of: Jerome and Chelsea.
Jerome was our love interest. The thing is, the romance is a very small part of the story, so this didn't bother me all that much.  But the fact is I didn't ever connect him. I didn't especially dislike him, I just never felt anything for him or cared about his relationship with Rory. Honestly, I'd rather see her with Stephen.
And then Chelsea. I disliked Chelsea not because of what we did, but because she was very clearly set up to be "the mean girl" of the story, yet . . . she never really did anything. Bad, I mean.  She never really did anything bad to warrant the scorn or hate. I mean, I realize Jazza had her problems with the girl, but honestly, all Chelsea wants is to go to Cambridge. How does that make her mean?
Despite the two characters I had nitpicks with, overall, I loved Maureen's characters.  They made for a very interesting, colorful cast that I enjoyed reading about.

I really, really loved this plot.
Like I said: Jack the Ripper. Ghosts and ghost police. London.  How could that not equal awesome?
The answer to the above is, the author could execute it terribly.  But that was not the case.  Maureen executed this wonderfully.
There's only so much I can say without giving away major spoilers, but her whole take on ghosts and the murders and this whole thing in general was so original and awesome that I couldn't help but love it. I'm a sucker for original plots, and there aren't nearly enough mysteries/thrillers in YA today.  I really enjoyed the twists and turns that kept popping up, and I adored those few chapters in third person that let us experience an important event that Rory was not present at.  Aside from the somewhat slow beginning, the pacing was spot on, and it kept me in suspense. Don't be fooled by how long it took me to read this, that's just because I've been really busy.
But, I did have one big qualm. The motivation.
When we found out why the villain had done what he'd done at the end, I found myself feeling very disappointed. Because it just didn't make sense to me, why he would concoct something so elaborate to get such a simple result that wasn't even necessary to his well-being.  I just felt like it wasn't strong enough reasoning for why he'd do the things he's done. Yes, he is somewhat mentally unhinged, but it just seemed like the reasoning was a bit weak.
That was my big issue.  But that aside, this was a really awesome plot.  If nothing else, you should read this book for the amazingly creeptastic and original plot.

I like romances and paranormals and fantasies and all that, I really do.  But this book was like a breath of fresh air, the paranormal combined with the mystery and thriller aspects.  It was funny, scary, creepy, and stunningly original.  I will definitely be awaiting the next book in the Shades of London series.
Four stars.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Some Awesome Giveaways

Just thought I'd share with you guys some awesome giveaways going on right now!  All of them are worth entering.

2011 Debut Authors Giveaway

First Giveaway

300 Follower Giveaway

Eve Giveaway

Tempest Giveaway

November New Release Giveaway Hop @ Book Twirps

November New Release Giveaway Hop @ Refracted Light

Incarnate Giveaway

Gratitude Giveaway @ Stuck in Books

Gratitude Giveaway @ Xpresso Reads

Thanksgiving Giveaway

1,000 Follower Giveaway

Across the Universe and A Million Suns Giveaway

Go check them out!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Carrier of the Mark

Their love was meant to be.

When Megan Rosenberg moves to Ireland, everything in her life seems to fall into place. After growing up in America, she's surprised to find herself feeling at home in her new school. She connects with a group of friends, and she is instantly drawn to darkly handsome Adam DeRís.
But Megan is about to discover that her feelings for Adam are tied to a fate that was sealed long ago—and that the passion and power that brought them together could be their ultimate destruction.

So, most of you know why I was so eager to read this.  For one thing, this is the first book published from inkpop, a site for young writers, a site I incidentally happen to be on. And for another, Leigh is awesome.  So I've been awaiting the release date for months.  When I heard I'd won an ARC in a sweepstakes, I was extremely happy, although, ironically, the ARC did not arrive until a couple days after the publishing date.
Carrier of the Mark was a quick read, and while it was by no means perfect, it was enchanting and unique and a lovely debut.

First, something I must address: the setting. Ireland! It's Ireland! I love Ireland, and I loved reading about it.  Leigh really brought it to life, both with descriptions of the surroundings and just the little words and phrases the characters would use that you wouldn't hear in America.  I loved that. The setting was perfect.
Setting aside, for the most part, Leigh's writing was very solid.  It was a fairly simple writing style, and it worked. The focus of this book was the plot and the characters, not the writing.  Also, I loved some of the scenes where they were using their magic--she had a great way of describing them.
However, I did have one major nitpick.  Dialogue info-dumping.  There were many times throughout the book when characters would suddenly launch into very long-winded explanations that left me very confused and that I had to read over several times to understand, or they would just begin these long stories about themselves.  While I understand dialogue is a convenient way to get these stories across, it just doesn't work. People really do not talk like that, and it was a bit hard to follow.
But despite my nitpick, I liked Leigh's writing. It worked for the story.

Carrier of the Mark has a pretty wide cast of characters. I'm going to try not to focus on all of them individually, so we'll see how I do.
Megan, our MC, was a pretty good protagonist.   Possibly the thing I loved most about her was that she is that normal girl that so many paranormal romances try to make their MC out to be, despite all the powers and magic.  Unlike a lot of the "normal girls" in PR, Megan actually seemed genuinely normal with the way she acted and reacted, and even just the way she thought.  However, that can also be a bit of a negative, because sometimes her thoughts about Adam made me roll my eyes a little bit.  But lusty/in love teenage girls tend to get gushy.
Adam, our love interest . . . I liked Adam. I didn't love him, but I liked him. There were some times that I really liked him, some times that he was just okay with me.  Nothing about him really bothered me, except for his appearance--I don't get why he had to be gorgeous.  It's not like part of being a Marked One is being extremely physically attractive.  I just wish there weren't so many gorgeous boys in YA today, because it sets a girl's standards extremely high and just lets her down in the end.
But aside from his appearance, I did like our love interest.  He was cute and sweet and sometimes even awkward, which was a nice change.
Other characters:
Fionn--Liked him, though his dialogue often seemed unrealistic to me and he liked launching into narratives. Still, he was a good father figure.
Aine--Liked her; she was funny and friendly and just generally a likable character. I did pronounce her name as "Ain" throughout the book, though, because my mind just wouldn't process the spelling and the actual pronunciation.
Rian--Really liked him. Felt bad for him, because he kinda got the short end of the stick, with his element and all.
Caitlyn--Sometimes I really liked her, sometimes she irked me with her gushing and girl-talk. But it's like with Megan; that's realistic as far as teenage girls go, it's just not always fun to read.

That's all I'm going to cover because I don't want to go on and on.  Overall, I liked the cast of Carrier of the Mark.

On the one hand, Leigh has an incredible imagination.  This world, these legends and groups and magics she thought up are all so intricate and unique.  I seriously respect her for creating something like this; I know I definitely couldn't.
On the other hand, though, while the basis of the plot itself was very unique, the plot devices were not as unique.  A lot of things that happened rang familiar to me, just some typical plot devices that are a bit too overused.
My main problem with the plot, though, would be the speed of things.  At some parts things happen so quickly, and at others they take a long time to finally occur.  When we finally reach the big drama at the end, it lasts about 10 pages.
Although, despite its brevity, I did really like the drama that occurred at the end.  I've seen a lot of people compare this to Twilight, but the big difference here is Megan. Megan doesn't just sit around and get rescued.  Megan does something. Megan becomes badass when she has to.
Last thing to mention: the romance.  
A lot of people had trouble with the romance. How very fast it moved.  But to make my reading experience more enjoyable, I decided my own version of it.  I decided that for those first few days/weeks when they're all kissy-lovey, it's their elements attracting.  The real feelings slowly build over the months until, when they say that they love each other, they really mean it.  When you go with that explanation, it's not so bad, is it?

All in all, while it wasn't perfect, the plot was unique and never lost my interest.

The YA world needs more classic magic.  The setting of this story combined with the idea of it all makes for something really enchanting.  While it may not be for everyone, Carrier of the Mark is a lovely debut novel by a lovely author.  And if the reviews and summary don't convince you to buy it, look at the gorgeous cover.  You know you want to.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lola and the Boy Next Door

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

So, I've wanted this book since I read Anna and the French Kiss.  And based on Anna and the reviews I've read of it, it was pretty much what I expected it to be: a drama-filled, very very cute story about costumes and moons and boyfriends and the boy next door.

If I was asked to describe Perkins's writing style in one  word, the first that would pop to mind is: addicting.  Very, very addicting.  I read both Lola and Anna in one day(clarification--I didn't read both of them in the same day, I read each of them in one day).  There's just something about her writing and her story that makes you have to keep reading until the very end. And that's a great quality.
However, the second word that would come to mind is not so much an adjective as a noun: capitals.
They're really my major qualm with the writing in general.  The capitals.  There were a lot of them in Anna, and there are a lot of them in Lola, and I they just make it harder for me to take what's happening seriously when I feel like I'm being shouted at.  Most of the phrases in capitals would've sounded much, much better in either normal text or italics.  I'm hoping she switches to italics in Isla's story, because the capitals are really my only problem with Perkins's writing.  For the most part, I think she's got a fun, enchanting, addictive writing style that really brings her story to life.

Ah, the characters. Some stories are much more plot-focused, but this one was definitely about the characters.  I want to talk about all of them, but since I don't want to be here all day, I'm going to keep most of them short.

Calliope: Really liked her.   Felt bad for her, also.  And I was on her side when she told Lola to stop stringing Cricket along.

Max: Really disliked him.  Did not understand what Lola saw in, or loved about, this douchebag. He treated her like a kid and hated her friends and family.

Nathan & Andie: Sometimes I liked them, sometimes their protectiveness went a little overboard and frustrated me, particularly with Nathan.  But overprotective parents are better than parents who don't give a shit, I suppose.

Lindsay: I liked her.  She was fun and nice and reasonable, something Lola desperately needed in a best friend.

Anna and St. Clair: Um . . . Anna and St. Clair! I was so excited to read about them in here, but I was even more excited when they turned out to actually have a role in the story.  They weren't just fleetingly mentioned, they were actually major side characters. And I loved them.  It's funny, in Anna and the French Kiss, while there were sometimes I really liked Anna, there were sometimes I really disliked her, but in Lola, I loved her.  And of course, St. Clair. I adore St. Clair.

Cricket: Cricket. What do you say about Cricket?
He's sweet, adorable, awkward, cute, funny, loyal, amazing, etc.  I have come to the conclusion that Stephanie Perkins's greatest strength is creating male characters that I fall in love with.  I fell in love with St. Clair in Anna and the French Kiss, and I fell in love with Cricket in Lola and the Boy Next Door.  They are very different types of boys, but both lovable in their own way. Cricket was just this . . . this joy, this type of person that you would always want to be around who would never hurt you and always care about you.   He's the boyfriend of your dreams without being that "hot and unattainable" type that is often featured in YA today. I loved Cricket, pure and simple. Loved him.

Lola: I . . . had really conflicting feelings about our narrator here.
There were some times that I really liked her. She had some good lines, and there were some really sweet moments with her and Cricket.  But a lot of the time I was really upset with her and the decisions she was making. Mainly, stringing Cricket along like she did.  She very clearly led him on, but kept pulling back and saying she was with Max and that she loved Max which as I stated before makes no sense because Max is a douchebag.  And she got all hurt and offended when Calliope called her out on it when the fact is it's true.  There were also times when she got so paranoid or jealous and so easily blew things out of proportion, kinda like Anna in her book. I've come to the conclusion that the reason I loved Anna in this book is because now that she has no one to be jealous of she's a really awesome person.  I hope Lola becomes this awesome person.

Now, I must be honest. I'm a bit biased here.  See, I'm not a big fan of general fiction drama.  Drama in plots involving magic and other worlds and all that shit? Fine.  But even though I know it happens every day, "real life" drama in general fiction books often comes off, to me, as . . . somewhat petty, I guess.  So, yeah. I'm biased.
And if I'm being honest, I feel like this book could've been considerably shorter if some of the more pointless drama had been cut out.  There was some very necessary drama, but some of it just didn't need to be there.
But despite what it might sound like, I did like the plot. I also liked a lot of the subtle messages throughout the book, and I loved all the stuff with the moon and the stars.  Something that did bug me, though, was the the pre-existing Cricket/Lola drama.
See, from the way Lola was reacting to them, I thought he'd done something terrible. They'd gotten together and he'd cheated on her. He'd killed her dog.  He'd told her she was a horrible person and never wanted to talk to her again.  When I found out what it actually was, it was just . . . anti-climactic.  I was just thinking, That's what all the fuss was about?  I mean, I get why she'd be upset, just not why she'd be as upset as she was.
However. Overall, I did like the plot.  The overwhelming cuteness put a smile on my face, and that is something most books cannot do.

Like I said before, this book is pretty much what I expected. Melodramatic and cute and sweet and something that leaves you beaming and wishing for your own happy-endings and your own Crickets and St. Clairs when you're done.
Four stars.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

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?

I expected this to be a great book. It was not a great book.
It was a fantastic, amazing, incredible, stunning, awe-inspiring and-all-those-other-synonyms book.

I'm sorry for abandoning the format once again, but for books I really dislike or really love, I find it hard to talk about them in categories.

This book. It is everything I desire in modern fantasy/paranormal romance and more, everything that has been lacking in today's market.  It is dark and beautiful and haunting and unique and magical and captivating.  The characters leap from the pages and the writing spins a world like you've never seen before.

I had high hopes when I began this, because I thought the summary sounded incredible and all the reviews were absolutely glowing.  I was lusting after this book for months, just hoping that when I finally got it, it wouldn't let me down.  And it didn't.  It far, far exceeded my expectations.

I want to take a pause in the gush for a moment to mention something that might concern some people: the romance.  If you're starting to think that it's too quick, just be patient. There are reasons. And the fact is, though I am an avid hater of insta-love, this romance was so beautiful and the connection so real that it never once bothered me.

Also.  I know I originally had my doubts about the cover, but in real life it's actually very beautiful and striking, and even more importantly, very fitting. You won't see how it's fitting until later in the book, but it is. Same with the gorgeous title.  It is perfect, and you'll understand by the end.

Last matter of importance: I hate Laini Taylor. I hate her for leaving us like that and ripping my heart out with only a few pages to go. Laini Taylor, you had better write fast, because if I have to wait too long for the sequel I may have to storm Little, Brown. And I'm sure I wouldn't be the only one.

Overall: This book was just stunning.  I hope you'll forgive my overuse of adjectives, but it's just so hard to convey how much I loved this book. I think it's both my favorite romance and my favorite fantasy of this year, one of my favorites, period.  
Usually, when recommending a fantasy I liked/loved, I'll say, "If you like fantasy, you should definitely read this." But no. I'm not going to say that. Because even if you're not a big fantasy fan, you can still love this. Anyone can love this amazing work of art.  So read it, please, for your own sake.
Five stars, but I would give it more if I could.