Monday, April 30, 2012

Hate List

Publisher: Hachette (Little, Brown)
Pages: 432

Publication Date: September 1, 2009
Type: Paperback, bought

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.


With some books, I feel manipulated into crying.

It's not that they aren't beautiful or wonderful or genuinely heartbreaking.  I still sobbed, after all.  But the author wanted those sobs, right then, at that one moment.  That'll be a killer, they think.  They know which page will be soaked with tears.

And then there are these books.

Books that kill you because they aren't trying to.

Because everything is so raw, so painful, and so goddamn real that you can't tell if you're crying for the characters or yourself or maybe a little bit of both.

Where the slightest of moments are what break you.

Where there won't be one crying page, because there will be one scene that gets to me, and another that gets to you, and maybe another that someone else just gets in that way you rarely do.

I could say something like, "I cried, and I laughed, and sometimes I wanted to throw the book across the room."  And it'd be true.  But that's just the thing to say, to try and express just how a book touched you, and I don't think I can properly do that.  I don't think anything I can say will properly explain how I felt, or how you will feel.  What will mean what to each person who reads this.  What you will just get.

So I think you should just read it. 

Just read it and see.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Hunt

Publisher: Macmillan (St. Martin's Griffin)
Pages: 293

Publication Date: May 8, 2012
Type: E-galley, received from publisher via NetGalley

Don’t Sweat.  Don’t Laugh.  Don’t draw attention to yourself.  And most of all, whatever you do, do not fall in love with one of them.
Gene is different from everyone else around him.  He can’t run with lightning speed, sunlight doesn’t hurt him and he doesn’t have an unquenchable lust for blood.  Gene is a human, and he knows the rules.  Keep the truth a secret.  It’s the only way to stay alive in a world of night—a world where humans are considered a delicacy and hunted for their blood.
When he’s chosen for a once in a lifetime opportunity to hunt the last remaining humans, Gene’s carefully constructed life begins to crumble around him.  He’s thrust into the path of a girl who makes him feel things he never thought possible—and into a ruthless pack of hunters whose suspicions about his true nature are growing. Now that Gene has finally found something worth fighting for, his need to survive is stronger than ever—but is it worth the cost of his humanity?


I'm not going to rate this one, because I'm aware that my rating would be biased.

There were many things I both liked and disliked about it that were not, to my knowledge, biased in any way.

I liked that its concept was so crazily unique, despite certain basic similarities to The Hunger Games and numerous other dystopias.

I liked the constant action, the knowledge that there was always something happening, something relevant, something that demanded your attention.

I liked Gene's childish ignorance in regards to many things human--or, shall I say, heper.

I liked some of the genuinely beautiful moments sprinkled throughout this novel.

I disliked the telling.

I disliked the ridiculously unrealistic dialogue, whether it was attempting to be highly intelligent, villainish, or deep and beautiful.  I tried saying just a few lines out loud and had to stop because my sister was in stitches.

I disliked the many awkward phrasings or cringe-worthy similes.

I disliked the constant plot holes.

Unbiased.  Things I could base a rating off of.

But, in the end, there's something that would influence my overall rating that does not necessarily refer to the book's quality so much as my personal qualms: Gene and Ashley June's personalities.

I hated them.

Alright, so hated is a strong word.  Sometimes, they'd get something right. Sometimes, I'd give them a nod of recognition, a maybe you're starting to get there, just maybe.  But it wasn't enough to erase the fact that these two were cocky, hypocritical, selfish assholes.

And you might say but that's not biased, that is something to base a rating off of.  But the thing is, I can understand why they're cocky, hypocritical, selfish assholes.  From the way they were born, the way they were raised, the way they lived their whole lives--I could understand it.  I knew how they'd turned out as they did.

But despite that, it didn't stop me from loathing them.  And when you loathe the MC and the love interest, it really doesn't do the book any favors in your eyes.  I think I would've enjoyed this significantly more if I hadn't harbored such a deep distaste for two of the main characters I was intended to sympathize with.  

However, that's me.  That was me being unable to separate my personal dislike from the book's own merit. So I will not be giving this one a rating.  Would I recommend it?  If you're more adept at removing your personal bias and judging the book solely on its quality, if you can handle gore, if you like dystopians, if you love blood-sucking fiends that are not romantic in any way: yes.  If not, I'd recommend you steer clear.

Friday, April 27, 2012


Publisher: Macmillan (Feiwel and Friends)
Pages: 387
Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Type: Hardcover, bought

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl...

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. 


I'd like to start this review by saying that I'm fairly certain Marissa Meyer is not human.

When I first heard of how she wrote this book (and its sequels), I just sort of sat there. And stared.  I tried to understand how this was physically possible. How any human was capable of such a feat.  

For those of you who don't know: during the month of November, there is a thing called NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.  The goal is to write a 50k book in one month.  But Marissa Meyer did far, far more than that.  She wrote Cinder . . . and Scarlet . . . and part of Cress . . . in one month.

Now, guys, I've done NaNoWriMo.  I wrote a 56k novel in twenty-five days, and it was fucking exhausting.  I was terrified I wouldn't make it.  To have written a novel of Cinder's length (considerably more than 50k), and it's sequel, and part of a third, is . . . crazy.  Impossible.  Quite simply, humans are not capable of such a feat, so therefore Marissa Meyer must not be one of us.

The impossibility of its creation aside, Cinder was a really, really fantastic read.  It was wonderfully unique; I mean, a cyborg Cinderella in futuristic Beijing? Yes please.  I've always been a great fan of fairytale retellings, so seeing the basic concepts of the Cinderella story turned into an amazingly new idea full of cyborgs and and moon people and deadly diseases was really, really exciting.  Despite the high predictability--I'd guessed the main twist by about 40 pages in--I still seriously enjoyed seeing how the plot unraveled, and it never once lost my attention.

Plot aside, I really adored Cinder as a character.  She was lively, clever, and constantly curious, maintaining a wry sense of humor even in the most desperate of times.  It's very rare that an MC never once annoys me throughout an entire book, but while Cinder made some foolish decisions, I never stopped loving her or cheering her on.  And that, that is quite a thing to say.  

There were  a number of other characters that I fell for--Iko, who was unbelievably adorable and wonderful and silly; Prince Kai, who was trying so hard to do the right thing without losing himself, his feelings, or his country; Peony, who was unbelievably endearing and whose situation was unbelievably heartbreaking; even Dr. Erland, with his lies and secrets and good intentions.  However, there's one I was a bit disappointed in, and that was the Lunar queen, Queen Levana.  While she was decidedly eerie and disturbing in her own way, I just wanted a bit more complexity from her.  I wanted to know why she was so completely and utterly mad, why she was willing to waste thousands--if not millions--of lives to further her own purposes.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again: villains that I can understand will always be the most terrifying.

In the end, though, what really made this book was not the plot, not the characters, but the writing.  Oh, stars, this writing was gorgeous.  Absolutely, stunningly, ridiculously gorgeous, and whatever other positive adjectives you think of.  I loved it. I loved it, I loved it, I loved it.  It was so vividly reminiscent of an actual fairytale that I fell even harder for the Cinderella themes sprinkled throughout the book.  Sometimes, I would  have to reread a line or a paragraph several times because it was just that fantastic.

Overall, Cinder may not be flawless, but it was a really marvelous debut and I intend to get my hands on a copy of Scarlet as soon as humanly possible. Highly recommended.

4 stars.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Deadly Little Secret

Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 252
Publication Date: December 23, 2008
Type: Paperback, won

Until three months ago, everything about sixteen-year-old Camelia's life had been fairly ordinary: decent grades; an okay relationship with her parents; and a pretty cool part-time job at an art studio downtown. But when Ben, the mysterious new guy, starts junior year at her high school, Camelia's life becomes far from ordinary.

Rumored to be somehow responsible for his ex-girlfriend's accidental death, Ben is immediately ostracized by everyone on campus. Except for Camelia. She's reluctant to believe he's trouble, even when her friends try to convince her otherwise. Instead she's inexplicably drawn to Ben...and to his touch. But soon, Camelia is receiving eerie phone calls and strange packages with threatening notes. Ben insists she is in danger, and that he can help – but can he be trusted? She knows he's hiding something...but he's not the only one with a secret.


I'm going to be upfront here: I read this book because I expected it to be bad.

Typically, when deciding my latest read, I go for the ones that I think I'll genuinely enjoy.  The only exception is when I have just finished a really fantastic book, and I'm aware that any book I read after it won't be as enjoyable as it otherwise might have been; I don't want to do that to a book that I think I WILL be quite fond of, so I tend to steer towards books that I don't expect to be exceptional.  My friends' opinions of this one ranged from "meh" to "ich," and I already had a copy, so I thought, Why not? 

Well. I was looking for a middling to awful read, and I got one.

This book was far, far too short.  At 252 pages, it's exceptionally small for a paranormal read.  With a basis like this, you could do so much--delve deeper into the topic of psychometry, expand on the apparently troubling family issues, create real setting and mood and characters.

But this book does none of that.  The paranormal aspect is an afterthought, a little quirk to help the story along.  Random family drama is thrown in to explain why the fuck this girl isn't telling her parents about life-threatening danger, explained in a paragraph, and resolved in a few sentences.  I had scarcely any feel for the setting.  The stalking never instilled any real fear in me, even when read alone at night, and when the climax finally came, it was a few pages long, lacking any tension or thrill, and settled in such a ridiculously easy manner that I simply sat there and thought, that's all?

Worst of all, though, are the characters.

Where do I begin?  With Kimmie, the idiotic, boy-obsessed "designer" who narrowly loses to Haven for the title of Worst Best Friend in Extence?  With Wes, who seems to serve no purpose other than to make innuendos and be a scapegoat to explain away our MC's idiocy?  With essentially all the parents mentioned in this story, who were so ridiculously unrealistic that I simply sat there and giggled every time one of their scenes appeared?

Or perhaps Ben and Camelia, our love interest and our heroine.  I don't think, in all my days of YA PNR reading, I have ever found a couple less exciting or more devoid of any chemistry whatsoever.  Their relationship is based off of secrets, extreme mistrust, stalking, and ~sensuous touches~.  I find it hard to get behind a boy that the MC is somewhat terrified of for 90% of the book.  I find it hard to get behind a relationship between two people who know scarcely a thing about one another and are so very deep and attached because they talked about dead girlfriends and creepy stalkers and made out.  

Also, honestly, what was with the hand porn?  These guys would just sort of . . . stroke one another, and it was supposed to be very touching and romantic and wait I wasn't supposed to be laughing hysterically?


Finally, perhaps my biggest pet peeve of all: CAMELIA. IS. A. MORON. A moron!  You get stalkerish pictures in the mail, someone mysterious calls you, threatens you, leaves you presents, and breaks into your house and shreds their present to bits.  You are told from the psychometric dude that this stalker will KILL YOU.

So you call the police, right? Or you at LEAST tell your parents and let them sort it out.  Right?


Camelia tells her friends. And that is it.  No parents because, oh no, we wouldn't want to worry them! It's not like your life is in danger or anything!  And no police, because a mysterious boy who you know nothing about  and who may possibly be a killer says he doesn't trust them!

I just could not with that idiocy.  I still don't understand how one manages to live their life with zero care for self preservation.

(Oh, right.  The hot boys save them.  Of course! Because clearly heroines aren't capable of rescuing themselves and need big, strong men to rescue them every time.)

After all my ranting, you probably expect a 1, but it didn't quite reach that level.  The writing, aside from a few awkward descriptions, was quite decent, and Stolarz clearly has a decent sense of humor, though the large majority of these characters' quips are nothing you would ever catch leaving a teen's mouth.

So 2 stars for this one, and a hearty recommendation to stay far, far away from it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (17)

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

This week's WoW is . . .

Endlessly by Kiersten White

Try as she might, Evie can’t seem to escape her not-so-normal past. And what was supposed to be a blissfully normal school break is ruined when a massive group of paranormals shows up at her house, claiming that Evie is the only one who can protect them from a mysterious, perilous fate.

The deadly war between the faerie courts looms ever closer. The clock is ticking on the entire paranormal world. And its future rests solely in Evie’s hands.

So much for normal.

With a perfect blend of humor and suspense, Endlessly is everything readers could dream of in a conclusion—and the unexpected twists will keep them guessing until the very last page.


Alright, I'm going to be upfront here: the biggest reason why I want Endlessly? Not the gorgeous cover.  Not even the pitch.

It's because Kiersten White is really freaking awesome.

I really liked Paranormalcy, and I enjoyed Supernaturally.  But if Kiersten White were just any author, while I may feel a casual interest, I wouldn't want it this badly.

But Kiersten White is not just any author; she is Kiersten White, she is absolutely fabulous, and I would buy anything she writes.

So, if no ARC comes between now and then, you can trust I'll be at Barnes & Noble on July 24th.  I will probably bring my inner fangirl along.  (Oh, who am I kidding? I'll bring my inner fangirl and company. B&N will never know what hit them.)

How about you? What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Teaser Tuesday (19)

Teaser Tuesday, a meme hosted by Should Be Reading is really easy and fun to participate in. All you have to do is:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser
 What if I didn't want to move on just yet?  What if that medal reminded me that the guy I'd trusted most in this world shot people, shot me, shot himself?  Why couldn't she see that accepting the school's "thanks," in that light, was painful to me? Like gratitude would be the only possibly emotion I could feel now. Gratitude that I'd lived.  Gratitude that I'd been forgiven.  Gratitude that they'd recognized that I'd saved the lives of other Garvin students.

So far--and I am not quite halfway through the book--this one is every bit as stunning as I expected.  The writing is so clean and simple and painfully honest and I really, really love it.

How about you? What are you reading this Tuesday?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Jellicoe Road

Publisher: HarperCollins (HarperTeen)
Pages: 419

Publication Date: August 28, 2006
Type: Paperback, bought

"What do you want from me?" he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More. 

Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all. 

In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.


I can be a real idiot sometimes, did you know?

I heard about this one for months.  Maybe a year. Maybe more.  Even before I joined Goodreads, before anything.  I heard of this.  Saw it.  Saw people reviewing it, trying and occasionally failing to express their feelings for this.  This book.

And I expected to like it, but I kept my reservations.  Maybe I'd be the exception.  Maybe I'd be that one who it just didn't work for, who didn't understand.

I should've known it would end in this: 2 AM, tired eyes, and a mind that's never been more awake.  Wondering how books manage to do this to me and hoping they'll never stop.

I could talk about a lot of things.  I could talk about real characters and complex plotting and beautiful words.  There are so, so many things I could say.

But I'll never say enough for this book, so here's what I can tell you: I read it in a day.  I laughed.   I grew furious.  Grew happy again.  Curled on a small, painful couch and read for hours and hours and hours until my eyes wanted to blur but I wouldn't let them, because I had to finish, I had to.  And then they did blur, despite it all, and I cried.  Just for a moment.

And a few pages later, the book was done.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sweet Evil

Publisher: HarperCollins (HarperTeen)
Pages: 441

Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Type: ARC, received as gift

What if there were teens whose lives depended on being bad influences? This is life for sons and daughters of fallen angels in Sweet Evil.

Tenderhearted Southern girl, Anna Whitt, was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She’s aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but it isn’t until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage, and her will-power is put to the test. He’s the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna.

A cross-country trip to meet her father forces Anna to face the reality that hope and love are not options for her kind. When she confronts her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?


This book was a very quick, enjoyable read, but there were a few things that really soured my reading experience.

There were a number of things that I liked. I liked it's readability; I read the bulk of this in less than a day, constantly shunning my schoolwork in favor of reading another chapter.  I wanted to read on, and I love when a book keeps me invested enough for that to happen.

I really enjoyed the whole concept of this, with the Dukes, the Legionnaires, and the Nephs.  It was fascinating and unique and I loved every glimpse we got into this dark and crazy world.

I liked that family--whether it was the Nephs' parents or Patti--played a huge role in this.  I know I've said as much in several previous reviews, but I really do love when family is actually relevant to a book's plot and not simply shoved aside because they might interfere with the protagonist's doings.

I liked Kaidan despite myself.  I disliked the way he objectified Anna. I disliked his constant mood reversals. But the shallow part of me was attracted to him, and the not-quite-as-shallow part of me gave him a nod for effort.  There's something to be said about someone fighting their rules and their nature to do what's right, or defend what they care about.

Despite this, though, there was one thing that truly bothered me, and that ruined what otherwise would've been an enjoyable read: the messages this book sends.

Slut-shaming.  Scorning/looking with disdain upon/judging other girls because they have big boobs, they wear tight shirts and short skirts, they dare to flirt with the guys around them.  Clearly, they must be sluts and empty-minded, terrible people.  Anna has too much of a conscience to blatantly think something along those lines, but the narration constantly notes and belittles girls for their choice of clothing or behavior.  Furthermore, all the girls who flirt with Kaidan are made out to be lusty airheads.

I hate the message that this sends. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.  And it's most certainly not just this book; frighteningly enough, I've seen much, much worse.  But diminishing girls because they dared to wear the clothes they wanted and talk to boys? Not okay. Never okay.

And, along those lines, the idea that virginity somehow makes you a pure and beautiful soul.  Anna's virginity is considered disgusting to all the evil, lusty demons; it's suggested that she be deflowered as soon as possible, because this will lead her further down the path to sin.

Um, excuse me?

I'm sorry, but someone's sexual activities does not say anything whatsoever about a person's character.  You can be a fantastic person regardless of how many people you have or have not fucked, and the same thing applies to you being an asshole.  Being a virgin does not make you a beautiful unicorn.

Aside from the disturbing messages, there was also a fair amount of telling, both in dialogue and in narration.  Fortunately, it never became too overwhelming, and didn't seriously hinder the reading experience.  I just cringed a bit whenever I saw a few solid paragraphs of dialogue.

In the end, would I recommend this?  I suppose.  It was an entertaining read, and will certainly appeal to fans of angel and demon lore.  My personal issues with the messages this book contains hindered me from truly enjoying this, but I'll stick around for the sequel to see where it takes us.

3 stars.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Breaking Beautiful

Publisher: Bloomsbury Kids
Pages: 365
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Type: E-galley from publisher, via NetGalley

Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a horrible car accident—including her memory of the event. As their small town mourns his death, Allie is afraid to remember because doing so means delving into what she’s kept hidden for so long: the horrible reality of their abusive relationship.

When the police reopen the investigation, it casts suspicion on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around town. Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free? Debut writer Jennifer Shaw Wolf takes readers on an emotional ride through the murky waters of love, shame, and, ultimately, forgiveness.


There are a lot of books about loss out there.  A novel about a broken protagonist and their struggles to cope with the death of someone close to them, be it a sister, a parent, or a boyfriend/girlfriend.

However, there are not many--or, I should say, I have not seen many--about the loss of someone they should care for, someone whom they're expected to care for, but who's hurt them so much that their death is almost a relief.   

That, I think, was this novel's strongest point.  Allie's grief and confusion, the emptiness of losing the person who'd been her whole life mixed with relief that it was finally over and guilt over that relief--all of her emotions were done perfectly.  And they were done in such a way that I truly . . . understood her.  

Allie makes a lot of stupid decisions.  Stupid decisions that hurt herself, and those she cares about.  Mainly herself.  And sometimes you might just want to shake her, tell her This is your life, girl.  Sometimes you might wonder how she could possibly be so completely miserable for such a long time.  Sometimes you might wonder why she didn't do something.

But I understood her.  I understood her, and every awful thing she'd suffered through.  I understood the misery she'd endured for three solid years, and the terror of that one night her mind refused to recall.  I understood her fear, the everpresent sadness, her hesitation.  I understood Allie.  And that, in the end, is what mattered.  I didn't need her to be witty, or clever, or strong.  I didn't need her to be that girl who endures.  I just needed to know why.  And, thanks to all the emotions woven beautifully throughout this story, I did.

Aside from Allie and her inner feelings, there was one thing that I really adored about this novel: the relationships.  Particularly, the familial ones, and the romantic ones.

In so many YA novels today, one finds a disturbing case of Disappearing Parent Syndrome.  They're an orphan, the 'rents are on vacation, they're in rehab, they don't care.  Whatever the case, the MC is allowed to roam free, no rules, no restrictions, no consequences.  Often no siblings to muck up our protagonist's plans.

But in Breaking Beautiful, family plays a crucial role.  Wolf never lets us forget that Allie's mom, her dad, her twin brother Andrew, they exist, and they still have a constant influence on her life.  Sometimes it's positive, other times it's not.  Sometimes there are moments where you can see just how much they care, and sometimes you want to shake them 'till their teeth rattle.  But isn't that family?

And then, Allie and Blake's relationship.  Quite simply, I loved it.  Despite how completely and horribly fucked up their entire situation happened to be, these two had one of the loveliest, healthiest relationships I've read in a while.  They've known each other since they were four and five.  They don't stalk, don't linger on each other's every facial feature.  Don't make dramatic declarations of love and "I'll fight for you forever"s.  They know each other; they talk to each other; they're there for each other.  And slowly, they fall.  When the "I love you" comes, it's simple and not as he'd intended, as these things often are.  

Relationships like that remind me that there are still people who understand teenage relationships, or relationships in general.  They're just hiding.

Despite the brilliance of Allie's emotions and her interactions with others, there was one thing that constantly irritated me: flat characters. Now, don't get me wrong; there were many beautifully fleshed out characters, ones that I absolutely adored.   Allie's mom and dad, Andrew, Caitlyn, even Detective Weeks.  Even Trip, in his own awful, messed up way.  But a few characters were living stereotypes, or just flatly bad.  Hannah and her cronies, Mr. Phillips.  I simply wish they'd been given a bit more depth.

All in all, I thought this was a really fantastic book.  While it is, in many ways, a very draining read, it also keeps the reader on the edge of their seat--I told myself I'd only read half of it today, and here I am at the end.  I can't quite give this a 5, but I'd say it's somewhere between a 4.25 and 4.5.  (I'm getting rather precise, aren't I?)

**An additional note, for explanatory purposes.  I know this is one of several recent reads that I rated over 4 stars and gave the 4-star rating to despite that.  However, the best I can explain it is that these didn't feel like five stars.  I thoroughly enjoyed them, I thought they were wonderful, but . . . not quite that level of oh-my-fucking-god.  I don't rate my books according to a precise system; I rate them according to what I feel.  If a book earns four stars despite a higher rating, that means I really enjoyed it, but not quite enough to give it that perfect rating.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Publisher: HarperCollins (HarperTeen)
Pages: 404
Publication Date: January 17, 2012
Type: Hardback, bought

For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought.

Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.


Middle books are infamous for being the worst part of a trilogy; they're almost always a good deal slower, with a far less prominent and individual plot.  Oftentimes, they're mostly a link between the first book and the third.

That said, this is one of the best middle books I've ever read.

Things are slower.  Don't go into this expecting a crazy, never-ending ride full of nonstop action and drama.  There is action, there is drama, but there's far more focus on understanding relationships between the characters,  uncovering the secrets that were barely touched upon in Unearthly, and, to a certain extent, Clara discovering who she is along with it all.

I am going to say this upfront: I typically loathe love triangles.  To me, they often feel so painfully forced, an obvious plot device to add "drama" and "tension," etc. etc.  It's as if most authors think it's now expected of them, that there book wouldn't be whole without one.  There are many reasons that these bother me a good deal:

  • I have literally never seen multiple guys chasing after one girl
  • Oftentimes, the girl in question is unremarkable in every way, so the idea that several boys are interested in her is laughable, to put it mildly
  • It is used as an opportunity for angst throughout the entire book/series
  • It is often painfully obvious who the girl will choose, to the point that it's almost insulting the reader's intelligence to pretend they don't realize
  • Typically, love triangle leads to shenanigans that result in me despising the main character
So, as you can see, I'm not a fan. But the thing is?

This love triangle is possibly the best I've ever seen.

I could detail all the reasons it defies the numerous problems I've listed above, but all I'm going to say is this:  I can understand perfectly how Clara could love them both, because I love them both.  I can understand perfectly how difficult it is for her to choose, because I couldn't choose.  I adore both of the boys, in all their loveliness and idiocy, all their macho acts and genuine sensitivity.  I truly love them both, and she truly loves them too.

Aside from beautifully tackling the dreaded love triangle, Hand also deals expertly with themes of family, rocky friendship, rebellion, and grief.  I think my favorite part of the novel was simply the emotions.  I can't really express their brilliance any better than this: Cynthia Hand gets it.  She gets people.  Sometimes, when I read about joy, indecision, wonder, crippling grief, I feel like they are pretty words on paper, a description of how these things are supposed to feel.  When I read through Clara, I thought, This is it.  This girl, in this situation, that is exactly how she would think, how she would feel, what she would say.  And that, above all else, is what really made this book for me.

It wasn't flawless.  There was a reveal that seemed almost like a repeat of the last book, a bit contrived.  There were some genuinely fascinating backstories that I think more time should've been devoted to, though I suspect at least some will be embellished in the final installment.  Occasionally, the descriptions would earn a raised brow.

But in the end, this is a book that made me laugh, and almost made me cry, and I really, really loved it.  4.5 again.  If Mrs. Hand keeps this up, I suspect the conclusion will earn a glowing 5.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

100 Followers Giveaway

So, yeah. 100 followers. Wow.

I know that there are many, many people with hundreds or thousands of followers.  I know that, in the grand scheme of things, 100 isn't so huge of an accomplishment.  But to me, it feels huge.  I can't even explain how awesome it feels to know that many people are genuinely interested in reading my crazy rambles.  Your comments make my day, and so I wanted to thank you all.

Hence, the giveaway.

The first giveaway will have two prizes:

1) A paperback of Jellicoe Road + one book of your choice from the following:

The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Slide by Jill Hathaway
Timeless by Alexandra Monir

Guys, the review isn't up yet, but I stayed up till 2 AM this morning to read Jellicoe Road.  I'd recommend that book to anyone and everyone.  If I had only one copy, you'd never get me to part from it, but since I happen to have two, I am offering this up to you lovely followers, plus your choice of the books above.

2) A 50-page critique of your YA manuscript.

I'm not a professional by any means.  Not an author, not an editor, not an agent.  Really, I'm just a girl who likes to write.  But I do think, after over a year of practice, I'm fair enough at critiquing;  I've been known to leave critiques several thousand words long on one chapter.  So, while I am not a professional, I may have something of use to say.

The book giveaway is US only, but the critique, obviously, is not limited. Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

However, that's not it.  If my blogger friends at  Teenage Fiction reach  100 followers, we will be co-hosting a giveaway! Two books of your choice $15 or under from The Book Depository.  So go follow!

Again, thank you all.  I appreciate it, more than I can say.