Monday, December 17, 2012

Rockoholic by C.J. Skuse

Goodreads Description: "She's got it bad, and he ain't good -- he's in her garage?

"I'm your biggest fan, I'll follow you until you love me..." 

Gonna have to face it: Jody's addicted to Jackson Gatlin, frontman of The Regulators, and after her best bud Mac scores tickets, she's front and center at his sold-out concert. But when she gets mashed in the moshpit and bodysurfs backstage, she's got more than a mild concussion to deal with. By the next morning, the strung-out rock star is coming down in her garage. Jody -- oops -- kind of kidnapped him. By accident. With a Curly Wurly candy bar. And now he doesn't want to leave. 

It's a rock-star abduction worthy of an MTV reality series...but who got punk'd?!"


My Review: My first confession? My review may be a bit biased, because I know EXACTLY how Jody feels about The Regulators. My favorite band is All Time Low, and I've been a hardcore dedicated fan for years now. So I know what it's like to put all your faith and soul into one band. However, the difference is that All Time Low is a lot more laid back and they don't do all the deviant stuff that The Regulators were known for, so I can't really connect to that. But the obsession with the band? I GET that. Okay, moving on... My second confession? I loved this book! It was sweet and heartbreaking but also pretty funny, at times! 
         I just really loved how this book was a good mix of everything. It was definitely funny, with the crazy hi-jinks Jody pulled and the idiotic situations she got herself---and her best friend, Mac---into. And it was entertaining and sort of deep, seeing the nonsense Jody went through in trying to help Jackson recover from his demons and become a better person. And it was sweet and almost a little sad, with Jody and her relationship with Mac and her bad relationship with her mother and missing her grandfather a lot. I just really loved the emotions in the books. It wasn't too much of one thing or too much of another. And it didn't get too deep, dark, or preach-y, which is something that bothers me about books. 
          The book had some of the plot of that ABC Family movie Taking Five where the girls kidnapped their favorite band and held them captive in their basement, and it sang along the same tune as one one of my favorite books, Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway (review here), which is about another teenage girl caught up in the crazy world of bands and band members---but it also had its own, quirky feeling (helped along by the fact that  it takes place in England). 
        I just loved all the characters. Jody's grandfather sounded like a total boss and I wish the readers could have gotten a chance to meet him. Jody herself was very relate-able---just a girl who wanted to fit in, stand out, be loved, and not feel so alone...and who doesn't relate to those feelings? Jackson himself was a total jerk and a loser for the first half of the story but I began to feel sorry for him and eventually wish the best for him. And Mac! God, I LOVED Mac! What an awesome and hilarious best friend! Everyone needs a sarcastic-yet-loyal friend like Mac. And I loved that he had a 2-year-old sister, Cree. Having a 2-year-old sister myself, I could relate. 
      The ending was bittersweet and very raw...but satisfying, in a sad sort of way. And Jody and Mac's ending? PERFECT. And that's all I can say! 

Cover: Funny and it fits the dark-yet-funny theme of the book pretty well. I like it! The snapshots of the other poses the models did on the back of the book were great as well! 

Overall Grade: A-

Posh and Prejudice by Grace Dent

Goodreads Description: "The divine Shiraz Bailey Wood is back in this hilarious sequel to Diva Without a Cause (a.k.a Diary of a Chav) to enlighten us with her signature brand of madcap humor on her demented, glorious life in the gritty suburbs of London.

When sixteen-year-old Shiraz Bailey Wood's year-end test results come in, she's astonished to discover not only that she passed them all, but that she's actually clever! Emboldened by an invite to higher-level classes, Shiraz enrolls in Superchav Academy's "Center of Excellence" to get even brainier.

Hanging with goody-two- shoes types in higher-level classes seems like just the ticket to avoid getting stuck forever in her crap hometown. But Shiraz has to figure out for herself: are these posh types really any better than she, or do they just want to stick their noses up at everyone?"

My Review: Shizza's back! And she's funnier than ever. I really loved Diary of a Chav. It definitely wasn't the best-written book ever and it didn't have some deep, heartbreaking plot---but hearing Shiraz's raw, "keepin'-it-real" voice was hilarious and a reminder that even people that the world likes to look down on---"chavs, trailer trash, ghetto people"---have feelings and thoughts and opinions and dreams. It was almost a wake-up call. And Posh and Prejudice was much the same thing---it was a wake-up call that not everyone's parents think college and a higher education are the best thing in the world (shocking to someone like me), and that some people have to fight to do something as simple as getting a higher education. 
      As for the book itself, its strengths really lay with the characters, as always with Grace Dent's hilarious British books. The plot was, of course, interesting! I loved seeing Shiraz go to the sixth form and try her hardest to fit in but also keep it real. Her struggles to make sense of Wesley and attention from a handsome new preppy rich guy were also cute to read about. Shiraz is so tough but so innocent, in some ways, with a heart of gold---that's what makes her so lovable. 
     Carrie disappointed me a bit in this book. Not much attention was given to her or her friendship with Shiraz, until the very end of the book. However, I did like seeing the character progression with Uma (and it was something I NEVER saw coming!). I have to admit: as someone raised by parents who highly emphasized the importance of a higher, quality education, I was a bit disappointed with Shiraz's decision at the end of the book. However, then I found out that there were MORE books after this, so perhaps things will turn around in future books! 
      For now, the story was heartwarming and also so funny that I literally had to control my laughter at time. Some of Shiraz's observations about the world around her are too funny to believe. And her family? WOW, the Bailey-Woods are hilarious, especially her insane mother. Anyway, this was a great follow-up to Diary of a Chav and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series! 

Cover: SO CUTE! It actually fits the theme of the series: bright, poppy, fun colors and a cute ghetto-fabulous girl who's wearing things that most people would call "tacky" or "chav-y" but who also looks really hopeful and cheerful. And that pretty much describes Shiz to a T! 

Grade: A-

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

Goodreads Description: "She could save the world—or destroy it. Sixteen year old Evangeline “Evie” Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future—and they’re still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux. But she can’t do either alone. With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can’t totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him? Who can Evie trust? As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side…."

My Review: Poison Princess was pretty good! Not the BEST paranormal romance I've ever read, but the depth Kresley Cole added to her non-romance plot really made this book a winner. The book does have a dystopian, post-apocalyptic essence to it, because the apocalypse has happened and Evie is basically trying to survive while trying to figure out what her powers mean and who she truly is---but I'm going to be honest, the apocalyptic world wasn't exactly marvelously built. It didn't really matter though, because the world isn't the focus. This isn't Divergent. The focus is on the relationships and characters and on the Tarot plot.
      To explain: basically, Evie---and a bunch of other kids---are reincarnations of the major trump cards in a Tarot deck, the most important and powerful cards. She can hear the "catchphrases" of each Card (or Arcana, as they're called) in her head---and the voice won't be silenced until she meets the Card in real life. Her grandmother knows information about all this madness, but Evie hasn't seen her grandmother in 8 years and doesn't even know if she survived the apocalypse---but she's going to journey up to North Carolina with Jackson to try anyway, and figure out her fate. 
      They basically have to avoid militia men (who are pretty much evil), slavers, and Bagmen, who are basically zombies. Along the way, they acquire three more "Cards". I really like Finn (he's funny), can't quite figure out Matthew, and sort of hate Selena for the moment.
      Anyway...first of all, Evie and Jackson's relationship was crazy. I call this a paranormal romance because Evie's sort of...well, paranormal. She and Jackson had major tension and banter and it was really cute but sometimes sort of dark. They were nice to each other sometimes, but they were also really mean to each other---and their relationship was still attractive (to them, anyway). Jackson's definitely one of the meanest "bad boys" I've ever read in a YA novel. To be honest, it sometimes put me off, but I tried to gloss over that and move on...
     Because for me, the COOLEST part of this book was the actual Tarot plot! It fit in so well with the Louisiana (and Southern) landscape that Kresley Cole painted, and it was fascinating! No cliche vampires, werewolves, fallen angels, or demon princes here! Evie's powers were fascinating and eerie and almost gothic in a disturbing sort of way. She was the reincarnation of the Empress card, destined to fight out a battle that with other Cards that's already happened repeated times in history. Let's just say the whole thing was really cool and Gothic-y and just...unique. Never read anything like it. 
    The one seriously bad thing about this book? WAY confusing. It took me almost the whole book to finally figure out what was going on, and that was a bummer because it sort of ruined the book for me, in a way. Also, at times, Jackson got a little TOO creepy/misogynistic and that irritated me.
    And the ending...got really fast-paced and sort of violent and action-y. The beginning 10 chapters were pretty slow and boring and confusing but wow, the ending made up for that! So yeah, definitely looking forward to the sequel!

Cover: However, I'm not looking forward to the sequel's cover. Sorry, but this is just one of those cliche covers with a girl in a flowing dress and some attractive, brooding dude that doesn't even MAKE SENSE with the plot of the book and is just used to draw preteen girls in. Sorry, but I have no respect for covers like that. Get some originality, please. 

Overall Grade: B+

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Goodreads Description: "The long-awaited companion to New York Times bestsellers Graceling and Fire

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck's reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle--disguised and alone--to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn't yet identified, holds a key to her heart."

My Review: Bitterblue. Was. Amazing. At first, I wasn't liking it so much, because it wasn't as action-filled as Graceling or as poetic as Fire, but by the end of the book I loved it. The plot was very different from the first two books---but it also connected in little ways. Katsa, Po, and a lot of the cast from Graceling made lots of appearances in the book, and even Fire showed up at one point, which excited me. 
        The plot of the book was really what drove it. The characters were good characters too, but the plot was amazing. Basically, Bitterblue is now 18 (or 19, I forgot) and she's trying to be a good queen to Monsea after Leck's reign---but it's very difficult, because Monsea, and her castle and advisors, seem to be full of odd mysteries and strange shadowy agendas. The whole book was like a twisted, eerie murder mystery---Bitterblue trying to figure out EXACTLY what went on during Leck's reign and why things were so hidden now and why such strange, weird things were happening in the city and her castle. It was all really odd and eerie and quirky. You could never figure out what was going to happen next---and when you DID find out, in the end, what Leck's reign was all about and what truly happened during the 35 years he ruled...well, my jaw dropped. And I had nightmares. This is the second book in my life to ever give me nightmares, so trust me: it's disturbing. My stomach felt queasy at some times, hearing about Leck's strange thoughts and crimes. (For example: "Little girls are even more perfect when they bleed." I wanted to puke when I read THAT.)
        Aside from the mystery---which was amazing, because it finally tied together all these strange loose ends left over from Graceling and Fire (such as the question we all had at the end of Fire: Would the Dellians ever meet with the seven Gracelingian kingdoms?)---the characters were great. Bitterblue was clever and quick and curious, but also emotional and somewhat haughty and sometimes selfish...which was realistic. She was raised a queen. Saf was amazing. He was harsh and not at all Prince Charming and funny and strange. His relationship with Bitterblue was funny and sweet but kind of depressing and raw. I'm glad Cashore ended their relationship the way she did; it was realistic (and a slap in the face for ever silly book that ALWAYS ends with a fairy tale romance). Sad, but realistic. 
       Suffice to say, Bitterblue stunned me. The world Cashore has built in her Graceling Realm books is so complex and realistic and beautiful. She ties together little things to form a greater, more complex story and that's cool. It reminds me of how J.K. Rowling wove Harry Potter together. I'm not sure if Cashore will write any more books in the series. If she doesn't, that's okay, because these 3 are amazing on their own. But if she writes more, I'll be really happy!

Cover: GORGEOUS. I loved it the minute I saw it. All the colors of blue and purple are amazing, and I love the image of the keys. It's the prettiest Graceling Realm cover! 

Overall Grade: A+

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Amazon Description: "In The Son of Neptune, Percy, Hazel, and Frank met in Camp Jupiter, the Roman equivalent of Camp Halfblood, and traveled to the land beyond the gods to complete a dangerous quest. The third book in the Heroes of Olympus series will unite them with Jason, Piper, and Leo. But they number only six--who will complete the Prophecy of Seven?

The Greek and Roman demigods will have to cooperate in order to defeat the giants released by the Earth Mother, Gaea. Then they will have to sail together to the ancient land to find the Doors of Death. What exactly are the Doors of Death? Much of the prophecy remains a mystery. . . .
 
With old friends and new friends joining forces, a marvelous ship, fearsome foes, and an exotic setting, The Mark of Athena promises to be another unforgettable adventure by master storyteller Rick Riordan."

My Review: I'll admit: I was pretty disappointed with the first two books in the Heroes Of Olympus series. I'm a huge fan of the Percy Jackson series, and the Heroes of Olympus books 1 and 2 just seemed way too complicated, confusing, and contrived. It was like Rick Riordan was trying to be J.K. Rowling or something. I didn't get to know the characters well enough and the stories were so crazy that half the time, I was confused on all the mythology and magic and madness happening---and I'm REALLY well-versed in Greek mythology, so that's saying something. However...Rick Riordan definitely made a junior comeback with the 3rd book in his series! 
         Okay, I admit: part of the reason I liked it so much more was because Percy and Annabeth were reunited. It was like the old team together again (minus Grover, who I miss!). But even with Percy and Annabeth together again, the story was much better! The first two books were confusing in simply that Riordan was trying to introduce 5 characters' pasts and story lines (I'm not counting Percy, since we already know him) AND trying to form a new dastardly plot...and that got confusing. But in this book, we were already decently comfortable with all of the characters and their pasts, so we got to move ON---and move on we did! 
         The setting really contributed to this book. Them sailing to Rome felt like old times (remember sailing across the Sea of Monster? Yeah, so do I). The setting was so cool! FINALLY they got to go to Rome! I'd been waiting for this moment for a long time. Hopefully they'll get to go to Greece in a future book as well. The setting just made it so much more exotic and unique. 
        The return of some favorite Greek mythology characters also helped the book a lot. Some of the mythology in the previous Heroes Of Olympus books was kind of confusing and crazy because some of the myths weren't too well known---like the South Wind, North Wind, etc---but this time, we got to meet Arachne and Hercules. And that was pretty awesome, let me tell you that. 
        The plot was interesting and well-paced; it flowed well, with good action scenes and some good calm scenes. What made it really good was that the two teams were finally merged; their camaraderie and bantering was really fun, and it felt like we were back at Camp Half-Blood, with all of the familiar faces. Something about having a large group of characters makes it really fun; the previous books felt a little...lonely.
        All in all, a really good job on the third book! This makes me really excited for the next books in the series! ESPECIALLY after a cliff-hanger that left my eyes popping out of my head and me waggling my hands in a series of silent fangirl screaming. Trust me, the cliffhanger? Brilliant but PAINFUL. The waiting for the next book is going to be intense!

Cover: It's okay. I'm not a fan of the scene the artist chose. This scene wasn't THAT important; I'd have rather scene a nice illustration of their ship, or of some scene in Rome. But it's okay, not bad. 

Overall Grade: A-

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Audrey's Guide To Witchcraft by Jody Gehrman

Goodreads Description: "Falling in Love, baking a magical cake, fighting an evil necromancer—it’s all in a day’s work for Audrey Oliver, seventeen-year-old witch-in-training. 

When her mother goes missing and her twenty-one-year-old witchy cousin shows up out of the blue, Audrey knows something’s gone horribly, dangerously wrong. Now it’s up to her to get her own magical powers up to speed before everyone she loves is destroyed by the sorcerer intricately connected to her mother’s secret past." 

My Review: [I received a copy of this book from the author, Jody Gehrman.] This was a pretty good book! Looking at the cover and reading the back...I wasn't really sure what to expect. Was it supposed to be a funny book? A serious book? The cover looked very paranormal romance-y. I had no idea, so I just dove right in---and I liked it a lot. I wouldn't say this is the best book I've ever read---and it's certainly not the best book by Jody Gehrman I've ever read (that would be her Triple Shot Betty books!)---but it was a pretty amusing book to read, nonetheless! My favorite aspect of it was probably the main character, Audrey. She was so...REALISTIC. She was very sarcastic and a good mix of insecure-teenager with loudmouthed-brat. In fact...the reason I probably liked her so much was that I could RELATE to her so much. Not that I love baking as much as she does---but I could definitely connect to her issues with sibling rivalry, wanting to blend in the crowd AND wanting to stick out and do her own thing, and also wanting to help her quieter, shyer friend stand up for herself. 
         So, all in all, Audrey was a great character. She seemed a little whiny at times, but I could sort of see how that was understandable, given the chaos in her life! And I thought the way Jody Gehrman portrayed her missing her mom was pretty realistic. Sometimes, in books, when the parents are absent...it's like the main character forgets about them. Audrey never forgot her mom. 
        The other characters were pretty winning. I liked Audrey's little sister---she was very sassy and in-your-face and fun, and the way she and Audrey bantered were great. And I LOVED Audrey's cousin! She was just the coolest, most unique person! She wasn't too "mystical-magical-wise-Dumbledore-figure", and she also wasn't too normal. She was definitely one of my favorite characters. 
         As for the magic and the plot itself...it was a tad weak. I did like how the magic seemed very elemental and chemical and very traditional---in that witches actually made potions and spells in cauldrons---because that's a fresh take on magic, these days, honestly. However, the book moved VERY slowly, and in the end, not much actually happened. I did keep reading, because the characters were awesome, but I wish the book had gone a bit faster or there had been a bit more action. I wanted to see more magic. And for all of Audrey's creepy premonitions about the evil guy...her meeting with him with a little anti-climactic. He didn't seem as evil as he should have. So hopefully there will be more action and adventure in the next book!

Cover: The cover's a bit weird and eerie. I do like it---such as that red dress, that's just divine!---but I think they could have picked a better cover for this book. This cover seems very gothic and paranormal romance-ish, and that's not what this book is about. So it's nice, but not very fitting, in my opinion. 

Overall Grade: B+

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The List by Siobhan Vivian

Goodreads Description: "An intense look at the rules of high school attraction -- and the price that's paid for them.

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn't matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, "pretty" and "ugly." And it's also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two."

My Review: The List fell short for me. It was a highly anticipated book when it came out, and I can see why: the synopsis and cover make it look REALLY intriguing. So when I picked it up, I thought I'd be in for a brutal-yet-amazing read, possibly like Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers (my review of that here). Unfortunately, The List came nowhere near that! 
          I think what the problem is is that Siobhan Vivian tried to do TOO MUCH in one book. I mean, her portrayals of beauty and how teenage girls see it and live it WERE accurate, I'm not going to deny that. She was correct in showing how some people care so much, how some don't, and how some are affected in totally different ways. Unfortunately...that's where it ended. 
          There were 8 POVs in this book and I think that was way too many. Normally, multiple POVs don't bother me---but Vivian stuffed so many characters in this book that she wasn't able to properly dedicate enough time to each character and they all fell sort of flat. Also, I kept getting confused as to what grade each girl was and what each girl's situation was. 
          Vivian tried to do too much, and her book suffered for it. She didn't really go DEEP into the issues of beauty and self-worth that today's teens struggle with. She just skimmed the surface with each girl, and we never really got to get inside the girls' heads and emotions and really FEEL what they were going through. 
          Also, the ending was just very blah. I get that the ending is realistic---I mean, not everyone's story ends with a happily-ever-after or with everyone learning some sort of moral---but this ending was so abrupt and random that it felt like the rest of the book had been ripped out. 
         There's not much else to say. It was a relatively short book, made all the shorter by the fact that I was never really invested in any of the story lines. Even the story line of who created The List was dulled down and not really played up. So...this is a book I'd suggest passing on, if reading about beauty, self-image, and social issues like that is what you're looking for. 

Cover: I do however like the cover. I can practically feel the poor girl's shock and dismay as she stares at the list, so at least THAT'S realistic. 

Overall Grade: C-

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Goodreads Description: "Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word... especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other." 

My Review: Didn't like this book much at all. In fact, it was a struggle to finish it! The plot SEEMED really interesting when I heard about this book...but the book itself was a bore. It reminded me of books like Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle and The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray---except those books are WAY better, and if you want to read about teenage witches in Victorian, Elizabethan and Regency times, then you'd be better of reading those books than Born Wicked. Why didn't I like this book? 
        The plot didn't go anywhere! That's the main reason. The book seemed like so much fun at first...but Cate turned out to be a dud who didn't even want to USE her magic. Where, I ask, is the fun in that? She repressed it and just basically moaned about the magic and her dead mother and her responsibilities and her wild sisters for basically the whole book. I understand that she had a lot to deal with---but wow, the girl complained a lot. And she was so boring! She just wanted to be like all the other "normal" girls in town, while SIMULTANEOUSLY insulting them and considering the "normal" girls to be shallow and idiotic. Um, excuse me, but what? Because of Cate's boring, prudish character, there was no plot! She didn't allow for anything to HAPPEN. 
          And when things did happen? It just felt forced and rushed to me, like the author thought, Ooh, I should probably throw some danger into the book now! I never really got chills up my spine (or felt much of anything, honestly) when the Cate and her sisters were "in danger", the way I did when Gemma Doyle (of The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray) was in danger! (Also, Gemma just has a lot more personality than Cate. Sorry if I'm comparing the two, but their premises were so much the same that I just can't NOT compare!)
          Cate was just a really judgmental and unlikeable character! Her love for her sisters might have been her one redeeming quality, because she did seem like she loved them a lot and would do anything to protect them---but Cate's idea of "love" seemed to be repressing her sisters' magic, not letting them do ANYTHING they wanted, not considering their opinions or feelings at all, and never letting them make any of their own decisions. As the eldest child in my own family, I get what it's like to want to protect your younger sisters---but Cate was basically a dictator to them, and that was annoying and tragic.
          And then there's the romance. Wow, it was boring. I couldn't find myself caring for EITHER of Cate's beaus (and I really couldn't understand why they liked her either...). Her emotions also seemed really flat, considering she was a girl supposedly "in love" with one of these boys, and "in like" with the other one. Hmmm... Anyway, the romances themselves were dull. Not exciting or cute, the way romances should be. And yet, despite the romance aspect being kind of lame (in my eyes)...it seemed to take up the ENTIRE book! The whole "magic and witchery" aspect of the book took a total backseat to the romance, and had that not been done, perhaps the book would have been more fun to read.
          Basically, this book fell flat---REALLY flat. It had a lackluster performance and felt dull and forced. I didn't like it at all, and I don't think I'll be reading the next books (which is sad, because I hate when I dislike a book!). Again: if you want to read some better books with the same sort of premise, I suggest The Gemma Doyle Trilogy or Bewitching Season

Cover: The cover's the only good thing about this book! I won't deny it, I think it's gorgeous. Her dress and the flowers in her hair and her eye makeup---and the background---all beautiful! Although it doesn't really connect to the story... Girls back then would NEVER be allowed to wear dresses like that in public. I'm just saying.

Overall Grade: F

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

Goodreads Description: "Alex and Conner Bailey’s world is about to change, in this fast-paced adventure that uniquely combines our modern day world with the enchanting realm of classic fairytales.

The Land of Stories tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner. Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about.

But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought."

My Review: The Wishing Spell is an enchanting book, a story that will take you away to the fairy tale lands that you often escaped to during your childhood. It has the fairy tale element of the The Sisters Grimm series, the fantasy escapism of the Harry Potter series, and the humor and adventure of the Percy Jackson series. It is by no means perfect---but it gets pretty close, in my book. 
          Chris Colfer is apparently an actor on the show Glee, and that was the reason so many people initially read the book---but not me. I don't watch Glee and nor do I ever wish to. The thing that lured me in was the actual premise of the book: two kids fall into their favorite book. Come on, admit it: we ALL wanted that to happen when we were kids. And a lot of still want that. 
         Alex and Conner were very solid characters, in my mind. Alex was more bookish and sort of reminiscent of a young Hermione Granger---the Hermione that loved books and facts and was scandalized by the idea of letting people down or breaking rules (okay, that was an elder Hermione as well). Conner was funny and sarcastic and very easy-going. Together, they balanced each other out very well and made for a great pair of companions. The love they had for each other was shown very well; you could tell they cared about each other, but you also could tell that they bickered and argued like any pair of siblings (and their bickering was hilarious!). 
         Chris Colfer re-imagined our favorite fairy tales in pretty creative ways, fast-forwarding to their futures and answering all of our What next...? questions we had about our favorite characters and stories. Cinderella was very charming (and almost made me cry, like Alex did!) and Red Riding Hood was very funny and lovably annoying. Goldilocks was undeniably bad-ass and the Evil Queen was VERY intriguing! I love the depth Colfer added to her character. Tons of famous fairy tale heroes and foes are missing, but The Land Of Stories is going to be a series, so I'm sure they'll all pop in at some point or another! 
        The adventure was well-paced and I was very invested in Alex and Conner's fate. I liked the humor in the book, even though it only elicited chuckles and not full on laughing fits (the way the Percy Jackson books do!). I liked Conner's sass! And Alex was very lovable. Sometimes Chris Colfer TOLD us what was happening rather than actually painting a vivid picture in our head, and this was where the weakness of the book was. It needed a bit stronger writing and it needed to be edited a few more times, tweaked a few more times. Had that been done, the book would have been flawless! 
       Nonetheless, I loved this book and I am VERY excited for the rest of the series!

Cover: Can't even describe HOW MUCH I LOVE IT. I just love when MG books have painted, cartoon-y covers! It takes me back to the days of the Harry Potter books and Percy Jackson and The Sisters Grimm, and all those other lovely series! The colors are bright and fun and the image is just amazing itself, what with the castle and everything else!

Overall Grade: A+

Monday, August 13, 2012

Jessica's Guide To Dating On The Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Goodreads Description: "The undead can really screw up your senior year ... 

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancĂ©. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction."

My Review: I'm not too big on paranormal romance books anymore. I used to LOVE them (back when I was in my Twilight phase) but now they just kind of make me want to cringe. Moody, broody dark paranormal guy? Yup. Spineless, passive, boring heroine? Always. And that's basically how most paranormal romance books go. So when I picked up this book...I did it with a sigh, expecting the same. 
         WHOA, was I wrong! Sure, Lucius was a little broody and moody, but he was also very arrogant and conceited, and even though this SOUNDS like a bad thing, I personally found it hilarious. His general concepts on what it meant to be "royal" and his confusion with the aspects of Jessica's "normal" life (such as her love of baggy math-pun t-shirts) were hilarious. He was actually confounded on this normal American life, and his confusion made me laugh. His letters back home were honestly what made this book way too funny. Very sarcastic and bemused, all at the same time! And truly? I liked Lucius. Yes, he was kind of cliche---but he also had some traits that most paranormal dudes don't. He told Jessica again and again that she never needed to lose weight, and that she was beautiful. He wasn't as stalker-ish as Edward was. 
          I liked Jessica, too. She definitely wasn't as spineless as other paranormal romance heroines. Her struggles with her own self-identity and coming to terms with destiny were very realistic (minus, you know, the VAMPIRE PRINCESS part...) and human. And I liked how Beth Fantaskey actually showed Jessica's progression from hating Lucius to accepting him to loving him. There was no insta-love as there is in books like Twilight and Hush, Hush. And I despise insta-love. 
          Also, just the whole concept of vampires as a superior, more elegant and refined version of humans was really unique! They weren't just super-strong, super-fast killers...or bloodthirsty monsters...or gothic weirdos (and yes, I've seen all those types in books before). They were like Humans 2.0 Not everything was about the BLOOD---there was almost a culture to the vampires! And I loved that! 
          I liked the plot. It kept me reading, kept me laughing, and kept me wondering what would happen next. The book was relatively short, but WOW, did a lot happen! At one point, Jessica even ended up in Europe! 
          All in all? A great, fresh paranormal romance. If you liked Twilight, read this. It's better. If you didn't like Twilight, read this. It's better. 

Cover: Forgive me, but I think it's adorable. It's the ONE CASE where having a girl in a sweeping ball gown on the cover actually makes sense! Usually paranormal romance books randomly have some girl swooning on the cover in an ethereal gown and it doesn't even fit into the book. But read this book, and you'll see how the cover makes PERFECT sense! And Jessica's cute! 

Overall Grade: A-

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Alpha Bet by Stephanie Hale

Amazon Description: "Some teenagers use drugs or sex to escape overbearing parents. I used books. 

All my life my mother has been hovering over me, afraid to let me experience ANYTHING. So I got really good grades, graduated from high school when I was sixteen, and escaped to a new life—my own life—at college.

To jump-start my social life, I decided to rush the Alphas, the most exclusive sorority on campus. Things started to get complicated when I told one little white lie. (Okay, maybe not so little.) Then one of the sisters invoked the Alpha Bet, a super-secret set of alphabetical tasks we pledges have to complete to prove our loyalty. Now, the Alpha Bet has taken over my life.

Can you spell B-E-T-R-A-Y-A-L?"

My Review: This book was okay. It was a cute, short (I repeat, VERY short) read that was pretty predictable and not too amazing---but a good way to pass some time. I'll admit, I didn't really expect much, seeing how tiny the book was and the description, but I thought, Hey, it's summer, I'm bored---so why not? 
          The book was amusing enough to read, simply because of Grace Kelly (GK)'s thoughts and the amusing obstacles she occurred in trying to get into The Alphas. However, nothing truly bad ever really happened to GK, because she always pulled some daring and darling plan out of her butt at the last moment, so that irritated me. Things kept simply falling into place for GK, and how realistic is that? For example: She starts college at 16, and she's all nervous and it's going great---until she meets a boy. A boy that she likes. A BOY WHO'S 17 AND ALSO ENTERED COLLEGE EARLY (so that she's legal for him!). It kind of makes you want to go, Seriously? Like, okay, really? I mean, that's a very convenient, isn't it? And also, any time GK made a mistake or betrayed her sorority sisters, they'd all just be very nice and forgive her. I understand that the author was trying to debunk the myth that all sorority girls are evil, but it kind of just made GK's struggles seem pointless and lame. 
          Also, I was really looking forward to reading about GK's experience at college as a 16-year-old, but strangely enough, the book didn't really focus on that as much. Her age just became a sidenote as she became obsessed with rushing The Alphas and trying to get involved with Charlie. And that was just bothersome. 
          Basically, her dramas and problems were really pointless and easily-solved and not as dramatic as GK would have had you believe---but it was okay, in the end, because the book was still amusing and it still kept me turning the pages. Not the BEST book ever, by far, but definitely not a horrible book! It was a cute attempt at a chick-lit set in college! 

Cover: The cover is actually really cute! I love the pink emblem for the title and the little silhouettes of crowns and hair dryers and whatnot. The girls' outfits are cute as well, and I love the whole pink-white-and-green look the book has going on! Very collegiate preppy. 

Overall Grade: C+

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Goodreads Description: "Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of the car while her stepmom fills a prescription for antibiotics. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, the car is being stolen.

Griffin hadn't meant to kidnap Cheyenne and once he finds out that not only does she have pneumonia, but that she's blind, he really doesn't know what to do. When his dad finds out that Cheyenne's father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes--now there's a reason to keep her. 

How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare?"

My Review: Okay, not to sound like a psycho---but I love books about kidnappings. Why? Because it's something that you would NEVER want happening to you---which is what makes reading about it so thrilling! So when I saw Girl, Stolen, well, I just HAD to get it! And I'm glad I did, because it was a good book. 
          I admit: at first, I did rather compare it to Stolen by Lucy Christopher (my review of that here), because that was A) a really good book about a kidnapping, and B) one of the only other books I've read about kidnapping. However, I quickly realized that this book was way different---and more realistic, to be honest---so I stopped comparing it right away. 
          I liked this book because of the characters, primarily. Admitted, Griffin was a bit strangely nice, for a dude who goes around stealing cars---but I liked that he was kind, because it reminded me that not all people who do bad things...are BAD! (Hello, Aladdin?) That's something I think is important for people in this world to remember, when we are so quick to judge others. His compassion, the way he cared for Cheyenne grudgingly---it was all great. And I really felt for him. His story, with his mysterious mom and uncaring dad, it was all very bitter and heartbreaking. 
          Cheyenne was another great character. The fact that she was BLIND just blew my mind. It made an ordinary book extraordinary. I tried to imagine what I'd do in her shoes, and I just couldn't. It was too scary to think about. She was incredibly brave and composed, in my opinion, and I'm glad. I would've hated it if April Henry made her all shriek-y and cowering, simply because she's blind. People with disabilities can be just as brave as people without disabilities! 
          The plot was a tad predictable---I mean, I didn't REALLY think Cheyenne was gonna have a bad ending---but it was still satisfactory. I'm glad Griffin got on the straight path; I was desperately hoping his life would end well! Also, I was SO, SO, SO glad Cheyenne and Griffin did not fall in love. I would've burned the book if they had. There are too any books where people fall in love in weird or unrealistic situations, and it always irritates me. Girl falling in love with kidnapper? Unlikely. Yet romantic YA authors seem to love the idea. Creepy!
          Overall, a solid effort! 

Cover: Strangely, I really like this! The pose, the dull colors, they all say so much about Cheyenne's situation (the kidnapping...the blindness....). The cover really speaks words. 

Overall Grade: B+

Friday, July 20, 2012

Lexapros And Cons by Aaron Karo

Goodreads Description: "Chuck Taylor’s OCD has rendered him a high school outcast. His endless routines and habitual hand washing threaten to scare away both his closest friend and the amazing new girl in town. Sure he happens to share the name of the icon behind the coolest sneakers in the world, but even Chuck knows his bizarre system of wearing different color “Cons” depending on his mood is completely crazy.
            In this hilariously candid debut novel from comedian Aaron Karo—who grew up with a few obsessions and compulsions of his own—very bad things are going to happen to Chuck. But maybe that’s a good thing. Because with graduation looming, Chuck finds himself with one last chance to face his inner demons, defend his best friend, and win over the girl of his dreams. No matter what happens, though, he’ll have to get his hands dirty."

My Review: Lexapros And Cons is the kind of book that everyone should read, because it is a very winning book. It rung very similar to The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Happyface by Stephen Emond, to me. All 3 books deal with misfit teenage boys who have problems (some of them regarding mental illnesses) and are not very happy people...and all they want is to fit in and to find their place in the world and to be happy. For that reason, I loved Lexapros And Cons. It was a great story about a boy with OCD and his struggles to overcome his issues and find happiness---something ANYONE can relate to, whether they have OCD or not. 
          Chuck was a character I could sympathize with greatly. On one hand, he was pathetic and sort of a sad and lonely figure, and this was heartbreaking. But then you got to hear his thoughts, and how they were snarling with sarcasm and anger and you realized he wasn't just some moron---he was an actual person who was intelligent and had the ability to be outgoing and extroverted. His OCD problems really rang true with me, because I have some obsessions and compulsions of my own (and no, I don't mean the whole I-like-my-room-neat-so-I-must-have-OCD! type of OCD every claims to have---I mean REAL compulsions), and I could COMPLETELY identify with Chuck's agonizing need to do his rituals---while also trying to stop doing them. 
          Also, I just loved the whole color-coding Converse with moods concept. I absolutely ADORE Converse, so even though it was sad that Chuck was stuck with this routine, I couldn't help but applaud his fabulous taste in sneaker. 
          The secondary characters were not as winning, though his best friend did get a little interesting as the book went on. Amy, on the other hand (his love interest), was pretty fascinating. Because she had red hair and bangs and was sassy and cool, I couldn't help but picture her as Amy Pond from Doctor Who! I also just liked her chill personality. 
          Chuck's struggles were sad and at times hilarious, but most of all, they rang true and honest and this is what made this book so easy to relate to and such a great read. It has lessons that all of us can learn from. 


Cover: It's rad! Seriously, who doesn't like Converse? Nice and bright. 


Overall Grade: A-

Monday, July 16, 2012

Babe In Boyland by Jody Gehrman

Goodreads Description: "When high school junior Natalie---or Dr. Aphrodite, as she calls herself when writing the relationship column for her school paper---is accused of knowing nothing about guys and giving girls bad relationship advice, she decides to investigate what guys really think and want. But the guys in her class won't give her straight or serious answers. The only solution? Disguising herself as a guy and spending a week at Underwood Academy, the private all-boy boarding school in town. There she learns a lot about guys and girls in ways she never expected-especially when she falls for her dreamy roommate, Emilio. How can she show him she likes him without blowing her cover?"


My Review: This book makes me sad. And do you wanna know WHY this book makes me sad? Because I had always wanted to read it so badly when I saw it at the stores, and I loved Gehrman's Triple Shot Bettys books, and I wanted SO badly for this book to be good---but it wasn't. It didn't live up to my expectations at all, and that severely disappointed me. That's not to say this book was all bad, because it wasn't. It was vaguely amusing at some parts...but definitely not good enough to please me, and here's why!
          First of all, this book is a TOTAL copy of the movie She's The Man! It'd be one thing if the plot was just girl-disguises-herself-at-boy's-school. That plot is a little more general and a lot of people have used it before, and can use it again. However, when Natalie fell for her roomate (AHEM, like Viola fell for Duke!) and got a catty mean girl trying to screw her over and blow her cover (AHEM, like her brother Sebastian's crazy ex-girlfriend, Monique!) the story got lame. I mean, come on. Jody Gehrman had a chance to make this plot original and unique---despite some similar factors with the movie---but she kept it virtually the same! Yeah, SOME things were different...but for the most part, it was like watching the movie. But it was less funny than the movie. Not exactly a good thing.
          Next, the whole undercover-reporter plot itself! What HAPPENED to that? It totally went down the drain! At first, Natalie seemed really driven and motivated to uncover all sorts of guy secrets, and I was really intrigued. But as the book went on, it became more about just keeping her cover and falling in love with Emilio, and less about the research. She actually barely DID any research. She just asked some lame questions to some guys for about thirty seconds, and that's it. And at the end of the book, she wrote a random article that didn't REALLY answer many questions or uncover many "secrets." So what, I ask, was the point of the whole plan?
          And lastly, Natalie herself. She was an okay character and all. She was smart and relatively sassy (I always like sass in a girl character. It makes her...I dunno, more fun.) But she was having SO much trouble keeping her cover that I was rolling my eyes. I know it can't be the easiest thing in the world, pretending to be a guy---but it honestly probably was not as hard as SHE was making it seem. She was acting like a total ditz!
          Anyway. I really, really, REALLY wanted to love this book, but unfortunately, I couldn't. It just wasn't very smart or funny or fresh. If anything, I had to force myself to keep reading by the end of the book. Oh well---better luck next time! 


Cover: It's so funny how I don't like the book but I LOVE the cover! The photo is simply adorable and funny and I love the fonts used in the title. Very dramatic and fun. I also liked the lime green and yellow colors used; they really made the book pop off the shelf whenever I saw it at the store. 


Overall Grade: C-

My Life Undecided by Jessica Brody

Amazon Description: "PLEASE READ THIS! MY LIFE DEPENDS ON IT!
Okay, maybe that was a bit melodramatic, but I’m sorry, I’m feeling a bit melodramatic at the moment.
Here’s the deal. My name is Brooklyn Pierce, I’m fifteen years old, and I am decisionally challenged. Seriously, I can’t remember the last good decision I made. I can remember plenty of crappy ones though. Including that party I threw when my parents were out of town that accidentally burned down a model home. Yeah, not my finest moment, for sure.
But see, that’s why I started a blog. To enlist readers to make my decisions for me. That’s right. I gave up. Threw in the towel. I let someone else decide which book I read for English. And whether or not I accepted an invitation to join the debate team from that cute-in-a-dorky-sort-of-way guy who gave me the Heimlich maneuver in the cafeteria. (Note to self: chew the melon before swallowing it.) I even let them decide who I dated!
Well, it turns out there are some things in life you simply can’t choose or have chosen for you—like who you fall in love with. And now everything’s more screwed up than ever.
But don’t take my word for it. Read the book and decide for yourself.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll scream in frustration. Or maybe that’s just me. After all, it’s my life."


My Review: A solid job! My Life Undecided wasn't quite the funniest---or the best---chick-lit I have ever read, but it was still a pretty good book! Brooklyn's character was hilarious. I loved how she kept making stupid mistake after mistake. It was bad for her, but hilarious for ME. She sometimes came off a bit superficial-whiny-teenage-brat...but I guess that was sort of the point. She was SUPPOSED to be that way, and by the end of the book, she's definitely relaxed and matured and become a better person. I liked seeing her personal growth; it was very obvious and open. The romance in the book was very low-key, which was nice. I didn't want the whole book to be about boys, boys, boys, because to me? That's really boring. Good thing Brody didn't make it that way! Strangely enough, I liked Brooklyn's story line with visiting Mrs. Moody at the nursing home the best! Normally I wouldn't be too crazy over the whole visiting-an-old-person-and-learning-from-them plot (because it's a bit overdone), but Mrs. Moody was hilarious and I LOVED hearing about her Choose Your Adventure storybooks. Those made me laugh till my stomach hurt. Also! The whole blogging plot! Yeah. Hmmm. It was definitely interesting, I'll give it that. At times I felt like rolling my eyes---because really, who needs bloggers to decide whether you're going to go to watch a certain TV show? Brooklyn seemed a tad pathetically dependent on her blog. But I guess that was also sort of the point---and she became less attached to the blog as the story went on, so that problem resolved itself. The whole blogging plot itself was pretty clever though, I'll give Brody that. A unique spin on an accident-and-disaster prone teenager's life!


Cover: I really do love the colors of the cover. Pale blue, lavender, and lilac? Yes please! The girl's pose is also funny and cute, even if she looks a bit mental, and that's not really how I pictured Brooklyn. 


Overall Grade: B+

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Dark Of The Moon by Tracy Barrett

Goodreads Description: "Ariadne is destined to become a goddess of the moon. She leads a lonely life, filled with hours of rigorous training by stern priestesses. Her former friends no longer dare to look at her, much less speak to her. All that she has left are her mother and her beloved, misshapen brother Asterion, who must be held captive below the palace for his own safety.
So when a ship arrives one spring day, bearing a tribute of slaves from Athens, Ariadne sneaks out to meet it. These newcomers don’t know the ways of Krete; perhaps they won’t be afraid of a girl who will someday be a powerful goddess. And indeed she meets Theseus, the son of the king of Athens. Ariadne finds herself drawn to the newcomer, and soon they form a friendship—one that could perhaps become something more.
Yet Theseus is doomed to die as an offering to the Minotaur, that monster beneath the palace—unless he can kill the beast first. And that "monster" is Ariadne’s brother . . ."
My Review: Hmmm. This book is sort of hard to review. For starters, I can tell you that I absolutely LOVE Greek mythology. So when I realized that this book was a retelling of the Minotaur's story, I was like, Yeah! Bring it on! And after having read it...here's my opinion. If you're expecting another cliche YA paranormal romance, DON'T pick up this book. Also, if you're expecting a humorous and exciting Percy Jackson-esq adventure, DON'T pick up this book. Dark of the Moon was a very unique spin on the Minotaur's story, but it was also written in an adult, realistic way. The way Barrett re-imagined the Minotaur's story was quite frankly impressive---she put a TOTALLY new spin on it! However...she failed in the aspect where she didn't really EXPLAIN her new spin. I mean, I got the gist of it---but the world she created was very intricate, and she didn't do a very good job making it easy to understand for the readers. It was like she half-expected you to know all the basic facts of their customs and traditions, and that she was just continuing off from there. And I'm actually REALLY good at Greek mythology! But I didn't know ANY of this. (I actually don't even know if it's fact, or she made it all up.) That was my first complaint. My second complaint was the writing. I felt like the plot was interesting ENOUGH...but Barrett didn't do a good job keeping her readers hooked! Her writing was okay, but it sometimes came out really chaotic and random and sort of...flat. You didn't really care about the characters or anything, because half the time you had no idea what was going on. I read it and it was okay, but it's not the kind of book I'd ever re-read. I feel like Barrett had a good idea going, but she relayed it all wrong. Not enough clarity on the rituals and religion of the people of Krete, and not enough depth in the writing. But the CONCEPT she had was pretty fascinating, I'll admit (if you can understand it...).
Cover: The cover is nice! Sort of different from all the other YA books out there---it doesn't feature some gorgeous girl in a Greek goddess dress (which it totally could have). I like the curling red designs and the stone background---and the font of the title! It's unique, and sort of art-y. 
Overall Grade: C-