Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Girl Is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines

Goodreads Description: "Iris Anderson is only 15, but she's quickly mastering the art of deception in this YA novel for fans of Veronica Mars.
It's the Fall of 1942 and Iris's world is rapidly changing. Her Pop is back from the war with a missing leg, limiting his ability to do the physically grueling part of his detective work. Iris is dying to help, especially when she discovers that one of Pop's cases involves a boy at her school. Now, instead of sitting at home watching Deanna Durbin movies, Iris is sneaking out of the house, double crossing her friends, and dancing at the Savoy till all hours of the night. There's certainly never a dull moment in the private eye business."

My Review: What a great mystery book! Okay, fact about me? I hate mystery books. They just annoy the heck out of me. I have no patience for them! So yeah, NOT an avid mystery reader AT ALL. But I picked up this book, thinking, You know what? I hate mysteries---but I love historical fictions. So let's try it. And I'm so glad I did! First of all, the mystery was actually intriguing and...well, mysterious! It didn't annoy me and amazingly, I didn't get so impatient with the book that I threw it at a wall (yes---I've done that before). So I liked the whole mystery part, with Iris trying to figure out where in the world Tom Barney went! Second of all, I simply ADORED the historical aspect. The whole setting with Iris living in New York City during World War II was brilliant---simply because it focused less on the actual WAR (as most historical fictions would do) and more on the slang and culture of society at the time. So it was great hearing all the slang that teens used and reading about what they wore and what they did for fun. And the last thing I liked about this book were the characters themselves. Iris was very winning---sassy and smart and quick. She showed me that no matter what the time period or generation, teenagers will always be the same and will always have the same emotions and thoughts and problems. Her relationships with her friends---such as Pearl and Suze---were really interesting to read about (especially Pearl; MAN, that girl infuriated me!), and her relationship with her dad was the most interesting to read about. I liked seeing them grow closer throughout the whole book. The book just left a good taste in my mouth and I wouldn't mind reading it again  (although maybe sometime in the DISTANT future...I still really do dislike mystery books). 

Cover: One word: LOVE. I love it! It's so perfect for a mystery, with the darkness and the girl's expression. And I absolutely adore the girl's clothing and hair and makeup, and the telephone next to her! So 1940s and 50s. Ooooh. 

Overall Grade: A-

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

Goodreads Description: "Half Summer faery princess, half human, Meghan has never fit in anywhere. Deserted by the Winter prince she thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen. As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron fey—ironbound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her.
Worse, Meghan's own fey powers have been cut off. She's stuck in Faery with only her wits for help. Trusting anyone would be foolish. Trusting a seeming traitor could be deadly. But even as she grows a backbone of iron, Meghan can't help but hear the whispers of longing in her all-too-human heart."
My Review: I'm very torn about this book. On one hand, I really liked it. I thought Meghan seemed like a stronger character this time around, less willing to give in to the insane demands and commands of people like Titania and Mab. I also liked how she and Ash knew each other, so we didn't have to waste more time reading about the cat-and-mouse game where they pretended not to like each other but we ALL knew they did. Stuff like that gets really cliched and boring to read about. Also, the whole plot overall was interesting! I liked the race to get the Scepter of Seasons---especially because a lot of the book took place in the mortal world. It was kind of cool to see Ash, Puck, and the rest of the faeries doing their thing away from the Nevernever. And the whole deal with Meghan's magic being sealed? I really liked that plot, because it was kind of cool reading about how she tried to solve her problems WITHOUT her magic. So these were the good parts of the book. However, I did have some complaints with the book. First of all, I HATE in a series when the girl and the guy fall for each other and everything ends happily-ever-after in the first book---and then in the second book, the guy starts getting all brooding and moody and starts to pull away and then the couple has problems. FOR NO REASON. This literally always happens in YA series and it bothers me so much. It's so cliche! And unfortunately, it happened in this book as well. I almost felt like screaming, "Ash! Dude! You are NOT going to kill her, as you keep threatening, so just shut up and date her already, okay?" Sorry, but this is like a HUGE pet peeve of mine. Also, another bad aspect of the book was that even though Meghan seemed stronger---she wasn't strong ENOUGH. She was still basically babied and saved by Puck and Ash like 24/7. Can't the girl do anything on her own? It's bothersome. So these were my biggest complaints with the book. Overall, it was a decent sequal, and I have to admit: I LOVED seeing Grimalkin again (he's my favorite character!), and Ironhorse and Leanansidhe were really cool characters. So, all in all? Like I said, a decent sequel, and not a bad book in the end, despite some major flaws. 
Cover: I like this cover a lot better than The Iron King's cover, although I'm still not a fan of the model they use to represent Meghan. That's just not how I see her at ALL, although I'm aware that's a personal opinion. But, again, as with the first book, I do like all the designs and coloring! And it's especially appropriate, considering she's imprisoned in the Winter Court for quite some time of the book.
Overall Grade: B+

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sirenz by Charlotte Bennardo & Natalie Zaman

Amazon Description: "Bickering frenemies Meg and Shar are doing some serious damage at a midnight sample sale when the fashionistas find themselves arguing over a pair of shoes-with fatal consequences. One innocent bystander later, the girls are suddenly at the mercy of Hades, Lord of the Underworld himself. To make them atone for what they've done, Hades forces the teens to become special-assignment Sirens, luring to the Underworld an individual whose unholy contract is up.

Finding that delicate balance between their fashion addiction and their new part-time job in the eternal hellfire biz turns out to be harder than Meg and Shar expected, especially when an entire pantheon of Greek deities decides to get involved. Then there's the matter of the fine print in their own contracts..."

My Review: I absolutely adored this book! It was hilarious, it was quirky, and it was very well-written. Chick-lit books have a special place in my heart, because I seriously do love light-hearted girly reads---but when the main character is silly and vapid, then it kind of ruins the book for me. Good thing that wasn't a problem here! Both of the characters were great. Meg was quirky and slightly retro and Gothic and that appealed to me, because I do have that side in myself---the side that loves Tim Burton and vintage clothing and the color black. And she was so logical and sarcastic that I couldn't help but laugh (and be reminded of myself!). But Shar was also a great character. She was the girly-girl who loved pink, and that connected to my life as well, because I also do have that part of me that loves pink and Juicy Couture and lip gloss. I feel like most teenage girls---and women in general---are that way. They aren't THIS or THAT...they're a mix of many things, which is what made reading from two different perspectives so much fun. Also, I liked how the authors didn't make Shar a ditz, even though she was a blonde who loved pink. That would have been an easy cliche to fall into, and I'm glad they didn't. Also...the whole GREEK MYTHOLOGY thing! The main plot! I love, love, LOVE books about Greek mythology, and there aren't too many out there (except for a notable few), so when I see a YA book about Greek mythology, I usually snatch it up. And I hate it when they interpret the gods and the myths incorrectly; that's a pet-peeve of mine. Good thing that Bennardo and Zaman did their homework and portrayed the gods in ways accurate to their personalities, and used the mythology---such as the concept of the Sirens---accurately! The whole plot with Shar and Meg-turning-into-real-birds if they didn't fulfill their contract also added a dose of magical and silly fun to the book, which I loved. The only thing I DIDN'T like was the ending, which seemed a little abrupt and cut-off, as if there was more to be said...but overall, this was a great, enchanting, fun book to read.

Cover: Love, love, LOVE. First of all, I would kill for that shoe (ironic...) and the fact that it's standing on a Greek pedestal...with the it! Super cute.

Overall Grade: A+

The Selection by Kiera Cass

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

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.
Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined."

My Review: I initially thought this book seemed shallow and stupid, and when my sister bought it, I wasn't really too excited to read it. But then she finished, and I decided, Why not? So I read it...and I finished it in like a day. The Selection is an amazing book! It is technically a dystopian book---but only in the loosest sense of the word. There in no cliche evil, corrupt government, no brave uprising or resistance (or whatever word each dystopian book chooses to use). Instead, The Selection veers more towards the type of dystopian book that The Pledge by Kimberly Derting (my review of that book here) is: a more fairytale-ish world with monarchies and kingdoms and queens. The country that America lives in, Illea (the country that used to be the U.S.A.) doesn't seem to messed up or corrupt. The plot of the book is also really fun, the idea that the girls have to compete for the prince. It's sort of like The Princess Diaries + Princess Academy + The Hunger Games = The Selection! The setting of the palace was really fun and I loved the relationships between the girls. Prince Maxon was also really cool. Instead of being the cliche, typical brooding, moody male lead character, he's open and sweet and noble---which is really new in YA books! But what made this book truly brilliant was the voice of the main character, America. She actually sounded like a teenage girl! Brave, determined, selfless...yet also funny, a good friend, witty, temperamental... She seemed like someone I could have been friends---or someone I would WANT to be friends with. Her voice was really great to read through. All in all, this regal-yet-suspenseful book is a breath of fresh air among all the stale YA and dystopian books out there, and I think everyone should read it!

Cover: C'est si beau! I didn't like the cover at first, but after reading the book, I think it's gorgeous, and it's very representative of the book. Pretty, but it has more layers to it, once you look a little closer. 

Overall Grade: A+

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fairy Bad Day by Amanda Ashby

Goodreads Description: "While most students at Burtonwood Academy get to kill demons and goblins, fifteen-year-old Emma gets to rid the world of little annoying fairies with glittery wings and a hipster fashion sense. She was destined to be a dragon slayer, but cute and charming Curtis stole her spot. Then she sees a giant killer fairy and it's invisible to everyone but her! If Emma has any chance of stopping this evil fairy, she's going to need help. Unfortunately, the only person who can help is Curtis. And now, not only has he stolen her dragon-slayer spot, but maybe her heart as well! Why does she think it's going to be a fairy bad day?"

My Review: This was such a cute, enchanting chick-lit! It's really hard to find lighthearted, humorous books about magic---especially cheesy, cliche magical beings such as fairies and dragons---so I thought this book was great. It had lots of humor in it, but it also had some nice bits of seriousness sprinkled in, such as when it discussed Emma's family dynamics. Emma's friends were funny and great, and Emma herself was a funny, spirited, and sassy heroine. She was determined and resourceful, and I liked that about her. She didn't just sit around crying about her situation. The romance between her and Curtis was also nice, because it was slow and innocent, which is a lot more realistic than a lot of YA books these days! Also, the whole plot of the book was great. I laughed out loud quite a few times, and I loved the whole dilemma with the invisible fairy, the fairy-hunting problems (I almost found myself wanting to hashtag #FairyHuntingProbz on Twitter...!), and the Skittles (you'll have to read the book to find out!). All in all, this was a great way to brighten up my day. 

Cover: It's clever, no? Sassy and funny, like the book! I like it. I like those tights on the girl a lot too, those are pretty cool...

Overall Grade: A-

Bunheads by Sophie Flack

Amazon Description: "On-stage beauty. Backstage drama. 

As a dancer with the ultra-prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company, nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward juggles intense rehearsals, dazzling performances and complicated backstage relationships. Up until now, Hannah has happily devoted her entire life to ballet. 

But when she meets a handsome musician named Jacob, Hannah's universe begins to change, and she must decide if she wants to compete against the other "bunheads" in the company for a star soloist spot or strike out on her own in the real world. Does she dare give up the gilded confines of the ballet for the freedoms of everyday life?"

My Review: Not the best book in the world. That sounds harsh, considering the positive reviews this book got, but I personally thought it fell kind of...flat. I mean, it wasn't horrible, not by any means! I liked it well enough. The drama and lives of the ballet dancers was pretty interesting and I liked reading about their world. But personally? I felt like it wasn't enough. There wasn't enough detail about the world of ballet dancers---especially dancers at the prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company! Hannah had such a cynical and jaded view towards her world that she didn't really give an accurate representation of what it was. I realize it's a lot of hard work and perseverance---she shows that bit very accurately---but she BARELY shows any of the glamorous aspects! Also, some aspects of the book left a bad taste in my mouth, such as the light way they talked about girls starving themselves. Even at the end of the book, no one really seemed to mention just how WRONG it truly was! They just glossed over it. Also, Hannah and Jacob's relationship seemed really fake. I'm sorry, but it did. They met, like, maybe a few times---and suddenly Jacob was getting all possessive and mad when she canceled on their plans? And the book did a poor job of really communicating how and why Hannah was discontent with being a ballet dancer. Flack didn't build up to it; it was like, boom. You open and the book and basically in chapter one, Hannah sounds flat and dull and unhappy. Of course, not ALL parts of the book were bad. Like I said, I really did find it interesting reading about the ballet dancers and what kind of work and stress they went through...but this wasn't enough to make this book a really good one, unfortunately. A less-than-stellar debut.

Cover: The cover, unlike the book, is actually sort of inspired and cute! I love the topside image of the ballet dancers in formation; it's unique and clever and cute! 

Overall Grade: C+