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) 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+