Johnlock with an Aussie Twist: Every Breath by Ellie Marney

 

When James Mycroft drags Rachel Watts off on a night mission to the Melbourne Zoo, the last thing she expects to find is the mutilated body of Homeless Dave, one of Mycroft’s numerous eccentric friends. But Mycroft’s passion for forensics leads him to realize that something about the scene isn’t right–and he wants Watts to help him investigate the murder.

While Watts battles her attraction to bad-boy Mycroft, he’s busy getting himself expelled and clashing with the police, becoming murder suspect number one. When Watts and Mycroft unknowingly reveal too much to the cold-blooded killer, they find themselves in the lion’s den–literally. A trip to the zoo will never have quite the same meaning to Rachel Watts again…

Source: GoodReads

This book was the saving grace and what otherwise was known as a horrible weekend filled with outlandish drama and a CLE class so dreadfully boring I thought the course should’ve been paying me to take it.

The good news is, I came in with high expectations for this one.  Because of some rather flattering reviews (thanks, Gillian, for the rec) and it succeeded.

Yay!

I think the best way to describe Every Breath‘s wonderfulness is to describe why most YA mysteries detective novels don’t work and then go from there.

In most YA detective books we have a main character who’s “sassy” and tries to break the detective rules. They’re also usually into journalism and there’s usually a bonehead Ned Nickerson-ish love interest who they have to save.

That’s not the case here.

Not that Watts isn’t sassy.  But she doesn’t actively try to be snarky and the anti-Nancy Drew.  Heck, she’s not even the one running the mystery-Mycroft is-but you know what she totally kicks butt.

And I like that she’s atypical.  I like that she’s uncertain things and that even though she’s trying to solve some big case, that’s not the sole focus of the novel.

Side plots, such as family issues and romance play a role here.  Honestly, when I saw that this was going to be essentially a Sherlock/Watson ship I was kind of unsure.

Because even though I love the idea, I have am a little uncertain about one of my favorite friendships evolving into a romance, but Marney did it effortlessly here.

And I really liked her Sherlock…well, James Mycroft there (kind of like how she did a nod to both Sherlock’s brother and nemesis with that name). While there were similarities of the beloved character- and various versions of him at that-Marney added her own nuances to the character that made the relationship with Watts palpable.

The mystery plot itself had its moments.  While the culprit (for me) was easy enough to figure out, the actual crime solving was interesting.  And the climax…wow.  Just wow.  I do think the zoo setting could’ve been used a little more to Marney’s advantage, but what we did see…it really, really, worked.

There were a few minor issues with this book that I did notice.  Besides, the easy to identify culprit, there were also some trigger inducing moments for animal lovers.  It wasn’t anything that major, but it was enough where I was tempted at a moment or two to move it down to four stars.

That being said, I think mystery lovers and Sherlock lovers will really like this one.  It also made me realize I have not paid enough attention to Aussie YA lit.  This is something I will be remedying in the near future.

Overall Rating: A-.  Oh, it was close to an A.  So close I rounded it up to a full five on GoodReads but there were a few blips here and there.  Overall though, an excellent book and I will so be buying and reading that sequel when it comes out.

Pretty Dresses=Bad Ass Assassin : Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another.

Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Source: GoodReads

I remember reading about people going postal to get their hands on the third book in this series when BEA was going on. To be honest, up until  then this series never even really registered my radar even though it obviously is immensely popular and has a lot of tropes I’d go for.

So, I was like yeah…I’ll give it a chance eventually.  Then the first one was extremely cheap as an ebook when the third installment came out to the masses and I decided to give it a whirl.

The result: well, it was okay.

Okay, not great.

Not OMG five star worthy squeal fan girl review which I was hoping and expecting for.

I didn’t hate it though.  So that was good.  Very good.

I think I’ll talk about first what really worked for me:

1) The Premises:

Talk about awesome.  The premises of this book hits a lot of MJ  buttons.  A main character that’s not a goody goody and is a supposed bad ass.  Sign me right up.

Fantasy.

Yep.  Sign up.

Contest with a creepy serial killer.

Sign up.

For the most part, it does live up to its summary too-that’s a good thing.  And there’s none of those annoying comparisons (i.e. this is like so and so) are there.  And it actually leads up to how it’s summarized for the most part so check mark there.

2) The Romance:

It doesn’t overwhelm the book-thank God.  And I’m giving Mass a big plus sign for that.  In high fantasies, I usually don’t want them to be about the romance.  I want them to be a bout the plot and the fantasy world.  And for the most part that’s what this book does.  But there is a teeny tiny bit of romance or hints of romance here.  And the amount that’s there is perfect.

3) The World Building

The world building intrigued me enough where I wanted more.  While most of the story was confined to one place, we had a good idea of how the world was developed.  And I’m guessing Mass is going to explore it more with future installments.

One of the things that particularly interested me was all the political stuff that was going on.

Yeah, that might’ve been because I was a Poly Sci minor once upon a time…but this sort of stuff intrigues me.  But Mass didn’t try to sugar coat anything in how awful a conquer and then enslave the rest of the population regime is.

Also, I like how the magic stuff was kind of not explored that much in the first book.  It gave the series a nice element of mystery that I’m interested in exploring.

What Didn’t Work:

And now we come to the things that didn’t work for me.  Sigh….

1) Celaena:

Ugh.

Most of the time I felt like she was pretending to be an assassin.  For someone apparently bad ass, she really wasn’t that bad ass.  Even during the final showdown.

I hear she gets better with more books, but all I could think of was how vain and idiotic this character was most of the time.

Why not run?  You had the option.  It wasn’t like you were running around before on borrowed time?

And if you’re the world’s greatest assassin, you should be able to defend yourself.  Build yourself up a Moriarty network. But no….she decides that the option she’s forced in is her only option.

Is it sad I just wanted to shake her?

2) The Romance

Odd since I mentioned how I liked the lack of romance in the first part.  But both love interests really didn’t work for me.  I think because this book almost would’ve been better without a love interest. To be fair though, the other two parts of the triangle weren’t that offensive.  Even though I got annoyed with Chaol, I understood his motives.  And Dorian wasn’t an offensive tool either.  But they just didn’t work. In part, because of the situation.  They condoned the fact that the main character was a slave and essentially use her freedom as a bargaining chip :(   And then there’s the reasons listed below:

Dorian:

Dorian is sweet and I do like him, but at this moment I just don’t think he and Celaena are going to be the end game.  And I’m okay with that.

That’s not what you want to do when you’re trying to establish a love triangle.  The good news is, I guess, that I don’t hate him like I usually do in the obvious loser YA trope.  I just feel bad for him because my YA psychic powers are telling me it’s not going to work.

Chaol:

I get why he was the way he was but really…such a tool.  And not in the offensive I want to wring his neck tool like in YA books, but the kind of tool I can sort of understand and even admire to a degree, but I don’t really root for him and Celaena to be together at this point because  it would ruin this nobility.

Hey, maybe this ship will grow on me in the next book.  Lots of people liked them.

3) The Villain 

Sigh…yeah, I get he’s evil, but I wanted his evilness fleshed out.  Some  parts in his point of view.  Yeah, I know subsequent books…but I’m in need of some YA baddies.  Come on, YA get your Disney villain on.

Overall Thoughts:

So yeah, I wasn’t a huge fan but I liked it a lot.  I probably will keep up with this series in the future, but it’s not like I’m going to binge read this. Maybe I’ll grow to like it better in future installments.

I think that big fans of epic fantasy will love this one though.

However, Celaena, you are not the world’s greatest assassin.  Maybe world’s vainest assassin.

Overall Rating: B+.

Top Ten Tuesday: Series a Go Go

It’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) where today’s topic is series I want to start.  The actual prompt limits me to the last year  and so but it did not limit me to next year (mwhahahaha, I found a loop hole).

10)

Alternate worlds means automatic buy.  Plus, it’s Claudia Gray and I love the oozy cheese that her romances always provide.  And is that Russia on the cover?  Another auto buy reason.

9)

This one comes out next year.  But imagine to my surprise when I found out what I thought was a Sleeping Beauty standalone was going to be a sequel.  Seeing how this story is fleshed out could be interesting. And it has  a pretty dress which obviously attracts the shallow part of my brain.

8)

Another jinn series.  That equals win. Well, enough for me to give it a try.

7)

Look at that gorgeous cover.  And while I think dystopias have been a little over kill, this one does hold my interest just a little.  The reviews so far have been pretty good too.

6)

It’s already out in the UK, but I’ve decided to abstain and wait till the US release (mainly because I have a thing for hardcovers).  This series looks perfect for me.  And oh, so fluffy.

5)

Because it’s fantasy and I can always do with more fantasy.  Plus, I just find the fact that a book features a queen not a princess for once is awesome.

4)

The premises looks pretty good, and I sort of got  off of the on the fence list to the read eventually list.  I hope I’m in the group that loves it.

3)

Dragons.  Dragons.  Dragons.  Dragons.  Dragons.

Plus, I’m sort of being forced to read it thanks to the fact it won that poll I had a few weeks back.

2)

Technically, I  only just finished this one.   But since I initially wrote thispost before I finished it it’s going to put on this list.  I have to give big thanks to Gillian from Writer of Wrongs for informing me about this series.  I loved it.  And it’s so shippy.  And it takes place in Australia.  And except for the horrible cover.  I love, love, love.

1)

Witch hunters that aren’t just annoying superstitious puritans.  And actual magic.  Sign me up.  Now.

 

When Meg Cabot Went Dark: Jinx by Meg Cabot

It’s not easy being Jinx.

The only thing Jean Honeychurch hates more than her boring name (not Jean Marie, or Jeanette, just…Jean) is her all-too-appropriate nickname, Jinx. Misfortune seems to follow her everywhere she goes—which is why she’s thrilled to be moving in with her aunt and uncle in New York City. Maybe when she’s halfway across the country, Jinx can finally outrun her bad luck. Or at least escape the havoc she’s caused back in her small hometown.

But trouble has definitely followed Jinx to New York. And it’s causing big problems for her cousin Tory, who is not happy to have the family black sheep around. Beautiful, glamorous Tory is hiding a dangerous secret—one that she’s sure Jinx is going to reveal.
Jinx is beginning to realize it isn’t just bad luck she’s been running from. It’s something far more sinister…and the curse Jinx has lived under since the day she was born might just be the only thing that can save her life.

Source: GoodReads

How I remember this Book: This is the book Meg Cabot went “dark”.

Yeah, I’m laughing now.

Jinx is hardly dark.  Oh, sure it has some dark moments and acutally deals with some sensitive issues-drug abuse-but compared to some of the stuff out there in the genre now…

Hardly dark.

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad book though.  I actually had and even second time around had a fun time with Jinx.

There’s just something magical about reading a Meg Cabot book, the thing is there are books that are more magical than Jinx.

And in the forty some odd books that Cabot has had published I sort of forget about it.

The thing is, I’ve been trying to reread a lot on my shelves and it was Halloween and I’m doing this book project where I’m rereading books pre 2010 and this one just sort of stuck out.  So, I gave it a whirl (again).

The result: pleasantly surprised and amused.  But I do feel like I’ve grown up some since this was published and it’s not like I was that young when it was first put to press.

I think it’s more or less that the genre has grown and has evolved since this book’s initial publication.  And now something that at one time seemed so shockingly dark for a cotton candy fluff author like Cabot just seems like cotton candy fluff.

The plot itself is pretty simplistic.  Jinx (or Jean as she prefers to be called) doesn’t have the best of luck and because of this is sent to live with her relatives in Manhattan.  And there’s evil cousins and witches.  Oh, and cute boys.

Because a Meg Cabot book can’t be complete without a cute boy.

To be honest, I can’t think of one Cabot book where there wasn’t a cute boy.  Okay, I wasn’t especially pleased with John at the beginning of the Abandon trilogy, but he grew on me.  Or for that matter Alaric who I still don’t really care for in the Insatiable duology.  But whatever.

He was a man not a boy.

For the most part, her YA heroes are gimme gimme (dibs on Jesse de Silva, bitches). And Zach fits into this category.  He likes seals.

How can you not like a guy who likes seals?

And his relationship with Jean isn’t insta love.  Sure, there’s attraction there, but it doesn’t go from stranger to soul mate.  It’s more like stranger to your sort of cute wanna get coffee?

Another thing I love about Meg Cabot’s books is how the setting seems to become a character of its own.  I love how she depicts New York.  Unlike a lot of YA and chick lit authors that try to focus on the city’s glamorous side, Cabot looks at the other fun sides of the city.

In this book: the food of Central Park.

That actually sounds like it could be a Food Network show.

But I loved those little dates where Jean and Zach would go from vendor and vendor tasting what the park had to offer.

So, why isn’t this the most memorable of Cabot books?

Because at times it just felt like it was going through the motions.

While I did enjoy the romance and the characters, there were points where Cabot obviously played her tropes.  Jean being a small town girl planted in the big city and seemingly fitting in effortlessly (the Boy Next Door series, the Queen of Babble series).  Jean being seemingly meek but powerful (The Princess Diaries, The Abandon Trilogy-though I still think Pierce is week, the Insatiable duology).   Too rich to be true Manhattanites starring in the book and fawning over the main character (She Went All the Way, The Heather Wells series, The Princess Diaries).  A beautiful evil mean girl (Avalon High the Graphic novels, The Princess Diaries, Airhead trilogy).

Yes, I get that author tropes is going to be a crutch that the author relies on but…

Come on.

Also, while the story is clearly a standalone and while I applaud and appreciate it, it sort of faded in the back of my mind because Cabot has so many great series.

Overall Rating: B+ if you’re looking for a fun Halloween-ish (it takes place at spring time, but there’s witches in it) book  read this one.  Warning, if you don’t like fluffy books then avoid.  But I like fluff, so I like this book.

PSA: This is NOT Okay

Edit: I heard that Blythe edited her review after Hale posted her article.  So, it initially was longer than two words.  Still it incites me that someone could be so petty to go all Lifetime Movie over a book review.

It should be obvious, right?

Stalking is NOT okay.

I mean, how many Lifetime movies have we’ve seen where the crazed stalker is taken away at the end of the movie and we’re told over and over again that it’s NOT the victim’s fault.

Yeah, thought so.

However, imagine my surprise when I open my Twitter feed this morning and see a YA author gloating about having tracked down a fellow blogger’s address.

My jaw literally dropped as I kept reading this article.  And especially after I read the comments where some were actually applauding Hale for tracking down Blythe and demasking her.

To be honest, I don’t care about Blythe’s identity.  Bloggers use pseudo names all the time.  God knows, I don’t use my name.  I rarely if ever even post pictures of myself because the YA blogging world has gotten cray cray in recent years.  And only a few people from my private life know about this blog.

We all have a right to privacy.

And Hale violated Blythe’s right pure and simple.  And then gloated about it online. As if she was justifying some big wrong.

The review sent Hale on a couple Twitter rampages, months of stewing, getting Blythe’s address through deceptive means, and ultimately  a confrontation that would be on par to about something you see on a Lifetime movie of the week.

And as previously mentioned there are some people who aren’t dumbfounded over this.

Hale doesn’t deserve a pat on the back.  For a eview she tracked down a woman and invaded her personal and professional life.  Because of a book review.

Apparently, this isn’t the first time Hale has gloated about an eyebrow raising confrontation.

Back to this specific case: Oh, but finding someone’s home isn’t illegal?

Yeah, but how would you feel if a complete stranger walked up on your doorstep, called the place where you worked out of the blue because of a  review.

Well, she deserved it she lied about her identity on a book blog?

Really.

This sort of claim is just skirting the issue.  When I looked at the issue, I’m not even going to consider the claims that Hale made against Blythe.  Because, well, Blythe hasn’t had the opportunity to tell her side of the story and to be honest it’s not even relevant. What’s relevant is what Hale did.  She spent months scrutinizing Harris’s posts and having some sting that is even more immature than the most immature of YA books.

Yet, people are defending her.  Even authors.

Why?

Why?

If I was Harper Teen I’d be concerned about this.  While Harris is a grown woman, several bloggers are teens.  How about if Harris had been a thirteen year old that Hale tracked down?

Age really shouldn’t matter though.  Most professional companies and organizations have strict rules about how ones personal information is given and how their employees use that information.  While Hale alleges that Harris gave her address willingly for an interview, that was for an interview.  An interview that was made for her book which despite what many authors think is not a paper baby.  It’s a product.  A product for Hale, her packaging company, and Harper Teen.    So in essence, Hale got the address as a part of her work for Harper Teen.

Victim shaming has always been an unfortunate part of our society.  The justification for what Hale did is victim shaming.  I feel as if the commenters shouldn’t focus on what Harris may allegedly had done, but on Hale’s actions.  Frame it any way you like, but what Hale did was scary and unprofessional.

And I won’t be buying or reading any of her or her supporters work.

Hmm, Better Than Average: My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

 

She doesn’t see dead people. She senses when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally.

Kaylee just wants to enjoy having caught the attention of the hottest guy in school. But a normal date is hard to come by when Nash seems to know more about her need to scream than she does. And when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason, only Kaylee knows who’ll be next.

Source: GoodReads

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much with this one.  Just your standard run of a mill YA paranormal (I mean, even the cover is a cliche).  However, Vincent surprised me.

While this book wasn’t without it’s faults, it was oddly refreshing.  Romance aside.

Yeah, I really didn’t dig the romance, but it didn’t bother me in the way where I couldn’t stand the love interest.  He’s tolerable.  A bit bland, but tolerable.  What bothered me was that their relationship (if anything) was instantaneous. And you all know how I feel about insta love.

Though to be fair, they’re not giving out their wedding vows after they start going out like most of these paranormal YA couples do.   They’re just dating.  Though I did get annoyed that he was the one who gave Kaylee her designated info dump.

Rolls eyes.

The plot is actually pretty good and interesting.  It’s not the standard you’re the chosen one YA book.  And it involves a paranormal creature that I’m not sick of-banshees.  Plus, the adults actually act like adults in this book and the kids don’t have to save their butts.

That’s a plus.

Also, these adults have personalities besides watching ESPN and being CPS worthy neglectful.  Even though, Kaylee’s aunt and uncle are distant, there are reasons for them being distant and it’s sort of explained as the book progresses. And yes, they still maintain a personality even though they’re distant.

The thing is, even though this one surprised me at how good it was.  It could’ve been better.  While it is definitely above average for a YA paranormal there were parts of it I thought could’ve been fleshed out better.  And while I did like the lead, I thought that she was still a little bland.  Not grossly bland, but kind of a blank slate.  But since she wasn’t a  sparkly Mary Sue, well, I gave her the benefit of the doubt.

The good thing for this book is that it’s the opener in a very long series, so maybe my grievances for character development are worked out in the next five or so books.

Besides having somewhat bland characters, another thing that really didn’t work for me was the info dumping.  I got to tell you anytime there’s multiple chapters spent on origins of paranormal powers I want to stab something.

I think it relates to my issues with origin stories.  Anytime, a superhero story gets revamped in the movies I always get annoyed because how many times do you want to hear how Bruce Wayne turns into Batman?  It’s sort of the same with these books how many times do I want to hear that you’re a super special paranormal creature who’s going to save the world.

Yeah, could’ve done without that.

Though, I do get why it’s very.  Sort of hard to avoid.  I think overall, My Soul to Take is an interesting start to what could be a really good paranormal series.  Will I continue it?  Yeah, eventually.  But at the moment, I’m not planning on binging this series.

Overall Rating: B+ refreshing but not enough to get it a full blown A or even an A-.

There’s No Partridges and Pear Trees: My True Love Gave to Me Edited by Stephanie Perkins

 

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME: TWELVE HOLIDAY STORIES by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins.

Source: GoodReads

This collection seemed to be written for me. If you you known me IRL or pay attention to my Twitter during the holiday season, you’ll see that I watch a lot of holiday specials.  And since I already have a penchant for bad Lifetime movies…well….this book seemed made for me.  But was it?

For this review, what I’m going to do is talk about the stories individually and then in the end wrap up my feelings on the entire collection.

A. The Stories:

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell:

I never fully got on the Rowell bandwagon, but I’ll admit this one was a pretty good story.  Though, I didn’t entirely buy the relationship at the end of this one, which made it lose points.

I’m sorry, there’s just something off about these two getting together as fast as they did-even though it wasn’t that technically fast, they knew each other for years.  But the way he acts at the New Year’s Party, I’m just wondering if he was high or something.  It just seemed off.

Other than that though, I liked what Rowell did with the pacing.  The flashbacks back and forth were a good technique to use.  And if the male lead wouldn’t have come off as drunk or high or there would’ve been a little bit more digging, I could’ve really loved this one.  To be fair though, it’s a short story.  Very, very, short.  So, I don’t know how much she could’ve done.

I think fans of her stuff will like this one, but for me it’s just good not great.

A solid B.

The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link:

I didn’t totally hate this one.

That doesn’t mean, I’m a fan.  I like that it tried to be different by having an almost paranormal element to it, but it just seemed too loose to me and never fully explained.

And I think Link wanted it to be this way.  After all, having an element fantasy to it is a common element to any good Christmas story-I’m looking at you The Nutcracker, but this one just seemed a little too rushed to it-and again the story goes through years.

I also thought there was just too much information in this one that we never got answers too.  So, the main character’s mother is in jail but we never know the exact reason why.  And then don’t even get me started on the ending.

I think this one I’m probably going to give a slightly below average rating too.  It wasn’t the worst but it just really wasn’t well fleshed out and paced at all.

C-

The Angels in the Snow by Matt De La Pena

Well, I’ve only read a thousand stories like this before in Intro to Creative Writing class and a anyone who’s trying to pretend to be John Green or John Green-ish.

I just couldn’t like it.

And it had a cat in it.

Can you say cat party?

But the narrator was just sooo whiney.  And I really didn’t get or want to get him.  Seriously, oh boo hoo I’m out of food but a person asks me out for dinner and I’m just too scared to eat with them.  Boo hoo I’m starving.

Obviously, it got annoying fast.

I’m just glad the love interest wasn’t a totally MPDG.  I think that would’ve been the final nail in the coffin.  But man, she got close to being one.

If it was a full blown novel….

Probably one of my least favorites that I finished: D

Polaris Is Where You’ll find Me by Jenny Han:

Odd.

That’s what this one was.

It was like it was trying to be an Elf knock off that was made into a Disney Channel movie that was trying to do a YA romance but then realize its page count ended so it ended.

To be fair to it, I really think it’s hard for anyone to take your story seriously when it takes place in the North Pole.  Unless it involves Buddy the Elf.  And that’s because his dads were both into publishing.

Overall Rating: C as in cliche.

It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins:

Okay, I”m a big Perkins fan, so it’s no surprise that I loved this.  I also have to give Perkins credit for trying something new (third person).

A lot is packed in this small story and I feel for the most part, the characters and the pacing were well done.  She keeps it simple, though we still get some big melodrama interjected in there for good measure.

I also like how real this one feels. Oh, sure there are some it’s so fiction roll your eyes worthy moments, but the chemistry was palpable and I could totally see someone having these characters problems.

Overall Rating: A-

Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan:

About the only positive thing I can say about this one is that it features a LGBT couple and there’s not a big deal made out of it.  It’s viewed as completely normal.

Bravo, story.

Other than that though…another frosh creative writing assignment that reminds me why I had to drink lots of coffee during undergrad when I had to workshop my peer groups stories.

This one was just a snooze fest with characters that were merely cliches.

I wish I would’ve seen more of the main character’s relationship with his boyfriend, but the boyfriend barely even makes an appearance throughout the story (hence, why I forgot his name).

Overall Rating: C (or if I could ZZZZZ because just a snooze fest).

Krampuslauf by Holly Black:

I read like three pages then DNF’s.  Something about Holly Black’s short stories and me don’t click.  Maybe I should give her longer stuff and chance and then maybe I can tolerate this.  Maybe if you’re a Holly Black fan you’ll like this one better than me.

What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman:

I really loved this one.  And now I’m thinking about checking out Forman’s other books, even though I’m still weary since some of them sound so depressing.

Both of the leads are interesting and diverse-one is Jewish the other is African American.  That in itself gives this story a star because it’s very rare we see one non-WASP lead let alone two.

The chemistry also works perfectly, despite the fact that this is a short story.  I love how much is woven in about the two characters

And did I mention.

Pie.

Yes, pie is featured in this story.

And yet, there’s still that holiday cheer feeling in the air too.

However, sometimes I felt like I was being a little too manipulated with this one.  However, that’s how I feel after many of a holiday specials so…

Overall Rating: A-

Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntrie

Another DNF.

It read like another frosh story.  And I really couldn’t get in to it.  I think I read half before I started skimming.  Seriously, I like having a male lead, but they always met that mystical girl that changes everything (to be fair you can make the same assessment with female YA protagonists-oooh, good future editorial topic).

It probably also didn’t help this story that I was able to guess the ending, and I merely skipped half of it and read the last paragraph.

And I was right.

And I’m not even that psychic.  Or really remotely psychic because if I was, I’d so be joining the Justice League or the Avengers.  Probably the Avengers, only because I think their team is cooler. Though the Justice League has Batman and Wonder Woman.  Decisions, decisions.

Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White:

Well, I’ll be damned.  White didn’t annoy me (again).

This is twice in what the last two things I’ve read by her.

While there are parts of this one that definitely needed fleshing out, it wasn’t bad.  It was dare I say it, even cute.

That being said, there were some things that annoyed me about it.  At times I wondered if this one was suppose to have some sort of magic realism to it..but I just sort of let it go.

I really viewed this story like a Lifetime Christmas movie.  Cute enough, but it’s not memorable.

Overall Rating: B

Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter:

Ugh….

For someone who did so much research on her spy novels, you’d think she know that airport security is a little more strenuous than that.  Or for that matter, no one even in middle of nowheresville America is that stupid.

And don’t even get me started on the improbability of that ending.  Let’s just say remember my review of Cinder and Ella and my rant about how non-lawyers really shouldn’t write about legal issues when they don’t have an f-ing clue what they’re talking about.

Yeah.


Fail story.  Yeah, you failed.

Overall Rating: F

The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Lani Taylor:

Couldn’t really get into this one.  Nothing against Taylor, but I wasn’t expecting so much fantasy in this story collection.  That and my eyes were starting to play weird tricks on me-I had the eyes dilated via the ophthalmologist today. It just seemed too complicated for me in short story mode anyway.  Maybe one day I’ll get back to it but now…I’m sure you Taylor lovers will probably love it.

B. Overall Opinion 

Overall, this collection was pretty mixed.  There were lots of them that were fantastic and then there were lots that were meh.

I bought it only because there were lots of authors whose stuff I enjoyed and I do like good holiday theme stories.  I think a lot of people will like it.  But it’s really not a much read.

Overall Grade: B- (which is slightly above average for me guys).

Is it Okay if I call this a Training Book? : Mates, Dates, and Inflatable Bras by Cathy Hopkins

Everything is changing around Lucy Loverling, and a turning point is exactly what she does NOT need. Suddenly she has to make all sorts of decisions including what she wants to be. And it seems that everyone else knows who and what she wants to be except her. Izzie has become friends with the glamorous Nesta, and Lucy isn’t certain she likes a threesome. Nesta and Izzie look sixteen, but Lucy, at fourteen, can still pass for a twelve-year-old.

But then one day Lucy sees the most wonderful boy crossing the street, and things do start to change — in all areas of her life…

Source: GoodReads

I remember gobbling these up when I was younger, so I decided it was time for a revisit.

The result.

Well, it’s not terrible.  Oh, sure I still cringed quite a bit while rereading it.  But there are worst books out there.  I just think I’ve really outgrown this series and instead of being labeled YA it should be middle grade.

Well, maybe ten years ago it was YA.

Let’s face it, the genre has matured a bit in ten years.  Used to you’d never see characters have sexual relationships with each and now..well, it’s more common place.

Dates, Mates, and Inflatable Bras isn’t really the best book.  And it hasn’t held up well over time either.  Though to be fair it was a little bit behind the times when it was first published too, Leo Dicaprio was so late 90’s book.

Whatever though.

The characters, while flat were enjoyable.  Out of all the main characters in the series, I remember enjoying Lucy’s POV the most so maybe that’s what made this one was stomach-able-Nesta I remember way beyond shallow in the series.  I think one of the reasons I liked Lucy so much was she was the most levelheaded of the bunch and out of the cliche characteristics that this bunch had, hers was the most tolerable.

Oh, sure she whines someone and is as boring as heck, but at least she’s likable.

Before I read this book I was reflecting on it, and I remembered I really liked the love interest.  But Tony is a bit of a bore to me now.  And honestly his relationship with Lucy is at best one sided insta love.

Honestly, they probably shouldn’t have gotten together in this installment.  I think a lot of my feelings for Tony were being mixed up with my feelings for Michael Moscovitz (another series that I’m planning on rereading in the next year or so).  Both of them are the brothers of the protagonist’s best friend.  But Tony is no Michael with his Leo DiCaprio face and womanizing ways.

And other than being pretty, I don’t get Lucy’s attraction towards him.

I think they only interacted for about ten pages.

Still, I’ve read worse though.  I think I more or less view this book as a training book (yeah, there was some sort of parallelism to the bra on the cover there and I know it was a really lame joke).  It’s not that great, but it gives you just  a taste of what’s out there so you’re interested in reading better books.

That’s why I’m not going to be too hard on it for its extreme underdevelopment or lack of a plot because I view this as a gateway book.  It’s not supposed to be taken seriously and to be honest I think it’s packaged in a way where people aren’t going to be expecting much.

It’s just in retrospect, it’s really a bit of a bummer.

Overall Rating: C+ while I wouldn’t read it now, I appreciate it for what it was in the past.  Younger readers who want something lighter and clean should give this one a whirl.  Just don’t expect much a decade later.

About as Korean as My TV Dinner: Silvern by Christina Farley

Jae Hwa Lee has destroyed Haemosu, the dangerous demi-god that held her ancestors captive, and now she’s ready to forget about immortals and move on with her life. Then the god of darkness, Kud, sends an assassin to kill her. Jae escapes with the knowledge that Kud is seeking the lost White Tiger Orb, and joins the Guardians of Shinshi to seek out the orb before Kud can find it.

But Kud is stronger and more devious than Haemosu ever was. Jae is soon painfully reminded that by making an enemy of Kud, she has placed her closest friends in danger, and must decide how much she can bear to sacrifice to defeat one of the most powerful immortals in all of Korea.

Source: GoodReads

I recieved an ARC of this book via Netgalley.  That did not change my opinion of the book, though I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it.

Yeah, this book is about as Korean as the TV dinner I had last weekend.  It might’ve said it was Korean on the box, but it was really just a sad over seasoned meal that I only ate because it was the only thing in my house that wasn’t bread and I can’t eat bread anymore unless it’s the nasty rice/tapioca bread that’s texture isn’t right.

That being said, this book that features a Korean American who lives in South Korea, wasn’t that Korean.

Not that I should be surprise since the first book featured the whitest of white love interests and he seems to only get even whiter in this book.

To be fair, this book is a little bit better than its predecessor.  Or to be honest it wasn’t worse.  And for a second book that’s a positive since more often than not the second book is going to suck a lot more than the first.

And it didn’t go the  New Moon route either, like it’s biggest (well, only) competitor in Asian inspired YA modern paranormal type way (the Japanese set Ink series).  Though, it went the standard McGuiffin quest route and it was sort of a bumbling quest at that.

That took place in North Korea of all places.

Oh, yeah.  Part of this book took place in North Korea.

But does it go to the hot bed of political issues, human rights law violations, or randomly appearing leader?

Um, no.  The only thing that it remotely touches on those harsh conditions is that the country seemed undeveloped and that the National Honor Society at Jae Hwa’s school is giving TB vaccines.

Um, what sort of high school is going to let students go to North Korea?  It’s not that I don’t think high schools  want students to be caring people, it’s that it’s a law suit/potential political catastrophe in the making.

But don’t worry, Farley will make that anticlimactic so that it’s not a big deal. Despite all the foreshadowing.

What’s more or less a big deal is the stupid pointless McGuffin quest that ends up leading to a heart wrenching cliff hanger that makes me like….I don’t give a flip.

Because I really didn’t.

I couldn’t connect to either of these characters.  Not Jae Hwa or her WASP boyfriend.

What’s the point with Marc?

Really, is he just supposed to be eye candy?

He wasn’t though.

Not to me.  You know what would’ve been eye candy for me?  A geeky Korean guy who wasn’t viewed as instantly attractive, didn’t know everything, but was loyal to a fault and didn’t fall in love with Jae Hwa right off the back.

Of course, we get Marc instead though.  Marc with his green eyes, brown hair, and sheer stupidity that makes me want to hit something even though everyone else says he’s really soooo smart.

Really, if he and Jae Hwa stopped making idiotic choices this series could’ve been done already like my TV dinner of Korean food. Instead, we’re dragged on through another book (at least I’m pretty sure).

Sigh…

In the end, I sort of pity this book.  I do feel like Farley does try throughout the entire book, but sometimes trying like love isn’t enough.  And it’s just sort of sad.  Because while I see Farley at times trying to embrace the setting and embrace the culture, at other times I just felt like I could be in any heavy Korean populated area in the US.  Same goes with the mythology.  Sometimes I was really intrigued and then sometimes it felt just generic.  Then the characters, sometimes…no, the characters I never really go into them.

I gave this series a second chance when I saw this book on Netgalley, only because I wanted so much for it to work.  But I really am going to have to think about whether I’m going to invest my time with the third book.  Choppy use of mythology, making a rich vibrant culture generic, and beyond dull characters…um, no thanks.

Overall Rating: C- at least it didn’t pull a New Moon and at least it’s readable.

Do Judge a Book By Its Cover: Spooky Covers

Do Judge a Book by Its Cover is a feature I do once a month around the fifteenth on my blog.  If anyone is interested in joining, they’re more than welcome too.  You can click on the following link to see how.

This month’s theme is scary covers-because it’s Halloween.  Every cover I’m featuring here has some element of fear.

 

What the Cover Conveys:

Bobbing  for apples is a tradition that Farley Dashwood really isn’t into that much.

It’s a festering pot full of germs, in her opinion.  Which is why she didn’t die the night that every single one of her friends did.

However, she was the only one meant to die. But Farley is not going to take that sitting down nicely.  She’s going to play detective even if that means getting her hands dirty-okay, maybe she’ll wear some gloves.

The Scary Truth:

An edgy fairy tale retelling of “Snow White” set in the world of Kill Me Softly for fans of Once Upon a Time and Grimm.

Faced with a possible loophole to her “Snow White” curse, Viv goes underground, literally, to find the prince who’s fated to rescue her. But is life safe in the Underworld worth the price of sacrficing the love that might kill her?

POP CULTURE CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF TWISTING FAIRY TALES: ABC’s Once Upon a Time and NBC’s Grimm continue to pull in high ratings. And with the anticipated Angelina Jolie Maleficent (2014), the film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods (2014), and Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella (2015), Hollywood is infected with fairy tale fever.

CAMEOS FROM FAVORITE CHARACTERS: Viv, who first appeared in Kill Me Softly trailed by her brooding boy-toy Henley, takes center stage in this new Beau Rivage tale. Other familiar characters including Blue and Jewel are back to help her defy her destiny.

TEENS LOVE THIS FAIRY TALE WORLD: Kill Me Soflty was a 2013 YALSA Teens’ Top 10. Readers have been clamoring for a sequel.

A FRESH TAKE ON THE FAMILIAR: Drawing on “Snow White,” “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” and “Rumpelstiltskin,” Tear You Apart is very conscious of the way these stories have pervaded pop culture, twisting known tropes into an exciting new story that can stand on its own.

Source: GoodReads

Trick or Treat:

Trick. On the spooky level it’s not really that scary.  I mean, I think the red stuff is supposed to be blood, but it could very well be that cinnamon goop they put on candy apples.

What the Cover Conveys:

She’s only a spare to the heir. And not even a real spare.

Lily Gold has trained her entire life to take over should her sister, Lydia, meet with with a grisly end.  Endless training, but no rewards.  And it really sucks acting like you don’t exist for 99% of the time.  Unless…or course, Lydia has a head cold and Lily has to make an appearance.  One day a mysterious boy (because there’s always a mysterious boy in these books) tells Lily he can completely change her life.  Make her the heir and Lydia the spare.  Will she take him up on his offer?  And if she does just how much will things change?

The Scary Truth:

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.

Sydney would love to go to college, but instead, she’s been sent into hiding at a posh boarding school in Palm Springs, California–tasked with protecting Moroi princess Jill Dragomir from assassins who want to throw the Moroi court into civil war. Formerly in disgrace, Sydney is now praised for her loyalty and obedience, and held up as the model of an exemplary Alchemist.

But the closer she grows to Jill, Eddie, and especially Adrian, the more she finds herself questioning her age–old Alchemist beliefs, her idea of family, and the sense of what it means to truly belong. Her world becomes even more complicated when magical experiments show Sydney may hold the key to prevent becoming Strigoi—the fiercest vampires, the ones who don’t die. But it’s her fear of being just that—special, magical, powerful—that scares her more than anything. Equally daunting is her new romance with Brayden, a cute, brainy guy who seems to be her match in every way. Yet, as perfect as he seems, Sydney finds herself being drawn to someone else—someone forbidden to her.

When a shocking secret threatens to tear the vampire world apart, Sydney’s loyalties are suddenly tested more than ever before. She wonders how she’s supposed to strike a balance between the principles and dogmas she’s been taught, and what her instincts are now telling her.

Should she trust the Alchemists—or her heart?

Source: GoodReads

Trick or Treat:

Trick.  Mead has awful luck when it comes to covers, and this one in no exception.  Honestly, the girls on the cover sort of remind me of those girls in The Shining.  Shudders.

What the Cover Conveys:

Alternate realities are a reality, at least in Lish’s world.  Imagine when she finds out that in one reality she’s a serial killer.  And she’s sent into that reality by said serial killer to take the fall.  While Serial Killer Lish, is planning to make some major collateral in Lish’s world, Real Lish (as she calls herself) is trying to figure out a way home so she can save the ones she loves.  The only thing, is to get home she has to rely on the help of her worst enemy.

The Scary Truth:

Some decisions have unimaginable consequences.

Every time someone makes a choice, a new parallel world is spun off the existing one. Eating breakfast or skipping it, sneaking out instead of staying in bed—every decision creates an alternate universe in which an Echo self takes the road not travelled. As a Walker who can navigate between these realities, Del is training to help keep the dimensions in harmony.

When Del secretly starts to investigate other dissonant worlds, she get tangled up with an Echo of her longtime crush. She knows she shouldn’t keep seeing him. But as Del persists, she uncovers a truth that the Council of Walkers is trying to hide—a secret that threatens the entire multiverse.

Source: GoodReads

 

Trick or Treat:

Treat.  As far as scary is concerned, it doesn’t look that scary at least not initially.  But when you think of all those duplicates on the page starring at you it starts getting a little creepy. But creepiness aside, it really is a pretty cover.

 

What the Cover Conveys:

Millie wants to forget May 26, 2012.

She has done everything to put that awful date behind her.  Even moved halfway across the country with her dad and stepmom to try to start over.

However, there’s no way you can escape the past when there’s the internet even if you changed your name and appearance.  And someone knows the truth that Millie isn’t Millie at all.  But Morgan, the girl who totally made an ass of herself and then had everyone in the world know she made an ass of herself by someone posting it on Youtube.

Millie is insistant that her perfect life will not be ruined though and makes plans to get rid of her blackmailer or else.

The Scary Truth:

Maggie Dempsey is tired of moving all over the country. Her parents are second-generation hippies who uproot her every year or so to move to a new city. When Maggie was younger, she thought it was fun and adventurous. Now that she’s a teenager, she hates it. When she moved after her freshman year, she left behind good friends, a great school, and a real feeling of belonging. When she moved her sophomore year, she left behind a boyfriend, too. Now that they’ve moved to Austin, she knows better. She’s not going to make friends. She’s not going to fit in. Anything to prevent her from liking this new place and them from liking her. Only . . . things don’t go exactly as planned.

Source: GoodReads

Trick or Treat:

Trick.  Well, it is a cover from hell.  I really feel for Ziegler she didn’t even get a pretty cover to help this less than stellar book.  Grant it, pretty covers really don’t make that big of a difference in whether a book succeeds or fails, but it probably does effect sales.

What the Cover Conveys:

Belle is dead.

Well, undead.  Imagine how it was for her waking up in a box with a bell string tied around her finger.

Horrifying doesn’t describe the experience.

It was almost as horrifying as her death-strangliation by a caller no less.

Fortunately, for Belle she’s rescued from her underground prison.  Or maybe unfortunately when she realizes that her life is on longer hers.  She now is forced to work for what can only be described as a mafia organization that employs the undead.  And if she escapes, well, then she’ll be dead dead.

The Scary Truth:

Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.

Source: GoodReads

Trick or Treat:

Treat.  Pretty darn creepy.  And I like it.