Total Pageviews

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The List by Siobhan Vivian

You don't come across many books that highlight the perils of being pretty (and not-so-pretty) like this one. In The List, Siobhan Vivian dives in headfirst into the self-esteem issues present today among girls.

On the first day of homecoming week every year, an anonymous list is posted all over Mount Washington High School. This list names the prettiest and the ugliest girl in each class. The girls that make the list achieve celebrity status all around the school. The prettiest girls shoot to the top of the social ladder while the ugliest girls become mascots for everything a girl shouldn't be.

Abby is thrilled to be declared the prettiest freshman girl; however, her not-so-hot older sister isn't so happy about it.
Danielle is shocked when she's named the ugliest freshman girl, but what will her new boyfriend say about it?
Shy former-homeschooler Lauren is shoved into the spotlight when The List says she's the prettiest sophomore.
Candace can't believe she's been named the ugliest sophomore. But she's about to learn that outer beauty isn't everything...
Bridget's eating disorder grows worse when she's named the prettiest junior.
Sarah decides to go on a full-scale beauty rebellion when she's dubbed the ugliest junior.
Margo is named the prettiest senior and is now destined to be homecoming queen.
Jennifer is named the ugliest for the fourth year in a row. When the popular girls decide she doesn't deserve to be treated in this way, they rally for her to be homecoming queen. Now ex-best friends Jennifer and Margo will have to confront why they stopped being friends all those years ago...

No one knows who is behind The List, but once you're on it, your life changes forever.

This book tackles all the issues attacking girls today: peer pressure, popularity, family drama, dating, eating disorders, and lack of self-esteem. It's diverse and excessive, giving it's eight distinctive characters a different story line. It follows the eight girls through homecoming week as they navigate their new social standings now that they are on The List.

This book doesn't hold back, it goes into every facet that comes with high beauty standards being set. Bridget's eating disorder is explored well enough, but I felt that her story line didn't have a complete ending. With so many ends to tie up, the book falls a little flat in that area.

I didn't like all the characters either. I found Sarah to be repulsive and utterly detestable and hated reading the chapters that focused on her. Lauren lost her character in the end. And by the end we still aren't sure where Margo and Jennifer stand.

Even with its flaws, The List is still entertaining and intriguing. The reveal of who is behind The List was surprisingly unpredictable. And despite all, the story manages to depict peer pressure present in high school quite accurately. Sure, the book gets a little long, but it carries itself well enough not to get dull.

Detailed and bold, The List is a mostly decent fable of beauty, right down to the chilling last sentence.
3.5/5 stars

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

Classic fairy tales set in the modern day are usually a good time. Jackson Pearce's 2nd novel is a twist on Hansel and Gretel set in the 21st century. Think the Brothers Grimm tale and add in guns.

When they were little children exploring the forest, Ansel and Gretchen had their sister kidnapped from them by a witch. At least, they think it was a witch. All Gretchen saw was a pair of yellow eyes. Now that they are older, their father and mother are both dead and their stepmother has just kicked them out of the house. They head down to Live Oak, South Carolina to start over. Everyone is the town seems cold and unwelcoming except Sophia Kelly. She's a beautiful young woman who runs the local chocolate shop. Her candies are almost magical. They give people hope, strength, and courage. Gretchen and Ansel move in with her and life seems just about perfect. But then Gretchen meets dark stranger Samuel, who tells her not to trust Sophia. Gretchen soon learns the scary truth: the witch is still around, and won't go away until it's been fed.

I've always liked the story of Hansel and Gretel, so this book has been on my to-read list for a while. I found it thoroughly entertaining. It's told from Gretchen's perspective, and sometimes I thought Ansel was pushed in the background. Gretchen is the one doing all the cool stuff. It's set up like a big mystery. The plot keeps twisting and turning out new details piecing together just who the witch is and why it is the way it is.

I read the majority of Sweetly in one day. It gets a little weird. The ending was pretty whacked up. The whole story is this huge buildup to a big reveal only to reach it's gruesome, disturbing demise. It was a bittersweet ending, and I wasn't a huge fan of it. But it kept me reading, which is what counts. As for the characters, Gretchen proved to be quite tough. I liked Samuel a lot. Ansel kind of seemed like a wuss. And it's blatantly obvious that Sophia can't be trusted.

As for predictability, the story wasn't too bad. Sure, it isn't hard to guess who the witch is in the end, but there's more to it then that. It will keep you guessing.

Sweetly is a gritty, modernized retelling of Hansel and Gretel. It was better than okay, but it isn't phenomenal. Overall I enjoyed it. Read it on a rainy day, it's one of those books.
3.5/5 stars

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Selection by Kiera Cass

A young girl lives in a dystopian future where the world is torn apart. Her family is poor and hunger stricken. She has the opportunity to leave her bleak lifestyle when she gets chosen for a contest unlike any other. The competition is fierce, and if she wants to win she'll have to fight hard. Then the opportunity for true love is right in front of her, but that might mean leaving the boy she loves back home behind forever.

No, I'm not talking about The Hunger Games, I'm talking about The Selection by Kiera Cass. I try not to compare every book I read to The Hunger Games but with a story like The Selection, the comparisons are unavoidable. If the reality show The Bachelor threw up on Suzanne Collin's smash-hit series, The Selection would be the final product.

In a post WWIII U.S. divided by caste, teenage America Singer and her family are Fives, struggling musicians and artists. In love with Aspen, a Six, America is headed for a life of servitude and hunger, until she is chosen for the Selection—a contest through which Prince Maxon will pick his princess. The Selection brings America instant notoriety and prestige, but also thrusts her into a ring of jealous, desperate girls all trying to win the prince’s heart. America is unlike any of the other girls in the Selection. She doesn't want to try to win over a stuffy prince...until she actually meets Maxon. They form a fast friendship, and soon America is questioning who truly holds her affections, the prince or the poor boy back home?

As someone who likes to read books before they explode into popularity (CW is making a TV series based off of this book) I grabbed The Selection at first opportunity. The lack of originality was annoying and was probably my main problem with it. However, I still enjoyed it, and the pages flew by. I read it in a day. It's a lighter read compared to all the other dystopian YA picks out there. However, it isn't all ballgowns and romance. The castle proved to be somewhat dangerous and prone to rebel attacks, which added and improved on the whole story. I thought the world building was solid and overall realistic.

Did I like the heroine, America? I'm not sure. She is rational and good at heart, but her whole "I'm too good to be at this castle" thing got old for me fast. It's fine that she wanted to be different and not try as hard as the other girls to win over Prince Maxon. He appreciated how real and honest she was. But her pondering between Maxon and Aspen made me almost frustrated. Probably because I really liked one of the boys and didn't care for the other. I'll admit, I got into a love triangle, something that doesn't normally happen!

I feel like Kiera Cass could have wrapped up her story in one book. I just hate it when you flip to the last page, only to find "To Be Continued" printed there. To me it is obvious what boy America should choose. The mysteries of the rebel armies probably could have been cleared up in this book, and not dragged out to a sequel. Then again, I don't know what the author has planned, and maybe more books are required to tell the story she wanted. Fine by me. This was a good enough read to hang on for Part 2.

A fun and fluffy dystopian romance. Though it lacks originality and is dragged out for the sake of drama, Kiera Cass has a winning formula on her hands by putting a fairy tale spin on a scary, possible future.
3/5 stars

Friday, July 6, 2012

Wither (The Chemical Garden Trilogy #1) by Lauren DeStefano

My constant hunger for girly dystopian fiction was satisfied by Wither. It's both eerie and sophisticated. But was there substance and a decent plot under the pretty book jackets? I'm not quite sure.

SUMMARY: Sixteen year old Rhine is growing up in a dangerous and dying world, where females only live to the age of 20 and males live to the age of 25. When she's kidnapped along with many other girls, Rhine wonders what the future holds. Is she to be sold into slavery or prostitution? Instead, she ends up as a young bride for an incredibly wealthy man, Linden Ashby. She shares him with 2 other sister wives, Cecily and Jenna. Linden's enormous and elaborate mansion has everything anyone could ever want, except freedom, and Rhine is pampered there but trapped. It is there that she meets Gabriel, a servant boy who dreams of escape as well, a boy who Rhine is growing more and more attracted to. As time passes, Rhine begins to wonder if escape is worth it, because the world outside the safe mansion is scary and full of disease. But it is the only way she'll ever see her twin brother Rowan again. She could stay at the mansion with Linden, who genuinely loves her. But his father, Vaughn, is a scientist determined to find a cure for the disease that's killing the younger generations. And to do that, he'll need bodies, and is out to get them. Rhine will have to decide fast if she should stay or attempt escape, because her short lifespan is running out

Okay, so if you were one of those people whose favorite part of the Hunger Games was reading about life in the Capitol, and all their gadgets and food and fashion, you'll love this book. Rhine is swept up into a world of endless servants, fabulous clothes and parties. I loved DeStefano's descriptions and detailing of life in the mansion.

"Was there romance?" you ask. Of course there was, it's young adult fiction, so it had a love triangle and all! How original...not. But it was okay with me because it wasn't flaunted. Linden really loved Rhine, and underneath it all he was a really nice guy. I liked Gabriel too. Cecily, another one of Linden's wives, is a thirteen year old who was way too eager to be a wive and have kids. She was disturbing but entertaining, more so than reserved Jenna. And then there's Rhine, who flip-flopped back and forth personality-wise, I had a hard time figuring her out.

But underneath its layers of fluff, this book had it's issues. The world-building was weak and undeveloped. Every country but the United States was destroyed in a third World War? I'm so sure. Not enough was explained, and it wasn't very believable. And the plot? At points I didn't think there was one at all. There was, but it was stretched so thin, the story dragged on near the end. The disease was a sketchy area as well, but I liked the messages it conjured up about how one should treat life.

I hope that the second book explains more and builds on the world DeStefano created. Luckily it's on my desk right now, just waiting to be cracked open. Hopefully book 2, Fever will go deeper.

THE BOTTOM LINE: It was like a dry, flavorless cake with a layer of beautiful frosting. Wither kept me interested and entertained, but I wanted more explained. 3/5 stars

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

I'm a self-admitted book hipster. I like to have read the best and soon-to-be-biggest books before they get big. So after hearing more than once that Daughter of Smoke and Bone was the the next Hunger Games, I'm like fine, whatever, let's give it a try. I'm glad I did.

SUMMARY: Karou is beyond unusual. She's a young art student living in Prague with big secrets. She speaks many languages, not all of them are human. Her hair is a brilliant shade of peacock blue, it grows out of her head that way. She spends her days drawing mythical beasts and creatures, sketches all her friends admire. Little do they know that the creatures Karou draws are real, they are the inhuman family that raised her, the family she runs errands for. Her task is collecting teeth to give to them. But the two worlds Karou inhabits, her life as a teen artist living on her own and her life as the member of an other-worldly family, are about to collide. She will soon have to face the fact that she works and was raised by the devil, and that she's about to be caught up in the ancient war between angels and devils, and forbidden love with the enemy.

So it's a pretty good fantasy/paranormal romance. It started out a little sketchy. Karou is confronted by her ex-boyfriend when he becomes a naked model for her life drawing class. At that point I thought it was going to be one of THOSE books. But it isn't. Over time you start to see the beauty and genius of the fantasy world Laini Taylor created. It skips around quite a bit, and it left me confused at points. The point of view alternates between Karou and Akiva, the angel warrior she grows to love. I didn't really get into either character, I found them both hard to latch onto. So I didn't really get into their romance. It didn't matter though, the story is still good. Taylor's romantic, graceful prose is what really sold me. Her descriptions are so beautifully crafted.

The novel concerns angels and devils, but they are more of a fantasy version instead of the religious figures we know them as. The characters are fallible, and you can't really get to know Karou until the very last page, mostly because the main theme of the story is her finding out who and what she really is. My favorite character was her best friend Zuzanna, a talented puppet-maker who provides the comic relief of the story.

The plot is shaky, but it worked. The end is a shocker, on the final pages things seem wonderful, true love will conquer all, and then boom, an awful secret is revealed and the book stops there. I was about to wail in frustration, but it said "to be continued". So I eagerly wait for book #2 so I can return to Taylor's multi-level fantasy world and gorgeous prose.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A story that's strange and sketchy at first morphs into something beautiful, only to end dreadfully, setting the stage for the sequel. 4/5 stars

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

So Not Happening by Jenny B Jones

So Not Happening is your usual prissy-rich-girl-gets-a-reality-check story. In order to make it different than all the other books like that, hints of mystery and suspense are thrown in.

Bella Kirkwood lived her charmed life happy as could be in New York. She possesses everything she could want: fab friends, couture clothes, her dad's unlimited credit card. But when her mom decides to remarry a man who is a total stranger, Bella's perfect world is flipped upside down. She's forced to move to Truman, Oklahoma, and live on her new stepdad's farm with his 2 sons.

At first things are terrible. Not having her friends at her side and a credit card in her pocket prove to be a challenge, especially when everyone at her new school turns against her. Just as she's starting to adjust, she suspects that something suspicious is going on with the Truman football team. Being on the staff of the high school newspaper, Bella decides to investigate further, despite her really obnoxious (and attractive) editor's wishes. Soon she finds herself wrapped up in a mystery that will lead her to discovering where she truly belongs.

This wasn't a bad read. Many attempts were made in the story to be funny, and a number of them made me laugh. The book is narrated by Bella, your usual priss. In the beginning she is of course annoying, all she ever does is complain, but grows more tolerable throughout the story. I eventually grew to like her snarky commentary. My other favorite character was her intense editor Luke, who is annoying, but you can't help but want him and the love-hate relationship he and Bella have.

The book is full of clichés, Bella steps in cow dung as soon as she arrives on the farm for example. The first half of the book is basically Bella sulking while noticing that things aren't quite right with the football team. I enjoyed the second half more because things really took off and got fast-paced. The climax was something I honestly hadn't foreseen, though once it happened I was easily able to predict what happened next. In the end, Bella relies on God to help her through, something you don't usually see in books like these.

There are apparently 2 sequels, and I wouldn't mind reading those. I like Jenny B Jones' mystery-meets-riches-to-rags stories.

THE BOTTOM LINE: An acceptable way to spend reading time. Though predictable, So Not Happening has mystery, humor, and underlying Christian themes that improve the story heavily.
3/5 stars

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Crossed by Ally Condie

Guess what? Ally Condie and her dystopian world are back! (Yes, I’m aware it’s been a few months since the book came out, but better late than never.) So if you don’t want to be totally spoiled on what happens if you haven’t read the 1st book, Matched already, DON’T READ BEYOND THIS POINT. Instead go read Matched already. Honestly, what are you waiting for? It’s the new thing.

So here’s what goes on: Cassia has made her way to the Outer Provinces. Now that she’s chosen to pursue Ky after rejecting a future inside The Society with her official Match, Xander, Cassia has no way of predicting the dangers that are to come. She escapes into the canyons in hopes of finding Ky, but she is searching for something else as well. When an Archivist slips her a piece of information, new hope swirls through Cassia. She learns of The Rising, or the rebellion against the Society. But if she is to find Ky or The Rising, she will need to venture out farther and learn more than she ever imagined. Meanwhile, Ky is in pursuit of Cassia as well. He too escapes into canyons, his sole goal to reunite with his lost love.

But if Cassia and Ky are to ever meet again or take down The Society, they will have to endure things they never anticipated. Like new allies, surprises from Xander along the way, and the crossing, twisting paths that lead them to their destiny- whatever that may be.

Let’s face it: Ally Condie could have really screwed this up. A survival story of two people desperately seeking each other as they travel through the wilderness? Boring and cliché. But she didn’t screw this up. Not at all.

I won’t say the beginning grabbed my attention right away, at times it was dull. But once it did, I was hooked. Unlike Matched, which focused on Cassia alone, Crossed alternated points of view, from Cassia to Ky. The new insight on Ky added a whole new dimension to the story. We learn more about his past, his ambitions, and his intense love for Cassia.

No, seriously. There were times when I wanted to scream, “Will you two just find each other already? I’m sick of you poetically describing how much you yearn for each other!” However, once the romantic plotline of the story hits its much-anticipated point *cough-cough, hint-hint* Allie Condie gobs on romance scenes so thick I had to laugh. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy them though, and I’ll admit the whole thing with where they whisper poems to each other in the dark and their lyrical inner thoughts were quite dazzling.

Even if it didn’t have the love story it would have still been really cool. The Rising was this big urban legend they uncovered, and a few of the secrets that are revealed about the characters made me gasp out loud. (I love it when that happens!) The new characters that were introduced were great with interesting background stories. I thought the resolution was genius and I cannot wait for the final book in the trilogy. I can see the potential it has now…oh, and I’ll bet you anything that Cassia will be wearing red and breaking right out of that bubble on the next book cover.

A lovely work that is a melodic blend of poetry and prose. Great suspense, good romance, and it is very unpredictable. Definitely worth your time.
4.5/5 stars