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Raised by Wolves (Raised by Wolves #1) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published June 8th 2010 by EgmontUSA
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Adopted by the Alpha of a werewolf pack after a rogue wolf brutally killed her parents right before her eyes, fifteen-year-old Bryn knows only pack life, and the rigid social hierarchy that controls it. That doesn’t mean that she’s averse to breaking a rule or two.

But when her curiosity gets the better of her and she discovers Chase, a new teen locked in a cage in her guardian’s basement, and witnesses him turn into a wolf before her eyes, the horrific memories of her parents’ murders return. Bryn becomes obsessed with getting her questions answered, and Chase is the only one who can provide the information she needs.

But in her drive to find the truth, will Bryn push too far beyond the constraints of the pack, forcing her to leave behind her friends, her family, and the identity that she’s shaped?

Because I’ve been staring at this page for a few days now and still have no idea how to start this review, some lists!

Things I liked:

  • I enjoyed the first third-or-so of the story! It was fast-paced, interesting enough, and Bryn’s voice really shone through the pages. You could feel her strong character, and while she was kind of cringe-y at times – maybe just because I’m pretty close to her polar opposite and wouldn’t do a lot of the things she did – it was really fun to keep up with her.
  • The cubs! They were really cute.
  • Ali, Bryn’s mom, is fierce and protective and loyal and all-around wonderful and must be protected.
  • SHE PROTECTS BRYN AND TREATS HER RIGHT AND WHEN ABSOLUTE SHIT HITS THE FAN, SHE SAYS THINGS LIKE THIS: “…if we weren’t leaving because of what they’d done to you, we’d be leaving because the pack has twisted you enough to make you think that it’s okay for someone to treat you that way.”

Things I disliked:

  • I said I liked a third of a book but it’s more like the first quarter or the first fifth? I liked everything up until when Chase popped in.
  • Who’s Chase? Some super hot, super mysterious werewolf guy. I think. I have no idea. He was super protective of Bryn, and super love-struck if that counts?
  • But really all we know is that a handful of short, supervised meetings between him and Bryn are enough to get her to throw away her family, her friends, and the life she’s always known to basically tie the rest of her life to this guy.
  • We’re treated to a lot of cheesy lines but there’s very little substance to Bryn and Chase’s relationship. I want to swoon and coo over their relationship but there’s nothing to swoon or coo over because their relationship is built on very close to nothing.
  • The book after Chase appeared meandered in this downward spiral toward nothingness.
  • All that talk about how extra super special Bryn was really didn’t help the book’s case either.
  • There is also some plot – if you read close enough. About a rabid. But it’s drowned out by Bryn and Chase’s attraction and all this talk about how Bryn’s a Super Special Snowflake.
  • I actually kind of liked Callum in the beginning, and then he became more and more overbearing, and then he took things way too far. Protecting someone! Isn’t an excuse! For beating the shit out of them!
  • !!!
  • !!!!!!!
  • I haven’t read a lot of werewolf books, and I think Raised by Wolves might be my first YA werewolf book, or at least the first Goodreads and I can remember, but yeah, I get that a lot of fantasy novels about werewolves like to play with and reinforce the idea of strong bonds between the pack members, the idea of a pack hierarchy, and consequentially, what happens when those things are toyed with or broken. But still! I like to think that everyone, human, somewhat, or not, would agree that violence is hardly not the answer, and definitely not the answer here.
  • Raising a hand against someone in the name of protecting that very person is not okay, but everyone aside from Ali – even Bryn – just accepts it.
  • Holy fucking shit.
  • Callum gets of way too lightly, with very little repercussion. Instead, he’s basically crowned as all-knowing and all-seeing. //gag//

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
Published February 5th 2013 by Feiwel & Friends
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

I’m going to be honest here: probably the only reason why I finished Scarlet was because I read it during history (because I’m a perfect model student, didn’t you know?). Because, really, anything is more interesting than history with a clueless substitute teacher. Even a story that nearly drove me to tears of boredom and frustration.

The most annoying thing about Scarlet was Cinder’s identity. Or, rather, the other characters’ inability to put together two and two and realize who Cinder was. I’m pretty close to crying, guys. Scarlet and Wolf were LOOKING for Princess Selene. By the end of the book, they KNEW the princess was secretly smuggled to earth and taken in by someone with the last name “Linh.” They KNEW that a Lunar teenager had recently broken out of prison (don’t tell me they didn’t know there were so many broadcastings about it) with the last name “Linh.” If they were really looking for Princess Selene, wouldn’t they have been just a little suspicious? Then if they’d done the math, they would have realized that – surprise! – the escaped fugitive and the princess were around the same age. Don’t even get me started on Captain Thorne (HE WAS WITH HER FOR THE LONGEST).

And KAI. It’s been maybe a year since I’ve read Cinder, so I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that whole capture thing at the end of Cinder and the Lunar Queen (whose name I’ve conveniently forgotten) were huge clue-ins to Cinder’s identity as Princess Selene. Of course, that’s not the only fuck-up from him. His big decision at the end to “save everyone” made no sense whatsoever. Yeah, okay, Earth’s going to be okay for a little bit. A couple years at most. But after that? It’s going to be goodbye, Earth.

Cinder? It’s best if you stick with Captain Throne. Granted, he isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but at least he hasn’t doomed an entire planet. Yet.

That aside, the romance didn’t raise any points for Scarlet, either. It wasn’t terrible, I suppose. Just… lacking. There wasn’t really any base for the romance. Since romance is one of the genres, it’s pretty obvious that Scarlett and Wolf are going to get together, but when they do, it’s pretty disappointing. One minute they’re flinging fruits at each other and in the next they’re kissing in a jail cell and there’s literally no in-between.

The Queen’s Army/wolf pack left me equally interested and confused. I will admit to skipping over some details and things towards the end because I just wanted the story to hurry up and end already, but even so… the hierarchal system and the wolf/man concept just seemed hazy and I felt so lost. Other little things confused me too, like the setting. Sometimes it took a while to figure out where they were because all the settings seemed so similar, and the narrative neglected to point out any landmarks or such for clarification.

Captain Thorne, inability to see what was dancing in neon lights right in front of his nose aside, was funny and witty, and generally I liked him. Cinder too had turned quite interesting and badass (I greatly preferred her narratives over Scarlet’s). But that aside, there weren’t very many redeeming points for Scarlet as far as I’m concerned.

The way my rating system’s set up, I’ve described a one-star as “eh, don’t bother” and a two-star as “interesting enough to finish, but too many flaws for my liking” – pretty much Goodread’s “did not like it” and “liked it.” So I’m setting Scarlett in the middle. I did finish it, but would only recommend it for people who really enjoyed Cinder. Then again, 86% of Goodread-ers gave Scarlett 4 and 5 stars, so I guess I’m the black sheep?

But there’s my two cents ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ

The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1) by Samantha Shannon
Published August 20th 2013 by Bloomsbury USA
Source: Purchased
Rating: dnf

The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

I felt like I was drowning.

The Bone Season was quite possibly my most anticipated book of 2013. Granted, that was years ago and my reading tastes could’ve changed, but I was really, really, really looking forward to it. There was so much hype from so many people I share similar tastes with, and the blurb had me at “criminal underworld.” That’s probably where things started going wrong.

Thing is, The Bone Season starts out perfectly fine. There might be one too many characters to keep track of at first, but it’s not bothersome. Paige, while nothing outstanding, is a character that I’d be comfortable enough to spend the book’s 500-or-so pages with. Then things kicked off – dangerous, criminal underworldly events that got me really excited, and I remember telling my friend who had gifted me the book that things were getting really good and I was starting to really love it. Famous last words, right?

Flash forward a handful of pages and the book does a complete 360. No more criminal underworld. Goodbye to the life vest and flotation device – a couple chapters in, Paige wakes up in a completely different place, and it seems as if the author just discarded the first part and restarted. The Bone Season drop kicks you off the cliff, and it’s all downhill from there.

The world-building is everywhere and nowhere all at once, and I found myself constantly flipping back to the glossary at the beginning, and still completely and utterly confused. Information comes in huge, indigestible glops, the breaks between which are just as massive, and it’s amazes me how something can be so simultaneously vague and intricate. The Bone Season really doesn’t do anything half-assed.

Somewhere between the realization that you could pretty much kill off any character, Paige included, and I wouldn’t be able to care less, and the awkward budding of romance that had no basis upon which to exist, I gave up and set the book aside, and I don’t think I’ll be continuing.

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Published September 17th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Source: Traded
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

It’s been so long since I’ve written a review, and I’ve pretty much forgotten how to do so. Gah. I was going to make this my first proper, thorough one, but the more I thought the angrier and more convoluted this review became, so I’m just going to keep this (relatively) short: I liked This Song Will Save Your Life, but I also really didn’t like it.

I like the intent; I enjoyed the DJing; I really liked many parts of the overall message.

But I hated how Elise’s attitude. She hated people judging her, but she kept judging other people and looked down on people who didn’t share her interests. Elise sits alone with earphones plugged in and this holier-than-thou attitude – everyone who likes pop music is a brainless idiot? – and even goes as far as to scoff at her friends’ likes and interests. She then turns around and harps on other people for their friendship choices, for being too judgy, and basically insinuates that she’s not “cool” because everyone at her high school’s too mindless, their interests too bland. Therefore she, as the one and only special snowflake, has to take her amazing gifts and talents elsewhere – a warehouse nightclub, with “cool older people” who fawn over and fluff her ego (true friendship). She’s so self-centered and hypocritical and I just. I mean. Wow. Tone it down a little, yeah?

The ending contains little acknowledgement of her own missteps, and while I get that she’s experienced a lot of hurt and loneliness, when she remains like so, unrepentant, for the great majority of the book, it’s really hard for me to garner sympathy for her.

The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold #1) by Traci Chee
Published September 13th 2016 by Putnam
Source: FC from Publisher
Rating: ★★★½☆

Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story.

Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father left behind, something she comes to realize is a book.

Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learns, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed. With no time to lose, and the unexpected help of swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger, Sefia sets out on a dangerous journey to rescue her aunt, using the book as her guide. In the end, she discovers what the book had been trying to tell her all along: Nothing is as it seems, and the end of her story is only the beginning.

I was on hiatus when all the buzz for The Reader happened, so I didn’t actually know this existed until recently, but I’m glad I decided to pick this up! I was sold at “swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger,” and the book proved to be a really fun read.

The writing’s really suitable for fantasy – a little mysterious, a little lofty, a little wry, alternating between lines like “people passed stories from mouth to mouth like kisses, or plagues…” to characters huffing, “Yes, I’ll read now. But if Captain Cat continues to act like a yellow-bellied coward, we’re skipping it” (which by the way, is me at all the waffling main characters of numerous books. Get moving!!).

And really, reading the book was like a mini adventure or a treasure hunt of its own. I’m not sure if the book’s design is the same across all editions, but I have the hardcover edition, and I love the little intricacies of the design! I don’t want to give too much away, but just as the story dropped little fragments and clues and left the reader to gather them all up and piece them together at the end, so did the book’s designs, which really added to the reading experience.

The setting is lush and sprawling across the pages, and the plot is rather intricately layered – it was really cool to see all the parts that I thought were insignificant and/or unrelated come together at the end – but if I had to pick a favorite, the experience of reading The Reader would be the best part. The Reader’s just one of those books that just work really nicely in physical book form: the design is well-planned to match the story, and then the story sweeps you along so that every little thing about the design of the book in your hand is heightened by Sefia’s experience with the book in her hand. And that was really pretty cool. Although I do have to mention – while it was lovely to see Sefia fall in love with books – eyes wide and dreamy, unlike my own 0 to 100 experience – the whole “this is a book” thing got repetitive after a while, and then annoying after that. So while I loved the idea of a book about books, there was a point where the novelty wore off. Maybe somewhere around here? –

“Reading herself in the book.
Reading herself reading herself in the book.
Reading herself reading herself reading herself…
Maybe someone was reading her right now, and if she looked up, she would see their eyes staring down at her, following her every move. Maybe someone was reading the reader.”

(And then, a couple paragraphs later, cue: “THIS IS A BOOK.” /sighs/)

I also really enjoyed the romance. Really, really enjoyed the romance. Maybe in part because it was light and fair and barely-there, given life by the plot instead of the other way around, as is common with a lot of reads. Mostly, though, because of Archer, resident cinnamon roll who could kill you, but is still a cinnamon roll who deserves all the love and happiness in this world because he’s pure and deadly and sweet as fuck.

“He could not remember wanting anything so badly as he wanted to kiss her now. To be that close to her, mouth to mouth, testing the shapes of her teeth and her lips. It was as if he’d never really wanted anything, and now this wanting blazed inside him like a lamp, the light reflecting out of him as bright as a beam from a lighthouse.

But he didn’t dare.

He looped his arms over the rails, and made his sign for the book.

And Sefia began to read to him, her voice clear and strong in the wind, and that was enough. It didn’t matter what the book or the legends said. What mattered was that he and Sefia were there, legs kicking idly off the edge of the quarterdeck, with the breeze and the bright afternoon sun pouring over them. What mattered was that they were together… and he was happy.”

Kind, lovely, cute, dangerous cinnamon roll. Yep.

I also really loved the chapter (section?) “The Boy from the Sea – Harison’s Favorite Song,” which was just three short stanzas but made me feel all sorts of bittersweet and sad, but I’ve already quoted two things and this review’s already more than long enough as is, so: page 325 of the hardcover! Please read it.

I did have a few other small bones to pick with the book, though. For one, there were a couple glaring inconsistencies, most of which surrounding Sefia’s book knowledge. I found it really strange that she didn’t know about books and reading, but was somehow able to teach herself to read? I get that she remembered a little from what she’d seen from her parents when she was very little, but I can’t imagine how she’d be able to come up with the proper sounds just by looking at letters she doesn’t recognize? Also, she didn’t know what a book was, but the word and meaning of a bookmark seemed to come to her very naturally… how?

And, then while it was pretty cool to have all the pirate inserts, and Lon’s chapters… I felt like they weren’t that necessary for the overarching plot? It was intriguing at the beginning, but as the story went on, they began to feel more and more like filler chapters – and I’ll admit to skipping and skimming parts of them. If those parts were cut down a little, and more scenes were introduced into the climax, particularly around Tanin’s big part, then I think the story would’ve read more cohesively and smoothly.

But overall, I loved the idea of a book celebrating the magic of books, and with the really lovely reading experience, The Reader delivered! And, one more quote to end this review, because I can’t resist, and because this passage just stuck with me for a long time:

“I’d be lyin’ if I said I didn’t want to be part of that story… We got such a short time in this world, you know? Cut shorter by the blasted foolishness of men. Tavern brawls, rival outlaws, wars that claim the lives of thousands. Our existence is so small that most of us only matter to a handful of folks: the captain, the crew, maybe a couple others. But bein’ part of a story like that? A story that’d blow all others outta the water in its greatness and scope? It wouldn’t give me more time here, but if I were part of something like that, maybe my life wouldn’t be so small. Maybe I could make a difference before my time ran out. Maybe I’d matter.”

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Published March 14th 2006 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★★★☆☆

A story about, among other things: A girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

I feel kind of heartless writing this review. I guess that’s the thing about books dealing with topics like these; I wanted so badly to say I bawled my eyes out after reading The Book Thief, or that it broke my heart into tiny, tiny pieces, or point to the mountain of tissues by my side but instead I’m sitting here a good chunk of time later, with no clue how to start.

Let’s just start with: yes, this was sad. It’s almost a given, seeing the topic. But it didn’t strike any chords, didn’t trigger the waterworks, and didn’t make me want to read and re-read over and over again to savor the story. Yes, Zusak is a brilliant writer. He really knows how to craft sentences, everything is incredibly well-written, and his prose is probably the thing that convinced me to keep reading. But I felt very disconnected from the characters, the setting, the story.

One of the first things you’ll hear about when people talk about The Book Thief is how it’s narrated by Death. Which seems interesting until you actually read the story, and then you realize that Death’s narrative is akin to placing me in front of a classroom filled with strangers, and giving me an hour to talk about a topic I’ve never researched: I’m going to ramble and stutter and repeat myself over and over again, and you’re hardly going to be interested in, much less pay attention to, a good chunk of it. It was interesting at first. Every chapter or so Death would come in with these little interjections and offer us a little glimpse into the future or the past, or a random little musing that wouldn’t quite seem so significant, but would make you curious enough to mull over. But it got old quickly. The thing about giving your readers little tidbits to mull over on the side is that it takes away from the actual story. The Book Theif was simultaneously trying to tug at your heartstrings with Liesel’s story and bait you with tidbits and musings from Death, but didn’t juggle the two carefully enough, resulting in an incredibly disjointed story, and a disconnected reader.

I loved the idea. The Book Thief is about the people on the “other side.” I’ve read so many Holocaust novels from Jewish perspectives. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry was perhaps the first historical fiction novel in this time period that featured a different narrator. The Book Thief was the second, and I went in expecting something bigger, something deeper, but it pretty much just touts a everyone-in-the-army-is-evil mantra. Is it too much to say that I was hoping for something more? Needless to say, The Book Thief stayed small, safe, and disappointing. I feel like there were bigger things, bigger problems that The Book Thief only skimmed over. I mean, I know Liesel’s still a child, and people probably made an effort to shield her from what they could, but Nazi Germany’s reach was global. They were a Big Deal, but the The Book Thief pretty much disregarded that.

Next time I go into a book with this big and this wrong of an expectation, yell at me?

I liked it enough to finish it; The Book Thief was a decent novel. I really liked the “power of words” theme, and the characters, while not the most memorable cast I’ve ever “met,” were solidly written. I liked the idea of a book thief (and, after misspelling it again and again in this review, I’ve learned that, unlike most of the words in the English language (?), it’s spelled with “ie” and not “ei”) and her scenes running around town.

I was, however, a little disappointed to find that, while she was called the “Book Thief,” she only stole two or three books. With a title like that, I was thinking of thefts climbing into the double digits.

So, all in all, it was okay. I’ll probably look up excerpts and quotes from time to time, because Markus Zusak’s writing is lovely in that quiet kind of way. And while The Book Thief made a decent one-time read, it wasn’t outstanding by any stretch, an apt bookstore-read, though I am glad I read it.

Death Sworn (Death Sworn #1) by Leah Cypess
Published March 4th 2014 by Greenwillow
Source: Traded
Rating: ★★★½☆

When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.

But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.

Because I’m quite the pessimist and always prefer my bad news before my good, I figured I’d start my review that way, too – bad before the good. Not that there wasn’t a lot of things to dislike about this book. Really, there wasn’t anything I particularly disliked about Death Sworn at all. It was just… light.

Death Sworn was a pleasant book – light on the romance, awesome characters, filled to the brim with secrets and conspiracies… it wasn’t a terrible book by any means. It was enjoyable, but I guess it just wasn’t the most impressive book.

This paragraph I’ve added in just now, after I’ve written the rest of this review, but now, mulling things over, I realize that Death Sworn has another noticeable flaw: world-building, or rather, the lack of it. I didn’t quite notice it when I was reading, or immediately afterwards – the writing and the story uses just the bare minimum and somehow makes it work – but Death Sworn lacked a lot of world-building details. We’re never really quite sure what’s going on beyond the caves where the book takes place, or really who any of the main power figures of the Empire are, though their names are scattered throughout the book. The Renegai (magicians) also remain quite a mystery for the duration of the novel, as does the whole magical system. Surprisingly, it didn’t take much away from my initial reading experience, but these were all things I’d like to know.

Also, I think it really says something about YA novels nowadays (or maybe just my crappy reading selection?) when I get extremely, irrationally happy when the main character, the single female, walks into a cavern filled with male assassins – most if not all of which have probably never seen a woman in their lives – and none of them looks her way. They’re assassins – they’re trained killers. They’ve got more to do than trip over themselves for some girl, no matter how kick-ass or beautiful she was. I also got extremely, irrationally happy when Ileni said something like “I love you, but I’m not stupid.” FINALLY. A heroine who can love while keeping her head on straight. Hallelujah. Where have you been my whole life. It’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I also think it’s quite sad to feel happy over things that should already exist.

I really liked Ileni, her level-headedness, and the way that, when something bad happens to her (and a lot does), she kind of just sucks it up and moves on, doing what she can. I know I’d fall apart and probably hide under a rock for a while, especially if I’m put in her situation: sent into a cave full of assassins without adequate magic to protect oneself with, but she has to trick and convince them that she does, for her own safety. Yep, if I was in a novel, I’d probably be that one crybaby helpless character who dies in the first chapter. Maybe the second, if I was lucky. But I digress. She knows her limitations and she doesn’t try to rely on miracles. She’s realistic, but she isn’t a bundle of negativity, and I liked that.

The romance was light, but a good kind of light. It was one that builds up slowly – they’re allies and have a lot more on their plate to worry about than love. Please excuse my laziness to walk upstairs and find my copy of Death Sworn for the exact quote, but I remember this one part when they begin realizing their feelings and Sorin freaks out and backs up a little, then says that basically meant that falling in love with Ileni was unavoidable, as she was the only girl he’s ever seen. That made me laugh a little. I liked how they were honest and awkward and they fit each other so nicely.

I think the main thing though, was that Death Sworn was exactly my kind of book. Magic, assassins, light romance – you’d really have to screw up for me to dislike it. And what Death Sworn did was far from that.

The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy #1) by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Published April 1st 2012 by Scholastic
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★★★★☆

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point—he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

So, um, yeah. This book. It was pretty freaking amazing.

I mean, guys? SAGE. His voice was strong from the get-go, completely captivating, and probably the main reason why I enjoyed The False Prince as much as I did. Sage is kick-ass, sneaky, mischievous, and clever, and sometimes (okay, often) his attitude gets him into trouble and he’s knocked down, but he always gets back on his feet and keeps going. At times, he lies like a pro, and at others, he’s brutally honest. He’s always looking ten steps ahead. He’s roguish, his voice is witty and convincing… I like him a lot.

I also really quite liked Conner. I mean, don’t get me wrong – that guy’s a complete asshole most of the time. But he was a really interesting character because he did shitty things for what he felt was all the right reasons. He’s ruthless, delusional, had no empathy for those who stood in his way, and what he was doing was pretty screwed up, but he did it because he felt that it was the only way. It wasn’t like I could sympathize with him (Ladamer made it pretty hard to do so), but what he was doing made sense in a twisted way, you know? He wasn’t your typical evil, reason-less villain.

From Tobias and Roden to Imogen, the other characters were really well-written and well-rounded, too, though no one could hold a candle to Sage. Sage is… well, Sage. They all have their strengths and their weaknesses, and with a cast of characters like them and a main character like Sage, there was never a dull moment in The False Prince.

Most of the story takes place in Conner’s castle. It was really straightforward – no info dumps and pages of flowery descriptions. It was really fun following Sage through the lessons Conner – attempted to – set for them. With horses, sword fights, and midnight escapades this was pretty much my kind of book.

I was just a liiiiittle disappointed by that twist towards the end, though. I mean, you could probably see it coming. You could probably see it coming just by reading the synopsis, before you even open the book. I mean, I’m not the slowest person, but I’m not one to catch most every plot twist before it happens, and I could see it coming from a mile away. But as the book progresses and you start to think that maybe it won’t happen, maybe it isn’t going to end up as predictable as you think it is, and then… Hello, Reality. The main character’s the main character, after all. And yeah, I’m going to admit, I was a little disappointed. It didn’t really seem that believable any more, especially after all the character development and buildup from all the previous chapters. But it happened. And that’s that, I guess. It wasn’t big enough to ruin the whole book, though I did bump down my rating because of it and the somewhat lackluster ending. It was as if the author suddenly ran out of steam at the end and just slapped down enough words to end the story with.

The ending ties everything up quite nicely; The False Prince could be a stand-alone novel if it wanted to. No awful cliffhanger ending for once! Hooray! Which gives you ever the more reason to read this book. Because you’re totally going to, right? Awesome characters, sword fights, midnight escapades… I think you should.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Published January 6th 2015 by Knopf
Source: Gifted
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This really isn’t much of a review, partially because there isn’t really much to say: it follows the formula to a T, but fails to do much beyond that.

The writing was nice – the source of all my stars, actually, but I hate the degree of emotional manipulation. It’s like this book was one large checklist for a Sad Book. The characters weren’t really characters, just labels stuffed into bodies for the purpose of some poignant novel a la John Green. I hated Violet’s passiveness, and really, what’s up with their families? Where were they?

Live Through This by Mindi Scott
Published October 2nd 2012 by Simon Pulse
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

From the outside, Coley Sterling’s life seems pretty normal . . . whatever that means. It’s not perfect—her best friend is seriously mad at her and her dance team captains keep giving her a hard time—but Coley’s adorable, sweet crush Reece helps distract her. Plus, she has a great family to fall back on—with a mom and stepdad who would stop at nothing to keep her siblings and her happy.

But Coley has a lot of secrets. She won’t admit—not even to herself—that her almost-perfect life is her own carefully-crafted façade. That for years she’s been burying the shame and guilt over a relationship that crossed the line. Now that Coley has the chance at her first real boyfriend, a decade’s worth of lies are on the verge of unraveling.

I picked this up looking for something gripping, emotional, and different from my usual reads, but I think the only thing I felt afterwards was disconnected and a little confused. The core story is a powerful one, and it touches on an important subject, but I feel like on a whole, the story could’ve been executed better. The plot, for one, isn’t all there, and there’s a lot of subplots and tidbits that are picked up and then promptly forgotten about at various points in the story. On a whole, I feel like a lot of things that should’ve been more explored weren’t, whereas many things that didn’t really lend a hand to the story – or, maybe, could’ve, if I’d been more clear on what was going on and why – took up too many pages. And as far as Coley, she seemed far to distant for a main character, making it hard to empathize with her, and coupled with such a rushed story… I know I’m supposed to have lots of feelings, but right now I’m firmly in the ??? camp.

The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Published August 18th 2015 by Dial Books
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To find the liquor cabinet blindfolded, need a liver transplant, and drive his car into a house

Alice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To . . . well, not date her little brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters.

For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if the “smart” choice is always the right one. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard.

I’m really on the fence with this one. One one hand, I liked it: it was heavier than I thought it would be, and at times it feels a little forcefully emotionally manipulative, but I loved Huntley Fitzpatrick’s writing and the voice that she gives the characters. Tim especially could be really… charming? (for some reason, I feel like some doting grandmother when I say that) at times, and I loved the large family sort of atmosphere. I have a huge extended family, but my immediate family’s rather small, so my everyday life’s really quiet, and it was really interesting to see the differences. However – and, speaking of forcefully emotionally manipulative – I didn’t like the “twist” that the author employed. I mean, I know these things do happen, and it did accomplish its goal of pushing Tim to grow up, and a large part of it really is just personal preference, but honestly, it also felt awkward and stilted, as if it was thrown in for the sake of more complications and more angst. Which I’ll pass on, thanks.

So while I did enjoy some parts of The Boy Most Likely To and will definitely be picking up some of Huntley Fitzpatrick’s other novels, a good chunk of this novel just really wasn’t for me. I’m thinking I probably should’ve gone with My Life Next Door instead?

Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell
Published October 1st 2013 by Harry N. Abrams
Source: Publisher
Rating: ★★★★☆

Rebecca Blue is a rebel with an attitude whose life is changed by a chance encounter with a soon-to-be dead girl. Rebel (as she’s known) decides to complete the dead girl’s bucket list to prove that choice, not chance, controls her fate. In doing so, she unexpectedly opens her mind and heart to a world she once dismissed—a world of friendships, family, and faith. With a shaken sense of self, she must reevaluate her loner philosophy—particularly when she falls for Nate, the golden boy do-gooder who never looks out for himself.

I was so, so excited when I got my hands on a copy of Goodbye, Rebel Blue! Shelly Coriell’s debut novel, Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe was such a great read; I really loved how the author had balanced more serious topics with witty narrative and good humor, and was hoping for the same in Goodbye, Rebel Blue, too, and the bucket list synopsis seemed too good to pass up. I’m happy to say that Goodbye, Rebel Blue doesn’t disappoint.

Goodbye, Rebel Blue isn’t an original book by any stretch. The whole tough-girl-falls-for-golden-boy idea’s been done countless times, as had the bucket-list idea. However, the author writes it in such a way that doesn’t make you feel like you’re reading the same old story again, but rather something new and different.

The plot was slow, and while often times that’s a reason for me to put the book down, I think I kind of liked it here. It was slow, as Rebel fumbled around – for the lack of a better, not-so-cheesy word – “discovering” herself. She’s stumbling along, screwing up and doing the best she can to fulfil a dead girl’s bucket list, the plot stumbles along with her, and in a situation like this, I found that I didn’t mind the pacing at all.

Not gonna lie – one of my favorite parts of the book was the pieces of Rebel’s personal bucket list at the beginnings of every chapter (especially number 20 – “learn math”). It really showed who she was as a person: quirky and sarcastic, but also, underneath it all, lonely (aren’t we all at least a little though? Or maybe I’m looking too much into #22?). Her voice was what stood out to me the most in Goodbye, Rebel Blue.

The secondary characters were, I felt, all there for a reason, which was awesome, though I’m having trouble remembering all their names now (more on that later). They all did their part in helping the story along, and all had a part in Rebel’s change of character from the beginning to the end. I think the most impacting part for me though was when everything started crumbling for Rebel, and then she goes to Nate’s and HIS SISTER WITH THE HAIR DYE AND HOW MUCH SHE TRIED TO BE LIKE REBEL AND WHEN SHE FAILED SHE WAS SO DISAPPOINTED AND HEARTBROKEN and oh my goodness my heart. That was probably my favorite scene in a feeling-killing sort of way.

The only shortcoming that Goodbye, Rebel Blue had for me was it’s failure to really leave a lasting impression beyond the pages. Like I stated earlier, I’m having trouble remembering most of the secondary characters’ names, as well as the love interest’s name (I had to look it up; it’s Nate). While reading, I liked how the romance wasn’t all in-your-face but rather a “side dish” to the story, but afterwards, it just kind of fades away. Rebel’s friendship with Macey (so many pies!), too, which I remember really liking while reading, I can’t really seem to recall anymore. My point being that, while Goodbye, Rebel Blue was a wonderful, fun, and emotional read, it isn’t really that much of a memorable one, which is rather sad.

But all in all, it was a great read. If you loved the author’s first book, Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe, you should definitely give Goodbye, Rebel Blue a try, and vice versa. And if you haven’t read any of her books, I definitely recommend fans of the genre to give them a try.