Archives

Antigoddess (Goddess War #1) by Kendare Blake
Published September 10th 2013 by Tor Teen
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin.

I stick pretty closely to Goodreads’s rating system: 1 star is “did not like it,” 2 stars means “it was ok,” 3 stars for a “liked it” read, and so on. And, Antigoddess? It was okay.

I’m fascinated by mythology. Was obsessed with it at one point, actually. Long before I fell into YA, I pretty much exclusively read mythology books – Greek, Roman, Japanese, Chinese, Egyptian, Babylonian, you name it. I think I might’ve checked out every book on myths in my school library twice, and while I’m no longer anywhere as obsessed with mythology as I had been in the past, I always get excited to see them in YA. And, so, Antigoddess.

The premise was super interesting: a war between dying gods. And the beginning of the book? I was really drawn in by how it opened, chapter zero, with Athena choking on feathers and Hermes slowly wasting away to a haunting, tragic end, more of a whisper than a bang, an end nowhere near benefitting of a god or goddess. It’s really tragically beautiful, in a way.

And then… things took a turn and went… somewhere. It wasn’t terrible – nothing in Antigoddess read as terrible. The whole thing was just very okay. Very bland. The book started out tragically beautiful and haunting, then nosedived into “meh” territory and was never able to crawl its way back out.

The story alternates between Cassandra and her boyfriend Aiden, and Athena and Hermes; the story alternates between two teenagers scamming high school freshman in cafeterias and attending parties, and two dying gods stumbling across the country, bickering and scowling amongst themselves to find Cassandra and Aiden. It sounds more interesting than it really is, and the synopsis sounds much more action-filled than the entire book delivered. Most of it was the parties and the running and scowling. A lot of what I thought would be more crucial points – how the gods and goddesses got to where they were now, what happened to, y’know, everyone else, how the whole “waking up with your past memories” thing actually works, as well as the “swapping out your old body with a new” that was only briefly mentioned in passing with Odysseus – were very vague, details passed over in favor of drawing out… something. Something? The characters’ shuffling and waffling and grumbling?

The pacing was slow, the climax almost unpleasantly jarring and anti-climactic, and the entire book almost reads as the preface to something bigger and bolder. The thing is, though, with the way Antigoddess ends, it could pass as a stand-alone. And with the way it read, I’m happy to take it as such.

King’s Cage (Red Queen, #3) by Victoria Aveyard
Published February 7th 2017 by HarperTeen
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

Wheeere oh where has the plot gone? I’m pretty sure you could’ve rolled Glass Sword and King’s Cage into one book and wrapped up the series as a trilogy.

So here’s the thing: I can see why everyone likes this series so much. It’s formulaic and there’s not one part of the series that hasn’t been done before, but all parts of the series have been done before and worked, and now we have the Red Queen series. And it’s clearly working for a lot of people. It worked for me in the beginning, too – I really liked Red Queen. But then the series started to miss the mark.

King’s Cage is one giant filler scene; the writing’s trying too hard to load itself up with quotable one-liners and snarky exchanges; all the secondary characters are flat, dull, and forgettable; 500 pages isn’t quite enough to contain the annoyance that is Mare’s inflated ego.

The upside? While reading Glass Sword, I thought that this series would turn into a Nightshade kind of situation for me, when the only character I liked ended up dead at the end of the series (THE VERY END OF THE SERIES) but hey, King’s Cage got me starting to like another character, so the odds are looking a little better? Marginally? So half a star for that shaky assurance, one star for the scene where Cal and The Scarlett Guard rescued Mare (YEEEEEEEESSS), and another half star because fuck it, I’m still holding out for a Maven comeback, or for Cal to regain all that character I liked about him that he lost.

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana
Published July 18th 2017 by Razorbill
Source: ARC Traded
Rating: ★★½☆☆

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The palace is soon under siege, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?

The cover is absolutely lovely – I love the pink-to-purple ombre! Inside, The Library of Fates tells the story of a girl shaken from her everyday life; the entrance of a tyrant; reincarnation and a race to rescue her family and her kingdom. The incorporation of Indian mythology is rich and immersive, and though the story isn’t anything new, the writing is quiet and beautiful and draws its own course. And as for the plot? The Library of Fates read as a gorgeous fairytale of sorts, an adventure at the very least, at the beginning. However, toward the latter half, things took a rather scattered and confusing turn, which I really probably would’ve been okay with had it not also come with Amrita’s love interest, one of the more abrupt instaloves I’ve come across this year (his appearance also made me super sad because you could feel genuine chemistry between Amrita and her childhood friend! I was rooting for them! But I digress), and too many awfully convenient plot points for the main character. It wasn’t an awful read by any means, but neither was it a particularly great one.

The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones, Ursula Jones
Published February 27th 2014 by HarperCollins Children’s Books
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Aileen was supposed to grow up magical – just like the other women in her family. Unfortunately, she’s just found out that the magic seems to have skipped a generation… but that’s not her biggest problem right now.

In her world, there are four Islands of Chaldea. The largest and most magical island has been cut off from the other three for decades – and is slowly draining the magic from them.

But now a prophecy has come to light. Someone from Aileen’s island will gather a man from each of the three islands, bring down the magical barrier, and unite them with the fourth island again. And according to the king, that someone is Aileen’s Aunt – who insists on dragging Aileen along. AND the boy Aileen is sure she’ll marry (one day); the local boy with more brawn then brain. Someone seems to want to stop them too… someone with an interest in keeping the Islands apart. But still, with magic on their side, nothing can go wrong. Right?

It was okay… there were points here and there when the story was really fun to read, and I did like the cast of characters! But the plot also dragged in a lot of places and took a lot of meandering detours, and I ended up skimming through a good portion of the middle… Hm.

This did make me really nostalgic for Howl’s Moving Castle, though, and I didn’t know there were two more books in that series! This is probably not the thing to say when my reading pile’s literally toppling off my table, but I want… I want…

Before She Ignites (Fallen Isles Trilogy #1) by Jodi Meadows
Published September 12th 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Purchased (Owlcrate!)
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Before

Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.

But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.

After

Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.

No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.

There’s not that much to say about Before She Ignites. It wasn’t an explosive read on either end of the spectrum. Really, it read like a prequel of sorts? A set-up for future books in the series. “Illegal dragon trafficking” sounded right up my alley (DRAGONS!!), but everything turned out to be pretty shallow, and the before/after time skips didn’t really help the story along, so much as it did provide filler scenes between already-filler scenes. I did like the dynamic between a lot of the prisoners, and it was so, so nice to see this kind of mental health rep in YA fantasy. But also… a good chunk of the story in Before She Ignites turned out to follow Mira wandering around the prison and telling herself her parents will come save her soon – where were the dragons??

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard
Published February 9th 2016 by HarperTeen
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

Mare’s mantras of “I am special” and “I am the lightning girl” really grated on me (please get over yourself?), as did the quasi love-square (CAL AND KILORN DESERVE SO MUCH MORE) thing, and the second half was pretty much just a repeat of the first half in a different setting, but tHE ENDING. Thanks, Glass Sword, for reminding me of how weak I am to cliffhangers. Onto King’s Cage it is, then.

Markswoman (Asiana #1) by Rati Mehrotra
Expected publication: January 23rd 2018 by Harper Voyager
Source: ARC from publisher
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Kyra is the youngest Markswoman in the Order of Kali, a highly trained sisterhood of elite warriors armed with telepathic blades. Guided by a strict code of conduct, Kyra and the other Orders are sworn to protect the people of Asiana. But to be a Markswoman, an acolyte must repudiate her former life completely. Kyra has pledged to do so, yet she secretly harbors a fierce desire to avenge her dead family.

When Kyra’s beloved mentor dies in mysterious circumstances, and Tamsyn, the powerful, dangerous Mistress of Mental Arts, assumes control of the Order, Kyra is forced on the run. Using one of the strange Transport Hubs that are remnants of Asiana’s long-lost past, she finds herself in the unforgiving wilderness of desert that is home to the Order of Khur, the only Order composed of men. Among them is Rustan, a young, disillusioned Marksman whom she soon befriends.

Kyra is certain that Tamsyn committed murder in a twisted bid for power, but she has no proof. And if she fails to find it, fails in her quest to keep her beloved Order from following Tamsyn down a dark path, it could spell the beginning of the end for Kyra–and for Asiana.

But what she doesn’t realize is that the line between justice and vengeance is razor thin . . . thin as the blade of a knife.

I AM HERE FOR SISTERHOODS OF BADASS WOMEN. My reading interests fall pretty neatly into two categories: books full of badass characters (the characters I want to become) and trashy romance novels (for the trashy person that I am.) I was so certain Markswoman would fall into the former category, but it ended up falling into neither. My emotions while reading went something like: bewildered -> confused -> quite frankly lost??? -> bored -> a little more than slightly angry -> confused -> oh what the book ended?

Let’s START AT THE VERY BEGINNING. The map was charming; the intro fairly interesting. I liked the “while we hold a katari in our hands and the Kanun in our hearts, a word from us can still raise armies and crumble mountains” line. But then we get to the opening chapters in Kyra and Rustan’s POV, and, well. It’s not a bad thing necessarily – no part of Markswoman was inherently terrible, except for maybe that bit toward the end that I’ll get to later – and this is going to sound really bad at the beginning but please bear with me I’ll explain.

I wasn’t really feeling how the good majority of the “good” characters in the story seemed so uncertain about executing. I mean normal people SHOULD be uncertain about executing people. But when it’s your job, please be certain before you do the deed? Personally, I consider it pretty crucial for executioners to be certain about their actions. And if they ever feel like they did something wrong, they should right it as well as they could. You can never bring someone back from the dead, but acknowledging a wrongful death, figuring out what was behind it… I think those are pretty good places to start. And the uncertain waffling didn’t stop at killings – it extended to practically all other aspects of the character’s life. But Markswoman and Marksmen are chosen, and I find it hard to believe that so many wafflers were chosen? Kyra I can see; Kyra makes sense – her first kill left her uncertain, and her character’s brave and strong and fairly tenacious in her other actions. But Rustan? Rustan. He waffles a lot – on everything – and avoids responsibility just as often and wow his character was frustrating. A lot of the elders of Kali were the same, as well as many of Kyra’s friends, and it didn’t match with the narrative. Markswoman and Marksmen are chosen on spirit, y’know, all that good inner stuff, and while that sounds nice and all, you can’t see a lot of it! Tamsyn and Shirin Mam had balls of fucking steel if you’ll forgive my wording, but most of the other characters? They left a lot to be desired.

I did really like how the author used palindromic prime numbers as passwords for the doors. Call me a nerd but little things like that make me happy. The whole thing about how Kyra and Shirin Mam would pass on was also kind of eerie and unsettling but interesting at the same time – especially Kyra and her dreams. I’d love to see that developed in the upcoming books.

The pacing, on the other hand, was shaky. The beginning ambles a little. When her mentor dies, Kyra isn’t “forced on the run” so much as she just hightails it out of there and at that point, Tamsyn hadn’t seemed like a terribly bad character, and so Kyra’s actions do come off as rash and bewildering. The plot starts ambling again after the death, only to collide headfirst into the tragedy that was Markswoman’s Romantic Subplot. In which Kyra doesn’t “befriend” Rustan so much as she does piss him off, get beat up by him, and then plummet headfirst into what can be best described as a tragically ill-timed romance. In that order. Then the plot slows again, only to speed up in the last few pages. If the author’s goal was to give us all whiplash? She succeeded. Markswoman was like one of those “the history of the universe in a year” kind of videos when nothing happens in the first 365 days and then suddenly you hit the last few hours and BOOM apes become people invent writing make Pyramids start the Renaissance go to space.

MOVING ON. THE ROMANCE. Quite honestly I thought Markswoman would’ve been better without the romance. But if there had to be, of all the possible ways it could’ve gone – Kyra x a cute badass girl from the Order of Kali or Kyra x a cute badass girl from a neighboring order or Kyra x a cute badass guy from the order of Khur who actuALLY TREATS HER WELL – how did we end up here?

Without giving anything away, right before the descent into ~romance~ some other asshole assaults Kyra via her mind and after saving her the first thing her “male romantic lead” does is pull some aggressive tsundere romantic bullshit on her and WHY? There was no chemistry and then suddenly we’re told they have all the chemistry and the guy is this close to being unable to keep it in his pants anymore. I’m paraphrasing of course but that was very much the sentiment and I was very much put off.

And then it gets even worse because I actually kind of admired Kyra’s spirit and tenacity before, even though it wasn’t as delved into as it could’ve been (the thing with her dead family’s only brought up here and there, and in her goals against Tamsyn, she seems fierce at times but oddly emotionless and forced at others). BUT BUT BUT so she’s in for the fight of her life. Her work over the past few months have been building up to this moment. SHE MIGHT DIE. SHE’S THE YOUNGEST MARKSWOMAN, PART OF A HIGHLY TRAINED SISTERHOOD OF ELITE WARRIORS, IS ARMED WITH A TELEPATHIC BLADE, IS ABLE TO WALK THROUGH DOORS NO ONE ELSE CAN, AND HAS THE STEELY MIND TO SHUT OUT THE LURING CREEPY SUGGESTIONS OF AN EVIL SENTIENT GUN (which was a super cool idea I’d definitely be down for reading more about) ANd then some guy who can’t read the atmosphere or spare consideration for her mental state comes along and all she can think of is

“Why had he kissed her? Why had it hurt so much when he stepped away from her and left the room?”

@Kyra maybe not now? YOUR LIFE IS ON THE LINE DAMMIT.

All in all, Markswoman wasn’t a terrible read. The writing was nice, I liked a lot of the ideas that went into this novel, and Kyra was, at most times, pretty cool to follow along. But with the pacing, the shaky characterization, the romance… it had potential, but ended up slipping to the lower end of “okay.”

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab
Published Published July 5th 2016 by Greenwillow Books
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

So I have this thing with Victoria Schwab’s books. I think. Hear me out: I used to think her books were pretty hit-or-miss with me, but I’ve read The Near Witch and The Ash-Born Boy, The Archive, Vicious, A Darker Shade of Magic, and now This Savage Song as well. With The Near Witch being the outlier, I’ve pretty much fallen in love with all Victoria Schwab’s adult novels, but there’s something about her young adult novels that I can’t follow. Can’t connect with. Which is kind of weird, because I’m still firmly in that young adult category, but. Anyhow.

The opening of This Savage Song was gripping. I was sucked in right away – between the school and the flames (and, let’s be real, the one-too-many sentiments Kate and I shared about Catholic schools, even though we both attended but for brief periods of time) – Victoria Schwab really knows how to start a book.

The individual elements were incredibly interesting: Kate’s the daughter of a crime boss, August is a monster playing human who lures in his prey with music, there are borders and political intrigue with monsters, as well as a violin with History, and an eerie little song that goes like so-

“Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all.
Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
Shadow and bone will eat you raw.
Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
Smile and bite and drink you dry.
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.
Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all!”

But together, and something doesn’t quite click. There are monsters! But the monsters don’t seem quite like monsters, and read more like the ones in those bedtime stories my mom would read my little brother years ago – with just enough creepy and just enough monster to say it satisfies his request for a “monster story,” but not enough to make him feel it in his bones. There is politics with monsters! But honestly, it’s all kind of glossed over, and I could never really get a proper feel for the city, as intriguing as it sounded in the synopsis. Kate is the kick-ass daughter of a crime boss! And we’re told this again and again until every page bleeds two-dimensional kick-ass girl trope and Kate starts coming off as less fierce and desperate, and more and more as a privileged, insensitive asshole with daddy issues. Then every other chapter, we’re granted a relief from Kate and subjected instead to August’s gloom of teenage angst. I didn’t hate him; I didn’t love him; honestly, I didn’t have any particular feelings about him? He was there, and he was a character, and something happened to him, and that’s basically my overall feelings about This Savage Song.

I wanted so badly to like this as much as everyone else did. And there were little moments here and there – the beginning, Kate’s first(?) kill, August’s flashback, and the violin – that made me think that things were starting to look up. Though, ultimately, they didn’t. Not really.

The author made This Savage Song sound so, so good:

“It’s the story of Kate Harker, the only daughter of a crime boss, and August Flynn, the son of a man trying to hold his city together. She’s a human who wants to be a monster, and he’s a monster who wishes he were human.”

And Victoria Schwab – she’s got this way with words, you know? Everything flows so nicely and wraps up in such an orderly way, and there are so many quotable lines in every chapter. She’d have to majorly screw up somewhere to get me to stop reading because there’s just something about the way she writes that tugs me right to the end of the book each time, even if I need to take several breaks along the way to get there.

I-

“I mean, most people want to escape. Get out of their heads. Out of their lives. Stories are the easiest way to do that.”

mean-

“It was a cruel trick of the universe, thought August, that he only felt human after doing something monstrous.”

just-

“She cracked a smile. “So what’s your poison”
He sighed dramatically, and let the truth tumble off his tongue. “Life.”
“Ah,” she said ruefully. “That’ll kill you.”

read-

“But the teacher had been right about one thing: violence breeds.
Someone pulls a trigger, sets off a bomb, drives a bus full of tourists off a bridge, and what’s left in the wake isn’t just shell casings, wreckage, bodies. There’s something else. Something bad. An aftermath. A recoil. A reaction to all that anger and pain and death.”

this.

“It was a cruel trick of the universe, thought August, that he only felt human after doing something monstrous.”

But, ultimately, aside from the premise, the wonderful writing, and the small snippets of scenes here and there, This Savage Song didn’t deliver on a lot of aspects, and just didn’t do it for me.

(I’ll admit I was 100% sucked in by that preview of Our Dark Duet at the end, though sos I’m so weak so I just might end up giving this duology another shot anyhow? Maybe?)

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//

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.

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?

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
Published May 5th 2015 by HarperTeen
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

The Fill-In Boyfriend and I did not get off to a good start together. I cringed my way through the first few pages. From the get-go, Gia came off as whiny and immature. Granted, the synopsis is pretty telling and I knew, or at least should have known, what I was getting myself into when I picked up the book. But the way the book opened – with Gia clinging to Bradley and whining for him to stay at least for prom! Her friends haven’t even seen him yet! – didn’t do the story any favors. Then Gia turns around and asks another guy to go in with her because her friend group would slaughter her if she showed up alone, and he’s hot and free and nice and willing. Yay? From there, the story did pick up (or maybe acclimation is a terrifying thing), and it was a super entertaining, but while I did read
The Fill-In Boyfriend cover to cover in one sitting, that annoyance I felt at the beginning, as well as the situational ridiculousness and Gia’s blatant immaturity and self-obsession always lingered close by.

The characters were all cookie-cutter paper-people in their happy little 2D worlds: Bradley, the asshole ex; Hayden, the perfect popular boy; Spencer the slimeball; Jules, the evil “friend”; Bec, the enemy-turned-unique-friend-accessory; Gia’s parents, the barely-there family figures present only to drive her places and spew the occasional word of wisdom. Every single character fitted into a stereotype and stayed there.

There isn’t much to say about Gia and Fake-Bradley’s relationship. Circumstances clearly wrought for the sake of plot aside, there’s nothing noteworthy, and it reads exactly as it was written in the synopsis. It’s disappointing because fake-dating is one of my favorite tropes ever and while I pick and critique a lot, I’m also a sucker for cheesy romance and drama, which is what generally encompasses the fake-dating trope. It’s pretty hard to get me to find the whole fake-dating thing unnecessary for the book and dislikeable, but Kasie West managed to do that. Ticked all the little boxes in a pretty row down the page. Overran it with one-dimensional characters and aggravating plot holes.

But the main thing that really bothered me was the situation with Jules. The entire plot happened because she was too scared of how Jules would react but could she not have told her other friends how she was feeling about Jules? Or attempted talked it out with Jules herself? Gia has the guts to tell a mutual acquaintance that he’s being an asshole and to slap him across the face, mock her fellow classmates appearances on a daily basis, and scoff at random strangers on the street, but she can’t tell a friend that the said friend is making her feel shitty? And I’m not too sure about the others, but Gia was super close to Claire, and Claire was the ideal supportive best friend throughout the great majority of the book. I know that sometimes, there are things you can say to relative strangers that you can’t to the people close to you, but at the very least, once she entangled herself in the Fake-Bradley hoax, why couldn’t she at least pull Claire aside and explain the situation?

And it just got worse. As the story’s wrapping up, the situation becomes something like this: Gia feels like Jules is out to get her, so after attempting to connect and sympathize with her for all of two times, Gia starts feeling like she’s being a good person but the world just hates her guts. Then Claire, who’s been nothing but patient and kind to the both of them, finds out that Gia’s been lying to her about something huge – so she does what any normal person would do and distances herself from Gia. She needs some space, she says. Some time to think. At first Gia’s upset and full of apology, but when Fake-Bradley-Hayden comes back around, suddenly the world is beautiful again and Claire’s all but forgotten, and she gives up on her whole friend group basically because who needs friends when you have a boyfriend?

I did like a lot of the dialogue-heavy scenes, and though ridiculous, the drama did make for an entertaining book. The Fill-In Boyfriend like one of those bad rom-coms: the storyline’s ridiculous and the main characters belong in elementary school, but for some reason, it’s still addicting and you still find yourself wanting to see it through to the end. But it’s the kind of movie you’d watch at a friend’s place, or online, and only ever once.

How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller
Published February 21st 2013 by Razorbill
Source: Gifted/Traded(?)
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

A meth dealer. A prostitute. A serial killer.

Anywhere else, they’d be vermin. At the Mandel Academy, they’re called prodigies. The most exclusive school in New York City has been training young criminals for over a century. Only the most ruthless students are allowed to graduate. The rest disappear.

Flick, a teenage pickpocket, has risen to the top of his class. But then Mandel recruits a fierce new competitor who also happens to be Flick’s old flame. They’ve been told only one of them will make it out of the Mandel Academy. Will they find a way to save each other—or will the school destroy them both?

Full disclosure: I actually have no clue where my copy of How to Lead A Life of Crime came from. I was sorting through my bookshelf the other day and came across it; I know I didn’t receive it from the publisher because then it would’ve been in a special and shamefully big stack in a separate part of my bookshelf. I’ve never won any giveaways, and it’s an ARC version so it’s definitely not something I picked up at the bookstore. But I digress.

I really liked the premise of this one – one glance at the synopsis, and it’s hard not to want to read this book. The early chapters of How to Lead A Life of Crime, following Flick pre-Mandel Academy, lived up to my synopsis-formulated expectations. It’s brash, quick, and engaging. I loved the set-up, Flick’s voice, and all the references to literary works and movies – I especially liked the whole Peter Pan thing that carried forward into the rest of the story. Flick’s interactions are charged and exciting, and part of me was going “Flick no,” but a much louder part of me… Let’s just say that I’m the kind of person that’ll tell you all about what a bad and dangerous idea I think it is, but eventually, I’ll find myself dragged along anyway.

Then we got to Mandel Academy, and How to Lead A Life of Crime lost most of it’s shine. The biggest problem I had – and this is going to sound super bad given all the things the students have gone through, but hear me out – is that How to Lead A Life of Crime couldn’t convince me to care. At the beginning, Flick was this struggling, messed-up guy, rather bitter and strong, but then suddenly he steps inside the academy and he’s flawless and perfect at everything and he’s got everything going for him. Suddenly, magically, everything goes his way. Even the things that appear not to. The rest of the characters are just as bland. There’s Joi, admirably kick-ass when her page-time allows, who I gather is supposedly the Wendy-type figure, and Jude, Flick’s brother, who does give some depth to his character, but doesn’t ever linger long enough to solidify anything. There is, of course, Flick’s obligatory backstory, which I’m still rather lost about (all I’ve gathered is that his father’s an asshole, but not really, but really). And there are other characters too, of course, but they flicker on by too quickly for me to catch. They’re given a name, some choice words to describe their personality, and then they’re gone again. Actually, I was writing this review and realized that in my confusion I’d combined some of the characters together in my mind. Skimming through again, and there’s Lucas, whose relationship with Flick I rather liked, and Gwendolyn, who would’ve been fascinating had the author truly taken advantage of all the paragraphs dedicated to her to properly flesh out her character.

But that just proves my point: none of the characters are truly memorable, or are impactful in any way. They just come and go with the pages.

The same applied for the story. I feel like the author tried to cover too much, and ended up covering very little. There were a lot of worldly problems addressed in How to Lead A Life of Crime, but the book never really got anywhere with them, and even almost suggests that blowing up the school would put a stop to all of that, which I think is a serious underestimation of the depth of those issues. I mean, I get that the whole point of Flick’s choice was that there’s always another way. But if you’re going to show that “other way,” then shouldn’t you flesh out the problem and the two presented options first, instead of skimming all three, then plunging straight into the last?

So, in summary, I was a huge fan of the first part, but not a huge fan of what followed. A great idea in theory, but not so much in execution – the last 300 or so pages was a rather dull wade-through.