December 31, 2012

Review: In Honor by Jessi Kirby

Title: In Honor
Author: Jessi Kirby
Release Date: May 8th, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Page Count: 240
Source: Borrowed from the New York Public Library
Rating: ★★★★☆
Honor receives her brother’s last letter from Iraq three days after learning that he died, and opens it the day his fellow Marines lay the flag over his casket. Its contents are a complete shock: concert tickets to see Kyra Kelly, her favorite pop star and Finn’s celebrity crush. In his letter, he jokingly charged Honor with the task of telling Kyra Kelly that he was in love with her.

Grief-stricken and determined to grant Finn’s last request, she rushes to leave immediately. But she only gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn’s best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn’t seen him in ages, thanks to a falling out between the two guys, but Rusty is much the same as Honor remembers him: arrogant, stubborn . . . and ruggedly good-looking. Neither one is what the other would ever look for in a road trip partner, but the two of them set off together, on a voyage that makes sense only because it doesn’t. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn--but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

So when I started this book, I was working off the summary on the book jacket, not the one provided by Goodreads. I would recommend that anyone who wants to pick this up read the latter, as the former doesn't really explain the plot. Normally a bad book jacket summary wouldn't matter, but for such a slim contemporary novel, I think it's pretty important to know exactly what's about to happen so you don't have to spend precious pages trying to orient yourself in the story.

Let's break this down:

I really like this book. I do. I just feel like the beginning is a little clunky. 

First there's the funeral, which is as awkward as that hug the army general guy gives Honor at the end of it all. Then the book kind of rushes a bunch of the pertinent details - the letter from Finn, Honor's decision to road trip, how Rusty ended up going with her and a couple of other bits and bobs. Part of my irritation at the beginning of the book is definitely because of the rushing and the fumbling to put the story in motion. The other part, unfortunately, is due to the previously mentioned vague plot summary on the book jacket. I just didn't realize what the driving force of the book was and when I found out it was a popstar's concert, I was a little concerned at the fluffiness of that event juxtaposed with a death of a soldier and brother. But it works in the end. Which is pretty amazing, I think.

Anyway, despite the rocky start, I kept going. Good thing, too, because the rest of this book was absolutely wonderful. Once all the distractions are gone and the book becomes about Honor and Rusty's amazingly nuanced relationship, Jessi Kirby's meaningful story and lovely prose are given a chance to really show the reader exactly what this book is capable of.

The loss in this book is meaningful and profound - from both Rusty and Honor perspectives. Both of their relationships with Finn, the deceased brother, are so terribly sad, each for their own distinct reasons. And y'know what? Even though we only really get to hear about Honor's feelings, since the book is written from her POV, there are these tiny little windows into what Rusty's going through that really hit me hard. I absolute love these moments and wish there were more of them - but at the same time, I'm almost happy there aren't because this book is really about Honor.

I like Honor. She's the kind of girl who says what she thinks, regrets it and then tries to reign it all in, which results in her not saying enough. She does what she thinks she needs to do to make everything right in her world and even if she's wrong, she keeps plugging on. She's sheltered and even when Rusty forces her to see it, she's honestly tries to deal with it, even though she knows it's not something she can necessarily change, but instead something she'll have to own and incorporate into her life. Honestly, I think she and I would be friends.

And then there's the backdrop of this whole story. I think Jessi Kirby could write about frozen tundra and I would still want to go visit. The vivid descriptions of everything, from the Texan/New Mexican desert to the Californian sea side are just beautiful. Y'know what? I think it's time for a road trip. Who wants to come?

The long and short of it?

Plot: There's just enough tragedy, good fortune and bad luck to make the whole thing work.
World Building: A devastatingly unfortunate scenario that Jessi Kirby really brings to life.
Character Development: Once I got past the slow start, I really began to feel for Honor and Rusty.
Prose: Again, once I made it through the first few chapters, the writing is earnest, clear and emotive.
Would I Recommend This Book?: If you can push yourself through the first 20 pages or so, the rest is definitely worth it.

December 29, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (4)

"Stacking the Shelves" is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews
Oh boy. I made a mess of things for myself this week. I actually went to Barnes and Noble twice in 3 days. One of those days was Christmas, so really twice in 2 days. And then I also got a little library crazy. But I can't HELP myself and I doubt any of you are going to be any help, so instead I vote we all just enjoy my weekly haul.


1. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman
My friend Danna Facebook messaged me to tell me this one's a good read and I should get on it. It was on my list anyways so, given the fact that Danna introduced me to Sarah Dessen and the Mediator Series by Meg Cabot (NBD, read about that HERE), I bumped this one up to the top of my list.

This book, like Why We Broke Up, weaseled it's way onto my TBR list this past summer as I perused books at BN. Somehow it managed to weasel it's way onto my holds list at the library this past week and I'm EXCITED about it's sneakiness.

3. Ex-Mas by Kate Brian
I'm Jewish, so I don't do the whole Christmas thing. As such, I've decided I get to read Christmas books just so I don't feel left out! ^_^

4. Crewel by Gennifer Albin
Someone posted about this book the other day and when I saw it in the library I picked it up on a whim. So basically I'm just kind of hoping it's actually good.

5. You Have Seven Messages by Stewart Lewis
I have never heard of this one but the plot sounds kind of interesting and it's not a particularly long one. Besides, contemporary's my fav. So again, another hopeful moment in my life.

6. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
No silly story for this pick. It's just another 'everyone loves it so I must read it' scenario. Sorry :P


7. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
After finishing If I Stay, I knew I just HAD to buy the sequel, Where She Went. And then write a review about that one as well.

[Read my review of If I Stay HERE and my review of Where She Went HERE.]

8. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
John Green + David Levithan strikes me as the kind of writing duo that could potentially rule the world. I hope I'm not wrong.

9. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
I love Maggie Stiefvater to death and I'm not sure why I haven't read this one yet, so when I saw it sitting on the shelf, the only Stiefvater book in sight, I decided it was a sign and I BOUGHT IT. I'm not even a little sorry about it.

10. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
My friend Leah told me Melina Marchetta is her favsies. We agree on pretty much everything else bookish, Whovian-ish and Veronica Mars-ish, so I decided to buy this one when I saw it chillin' on a shelf at BN. (Leah, this is the second time I'm talking about you on my blog. HOW HAPPY ARE YOU?)

11. What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang
I'm into pretty covers and interesting plots like those attached to this book. So instead of picking this one up and putting it down 100 times (as I've done in my last 10 trips to BN), I decided to just PICK IT UP. And buy it, of course.

12. Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone
The synopsis on this one reminded me a little of The Time Traveler's Wife. That book was a maaaaaajor cryfest and I'm kind of hoping this one won't be as dramatic, although at the same time I'm kind of hoping it is. Is that crazy? Oh well, it's not like I didn't know 'crazy' was a character trait of mine.

13. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
I actually picked up and opened to the first page of this book the last time I went to BN (not sure why I hadn't before...) and I saw that there are actually STRIKE THROUGHS in the text. So I was like, the last super unconventionally written book I read was The Book Thief and I basically died over it, so why not spontaneously buy this one and give it a shot?

What did you guys pick up this week? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

December 28, 2012

Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Title: Where She Went (If I Stay #2)
Author: Gayle Forman
Release Date: April 5th, 2011
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Page Count: 264 

Source: PurchasedRating: ★★★★★
It's been three years since the devastating accident... three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future-and each other.

Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]


I'm not sure if you guys caught my review of If I Stay - the first book in this series. In the event that you missed that bit of attempted coherence, I'm gonna give you like 2 minutes to go skim it. I'll make it easy. Just click HERE.

Okay. You all caught up? You feel the love yet? Well guess what: THE SEQUEL IS JUST AS GOOD. Maybe even better. So get ready for some more unintelligible Gaby babble.

Let's break this down:

I'd like to start by noting the setting. I feel like that's some nice, safe, stable ground to work off. 

The last book was set in Oregon. I know next to nothing about Oregon. Except I have this one friend who lives there (HI MARISSA) and she seems to like it.

This book, however, it set in my hometown: NYC. So when I tell you that Gayle Forman's portrayal of Manhattan is gloriously wonderful, you best take note since Manhattan and I have an unbreakable love-love relationship of epic proportions. Not to mention, I now need to go to all of Mia's secret spots. I mean, I don't think I've actually ever been to Staten Island, let alone on the ferry to get to it. Basically what I'm trying to say is that it's adventure time and you're ALL WELCOME TO JOIN ME.

But enough of the Manhattan lovefest. Let's talk about Adam instead.

Did anyone else lose it in within the first 5 freaking pages of this book? I swear. I'm sure HOW, but I think I had a stronger reaction this book than I did the first, which crazy since this book's about Adam dealing with the end of his relationship with Mia and his life in the limelight whereas If I Stay was about Mia coping with her whole family DYING and choosing to live or die herself. I was just so all over the place all the way through Where She Went in a way that was so much more UGH than I was in If I Stay. I'm pretty sure it's because If I Stay made Adam so unbelievably likable that the thought of angst-y, broken Adam was enough to break ME.

Now, this is the part of the review where I gush about Gayle Forman's brilliance. Ready?

Gayle Forman, being the genius she is, is able to take a tried and true plot twist of a protagonist getting everything it seems he wanted (Mia to live no matter what happens to their relationship and rock star status) and make me feel like it's never been done before. I think it's because she doesn't tell the story of how Adam got what he wanted but not really. She tells a story of every terrible bit of misery Adam feels because he got what he wanted. In turn the the reader can go on this journey not through telling or showing or any other intro to creative writing class nit-picky concept, but because of pure, undiluted emotion.

But I didn't just love this book because all of Gayle Forman's amazingness or Adam's feels (which positively CRUSHED me, mind you). I also loved it because we're not in Mia's head. I needed to see Mia as a person. I needed to feel more than just sad for her. Viewing Mia from someone else's POV really let me see her as a person instead of a consciousness or a specter or whatever. And to be completely honest, Adam's the only person who could really, honestly provide us with this perspective.

Guys, I could go on and on in my ridiculously disjointed manner about how much this book slays me. I could list all the quotes that evoked the crazy feels and tears. I could tell you why I love and hate everyone and everything all at once. But this book honestly left me so emotionally exhausted that you really just need to read it and feel all the drama and sadness and angst and love for yourself.

[I will say, however, that after the outpouring of feels throughout the course of the book, the ending felt a very little bit contrived. But it was only a TINY bit off-putting and in no way negates everything that came before it. Besides, I think we all needed it to be that way otherwise no one would ever stop crying ever. So I'll take it.]

The long and short of it?

Plot: Raw and so very honest
World Building: Color me a satisfied New Yorker
Character Development: If Mia and Adam weren't jumping off the pages into real life before, they so are now.
Prose: Gutting. Absolutely brilliant.
Would I Recommend This Book?: Uhhhhhhhmmmmm... YES. Please don't make me say it again.

December 26, 2012

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Title: If I Stay (If I Stay #1)
Author: Gayle Forman
Release Date: April 2nd, 2009
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Page Count: 234
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★★
In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...

A sophisticated, layered, and heart-achingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make, and the ultimate choice Mia commands.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

USA Today says that this book will appeal to fans of Twilight. I don't know who decided that was a thing, but it's not. Everything about this book was a million times better than Twilight. So ignore that blurb and read on, book lovers, as you will not be disappointed.

Let's break this down:
UGH. You guys. JUST UGH. I really have no idea why I waited this long to read such an amazing book. All of the things Mia went through... I don't even know.

The craziest part of this book is that we're never told Mia's last name. Her parents aren't given names. In fact, you can't really write out the full name and physical description of any of the characters. And yet, somehow, I still care about everyone.

This is mostly because Gayle Forman is a genius.

I mean, the premise of this story is just so incredibly sad that I'm hooked from minute one. This girl has this great family and then all the sudden they're dead. She's in this coma and she knows they're dead and now she has to decide if she wants to live or not. I don't know about you guys, but I'm not sure what I would do in Mia's place. But the way Gayle Forman pulls this all together is masterful.

Each chapter is half what's happening in real time and half a story from Mia's past. This story structure is honestly brilliant. It lets the reader know exactly what's happening to Mia in the hospital but it also lets us know why we should care. I did already, but in the event that I needed further incentive, these little windows into Mia's life really push me over the edge. Each and every memory broke my heart just a little bit more and made me want Mia to both live and die all at the same time. Which is INSANE.

Not to mention, this whole book is based on the idea of the power of choice and the strength of the commitments we make to one another. It's just so stunningly poignant and relevant to everything everyone does everyday, not just in the face of life and death situations. I mean, how many times a day do we decide and commit to something? Just to get up out of bed each morning and go to wherever we need to be is a choice. Mia makes the biggest choice of her life in this book and we, the reader, are privelged to go through the whole thing with her.

Okay. Enough of the philosophy. Back to the review.

I just don't even know what to tell you guys. It's just like, Gayle Forman took this amazing plot and worked it so hard until she created a book I never could have anticipated. She so wisely uses all 243 pages in this slim little novel to tell us who these people are to her protagonist and why Mia should care enough to live (or not live) for them - no last names or hair colors needed. And it's not like the prose is flowery or anything like that. Sure, there are some good, snarky moments, but mostly the prose just drops the story on your lap and walks away, leaving you just deal with the enormity of it all.

I hope this was coherent. I just have so many feels about this book and I just want everyone to go out, get a copy and read it so I we can all have feels together.

The long and short of it?

Plot: So very well executed.
World Building: Oregon done just right.
Character Development: Ah-freaking-mazing. SHE WAS IN A COMA. LIKE FOUR PEOPLE HAVE NAMES. I can't. It's ridiculous.
Prose: All the right words in all the right places.
Would I Recommend This Book?: YES. Yes, yes, yes, a million times yes. Please everyone go read this book right now.

[PS: I just finished the sequel. I don't know how it's possible, but it's possibly EVEN BETTER. Stay tuned for that unbelievably incoherent review.]

Waiting On: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen (4)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine

Author: Sarah Dessen
Release Date: June 4th, 2013
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Emaline works at her family's vacation rental company the summer before she leaves for college. She must confront her values, goals and choices as her relationship with city-boy Theo evolves and she's forced to say goodbye to the beach town where she grew up.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

WHY DO I HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL JUNE TO READ THIS BOOK? I may or may not spontaneously combust before then. It totally doesn't help that Sarah Dessen is constantly uploading photos of the book on Twitter. Not that I want her to stop. I'm just so excited I can hardly hold it together. Ever since I read This Lullaby way back in the high-school-day, I've been a rabid Dessen fangirl. I pre-order every new release and I can assure you this one will be NO DIFFERENT. Even though this blurb doesn't really tell us very much about what this book is about... 

What are you eagerly anticipating this week? Leave me a comment and let me know!

December 25, 2012

Top Ten Books That Make Me Happy (3)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a Freebie, so I've chosen to list the ten books I've read over the years that make me HAPPY. These are the books I read when I'm blue, the ones with the swooniest boys and the loveliest plots. They are the books that sit on my shelf with batter bindings, knowing they'll get re-read soon enough. I love these books with all my heart, whether I read them for the first time ten years or ten days ago. They're my pick-me-up books and I hope to never have a collection of books without them in it.

1-4. The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce
These books. GOD. THESE BOOKS. They know what's up. I've read all of them so many times it's kind of insane. Alanna is pretty much my personal hero, no matter what stupid things she does along the way. Furthermore, I'm not sure when, but at a certain point the covers were changed. I think I mourned for like a week when I found out. I love the old covers. I'm terrified of the books I have now falling apart (which they inevitably will as they have before). I mean, what if they don't make the old covers anymore and I can't find them on eBay!?! It won't be a pretty sight, I can promise you that.

5. Megan Meade's Guide to the McGowan Boys by Kate Brian
I don't know what it is about this book, but I absolutely adore it. I constantly recommend it. It's actually not in my possession right this second since I lent my copy to a friend. Megan's just so tough and those boys are just so... I don't even know. Just so. Everyone in this book is just so and it makes me so incredibly happy every time I read it.

6. Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
Keeping the Moon is, in my humble opinion, possibly the most underrated Dessen book out there. I love it so very much. It makes me sad and happy all at the same time. And of course there are the patented Dessen *squee* moments. How does Sarah Dessen do it? HOW?

7. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
This is the very first Dessen book I ever read. My friend Danna handed it to me and said "READ THIS." I did and it was the happiest day ever. That year for Chanuka we even bought each other the same present and "swapped" - a tote bag that says "Hate Spinnerbait" on it. Most people have no idea what it means but every so often someone knows. Once, a girl - a complete stranger - stopped me and asked me if that's what it was referring to. I just about died.

8. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
And so continues to the Sarah Dessen lovefest. But can you really blame me? Picking a favorite Dessen book would be like picking a favorite child, but this one's really up there. I love the music, I love the plot, and I love just about everything else. Not to mention, I'm pretty sure Owen's my favorite Dessen guy. I mean, OBVIOUSLY I love Dexter and Norman and every other Dessen guy who's not Roger, but OWEN. Just. UGH. Owen. Love him.

9. Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell
This is the most recent book published on my list by far. Like, by many years. Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe actually only came out this past April. But I read it over the summer and I was a giant ball of glee over it. Honestly, from the cover to the very last word, I loved it all. Especially Chloe and Duncan. And Grams. And all of their relationships. So it really does belong on this list, no matter how recent the publication is.

10. Old Magic by Marianne Curley
UGH. UGH. UGH. You guys. This book. This book is proof that I don't list things in any particular order when I compose said lists. Old Magic is one of my all-time favorites. For the longest time, no matter where I went, I would bring it with me just in case I needed a little joy in my life. It's contemporary and magical and just wonderful. Y'know what? I haven't read this one in a while and I think I just convinced myself to re-read ASAP.

 **BONUS: The Mediator Series by Meg Cabot**
I couldn't put this one the list without cheating big time so instead I'm adding it on as a bonus. When I first heard about these I wasn't into it. I really wasn't interested in paranormal or a girl obsessing over a ghost. But the same friend who got me into Dessen (Danna, you get TWO mentions this post) also lent me this series and so I read. And I was not disappointed.

So this is my list. What's on yours? Sound off in the comments below! 

Nota Bene: In linking the titles of these books to where you can buy them, I found that many of these books have new covers. It makes me feel old and a little sad, since I love the old covers so much. But it also makes me so excited because these books are all still around and important enough to warrant new covers. So hurray, favorite happy books! May you all live on forever and ever.

December 23, 2012

Review: Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

Title: Bittersweet
Author: Sarah Ockler
Release Date: January 3rd, 2012
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Page Count: 378
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆
Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances... a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life... and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

This one really rates a 3 and a half for me, I think, but the cupcakes (and the sarcasm) really pushed me to give it the 4 stars. Can you really blame me? Those things sound DELICIOUS. I want Sarah Ockler to make a cupcake cookbook RIGHT NOW so I can buy a copy for myself and for my friend Daniella and then we can take turns baking all of them and making our friends nice and fat. Which we do anyway, OBVI, but the cupcakes would be a fun, new experiment.

Let's break this down:

D'you guys remember that movie Waitress with Keri Russell and the stunningly phenomenal Nathan Fillion? So the chapter names of this book are kind of like that. Except instead of pie, we get CUPCAKES. Not to mention this book reminds me a little of Sarah Dessen, who's my favsies, so double hurray!

But there's a lot of other stuff going on in this book.

To start with, let's take a look at the characters. I'll preface by saying that I might not love them each and every one of them all of the time, but I get why they do what they do.

First, Hudson. I can't say I totally love Hudson all the time. She's kind of a terrible friend. But I get where she's coming from. A lot of really bad things happen to her and she has to deal with a lot of things she really shouldn't have to deal with. So I guess I get her but at the same time I still want to yell at her sometimes. Except for when she gets all "Mom, lay off, I'm a kid not a grow up." All feels of dislike disappear in that scene.

But I straight up just love Josh, Dani and Bug. So cute. Just wanna huggles them. I even like Kara at the end of it all. I really can't blame her for anything and she's SUPER NICE, regardless. Will, of course, can go shove it. What a jerk. But he's a typical teenage boy, so that's legit.

As for the plot - it's a little rough, I think, because of Hudson's motives. I mean, at first she's all internally boy crazy. I didn't hate that. It was kind of cute and fairly realistic. But, at a certain point, her boy craziness takes away from the focus on skating. The skating, in my mind, is supposed to be the thing she thinks will fix everything but then she realizes it won't but that's okay (ie plot of the book). Except it gets cut into by this love triangle looking thing going on between her, Will and Josh. I feel like the book is a giant tug of war between Hudson's family/skating issues and the boy craziness when it really shouldn't be. It should be about the skating and the cupcakes with a side of one, adorable boy instead.

Plot issue aside, I LOVE ALL OF THE SARCASM. I love the sarcasm, I love the narration, I love the italicized onomatopoeias. It's so giggly and so very me (I LOVE onomatopoeias). It all makes me want to hunt down Sarah Ockler and become her best friend so we can be snarky and bake cupcakes together forever. Just amazing.

The long and short of it?

Plot: A little conflicted.
World Building: Love the small town, Upstate New York thing. Also, I totally love the skating. And the diner. God, I love diners.
Character Development: I don't always love everyone, but the motivations are sound, so even if I don't love 'em, I have to respect 'em.
Prose: Snarktastic
Would I Recommend This Book?: For the love of all of the cupcakes, yes. But maybe for the love of a more directed conflict, you should take this one out of the library.

December 22, 2012

Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Title: Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles #1)
Author: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Release Date: December 1st, 2009
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Page Count: 563
Source: Borrowed from the Boston Public Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆
There were no surprises in Gatlin County. We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.At least, that's what I thought.Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.There was a curse.There was a girl.And in the end, there was a grave.

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]
I know everyone either loves or hates this one. And yet, somehow, at the end of it all, I found myself somewhere in the middle. When I finished this book, I just wasn't as moved as I thought I would be. Yeah, it has a lot of things I love: romance, magic, contemporary and more, but at the end of it all I was kind of underwhelmed.

Let's break this down:

There are a lot of things I loved about this book and a bunch of things that really just didn't do it for me. As such, for this review, to clarify what's going on in my head, I figured lists would be a good idea.

What I loved:

The characters. Ugh. All of them. At the end, I even liked Ridley and Mrs. Lincoln. (Ok, maybe I didn't like Larkin and Sarafine, but they are the villains.) I think my favorite is Lena. She has this terrible awful coming for her and she STILL manages to keep it together (for the most part). Furthermore, she doesn't ditch Ethan. They work together and make their relationship work because they love each other. For realsies. It's really because of this that I buy it their relationship, even though it kinda comes at you hard and fast at the beginning of the book.

I also really enjoyed the plot. High school and magic and doomed futures oh my! Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl really take the melodrama behind high school and legitimize it. I like that, considering I was a fairly melodramatic teenager. I especially like that this book took place in a contemporary setting with the magical aspect overlaid on top of it. I'm pretty sure I've already mentioned this once or twice, but I love a good contemporary mixed with something a little different, whether it be paranormal, fantastical or other.

SPEAKING of the contemporary setting in the book: I love books about/set in the South. I love the old houses, the DAR, the War Reenactment, the way they're so neighborly but not and just about everything else. Granted, I've never been to a town like Gatlin so I don't know how accurate the picture portrayed is, but I really enjoyed reading about it.

And then there's the POV. I love Ethan. Do I think he's a little mature for a 16 year old boy? Yes. But then again, he was raised on books by two writers and his mom died. And then there's Amma. So it's pretty legit that he behaves the way he does. But even if Ethan were immature or boyish or what have you, I would still like the fact that this book is from his perspective. He knows just as much about all this magical stuff at the start of the book as the reader does. This gives us a chance to really figure out what's going on, instead of getting thrown into the story and being expected to figure it out. Although I'm not totally sure I get his Mortal status. I'm gonna need some more on that.

What I didn't love as much:
The book moved a little slowly. Even though we spent a lot of time learning what we needed to learn through Ethan, which was great, I felt like a lot of the scenes were overemphasizing a point (like how little Gatlin likes Lena) that had already been made five times over. Only at the beginning and the very end to I feel like we got hit by a lot of stuff happening one after the other. Everything else was like an unnecessarily slow, lazy stroll. 

And then there's that ending. It's is full of all this running and yelling and danger and I'm like, NOW you're rushing things? Really? This is when I need you to slow down and let the evil villain make their grand speech since you didn't really explain what was up with her in the first 500 pages of the book.

Which leads me to my next issue: CAN SOMEONE EXPLAIN TO ME WHAT IS UP WITH SARAFINE? Her character is basically a blip on the radar for most of the book (except for that ONE scene in the middle) and then at the end it's like, WOAH. It was kind of sudden and vaguely upsetting and I just don't know enough. It has me feeling all "what the what"? I know there are 3 more books to the series but I should feel at least a little more closure right now, right?

I also don't get this whole Light vs. Dark thing. First of all, the concept it kind of cliche. Second of all, it's a little ridiculous that you have this great power and you can only be really good or really bad. But then we find out that it's not just good or bad since there are characters like Macon and Ridley who defy this very rigid either/or set up. Like, just because Lena's power is the strongest, she falls deeper down the rabbit hole and gets stuck? Ridley seems pretty powerful to me, so I don't know.

Not to mention, what's up with Lena and her placement at the end? I feel like Lena and Ethan are exceptions to not just one but EVERY rule the authors create in this story. One would be fine - that's why they would be important enough to write a story about - but multiple passes? I don't buy it. Unless they're all interconnected. But again, almost 600 pages and we just don't know. That's a long book for the reading to just not know at the end, sequels or not.

The long and short of it?

Plot: I'm curious, so I might read the next book, but I'm not dying to read it right this second.
World Building: Pretty good, but I just don't know enough about the magical side of it yet.
Character Development: Barring one or two problem people, I love 'em all.
Prose: Magically delicious (see what I did there?)
Would I Recommend This Book?: It's a decent read, but on the longer side. If you're looking to get invested, go for it. The movie's coming out soon too, so even more incentive. Otherwise, it might not be worth your time.

Stacking the Shelves (3)

"Stacking the Shelves" is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews
Since I GRADUATED COLLEGE this past week, I decided to treat myself by purchasing a couple of books. A friend and I went to Barnes and Noble together after my last in-class final and we each limited ourselves to 3 books. Can you believe that? THREE. I'm a superhero. Then again, I did start compiling my holds list at my library at home two weeks ago. So there's that.
All of this is piled up on top of everything from last week and the week before, of course, since I have no self-control to speak of.



1. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
I took this out of the library a couple of months ago but ran out of summer before I got a chance to read it. Take II it is.

2. In Honor by Jessi Kirby
This story sounds so heartbreaking and I love a good cryfest, don't you?

3. Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
My friend's mom bought her this one for Chanuka. She finished it. It was near me. I asked to borrow it. She said yes. Now I get to read it! (Thanks Leah! ^_^)


4. The Diviners by Libba Bray
I read the first few chapters of A Great and Terrible Beauty and I really like it so far. I also LOVE the plot of this book. I mean, occult, murder, New York, 1920s and magic? It's basically all of my favorite things wrapped into one and I cannot wait.

5. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Everyone loves Gayle Forman. I want to love Gayle Forman. Therefore I will read this ASAP.

6. Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
When I showed the summary of this book to my friend who went book shopping with me post-finals, she said: "This sounds like Sarah Dessen." Maybe that's why I like the sound of this book so much. Either way, I must read.

And that's what's going on with me. What did you guys add to the TBR stacks this week?

December 19, 2012

Waiting On: The Elite by Kiera Cass (3)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: The Elite (The Selection #2)
Author: Kiera Cass
Release Date: April 23rd, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]
While I didn't LOVE the first one as much as I wanted to (read my review here), I did love Maxon and I really want to see what happens to him, at the very least. Also, based on the summary, it sounds like there's going to be more revolt-y stuff happening in the second installment, which should be exciting.

Not to mention, the cover is STUNNING, just like the cover of the first book. I like pretty things, so that 100% adds to my excitement over this book.

So what are YOU waiting for this week? Let me know in the comments below!

December 18, 2012

Top Ten Books Read in 2012 (2)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
This week's topic: Top Ten Books Read in 2012. I honestly don't know how many books I've read this year (I intend to keep count next year), but it's a lot more than 10. And I definitely loved a lot more than 10 of them. So this is gonna be interesting.

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - What can I say about this book? What can anyone say about this book? It was really just that good.

2. Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler - If you've been paying attention to my blog at all since it's creation, you'll know I can't shut up about Jackie Morse Kessler. Her Riders of the Apocalypse series is SO IMPORTANT and everyone really should read them.

3. A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix - I've been reading books by Garth Nix since I was a kid so when I realized he was coming out with a new book, I'm pretty sure I squealed and snagged it from the library as soon as I could. It was a glorious moment, I tell you. Absolutely glorious.

4. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver - Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh. I just love this book so much. The contemporary with the hint of supernatural is so wonderful and terribly sad that I just can't stop the love.

5. When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle - Another book where I just can't describe the love. I absolutely adore books that explore different perspectives of historical or great literary events. I especially love that Rebecca Serle set the whole thing in the present. Absolutely brilliant.

6. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater - I honestly can't get enough of Maggie Stiefvater's writing style and this book is no exception. Strong plot, strong prose, strong characters - there's not much else I could ask for, is there? [My Review]

7. Welcome, Caller, This Is Chloe by Shelley Coriell - This book drew me in from every angle and truly did not disappoint. Chloe is such a wonderful protagonist that when Shelley Coriell announced on Twitter that she would be posting deleted scenes on her blog, I stalked for days.

8. Wither by Lauren DeStefano - Lauren DeStefano really knows how to write. Really, really. This, combined with the plot of Wither makes for a really amazing book. [My Review]

9. The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter - Greek mythology has always been a lot of fun for me and I really enjoyed Aimee Carter's take on it all. I really hope this blend of contemporary and myth is becoming a thing, because I could totally go for that.

10. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly - If I love the blend of contemporary and Greek mythology, I ADORE the marriage of contemporary and fairytale. The way this book manages to take everything we know about fairytale land and somehow makes it all totally relevant to everyday life is oh so very wonderful. Not to mention I love books set in during WWII.

That's my list for the week. What are your Top Ten Books Read in 2012? Chances are I want to know about them, so let me know in the comments below!