Saturday, June 29, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (3)

The Vow Stalking Sapphire Shiloh

The Hazards of Skinny Dipping Rules of SummerUnspoken (The Lynburn Legacy, #1)

From Edelweiss:
The Vow by Jessica Martinez

From Netgalley
Stalking Sapphire by Mia Thompson

For Review:
Shiloh by Helena Sorensen

The Hazards of Skinny Dipping by Alyssa Rose Ivy from Jennifer at Some Like it Paranormal
Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin from Forever Young Adult

Borrowed from the library:
Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Guys, I was practically jumping up and down when I was approved for The Vow. I can't wait to read it! Stalking Sapphire isn't one I would normally look at twice, but the summary was just too intriguing (an NA murder mystery? Yes please!). I've already read and loved Rules of Summer, I seriously recommend it if you're a contemp fan. Finally, When I happened across Unspoken I just HAD to pick it up because I have to know why so many people on twitter profess their love/hate for the author. 

What did you guys get this week? What are you most excited about?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review: Anatomy of a Single Girl by Daria Snadowsky

Anatomy of a Single Girl (Anatomy #2)
by Daria Snadowsky
Published January 2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Source: Received for review from the author (Thank you!)
Rating: 4 out of 5 
Anatomy of a Single Girl (Anatomy, #2)

Summary from Goodreads: After everything that happened—my first boyfriend, my first time, my first breakup—jumping back into the dating game seemed like the least healthy thing I could do. It’s not that I didn’t want to fall in love again, since that’s about the best feeling ever. But as a busy college premed still raw from heartbreak, which is the worst feeling ever, I figured I’d lie low for a while. Of course, as soon as I stopped looking for someone, an impossibly amazing—and devastatingly cute—guy came along, and I learned that having a new boyfriend is the quickest way to recover from losing your old one.

The moment we got together, all my preconceptions about romance and sex were turned upside down. I discovered physical and emotional firsts I never knew existed. I learned to let go of my past by living in the present. It was thrilling. It was hot. It was just what the doctor ordered.

But I couldn’t avoid my future forever.

In Daria Snadowsky’s daring follow-up to
Anatomy of a Boyfriend, eighteen-year-old Dominique explores the relationship between love and lust, and the friendships that see us through.


Anatomy of a Single Girl is the follow up to Anatomy of a Boyfriend. Though they don't necessarily have to be read chronologically, I would definitely recommend reading Anatomy of a Boyfriend first so the character development is more apparent.

Dom is still trying to get over her ex months after their breakup. She's making progress, but it's the "two steps forward, one step back" kind. When she has the chance for a summer fling, she let's go of her initial misgivings and jumps into it, leading to a very interesting summer for Dom.

Just to be clear: Anatomy of a Single Girl is definitely a New Adult book. The characters are all adults and there is a lot of sex. Just as it was in Boyfriend, it's the honest kind of sex, not the glorified kind. I really love how Snadowsky isn't afraid to write the completely realistic kind of sex, nor is she afraid to write a female character who actually likes sex. I think it's really important to have female characters who are sexually empowered, and even more important for those characters to not be perfect. Dom definitely isn't perfect. The way she handles her summer relationship is completely realistic because she isn't always sure of herself, or her decisions, or especially her feelings.

I loved how Anatomy of a Single Girl has a really huge friendship storyline in addition to the romance one. Dom is trying to juggle her fling and not abandoning her best friend while also trying to figure out how to be friends with someone she's hooking up with. I liked how Dom and her best friend weren't frenemies and actually cared about each other. They both made some mistakes, but in the end forgave each other for them. It was a great portrayal of a healthy friendship.

Dom really let's her wild side out in Single Girl. In Boyfriend she's more uptight, and more concerned with breaking the rules. In Single Girl she doesn't seem to care about most of the rules. I don't think I could do some of the things Dom did, especially in the romance area, but it wasn't completely out of left field for Dom to do them. I was a little bit miffed at her a few times for being disrespectful to her parents, but I was also reminded of a few times that I've done or said similar things.

My issue with Single Girl is the same as it was with Boyfriend: the tendency for Snadowsky to tell instead of show in her writing. It's not a deal breaker for me, but I know a lot of readers get frustrated with that writing style quickly. I was pleasantly surprised to find updated technology in Single Girl, because the outdated kind in Boyfriend was distracting.

Anatomy of a Single Girl is a natural feeling follow up to Anatomy of a Boyfriend. I enjoyed watching Dom grow as a person and experience new things. I think Dom is one of the most realistic characters I've ever read, and I can only hope for more in this series.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: Keeper of Reign: Book 1 by Emma Right

Keeper of Reign
by Emma Right
Self Published in May 2013
Source: Received for review from the author. (Thank you!)
Rating: 1.5 out of 5
Keeper of Reign

Summary from Goodreads: Sixteen year old Jules Blaze, heir of a Keeper, suspects his family hides a forgotten secret. It's bad enough that his people, the Elfies of Reign, triggered a curse which reduced the entire inhabitants to a mere inch centuries ago. All because of one Keeper who failed his purpose. Even the King's Books, penned with the Majesty's own blood, did not help ward off this anathema. Now, Gehzurolle, the evil lord, and his armies of Scorpents, seem bent on destroying Jules and his family. Why? Gehzurolle's agents hunt for Jules as he journeys into enemy land to find the truth. Truth that could save him and his family, and possibly even reverse the age-long curse. Provided Jules doesn't get himself killed first.

*Note: This is a very negative review. I tried not to rip the book to shreds, but I had a lot of problems with it*

I've been on a fantasy kick lately. My go-to genre is contemporary, but the enthralling complexity of a great fantasy novel has become more appealing during these slow summer months. Unfortunately, the complexities in Keeper of Reign were not the intentional or enjoyable kind.

Let's start with, in my opinion, the most important part of a fantasy novel: the world building. The author, Emma Right, tried to show the reader her world without going into lengthy descriptions. Unfortunately, this tactic led to little pockets of info dump every so often. We would get a character going into an explanation about something with way more detail than would be said in actual conversation. Another tactic used was what I like to call the "universal truth"tactic. This is when all of the characters know or acknowledge something without the reader being shown why. For example: All of the characters in Keeper of Reign knew how "dangerous" the land across the river, Handover, is. The reader is supposed to think of Handover as dangerous, but the problem comes when we are never shown an example of that danger.

Even after finishing Keeper of Reign I was confused about the world. I never felt as though I understood the way it worked or the history, and learning those thins is often my favorite part of a fantasy novel.

Next, let's talk about the characters. The world building was disappointing, but I could have gotten over it if the characters had been compelling; they were not. I've never read a book where I felt as though every single character was there simply to serve a purpose. Every time a new character was introduced, it was soon clear why the author chose to write them. In fact, I felt like the author just added a new character each time she wanted something to happen in the plot.

The main character, Jules, didn't seem to have a distinct personality. I never really got to know him, and I never saw any character development. He had four siblings, which would have been a lot more interesting if they had had distinct personalities. Besides a few character traits, like a penchant for using complex words, they were all really bland and practically interchangeable.

Unfortunately, I didn't really care about the characters or what happened to them.

The plot of the novel was confusing. Is Jules looking for his grandparents? His dad? His mom? Or is he looking for a way to reverse the curse put on his people? I was never really sure what he was trying to do. The plot moved along, but towards the end I got really tired of the conveniently placed secondary characters and side adventures. There was way too much going on at once.

Finally, the writing. The dialogue was stiff and sometimes cheesy. There wasn't any personality in the dialogue and I was only sure who was speaking if it was specifically stated. Right tried to impart a fairytale type of narrative into Keeper of Reign by using the word "for" in place of "because", as in "I didn't like this novel, for the author's writing wasn't polished." These instances stuck out to me and made me roll my eyes. It was used inconsistently and felt like a lazy way for the author to make the story seem  more fantastical.

Lamentably, I did not enjoy Keeper of Reign. In my opinion, the novel isn't ready for publication. I think the author has a lot of good ideas and an interesting concept, but it was executed poorly and is in great need of an editor. I don't think I will be continuing on with this series.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (2)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we share the books we acquired during the previous week.

My books for the week of 6/16:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Just One Day
by Gayle Forman
Published January 2013 by Dutton Juvenile
Source: Bought
Rating: 4 out of 5
Just One Day (Just One Day, #1)

Summary from Goodreads: A breathtaking journey toward self-discovery and true love, from the author of If I Stay

When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of
Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

 Just One Day is the first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!


While I can definitely say that I enjoyed Just One Day, I can't say that I fell in love with it. I think it's unfair to compare Just One Day to If I Stay, but my love for If I Stay set the bar really high going into Just One Day

Allyson is a good girl. She plays by the rules. Instead of going out and drinking while on a trip through Europe (where she's legal) she stays in and watches American movies every night. Her best friend rags on her lack of adventure frequently and it starts to get on Allyson's nerves. When she is faced with the option to go to Paris with a boy she barely knows, she does something completely out of character and goes. For just one day. 

I think it's because of the title and the fact that I didn't need to read the summary to know I wanted to read this book, but I was expecting this novel to take place in one day. In actuality, it takes place over an entire year. This is probably the first place the book disappointed me. I love books that take place over one day, and though I enjoyed the month-by-month formatting of Just One Day, it wasn't what I expected. 
I really liked Allyson when she was in Paris, but I got really frustrated wither her behavior in the following year. I didn't understand her complete lack of motivation to do well in classes/make friends/live a happy life. She was also really disrespectful to her family (who aren't evil or anything), something I had a lot of trouble getting over.

Though I had some trouble with her attitude, I was pleasantly surprised that so much of Just One Day focuses on Allyson's development instead of a relationship. I love the romance aspects of books, but I think major character development adds a whole new level. I really got to know Allyson and to understand the weight of some of her actions toward the end. 

Just One Day shines the most Allyson is in Europe. I absolutely loved the way Forman wrote the descriptions and Allyson's reactions to certain cultural things. Forman did a great job increasing my wanderlust and fortifying my intentions to study abroad!

Despite my issues with Just One Day, I really did like it. Forman's writing is beautiful, and she knows how to write a connection between two people. I was compelled to know what happened next and, well, the ending pretty much killed me. To say that I'm looking forward to Just One Year is an understatement. I'm ravenous for it. I must know Willem's side of the story. 

Just One Day is a great novel that will make you wish for one day in Paris of your own, and for the sequel even more!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Review: Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky

Click for Goodreads
Anatomy of a Boyfriend
by Daria Snadowsky
Published January 2007 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Source: Received for review from author (Thank you!)
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary from Goodreads: Before this all happened, the closest I'd ever come to getting physical with a guy was playing the board game Operation. Okay, so maybe that sounds pathetic, but it's not like there were any guys at my high school who I cared to share more than three words with, let alone my body.

Then I met Wes, a track star senior from across town. Maybe it was his soulful blue eyes, or maybe my hormones just started raging. Either way, I was hooked. And after a while, he was too. I couldn't believe how intense my feelings became, or the fact that I was seeing—and touching—parts of the body I'd only read about in my Gray's Anatomy textbook. You could say Wes and I experienced a lot of firsts together that spring. It was scary. It was fun. It was love.

And then came the fall.

Anatomy of a Boyfriend is the first novel I've read that can be categorized as New Adult, but it's not the sexy escape that has become synonymous with the New Adult name. There is sex in Anatomy of a Boyfriend, but it's the realistic, awkward, exploratory, should-I-or-shouldn't-I type of sex. The honesty in which Snadowsky portrays Dom's foray into exploring her sexuality is probably my favorite part of the book.

Dom is a high school senior on the fast track to medical school. She's intelligent, driven, and completely clueless about guys. When she meets a cute track star at the end of her senior year she thinks he could be her first real boyfriend. What follows is the most realistic portrayal of a teenage relationship I've ever read. 

Anatomy of a Boyfriend blew me away with its honesty. The book is told from Dom's perspective, and we get a front row seat to all of the highs, lows, crazy thoughts, not so crazy thoughts, and everything else that comes from your first real relationship with a guy. I saw a lot of myself in Dom, and went through a similar situation, so it was wonderful to see her relationship and feelings not romanticized in any way. 

The problems I had with Anatomy of a Boyfriend were minor, yet still merit mention. Snadowsky's writing lends itself to much more telling than showing. We learn much about Dom, her family, and her friend Amy because Dom is telling us about them instead of Snadowsky writing them in such a way that we infer these things. Though it didn't bother me, I realize that there are many who become frustrated with that style quickly. The use of now outdated technology was also sometimes distracting. The novel was published in 2007 and Snadowsky undoubtedly began writing it years prior, so the use of AOL messenger and email as primary technological communication is forgivable, if not quite relatable.  

Though the love story in Anatomy of a Boyfriend is in no way revolutionary, the way Snadowsky honestly portrays the experience is. I've never related to a character in the same way I related to Dom. Though there were many times I wanted to tell her to pull herself together, I could always relate what she was feeling to a way I've felt in the past. Sometimes it was like Dom was repeating word for word some of the things I've thought to myself. 

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who's gone through that first big love, you will probably see a lot of your experience in Dom's.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

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Stacking the Shelves (1)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews where we share the books we received in the previous week.
Taste The Heat (Love and Games, #1)

Keeper of ReignTwigsUnder the Empyrean Sky (The Heartland Trilogy, #1)

Lovestruck Summer by Melissa Walker

The Originals by Cat Patrick (ARC) Thank you Sarah at Forever 17 Books 
Taste The Heat (eGalley) Thank you Forward Literary! (I won by playing Forward Jeopardy on twitter-so much fun!)

For Review:
Keeper of Reign Book 1 by Emma Right (Thanks Emma!)

From Netgalley:
Twigs by Alison Ashley Formento (Thanks to F+W/Adams Media)
Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig (Thanks to Amazon Children's Publishing)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review: The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

Click for Goodreads
The Crown of Embers
by Rae Carson
Published September 2012
Source: Borrowed
Book Two in the Fire and Thorns Trilogy
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary from Goodreads: In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

 For some reason, I don't consider myself a big fantasy fan. It's just not the genre I get the most excited about. And then I read a book like The Crown of Embers and remember that, oh yeah, I really like fantasy. Especially this trilogy. I think I enjoyed The Crown of Embers even more than The Girl of Fire and Thorns, which is rare and awesome in a trilogy. 

The best part of The Crown of Embers, in my opinion, is how consistent Elisa's character is. She grows so much throughout both novels, yet her actions are never too surprising or too out of the blue. Elisa's thoughts and actions always feel like they are hers. Elisa is a flawed character for sure, never quite sure of herself enough and sometimes too afraid to act when necessary, yet she is a likeable character. She has a good heart, and does what she can to protect those she cares about.

The romance in The Crown of Embers is subtle, but it is there. Hector is Elisa's second love, and though there was the potential for it to feel false or rushed, it was a natural direction for Elisa. I enjoyed watching the relationship between Elisa and Hector grow. The torturous end had me in near panic because I've grown to love these character so much.

Rae Carson is a master world-builder. I never felt so confused that I didn't know what was going on, but I never felt bogged down by descriptions either. I have no idea how she does it, but she is good. 

All I can say now is that I absolutely cannot wait until August when the final book in the trilogy, The Bitter Kingdom, comes out. I have a feeling it's going to be the perfect end to Elisa's journey, and I'm very excited to read it.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

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The Book of Blood and Shadow
by Robin Wasserman
Published April 2012
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary from Goodreads: It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up.  When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love.  When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.

But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead.  His girlfriend Adriane, Nora's best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora's sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.

Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the
Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.

The Book of Blood and Shadow is unlike any book I've ever read. I was too young to jump on The Da Vinci Code bandwagon, and that seems to be the most apt comparison. If The Da Vinci Code is anything like this book, then I understand the rabid fans it produced. 

The Book of Blood and Shadow doesn't start out fast-paced or even terribly exciting. Instead, Robin Wasserman lets us get to know the main characters: Nora, Max, Chris, and Adriane. Nora is the wry and observant narrator with a dry humor that made me smile many times, even when I was in the middle of an intense scene. Though the slow beginning wasn't exactly exciting, it was crucial in assuring that the rest of the book would have major impact. Guys, I got pretty emotional during this book and it's all because I got to know these characters before they were thrust into impossible situations.

Once The Book of Blood and Shadow picks up pace, well, then you might as well resign yourself to not putting it down until you finish. There are twists that will make you go "WHAT?" and then, "Of course." Wasserman does such a fantastic job describing Prague, but I never felt bogged down by the descriptions. So pretty much, there's no putting this book down once you get past a certain point. 

I loved The Book of Blood and Shadow, and if there is a sequel (anyone know if there is?) I will definitely be reading it. As soon as I possibly can. So much goes down during the novel that I will probably be thinking about it for days to come, which is my favorite type of book.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Review: Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown

Perfect Escape
by Jennifer Brown
Published July 2012
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary from Goodreads: Kendra has always felt overshadowed by her older brother, Grayson, whose OCD forces him to live a life of carefully coordinated routines. The only way Kendra can stand out next to Grayson is to be perfect, and she has perfection down to an art -- until a cheating scandal threatens her flawless reputation. 

Behind the wheel of her car, with Grayson asleep beside her, Kendra decides to drive away from it all -- with enough distance, maybe she'll be able to figure everything out. But eventually, Kendra must stop running and come to terms with herself, her brother, and her past.

With undeniable grace and humor, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown explores OCD, the pressure for perfection, and the emotional highs and lows of a complex sibling relationship.

I don't know about you all, but I am always a fan of a road trip novel. Actual road trips? I probably couldn't handle it. But I could read about them forever. Perfect Escape is unlike most road trip books for a couple reasons: 1) The main characters are brother and sister (instead of love interests/BFFs) and 2) The brother, Grayson, has pretty severe OCD. To say that a road trip is outside of his comfort zone is an understatement.

This is my first Jennifer Brown book, and I was definitely not disappointed. From what I understand she's not afraid to write about the tough topics. Her other novels have focused on school shootings and abusive relationships, while her most recent novel is about sexting. Though the OCD focus of Perfect Escape may not be as heavy or hard hitting as her other novels, it gave me more of an understanding of the disease and opened my mind to the effects it has on others.

Road trip books aren't exactly formulaic, but what you do know is that they always serve the same purpose: major character development. Perfect Escape is no exception. Kendra runs away, dragging Grayson with her, because she's afraid of the fallout of her cheating in school. She justifies bringing Grayson with her because she thinks taking him out of his comfort zone will help him overcome his OCD. By the end of the novel Kendra and Grayson both show great development and have bonded in a completely new way.

I was occasionally bored or frustrated with what Kendra did or said. The control freak/perfectionist inside of me was wrankled by a few of the decisions Kendra made, and it was difficult to get over it a few times. But overall I really enjoyed this book and will be reading more Jennifer Brown in the future!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Review: Mind Games by Kiersten White

Click for Goodreads
Mind Games
by Kiersten White
Published February 2013
Source: Borrowed
4 out of 5 

Summary from Goodreads: Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways…or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost.

Mind Games is really hard for me to write about. While reading it I couldn't put it down. Now that I've finished it I keep thinking about it, but not just in good ways. After seeing multiple "eh" reviews, I'm happy to say that this one exceeded my expectations. My only complaint is that I wish there was more.

Mind Games is unlike any other book I've read. It alternates between the POV of two sisters, Fia and Annie, as well as between the present and the past. I really enjoyed the way White formatted the alternating POVs and times. The frequency of alternating dates as well as POVs kept me interested the whole way through. 

I think my biggest problem with Mind Games was the lack of character connection. I felt for Fia and Annie, and I understood their motivations, but I didn't really connect with them. I wish that White had explored their backgrounds a little bit more in the beginning. I felt a little bit too thrust into the middle of things, and I think if there had been more backstory it would have made it easier to connect with them for the rest of the books.

Mind Games is short, and it moves really fast. Think kind of along the lines of a Lisa McMann novel. However, I think the novel went too fast. Though I enjoyed myself immensely while reading, on reflection it's hard to remember everything that happened.

Despite the negative things I mentioned above, I really did enjoy Mind Games. I will definitely be picking up the next books in the series.