Friday, December 28, 2012

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols - Book Review

All Meg has ever wanted is to get away. Away from high school. Away from her backwater town. Away from her parents who seem determined to keep her imprisoned in their dead-end lives. But one crazy evening involving a dare and forbidden railroad tracks, she goes way too far...and almost doesn't make it back.
John made a choice to stay. To enforce the rules. To serve and protect. He has nothing but contempt for what he sees as childish rebellion, and he wants to teach Meg a lesson she won't soon forget. But Meg pushes him to the limit by questioning everything he learned at the police academy. And when he pushes back, demanding to know why she won't be tied down, they will drive each other to the edge -- and over....

This book is bad.  No getting around it, it was the worst read of the year for me, and one of my worst reading experiences ever.  I finished this novel weeks ago, but I was just too infuriated by it to attempt writing a review.  I think I’ve cooled off enough since then to not become a puddle of gooey rage and expletives, so here goes.

First off, let me address the rating; 4.02 average, as of the time I'm writing this review.  I'll be honest, it's what reeled me in.  And caught me like a fish on a hook, in for the same amount of torture.  Now I'll admit to being on the outside of a lot of book hype; I was one of the seven people in the entire world who didn't like Divergent.  But I would read a dozen Divergents, two City Of Bones, and top it off with an entire reread of the Twilight saga over subjecting myself to Going Too Far again.

Sound harsh?  Well, it is.  But this is a novel that prompted me to make a whole new goodreads shelf to showcase it's absolute crappiness.

Now, for the examples; From page one, it becomes evident that the writing is sub-par.  Sure, there are a few paragraphs, maybe even an entire page here and there, that don't make your eyes bleed.  But for the most part, the writing is overly obvious, the attitudes forced, the descriptions repetitive, and some of them just flat out don't make sense.  “I couldn't see his face, but I could tell from the way he walked that he was a teenager." "I knew it was too good to be true when it got even better." There is even an instance when Meg can hear John blush.  Not hear his blush in his words.  Hear John blush.  Now I'll forgive a lot, but that is physically impossible.

But Meg's sudden bursts of super-human senses weren't even my biggest pet peeves.  No, that goes to the most retardedly used, beat-the-reader-over-the-head-with-it metaphor I have ever read.

Meg has blue hair.  She dyed it a while ago to stand out or announce her rebelliousness or whatever.  And don't worry about forgetting Meg has blue hair or mistaking it for purple or green down the line, because we are reminded of Meg's blue hair.  A lot.  A whole freaking lot.  Even more than we're told about John's dark eyes, we're reminded about Meg's blue hair.  It got to the point where I would let out an audible growl of frustration every time I read about the color of her hair.  I was growling a lot by the end of this novel.

And the thing is, she acts like it's a freaking stamp on her forehead proclaiming her a lecher or something.  I don't know about you, but I actually think a chick with blue hair is kinda hot.  Especially when they're not, you know, thirty.  Meg constantly tells herself John can't like her because she has blue hair.  When his friends point out the proprietary way he watches her, Meg's internal reaction is this; But my hair is blue!

Who.  The.  Eff.  Cares?

See, there’s this thing that happened to Meg in her past, a very bad thing that is made totally unbelievable by the totally crappy writing of Echols’.  Anyway, this thing has led to an immaturity and rebelliousness in Meg, and her blue hair is supposed to symbolize said immaturity and lack of self-growth.  Hence the metaphor.  It is pointed out and shoved down your throat so much that by the predictable ending, it’s downright insulting.

Now, since Going Too far is supposed to be a contemporary romance, I should probably add something about Officer John After, or Johnafter as Meg calls him.  While he’s not as infuriating as Meg herself, he’s still an impossible character to like.  I didn’t care about him.  His big “reveal” seemed only slightly less forced and overdone than Meg’s, and there was not a single scene in the entire novel that made me feel the chemistry between the two.  And more than a few that made me actively dislike them together.

I do not get how this book got so many positive reviews.  I really don't.  It is one of only two books I've ever rated one star, which should prove that I don't give this rating out lightly.  It actually makes me angry to think about it, and that has never happened before.

Huh.  Looks like I couldn’t write this review without dissolving into a puddle of gooey rage.  At least I kept the expletives out.

Going Too Far – 1 out of 5 stars

Monday, December 24, 2012

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick - Review

It could happen tomorrow . . .

An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.

Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.

Author Ilsa J. Bick crafts a terrifying and thrilling post-apocalyptic novel about a world that could become ours at any moment, where those left standing must learn what it means not just to survive, but to live amidst the devastation.


I’m surprised to say, after a very, very rough start for me that almost ended in a skimmed-through read of a little over half of this novel, that I liked this book.  It wasn’t great – any novel that takes half of its length to finally pick up and start to get good can’t be called great – but I liked it.

Ashes starts right before the big EMP, or electro-magnetic pulse, that wipes out all modern technology, and most of the population.  The only survivors are the very old, the very young, and very few of the in-between – of which Alex is one.   It delves right into action and survival, an abundance of it that had me bored and reluctant to return to the pages very quickly.  See for me, no matter how much gore or action, there comes a time when I need some story progression, or I lose interest.  The first 75 pages were promising, filled with questions to be answered and penned by a talented writing hand.  Unfortunately, after that initial burst of awesome, Ashes loses steam for about 200 pages that are almost completely devoid of story progression and don’t answer a single question from those first 75 pages.  I was left with chapters and chapters of action, action, whiny eight year old girl, action, hey look a new guy, action, rushed romance, action….  You get the deal.  I was all out of interest by the time we came to a 20 page long dog chase.  If I weren’t one of those stubborn readers who refuses to not finish a book I start, I would have abandoned Ashes then and never looked back.

For once, my stubbornness paid off.  For all the flaws of the first half, the second half managed to reel me back in and capture my interest in a way I’d completely given up hope on.

Once I slogged through the first painful half and got to…well…the part where it starts to get good (let’s keep this review spoiler-free, shall we?), I experienced one of the most complete transformations I’ve ever read in a book.  The setting is different, the secondary characters are different, and Ilsa J. Bick trades in her agonizing over-usage of action/wilderness survival for the story progression I was dying for in the first half, characters I was intrigued by, and a very realistic, psychological take on humanity’s reaction to a zombie apocalypse.  Now I know there are a lot of people who hated this sudden change, but I honestly thought it was a HUGE improvement.

I think Ashes would have worked better all around if Bick had cut out a large chunk of the first half, because to say it began to drag would be an understatement.  But when I finished, when I reached that terrible cliff-hanger (which is just as bad as these reviews will have you believe), I was surprised to find my fingers itching for more.  I have high hopes, too, that Shadows won’t suffer the same problems the first half of Ashes did.

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick – 3.5 Stars

Friday, December 14, 2012

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor - Book Review

Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers' souls:
Goblin Fruit
In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today's savvy girls?

Spicy Little Curses
A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.

Six days before Esme's fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?

Somehow this year has ushered in the words of Laini Taylor like a whirlwind for me, dropping first Daughter Of Smoke And Bone and slowly her other works into my lap. I had no idea, opening that first beautiful cover, that she would claim a part of my heart and become my favorite writer, taking a place long shared by a multitude of talented authors over as her own. I love her imagination, I love her worlds, her mythology, her unparalleled ability to get inside of her characters’ heads and make them real, make them relatable, and put into words things I never even knew there were words for. But most especially, I love her writing, and the way she turns words into true art.

Lips Touch: Three Times wasn’t, for me, a quick read. Rather, it was a book I had to take my time with so I could soak in the perfect phrases and amazing descriptions. It consists of three short stories – or maybe two and a novella, since the third takes up about half of the book; Goblin Fruit, Spicy Little Curses Such As These, and Hatchling. Each is very different from the others, but each is steeped in ancient mythology and lore. And even the shortest of these, Goblin Fruit, not even breaking fifty pages after you count in the illustrations, is more realized and satisfying than so many full-length novels I’ve read recently.

Goblin Fruit was probably my least favorite of the three, though that’s not to say that I didn’t love it. I think its short length was the main issue I had with it; I didn’t want to leave Kizzy and her friends and her desires so soon. Spicy Little Curses Such As These and Hatchling vie closely as my favorites, though the edge probably goes a bit to the former. I loved the non-Christian religious tones of Hell and demons, curses and bartered souls. Though Hatchling stole my breath away with its intricate story, its demon-and-fey-like Druj mythos, and its ambiguous characters; like I said, that’s a very close call. All I can say with certainty is that I loved all three stories, and would be quick to recommend them to anyone who likes a really well-written story that is both fairy-tale and horror, with a well-rooted center of ancient mythology.

It is my sincere and fervent hope that I’ll be able to read many, many more stories written by Laini Taylor in the coming years, and that she never strays from the fantasy genre; her writing is too magical to write about the mundane world we already live in.

Lips Touch: Three Times - 4.5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Unwind by Neal Shusterman - Book Review


Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

I start this review speechless, but I know the words will flow as I type so here goes.  I started Unwind because it got some good reviews and had an interesting premise.  I figured I'd like it, but I did not expect to find myself totally immersed in the world Shusterman created, terrified and chilled yet too compelled to put the novel down.  The premise of a future where the debate over reproductive rights has been “resolved” by outlawing fetal abortions but allowing parents the option of aborting – or “unwinding” – any of their children between the ages of 13 and 18 on the condition that every part of them is still alive, transplanted into many different people, is a hard one to swallow.  But this novel does a fantastic job of making it seem not only less insane, but actually all too possible.

I mean, it’s not like social cultures that exist today haven’t been brainwashed to accept atrocities as just a part of life.  We’re in one.  The most successful dystopias are the ones that draw on this and use it to create a terrifying future that could become a chilling reality, and Unwind does just that.

Connor is a misunderstood bad-boy, rebellious and hot-headed but also heroic and honorable.  Risa is a ward of the state whose only mistake was being just a little less than perfect, and Lev is a thirteen year old boy who was bred for a singular purpose, like privileged cattle in a slaughterhouse.  All three find themselves betrayed by their parents or guardians and on their way to a “harvest camp”, where their lives will be divided into a thousand living pieces.  While Unwind has many different perspectives in it, Connor, Risa and Lev own the vast majority of the chapters.  All are likeable, though Risa gets lost just a bit behind the explosiveness of Lev, and Connor’s heroism.

There are a few small bumps and jolts along the ride this novel takes you on, but when the final pages are turned, you won’t be thinking about them.  You’ll be thinking about all the strong moral and societal implications, the horror of a world in which life is cheap until you reach a certain age.  You’ll be left wondering what the future has in store for us if the most horrifying possibilities can be twisted to seem just and plausible using the right blend of politics, and religious families see selling their own children as a sacred and holy sacrifice –“…when Bible passages become shredded to justify unwinding, and kids start to see the face of God in the fragments.”– pg 280.

And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be thinking about one of the most chilling chapters ever written in YA.  Not for its brutality, but for the cold acceptance and execution of what is absolutely and positively too horrifying to even contemplate.  In fact, that chapter alone bumps my overall rating up a star; I found myself struggling to read through it, but I mean that in the best possible way.

I always finish writing reviews of fantastic books just knowing I didn’t do them justice, and so is the case now with Unwind.  It hit the mark on all the emotional, dystopian and horror elements it was supposed to, and left me thinking about it long after I finished.  If you’re a fan of the dystopian craze, read Unwind.  It’ll make half of the dystopians since The Hunger Games seem like nothing more than a flash in the pan, proving to me yet again that the best in this particular genre were published before it became a YA phenomenon.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman - 5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn - Book Review

It all starts when Nick asks Norah to be his girlfriend for five minutes. He only needs five minutes to avoid his ex-girlfriend, who’s just walked in to his band’s show. With a new guy. And then, with one kiss, Nick and Norah are off on an adventure set against the backdrop of New York City—and smack in the middle of all the joy, anxiety, confusion, and excitement of a first date.

This he said/she said romance told by YA stars Rachel Cohn and David Levithan is a sexy, funny roller coaster of a story about one date over one very long night, with two teenagers, both recovering from broken hearts, who are just trying to figure out who they want to be—and where the next great band is playing.

Told in alternating chapters, teeming with music references, humor, angst, and endearing side characters, this is a love story you’ll wish were your very own. Working together for the first time, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have combined forces to create a book that is sure to grab readers of all ages and never let them go.


I saw the movie version a few years ago and liked it.  Didn’t love it, but thought it was good enough.  When I found out it was a book originally, I knew I had to read it – yes, I’m one of those people who always has to read the book if I see the movie – despite the luke-warm overall rating on goodreads.

Boy, am I glad I did.

Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist the book is a much more satisfying experience than the movie (and seriously, though I love him as an actor, who the hell chose to cast Michael Cera as Nick?  It took about two and a half pages for me to see how wrong that was).  The entire novel takes place in one adventurous, hormone-fueled, music-pumping night, when Nick-the-band-boy meets Norah-the not-wild-enough-daughter-of-a-famous-music-executive.  The chapters alternate between POVs, with David Levithan writing Nick’s chapters and Rachel Cohn writing Norah’s.  I enjoyed Nick’s chapters a bit more, and I attribute that to a preference for Levithan’s writing style.  Though Cohn is, by no means, a detriment to the novel; she gives Norah a nicely sarcastic, realistically self-conscious, overall romantic voice that compliments Nick’s heart-broken, somewhat jaded (in the beginning, at least), ironic one perfectly.

The novel’s 183 short pages are saturated with f-bombs and sexual content, and I can see how that might turn some readers off, but I loved it.  I’m a huge advocate of realistic YA, and come on.  Teenagers swear and lust and experiment more than most adults, so why are most YA characters saintly virgins?  Realism is important when it comes to growing adolescents, and books like Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist do a great job of giving us a realistic portrayal of almost-adults navigating through a sea of desires, doubt, questions and adrenaline.  With a heavy dose of music’s importance to a lot of teens thrown in, in this case.  Which I feel was done marvelously, as I was one of those music-reliant teenagers just a few years ago.

Normally, I feel like one night is not nearly enough for two characters to build a true chemistry with each other, but one night was all Nick and Norah needed.  It doesn’t seem forced or rushed at all.  It’s like the perfect how-we-met story, what was supposed to be five minutes of pretend-dating to save face in front of an ex-girlfriend morphing into an entire night of conversation and adventure and kisses and fun.  Mistakes, and mistakes avoided.

If you’re a fan of realistic YA contemporary, read this book.  If you enjoyed the movie even a little bit, read this book.  If you believe in the power of music to inspire love, read this book.  If you like fun, short reads that don’t answer every single question but leave a smile on your face anyway, read this book.  But if you don’t want to see “fuck” littering almost every page, or scenes pushing the limits of erotic YA about as far as they can possibly be pushed, you should probably stay away.

Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist – 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The 2012 Book That Is Made Of Awesome

So if you're a fan of the Vlogbrothers Green, you probably have inferred, by that oh so clever title, which book I'm talking about.  Inside Nerdfighter jokes, I'm rockin' em.  And if you're not a fan of the Vlogbrothers, you need to hop right on over to YouTube and check out just what you've been missing...after you've read this blog post, of course.

I've read a lot of great books this year.  A lot.  I've laughed, wept, and fallen in love over ink-covered paper.  One book that encapsulates the amazing reading year I've had, that has brought me to all of those emotional extremes I listed and beyond, is also a book that is topping many Best Of 2012 lists.  And I am grinning ear-to-ear, knowing that a novel that defies that gooey, cliche-ridden crap that popular YA novels seem to be made of since a certain sparkly vampire got every teenage girl's heart racing is getting such a huge amount of well-deserved attention.

That book is, of course, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.

I don't have a review up yet for that amazing book since I read it months before the creation of this blog and so couldn't have given it an in-depth review, but that might actually be a good thing because I could have never done it justice with my words.  It's one of those books that will stay with me forever, and render me into a blubbering mess of tears and smiles and nose-drippings whenever I think back on it.

And it is TIMES Best Book Of 2012.

And Goodreads Best In YA Fiction.

And undoubtedly topping many, many other Best Books lists.

I. Am. So. Freaking. Happy.

Finally, the hype is deserved.

Finally, the lists got it right.

Finally, I'm not the odd-man-out praising a book that only avid readers have heard of.

The writing world needs more books like The Fault In Our Stars.  And more humble, deserving authors like John Green.  Anyone reading this who hasn't read that needs to stop what they're doing and order a copy.  If you have a beating heart, you will most likely love this book.

And now, I'm off to reread my favorite TFiOS passages with a handful of tissues at the ready.

And oh!  A special shout-out to my dear, dear friend Pixie, who is also a fellow (and much more successful) book blogger for forcing me to shut up about it costing too much and order The Fault In Our Stars early on in the year.  Oh, how right you were.

Embrace by Jessica Shirvington - Book Review

It starts with a whisper: "It's time for you to know who you are..."

On her 17th birthday, everything will change for Violet Eden. The boy she loves will betray her. Her enemy will save her. She will have to decide just how much she's willing to sacrifice.

Dangerously exciting and darkly romantic, EMBRACE is a compelling novel of good and evil, seductive desires and impossible choices. A centuries old war between fallen angels and the protectors of humanity chooses a new fighter. It's a battle Violet doesn't want, but she lives her life by two rules: don't run and don't quit. If angels seek vengeance and humans are the warriors, you could do a lot worse than betting on Violet Eden.

LINCOLN: He's been Violet's one anchor, her running partner and kickboxing trainer. Only he never told her he's Grigori--part human, part angel--and that he was training her for an ancient battle between Angels and Exiles.

PHOENIX: No one knows where his loyalties lie, yet he's the only one there to pick up the pieces and protect her after Lincoln's lies. In a world of dark and light, he is all shades of gray.

Two sides: Angel or Exile.

Two guys: Lincoln or Phoenix.

The wrong choice could cost not only her life, but her eternity...


Sigh….  Yet another book brimming with potential and a great storyline that managed to shoot itself in the foot with its execution.

Embrace suffers from what I like to call the Post-Twilight YA Syndrome.  It mercilessly shoves a love triangle in your face.  The writing is very average, and the characters could have used more development.  It has a very good storyline involving angels, but it’s so busy trying to compete with the YA trends that too much of the good is overshadowed by the bad.  It’s gotten to the point where I’m almost scared to pick up a new YA book by an author I’ve never read before because I’m terrified of it being yet another example of why these clichés need to die.

 Violet Eden isn’t quite as Mary-Sue as some protagonists I’ve read recently, but she’s still a two-dimensional character.  After a traumatic experience in her past, she’s become determined to be a strong-willed person who never runs when things get tough.  She also likes art.  That’s really all I know about her.  Well, that and the fact that she lusts after her athletic trainer and good friend, Lincoln.

Lincoln was probably my favorite character in this book, mainly because he was the least underdeveloped one in my opinion.  Phoenix, the bad-boy part of the triangle, with lusty eyes and smoldering looks, fit my usual “type” better, but he read like a walking talking cliché, and I predicted every single one of the surprises involving him way before they were revealed.  Even Steph, Violet’s spoiled, perky, loyal BFF, suffered from these characterization pit-falls.

 Aside from the minimal characterization, Embrace has a habit of dumbing down obvious things, and ignoring others.  A lot of questions got completely ignored, like why exactly Grigori – angel-human hybrids – partners can’t be together romantically.  It felt more like a convenient way to keep romantic tension high than anything else.

All in all, though it did keep me entertained, Embrace wasn’t the novel I was hoping for after reading a very interesting synopsis and some rave reviews.  It relied too heavily on proven popular formulas and didn’t have enough substance to wow me.

Embrace - 2.5 out of 5 stars