From the Notebook: Top Ten Series I Won’t Be Finishing

From the Notebook is back with some potentially unpopular opinions! I have the top ten series that I have cleared out of my Goodreads because I won’t be finishing them, from reasons ranging from outgrowing the writing to actual dislike. Be forewarned that I might say something not so nice about a book series you like! I’m sorry about that! However, I would love to have a conversation about why you think I’m wrong–or if you agree, of course! Let me know if I’m about to miss something at all, or if I’ve made the right call!

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ARC Review: “Mystic City” by Theo Lawrence

Mystic City (Mystic City #1) by Theo Lawrence

Goodreads | Amazon

A magical city divided.
A political rebellion ignited.
A love that was meant to last forever.

Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City’s two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents’ sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud—and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths.

But Aria doesn’t remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can’t conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place.

Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection—and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city—including herself.

3 1/2 stars

Thank you to Edelweiss and Random House Children’s Books for this eARC! You can pick up a copy for yourself on October 9th, 2012!

Well that … was exactly what I expected.

I mean, of course I’d hoped for something more, but at least my expectations weren’t unfounded, right? …let me explain.

After you read that blurb, you have a ridiculously good idea about what’s going to happen in the novel. You’ve basically got this backwards Romeo and Juliet thing going on. (That was actually mentioned several times.) (I hated Romeo and Juliet. Just sayin’.) ANYWAYS. Right from the get go, something is clearly amiss. They say that Aria got the memory loss because she overdosed on drugs, but she is clearly not the kind of girl who does that sort of thing. The fact that she even partially accepts that story completely boggled my mind.

I’m going to attempt not to make things any more obvious than they are, but I guessed the reason for Aria’s memory loss from the very first chapter. It was not entirely subtle, or even halfway concealed. If you can pick out YA clichés, you can pick out where this is going to go from a mile away.

You know what? I’m fine with novels that draw the readers to conclusions the narrator is too stupid to grasp right away. IF IF IF we don’t take too long before we bring the narrator in on the secret before you start screaming, “ARIA YOU IDIOT HE-LLO!” My major critique of this book is that it gave us a very obvious plot line and then took an overly long time to spell it out for Aria.

That being said, though, I am usually the first to critique slow pacing in a book and that’s not at all what happened here. Aria may have remained far too clueless for far too long, but there were ALWAYS things happening. I could almost, ALMOST forgive her slow brain because of the fast plot. Again, none of the revelations were particularly surprising for the most part, but they were presented in an aesthetically pleasing way. The plot was not complex, but I still enjoyed what I was reading.

The world building was also nice. I didn’t find too many obvious plot holes, but then it wasn’t particularly complicated, either. You have your mobster elite who rule the city, their supporters, regular people, and then you’ve got the mystics they drain to keep from being dangerous. I would have loved to have spent more time in the mystic underground than we did, but I guess that’s for the second book. And there was plenty of magic usage, so that makes me happy.

And, of course, let’s talk romance. Awkward semi-love triangle/square? Check. Clichéd lines? Check. It didn’t annoy me–which is a good mark!–but I certainly am not about to sing its praises, either.

The second half of the book is where it really gets interesting in places. It did manage to surprise me a few times, and I always love a good display of magic, especially when there’s fighting involved. 😛 There was a distinct attempt to give several characters depth, which I appreciated, but most of the characters–including Aria, Hunter and Thomas–remain fairly unimpressive. They were okay, yes, but just not very unique. Although, I must say Aria DOES pick up some heavy machinery in the final battle that is impressive, if a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. I didn’t LOVE it, but I certainly liked it. It was a very fast read that was an enjoyable way to spend the day. If dystopian romance is you thing, then you might like this one! Actually, it reminded me very much of Matched by Ally Condie. (See my review HERE.) Very, very romance centric, but there is also plenty of guns and magic flying around. If you’re looking for a quick read with an easy plot that doesn’t require much thinking–EXACTLY what I wanted when I read this!–then this is for you!

The second and yet untitled book in the Mystic City series is slated for a 2013 release.

Two Year Blogoversary Giveaway!

I can’t believe it. My Life is a Notebook is two years old. I have been blogging for two years.

Wow.

Alright, alright, if you want technicalities, you’ll have them. My Life is a Notebook was never called that to begin with. It was a poetry blog, yes mine, and it was BAD. That was why I didn’t keep up with it like I should have. Then it was a writing blog, which is when the name change occurred. It was only little while after that that I had an epiphany. I was reading a thousand books a year, WHY NOT BOOK BLOG?

It took me a disturbingly long time to get there, I know.

But what do you care? THERE’S A GIVEAWAY TO BE HAD!

Now, since I started reviewing, I’ve been watching my stats like mad. I’ve been taking daily count of which of my reviews seem to be the most popular. And we have an overwhelming winner:

Matched and Crossed by Ally Condie.

Quite frankly, this couldn’t have worked out better. I happen to have my hands on a paperback of Matched and a hardcover of Crossed. Like my blog, they come in twos. It’s also the best way to get ready for the release of the final book in the series, Reached, in November. And they can be yours by filling out the Rafflecopter HERE. (Make sure you open the link in a new window for your sanity!) Please note that, since I am not a millionaire, this giveaway is US ONLY. The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM on May 20th. Good luck!

This giveaway is OVER. The winner is Jennifer M.!

Review: Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

Four stars

“For months Clara Gardner trained to face the fire from her visions, but she wasn’t prepared for the choice she had to make that day. And in the aftermath, she discovered that nothing about being part angel is as straightforward as she thought.

“Now, torn between her love for Tucker and her complicated feelings about the roles she and Christian seem destined to play in a world that is both dangerous and beautiful, Clara struggles with a shocking revelation: Someone she loves will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

“In this compelling sequel to UNEARTHLY, Cynthia Hand captures the joy of first love, the anguish of loss, and the confusion of becoming who you are.”

Suggestion: If you haven’t read it, read my review of Unearthly. I’m going to be referencing it!

Now, once that’s done, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that I wasn’t that impressed with Unearthly. I liked it for sure, but it was fairly boring all things considered. I was left with hope, however, that Hallowed would be better than the first book. Going into it, though, I was worried. I’d too recently had my hopes crushed by Crossed by Ally Condie.

The beginning didn’t exactly assuage my fears quickly. I halted about 50 pages of the way in, terrified I was looking at ANOTHER slow start. For everyone’s reference, things ALMOST happening are not the same as things ACTUALLY happening. You need more than a few “cry wolf’s” for me to be hooked.

And then the rest of the book HAPPENED.

Sure, it had its faults (which I’ll get to be in a minute) but MAN things happened. I’d gotten an inkling of how wrapped in the book Hand could keep a person at the end of Unearthly, and now she was USING that power the way it was meant to be used. New characters, new issues, new answers, new questions. Take note, Crossed, THIS is what a 2nd book in a trilogy should look more like. Tucker and Clara continued to be cute, the angel lore/world continued to get more and more interesting–all the things I liked got expanded, which was nice.

Now, of course, the big thing here is the death expected in the book. I don’t want to give away who it is, so I’ll try really hard to just explain how I feel about it without mentioning a name. I was worried about this premise, because the whole “oh someone’s going to die” thing always seems to be taken so melodramatically. Hand handles it quite well, I must say. There is a certain level of melodramatic-ness that just has to be there because that’s what this plot convention is about, but it didn’t rule the situation. I’m not one to get overly emotional at books, but the last scene made me take a sniff or two. It was excellently done and I applaud.

Most of the things that I took issue to in this book were nitpicky, so I’ll just run through them quickly:

A) The whole love triangle thing. Don’t get me wrong, Hand deals with it MUCH, MUCH better than I’ve seen anyone do lately. I’m still impressed, even after reading this book. However, I do feel that it got to be a bit much in Hallowed. There is only so much you can discuss a love triangle issue before you start falling into cliché just because it’s what a love triangle lends itself too. Hand does it well, but I don’t think she needs to do it so much.

B) Clara’s mother’s purpose. Um, what? Pardon me, but I feel that it just seemed a little … trite? That’s not the word, but I hope you understand. Something about it didn’t sit with me, but that’s possibly because it’s going to be retroactively explained in the final book.

C) Jeffrey’s purpose. You can’t just throw something like that into the last few pages of the book like that, people! After all the big reveals and sadness and everything, I felt like this just got tacked on and didn’t get the importance it deserved. Obviously it’s going to be a big part of the next book, but the little that was in Hallowed was … hollow.

D) Samjeeza. Two books later, I’m still not really any closer to understanding this guy. While I feel that’s the point–it’s obviously intentional how kept in the dark we’re supposed to be–it’s still rather annoying. He’s attacking, then he’s sorry, then he’s nasty, then he’s upset–and there is no explanation of why.  Why in the world Clara did what she did at the graveyard still confuses me. Even Clara didn’t seem to understand the plot move she was making.

Clearly, those four issues just need one thing to resolve them: the next book. And you can bet I’ll be reading it, without a doubt. Hallowed was a solid, interesting and always moving. The best part? I can’t already predict how this is all going to end. Sure, I can formulate, but I can formulate multiple scenarios and that is exciting. I can’t even tell you if I’m Team Tucker or Team Christian, because Hand has made me love them both in so many ways. I liked Unearthly, but it wasn’t as good as I thought it could be. Hallowed is a definite, visible improvement that makes me almost more excited to read the third book than the actual plot.

The third book in the Unearthly series is yet untitled and slated for a 2013 release.

Review: Crossed by Ally Condie

Crossed by Ally Condie

Three stars

Rules are different outside the Society.

Chasing down an uncertain future, Cassia makes her way to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky–taken by the Society to his sure death–only to find that he has escaped into the majestic, but treacherous, canyons. On this wild frontier are glimmers of a different life and the enthralling promise of rebellion. But even as Cassia sacrifices everything to reunite with Ky, ingenious surprises from Xander may change the game once again.

Narrated from both Cassia’s and Ky’s points of view, this hotly anticipated sequel to Matched will take them both to the edge of Society, where nothing is as expected and crosses and double crosses make their path more twisted than ever.

In my review of Matched, I made a mention of the fact that I was “eager” to read Crossed “despite” the reviews I had read. And I was, I really was. The problem? I should have listened when every single one of them said–in one way or another–that nothing happened.

Alright, I’m getting quite snappy and far ahead of myself. I was excited to pick up Crossed, because I thought Matched carried so much promise. Before 100 pages had gone by, however, I was quite disappointed. My first shocker was that the book kept switching back and forth between Ky and Cassia as narrators. Yes, yes, I see that the blurb mentions that, but I didn’t read it before I dove right in. I probably should have, but what can I say? The back and forth got quite choppy in places, and as Ky and Cassia met up again it got fairly bulky. Some of those chapters seemed like they were just thrown in so that a chapter break could be had in between (mostly) Cassia’s viewpoint.

My second problem was the apparent ADD the book had developed. Now, I don’t mind flashbacks when they’re done properly but this…wasn’t it. Both Cassia and Ky were jumping in and out of the past and present with almost no warning, leaving my jolted out of the writing and thoroughly confused. This was heavily prevalent in the front of the book, disappeared in the middle and showed up once or twice again in the end. It was a very, very messy use of flashbacks that left me rather annoyed.

The thing about Crossed is that it really wasn’t a book. Sure, there was a vague plotline taking place, but if I was being kind I’d call it filler in between Matched and the final and yet untitled third book. It was barely even that. Reading Crossed felt like reading Condie’s character sketches and paragraphs of her own personal delve into her world’s background. There was more discussing of Ky’s past, Cassia’s inner feelings and a whole lot of dark poeticism on love, life and philosophy.

*SPOILERS BELOW*

By the time any real plot developments occurring, I was already quite done with the book. I skipped through most of the middle and missed nothing. The only reason I started reading again was because Cassia and Ky found each other and I’m a sucker for romance. When it did occur, however, it felt…trite and forced. For instance, Ky’s whole issue with going with Cassia to the Rising. He goes on and on for chapters about how he can’t go with her, but then when they finally decide to go there is no question that he’s going with her. As if there ever was. Xander’s “big secret” as being a member of the Rising felt contrived so that the love triangle would remain viable. And of course, that end. THAT END. No, no, no, no. At least make it somehow believable. All this fighting and nearly dying and death and self discovery to get back together and Cassia ends up being sent back into Society by the Rising where she SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED because she ought to have been RECLASSIFIED as was mentioned several times throughout the story. None of it made sense and none of it felt right.

*END SPOILERS*

Overall, Crossed was a huge disappointment. I really, really wanted to like this book, but it just defeated my attempts at every turn. If you really do want to hold on to this series, I don’t recommend reading this one unless you are deeply in love with Cassia and Ky’s romance and think learning all about Society’s history, Cassia’s inner thoughts and Ky’s past is awesome and can overlook that it isn’t presented well. Personally, I wish I’d just read a summary and kept waiting for the finale. Though I am still vaguely curious about how the last book will go, I now feel that Condie’s storyline is far too predictable to keep me on my toes, so whether or not I actually read the final book will depend on my whim and the money in my bookstore stash. It certainly won’t be a must-get for me.

Countdown to 2012: Books I Can’t Wait To Read (Part 2)

Yes, this countdown required not one but TWO postings. Why? Because there are so many amazing books out there! If you missed part 1, you can find it here. But enough babbling, let’s get to the BOOKS.

RAPTURE by Lauren Kate (Fallen #4)

Release date: June 12

Why: Because I enjoyed all three previous books for the most part, and I’ve seen this through so far I can’t help but see it through. If you’ve read my blog before you know I hate hate hate the instantly in love YA cliché, but Kate makes it work as much as it ever can. The last book, Passion, was a genuinely interesting trek through time that really departed from the first two, so I hope Rapture will be just as interesting!

 

THE GOLDEN LILY by Richelle Mead (Bloodlines #2)

Release date: June 19

Why: Because Mead’s Vampire Academy world is freaking amazing. I may never adore another set of her characters like I did Rose and Dmitri, but honestly the characters of Bloodlines are putting up a pretty goodfight–even though I hadn’t liked many of them when they showed up in the VA books. Then there is Adrian, whom I would read ANYTHING about. Plus, the end of Bloodlines? The VA character that showed up? I NEED TO READ THIS SO BADLY. It comes out the day after my birthday, so those future gift cards of mine have already been waaay committed.

ENDLESSLY by Kiersten White (Paranormalcy #3)

Release date: July 24

Why: Okay, I’m not going to lie: these books are quirky. They are way quirky. It takes a certain type of reader to be able to take the quirkiness that is Evie. But you know what? I love it. The books are easy reads that are cute and funny, and pretty exciting when you get into it. Also, interesting. The plot line is pretty original for a “let’s through every paranormal in the world into one book” scenario. I love me some evil faeries. Endlessly won’t be on my MUST HAVE NOW list the second it comes out, but it will most certainly be on my bookshelf pretty soon after.

COURTSHIP AND CURSES by Marissa Doyle

Release date: August 7

Why: Because I’m genuinely curious. I read Doyle’s Leland sisters duet and thoroughly enjoyed them, and this is clearly in the same vein. Goodreads billed this as the third book in that series, but the blurb makes no mention of them at all. Are they in it? Is this going to be a redux of that series with a new character with a much less flashy name? I suppose we’ll see August 7!

 

HIDDEN by PC and Kristin Cast (House of Night #10)

Release date: October 6

Why: Because I’m hoping it’s the last one, honestly. I’ve held on with this series this far because I didn’t think they could drag this out THIS LONG and because Stark is hot. That is baaaasically it. I haven’t even bought the last one yet (pictured here because I wanted a pretty picture)because I wouldn’t cry if I had to give up the series right there because HOW MUCH MORE? How much more stringing out can there BE? WHERE do they keep coming up with more? It is this twisted reasoning that allows this book on this list.

UNTITLED by Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me #2)

Release date: November 2012

Why: No, this book doesn’t have a title or a cover yet, but it can’t help but be on my list. The first book (pictured here) made my book review turn into a rant of epic proportions and made me LOSE MY MIND. I can’t NOT read this book because Tahereh Mafi is writing it and I have this yearning faith that she’ll get her act together and write like the FANTASTIC writer she is just waiting to be.

UNTITLED by Ally Condie (Matched #3)

Release date: November 13

Why: Because I genuinely want to know how this ends. I’m still trying to get my hands on Crossed and my review of Matched wasn’t glowing, but…hey. This series is only three books and I’m interested. Why not? Pretty sure these books are worth it just for Ky, anyways. Maybe my views will change when I read the second book, but I’m staying open-minded. (The image here is only the teaser cover, not the actual one–in case you were wondering.)

 

CLOCKWORK PRINCESS by Cassandra Clare (Infernal Devices #3)

Release date: November

Why: Must we go over this again? IT’S CLARE. Yes, in case you were confused, this is a different series. Clare is currently going back and forth between them to keep them both moving along so nobody kills her. With the hangers she always ends the books at, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone threatened her with that. Especially, you know, Clockwork Prince. This book needs to come out SO MUCH FASTER. With the addition of the 3 “not planned” books to The Mortal Instruments, I must say that The Infernal Devices has become my favorite because it feels fresh and exciting, not like she’s forcing more plot out. I was really worried the books were going to turn out too parallel to each other but…nope! They are both equally amazing and equally different. GIVE ME MORE!

 

And that’s it for now! Until, you know, tomorrow when I’m browsing Goodreads and OHMYGOODNESS LOOK AT THAT BOOK THAT’S COMING OUT. Because it will happen. It always does. 😀

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Matched by Ally Condie

4 stars

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

I came into this book not having very high expectations. Since I frequent Goodreads, I read up on this book quite a bit in deciding which of my 3 new books to read first. When a lot of different reviews say the same thing, I worry.

However, Matched was not as horrible as I had worried it would be. It certainly wasn’t the next Hunger Games, as it was boasted to be on the back of the book, but it was a fairly solid novel all the same.

After I had read the book, I went back to the reviews again, and I found myself amused. Many of them had to do with how unbelievable Cassia’s world is. While it is true that Condie’s word building could have been better—much better in places—I don’t believe she deserves entirely all the flak. Matched is a dystopian book. To me, the entire idea of a dystopian book is to shock the reader with how unreal it seems. We are supposed to wonder how the citizens can put up with the conditions and lies that the usually totalitarian government is forcing on the citizens. That’s the whole point of these books: the system needs to change. Sometimes it seems that the more outrageous the scenario, the better the book goes along. After all, how believable is a world in which kids as young as 12 need to be trained to play a game to the death? Not very, but don’t tell Hunger Games fans that. Condie’s fault lies not in creating an unbelievable world, but not explaining her world well.

I will give Condie props for handling her romance pretty well. The book is described to have a love triangle, which I think is rather false, because Cassia was never really in love with Xander though he was in love with her. It was always very clear that she was going to choose Ky. The romance between Ky and Cassia was very real, and didn’t happen in an instance, which gives Condie instant points from me. The romance is the definite center of this book.

All in all, I did enjoy Matched. To enjoy the book yourself, however, you have to be prepared to let go. If you are a reader who needs to understand every facet of the world around the characters, this probably isn’t for you because you will focus on all the holes, not the story. However, if you can let yourself just sink into the story and go along for the ride, I think you’ll enjoy it—especially if romance heavy books are something you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy teen romance, I’ll admit you’ll want to stay far away. As I said, romance is such the center of this book that perhaps the world building wasn’t even as focused on as that. After I stopped caring about the world and the lack thereof or ineffective description of why the world is the way it is, I certainly did enjoy it myself. Despite the reviews of the second book, Crossed, I am eager to pick it up. Condie has a chance to do some great things with the world that she’s created, and Matched was good enough that I’m willing to give her the chance to win me over again.