Review: “The Elite” by Kiera Cass

The EliteThe Elite (The Selection #2) by Kiera Cass

Goodreads | Amazon

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.

3 1/2 stars

Alright, I’ll be totally honest. I read this book in 3 hours while my parents left me stranded in a two stories B&N, and I couldn’t afford to pile anymore books. After The Selection, I was really iffy on this book. I liked the first one, but I was really conflicted about the characters. This was more of the same.

To quote an internet meme, things escalate quickly when The Elite gets started. As far as I can tell, this escalation comes about strictly to create tension between Maxon and America, since she seems to be leaning pretty heavily towards him instead of Aspen.  The character that instigates this tension is forcibly introduced in the first chapter, and there seems to be no basis for anything that happens besides it moving the love triangle along (and eventually making it a love quadrangle).  This was a frustrating starting point that basically continued throughout the rest of the novel.

I love the character of America, I really do. When she’s on her own, she is a fiercely independent woman who fights for what she thinks is right and has real considerations for the consequences of her actions. As far as I can tell, the things that keep screwing up her character are Maxon and Aspen. When her decisions involve either of them, she becomes a simpering, indecisive Mary Sue who’s emotional reactions are the most poignant when she expresses jealousy. When she’s alone, she has serious debates about the two of them and makes up her mind which one to choose multiple times. But then she gets back together with the other one and her mind gets scrambled by their maleness.

At this point, I don’t like either Maxon or Aspen. Aspen, for most of this book, was once again a background character. I have a hard time remembering why she cares about him, simply because none of his qualities are ever given a chance to shine, negative or positive. Maxon, on the other hand, I can’t keep straight. The attempt to give his character more depth in this novel just made him seem completely bipolar. One minute he cares, one minute he doesn’t (or does he?).  He’s so wishy-washy I want to wring him out like a dish towel. I liked him the best after The Selection, but I’ve pulled away from that a lot now.

And his character wasn’t the only one that turned bipolar, either. There were several major players who seem to have woken up at random moments with no idea of who they were previously for the sake of the plot.

Except, that is, America’s maids. Can I get a whole book just with them, please?

There’s also the fact that I still understand nothing about the rebels everyone keeps talking about. This book also reminded me there’s supposed to be some kind of a war going on with New Asia as well. America herself blows off any attempt at getting any information about any of these conflicts, so we can’t learn anything through her. Anything outside the walls of the palace is shakily world built at best, and it leaves me feeling like the wars going on outside the palace and the attacks by the rebels really aren’t important or dangerous at all.

I am really just so torn about this book. On the one hand, America without Maxon or Aspen around is a great character, the kind I want as a best friend. Every time I get annoyed with the rest of the novel, I get a scene with her and it just makes everything better. But then Maxon or Aspen show up and she becomes this different person that just annoys me, and I just want to smack her. Every time she talks about how she loves them both equally I just want to hit my head on the desk, especially because at times she seems so sure about making a decision, but then backtracks on it just as fast. The characterization in these novels just keeps throwing me off, and that makes me really upset. Can these rebels that I still know nothing about just off Maxon and Aspen and leave America to lead the country on her own? Because that would be the best book ever.


ARC Review: “MILA 2.0” by Debra Driza

Mila 2.0MILA 2.0 (MILA 2.0 #1) by Debra Driza

Goodreads | Amazon

Mila 2.0 is the first book in an electrifying sci-fi thriller series about a teenage girl who discovers that she is an experiment in artificial intelligence.

Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past—that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.

Now she has no choice but to run—from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology. However, what Mila’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and it just might save her life.

Mila 2.0 is Debra Driza’s bold debut and the first book in a Bourne Identity-style trilogy that combines heart-pounding action with a riveting exploration of what it really means to be human. Fans of I Am Number Four will love Mila for who she is and what she longs to be—and a cliffhanger ending will leave them breathlessly awaiting the sequel.

3 ½ stars

Thanks to Katherine Tegen Books and Edelweiss for this eARC! This title is now available.

I was pretty excited about this premise; I’ll be honest with you. I don’t read much scifi, and this seemed right up my alley. Then it begins like this:

Mila is a normal girl who has a hard time fitting in at school while trying to deal with the loss of her father, who was really close to her. Her mother has turned distant and her best friends are so mercurial they may not as well be called friends at all. (Actually, her “best friends” are so annoying that I really began to dislike them vehemently and hoped that whenever this robot thing actually broke they’d get trapped in a burning building or something.) But then she meets Hunter, the boy who finally gets her, and she starts to fall in love. Sound familiar? It should, because it’s a pretty basic plotline.

But oh, by the way, Mila isn’t human. She’s a robot.

Though it took a really look time to get to that point, which we were made aware of in the blurb, I was really hoping that Driza was going to take this opportunity to rip away from the basic young adult plotline she had going in the beginning of the book. For a while, I thought I was going to be right. When Mila finally starts coming into her robot own, she kicks serious butt. Hearing her android brain in her head was also really cool.

However, then certain events happen that I can’t tell you because it would be spoilers, and the plotline begins to re-conform a little bit. Oh yeah, the plot is still plenty crazy, but I can sniff out a cliché a mile away and this would has one coming on like a freight train. I can’t tell you what or I’d get in trouble for being spoilery. But I can tell you I’ll be forehead slapping coming the next book.

That said, however, I do like how Driza plays with the concept of “What is humanity?” The second half of the book is pretty darn amazing. This isn’t a book for softies, either. It isn’t graphic, but it isn’t light fluff. Mila. Kicks. Serious. Butt. And receives a bunch in return.

This all, however, fell apart from me in the end. In the second half of the book, there is a person who’s identity is “secret.” I have to be vague here, bear with me. But I put “secret” in quotation marks for a reason. The first second this person was mentioned, I knew who it was. How Mila is unaware I have no idea, but in the end I just kept shouting, “STUPID. STUPID. STUPID.” Mila can take out guys double her size but can’t put two and two together multiple times in this book, actually, and I just kept getting frustrated, and that kept me from loving it completely.

In summation, though, I would still recommend that you give this book a try if it’s something you think you’d be interested in. Driza doesn’t do a bad job in the slightest. I read this book straight through in one go because I was invested in the pacing of the plot. It’s certainly action packed! However, that said, if you’re on the fence about it, I wouldn’t be pushing you to pick it up.

ARC Review: “Through the Ever Night” by Veronica Rossi

Through the Ever NightThrough the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky #2) by Veronica Rossi

Goodreads | Amazon

It’s been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don’t take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe’s precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both.

Threatened by false friends, hidden enemies, and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, Can their love survive through the ever night?

In this second book in her spellbinding Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi combines fantasy and dystopian elements to create a captivating love story as perilous as it is unforgettable.

3 1/2 stars

Thanks to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for this eARC! This title will be released on January 8th.

The middle books in trilogies always make me nervous. The sophomore slump is somehow always a threat, and this book was no different.

For me, it just fell flat.

When the book opens up, Perry and Aria are finally meeting again after a long time apart. Perry has spent this time with his tribe, and Aria with Roar at Marron’s. Aria plans to go up to the Horns (the people who Perry’s sister/Roar’s girlfriend was supposed to marry into to cement an alliance) because apparently their leader knows where it is. However, since the mountains are frozen, she can’t go quite yet, so she goes back to the Tides with Perry. Except that they think it would be better if no one knew they were dating, because the Tides won’t like Aria for being a Dweller. (They don’t.) It’s obvious from the get-go that the Tides don’t like Aria, even though she does make a few friends. Perry makes the big mistake of picking Aria over a tribe member, so everything just starts to go to pot.

Aria leaving Perry is not a surprise. It’s basically there in the blurb. Still, though I guess that, I didn’t exactly guess how we’d GET there, and that I liked a lot. There were some things Rossi could have done that would have been totally cliché but she didn’t do them and I LOVED IT. Must I say it again?

Despite what the blurb seems to suggest, this book doesn’t really deal with Perry and Aria’s relationship. We actually get more of Roar and Liv, and Roar and Aria than Perry and Aria. Not to mention all the side character relationships built-in. Personally, I liked the switch. Unlike other books, where the relationship takes center stage, Perry and Aria get the chance to grow up as individuals rather than just be stuck on each other all the time. I also cannot get over the fact that Roar and Aria are presented as clearly just friends who love each other, rather than the love triangle that could have cropped up if Rossi was taking a more cliché root. Aria and Roar are the best friends.

Honestly, though, the plot itself just felt like filler. Perry spends the entire book learning how to be a leader. That’s great, but it really didn’t have an impact on the book at large. It’s Aria, in fact, who makes the most progress towards the end goal of finding the Still Blue, with Perry only coming in to help her save the day at the end of the book. But still, Aria spends the entire book running around the continent for almost no reason except to meet a guy and then go back to the Tides. Yes, yes, it’s much more dramatic than I make it seem–and several key things DO happen–but I didn’t feel like much of anything but character development was really happening. Which is weird, because the book never stopped moving.

I gave this book 3 1/2 stars basically because I appreciated the individual character development and the way it occurred. Rossi really does know how the write relationships. As a central character, I still think Perry needs to find a personality and stick with it, but I really do love Aria’s resilience. I wish the identity of her father had been a bigger part of this book, since it was basically forgotten, but I guess I just have to wait for book 3 for that.  The plot was basically straight forward and always moving. But still, I just can’t shake the feeling that nothing really happened that was really important up until the end of the book, and I find that frustrating. Still, it sets up a FANTASTIC setting for book 3 that promises to be action packed, and that makes me excited.

Under the Never Sky #3, Into the Still Blue, will be released in 2014.

ARC Review: “Prophecy” by Ellen Oh

ProphecyProphecy (The Dragon King #1) by Ellen Oh

Goodreads | Amazon

The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms… is a girl with yellow eyes.

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope…

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.

3 1/2 stars

Thanks to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for this eARC! This title will be released January 2nd, 2013.

Let me just say that I had only the HIGHEST hopes for this book. I mean, read that blurb. See that cover. There is NO WAY that this doesn’t look like the most awesome thing ever.

When I first started reading, I believed my hopes would be entirely acheived. Throughout the entire book, there was nothing more awesome then the setting and the descriptions. Prophecy is without a doubt a visual feast, especially for those people–like me–who like nothing more then world based on Asian mythology. (I mean, dragons and tiger spirits? YEAH.)  They did get long at points, but I didn’t mind because I WANT TO LIVE HERE. You know, when the whole world isn’t at war.

The world BUILDING, on the other hand, suffered a little. I was pretty confused for most of the book, with all the words and countries being tossed back and forth without much explanation. Having a map at the beginning of the book DOES NOT mean you can go away without explaining a bunch of stuff. Especially for those of us on cheap Kindles, it isn’t easy at all to jump back and forth from the front map to the back glossary to where we were in the story. (And if it is and I’m just technology-impossible, someone help me out.) In general, though, it seemed like world building was sacrificed for world description, and it frustrated me sometimes.

In the beginning, I thought the cast of characters for this book would be way too many. I was very impressed how Oh mananged to keep the number of characters “on screen” down, and keep the main characters in the forefront. Still, with that said, something about the characters felt off to me. We were certainly given enough reasons to feel sympathy for the characters, and we were given just enough backstory to connect with them but I … never did. Kira and her friends stayed flat to me, despite all the death and action around them. Other characters, especially some background ones, just seemed characterized. I’ve never been especially character oriented, but even this felt lacking to me.

Where I always focus is the plot, and there I also found issue. To be fair, it rarely stopped moving. Within chapters of the beginning, Kira is an outcast, betrothed to a pretty psychopath and then on the run with the crown prince. They LITERALLY don’t stop moving. They go through like three countries and numerous moutains, temples and castles. For 336 pages, they cover a LOT of ground.

Which I guess is one of the reasons the plot seemed so choppy.

The only way that Oh could have hoped to fit everything in is by cutting out parts of the journies, and that’s what she did. Still, this made the book seem like it was jumping around, especially when this happened in the same chapter. Characters were suddenly dead, cities were suddenly taken by the enemy–and these weren’t small characters or cities. The characters and the cities that were being attacked by the enemy had huge impact on the main characters, but this impact was never explored. All of the sudden it just happened, sometimes with no explanation. I just kept moving with the flow, but the bumps in the road were definetly there.

Also, huge plus: romance takes up like 2% of this book. So the female main character ACTUALLY spends ALL her time kicking butt and not batting her eyelashes. Personally, I find this fantastic.

All in all, I did enjoy this book. It was an interesting premise and I loved the setting. The characters were flat to me, but they weren’t dislikeable by any means. This book is definetly one for those people who are looking for more high fantasy settings with female heroines who certainly kick butt. I do look forward to reading the next book in this series, because I think it can only go up from here.

Book 2, Warrior, is due 2014. Book 3, King, is due 2015.

ARC Review: “Greta and the Goblin King” by Chloe Jacobs

Greta and the Goblin KingGreta and the Goblin King (The Mylena Chronicles #1) by Chloe Jacobs

Goodreads | Amazon

While trying to save her brother from a witch’s fire four years ago, Greta was thrown in herself, falling through a portal to Mylena, a dangerous world where humans are the enemy and every ogre, ghoul, and goblin has a dark side that comes out with the eclipse.

To survive, Greta has hidden her humanity and taken the job of bounty hunter—and she’s good at what she does. So good, she’s caught the attention of Mylena’s young goblin king, the darkly enticing Isaac, who invades her dreams and undermines her will to escape.

But Greta’s not the only one looking to get out of Mylena. An ancient evil knows she’s the key to opening the portal, and with the next eclipse mere days away, every bloodthirsty creature in the realm is after her—including Isaac. If Greta fails, she and the lost boys of Mylena will die. If she succeeds, no world will be safe from what follows her back…

3 1/2 stars

Thanks to Entangled Teen and NetGalley for this eARC! This title is now available.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I was missing my fairytale lands. Yeah, I enjoy all this new and exciting stuff, but man sometimes you just can’t beat ogres, goblins, sprites and the oldie-but-goodies.

Given what I was told about Greta being a bounty hunter, I didn’t expect this book to open the way it did. I mean, yeah, it starts with her going out to rescue a goblin boy from a monster, but then instantly Isaac shows up and he’s like, “Hi” and Greta’s like “Ohmygod remember how we met like a fortnight ago and I was obsessed with you but now I hate you because you lied and oh by the way now for some reason you’re the king of the goblins you little liar.”

Ooookay then.

Of course I have to pick at the romance in this book. Of course I do. Because I can’t get through it without not. Because not only do Isaac and Greta have yet another annoying love/hate relationship that seems to be based on…uh…hormones? Let’s go with hormones since I can’t think of much else. I mean, after they meet for a fortnight he invades her dreams because he HAS to be bound to her. Knowing she’s a human. By the way, humans are blamed for all the ills ever on Mylena. So Isaac alternates from blaming all the world’s ills on her to being like I MUST HAVE YOU. Literally. His repetitions of “She’s mine” or “You’re mine” creeped me out.

And then of course there is the requisite love triangle. Which doesn’t seem to have any point at all, honestly. But I don’t like love triangles. At all. You probably know this, so I’m going to stop here.

The characters as a whole didn’t have much particular depth besides Greta. Many of their actions made no sense, or seemed forced. Isaac, especially, bothered me, both by the way he treated Greta and then the schizo way he acted at the end of the book. But I can’t explain that for fear of spoilers. Many of the background characters just popped on and off-screen, though I appreciate the attempt to give every member of the lost boys a little bit of personality.

The thing that kept me going was the plot pacing. As in, plot went GOGOGO! There’s no shortage of action in this book, and Jacobs isn’t afraid to put some blood into the pages. (No, not graphically, I promise.) I’m pretty sure even Greta herself is injured from like page 1 on. Fast pacing is always, always a plot for me. I mean, I finished this book in one day.

I’m still not sure what I think of the world building, though. On the one hand, I felt like I didn’t understand what was going on very clearly for the first part of the book. On the other, I really appreciated how Jacobs never info dumped. She even had the best opportunity, with the lost boys having no idea how things worked on Mylena. But Jacobs kept that to a minimal as well, and I really respect that.

All in all, I would recommend those who want to return to a fairytale land with lots of action and a lot of romance. It’s not one of those books you can read too deeply into, but that’s okay sometimes. It’s a fun, quick read. I don’t think I’d go out and buy book two, but I would certainly take the chance to request it on NetGalley.

ARC Review: “Renegade” by J. A. Souders

RenegadeRenegade (The Elysium Chronicles #1) by J. A. Souders

Goodreads | Amazon

Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has been trained to be Daughter of the People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes, all her life she’s thought that everything was perfect; her world. Her people. The Law.

But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into their secluded little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization: everything she knows is a lie.

Her memories have been altered.

Her mind and body aren’t under her own control.

And the person she knows as Mother is a monster.

Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb… and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all.

3 ½ stars

Thank you to TorTeen for this ARC! This book is now available!

I had very high hopes for Renegade, I’m not going to lie. It sounded almost too good to be true. I’m a sucker for stories that play with genetics, and—despite the obvious choice of love interest—the storyline looked unique and interesting.

I hate when I don’t get everything that I’m hoping for.

Renegade starts off ridiculously creepy. Like, good creepy. So fantastically creepy. Souders uses an interesting technique between chapters that excellently shows off how Evie’s mind is being altered by her mother. You are shown Mother’s cruelty right away as well, which sets the tone for the rest of the book. Don’t be fooled by the pretty cover; Renegade doesn’t shy away from blood and killing.

Things start to break down right around when Gavin, the Surface Dweller, is introduced. No, I’m not saying this just because I found their love story cliché. (I did, but that’s not the point.) The sessions where Evie is “interrogating” him are clearly an info dump opportunity so that we can learn more about the world, and I have no idea why they weren’t shot on spot right away. There is no way that Mother has all these security features and doesn’t have microphones in her jail cells.

It’s at this point that information starts to get jumbled. Souders has created a very complex world, and in the end that does her a disservice. A few too many things are glossed over or left unexplained entirely. A few key plot points are fixed almost magically. Certain characters turn bipolar and their actions make no sense.

I guess being frustrated that I never completely understood the world or the technology is sort of a good thing. After all, it means I was invested enough to want to know. It’s entirely possible that another reader, not looking as closely, wouldn’t notice the slip ups. I don’t know. What I do know is that there are world building holes I wish had been filled so that I could have a better grasp on the back story that Souders was attempting to make a key point but kept getting marginalized.

Evie’s story in itself was pretty gripping. The mental conditioning she had had was super creepy but super awesome at the same time. What can I say? I like narrators with fractured minds; it’s very interesting to read when done right. I wish, of course, that Gavin hadn’t been there, because then maybe Evie’s troubles would have been a little more compelling without the guy there to save her, but I digress.

Also, Gavin being there resulted in too many weird, sexually-charged moments. Like, he can’t climb a ladder because he’s distracted because he can see up her skirt? He watches her change in a mirror, even though she says don’t look? Gavin cannot be both her knight in shining armor and a creep. Just saying.

All in all, I wanted to like Renegade a lot more than I did. The world and plot were very interesting, but Souders got tangled up in her own complexities and got a little lost. Evie herself completely won my investment, but the story and the other characters didn’t back her up as well as they could have. I would tell you to give this a try if you’re in the mood for yet another dystopian, but I wouldn’t put it on my MUST BUY list. Goodreads lists this as number one in a series (which I didn’t realize, because it doesn’t really leave anything on a huge cliffhanger—it could be read as a standalone), but it’ll be a coin toss to see whether or not I pick up number two.

ARC Review: “Stealing Parker” by Miranda Kenneally

Stealing Parker (Hundred Oaks #2) by Miranda Kenneally

Goodreads | Amazon

Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?

3 1/2 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for this eARC! This book is now available.

Total disclaimer: I never read Catching Jordan. I really wanted too, but I just never did. However, I was not immune to all the hype surrounding the book, and it’s sequel. So when Stealing Parker showed up on NetGalley, there is no denying how hard I pounced on it.

I was really disappointed with what I got.

I expected a story about a girl who turns into a little bit of a slut to show that she isn’t gay, like her mom turned out to be. That much is in the blurb. (Okay, the last part isn’t explicit, but I guessed. That’s not even a spoiler, because it’s right in the first chapter.) There was definetly that in this book. However, Kenneally tries to fit SO MUCH ELSE in here that nearly every plot and subplot got lost. Let me try and give you a run down without spoiling things. This book included:

1. Discussion about gayness (from Parker’s mom and a friend)

2. How the Christian church deals with gays, people associated with gays, and also “sluts”

3. Student/teacher relationships

4. Drug problems

5. Losing your best friends/being bullied

6. How other people’s opinions of you affect you

7. Mother/daughter issues

8. Father/daughter issues

9. Sibling issues

10. Absentee mother issues

11. Asberger’s Syndrome

12. Figuring out who you really are and want to be

I could probably go on, but I think you see the point. I mean, Asberger’s Syndrome? It’s a big issue, yes, so it doesn’t deserve to be mentioned for five seconds for no particular reason. Some of those, like Asberger’s and the drug problems, don’t relate to Parker directly, but were squashed into the back as even more subplot lines. There were also multiple gay plot lines, but the one relating to Parker’s friend basically only exists to complicate Parker’s relationship to her “true love.” When issues that are very, very big just get marginalized, I get pretty annoyed. I really just didn’t understand why there was so much in this book, when any one of the issues mentioned above could be a book BY THEMSELVES. All the points Kenneally was trying to make–and all were good!–just got lost in the jumble.

I think my other major problem with this book was the student/teacher relationship. It made me feel icky throughout the whole book, which I think was the point. I mean, obviously I wasn’t supposed to feel GOOD about it. (I’m looking at you, Pretty Little Liars.) Still, the way it was handled in the end also confused me. Everyone kept saying it was the teacher’s fault, as if he had forced her into the relationship. Personally, I found that the wrong way to handle that. There isn’t really a right way, I know, but Parker totally had a LOUD voice in how that relationship went down, and it wasn’t right for everyone to say she was coerced into the whole thing.

Basically, I think the problem with this book was that Kenneally overreached herself. There was a really cute love story in here, but it got covered up and pushed around by a lot of other big issues. There were way too many stories in here for one book, so we never got to see the full potential of any one of them. I appreciated each and every one of the messages, but you can’t here them clearly if dozens are shouting at once. Still, I look forward to finally checking out Catching Jordan (who does make several cameos in this book!).

Stealing Parker will be followed by more companion books, Things I Can’t Forget and Racing Savannah, in 2013.

ARC Review: “Who I Kissed” by Janet Gurtler

Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler

Goodreads | Amazon

She Never Thought A Kiss Could Kill. . .

Samantha is new at school and just recently joined the swim team.  She’s been flirting with one of her teammates, Zee, who invites her to a party and just as quickly dumps her for another girl.  Hurt, but pretending not to care, she turns to his best friend, Alex, and gives him a kiss.  And he dies—right in her arms.  Alex was allergic to peanuts, and Samantha had eaten a peanut butter sandwich right before the party.  She didn’t know.  Overnight, Samantha turns into the school pariah and a media sensation explodes.  Consumed with guilt, abandoned by her friends, and in jeopardy of losing her swimming scholarship, she will have to find the inner-strength to forgive herself for the tragedy.

3 1/2 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for this eARC! This book was released October 1, 2012.

By the time I was approved for this on NetGalley, I had completely forgotten I’d requested it at all. I wish I remembered the reasoning behind it, but I don’t. This isn’t a typical book for me to pick up.

As it appears, this book has a very emotional story in it. Unlike some books I’ve read recently, it really does cut to the chase with Alex’s death and leaves a majority of the book to Sam dealing with her grief. (Books that don’t disperse with things they’ve already told us will happen in the blurb seem to be a trend for some reason lately.)

Sam herself is a pretty strong character. Her grief is real. That said, the way that she deals with it sometimes leaves the reader and well as her detached from the whole thing. I understand that it’s hard to write about a character being detached while keeping the reader connected, but by the end of the book I found myself connecting less and less with Sam–which is a problem when it’s her emotional story driving the entire thing.

However, the multitude of Sam’s emotional stories in this thing was even a bigger problem. This book is hardly just about Sam, Zee and Alex. It’s about her estranged relationship with her father, the fact that her mother died young and Sam never knew her and then on top of that all of the different grief storylines. There’s Sam trying to deal with the death herself (this includes her refusal to swim and a bad relationship), Sam dealing with her classmates and then Sam trying to deal with Alex’s family. Frankly, it’s all just too much. While I understand what Gurtler was trying to do and have the utmost respect for it, it didn’t come off as well as I’d have liked. Too many subplot lines are smushed into the cracks.

The rest of the characters didn’t really have the chops to back up these plot lines, either. Honestly, the character with the most pop was Sam’s crazy, amazing aunt and her dog. At times I felt closer to the characters who were dead, Alex and Sam’s mom. Several more minor characters get more face time than Zee, despite Sam’s continued affirmations that he’s important. Once again, with all the different plot lines, there were too many characters with too many good, deep ideas to all fit into one 312 page book.

I will say, though, that the story still packs an emotional punch. I felt for each character every step of the way, even if I was more connecting to my own feelings of lost than the ones being portrayed in the pages. Not one of the topics dealt with in this book is an easy one, and each one is important. It also wasn’t your typical high school drama story, even if some of the background characters did fall into cliches. They weren’t important enough for me to really care, and they constructed fast stereotypes so that Gurtler could get on with the story.

All in all, I would recommend this to lovers of YA contemporary novels who want larger themes than just romance. I think fans of authors such as Sarah Dessens would absolutely adore this one. I enjoyed this one as much as I did because of how different it was from my normal reading, and the attempt to make it about so much more then just romance.

Blog Tour ARC Review: “The Unfailing Light” by Robin Bridges

Welcome to Day 1 of my 2 day celebration of Robin Bridges’ new soon-to-be-released book The Unfailing Light! Today there is a review of the book! Tomorrow’s goodies are at the bottom. 😉 Don’t forget to check out all the other stops of the tour with their reviews, giveaways and more!

The Unfailing Light – Blog Tour

September 24th: Smitten Over Books ~September 25th: Casey’s Crew ~ September 26th: Much Ado About Books ~ September 26th: The Streetlight Reader ~ September 27th: Infinite Reads ~ September 28th: The Hiding Spot ~ September 29th: Girls *Heart* Books ~ October 1st: Mom Reads My Books ~ October 2nd: Magical Urban Fantasy Reads ~ October 2nd: The Book Review Club ~ October 3rd: The Book Review Club ~ October 4th: Kimba Caffeinated ~ October 4th: My Life is a Notebook ~ October 5th: My Life is a Notebook ~ October 6th: Candace’s Book Blog ~ October 7th: Reader Girls~ October 8th: Bookish ~ October 8th: Peace, Love, Books ~October 9th: YA Bibliophile ~ October 9th: Reader Girls ~ October 10th: Wastepaper Prose ~ October 10th: Imaginary Reads ~ October 11th: Imaginary Reads ~ October 12th: Well Read Wife ~ October 15th: Libby Blog ~ October 16th: Cracking the Cover ~ October 17th: A Bookish Libraria ~ October 18th: A Novel Review ~ October 19th: In the Best Worlds ~ October 20th: Tripping Over Books

The Unfailing Light (The Katerina Trilogy Volume II) by Robin Bridges

Goodreads | Amazon

Lush and opulent, romantic and sinister, The Unfailing Light, Volume II in The Katerina Trilogy, reimagines the lives of Russia’s aristocracy in a fabulously intoxicating and page-turning fantasy.

Having had no choice but to use her power has a necromancer to save Russia from dark forces, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, now wants to forget that she ever used her special powers. She’s about to set off to pursue her lifelong dream of attending medical school when she discovers that Russia’s arch nemesis–who she thought she’d destroyed–is still alive. So on imperial orders, Katerina remains at her old finishing school. She’ll be safe there, because the empress has cast a potent spell to protect it against the vampires and revenants who are bent on toppling the tsar and using Katerina for their own gains. But to Katerina’s horror, the spell unleashes a vengeful ghost within the school, a ghost more dangerous than any creature trying to get in.

Thanks to the fantastic people at Random House/Delacorte Books for Young Readers for this ARC! You can get a copy for yourself on October 9, 2012.

3 1/2 stars

BEFORE YOU READ, don’t forget to check out my review of book 1 of this series, The Gathering Storm. There WILL be minor spoilers out of necessity.

When I finished my review of the first book of this series, I mentioned that despite my problems with the first book I wanted the second one because I had hopes Bridges would settle into the story and much more of it would make sense.

My prayers were answered.

I was deeply worried I wasn’t going to be able to remember much from the first book and that I had done this review a deep disservice by forgetting to bring book 1 to college with me. I was genuinely surprised to find that the first part of the book did a really good job summerizing the events of book 1 while not dragging down the new events of book 2. Usually, this is not the case when authors do make the decision to remind the reader of what happened in the previous book.

As predicted, the ending of the last book was far too tidy and didn’t come to pass in this one. (The blurb tells you this.) Honestly, I was kind of annoyed that Katerina had to go back to Smolney after the global adventure I thought I was promised by the end of book one. The characters that surround her there were underdeveloped and flat in the last book and were the same in this one. (I also just don’t like school settings. Far too many clichés.)

Still, I found myself enjoying the beginning just because I felt more secure in what was happening. Bridges has severely paired down on the mythology that’s sprung on the reader and we’re given much more time to understand what all the different Russian folklore names are and mean. The differences in vampires and fae were made much clearer, and the werewolf connection was greatly expanded. My heart rejoiced.

At the same time, I have no idea why Katerina’s powers are downplayed for most of the book. The spell that’s cast on Smolney literally shuts it off, for the most part. She raises another person from the dead, yes, but we–and she!–still has no idea how that happens. There is nothing special that occurs, no attempt made to do so, no NOTHING. For being 2/3rds of a way through these books–with this supposed to be a focal point!–the fact that both us and Katerina herself are so in the dark seems to be disturbingly off.

The Danilo-Katerina-George thing is still going on, but honestly they weren’t around for much of the book which made me happy. The lack of typical love triangle gooey-ness is always a plus for me. Still, the whole situation seems strange, and Katerina questions it herself, but we’re still given NO ANSWERS about the blood bond, etc. And George as a character appears fairly bipolar and out of whack. I think this is supposed to be happening because George is falling towards the Dark Court, but it felt jumpy.

I think my biggest problem with this book was the pacing. I honestly forgot that there was only one more book to this series, not two or three. I wanted Bridges to slow it down and she did, but then it seemed like nothing was happening. The ghost that appears at Smolney isn’t as scary as she seems, and half the time Katerina forgets about her to think about George or something. It’s strange because SO many other things are going on, but the book seems to progress at a slow plod. But then, that could just be middle/second book syndrome kicking in.

Though I gave this book the same rating I gave book 1, I find it to be a large improvement over The Gathering Storm–in terms of understanding what’s going on. I feel much more confident about the mythology now, and I really want to reread book 1 because I feel like I’d be able to understand it a lot more. Many of the characters with the confusing names also became clear, and the large cast was cut down to a smaller number of important people who I could keep track of. The characterization itself still seemed to be a bit off, however. As I said, my biggest problem was the pacing just because I prefer my books to zoom at the speed of light. As with book 1, I felt the ending to be a bit odd. However, since it does leave me genuinely puzzled about where book 3 is going to go, I guess that’s a good thing? Either way, I completely intended to pick up the third and final installment. With all the questions yet to answer and the foes yet to be dealt with, there is no possible way that it could go anything but fast.


If either this review or my review of The Gathering Storm intrigued you, make sure you stop by again tomorrow! Not only will I have an interview with the author Robin Bridges, but there will ALSO be a giveaway courtesy of Random House. DON’T miss out!

Blog Tour: “My Boyfriend Merlin” by Priya Ardis – Review + Giveaway

Welcome to my stop of the My Merlin series blog tour! This is ONE AWESOME TOUR, guys. It’s not just about one book, it’s about the series. Some of the stops have reviews of one book of the series or ALL OF THEM. Others have excerpts, top tens or other fun stuff. Oh yeah, and giveaways. Can’t forget that. Basically, you need to check out what’s all going on HERE.

Now let’s get this started! Meet author Priya Ardis!

 Priya Ardis loves books of all kinds—but especially the gooey ones that make your nose leak and let your latte go cold. She started her first book at sixteen, writing in notebooks on long train rides during a hot summer vacation in India. Her favorite Arthurian piece is the poem The Lady of Shalott by Lord Alfred Tennyson. A hopeless romantic, she’s a longtime member of the Romance Writer’s of America. When not living in her characters’ world, she might be found at the local coffee shop—her nose buried in a book.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

My Boyfriend Merlin (My Merlin #1) by Priya Ardis

Goodreads | Amazon

He was a little older than he was letting on. By a few eons…

In this modern day Arthurian, 17 year-old Boston high schooler Arriane, aka Ryan, DuLac just found out the guy she’s been crushing on, hot biker Matt, is a little older than he was letting on. In fact, he is really Merlin—the Merlin, King Arthur’s Merlin, the greatest wizard who ever lived. Frozen in a cave for over fifteen hundred years, he’s woken for a purpose. But Ryan’s not impressed. Tired of being a relationship loser, she’d rather kick his legendary behind.    

Sure, the world has been crazy ever since the sword and the stone fell out of the sky like a meteor. But despite gruesome gargoyles, a deadly new world of magic, and the guy driving her crazy, Ryan knows that family is everything. Will Merlin sacrifice hers to save the world? Will she be able to stop him?

3 1/2 stars

Now, I’m going to be honest. The blurb above is not the one I read originally when I decided to read My Boyfriend Merlin. This one isn’t better or worse, but the one I read seemed to encompass more of the things that were a big drive in this book. I originally wrote this review while staring at the other blurb with the different set of information, but trustme when I say nothing I’m going to outright discuss is that big of a surprise.

Okay, I’ll be frank–I didn’t come at this book with exceedingly high expectations. I mean, right from the get go, it’s clear: there’s a love triangle coming. I understand it’s the big thing now to tout these kinds of things, but come on. Really? For me, it’s not a selling point. But the blurb promised me Merlin, and for that I’m willing to test out someone else’s probably trite love triangle.

Despite promising us “my boyfriend Merlin,” Ryan and Merlin/Matt actually begin the book broken up and stay that way. They just totally aren’t over each other. There is, of course, a cosmic reason they can’t be together and blah blah blah. BUT WAIT.


Nothing ever makes me so happy as this. Once we get past Ryan going “Oh Matt, I miss you!” all of the sudden there are gargoyles everywhere and magic battles and Ardis holds zero punches. By the way, this is the first three chapters I’m talking about. The book certainly takes off like a rocket and promises you a wild ride.

After that intial action, though, it slows down again. Ryan gets whisked off to Hogwar– Avalon High School to learn how to defeat magic and weild a sword. (She’s no wizard, though. But you can find out WHAT she is if you read the book.) This, of course, results in some high school drama. However, I was fairly impressed on how minimal all that is.

Of course, that’s probably because all the drama emphasis is on the love triangle. Once again, I had a large problem with it. It’s bad enough that it’s between Merlin and his brother. It’s worse that Vane is clearly a not so nice guy. What’s even WORSE is that Ryan really doesn’t like him in the beginning and he gives her NO reason to like him and then all the sudden they’re friends. Her change in tune is ridicusouly unwarranted and out of character, but makes the love triangle viable. No, people, no.

That said, though, the second half of the book was really impressive. The action kicks back up again, and the love triangle is mostly forgotten under EVERYBODY SAVE THE WORLD. In the rush of action, there were a few MAJOR things that were introduced and then not dealt with at all, which was annoying, but I let is slide because honestly I didn’t want to deal with them then either. BEHEAD THE GARGOYLES!

The ending was a little interesting, though I mostly guessed it. It still leaves our characters in a VERY interesting place for book 2 to take off from, and I look forward to seeing how this all progresses. Despite my problem with the love triangle, I really like Ryan as a character enough to swallow my hatred for love triangle and keep on keeping on with the series. (The amount of action doesn’t hurt.)

Check out the other two books in the series here! My Merlin Awakening | Ever My Merlin


This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL! There will be TWO WINNERS! These two lucky entrants will win either Books 1 & 2 in paperback form (US) or Books 1 & 2 in ebook form (INTL). That’s right, TWO winners will win TWO books! Enough jabbering! If you want to enter, click HERE.