What I'm Reading: Get Even by Gretchen McNeil

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano

I was a pretty big fan of Lauren DeStefano's Chemical Garden series. Reviews of all three books can be found here: Wither, Fever, Sever. When I found out she was starting a new series, I was intrigued, although the summary, when it was finally released, didn't really capture my interest. Perfect Ruin kept getting pushed further and further down on my list of books to read, until I finally picked it up a few weeks ago.

Here's the summary from Goodreads: On Internment, the floating island in the clouds where 16-year-old Morgan Stockhour lives, getting too close to the edge can lead to madness. Even though Morgan's older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. She tries her best not to mind that her life is orderly and boring, and if she ever wonders about the ground, and why it is forbidden, she takes solace in best friend Pen and her betrothed, Basil. Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially when she meets Judas. He is the boy being blamed for the murder — betrothed to the victim — but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find — or who she will lose.

What I Liked: 1) The back story. I was really impressed with how well DeStefano delved into the back story of Internment and why it exists. Also, the more focused story of Morgan and her brother Lex. I could tell early on that this was going to be a well-rounded story because of how much detail we were given to fill out the beginning. But it also didn't become bogged down because of detail overload. It can be a fine line between the two, and DeStefano walked it gracefully. 2) How true she was to the characters. I know I say this a lot, since I'm usually all about the characters. But sometimes you'll be reading along, and bam, someone will do something so out of character for them that it pulls you completely out of the story. I hate being jolted back to my own reality, so when an author remains true to the characters they've built, I really appreciate that. 3) So. Many. Questions. Morgan is one of the most curious characters I've ever had the pleasure of reading. I thought it was great that she didn't just accept things the way they were but investigated on her own to find out the answers. It was dangerous, but she didn't let that stop her from searching for the truth. 4) Something that is rare for an author to accomplish is making a non-living thing a character. DeStefano was able to pull this off with "the edge." It was such a presence in the book that it was like a living, breathing thing. Made the book even more intriguing than it was.

What I Didn't Like: The only complaint I had was that I was expecting more grit, especially with the underlying theme of suicide. Parts of it were a little too glossed over for what I think the story deserved.

Overall Thoughts: So it's not Wither. But it's still good! There are a ton of great things about this book, and it keeps you guessing all the way through the end. I'm definitely excited for the next installment!

My Rating: 4 Shots

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (96)

Another Wednesday and you know what that means......it's Waiting on Wednesday time! Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine. It highlights the books that we are most anxiously awaiting!

This week my WoW is........

Undivided by Neal Shusterman
Release Date: October 14, 2014

I was never really into Neal Shusterman's books, even after he spoke at a bookish event I was at a few years ago. But then on a whim, I picked up Unwind, which is the first book of this series. I was hooked after the first page. I read the first two books right then and there, and I picked up the third as soon as it was released (none of these were reviewed on FCB, it was during my LONG BREAK.) And after quite a wait, the fourth and final book of the series is almost here!

Here's the summary from Goodreads: Teens control the fate of America in the fourth and final book in the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman. Proactive Citizenry, the company that created Cam from the parts of unwound teens, has a plan: to mass produce rewound teens like Cam for military purposes. And below the surface of that horror lies another shocking level of intrigue: Proactive Citizenry has been suppressing technology that could make unwinding completely unnecessary. As Conner, Risa, and Lev uncover these startling secrets, enraged teens begin to march on Washington to demand justice and a better future. But more trouble is brewing. Starkey’s group of storked teens is growing more powerful and militant with each new recruit. And if they have their way, they’ll burn the harvest camps to the ground and put every adult in them before a firing squad—which could destroy any chance America has for a peaceful future.

What are y'all waiting on this lovely Wednesday?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Awaken by Kate Kacvinsky

There are so many new books coming out, but I just couldn't help myself when I stumbled across Kate Kacvinsky's Awaken, which was published in 2011. I spend so much time on the computer, or phone, or ipad, that I thought this one seemed appropriate (and kind of scary in a, that could really happen! kind of way).

Here's the summary from Goodreads: Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her. Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking. In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.

What I Liked: 1) The idea. What I loved about this was that it could actually happen (and that would totally freak me out). I mean, you could totally use this story as a cautionary tale for what happens when we let so much of our lives happen online. I was immediately drawn into this idea and the impact it had on everyone's lives. 2) Justin - this guy was a complete surprise to me, and I fell for him pretty quickly. Honestly, it was kind of romantic, the idea of being unplugged and experiencing life not behind a screen. Is that sad? I don't spend all of my time on the computer, but I do spend a substantial amount of time conversing with people in cyberspace, either through Twitter or Facebook. So I identified with Justin's desire to get out from behind the screen, and it made him very endearing to me. 3) Maddie. I was confused at first by Maddie. Her personality seemed at odds with the fact that she was trying to rebel against the online all the time life she was living. But the further we delved into her story, the more I began to understand her. So I was impressed by author Kate Kacvinsky's slow reveal of certain information. Maddie's character growth was slow and steady and completely fabulous. I also loved how so much of what Maddie experienced was new for her. She was almost childlike when she was exploring new things, because everything she was used to was virtual. It reminded me of seeing my nephew at Disney World and all the things that were new and exciting for him there. 4) The changes in scenery. So often in books I feel like we stay in one place. It's something I've noticed recently, and now I'm becoming grateful when an author doesn't limit themselves to one or two locations throughout a story. Yes, maybe it means a little more work, especially if they pay attention to the details that make settings come alive, but it's always rewarding for me as a reader to get to explore a new location. And Kacvinsky gave us plenty of detail to breathe life into each of the settings we visited.

What I Didn't Like: Nothing!

Overall Thoughts: As soon as I finished reading this one, I searched for the second book. It was intriguing, realistic, and very memorable. Kacvinsky's talent for character development shines throughout the entire book, and everything from the settings to the characters come to life off the page. I know this isn't a new release, but if you never found the time to check it out, I would definitely recommend setting aside some time to check this one out! As for me, sounds like I need to spend a little time out from behind my screen....this book will make you feel the same! (Not that I don't support you checking in to FCB!) :)

My Rating: 5 Shots

Monday, September 22, 2014

Perfected by Kate Jarvik Birch

What does this cover remind you of? If you're thinking Ally Condie's Matched series, you're on the same page as me. I think that's why I picked up this book in the first place. But once I read the summary I was intrigued.

Here is the summary from Goodreads: Perfection comes at a price. As soon as the government passed legislation allowing humans to be genetically engineered and sold as pets, the rich and powerful rushed to own beautiful girls like Ella. Trained from birth to be graceful, demure, and above all, perfect, these “family companions” enter their masters’ homes prepared to live a life of idle luxury. Ella is happy with her new role as playmate for a congressman’s bubbly young daughter, but she doesn’t expect Penn, the congressman’s handsome and rebellious son. He’s the only person who sees beyond the perfect exterior to the girl within. Falling for him goes against every rule she knows…and the freedom she finds with him is intoxicating. But when Ella is kidnapped and thrust into the dark underworld lurking beneath her pampered life, she’s faced with an unthinkable choice. Because the only thing more dangerous than staying with Penn’s family is leaving…and if she’s unsuccessful, she’ll face a fate far worse than death.

What I Liked: 1) I thought it was very creative. It's hard to talk about the things I liked about this book, because there is so much of it that I found appalling. Not appalling in the sense that it made it a bad book, but appalling in the sense that it happens (in the book, not in real life.) But it's often the books that have elements that are just so....unbelievable like this that are the most creative. And that made it a very interesting read. 2) Well-written. This is the first novel I've read by author Kate Jarvik Birch, but she is obviously no stranger to writing. Everything about the story was well thought out and presented. 3) The story itself was very 3 dimensional with several story arcs that held my interest easily.

What I Didn't Like: I had a hard time with the characters. For as well-rounded and three dimensional the story line was, the characters were a little flat. Flat isn't quite the right word, I just didn't like their personalities. They were all a little whiny. Even Penn, the gentleman of the story. I think the real issue is that there was too much similarity between the characters. In a great book, there is a mix of personalities, strong and not so strong. That's what this story was missing. Someone to be strong and counterbalance the others. It was also a bit....generic. Similar to other books that have the same idea.

Overall Thoughts: I feel as if the YA market is getting a bit saturated with books like this. Where women are bred to be property, and stuff like that. Am I wrong? They're becoming the vampire books of a few years ago. I don't even know really how to categorize this one. It's not really dystopian, but it is set in the future. In a bizarre world. Birch's Perfected was an interesting addition to the group of books around this concept. It was well written and thought out, but was lacking something to really make it stand out. I'm not opposed to reading a follow-up should one come out, but I'll be hoping for something more.

My Rating: 3 Shots

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The One by Kiera Cass

So it's no secret that I have loved this series so far. I've read it several times, and it never gets old. So I dove into it as soon as I got my hands on it. Here are links to my reviews of both The Selection and The Elite if you are curious about those before you read this review!
Here's the summary from Goodreads: The Selection changed America Singer's life in ways she never could have imagined. Since she entered the competition to become the next princess of IllĂ©a, America has struggled with her feelings for her first love, Aspen—and her growing attraction to Prince Maxon. Now she's made her choice . . . and she's prepared to fight for the future she wants.

What I Liked: 1) I love these characters. I have from the beginning, although in book 2 I had some issues with America. I guess I'll start with her. Author Kiera Cass has done an amazing job showing America's growth throughout the the series. It is so easy to believe that her participation in the Selection is making changes in her because Cass shows us with every chapter just how much America's thoughts and desires shift. 2) The relationship the final girls form. I was truly surprised at how close the girls get in the final weeks. I appreciate that Cass took the time to fully explore and develop those relationships when she could have easily ignored it and just focused on America's relationships with Aspen and Prince Maxon. They spend a lot of time together as the weeks in the castle stretches on, and it gives the reader a chance to really get to know them and see how they become friends. 3) I love Maxon. Actually, Maxon has grown a lot throughout the series. I've always thought he was a sweetheart, but he gets a lot stronger as the books progress. He gradually begins to take on some of the qualities from the girls he's getting to know, and growing into someone who could be a leader. 4) We changed up the setting a little bit. That was unexpected, and I don't want to go into detail because I don't want to give anything away, but after spending so much time at the castle between the first two books, it was a nice change of pace. 5) The ending. When I finished this book, I called my sister (who had already finished it) and just said "Oh my gosh, I don't think it could have ended any better!!" Okay, there were some things that I wish hadn't had to happen, but I think that they ended up being necessary to the story. Every question was answered, every story line tied up with a nice little bow. This book was like a present for me.

What I Didn't Like: Nothing!

Overall Thoughts: I LOVE THIS SERIES! It's funny, because I think it's similar to the show The Bachelor (obviously there are some differences) which I have never really gotten into. The character development is excellent, and the plot lines kept me engaged from book one all the way through the final page of The One. Kiera Cass's ability to bring the characters to life is probably my favorite part of the story. I've heard a rumor that we may get some more stories from this world, and I for one can't wait to see what else she'll come up with!

My Rating: 5 shots

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (95)

Fall is just around the corner! Actually, we had some Fall weather ourselves down here in Texas over the weekend. Back up into the 80s and 90s for now though. I'm super excited to be participating in WoW posts again! Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine that highlights the books that we are anxiously awaiting!

This week my WoW is..........

Emergent by Rachel Cohn
Release Date: October 7th, 2014

Here's the summary from Goodreads: Zhara, the First. Elysia, her clone. On the surface, they are identical. But looks can be deceiving. When Zhara plays, she plays to win. She thought she had escaped the horrors of Doctor Lusardi's cloning compound. But the nightmare is just beginning. Elysia has taken everything from Zhara-a softer, prettier version of herself and an inescapable reminder of all she's failed at in her life. Now the man Zhara loves has replaced her with Elysia. Zhara will get her clone out of the way, no matter the cost. Elysia has finally learned the truth: she has a soul. Her First is alive. She knows it hurts Zhara to see her with Alexander, but she can't give him up. The genetically-perfected Aquine has chosen as her as his life mate, and their days together are limited. Elysia can't remain in the Rave Caves off the shores of Denesme forever. Revolution is brewing on the island paradise. Hundreds of soulless clones remain imprisoned like Elysia once was, slaves to the whims of their owners-wealthy human inhabitants of the island. As a group of clones and humans, led by Alexander, plot an insurrection that will turn Denesme's world upside down, Elysia knows her place is fighting by his side. Terrible sacrifices must be made to defeat Denesme's twisted regime. But even the greatest losses cannot prepare Elysia for the ticking time bomb built into her own programming...

I really loved Beta by Rachel Cohn, the first book of this series. You can read my review of it here. I feel like I've been waiting forever for Emergent, and now finally, it's less than a month away!! What are y'all waiting on this lovely Wednesday?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones

So the summary describes this book as X-Men meets Ocean's Eleven. I was hooked right there. Two of my all-time favorite movies, heck yes!! It was a no brainer that I was going to read it.
Here's the summary from Goodreads: The X-Men meets Ocean's Eleven in this edge-of-your-seat sci-fi adventure about a band of "super" criminals. When the MK virus swept across the planet, a vaccine was created to stop the epidemic, but it came with some unexpected side effects. A small percentage of the population developed superhero-like powers. Seventeen-year-old Ciere Giba has the handy ability to change her appearance at will. She's what's known as an illusionist...She's also a thief. After a robbery goes awry, Ciere must team up with a group of fellow super-powered criminals on another job that most would consider too reckless. The formula for the vaccine that gave them their abilities was supposedly destroyed years ago. But what if it wasn't? The lines between good and bad, us and them, and freedom and entrapment are blurred as Ciere and the rest of her crew become embroiled in a deadly race against the government that could cost them their lives.
What I Liked: 1) Okay, a better movie comparison of this book I think would be Now You See Me. Although the characters all have "mutant-like" abilities. Either way, there are aspects from all three of the mentioned movie comparisons that I love that make an appearance in here. I'll start with the magic aspect of it. The "abilities" these characters have are more like magic to me than mutant abilities like X-men but they were impressive and very interesting. I thought the addition of these qualities made the story pretty unique. 2) The way they acquired their special abilities was interesting. It wasn't a "born with it" kind of thing like on X-Men. I swear I'm going to stop with the movie comparisons. But it definitely changed the way that I thought about the characters, knowing why they were this way, and why they lived the way they did. 3) I don't know why stories with THIEVERY aspects to them fascinate me. Not just books, but TV shows to. I love White Collar. And this one was no different. There are varying story arcs in this book about the criminal activities of the characters, and instead of feeling rushed and convoluted, it created a gripping and exciting story. Author Emily Lloyd-Jones doesn't go to heavy on the details, but gives you enough for your imagination to follow along with the story.

What I Didn't Like: The only thing I wanted more of, was more relationship development between the characters. Main character Ciere has relationships with several of the other characters, but while I was told they existed, I never really....saw them come to life. It was as if someone handed me a blue square and said "this is the sky." I'm all, okay.....it's the sky. Prove it. That's what was missing from Illusive.

Overall Thoughts: Illusive is a fun and fast-paced novel with some twists that I didn't expect. The characters individually were built pretty well, and the story line was gripping and entertaining. I hope that in the future, say for the next book in the series, Emily L-J will develop the relationships a little better. I like to be shown things in a story, rather than just told. She may have told me that these relationships existed, but I found very little proof of them as the story progressed. There is a follow up novel due out in 2015 that I'm willing to check out.

My Rating: 4 shots

Monday, September 15, 2014

To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

I thought long and hard about what book to choose for my BIG RETURN to book blogging. Finally I settled on Jenny Han's To All The Boys I've Loved Before. I haven't read a whole lot of Jenny Han before, though I've met her a few times and she is a sweetheart. She's know for her Summer series (The Summer I Turned Pretty is the first) and the only other book by Jenny Han I've read was her joint effort with Siobahn Vivian book Burn for Burn (check out that review here)
Here's the summary from Goodreads: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.
What I Liked: 1) Something I've noticed with the two books I've read in which Jenny Han's name graces the cover is that her characters are unique. Their personalities crawl through every page, and Han is loyal to those personalities to a fault. Never once did I feel that Lara Jean, Margo, or Kitty drifted from the personalities that were developed through out the book (though at times I wished they would.) 2) The concept. I can't imagine if, as a teenager, all of my secret thoughts to crushes were suddenly sent out of them to read. Ouch! I knew immediately from reading the summary that I was going to want to find out how MC Lara Jean would handle that. 3) Peter. This surprised me, because I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like him at all when I first started reading the book. But he grew on me (and Miss Lara Jean) as the book progressed, and I ended up really appreciating the amount of character development that went into him. 

What I Didn't Like: 1) Okay, I just have to say that the Song girls, the sisters around which the book is written, act very juvenile, especially Lara Jean, the MC. They were just written a little young for their age, and it began grating on my nerves (think nails on a chalkboard here) after a while. I didn't notice this in the other Jenny Han book I've read (Burn for Burn) so I can't comment if it's a theme throughout her books and Siobahn Vivian's influence in Burn for Burn prevented that, or what. But this made Lara Jean a little unbelievable as a 16-17 year old. 2) Question: Who wouldn't try to figure out who did this (mailing out her private letters)? The fact that Lara Jean barely even speculated about it kind of made the story a little....flat. There was a great opportunity for another story arc to fill the story out a little more, but it was left largely unexplored until the culprit just blurted out a confession at the end.

Overall Thoughts: I think Jenny Han has a creative mind and does a very good job with dimensional storytelling. She remains true to the characters she creates and doesn't deviate from their personalities, which is something that's very rare and probably hard to do. There are definitely some problem areas with To All The Boys I Loved Before, especially within the main character (and since I"m a character over plot reader, it's kind of a deal breaker) that caused me to not just fall head over heels for it. I do know there is a sequel coming out sometime next year but I have no other information about it, and I don't think I'll be checking it out unless I just find myself in a mood for it. But I know some have loved it, so don't just take my word for it, let me know what you think in the comments!

My Rating: 3 Shots

Friday, September 12, 2014

Missing for a while....

Hi friends! So it's been...almost a year since I've ventured into the world of cyberspace to discuss books. Not that I haven't been around, I've been semi-active on Goodreads and my personal Facebook page. But a few things went on in my life around the holidays last year that made me unfit to blog!

So around in October of last year, my grandmother, my beloved Nana was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Most of my time after that was spent with her, and on December 16th, she took her final breath. Her loss hit me hard. I stopped doing a lot of the things that gave me pleasure - such as reading, much less blogging. To pull myself out of that feeling of....being underwater, I started doing some new things, including being more active, walking miles every day, registering for my first 5k and taking a cardio barre class. As a side note, Cardio Barre has become one of my favorite things, and I go 4-5 times a week now.

In June, I finally started reading again with any degree of regularity, and paying attention to book releases and other bookish type events. And now, September, I think I've finally got ahold of my schedule well enough to start blogging a bit. It probably won't be as frequent as it used to be, at least not for a while, but you can count on starting to see a post or two a week!

Also, I will NOT be running the Big Halloween Event that I've done for the past two years this year, because it's almost mid September, and I usually have to start working on that in August to be fully prepared. But hopefully I can do something fun for December!

Thanks to those of you who have stuck around. I'm glad to be back and anxious to hear about how your lives have been while I've been absent!