[529]: Some Kind of Normal by Juliana Stone

23413920-1 GOODREADS SUMMARY
Sourcebooks Fire | Net Galley
May 5th, 2015
New Adult Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


I have  read a few of Ms. Stone’s books. There was even a time when I went on a bender and read a couple of her series back to back to back. For the most part, she writes some pretty fantastic romantic tropes; with characters that linger in the back of your mind long after you’re done. Some Kind of Normal, while acceptable enough by this genre’s standards, lacked the addictive quality her other books have, in my opinion. Most importantly, it felt like she held herself back that it deterred me from fully enjoying this book. While that may be understandable considering the genre she was writing from, I found it difficult to separate what I’ve come to know from her adult books to her latest attempt at New Adult.

It wasn’t all that bad, mind you. I do like that Everly didn’t suffer some form of physical/psychological trauma in the past – which is a glaring characteristic of a character in NA books. I can’t say the same for Trevor though. But the truth of the matter is, New Adult books are formulaic. You can pretty much expect the things that happened to happen. And while most NA go full bore on the intimate scenes, I can tell that she held herself in check. This one doesn’t even have any. So perhaps, I’m jumping the gun by labelling this one a New Adult book.

They do have their own issues though. Trevor suffered a brain trauma from an accident that hinders him from playing the guitar like he used to. Which is a big deal for him because Music is his life. Without it, his dream of following his best friend to New York to play is pretty much out of the question. Everly, on the other hand, is evidently dealing with some family problems. Her father is hiding a secret that she accidentally stumbled upon. So she knows her parents’ marriage is on the rocks. On top of that, she got saddled with tutoring a jock for the summer.

Trevor is a pretty charming fellow; while Everly has the reputation as the ice queen in school. It’s both a curse and a blessing being the pastor’s daughter. It doesn’t take long for their relationship to develop. It’s not that big of a deal, though. I encountered some characterization problems, but not too terribly. In the end, I feel like if you read one NA book, you’ve read them all.

This book is about a couple of people who had to learn to accept what their own “normal” should be. While it may seem like an uphill climb, it’s not entirely impossible. Juliana Stone perfectly captured the essence of what it’s like for a person to accept their lot in life no matter how hard it may seem at first. Sometimes, it takes another person dealing with some hard realities of their own to guide you along the way.

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[515]: The Fearless by Emma Pass

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Delacorte Books for Young Readears | ARC paperback, 351 pp. | April 14th, 2015 | Young Adult Fiction | Post Apocalyptic ThrrRating : 3 out of 5 Stars


The Side Effects of the Cure

In an effort to aid war-weary soldiers afflicted with PTSD,  scientists have developed a serum to curtail, and eliminate this psychological disorder. But like every other miracle drug that’s ever been invented, the cure brought on a different kind of disease. The soldiers lost their abilities to feel. They became stronger; they healed faster. They became harder to kill. When the serum was sold to the highest bidder, the drug was reinvented; ushering a new breed of soldiers who lost all sense of right and wrong. Everyone became their enemy. Like a rabid pack of zombies, they invaded countries and bludgeoned the population into submission.

Hope Island

A small pocket of survivors managed to have a semblance of life in Hope Island. They have their own government and security. They live on goods bartered or traded by salvagers from the mainland. But all that security crumbled when a boy snuck in one night under the pretence of getting help for his friend’s baby.

Cass’s brother, and the only family she has, was taken by Fearless. The trespasser claimed he could help her find him, if she could help him get back to the mainland. Cass didn’t have any choice, because once you leave Hope Island, you can never go back. And since no one would help her get her brother back, he’s the only ally she could turn to.

The Goods

This book is pretty much everything you would expect from a dystopian thriller. It has a frenetic beginning where you’ll witness the beginning of the end of civilization. Then it hurtles on its steady pace right through the end. The world building is almost non-existent. I think it’s one of those things when a reader already knows what they’re in for even before they crack the spine. It’s there on the cover, and in the synopsis. In other words, the author left everything to the reader’s imagination. She didn’t have to hold my hand, or tell me how I should feel. Because her characters were very affective – except for the romance bit (more on that later).

Cass, for the most part, was a character full of moxie. When the world ended, she witnessed her dad get killed by the Fearless. Her mother was pregnant at the time. Unable to handle losing her husband, and the state of the world as she knew it, Cass’ mother killed herself. Ever since then, she was left playing the mother to her younger brother. He was all that was left of her world. She was fierce and courageous.

The Not-So

The only thing that didn’t work for me here is the romance. It wasn’t a case of instant love, but more the relationship didn’t progress in a realistic fashion. There was no basis for the attraction, no foundation. I supposed there wasn’t a spark between them either.

I was under the impression that this was a stand alone. But after that ending, it would be cruel not to continue. There’s so much to look forward to after this book, and I, for one, am really hoping a companion is already in the works.

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[514]: The Shadows by JR Ward

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GOODEADS SUMMARY | New American Library | Hardcover, 576 pp. | March 31st, 2015 | Black Dagger Brotherhood, #13 | Adult Fiction | Paranormal | Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


I think I have come to a certain point of my JR Ward fangirl life, where I could no longer tolerate the lack of movement with the overall plot of this series as a whole. The last couple of books has been quite a disappointment, to be honest. JR Ward may have a particular knack for dangling the proverbial carrot in our faces, but she is nothing but a big tease. It’s a brilliant marketing ploy. Every instalment brings about a certain excitement for things to come. Albeit, most of the time, it’s the pounding beat of doom ringing ominously loud. Unfortunately, she hasn’t come through for me. Slowly, and as the years passed, my malcontent grows at a steady pace. So much so that I could no longer ignore it.

Standstill

Book number 13 may prove to be the one that pushes that “it’s over” button. As once again, none of the plot conflicts was resolved here: the Band of Bastards is still on the lam. Xcor and Layla are still circling/sniffing around each other. The only thing that have shown a glimmer of life is the resurgence of the Brothers’ original enemy, the Lessers. This is saying a lot, as I used to skip/skim parts where the lessers are mentioned. At this point, I’ll take anything that could get my heart rate pumping.

Wallowing in Suburbia

I don’t know about you, but just because the Brothers have found their respective shellans shouldn’t mean they go on to live in a suburban bliss. Come on now. It shouldn’t be allowed. Boring lives are for real people, not fictional characters. Not especially for powerful vampires who are supposed to be as bad as they come. I was bored. I miss the days when they go out on a slaying spree. When Rhage’s beast does a cameo (though, I think The Beast did for a blink or two here); when Vishous’ heritage as Bloodletter’s son comes out and play. I especially miss Zsadist’s growls and well, sadistic way of killing.

Written in stars

The Shadows is Trez and iAm’s book. I can’t recall which book they first showed up, but the short of it all is that they are Shadows. Beings that aside from being able to keep their invisible form, they are pretty much like vampires themselves. This book is about Trez’s destiny to mate with the heir to the S’Hisbe throne. Nothing is ever easy with these people, so of course, he goes and falls in love with the Chosen Selena – who in turn has a secret of her own that could devastate them both in the end.

In the meantime, iAm, in an attempt to help his brother, goes and gets himself imprisoned again. This time, though, with fruitful consequences. He meets maichen; a servant in the court of the Queen of Shadows. Everybody has secrets. And maichen has one of her own.

I will go down with this ship

As much as I’ve bemoaned the fact that I was bored with this book, I don’t think I see myself quitting. There are still good things to be had, I believe. I want to see what becomes of Xcor and Layla. I want to see what kind of evil plans Throe has up his sleeves. I want to see what’s doing with Rhage as he was a bit out of sorts in this book. And since they’ve found the lessers’ nest, I see a lot of bloodshed in the next book.

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[511]: The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Tor Teen | Hardcover, 336 pp. | February 10th, 2015 | Young Adult | Fantasy | Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


Sometimes, it’s those books that leave you feeling detached that are hard to review. The ones that didn’t leave a lasting impression that are the easiest to forget. The Glass Arrow is that book for me. Kristen Simmons’ books has had that curious effect on me. Whenever I read them, I always feel like I’m on the verge of something great, but never really coming through. It’s quite frustrating.

Women are scarce

In this imagined world, women are a dying breed. So in an attempt to   preserve the population, fertile women are sold off to the highest bidder to procreate. Women are hunted and kept in a facility that attempts to refine them so that they may fetch a higher price. Virgins are of course, prime property.

Aya of the Wild

The capture of Aya of the Wild was, I thought, the only exciting thing that happened in this book. Which is kind of sad because it happened in the beginning. The plot goes downhill from there – or my interest at least, waned from that point on.

When she was brought in to The Garden, Aya made sure she was the most difficult ‘livestock’ among the herd. She purposely hurt herself, caused trouble, and was perpetually in isolation. In fact, she much preferred if she was in solitary. Because it was only there that she gets to talk to the only ally she has: Brax, a wolf that finds an affinity to her wildness.

The appearance of the wolf was a bit jarring. He seemed a bit out of place, in my opinion. I don’t really understand how he found his way inside the compound; a place sequestered off with a surrounding electric fence, not to mention a creek filled with radioactive waste. I also don’t understand how none of the Watchers or guards didn’t notice him. Aside from being the obligatory sidekick, I just didn’t see its relevance to the plot. But hey, animal lovers rejoice! [spoiler] except perhaps when Brax meets his untimely death [end of spoiler].

The Driver

If you’re looking for romance, you need not worry. Enter the Driver. Drivers are known to be mute. When Aya met him, she’s encumbered with mistrust. For some reason, she kept thinking he’s there to kill her. After a few meetings, she starts talking to him. But because he’s mute, the conversations were usually one way. She named him Kiran. Because of his eyes [insert eye roll here]. The romance left me cold, to be honest. I wasn’t into it. Again, this is one of those times when further development was needed. It’s as if Ms. Simmons was fulfilling the romance requirement that was asked of her by her publisher.

It’s a mad world

The thing that drove me mad here is the lack of cohesive factor that ties all the elements in this world. I think this is one of those instances where I wouldn’t mind pages of narrative explaining the hows and the whys of this imagined world. I can’t figure out whether the author is making an attempt at Sci-Fi fantasy or just fantasy. There are beings/creatures that are some type of hybrid; and creatures who communicated with ‘chirps’. It was tough to imagine, that’s all.

You should still read it

if fantasy is your thing. The Handmaid’s Tale, it is not, but if you haven’t read that, the concept will probably bring forth adverse reactions in you. I wish they’d consider the literature that they’re comparing it to before they make such bold statements. Otherwise, they’re setting us up for a disappointment.

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[505]: The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn

18169279 GOODREADS SUMMARY
University of Queensland Press | Paperback, 304 pp.
Publication Date: July 24th, 2013
Young Adult Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


The worst has happened. Nuclear testings between two unnamed countries brought on nuclear winter that changed the landscape of the world as we know it.

Somewhere in Australia, Fin woke up in a dark, cold world without his dad and stepmother. In his care was his younger brother. Days and weeks go by. Food became scarce. The military stopped giving rations. Desperate, people succumb to their basest of instincts. They steal, they maim, and some even kill for food.

As they realize the hopelessness of their situation, Fin and his brother banded with the school outcast and the girl Fin likes to find their mother – the only person that could offer hope, shelter and answers as to why the government had abandoned the rest of the continent.

Reminiscent of Ashfall series by Mike Mullin, this book shows the story of survival among four kids when the world is blanketed in a perpetual winter. It shows the slow decline of civilization and humanity when resources, infrastructures, and basic necessities slowly diminished. It is whatever horror you could conjure up in your nightmares in a slightly lesser degree than that of Mullin’s Ashfall series.

It’s hard not to compare the stories as it shares a couple of similarities: one is the setting (winter), and two is the male perspective for which both stories were told. Fin showed incredible calmness with every peril he’d encountered; and calculating intelligence with every decision he’d had to make. The readers see him adapt a different set of values driven by survival instincts. He is forced to grow up in a dangerous place where he would have no choice but to be his brother’s defender, provider, and saviour.

The isolation of a group of individuals “worth saving” was a plot point that was interesting to me. It reminded me of “the lottery process” in that movie, Deep Impact, wherein the government selected specialists and professionals in their fields to be saved as Earth prepares for an extinction event. In this book, anyone trying to cross the Inner Sydney border would be killed, and anyone harbouring “outsiders” are cast out.

The Sky So Heavy was an interesting book. A thought-provoking piece that will give readers pause. Considering how stubborn some countries are about the way they are handling their stash of nuclear weapons, this book will at least make you think about the precarious situation we all live in. Zorn captured this doomsday scenario pretty well, and have chosen a realistic narrator in Fin.

 

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[504]: Confess by Colleen Hoover

22609310 GOODREADS SUMMARY
Atria | Paperback, 320 pages
Publication Date: March 10th, 2015
Adult Fiction | Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


I didn’t think it would be possible to feel a little underwhelmed with a CoHo book, but there you have it. Don’t get me wrong, I would buy anything she’d sell, but that doesn’t mean I’ll always enjoy it. Such is the case for Confess.

While I wouldn’t be so quick to say that my problem with this one was the instant-love most have griped about, my disenchantment is rooted to the fact that it was lacking in romance, which she’s famously known for. Colleen also introduced some pretty convincing antagonists that I’ve rarely encountered in her previous works. I think my annoyance with these characters contributed to my not liking this book so much. On the other hand, it’s great to see Colleen exploring the kind of characters that add variety and depth to a novel. It shows her willingness to break the mould.

Auburn was a pushover character, but one that incites empathy instead of apathy. Without giving too much, readers would most likely find it in them to forgive her seemingly weak trait. Colleen has an arsenal of charismatic love interests, and Owen was no chopped liver. I have a deep love for artists in novels, and though Owen was not my preferred tortured soul, he’s still a good 7.

I’m always good for a tear or two when I read her novels, but this one fell short on the ‘feels’ scale, sadly. That’s not to say I wasn’t vested in the story. It’s one of those inexplicable things, when you know it’s a subpar version of what you’ve always expected from the author yet you’re still absolutely hooked. Thus is the power of her storytelling.

Colleen included another form of media in her last book to enhance her readers’ experience, and I’m happy to say the art work here are nothing short of perfection. I love the artist’s interpretation of the featured confessions – mostly vague, but somehow very fitting.

Overall, I think ardent fans of CoHo would love this. I guess I just expected more.

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[497]: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Scholastic Press | Hardcover, 320 pp.
January 15th, 2015 | Young Adult Fiction | 3 out of 5 Stars


Ally Carter’s introduction to a new series didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Mind you, I didn’t really know what to expect from a novel about the lives of those who live in a fictional community known as “Embassy Row”. All I know is that I expected more from what I’ve gotten. I thought for sure this would be a cool novel. I mean, imagine all the rich culture we could learn from it, right?

Unfortunately, I was disappointed that this novel couldn’t really offer more than what we already know as far as the state of affairs between countries: Russia and the United States hate each other. Iran and Israel can’t be seen together. There are balls. Gowns. Men in Black. Assassination attempts. It didn’t get much more interesting than that, sadly.

Grace is a character worn down by a baggage she was lugging around. Her mother was killed in a fire; her father is a serviceman dedicated to his country; and her brother, well on his way to following their father’s footsteps. She was dumped in the care of her grandfather, who happens to be the Ambassador of the United States to the island of Adria. She was, for the most part, your typical character in a YA novel: abandoned, parentless, with a past that even she can’t remember.

I like the pace of the novel right up to about a quarter to the end. But because Carter took her sweet time developing how Grace’s past will be revealed, the pace suffered greatly towards the ending. Beware of whiplash.

I think I share everybody’s gripe when I say that the infinite unanswered questions got old pretty fast.  Just when a piece of the puzzle will be revealed, Carter yanks it out of a reader’s hand and swallows the clue whole like a freshly-shucked oyster. It was infuriating. I lost my patience with this book on a couple of occasions, but the story was engrossing enough that I couldn’t abandon ship.

Adria is a fictional island off of Mediterranean. Regardless of its size, it somehow managed to have several embassies congregated in one area. This could’ve been way cool. But honestly? You could take this plot element and plop it on any random teen novel. Halfway in, you would’ve forgotten already that this series is called, Embassy Row. Because by then, it bore no relevance to the plot. You’d forget that these kids are global representatives living in one community.

Regardless of my struggles with this novel, I’m still curious to see where this is going. Hopefully, Carter will have a better direction in her next instalment.

 

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