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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: Nowhere but Here by Katie McGarry

Title: Nowhere but Here

Author: Katie McGarry

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Publication Date: May, 2015

Hardcover: 496 pages

Stand Alone or Series: Series–this is the first installment in the Thunder Roads series.

How I got this book: Copy from the publisher.

Why I chose this book: Who wouldn’t want to read about sexy motorcycle boys and danger?


Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she’s curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn’t mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns into an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They’re the good guys. They protect people. They’re…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club’s most respected member—is in town, he’s gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it’s his shot at his dream. What he doesn’t count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down. 


It’s not very often that I completely dislike a book.  But this is one of those times.  I’m not even writing this review under the pretense that I finished the book–because I didn’t.  I couldn’t even get halfway through the book before I decided to set it down permanently.  So even though I completed hated this book, I will say it could’ve did a 180 and gotten better in the second half.  I wouldn’t know.

Let me outline the things that made me put this book down:

The characters.  They were annoying.  They had motivations that were hard to understand, and no effort was made to help me to understand them.  They were both pretty unlikeable.  And it’s okay to have an unlikeable character if I can understand their motivations as a character, but I couldn’t.  As for the voices of the characters, I wasn’t impressed by those either.  The book switches point of view back and forth between Emily and Oz.  But without reading the heading at the beginning of each chapter, I wouldn’t know who’s side of the story I was reading, because they sounded exactly the same.

The writing.  It was simplistic.  There was no complexity to the plot, the characters, anything.  I got bored reading through the chapters.  I was tired of trying to remember which character I was supposed to be reading about, Emily or  Oz.  I got tired of not liking my characters, not being given any reason to get behind them as a character or root for them, or at least feel sympathetic for them. 

All in all, I’m sure you can tell I didn’t like this book.  But as I stated above, I didn’t finish the book.  It could’ve gotten better.  I just didn’t want to stick around to find out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book Review: Compulsion by Martina Boone

Title: Compulsion

Author: Martina Boone

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: October, 2014

Hardcover: 448 pages

Stand Alone or Series: Series–this is the first installment in the Heirs of Watson Island series.

How I got this book: Bought

Why I chose this book: Have you ever seen a book in the bookstore that you just saw on the shelf every time you’ve gone.  And you look at it, but end up choosing another book.  This was that book to me.  Eventually I decided to pick it up and give it a try.


All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lived with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead–a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family’s twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead. 


I’m really glad I decided to give this book a try.  It’s been a while since I’ve found a good book that involved spirits and ghosts that didn’t just seem hokey.  In Compulsion, all of the spirits and ghosts are connected to the history of Watson Island, where the three founding families built there homes.  When Barrie’s mother died, she moves back to her mother’s home town, only to learn about everything her mother never bothered to tell her.

One of the best things about this book (besides the plot) is the relationship dynamic between Barrie, and her handsome neighbor, Eight.  They have a relationship that just clicked together, where they had both a friendship and a romantic relationship.  Them going on adventures and trying to piece together parts of the puzzles was one of the funnest parts of the book.  They worked together as a team.  

I don’t want to spoil the book in any way, so I’ll just say that both Barrie and Eight have special “gifts” that are passed on in their families, leading back to the three founders.  As you learned about these gifts and the history of the island, the plot rages on with an unsolved mystery from years ago that Barrie’s trying to uncover.  What’s great about this plot is that it was constantly moving, and I had no idea what was going to happen next.  I was never bored.  Even with the relationship development between Barrie and Eight, there was no fluff–just the right amount.  

While this book could very much stand on its own as a stand-alone novel, it will continue into a series.  I’m very much looking forward to the next installment–and I hope that they will live up to the expectations that this one brought me. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Title: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Author: Jesse Andrews

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams

Publication Date: April, 2015

Softcover: 305 pages

Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone

How I got this book: Copy from the publisher

Why I chose this book: While it took me a while to get around to reading this book, I decided I wanted to read it before the movie came out.  If there is one thing I always try to do, it’s read the book before I see the movie.


It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. But on the first day of his senior year, Greg Gaines thinks he’s figured it out. The answer to the basic existential question: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad? His strategy: remain at the periphery at all times. Keep an insanely low profile. Make mediocre films with the one person who is even sort of his friend, Earl.

This plan works for exactly eight hours. Then Greg’s mom forces him to become friends with a girl who has cancer. This brings about the destruction of Greg’s entire life.


Some might begrudge me saying this, but Andrews style is very John Green-esque.  While it’s quirky and humorous, it’s also touching and hits us in all the right ways.  We get to know Greg Gaines, truly get to know him, as a character.  Not only do we get to see him through his actions, but we get to see how he sees himself–which is, not very well.  And it’s refreshing to see a character to very much embodies the teenage experience–completely doubting yourself at every turn, taking every crack at his appearance he can muster, and admitting that he can be pretty selfish.  But what teenager isn’t selfish at times?

There’s a pretty large introduction that rambles on for a while.  While this doesn’t add much to the plot, except for very briefly introduction to the “dying girl”, mostly just builds a broader spectrum of who Greg Gaines is and how he views life.  While I did find it a little long and unnecessary at times, it was pretty humorous and fun to read.

I have to say that my very favorite character in the entire book is Earl.  Earl is biased, loud, and doesn’t hiding his opinion.  He can be mean, he likes to make fun of Earl and call him names.  But you can see through all of that to the pain he is going through–mostly with his family, but also with watching a girl he is starting to get close to go through the turmoil of cancer and eventually death.  I didn’t expect his character to be as deep as he was.  I would have loved to read even more scenes with Earl in them.

Overall, it was a solid book.  Probably not something I’d re-read, but I enjoyed it.  I’ll definitely be looking out for more books by Jesse Andrews, as I have a feeling he’s going to become more prominent in the YA genre.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Book Review: Soundless by Richelle Mead

Title: Soundless

Author: Richelle Mead

Publisher: Razorbill

Publication Date: November 10, 2015

Hardcover: 272 pages

Stand Alone or Series: I believe this will be a series, but I haven’t quite found out yet.

How I got this book: ARC from the publisher

Why I chose this book: I will read anything Richelle Mead writes, including her grocery list.


For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom. 
When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.
But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.


Soundless is the story of a village on the top of a high-reaching mountain, full of a group of villagers who are all deaf.  They’ve shaped their way of life around being deaf, to the point where they no longer speak any languages (or even understand them) because they communicate solely in sign language.  However, some of the villagers are starting to lose their sight as well, which ultimately leads to their deaths.  When Fei’s younger sister starts to lose her sight as well, Fei decides she’ll do whatever it takes to save not just her sister, but their entire village.

So, I have so much love for Richelle Mead, it’s ridiculous.  Every time she writes a new book she creates this whole new vivid world where I feel like I can dwell, if only for a little while.  In this world, everyone is deaf.  They also live at the top of the mountain, where the villagers have been stuck for generations.  They’re isolated.  Their way of life is completely alien.  It was neat to read about how people might function is none of them had the sense of sound.

Fei is strong-willed when it comes to family.  However, she is a little more subdued with the rest of her life.  She tries to blend in and keep to the status quo.  The only reason this changes is because her sister’s life becomes endangered.

Overall, the story moved pretty quickly.  The plot was fast-paced, though pretty simplistic.  It wasn’t hard for me to figure out where the story was going and what was going to happen next.  There weren’t many surprises.  That may not necessarily be a bad thing for some readers, but it can be boring at times.

I will say that for a story with very minimal talking, with most of the communication done through signing, the conversations were handled very well.  I never felt like I was reading an un-ending internal dialogue.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book–it was a solid read.  I’m not sure if Mead is going to continue the book into a series.  My guess would be yes.  If she does, I will definitely read the next installments.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Title: Illuminae

Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: October 20, 2015

Hardcover: 608 pages

Stand Alone or Series: I sure hope it’s a series, but at this point in time I’m not sure

How I got this book: ARC from the publisher

Why I chose this book: To put it simply, it looked pretty.  The cover was intriguing.  And when I opened the flap to get more information about the book, it only made me ask more questions.


This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.
This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.


Illuminae has got to be one of the most unique and interesting books I’ve read in a long time.  I didn’t have much information before starting the book, so in the beginning I was trying to wrap my head around what was going on.  The main points that I had to keep in my head were: The book is set in outer-space, the book shifts between two characters’ points of views, and anything goes.  Once I started reading this book I became ravenous–I couldn’t put it down, I needed to know what happened.

What’s interesting about this book is that there isn’t really any written out scenes.  All of the book is made up of emails, interviews, computer files, video dictation, etc.  But it doesn’t feel still like I assumed it might.  The story flows together seamlessly, carefully laying out this intricate plot.  And once you think you know where everything is going? Bam! Wrong, everything is changing and everything you thought you knew is now wrong.  This book definitely kept me on my toes.

The two main characters in this novel are Kady Grant and Ezra Mason, sort of on-again, off-again couple.  They are just two teens trying to survive the infiltration and destruction of their home planet.  And all the while trying to come to terms with what there relationship was/is and where it is going.  The authors do a great job of coming up with separate, unique voices for both of the characters.  While they are similar people, you can easily tell the difference between the characters.  While they’re both sharply witty, Ezra is a bit of a softy, especially when it comes for Kady.  Kady is more of the get-it-down type of personality, where she’s willing to work hard and break rules to get what she wants.

I can’t recommend this book enough.  It’s not very often that I come across a book that completely blows me away.  And this book has done that, a thousand times over.  It will make you laugh, a lot.  It will break your heart.  And then it will shock you to your core.  My only complaint is that it had to end.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Let’s Talk About Book Expo America

This year I got the chance to attend Book Expo America (or BEA for short).  I’d been before so I was already prepared for the maddness that happens once you enter that convention center.  For those who’ve never heard of BEA before, it is basically one giant networking event.  Authors, Publishers, Librarians, Booksellers, Teachers, Bloggers, Press, etc.–they all come out to mingle, talk about books and writing, and get to know one another.  And of course there’s free books.

There’s also plenty of events that go on during BEA for those who want to stay up to date on the book world.  There’s panels going on where authors talk, or where foreign guests come up to speak.  Authors have autographing stages.  There are conferences, such as the one for bloggers, where people can meet, talk about their trade, and maybe learn some new tricks and get new ideas.  There’s also tickets you can buy to eat breakfast with some of your authors, in a more laidback environment.

So BEA was stressful.  But it’s New York City, so one can’t expect any less.

My swag for all who is interested:

While the books and swag are awesome, the best part of the experience is getting to meet your favorite authors in the flesh, and discuss books, if they have the time.  I got to meet one of my favorite authors, Richelle Mead, who was promoting her upcoming book Soundless.  I also met Scott Westerfeld, Jenny Han, Jesse Andrews, and a bunch of others.
Is the experience hectic and crazy?  Absolutely.  But the reward is too great to pass it up.  I hope I get the opportunity to attend next year and have another blast.

Book Review: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Zeroes

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: September 29, 2015

Hardcover: 560 pages

Stand Alone or Series: Not known yet, but I would assume it’s to be part of a series.

How I got this book: ARC from the publisher

Why I chose this book: Scott Westerfeld has some real talent, and I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to read one of his new books.


Don’t call them heroes.

But these six Californian teens have powers that set them apart.

Take Ethan, a.k.a. Scam. He’s got a voice inside him that’ll say whatever you want to hear, whether it’s true or not. Which is handy, except when it isn’t—like when the voice starts gabbing in the middle of a bank robbery. The only people who can help are the other Zeroes, who aren’t exactly best friends these days.

Enter Nate, a.k.a. Bellwether, the group’s “glorious leader.” After Scam’s SOS, he pulls the scattered Zeroes back together. But when the recue blows up in their faces, the Zeroes find themselves propelled into whirlwind encounters with ever more dangerous criminals. At the heart of the chaos they find Kelsie, who can take a crowd in the palm of her hand and tame it or let it loose as she pleases


It’s been a while since I’ve read any of Scott Westerfeld’s novels.  If I had to take a guess, I’d say that the last work of his I read was his Uglies series (Which I’d highly recommend, by the way).  His new novel, Zeroes, is highly anticipated.  While it’s not typically the type of book I’d read, I figured I’d give it a shot.

It took me several chapters to really get into Zeroes.  I wasn’t really feeling the characters, the plot wasn’t really developing, and I was considering just putting the book down.  But I kept on and trudged farther.  The chapters move quickly, shifting to different points of view, so it didn’t take too long for the story to get going.  

While the plot was good, it wasn’t great.  I think there’s a lot of fluff that didn’t really need to be there, and it could have been edited down to make it faster paced.  We have a group of kids with powers who call themselves the Zeroes.  They’re ultimately learning more about themselves, and each other, throughout the book.  When it comes time for them to really test their powers, in a situation that is literally life or death, they come to terms with who they are and what they were meant to be.  Pretty straightforward, I would say.  

As I mentioned earlier, the point of view shifts throughout the book between each of the six zeroes.  There’s Nate, the leader of the group, Ethan, who’s a trouble maker, Flicker, who can see through other peoples’ eyes, Anonymous, who has the power to be forgotten, Chizara, who is reluctant to be part of the group, and Kelsie, who is the newcomer.  While it’s interesting to see through all of their heads, I definitely had favorites.  I preferred to read through Anonymous’s point of view the most, since he was the most unique.  And while I didn’t really like Ethan much as a character, his point of view moved the plot along quite a bit.  I wasn’t a big fan of Kelsie, as her character seemed very bland in general.  I also didn’t care for the Chizara chapters, as they seemed to drag on without actually having a purpose.

Overall, it was a good book.  If you’re daunted by the thickness of the book–don’t be.  It’s a pretty quick read once you get into the meat of the story.  While I don’t think this book was quite up to the quality that the Uglies series was, it definitely had its merits.