Ask Again Later
By: Liz Czukas
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Rating: 2 stars
|Summary: Despite what her name might suggest, Heart has zero interest in complicated romance. So when her brilliant plan to go to prom with a group of friends is disrupted by two surprise invites, Heart knows there’s only one drama-free solution: flip a coin.
Heads: The jock. He might spend all night staring at his ex or throw up in the limo, but how bad can her brother’s best friend really be?
Tails: The theater geek…with a secret. What could be better than a guy who shares all Heart’s interests–even if he wants to share all his feelings?
Heart’s simple coin flip has somehow given her the chance to live out both dates. But where her prom night ends up might be the most surprising thing of all…
Review: Ahhh, I wish I had known that this book was one of those that has paralleling stories that show how two different scenarios would play out. I’m not a fan of those, although I do have to give Czukas props for the way she weaved the two paths together. The book had one ending, and Czukas had a way of writing all the major details and events into both scenarios – and make them work.
Overall, it was an okay read – light and fun, but at the same time, there were things that I didn’t really like about it. First of all, it’s not hard to tell how the story was going to play out by the end, but Czukas did not make HIM a very likable character.
Also, I felt Ryan told Heart his secret because he felt she was trustworthy and easy to tell. But I thought she was so inconsiderate how she reacted, how she kept stereotyping (although Czukas does point out that she’s doing so) and how she kept bringing up that he was the worst ever. And with Troy, he’s supposed to be a heartbroken but lovable oaf, but instead being a psychotic jerk.
And I really didn’t get why Czukas made such a big deal with the name thing. Authors have the power to name their characters anything in the world, and I’ve never understood why they would name their characters something that the characters hate. But if Czukas was going to do that make it relevant. Instead, she just used it as some weird lead-in with Chase calling her by body parts (ewww, I would HATE being called Pancreas – total turnoff). And calling him Schroeder when his name is hardly even close.
To be fair, the two-star rating is partly because of I’m not a fan of the style and partly because I didn’t really care for any of the characters, nor did I like the whole name thing. It just wasn’t cute enough for me to give it any more stars.
By: Lauren Oliver
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Rating: 2 stars
|Summary: Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.
Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.
Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.
For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.
Review: Disappointing. This book lacked something that “Before I Fall” and the “Delirium” series did such a great job of creating – that sense of desperation. Without it, Panic was just a stupid game. And I would have been fine accepting it as such, but I felt Oliver threw in too many sob stories that failed to pull at my emotional strings, leaving me calloused and disconnected from the characters.
(Warning: Hidden parts contain major spoilers, so don’t click them!)
I was very confused for the first few chapters because I didn’t understand what was going on. Why were these kids jumping off a cliff? To celebrate their senior year? For the adrenaline rush? Once I began to understand, I was eager to find out each kid’s story and the motive that is driving him/her to stay in the game. However, I still had a lot of issues with it. (View spoiler on Goodreads.)
And I thought the book was leading up to some huge final challenge at the end, but I felt the end was rather anticlimactic.Don’t’ get me wrong, it’s still a scary enough showdown, but I just felt the previous challenges were more intriguing or heart-stopping. I’m not sure if it’s the way it was written or if it was the way the scene played out, but I was just left thinking, “What? That’s it?”
Now going back to being eager about finding out each kid’s story and the motives driving his/her decision to stay in the game….
Heather – I could NOT connect with this girl, at all! First of all, she joined Panic for the wrong reason, and I get that, but thenOliver tries to play it off by giving her a much deeper reason to play the game. And that’s what I didn’t buy. (View spoiler on Goodreads.)
It didn’t help that I didn’t like Heather from the start, and she never grew on me either. I get that having your heart broken changes your views on things, and you can’t help but feel inferior, which makes you feel sorry for yourself. But it got to be too much to me. On top of that, she was a witch to her mother (understandably so), so to her friends (not so understandably so). It’s as if she’s met with the first sign that something is not going her way, she shuts down and get angry and lashes out. Even when she’s being good, I just felt like she was a ticking time bomb.
Nat – She was the biggest character disappointment in this book. Since the beginning, she was a mystery to me. Why did she want to join Panic? I mean, I knew, but the way she acted, I kept waiting for Oliver to blow us away with her motives. She seemed like such a complex character with hidden issues that we were bound to find out more about. I couldn’t decide if my dislike for her was premature or whether I could trust her, and I was so sure, something was bound to happen. Never did.
Bishop – Too predictable.
Dodge – Now here was a complex character that Oliver did a better job at portraying. However, I couldn’t like him because he was too blinded by his motive that he did too many stupid things. In a way, I have to give Oliver props for writing his character successfully, but I can’t say I liked him. LOL. Half of the time, I just wanted to smack him around. I think I would have appreciated his character more had the others shown as much character development.
In conclusion, it wasn’t a bad story. I think I would have given it three stars for liking it enough, but I had issues with it too. All in all, it was just okay.
I think 1) this could have been a really exciting game, full of heart-stopping action or twists and turns that could have had me on edge as I’m flipping through the pages. But it didn’t do that. Or 2) it could have been a stupid game that I didn’t really take too seriously, even though the danger would have made it a pretty good thriller. But there were too many emotionally strong situations (that failed to move me), so I couldn’t write it off as tragically stupid.
It’s just after reading “Before I Fall” – where Oliver turned a silly mean girl into someone you can connect and sympathize with as she tries to make things right – or the “Delirium” series – where your heart squeezed, jumped out of your chest on a number of occasions and flopped around a bit – “Panic” just ended up being such a letdown after such great masterpieces.
Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky 3)
By: Veronica Rossi
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
|Summary: The earth-shattering conclusion to Veronica Rossi’s “masterpiece” Under the Never Sky trilogy and sequel to the New York Times bestselling Through the Ever Night (Examiner.com).
Their love and their leadership have been tested. Now it’s time for Perry and Aria to unite the Dwellers and the Outsiders in one last desperate attempt to bring balance to their world.
The race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate. Aria and Perry are determined to find this last safe-haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do-and they are just as determined to stay together.
Meanwhile, time is running out to rescue Cinder, who was abducted by Hess and Sable for his unique abilities. And when Roar returns to camp, he is so furious with Perry that he won’t even look at him, and Perry begins to feel like they have already lost.
Out of options, Perry and Aria assemble a team to mount an impossible rescue mission-because Cinder isn’t just the key to unlocking the Still Blue and their only hope for survival, he’s also their friend. And in a dying world, the bonds between people are what matter most.
In this final book in her stunning Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi raises the stakes to their absolute limit and brings her epic love story to an unforgettable close.
Review: SO many conclusions of trilogies have left me disappointed at the end, but worry not, this book wasn’t one of them. I will say I wasn’t crazy about all the drama in the beginning, and I was a bit disappointed about what happened with HIM at the end. But I’ll give it 4 stars.
The beginning kind of annoyed the hell out of me. I felt Roar’s pain – although I kind of wished he wasn’t such a jackass right from the start – but I understand there is just other way to portray that kind of grief. But I just dreaded what was to come because I just knew such raw emotion wasn’t going to lead to good things. However, I was so angry with Perry. I understand doing what you think is best for your people, but gah, at least behind closed doors, yell or hit something. I mean, we got to see from his point of view, and his character was just unnaturally calm. I just felt it was cowardly of him not to face Roar and Aria and everything else (of course, that’s the point of his character development, but that’s beside the point – it still frustrated me, LOL).
I would have easily given the majority of the book five stars. Was it totally mind-blowing? Probably not. But it was one hell of a third book. There was plenty of action. There was a lot of planning and plotting. There were scenes that you saw coming, and others that you did not. People left you guessing which side they were really on. And you kept wondering if something that happened REALLY happened or if it was a front, and it was going to turn around and blow you away. Really, the book wasn’t totally unpredictable, but the pace kept your interest, and really, it was the anticipation of what was going to happen next – that was what really sucked you in.
My biggest complaint was the end. No, it wasn’t one of those endings that left you totally pissed off at the book – ahem, Delirium – ahem, Hunger Games. Nope, I guess I was fine with the way it ended. It was just what happened with HIM. I didn’t feel that Rossi did much justice to it – everything that had led up to that point – it just felt kind of anticlimactic that you’re left wondering, “What? That’s it? But, but…” It was still good enough to where it didn’t totally ruin the book for me, but still.
Overall, this is probably one of the best conclusions that I have read in a while, especially since everything is a series now, and the authors (or publisher) drag the story out so long that you’re just ready for the series to end, and the last book is just a lame attempt to tie together lose ends. But this one was quite “earth-shattering” mostly because of Roar. Regardless of what you thought about annoying characters or why something was done, I don’t think this book is going to disappoint many.
By: Rosamund Hodge
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Rating: 5 stars
|Summary: Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.
Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.
Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.
With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.
But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.
As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.
Review: So the first part of the “Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy” is a bit of a stretch, but who the heck cares. It was beautiful. It was amazing. And it was absolutely wonderful. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
If you think this is your typical adaptation of the classic fairytale, think again. “Cruel Beauty” is a beautifully written masterpiece that tells the amazing tale of duty, love and betrayal, where Hodge has managed to weave in the concepts of ancient kingdoms and haunting shadows and demons with the folklore of traditional and elaborated Greek mythology. It will truly transform the way you’ve always viewed “Beauty and the Beast” with so much more.
One of the reasons why this book was so great was because it didn’t start out with an innocent Cinderella who remains pure-hearted and selfless despite her cruel and unfair situation. While she remained composed, Nyx’s heart was full of built-up anger and resentment – and who could blame her. And I admired how, despite her frightening surroundings, Nyx never put up with any nonsense from Ignifex or anyone else.
You would think that you’d know how the story would go, but this book was far from predictable. Right off the bat, I was thrown into the twist called “Shade,” and it really bugged me (in a good way) that I couldn’t figure it out or couldn’t decide if I could trust.
And that wasn’t the only puzzle. Hodge had masterfully woven in stories that we grew up with – Greek mythology, lesson-teaching tales, anecdotal folklore – giving “Cruel Beauty” so much more meaning. The stories were told at just the right time, truly symbolic of the situation at hand. And what’s more, Hodge dropped hints all throughout the book – some you pick up on and some you don’t – leading us to believe that she took careful planning to this intricate plot she has set forth. And when you figure it out – either way before or when it’s actually presented – you’re left with this sense of awe.
It wasn’t hard to be emotionally wrapped up with the characters in this book. I loved Nyx – her spunky attitude, her wittiness, her desire to do what’s right despite the consequences. And no matter what, I couldn’t hate Ignifex. He had a great mix of cockiness and sincerity. Even Shade and Astraia – I understood their role in the book and sympathized with each and every one of them. So when it came time for Nyx to leave, my heart just broke. And it broke a little more each step of the way.
I can’t tell you the way it ended, but the last few scenes really brought the whole story home. It was then that you learn about everything that you had missed and you realize just how truly how amazing this story was and how perfectly Hodge had set up everything leading up to this moment. It was truly magical.
All in all, I’m sure you can’t possibly tell how much I loved this story from all the gushing I just did. It was truly one of the best books I have read in a while – not only because of the story, but also because of the beautiful way it was written and the intricate details and symbolic anecdotes that Hodge took such great care in weaving into the story. This was a truly a masterpiece, and I am more than eager to read Hodge’s future works.
The Promise of Amazing
By: Robin Constantine
Release Date: December 31, 2013
Rating: 3 stars
|Summary: Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who’s always done what she’s supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.
Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.
One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.
Review: BEFORE: I sure hope so.
AFTER: This was a nice, heart-warming, learned-your-lesson type of book. While the storyline doesn’t differ too much from your typical shy-girl-meets-the-hot-player, Constantine delivered a pretty good story about Grayson’s past and his attempts to change.
My qualms about this book is that Grayson and Wren didn’t fully sound like “real” characters to me.
I get that having been caught and temporarily losing who he thought were his friends made Grayson try to change his ways. And I understand meeting a special person can sometimes consume your thoughts, making you do stuff you’ve never thought you’d be doing. But the thoughts that were going through his head when he first met Wren and the early stages of their relationship didn’t feel like those going through the mind of a teenage boy. Don’t get me wrong, it was really sweet and all. But at times, I just felt like, “Really? That’s kind of a cheesy thought.”
Same thing with Wren. While I’m glad she’s not the let’s-make-everything-a-drama type of girl, she seemed way too forgiving. I know in relationships, you always want to give the other person a benefit of a doubt. But I felt every time she was smacked in the face with the truth, she’s shocked – but only briefly – and she recovers way too quickly. Like I said, it’s great that she’s so understanding, but it doesn’t feel real -especially for a teenage girl who’s dealing with experiences out of her typical comfort zone.
Some of the other characters didn’t feel very real either, like the parents and the private school teachers not being strict enough or how easy everything went at the station.
All in all though, the story was good. Not unpredictable, but I liked the plot that Constantine had developed. And the characters were all really likable and people you can sympathize with. It’s something worth reading if you’re craving a non-fluffy chick-lit.
Playing Dirty (Stargazer 2)
By: Jennifer Echols
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Rating: 1 star
|Summary: A public relations expert tries to prevent the breakup of a raucous country band and corral their wild—and very sexy—lead singer in book 2 of the Stargazer Series.
As an expert in public relations crisis management—that is, babysitter to the stars—Sarah Seville just spent nine months in Rio trying to keep rock singer Nine Lives out of jail long enough to record his new album…and barely succeeded. Now she needs a triumphant success so she can keep the Manhattan-based job she loves. Trouble is, her new assignment is to travel to Alabama to prevent the breakup of the raucous country band The Cheatin’ Hearts, headed by sexy Quentin Cox. As she edges closer to Quentin, she discovers layers of secrets. It seems Quentin is taking the spin doctor for a spin.
The Cheatin’ Hearts have stayed on top of the charts two years following three rules. Rule One, no drugs. Rule Two, no sex with other band members. Rule Three, no sex with record company spies. Quentin figures he’d better follow the rules, because he made them. And because if you break a rule, you’re out of the band. But he can’t resist the record company’s beautiful PR agent, and inevitably he breaks Rule Three with hot Sarah Seville. As he falls for her, he finds out that she has plenty of secrets of her own, and one of them comes knocking on her door: what really happened to her in Rio.
Review: I haven’t had much luck with Jennifer Echols books lately, but I still had hope – AND this is a sequel to Stargazer, which I gave 3 stars to. Sadly, this book was a huge disappointment for me.
First and foremost, I thought this book was too over the top. There was so much drama in this book, and it was one thing after another. Echols stretched the storyline thin, throwing in every trick she could think of, and it just made me weary overall. Nine Lives, Sarah’s history, the band’s double-life, Quentin’s family past and his health problems. Too much.
Also, the characters were sketchy and ill-defined that I thought they were all bipolar. Now, I understand everyone is playing a role and putting on a different persona, but even when they were their “real selves,” I couldn’t get a good handle on who they were, so it was really hard to sympathize with any of them.
Speaking of, I could not stand Sarah. I got so tired of the arrogant, self-righteous, know-it-all attitude of hers. She was so sure she had it all figured out. I swear, I wanted to smack her every time she went on and on about Quentin’s cocaine addict. Enough already.
And I don’t like the basis for Sarah’s story was pretty much Wendy’s. Kick-butt publicist who made a mistake at her last job, and this would be the one who would make or break her career.
At least with Stargazer, there was a decent plot, likable characters and a few great lines. This one, it was nothing but over-the-top, too dramatic nonsense that left me very frustrated and angry – and not in a good way.
Rock and a Hard Place (A Jamieson Brothers Novel 1)
By: Angie Stanton
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Rating: 2 stars
|Summary: When you fall in love with a rock star, anything can happen. . . .
Libby In an instant, Libby’s life went from picture-perfect to a nightmare. After surviving a terrible car accident, Libby is abandoned by her father and left with her controlling aunt. A new town, a new school, no friends—Libby is utterly alone. But then she meets Peter.
Peter The lead singer in a rock band with his brothers, Peter hates that his parents overly manage his life.
Constantly surrounded by family, Peter just wants to get away. And when he meets Libby, he’s finally found the one person who only wants to be with him, not the rock star.
But while Peter battles his family’s growing interference in both his music and his personal life, Libby struggles with her aunt, who turns nastier each day. And even though Libby and Peter desperately want to be together, their drastically different lives threaten to keep them apart forever.
Review: I think I would have liked this book if Stanton hadn’t gone overboard and made it way too complicated. She should have kept the story about Peter finding a girl who wasn’t after him just for his money and fame. Or she should have focused on Libby’s life, which was a pretty heartbreaking story. Bombarding readers with the whole story was too much at once, and I think it robbed each character from the full sympathy and emotional impact he/she would have received if his/her story would have stood on its own.
Aside from that, the story started a little too cliche and a bit cheesy. Some of the lines made me groan a bit, but it’s a typical contemporary young adult romance. And Stanton wanted to portray Peter as the shy rock star who wanted so much more, but his first encounter with Libby (asking if the drawing wasn’t of him or just his whole demeanor) would probably be more of what you would expect of Garrett or Adam. And even Libby has said Peter had a bit of arrogance and confidence – in the cute way of course. I mean, yeah, he’s a rock star, but there were a number of instances that I just felt was out of character for someone like him.
And Libby. Her story breaks my heart. But I felt it was a bit too much. First of all, why did it take so long for Stanton to explain what happened to her family. Also, I understand being thrown into a situation where you have to live with a relative who just doesn’t want you, but Stanton went a little overboard with Libby’s aunt. Could Libby’s situation happen? I don’t doubt it, but all of the extra elements that Stanton throws in makes it really unbelievable – not in that it hasn’t happened but it’s too extreme. Throw in the rock star, and the story was too Cinderella-ish.
Overall, the story wasn’t bad. It wasn’t one of those stories that made me smile or cry from memorable lines or blew me away with giddiness or heartache. And it would have been great if I didn’t feel like Stanton tried too hard to weigh us down and ended up making it way too complicated. Makes me you wonder what she has in stored for the sequel if she’s already pulled all the tricks out of her hat.