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.
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.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
By: Matthew Quick
Release Date: August 13, 2013
Rating: 2 stars
|Summary:In addition to the P-38, there are four gifts, one for each of my friends. I want to say good-bye to them properly. I want to give them each something to remember me by. To let them know I really cared about them and I’m sorry I couldn’t be more than I was—that I couldn’t stick around—and that what’s going to happen today isn’t their fault.
Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.
But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school’s class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.
In this riveting book, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out.
For another take on the issues I had with this book, I encourage everyone to check out the New York Times’s review. I think Mr. Heller hits it on the head when he mentions how Quick writes Leonard Peacock with the darkness of an aspiring psychopath, and how that characterization conflicts with what we’re supposed to eventually accept about Leonard.
Admittedly, I picked up Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock with a great deal of skepticism. I like my issues books hard-hitting, dark, and gritty, but I’ve not had much success finding many authors who can deliver the kind of bleak realism that for me is the holy grail of the genre. I want to say Leonard Peacock impressed me with its authenticity, but for a book billed as an unflinching examination, Matthew Quick flinched – multiple times.
What disappoints me most about Leonard Peacock is that it’s written from the perspective of a teenager about to kill his best friend, but in the frame of mind of an adult trying to understand and ultimately come to terms with the difficult path that drove him to that decision, and it didn’t work for me. Frankly, I find it patronizing that the Leonard Peacock character is more an amalgam of stereotypes and excuses for explaining why a guy like him would be driven to do the unthinkable than a real character; I guess it makes people who struggle to understand the why feel better about themselves, but as a character study? – what I feel a book like this should be? – I’m sorry but it kind of sucks.
Maybe my problem is that I felt a complete lack of empathy for Leonard Peacock. Quick paints his character in bold strokes that only fall apart when you think about it, and for me I really needed a more nuanced approach to connect with the character. A lot of the story is quite superficial, Leonard as expected is condescending, has a superiority complex (because obviously someone who decides to kill another person is going to look down on everyone), and rails against the establishment, to the point Quick’s story feels very insincere, like he’s writing this for adults based on his consultations with psychologists rather than for teens based on interactions with actual teenagers who have these problems – that’s the only way I can explain how out of touch I feel Leonard’s character is. Nor does Quick ever reconcile that angry at the world mass shooter stereotype with the guy who needs to give closure to the four people who mean something to him before he goes through with his plan – I mean, sometimes he’s a psycho, sometimes he’s a perfectly normal if depressing guy, and maybe he has multiple personalities or something but I never did get the sense that he was one character all the way through struggling with the childhood trauma Quick eventually reveals is the cause of his actions – it was just bold stroke, bold stroke, bold stroke, there just wasn’t any nuance to fill in the gaps to his character.
Instead, Quick goes for tired philosophical and nihilistic musings in the form of Leonard’s attempted friendship with a home-schooled Christian girl to give his story the illusion of depth. You know, I expect a character who has suffered childhood trauma like Leonard has would feel a need to think about his place in the world, I’m not even going to call it a cliche, but this came off more like badgering people over their religious beliefs than any genuine soul-searching. And that’s a problem throughout this entire book, for a story about a guy who takes one last shot at coming to terms with what happened to him before he ends it all, there just wasn’t any genuine soul-searching, any depth, Quick tries to make Leonard sound deep with his writing style and the letters from the future and the distracting footnotes that are impossible to read in context with my ereader, but none of these things actually worked for me because each time I was pulled in one direction and started to get a feel for Leonard’s character, Quick’s overreliance on disaffected teen stereotypes just brought up too many inconsistencies and made the character impossible to connect with. Rather, it was all just a cheap after school special; I never felt Quick rises above trying to score points by feeding his readers the alienated lone gunman cliches we’ve come to associate with guys like Leonard to do an actual exploration of the character.
I wanted to be impressed by Matthew Quick’s hard-hitting, dark, and gritty storytelling, but Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is none of these things. Sure I felt it was sad, but not sad as in emotional – sad as in pathetic.
Untold (The Lynburn Legacy 2)
By: Sarah Rees Brennan
Release Date: August 29, 2013 UK / September 24, 2013 US
Rating: 2 stars
|Summary: Free from bonds, but not each otherIt’s time to choose sides… On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?’|
Review: Hurls iPad across the room. Muffles a scream of frustration. Sighs and goes over to retrieve said iPad.
I absolutely hated this book (no, not really). It made me want to pull my hair out (seriously, I have bald spots). But for the “lovely, lovely readers who suffered over the ending of Unspoken,” it’s definitely a must-read. Yeah, I read your acknowledgement at the end of this book. I am on to you, lady!!! 😡
In Brennan’s defense, my rating probably has to do a lot with my feelings toward Kami. Those who knew me when I read the ARC for Unspoken, knows there I have NO lost love for her. Yep, she’s still the sarcastic, nosy, self-righteous, “I’m going to find out the truth and write all about it” know-it-all that she has always been. And speaking of her “journalistic skills” – yes, it’s in quotes – I’m NOT impressed. (view spoiler) I just hate it when people like her give the stereotypically wrong impression of reporters. Sorry for the rant, but I just had to put that out there.
Putting that part aside, Kami STILL annoyed me to no end. For someone who prided herself as a keen, observant journalist, she really was blind to everything that was going on and was really slow to catch up. I understand that she’s lost a piece of herself, and she’s unsure of what was real, but geez! Open your eyes! She has NO idea what she’s talking bout, and she kept making assumptions instead of asking, leading to one stupid action after another.
But, but, what happens between Kami and Jared? Do they get it together? I can’t tell you. (Don’t throw anything at me!) But I WILL tell you this – and you probably already guess it. Be prepared for those scenes where (view spoiler) Yep, leave your eReaders in their protective cases and style your hair in a ponytail or bun where it’s hard to pull. But will it be all worth it in the end? You just have to read it and see.
A few other issues before I get to the good stuff. The beginning of the book was so depressing to read. Jared was being a complete and utterly stoic jerk, and everyone was so mean. I really, really wanted to slap Holly. And Ash? What HAPPENED to him? I mean, I get that he was hiding his true nature in the first book, but seriously? To go from a pretty conniving villain to such a “bunny killer” in this book was so disappointing. It was pathetic really.
Despite all of that, I still love Rusty, as I had claimed in my review of Unspoken. He’s so goofy in a dorky kind of way that just makes me chuckle and shake my head. And he’s pompous, but in a hilariously entertaining sort of way, not because he really thinks that much of himself. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s hot and very charming when it comes to the ladies. Swoon! It’s just a shame that (view spoiler)
Anyway, I still thought the story was pretty good, although it’s nothing like the uniqueness of them being in each other’s minds from book 1. There was a good mix of kick-butt action and learning about the magic, although I did have a pretty ridiculous image in my head (view spoiler) The history of Matthew Cooper was really intriguing, and it makes you wonder if history had and possibly will repeat itself again. It was really interesting to see who was on which side, and it was gripping to see who was going to come out on top because you could never tell if Lillian or Rob had the upper hand.
Don’t get me wrong, there were parts were I wanted to squee, and chapter 20 was an AWESOME chapter. But then, I had to suit up and go back onto the battlefield. And why did I throw my iPad? The end! OMG, the end! No, “lovely, lovely readers who suffered over the ending of Unspoken,” there is not a cliffhanger. Ha suckers! Brennan is (view spoiler) 😛 But, but, still… Ah dangit, I can’t spoil anything. Just read the book.
I know this book had a lot of the usually drama that goes along with being the “middle book,” which counts a lot to why my review seems so negative. But when I wasn’t cursing at the story, I was flipping through the pages, really enjoying the book. I can tell that Brennan is just rounding everyone up for the next book, which is going to be explosive. Now, if only I can hang on long enough for this book to come out before the next one even has an ARC.
The Rules of You and Me (Companion to The Boyfriend Thief)
By: Shana Norris
Release Date: June 24, 2013
Rating: 2 stars
|Summary: Hannah Cohen has always lived her life by a set of carefully constructed rules to maintain the image of perfection. But now, the rules aren’t helping control the chaos that is quickly taking over.
Opting out of spending the summer in Paris with her mom, Hannah instead heads to the mountains of North Carolina to stay with her aunt. The Blue Ridge Mountains provide a barrier between Hannah and the rest of the world, a safe haven where her secrets can be forgotten.
When Hannah crosses paths with Jude Westmore, a guy who hangs a different shirt from the tree in his front yard every day, she finds herself breaking out of the comfort of her rules and doing things she had never dared before. As the summer passes, Hannah and Jude grow closer and make up their own rules for dealing with life.
But when the secret Hannah has tried to forget is finally revealed, even the new rules can’t save her from possibly losing everything–including Jude.
This young adult romance is a standalone companion novel to The Boyfriend Thief.
Review: I gave Norris’ other books 3-4 stars, and I thought this book was cute enough, but it was just okay.
First of all, this story did NOT go with the plot in The Boyfriend Thief – not really anyway. Honestly, I totally forgot about Zac and Avery until I went back just now. And without having read the first book, you might have thought that Avery stole her best friend’s boyfriend. NOT the case. I mean, in hindsight, I GUESS it works, but it’s iffy.
I couldn’t connect with Hannah. I spent a good deal of the first part assuming she was rich but not understanding why. I had no clue what her father did of if her mother worked or was a stay-at-home trophy wife. And I couldn’t really tell if her hometown was big or small, and once I did, I couldn’t tell if it was a close-knit Hampton like community. And the book told us Hannah had a strict life with the image of perfection, but I didn’t really felt any sympathy for her.
As for the rest of the book, it was just a little bit too cliche for me. Rich, snobby girl (oh wait, she really isn’t) in a small country town. She meets the bad boy from the trashy, broken family that has a history that everyone in town doesn’t trust. Of course, she finds out who her real friends are and that the people she had dismissed (pre- and post-trip) were more valuable than she gave them credit for.
I think the background behind her mother, her aunt and her friends were great stories, but unfortunately, I felt like the book rushed to explain everything at the end.
Like I said, the book was cute enough – though there were no incredibly memorable scenes – though I thought Norris’ earlier works were definitely better.
Glitter & Doom (Masque of the Red Death 1.5)
By: Bethany Griffin
Release Date: March 25, 2013
Rating: 2 stars
|Summary: A 50-page, digital-only novella set in the world of Bethany Griffin’s dark and haunting retelling of the classic Edgar Allan Poe story Masque of the Red Death. When a rich teenage girl who spends her nights in the most desirable club and a smart, young inventor meet, they might have more in common than they know.
April, niece to the dying city’s cruel dictator, is Araby Worth’s glittery and frivolous best friend. But she’s more than she appears. And when she disappeared in Masque of the Red Death, where did she go? This short novella answers that question, taking us deep underneath the crumbling city, where April crosses paths with Kent, the serious young inventor who is key to rebellion. Glitter & Doom is a story of chilling action, of spies, and of surprising love. Can love be anything but doomed is a city that’s burning down around its survivors?
A dark, unnerving story about two of the most fascinating characters from Masque of the Red Death.
Review: This novella was weird…
With Glitter, I felt that it was a compilation of stories that Griffin felt she needed to catch up on. It was just a random mash of old stories from random years. They were mentioned as memories in book 2, but maybe Griffin should have just left them at that.
With Dom, I felt like Griffin should have tried to incorporate it into one of the two books, either as an epilogue or as a prologue. I know it’s a short story for people can look forward to the second book, but it just felt so out-of-place with whatever Glitter was supposed to be.