Monday, May 19, 2014

PANIC! by Lauren Oliver



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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: Panic is the caffeinated version of the old childhood game, "I Double Dare You." The story  is told from the perspective of 'reflecting' back on past events. In this book, willing teen participants agree to challenges in hopes of winning a cash pot. In the small town of Carp, Panic is the yearly event that amuses the bored graduating class and their followers.  Place your bets, and pick a favorite!  Lauren Oliver does an adequate job with the plot, but doesn't hit the middle of the target to make this one a winner.  There are too many places that tension, suspense and creative structure could have been achieved, but were scuffed over and the climax suffered as a result. 

The story is fairly predictable, nothing really unexpected happens -- yep, you won't get that awesome, "PLOT TWIST!" surprise.  Some of the details and insight into supporting character lives will leave you wondering by the end why it was included in the first place. Sure, developing characters are supposed to create relatability and conjure sympathy, but if it leads to the question "So What?', then the reader is left wondering why they invested in them at all. Unfortunately, certain parts of the story were over developed and other (more important events) were under developed.  

Panic is a good read, but I wanted more depth.  It just didn't deliver, and instead was a bit too shallow and predictable to be a 2014 YA favorite. 
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*ARC provided by HarperCollins courtesy of Amazon Vine

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Please, Kill Me Now! So NOT Dexter!



Did I just get a double dose of these books suck? Yep, I totally fell for the 'Fans of Dexter' will love these books propaganda. Even though Dexter is over for good, the craze for likable serial killers has just begun. It appears this is the summer for teen serial killer books. Unfortunately, they are churned-out, watered-down, rip-offs that will leave most fans of the compared TV series red-faced and ready to kill.  

First up, is Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell. 


Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there. 
The spin for Katherine Ewell's, Dear Killer states that it, "...is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe."

Review: May I state that the spin and back cover promise is not delivered.  Instead, we get a strange plot-driven tale with holes that are plugged with editor's tape and some spit before print. All I can say is "Ugh, are you kidding me?"  Is his really another book claiming to be for those who love "Dexter!" Let me assure you, if you are a fan, you will probably be disappointed by the current titles claiming (advertising) comparisons. They are more like, rip-offs and spun plot steals that are weak and tepid. 

Secondly, the age at which the killer begins to train and kill. Come on! Enough said. Dear Killer, is a perfect example of turn and burn. Whip out a story and edit the gaps in order to release while the subject material is hot. I love the concept of teen serial killers, too bad the industry is cranking out junk. Not even worthy as a cheap beach read. 

NEXT....!!!! Take-two on the cheap knock offs!  They just keep on coming!!!!

Killer Instinst 
Author S.E. Green
She’s not evil, but she has certain... urges.Lane is a typical teenager. Loving family. Good grades. Afterschool job at the local animal hospital. Martial arts enthusiast. But her secret obsession is studying serial killers. She understands them, knows what makes them tick. Because she might be one herself. Lane channels her dark impulses by hunting criminals—delivering justice when the law fails. The vigilantism stops shy of murder. But with each visceral rush the line of self-control blurs. And then a young preschool teacher goes missing. Only to return... in parts.


Review: Fans of Dexter (which I am one) will insulted rather than overjoyed with this book. It's a total plot sham with a few changes and not for the better. Too convenient and basic to be really intriguing or believable. The ending had me rolling my eyes and if I had to sum it up with one word, it'd be "Really?" I'd recommend to non-Dexter fans who are younger and want a Disneyland-rated serial teen killer tingle rather than a dark psychological thriller.My biggest issue was with the blatant plot formula steal and tired stereotype traits of a psychopath. The book tries to stray from that by stating on the back cover that Lane comes from a loving home with no drama or trauma, but it's misleading, and not in a good way. Her mother and step father are FBI agents, after all, so that allows for careless and convenient access to information. Sure, she hates her sister, but isn't that 'normal' too? Oh, did I mention she has a friend who is a computer hacker? Yep, that sure helps. Too neat, too tidy and way too ridiculous.

Just not good on so many levels. I'd recommend passing on this one if you are a fan of psychological thrillers and serial killer mysteries. Too basic for a seasoned reading veteran.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi



Boy, Snow, Bird
Author Helen Oyeyemi
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In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty—the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman. A wicked stepmother is a creature Boy never imagined she’d become, but elements of the familiar tale of aesthetic obsession begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy’s daughter, Bird, who is dark-skinned, exposes the Whitmans as light-skinned African Americans passing for white. Among them, Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold.
Review:  I love this take on a fairy tale.  Helen Oyeyemi  knows how to craft a story into literature that can span time.  Although this story is based on Snow White, it's done in such a way that sets it in another time and adds a completely different concept and dynamic.  The bones of the story are recognizable, but it's written in such a manner that the old tale is subtle and fresh.  Boy, Snow, Bird, is a thought provoking piece of lit. that is classroom worthy, and perfect for a book club or group discussion.  It's thematically rich without being overdone.  It's a gem of genius and can be viewed as a serious work, or simply a good read.
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*ARC provided by Riverhead courtesy of Amazon Vine

The Adventures of Jillian Spectre



The Adventures of Jillian Spectre
Author Nic Tatano
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Welcome to the Mystic Quarter... Jillian Spectre knows what happens after you die. Because the seventeen-year-old mystic seer can see the future of her clients even after they've passed on. And that's not even her coolest power...She can be in two places at once. Problem is, her heart can only be in one. Supernatural abilities aside, she's a typical high school senior torn between two guys. But that gets put on the back burner when she discovers the father she had long assumed was dead is actually alive, with unique powers of his own. He's a technopath, with the ability to interface his mind with technology. And he's got a plan to take down society. Unless Jillian can stop him.

Review: This was just 'meh' for me. It is a quick, plot driven read with high school characters that are geared toward the younger end of the YA scale. I would categorize it as a 'teen' read. In order to avoid too much explanation or creativity, many things in the plot take an expected path for the sake of convenience and quick explanation. It's all too neat and the timing is too perfect to really give it the punch it needs to hold tension and intrigue. The character development is a little strange, especially the BFF, an amazon muse slapped with an aggressive stereotypical Italian personality. From meatballs to the over use of "confessional" catholic rantings, I got a bit bored and found myself doing the 'eye roll'. 

This one just wasn't for me and although, I read it quickly, it left little lasting impression besides another plot-driven disappointment that takes the easy way out by grabbing at stereotypes and inserting some paranormal (and not knowledgable) elements to sell because those are "hot," and "popular" items in the book market at the moment. 
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*ARC provided by HarperCollins UK, HarperImpulse courtesy of NetGalley

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Liv, Forever



Liv, Forever
Amy Talkington
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When Liv Bloom lands an art scholarship at Wickham Hall, it’s her ticket out of the foster system. Liv isn’t sure what to make of the school’s weird traditions and rituals, but she couldn’t be happier—especially when Malcolm Astor, fellow artist and scion of one of the school’s original families, starts falling for her. Fellow scholarship kid Gabe Nichols warns her not to get involved with a “Wicky,” but things are finally going Liv’s way, and all she wants to do is enjoy it. But Liv’s bliss is cut short when she is viciously murdered. In death, she discovers that she’s the latest victim of a dark conspiracy that spans 150 years and many, many lives. Gabe, cursed with the ability to see their ghosts, turns out to be Liv’s only link to the world of the living. Liv must rely on Gabe’s help to prove to Malcolm that she’s still present… lingering with the other spirits. Together, Liv, Gabe, and Malcolm fight to expose the terrible truth that haunts the halls of Wickham before more lives are lost. Together, Liv, Gabe, and Malcolm fight to expose the terrible truth that haunts the halls of Wickham before more lives are lost.

Review: Lately, I roll my eyes when I see 'boarding school' on the back cover of a new release book because it has been overdone (to death) in the YA genre.  It's a convenient method to get the parental units out of the way so the kids can experience things that they would normally not, if under the same roof -- or at least, without having to explain it. The absentee parent allows the writer a certain freedom and liberty.  

With that said, I enjoyed this after death mystery despite the Harry Potter plot formula.  It's a quick read suitable for teen readers. It's paranormal (horror) light with a sweet romance and BFF weirdo.  

A young girl's life is cut short and covered up to protect the reputation of the school.  There is a history, backstory and present day tie-in's that keep the plot moving and interesting.  Comedic relief comes in the form of Liv trying to figure out her ghostly body, which lightens the overwhelming dealings of murder and death.  

Overall, I liked it.  I did.  I admit it.  The characters were well-developed, possessed unique voices, and functioned in a world that was clearly described and easy to imagine.  A few paranormal things remained a bit blurry and I can't help but wish they would have been further managed to give this read the extra little punch, but I can live with the conclusion.  
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*ARC provided by Soho Teen courtesy of Amazon Vine

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Promise of Amazing #FAIL



The Promise of Amazing
Author Robin Constantine
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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: Just like the lead female character, Wren Caswell, this book is too average for my liking. If Disney tried to water down (and I mean really dilute) Cruel Intentions, you might get The Promise of Amazing. It ranks smack in the middle of tepid "meh" for me. Perhaps, The Promise of Amazing is better suited for middle-schoolers. This teen angst love story doesn't have the drama, love, emotion or wit that I'm looking for from this genre. Nothing major happens to divide or bind the characters. Okay, so the synopsis presents potential, but the emotional punch is completely lacking. This could be categorized as 'sweet,' but at no point did I feel invested in the characters or concerned about their situation and outcome. When that happens, something is missing from the writing, the message is not being conveyed. 

I'm afraid the passive strategy backfires in this one. Wren comes across as whiny and weak. Her insecurity never develops into anything more than luck. She does nothing to promote the outcome besides hanging around and continuing with her usual routine. Gray does the most changing and all because of love?  He really doesn't experience much pressure to change, he just decides it's the right thing to do. A bit of blackmail occurs, but really it never becomes a major threat because when the truth is revealed, acceptance follows with very little tension. The Promise of Amazing is not delivered. 
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*ARC provided by Balzer & Bray courtesy of Amazon Vine 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Winter's Respite Read-A-Thon: Kick Off Post!



It's time to kick off A Winter's Respite Read-a-thon hosted by Michelle @ Seasons of Reading or aka The True Book Addict. You can also follow along via Twitter @WinterRespite

Monday   Today, I started Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington. This is a book in review from Amazon Vine and is expected to be released March 2014.

When Liv Bloom lands an art scholarship at Wickham Hall, it’s her ticket out of the foster system. Liv isn’t sure what to make of the school’s weird traditions and rituals, but she couldn’t be happier—especially when Malcolm Astor, fellow artist and scion of one of the school’s original families, starts falling for her. Fellow scholarship kid Gabe Nichols warns her not to get involved with a “Wicky,” but things are finally going Liv’s way, and all she wants to do is enjoy it.

But Liv’s bliss is cut short when she is viciously murdered. In death, she discovers that she’s the latest victim of a dark conspiracy that spans 150 years and many, many lives. Gabe, cursed with the ability to see their ghosts, turns out to be Liv’s only link to the world of the living.

Liv must rely on Gabe’s help to prove to Malcolm that she’s still present… lingering with the other spirits. Together, Liv, Gabe, and Malcolm fight to expose the terrible truth that haunts the halls of Wickham before more lives are lost.

Pages read: Finished

Thursday
Once the toast of good society in Victoria's England, the extraordinary conjurer Edward Moon no longer commands the respect that he did in earlier times. Still, each night he returns to the stage of his theater to amaze his devoted, albeit dwindling, audience, aided by his partner, the Somnambulist is a silent, hairless, hulking giant who, when stabbed, does not bleed. But these are strange, strange times in England, with the oddest of sorts prowling London's dank underbelly. And the very bizarre death of a disreputable actor has compelled a baffled police constabulary to turn once again to Edward Moon for help, inevitably setting in motion events that will shatter his increasingly tenuous grasp on reality.