Book Review – …Then I Met My Sister by Christine Hurley Deriso (or, Hallelujah, That Boy Isn’t Annoying!)

8494435It’s not exactly easy living in a shrine to your dead sister. Since birth, I’ve known that everyone loved Shannon. She was perfect–beautiful, smart, talented. And me? Not so much. My parents always expected me to live up to her greatness. But I could never measure up to her, so why even try?

This summer, I’ve started reading the journal Shannon kept just before she died . . . and suddenly nothing is what I thought it was. The more secrets I learn about Shannon and our family, the more everything changes. And as it turns out, facing the truth is no cakewalk, either. -Goodreads Synopsis 

Who hasn’t been irritated by the standards set by their older siblings, really? It’s frustrating, but that’s just how it is. (Ignore that part Heather. Love you sista!) This story follows Summer, a teen muddling through life in the shadow of her deceased sister. She has a perfect image of her older sister, which is somewhat shattered when she starts reading the journal from her sister’s last few months.

This book was on the YABA list, which I am thankfully almost through with. Honestly, I can’t wait to be done with it. I am not a big fan of realistic fiction and I put off as much of it as I could until the very end. I had decently high expectations for this book, and I was a little disappointed. It was a good read, but when I read the description about Shannon keeping secrets, I expecting something juicy, or at least unusual. Something along the lines of, “Dear Diary, today I decided to change my name to Catman, get a Vera Bradley tattoo on my face, and live with the dolphins in the Port Royal Sound,” would have been refreshing. But it basically came down to the same issues that a lot of families have.

But wait, there is something I really liked!

How most YA relationships are handled:

Let spend every waking moment together the relationship becomes obsessive and unhealthy.

Lets spend every waking moment together until the relationship becomes obsessive and unhealthy.

How Summer’s relationship is handled:

Legit, her boyfriend is awesome. A. He's a genius. 2. They are super independent. And D. Hallelujah a non-annoying relationship.

Legit, her boyfriend is awesome. A. He’s a genius. 2. They are super independent. And D. Hallelujah a non-annoying relationship.

I really like how Deriso handles the relationship between Summer and her boyfriend. It is really refreshing to see a relationship in a YA book that isn’t super clingy/needy/overly-adult/dependent/irritating in general. I actually wanted to read more about him since the relationship isn’t thrown in my face every two seconds and he actually has a personality outside of being Summer’s boyfriend. Seriously, I don’t need a play by play of how his hair blows in the wind on the beach while he wears his great blue sandals and you look out over the ocean. So kudos on the not-annoying relationship front! I like the way you think!

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Overall Impression:

Whatever

Book Review – VIII by H.M. Castor (or, Hey Honey, check out my new sword!)

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Destined for greatness; tormented by demons… VIII is the story of Hal: a young, handsome, gifted warrior, who believes he has been chosen to lead his people. But he is tormented by the ghosts of his family’s violent past and, once he rises to power, he turns to murder and rapacious cruelty. He is Henry VIII. The Tudors have always captured the popular imagination. In VIII, Henry is presented afresh for a new generation of teenage readers. – Goodreads Synopsis

Let me just say in advance, I feel guilty about this review. I hate giving bad reviews…it hurts my soul. When I say it hurts my soul, I mean it hurts my soul on a “Sound of Music Live” scale. It’s that bad. That being said, here we go.
I had a lot of issues with this book, but I’ll list the top three because I don’t want you to be Hal’s age by the time we finish here.

Issue #1 – Being 55 doesn’t make you a young adult.
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First off, we got it at our Media Center as a teen book. It starts with Hal, otherwise known as bats*** crazy King Henry VIII, around the age of maybe seven. And it progresses until the time of his death at age fifty-five. I personally classify young adult as happening between the ages of twelve to twenty-five, which is a pretty generous range. This book is really unrelatable for someone my age, much less teens. Seriously, what teen wants to read about the countless miscarriages of Hal’s five wives? It is sad, but it isn’t something teens care about. I feel like the book would have been a lot more interesting if we covered from the time his brother, Prince Arthur, died (1502) until he actually took the throne (1509). The story could’ve been totally made up for all I care. It would have been more interesting.

Issue #2 – If you’re going to be crazy, go all out.
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Throughout the whole book, Hal is followed around by some creepy blonde kid. Creepy blonde kids have unlimited scare your pants off potential. But I won’t spoil the end for you, in the event that you make it that far. Crazy characters are awesome. Everyone loves Bellatrix Lestrange, right? Hal’s kind of crazy was just kind of meh. I wasn’t afraid at all. If I met Brother Justin Crowe in a back alley, I’d be out of there faster than Honey Boo Boo can eat a chicken nugget. If I saw Hal in an alley, I would probably just hope his creepy little friend didn’t sneeze on my shoe.

Issue #3 – Henry’s Wives
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Oh my goodness, his wives. There were like six of them—none of which had a personality. Well that’s a little harsh. But really, I felt like he was married to an amazing ventriloquist that could whine in six different voices. They all had the same story—they were super supportive, and then they died. And I was really creeped out by the fact that his wives were all like teenagers. (Hey, that’s where all the young adults were!) I know that is probably true for that period, but yeesh. Hugh Hefner’s got nothing on Hal.

On a positive note… ignore the gif (that’s how I feel about Hal), read the part below it.
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Kudos to the author for historical accuracy. The book being so heavily based in reality allowed me to learn a lot about the real Henry VIII…and man was he annoying. Seriously, take the most whiney, self-righteous jerk you can find, add C-3PO, and you’ve got Hal.
On a side note: After killing six wives for not being able to have sons, he would’ve been pretty embarrassed to find out that they weren’t the problem. Oops!

Star Rating: 2/5

Overall Impression
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Book Review – Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire (or, Don’t You Get that Tattoo)

Is This a Kissing Book?Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby wants—and needs—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match. -Goodreads Synopsis

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Let me start by answering this question…yes, this is a kissing book. (Don’t recommend it to young adults—I can guarantee their college experience will not be like the one in this book.) I have officially jumped into the wide world of adult fiction…and wow is it predictable. (That isn’t a slam on this book, I did like this book. Just saying.) This is the classic good girl meets bad boy story, except the girl isn’t so good. Travis is a bad boy, with a sad backstory. (But I want his family. Like if I could have a third family, I would steal his. I’ve always wanted herd of brothers.) And Abby’s father is a certifiably insane gambler with ties to the mob and a drunken ex-wife. So, welcome to the world of dysfunctional relationships.

This book takes place from Abby’s POV. (I prefer the second book—Walking Disaster. It is from Travis’s POV.) Honestly, Abby is really frustrating. I spent a majority of the book wanted to slap her. I only wanted to slap Travis a little, and usually I was over that in like five seconds. He is obviously trying to drop his bad-boy ways, and Abby is kind of a jerk. The book was a pretty quick read, and it flows well.

On a side note, this book has a lot of tattoos—including name tattoos. Sweet baby Jesus, do not get someone’s name tattooed in a visible place if you just met them! Unless you know their social security number, have six children, a life insurance policy on them, a joint bank account, and share a bathroom. You are not Nostradamus, you don’t know what’s going to be going on in five years. Don’t come crying when you can’t get a job as a kindergarten teacher because you have “I love Billy-Bob” on your face.

That’s enough ranting. I really did enjoy the book. The characters were relatable, and it took my back to college. Ah, the golden years before I paid on my student loans and had a real job. I would give it five stars, but I spend most of the book groaning at the irritating indecisiveness of Abby, that I am pretty sure I lost a few years of my life. For that reason—four stars!

Star Rating: 4/5

Overall Impression

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Book Review – The Bitter End by Jennifer Brown (or, “Please Punch Him in the Face Before I Pull My Hair Out”)

“When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole — a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her — she can’t believe she’s finally found her soul mate . . . someone who truly loves and understands her.At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her close friend Zack, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all her time with another boy? As the months pass, though, Alex can no longer ignore Cole’s small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats. 

As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose “love” she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose — between her “true love” and herself.” -Goodreads Synopsis

I am reading my way through the YABA list, and this one was next in line. We follow the story of Alex and her tumultuous relationship with her boyfriend, Cole. Initially, we start with the story of Alex’s tragic childhood and the bond between her and her two best friends. Her mother died and she had never heard the true version so she lived in confusion with her bitter father. And then we meet Cole. He starts off as a sweet guy, but then we get into his back-story, and man is it depressing. Anyway, he pushes and pushes Alex through both mental and physical abuse. And I won’t ruin the story for you by saying much more about what actually happens.

Typically, I am not a huge fan of realistic fiction. This was well written, however, I don’t think I read it correctly. From my perspective, I grew to dislike Alex more so than Cole. Don’t get me wrong, abuse in any form is bad and no one should just tolerate it. And that is just what Alex did for most of the book, and I think that may have been my issue. Also I felt that Alex was a little generic and didn’t have any qualities that I latched onto and could relate too. I was horrified about the situation, but she had a million opportunities to reach out and accept help when it was offered. (Unfortunately, I do not think as many opportunities are present to some in real life to escape these situations. Sigh…)

To sum up this book in one word: FRUSTRATING! Which honestly porbably made the book very realistic. You are watching Alex’s downward spiral, and the whole time she knows she shouldn’t be there, but she is always pulled back in. I spent countless nights complaining to my husband about how Alex needed to kick Cole to the curb.

Side note—my husband is awesome. I stormed into the living room one night at like 11:30, stomped my foot and went into a fifteen minute tirade about Alex, and he never once asked who Alex was, he just went with it. After my tirade was over he agreed that Alex, which could have been a real person for all he knew, needed to get it together. He is so good. J

To wrap this up, my favorite part of this book was the end. Now before you think I am a heartless realistic fiction hater, just hold on! At the end of the book, the author presented some awesome information about abusive relationships and how to get out of them. For a teenage girl in this situation, I imagine this could be a great resource. So kudos to Jennifer Brown for ending on a super positive note.

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Overall Impression

Me for the last half of the book.

Book Review – Sever by Lauren DeStefano

With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain. –Goodreads Synopsis

There is nothing quite as wonderful as the relief I feel when I finish a book series. And I had been waiting a long time to finish this one. It took three years of my life, but it is done! Anyway, onto the actual review.

Much as I liked the book, I feel like the author had more to say. The book went strong with new conflict until maybe the last 75 pages.  Then I felt like it was quickly wrapped up and it was just too sudden for me. The story was really good before that point. New characters were introduced (and they were awesome), old scary characters returned, secrets were revealed, and it seemed like things were coming together. And then the rug was pulled out from under me and I put into my glass case of emotion. (If you understand that reference, I applaud your awesomeness. If not, educate yourself.)  I wouldn’t say that questions were left unanswered, but I feel like some points from the series could have been illuminated further. Onward to what the characters were up to…

Rhine

It is a miracle! Rhine is finally not running from Linden! Instead, she just runs from everyone else! I think I am kind of horrible, but I don’t think Linden is a bad guy. At least he tries to be good. He is just somewhat clueless, but I will talk about him later. Rhine’s brother has become a terrorist, and she thinks that the best course of action is to chase him around. Probably not my first choice, but it worked for her. I wasn’t very attached to her in this novel. I was honestly more interested in Linden/Cecily’s story. A lot of this novel felt like Rhine just hanging around waiting for something to happen. For the story to work, I understand why she had to be hanging around healing, meeting new characters, thinking, cleaning, etc. But she was missing something for me. I still really liked Rhine, I just liked her more in Wither and Fever.

Linden

Poor Linden. He is the classic nice guy who can’t win. He tried really hard to make everyone happy. (Not to spoil anything, but that really didn’t work out well for him in the end.) I think he just has no idea what to think in general. But then again, who would have time to contemplate the universe while worrying about his four wives, dangerously eccentric uncle, and kind of insane father. Like Cecily, he finally tried to grow a backbone and spent most of the novel staying away from his father. I did feel like I got to know him a lot better in this novel, so I really liked learning more about his perspective/past. His habit of people pleasing drove me insane, but it was honestly just part of who he was. Linden is one of the things I will miss from this series.

Cecily

I absolutely love the character development on Cecily’s part. At times, it was hard to tell that she was a 14-year old sister wife with 1.5 kids. She definitely handles her life better than I could have. Kudos to Cecily for being a better housewife at 14 than I could be at 23. But really, her character has come so far. I remember reading her in the first book, and wishing she would just disappear. Her spineless/blasé attitude drove me insane. Seriously…if I was kidnapped, witness to the murder of the other kidnapping victims, forced into marriage and motherhood, and followed around by my creepy father in law, I would be mad enough to spit nails. However, in this novel her innocence is whittled away until you are left with a mean little sister with a chip on her shoulder the size of Snookie’s pre-baby poof. I personally wouldn’t want to her meet in a dark alley. Not that she would necessarily physically be able to hurt me…I am more worried about my mental well being. Anyway, she actually realizes that she can’t trust anyone and actually starts thinking. Yay for using your brain!

Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars

Overall Impression:

Book Review – The Elite by Kiera Cass

The-EliteThirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

-Synopsis from Goodreads

I am a fan of the Selection series, but I am ready to move past girl fights and find out who America is actually going to choose. I won’t be too disappointed if in the end, she decides to ride into the sunset on horseback with a lifetime supply of Ben and Jerry’s instead of one of the boys. But anyway, onward to the actual review.

As usual, Kiera Cass does not disappoint. I enjoyed this book very much. It has a nice pace and was a fairly quick read. The love triangle between America, Maxon, and Aspen continues, and continues to pull in all different directions. In addition, it is a pretty clean read that I would recommend to my teens 13 and up. I didn’t really notice any bad language or behavior that would prevent me from recommending it. I was satisfied with the Elite, and I can’t wait to read the One!

 

Here is what went on with the main characters in the story:

Me too America, me too.

America

America did have some really tough times in this story. From her best friend being taken from the Elite and publicly (and violently) abused to seeing other sides of Maxon and continually flip flopping about Aspen. It felt like America really wanted to be with Maxon and be the queen, but I felt like she was being held back by childish fantasies of being with her first love, Aspen. She did take a stand for her best friend, which honestly took some guts and nearly got her taken out herself. So I am really glad that she stepped up and showed some backbone.

 

The Elite were also required to do some academic tasks and future queen tasks, which were interesting. The dynamic between America and the other Elite also shifted in this novel. The true characters of the other Elite are beginning to show, and it is adding to the story in a good way. In happy news, the Elite are all reunited with their families, which I thought was one of the happiest times of the book. That is until, it was interrupted by a torture sequence, but I won’t spoil all the fun for those of you who haven’t read it yet.

 

You can’t love everyone, Maxon. Pick one!

Maxon

Oh Maxon…I don’t know how to feel about you. For the first half of the novel, I was really charmed by him and thought he would be perfect for America. Until he turned into Mr. Scary McCreepy-Pants. He kind of made my skin crawl at a few points. I’m not sure what he thinks he is doing, but having six girlfriends at a time is a horrible idea. Just ask any redneck who has ever been on a Hardee’s commercial. (If you don’t know what I mean, this is it.) Don’t do it! Although he does try to redeem himself, I’m not sure if the damage he has done is reversible. America may forgive him, but I’m not so sure myself. I personally would be happy to stomp on his big toe, pack my bags and call it a day. But, I think that America is a little more rational about the situation.

 

Don’t be an Aspen.

Aspen

Let me just say, this is how I felt about Apsen for most of the novel. Please move on and get it together. You dumped your girlfriend, figured out you made a mistake, and want to steal her back from a prince. Let her be with the prince and stop confusing her. Seriously, if you dump your true love, and want to make it right, let her marry the rich prince who can take care of her forever. Sorry, that was totally unromantic. Ahem, what I mean is, Aspen, please consider what would be best for America.

 

 

Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars

Overall Impression:

Come on May 6, 2014!

Book Review – Beastly by Alex Flinn

9780545340946_xlgBeastly is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in the modern world. Kyle is popular, handsome, and most of all…a jerk. He is the son of a famous newscaster. He meets a girl named Kendra, and agrees to take her to the school dance. But it turns out that he is just a creep who takes another girl and leaves her at the door. Unfortunately for him, Kendra is a witch and he has just gotten on her bad side.

So next thing you know, he is a hairy man-beast. His own father is too embarrassed to be near him and buys him a townhouse where he lives with his tutor and housekeeper. He spends all of his time moping and pruning roses until he has the opportunity to have a girl move in, and possibly break the spell.

This retelling follows the original story pretty closely. I thought it was a good interpretation, but I wasn’t completely blown away. Structurally, it was written well and every idea that was introduced was used at some point during the novel.

I think the main thing that bothered me about this book was the cover. The version I read had the movie cover (like the one I posted). I am not a huge fan of movie covers, and this is one of the reasons why. Looking at this cover, I expected a non-hairy, tattooed beast to fall in love with a dark haired, pretty girl….not the case in the novel. The beast is very hairy and animal-like in the novel, and his “Belle” is a red-haired book nerd. Not exactly what the cover portrays. But that is more of an issue with the cover, not the actual book itself. Anyway, I’m done ranting about movie book covers.

3/5 Stars

Overall Impression: