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The Bone Season: A Novel
The Bone Season: A Novel
Price: $10.49

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth the hype? Eh..., December 25, 2013
In the months leading up to August 2013, it was hard to avoid the massive, seemingly overwhelming hype about THE BONE SEASON, a debut adult (new adult?) paranormal science fiction fantasy novel by 21 year old author Samantha Shannon. Especially when the news of her book deal was followed by the headlines that she was the next J.K. Rowling, honestly something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. The premise is very ambitious, yet strikingly familiar - a young woman traverses a city where people with paranormal powers like hers are both forbidden yet in high demand, and when she is captured, she is sent to the closed city of Oxford to train as a soldier for the otherworldly Rephaim in their war against another otherworldly attacker.

Yes, THE BONE SEASON is very ambitious.

Yes, Shannon has a very bountiful imagination that will serve her well in years to come.

No, THE BONE SEASON is not the follow up to Harry Potter we've all been waiting for.

No, THE BONE SEASON is not a masterpiece.

No, THE BONE SEASON is not anything special. Not really.

Let me just lay out the biggest problem I had with the book right now and get it out of the way. This book needed a lot more editing. The writing wasn't there yet, nowhere near the level needed to harness and control the bounding imagination and concepts found on the pages. At times, the book seems to go off the rails into the realm of "things we don't care about", including lengthy stretches of rambles, side plots that add nothing, and extreme infodumps that could have been integrated better into the plot without spending pages simply setting up. By my figure, at least 100 pages could have and should have been cut, a good quarter of the book even. It would have tightened up the plot and action, kept the pacing neat and tidy, and kept the reader more on their toes instead of throwing everything at us and then never explaining it ever again. There is a glossary and a ton of maps and charts, and trust me, you will need to reference it. Even then, it doesn't cover everything, leaving you resorting to Google.

Beyond the infodumping, I have another issue with the writing. Instead of mixing up word use and sentence beginnings, it seems that almost every paragraph began with I. "I did this." "I did that." "I should have known." (Note - I made these up.) This could have been dealt with in editing, but for some reason snuck by, leaving me less than impressed. Of course, Shannon is a young author and still learning her craft, so I have hopes that once she gets more practice, this will change. Or else the editor will take more care with this in the future and bump it from mediocre to magnificent.

What did (pretty much) work for me in THE BONE SEASON was the imaginative world, even if it was slightly derivative and cliche. After Harry Potter's houses, Divergent's factions, and countless other books using a system of "What are you?", THE BONE SEASON seemed to jump right in and join them with the clairvoyant powers and color system, even if it was power-based rather than personality.

Our MC Paige is a Dreamwalker. It's pretty obvious what she can do. She's surrounded with dozens of others that are never as fully fleshed as her, and beyond Warden, a Rephaim who takes an interest in her despite his dark past (which means that you would think... I won't explain, wed' be here all day), the rest of this world's denizens are little more than cutouts. And since there are so many cutouts walking around, inevitably the names, powers, fates all blend together. I had to consult others about certain characters, and even then it required a mutual return to the book to reread passages multiple times.

The imagination is bountiful, but it bounds in wild circles that enthralled and confused. The reason this book gets three stars instead of two is because I really did enjoy some concepts in the book, and this book really is compulsively readable. I wanted to know what happens, and read in the tub until the water get cold only to turn the water back on to keep reading. At times, though, it was like reading something that would have been better as a movie, only to realize that if this were to ever be a movie, it would be extremely hard to convey. Plus, when I thought of the Rephaim, I seriously imagined that they looked like those giant aliens from Prometheus.

I really hope the next books are shorter, because at this point, I can't imagine how this series would work for seven books. And I still don't know if I will bother with book two and beyond. I wanted to love it, but it just fell flat on so many areas beyond a storyline that kept me entranced and imagination that kept me glued to the pages. I want to know more, but I didn't want it in a giant infodump followed by pages of exposition as Paige talks about her world. I can only imagine that this won't happen in book two, but I'm still not sure. I'm still recovering from the confusion of book one.

VERDICT: An extremely hyped book that doesn't deliver the mindblowing, unique world promised, THE BONE SEASON is a case of hype outdoing the real content. A winding, confusing story bolstered by great concepts and plotting, THE BONE SEASON needed a heavier editing hand to really succeed. Will I be back for book two? At this point, probably not. Read at your own risk.


Eleanor & Park
Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.20
205 used & new from $3.89

4.0 out of 5 stars Loved It - Except For One Thing..., April 18, 2013
This review is from: Eleanor & Park (Hardcover)
Is it wrong to believe going in to a novel that you WILL love the book or else you will be completely wrong about yourself? Because going into ELEANOR AND PARK, I was pretty confident that this book could do no wrong. In most cases, this would pretty much be setting me up for disaster (see REBOOT).

Well... Maybe this was the one time where my instincts were correct. Even with a few issues that nagged me, I loved ELEANOR AND PARK. It might have been because it resonated with my life, or because I loved the 1980s and everything related to it (even though I was barely alive during it), but there was something about this book that stayed with me for days after finishing it, enough that I went out and started recommending it to strangers in the bookstore. I think they might have thought I was creepy. It's less creepy on the internet, though, isn't it?

SO THERE'S THIS BOOK...

I've seen several reviews point out a number of issues with this book, namely with our hero Park's parents and their relationship. Even though I should know better than to let this slide under the rug, as I read I kind of ignored it. I know plenty of real life people whom this has happened with. One of my best friends growing up is the daughter of a retired US soldier who met his Korean wife while serving in Korea, except that was during the 1980s. One of my friends now is living in Korea dating a Korean man.

But this point aside - I think the main reason why I identified so heavily with this book was because I saw me in Eleanor. Growing up, I really was a poor, thrift store-savvy, slightly overweight girl without a lick of fashion sense. And luckily I've grown into the same girl with a little more fashion sense. Eleanor is one of the best-written female protagonists I've read in awhile, a girl just desperate to keep her wits about her as her life crumbles into ashes slowly but surely.

Park, on the other hand, is the type of guy I used to hang out with in high school - the type of guy you meet at the "others" table beyond the cool kids, the geeks, the nerds, the band kids, the drama fanatics, etc. Just the kids too busy listening to music or reading to care about the politics of the lunch room. Once again, a character after my own heart.

THE EIGHTIES FOR THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION

Rowell has a way with words. It's clean and sparse, told in a third person point of view (which, for dual POVs, is what I prefer to be honest). It's the work of a true writer when the author is able to still convey emotions and get you into the mindset of a character when you're left outside their heads. Rowell is an expert of this, and I look forward to reading more of her work if this is repeated across books.

But where the story went a little wrong for me was that at times it seemed that more focus was needed elsewhere from our burgeoning relationship. I wanted to know more about Eleanor's family, for instance - what caused their situation, her mother's issues, her father walking out on the family. A lot of it seemed glossed over. Similarly with Park's family, I felt something was missing, like the puzzle in the story was not yet completed. Some more could have easily been added and some of the repetitive courtship eliminated.

Overall, this is an excellent story for teens and adults, especially adults who were in high school in the 80s. This novel will go down as one of my bright spots of 2013, or at least the early part of it, and it has and will be a story I keep recommending over and over again to friends and the readers of my reviews. Pick up a copy of this book today. I can ALMOST guarantee that you will love it.

VERDICT: Although at times the romance overwhelms the story, ELEANOR AND PARK is a breath of fresh air in young adult contemporary fiction. A must read.


Unremembered
Unremembered
by Jessica Brody
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.92
83 used & new from $0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Unrememberable is Apt, April 9, 2013
This review is from: Unremembered (Hardcover)
UNREMEMBERED is a good title, but not for the correct reasons. UNREMEMBERED is a book that will go down as being ultimately forgettable in the vast sea of light science fiction coming out in 2013. The synopsis promises an action-packed story complete with amnesia, romance, and government conspiracies. Being a sucker for science fiction, I knew that I needed this book in my life, but then I read it and I realized something quickly.

UNREMEMBERED just isn't that remarkable. At all.

SUPERGIRL AMNESIA TROPES GALORE

I'm sure you have read a book where you remark at the end, "That was a waste." A waste of time, a waste of potential - whatever you want. When I embarked on the journey of reading UNREMEMBERED, I went in with low expectations after accidentally reading a few reviews that tainted my thoughts. But those reviews were right in the end. This book wasted so much promise in return for having a sappy, pointless romance that you could see coming from a mile away.

This book loads on the tropes. Our heroine is an amnesiac who is found in the middle of the ocean in the wreckage of a plane with no survivors. She has no name, no identification, etc - only an age and her exceptional beauty. She's fostered away to a family out of the limelight in California, being perfectly healthy despite her apparent fall from the sky, but a boy keeps stalking her claiming to be the link to her identity, to be her one true love, so on and so forth. She's a supergirl amnesiac beauty kickass heroine with little to no personality besides, "I don't believe you go away okay I guess I'll trust you wow I love you strange boy."

GREAT PLOT, NOT SO GREAT EXECUTION

Our heroine, Violet/Seraphina (two names, be prepared), is not the only problem with the story. The plot is full of conveniences where the story adds up way too easily. There are twists that are contrived in just about every chapter, and these twists at the end are wrapped up so neatly that there really is little conflict despite on paper there being a very nasty villain with very nasty consequences involved. It's obvious early on what's going to happen, and in the great world of YA light science fiction, happiness (at least happiness in a passionless, unremarkable romance) is assured from the moment the love interest walks on stage looking like an emotionless hunk present for the sole purpose of wooing.

The main problem with UNREMEMBERED is the execution. Although Brody writes an easy, light science fiction read that will appeal to fans of ORIGIN and THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX, it's increasingly apparent as the story goes on that it will never rise past the level of being yet another entry into the increasingly stale genre of Genetic Engineering Superhero YA. At one point, I told a friend, "This reads like the author just wished to cash in on sci-fi while it was big."

UNREMEMBERABLE

At the end of the day, UNREMEMBERED suffers from not standing on its own. It's convenient, it's tried, and it's not unique or different. It's just another entry on the massive shelf of similar books. I had high hopes that were just crushed by what I read, and I highly doubt I will be continuing with this trilogy.

VERDICT: Skip it. You've probably read a similar book before and liked it more than you'll like this one.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 6, 2013 3:10 PM PST


Pivot Point
Pivot Point
by Kasie West
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.80
102 used & new from $0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Creative Debut, March 17, 2013
This review is from: Pivot Point (Hardcover)
Oh PIVOT POINT... You are a strange beast indeed. When I suddenly received three copies of this book within two days, I had no idea what was going on. Maybe it was a sign from the Divine Pop Tart that I should read you. In fact, once I sent back one copy and traded away another, I was left with one copy that I devoured as fast as I possibly could (which, as it turns out, is not as fast as I thought). PIVOT POINT is a story like no other, as well as both light-hearted and dark, humorous and surprisingly suspenseful. Needless to say, it took me by surprise in all the best ways.

SWEET, CHARMING, AND KICKING ME IN THE FEELS

PIVOT POINT is the story of Addie, a girl born in a commune of people with superpowers in modern-day Texas. Her power - the ability to search different futures to see what might happen if she chooses one path over the other. Outside the gates to her little city of superpowered humans, with powers ranging from telekinesis to mind control and beyond, are the "norms", humans like us who are unsuspecting. When Addie's parents get a divorce, her best friend implores her to do "search" her future, which leads to a life outside the compound or a life inside, and two totally different boys that might break her heart or fulfill her every wish.

I'm going to be honest with you. I am always wary of superpower books. PIVOT POINT... Well, there was something about it that made me a bit iffy when I went into it all. The synopsis did not grab me, especially when reviews came in that called it cute and sweet. Superpowers AND sweet? How does that even work? And another thing - ugh, another love triangle. People tried to assure me that I would like it, but how can you be sure these days? People tried to tell me I would love HUSH, HUSH. You can guess how that ended.

(If you can't guess, I'll be frank - not a fan. At all.)

Surprisingly, I really enjoyed PIVOT POINT. The story is sweet and charming, and just when I think it is going in the direction of cute for the ending, it kicks me right in the stomach and pivots in an entirely different direction.

A LOVE TRIANGLE THAT WORKS

Did you hear me? The love triangle in PIVOT POINT (yes, there most certainly is one) is a rare case where it actually works. It WORKS, I swear! Our heroine Addie, in her quest to figure out which parent to choose to live with, finds herself torn between "Norm" Trevor - a former Texas all-star football quarterback whose future was ruined by a bad hit, and Duke, an idiot. I'll be frank - I really disliked Duke, and I believe that was part of the intention of the author, which means of course I was a fan of how the love triangle was handled. It was realistic for a teenage romance. Not all seventeen year olds are going to find their one true love and ride into the sunset. For Addie, that entailed realizing that Duke was the typical teenage male - all about the hanky panky and not so much about being a gentleman.

Let's take a moment and think about teenage relationships. And teenage boys. In her debut, West does an impeccable job being realistic about at least one side of the coin - the idiot who is in it for some thrusting and making out and dressing a girl like a doll, making a girl HIS own. Meanwhile, in the majority of YA books, what do we see? Perfect committed relationships that will seemingly last forever and ever and ever. Give me a break. Some high school sweethearts will get married, but generally once you grow up you realize that the boy you loved at 16 isn't what you want forever.

Wow, how did I digress there? But anyway, I commend West for her portrayal of relationships. And of course I am team Trevor.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

But you might have noticed that I didn't give this one a full five stars. I did have some issues with it, mainly related to plausibility. I couldn't really suspend my disbelief and believe that any of this was plausible, which kind of hampered my enjoyment. There was not much explanation about the history of this world, or how these superhumans could really get by with having their own little world inside the great big human world. Especially with the rules of their world - marry an outsider and you're thrown out, test for powers, name the powers, but allow them to live outside the walls and that's cool? And apparently using powers to cheat at football is no biggie.

I just didn't really get how this world was plausible, especially since the mechanics of it are glossed over at best. There needed to be more explanation about this, not just casually mentioned for half a sentence at random moments. Otherwise, PIVOT POINT (oh, and I didn't really like the title) is an at times cute, at times heartbreaking and suspenseful story that captured me and held me for dear life.

VERDICT: Albeit a bit unbelievable, PIVOT POINT is an engrossing story that combines sweetness with devilishness in one package. I can't wait to read the next book in what has started off as an awesome new series.


Just One Day
Just One Day
by Gayle Forman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.54
143 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Annoying Heroine, Lovely Book, March 6, 2013
This review is from: Just One Day (Hardcover)
Okay, it’s time for another confession. Until I read JUST ONE DAY, I had never read one of Gayle Forman’s books. GASP I know, it’s an offense. I have IF I STAY somewhere in the Great Paperback Section of Doom, which takes up half my shelves – I think it’s around the entire series of VAMPIRE ACADEMY that I own but have never read. JUST ONE DAY was added to my wish list and forgotten until a friend passed along a copy. A few days later, I finished JUST ONE DAY and enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

But few books are without their problems, and JUST ONE DAY had a little nagging issue – the heroine became insufferable. Having been someone who suffered (and still does) from depression and questions over romance, particularly wondering if some guy is an ass and if I should dump him, I found Allyson’s response to be problematic. Not to mention annoying.

THE BEAUTY OF TRAVEL, THE DARKNESS OF COLLEGE

JUST ONE DAY blurs the line between young adult and new adult fiction. It’s published as YA, but ladies and gents, this is as new adult as they come from the big six. Our heroine is a card-carrying high school graduate who we meet the summer before she starts college at what I assumed was Harvard (never mentioned, but heavily insinuated).

The summer before I started college, I just sat around and watched TV and played golf – because I went to college for a year on a golf scholarship before I permanently damaged my ankle. Allyson visits Europe and ends up in Stratford-upon-Avon, where she begins to make some of the most fateful choices in her life. She skips out on a professional show of HAMLET and instead watches an outdoor performing of TWELFTH NIGHT, where fate leads her to meet Willem, a handsome and charming Dutchman. And the next day, spur of the moment, she goes with him to Paris for…wait for it… Just One Day.

I won’t ruin the moment of the next section, but once Allyson got back to the US and started college, trust me when I say that I understood what she was going through. When I was 18, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do in life. My freshman and sophomore years were devoted to figuring that out before I settled into political science with a heavy pinch of international studies, economics, philosophy, East Asian culture and language, and creative writing. Allyson’s helicopter parents, while not reminiscent of my own, were overwhelming enough that I loved their conflict with her.

SOMETIMES HEROINES NEED TO ZIP IT

Allyson, quite frankly, spent half the book in a state of perpetual whining. Since it’s in the jacket copy of the book, I don’t feel bad about telling you that Willem has his way with her and then disappears into the night. Or, in this case, early morning. Allyson is left alone in an abandoned building without her suitcase (left at Willem’s friend’s place) or her expensive watch or the guy she’s fallen in love with, so she panics and gets help from her former tour guide to get home. For all she knows, Willem stole her belongings, had sex with her, and ditched her like the trash, but what does Allyson do?

She whines and moons and dreams of the guy that she thinks ditched her. And then she concocts a ridiculous plan to lie to her parents and cover it up while planning on going back to find him because she is still in love with a guy she knew for less than 48 hours.

Sweetie, let’s have a chat since your best friend seems more concerned with being popular than helping you. When a guy ditches you like the garbage, you need to move on. Your new gay best friend Dee is there to help you get past Willem, but all you do is act like a spoiled brat, convinced that you need answers. When my ex-boyfriend cheated on me, I didn’t follow him around the country to get answers. I said, “Fudge him,” and moved on with my life. Why didn’t you do the same thing? You would have saved yourself a lot of moping time.

JUST ONE DAY TURNS INTO JUST ONE YEAR

Despite my annoyance at Allyson, I quite liked JUST ONE DAY, and after a year of moping and plotting, of course there is room for a sequel that I can’t wait to read. Forman has a way with words that get you into the mood for traveling, and having spent just one day in Paris, I felt myself floating back, even if at times I felt a disconnect. Forman has a new fan in me, though, and I can’t wait to see what JUST ONE YEAR has in store for us next.

But seriously, I have no idea why I thought this would be cute. It was very depressing and dark.

VERDICT: If you ignore the whiny heroine, JUST ONE DAY is a powerful story about love, loss, regret, and finding yourself under the backdrop of that change from teen to adult. Check this one out.


The Summer Prince
The Summer Prince
by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $8.26
97 used & new from $0.01

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Concept, Not So Great Execution, March 3, 2013
This review is from: The Summer Prince (Hardcover)
THE SUMMER PRINCE was admittedly one of my most anticipated titles of 2013. It has diversity, science fiction, a dash of romance, fantasy, and a female-dominated society (okay, that’s something that I shouldn’t admit to loving to see in books). I went into this book ignoring the negative reviews I saw that might have led me astray. I went into this book with high expectations – high expectations that were soon crushed under the weight of disappointment.

CONCEPT OVER EXECUTION

The strongest part of THE SUMMER PRINCE is its concept. A teenage artist in a future Brazilian city founded by former slaves who sacrifice a teenage boy (the Summer King) in order to represent the sacrifice of their people and loyalty to their Queen. THE SUMMER PRINCE is a story of art, politics, love, family, and friendship, all against the backdrop of the ticking down to the death of the most popular Summer King in years as seen through the eyes of artist June, a girl still struggling after the death of her father, her mother’s remarriage, etc etc etc. Think typical teenage issues, except with a side of, “Oh, by the way, our society dictates that every five years we kill a guy for some obscure reason that we’ve forgotten.”

I love the concept for THE SUMMER PRINCE, and as such, I really love the synopsis and what it promises in a few little paragraphs. The execution was lacking, ranging from being exceptionally vague to making little sense to having zero transitions. Scenes literally would end suddenly, letting the narrative run ahead two months without ever answering what happened. I began to wonder if it was my Netgalley document, but nope. This is just what happens in the book.

Johnson, in her YA debut, does deserve credit for her conceptualization and overall idea. The concept for Palmares Tres and this future post-apocalyptic Brazil (and world, considering the role of Tokyo 10, a cyber city) is remarkable and unprecedented. Her ideas are frankly stunning. The issue is that ideas don’t make up for a confusing, meandering read with little semblance of sense at times.

AMBIGUITY DOESN’T PAY OFF IN YA FICTION

The main issue I had with THE SUMMER PRINCE was an overall feeling that maybe, just maybe, this book isn’t right for teens. Maybe its audience would be best with adults considering the style of prose. It’s lyrical, poetic, and fluid, but also meandering, strange, absurd, and overwrought. And yes, transitions are rather lacking.

Another strong point in THE SUMMER PRINCE is our heroine June, a character that remarkably feels like a teenager – impulsive, dramatic, and torn between any number of emotions. She’s lustful, guilty, doubtful, and determined in the name of art. While I didn’t understand some of the romance aspects of the story, namely how Palmares Tres seemed like a giant orgy in an ambiguous pyramid-like structure (I’m still confused by the setting to be honest – and I’ve given up figuring it out, even though it sure was unique and interesting), I admire Johnson’s heroine. And she is a person of color! And the cover model is black! Huzzah!

HOW MERCUTIO FROM ROMEO + JULIET FACTORS IN

The entire time I read this novel, I kept imagining Enki as Mercutio from Romeo + Juliet (the one with Leo and Claire Danes and Verona Beach). Totally off the topic of the review, but opportunity for some fabulous GIFs! And to be honest, Enki’s personality really did remind me of Mercutio – he was gregarious, party-ready, hyper, manic, and consumed with life. And Enki and Mercutio basically have the same physical description minus the goatee.

Overall, my impression of THE SUMMER PRINCE is that it was definitely disappointing. And in the end, this review is more of a 2.5 star than a 3. I am rounding it up because I am honestly very excited to see what Johnson does in her next YA book, to see if maybe the prose is restrained and the narrative tightened. The voice is there, but the execution of the writing was the biggest issue that kept me from really enjoying this one. Proceed at your own risk.

VERDICT: Belayed by a lack of transitions and an overwrought emphasis on style, THE SUMMER PRINCE has a great concept – but the execution needed a lot of work.

♥♥♥ – THREE HEARTS


The Difference Between You and Me
The Difference Between You and Me
by Madeleine George
Edition: Hardcover
31 used & new from $1.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quirky and Honest, February 27, 2013
I admit, it was a negative review that led me to purchase THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND ME, the debut contemporary YA novel by Madeleine George. Someone (I forget who) referred to it as too realistic in its portrayal of a high school relationship. Too realistic?! Well, that sold me, even if the person did only give it one or two stars. Besides, it met some other characteristics I love in a novel – diversity (it follows a lesbian main character), a quirky premise, and a liberal bias. Hey, what can I say? I dislike Walmart (but shop there because it sadly ran everyone else out).

LIES, BETRAYAL, AND SECRET KISSES

Following two girls – one an out and proud lesbian, the other a closeted girl hiding behind her boyfriend – who engage in weekly make-out secret sessions at a local library, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND ME is definitely not going to be for everyone. For one, yes, it is rather liberal. For another, it is about a GLBT relationship. And finally, it is told in a rather strange narrative style – third person present for our heroine, and first person present for the two girls in her life.

No, I wouldn’t call this a love triangle, so don’t worry about that.

I liked this one because of its honesty and quirkiness. There is not instant happiness. There is lust, there are demands and pressures, there are lies, there are attempts at meaningful discussion instead turned into arguments. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND ME is indeed very realistic in how it portrays a teenage romance. There are butterflies in stomachs and kisses, but there are also plenty of hurt feelings, lies, betrayals, and sad moments.

HOW REAL CAN YOUNG ADULT FICTION GET?

The way that George writes the story I found to be odd, but at the same time, and partly due to its short length, the narrative pulled me along. I wanted to know more about Jesse and her life and her family that seemed kind of like mine (minus the breast cancer). I wanted to know more about the girls in her life – her girly secret girlfriend Emily and her new accidental friend Esther, especially as we delve into their lives. Even though Emily and Esther are both given chapters of their own focusing on their narratives, this is indeed Jesse’s story through and through. She is our main character, our focus, and our heroine in the battle of girl versus world.

One issue I did have a rather large problem with, though, was Emily, also known as the clone of Tracy Flick from the book/movie ELECTION. You know, the one played by Reese Witherspoon like 15 years ago.

From her interests to her goals to her personality and beyond, Emily is Tracy Flick, except with a lesbian lover once a week on Tuesday afternoons.

Jesse, though, I loved. She is strong-willed and determined, especially once she meets Esther and begins to see the world outside her bubble. The book defines her first as a lesbian, but at her core she is just a girl who wants to stand up for herself and be allowed to be who she is – strange, quirky, rebellious, and eager.

But to tell you how this book is realistic would spoil it. Even though I probably already have if you’re deductive and note that I keep saying it’s realistic. Damn.

Would I recommend THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND ME? Probably, with exceptions. If you don’t mind a liberal agenda, then definitely read this. If you don’t mind strange storytelling, then go ahead. If you are conservative and don’t like GLBT stories, ehm… Skip it. But I really did enjoy what George gave us in her debut, and I can’t wait to read more by her in the hopeful near future.

VERDICT: Even though the chosen writing style isn’t the easiest to navigate, and the secondary character/love interest is annoying, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND ME is honest and refreshing and warming. Recommended with a few reservations.


Mind Games
Mind Games
by Kiersten White
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.25
104 used & new from $0.01

34 of 42 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Disappointing, February 19, 2013
This review is from: Mind Games (Hardcover)
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS DOES NOT A BOOK MAKE

""I have no idea. My plans changed about five minutes ago." I look over my shoulder to see the men, three (tap tap tap - I hate the number three), thick shoulders, one gun between them based on the way the guy in the middle is walking (that was a mistake, they should all have guns - guess they'll find out) matching our pace and getting closer."

The narration style of MIND GAMES starts off annoying and only grows increasingly more annoying as the story goes on. In the case of both sisters, the narration is done in first person present tense stream of consciousness style. It takes a great hand to effectively deal with first person present tense, and that great hand generally has to go to lengths to make it not seem like, “I brush my teeth, I say hello to my cat, I go to sch- SQUIRREL! Ouch a rock! I go to school.”

The draft for MIND GAMES was written in nine days, and it shows. The writing is extremely random, with forced bouts of conscious thoughts that have no place in a book. When you remove the random inner monologue and flashbacks that have no place in guiding the story (only serving to make the reader very, very confused), the actual story is maybe 100 pages.

"I hate stun guns, I hate them so much. LET GO OF MY RIBS."

Here in lies the main problem with MIND GAMES, the problem which ruined my enjoyment of it. The writing was juvenile, forced, incoherent at times, and seemed like a cheap rip off of SHATTER ME stylistically, a book which I should note I was not a fan of for reasons of prose AND plot. But that’s a different story. MIND GAMES suffers because of the very problem that makes it fast paced. There is little plot going on, little cohesion between past and present, and little differentiation between the sisters. Told in two first person present tense POVs over the course of several years, the story lacked any real focus.

ANNOYING CHARACTERS = ANNOYING BOOK

My second biggest concern with MIND GAMES was the characters. Firstly, as I mentioned, Fia and Annie were basically the same character. Even with chapter headers identifying each character’s chapter, there were times where their similar narration style would confuse me into thinking I was in the mind of the other character.

Both characters had similar problems. They were self-obsessed, irrational in their decisions, selfish, irresponsible, and childish. The ending was another one of these times, where the irrational decision by one character – and the irrational acceptance of such thing from another – completely annoyed me to no end. And these characters never change. They’re still as whiny on the last page as they are on the first.

And our side characters? With the exception of James, who spends the entire story as a love interest for Fia and the object of my pure and utter hatred, the characters are bland and lifeless. James, however, has found himself as a new member of the “Boys I Hate” Club. Plying a girl with alcohol to get her to “loosen up” (well, that’s implied at least) is sickening. End of story.

Although Annie’s power seemed rather interesting, if a bit bland, Fia’s fell short of something that could have been much better. If your gut instinct is always right, let’s think of the things you could do (in theory): intense math equations, the secrets of the universe, Olympic fencing, solving murder mysteries, making people lots of money. But what do they use an insane 16 year old girl for? Killing people. Because Jason Statham with a gun probably wouldn’t do the job as well as her.

A LACKING STORY

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have decided to give MIND GAMES only one star. This book, in my opinion, needed a lot more work to bring it up to the standards I hold for my books. The writing was extremely rushed and under-nourished with the things we need as readers – pizzazz, control, flourish, and meaning. It read like a 10 year old girl’s diary after her boyfriend (i.e. Justin Bieber) started dating someone that isn’t her.

Ms. White is a New York Times Bestseller for the PARANORMALCY series, but in MIND GAMES, I do not see anything that makes me want to run out and buy this book. At 250 pages, it came off as something that could have been done in one book instead of a duology – a rip off, if you will. The story does not satisfy, it does not make one feel, and it does nothing besides leave a lasting anger and annoyance at wasting a few hours hoping to find something within the pages that will make up for the whining.

Skip MIND GAMES. The action might be good in spurts, but when it makes up a tiny portion of a story devoted to the ramblings of a girl who may or may not be an insane narcissist, it’s not worth your money or time.

VERDICT: MIND GAMES falls short on every level, from the characters to the action to the romance. I felt completely gypped by the last page thanks to heroines that never leave the stage of “whiny children”.
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Hold Still
Hold Still
by Nina LaCour
Edition: Hardcover
73 used & new from $1.52

5.0 out of 5 stars Honest Portrayal of Life After Suicide, February 17, 2013
This review is from: Hold Still (Hardcover)
What can I say? HOLD STILL was a book I purchased as a closeout awhile back. It’s been sitting on my shelf, collecting dust, forgotten behind a stack of newer releases. I’m already 4 books behind my goal for 2013 so I thought, “This one is short. I’ll give it a try.” Two hours of frantic reading in the bath tub, a tub now cold with my skin all prune-like, my thoughts changed to, “Why did no one make me read this book sooner?”

Sometimes you just find a book that resonates with you. I had a friend who committed suicide in college. We weren’t close, but to know that something in his life had led him down that path – someone who was popular, athletic, intelligent, well-liked – just stayed in my head and it’s still there a few years later. HOLD STILL grabbed my heartstrings and wouldn’t let go.

A STORY OF ART, FRIENDSHIP, LOVE, AND SUICIDE

HOLD STILL is not your typical YA book – unless you read exclusively depressing contemporary YA, in which case, it’s the norm. There is a lesbian character that is handled well, for example. But the story itself revolves around a year in the life of Caitlin after the suicide of her best friend Ingrid during finals of their sophomore year. We follow Caitlin as she builds her life back from the broken pieces that were left after Ingrid took her own life, including her relationships with classmates, with teachers, and with her parents.

I really am struggling to find the words needed to convey my feelings about this book to you, dear reader. THIS BOOK. This book. THIIIIIIS BOOOOOOOK. I laughed, I cried, I was afraid to turn the next page in fear that Caitlin might lost everything all over again. But as I said in the section header, this is a book about art, friendship, love, and suicide. Caitlin loses her best friend, a friend who has basically become a crutch for her (or a safety blanket), and is forced to deal with life on her own. If you go into this expecting cute and fun, turn back now. Think about your life, think about your choices!

MOVING ON AFTER DEATH

The story revolves around Caitlin moving on after Ingrid’s death – making new friends, finding a new love, dealing with a teacher who refuses to acknowledge her, and coming to terms with her parents that seem insistent on making her get over her friend’s death. Her parents especially were two people I couldn’t fathom, especially her father – he always seemed to know what was best for her, pushing her toward things that she would eventually pick up and like. And I also can’t fathom how she built a tree house all by herself for the most part without her parents noticing for weeks.

But other than the small issue of the parents being overbearing and weird at times, I quite loved this book. It is a tear-jerker – I, the girl who never cries while reading, did tear up, but alas, once again those looking for me to bawl will not be rewarded. I patted my eyes and my face was dry once more.

HOLD STILL is one of those books that will resonate with many types of readers, especially teens coming into their own and others looking to relive the teenage experience. This is one of the books that is a moving account of the darker side of being a teenager, and it’s the type of book that I believe teens (and teens at heart) should read, or parents should give to their teens. The message at its heart is one that made me remember the good things about living in the darkness of life. Caitlin’s move from being helpless to realizing that she’s moving on, knowing that she can be happy again, made this book amazing.

VERDICT: A tear-jerker of a book about the darkest of days and getting past the suicide of a friend, HOLD STILL is a must read type of book. Go out and buy this one now.


How to Get Over Your Ex (Valentine's Day Survival Guide)
How to Get Over Your Ex (Valentine's Day Survival Guide)
Offered by Harlequin Digital Sales Corp.
Price: $1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Charming, but a little shallow, February 15, 2013
How does one get over an ex? By crying themselves to sleep? By stuffing their faces with chocolate? HOW TO GET OVER YOUR EX is one of the first titles from Harlequin's new KISS line of cute contemporary romances. Think Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes, Jane Green, except shorter and quicker (but maybe not quite as swoony). The moment I heard about this new line, I knew that I was going to have to bite the bullet and try one. I am always hesitant to admit it, but contemporary cutesy romance remains one of my favorite genres. HOW TO GET OVER YOUR EX reminds me so fondly of some of my favorites.

After a Londoner finds herself scorned on radio after her proposal to her boyfriend ends in a big fat no, she settles for another plan - a year of reinvention, expenses paid for by the radio station. Dancing lessons, cooking classes, an adventure abroad, considering your past choices and beliefs... Yeah, one of those kind of years. But of course, this being a romantic comedy, she finds herself falling hard for the producer of the radio show where she ruined her life, despite her belief that a man as perfect as him would never fall for a girl like her - or that their relationship would be anything besides a big fat mistake.

Now, I have personally never proposed to a man on live radio only to be rejected and find myself the source for many a joke in London. But I think that I would react in much the same way as our heroine Georgia. Even if she was a bit...weird I guess is the word when it came to deciding to spring the question on her boyfriend, who had made it clear that he wasn't interested in that kind of thing with her. Even after she was supposed to have moved on, what does she do? She goes right back to see him one last time, and this was the point where I was like, "Girl, are you serious?"

She was supposed to be getting over her ex, but she walked back. I think that this is a downside of what I've seen with the Harlequin KISS line - the titles and covers are all generic. Neither the title nor cover fit this book. THE YEAR OF GEORGIA would have been much more apt in my opinion.

But that was one of the few negatives I had with this one (also, the predictability, but this is contemporary romance). I loved Zander, our love interest, and his struggle to come to terms with how he feels about this awkward girl who has fallen into his life. And the progression of their friendship and eventual romance was heartwarming and cute (if a bit formulaic). This story was charming, quick, and adorable, giving me about an hour and a half of delicious reading before I swooned and turned off my Kindle.

With this being my first sample into the KISS line, I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. But this story did need a few tweaks. It was short, but for a story taking place over the course of a year, I didn't see much in the way of depth or development. Likewise, I wish this had had a less generic title and cover - something that meant more to the story instead of having continuity with the line. I almost overlooked this one with its rather bland title.

If you are in the market for a cute romance set in London, or if you're looking for a follow up to a Sophie Kinsella book, then give Nikki Logan a try. I can't wait to try more from her and from the KISS line!

VERDICT: Although it suffers from the problem of being formulaic and short, HOW TO GET OVER YOUR EX is cute, charming, and deliciously romantic.


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