Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Deepest Night

The Deepest Night by Shana Abe
3.5/5 stars
Bantam, 2013
320 pages
YA Fantasy Historical

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Continuing with my love of dragons, earlier this year I read The Sweetest Dark and enjoyed its distinct writing style that seemed to really ground it in a different historical setting. It also had the bonus of featuring a boarding school, one of my favorite places to read about. So I was excited to start this sequel.

In this go-around, I tended to find the writing less enchanting, more distracting with several passages meriting rereads to erase my confusion (though it is also really hot so that helps to explain my muddled head). This sequel does feature some cool plot points such as Eleanore and Armand journeying from England to Germany to rescue another drakon being held as a prisoner of war. That takes up about the latter half of the book and was positively thrilling.

The first half of the book had its moments though too with Lora flailing a bit following the loss of an important character at the end of book one and ending up serving as a nurse at the new convalescent home in Armand's mansion (this made me think of "Downton Abbey") before embarking on the above quest. I thought this was an interesting perspective on WWI though it is still early days yet. I was constantly amazed by how much food was mentioned as I was fully expecting rationing.

Yet it's not so much the plot as the writing which matters and I just wasn't as enthralled by it in this go around. Sometimes I felt like things could be much more plainly stated and that if they were, it would make the story go down easier. I'm still not sure how much of the drakon mythology I understand, which probably stems from my unfamiliarity with the adult series this spins off from.

Overall: I think if you liked the first book, you'll have some idea of what to expect from the writing in this second but you should definitely check it out to start or you may end hopelessly lost.

Other Opinions:
Candace's Book Blog
In Bed with Books
The Best Books Ever
The Eclectic Reader
The Reader Bee

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Infinite Moment of Us

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle
3.5/5 stars
Amulet Books, 2013
316 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest opinion.

I adored Myracle's Shine so it was a no-brainer to request this one. Sadly as I prepared to read this, I started seeing a lot of negative reviews, which got me anxious for my reading experience. When many of the bloggers I trust and tend to agree with dislike a book, I expect that I won't like it either. However I actually ended up enjoying myself, perhaps because of lowered expectations, perhaps because I just had such a strong connection with the author from her previous work, perhaps I just was craving a romantic contemporary although I'll admit that as the book progressed, I became more frustrated.

Let's go back to the beginning, which introduces our two protagonists. First up is Wren Grey, the only child of her parents who have pushed and tried to mold her into perfection. But as she graduates high school, she finally rebels: deferring admission and a scholarship to take a year off to give back in Guatemala. But before that, she has another rebellion by getting her first boyfriend. This boy is Charlie Parker, a foster kid with scars no one should bear, who can't believe that the gorgeous Wren is actually talking to me yet alone willing to be in a relationship with him. What kind of future do this two people have? Can they really belong together?

For the most part, I cruised along following their relationship contentedly. Because the book alternates, in third-person, between them, we get to see their thoughts pretty closely. Neither can quite believe that the other is willing to be together but are so happy that they are. Pretty soon their relationship includes a serious physical component as I mention in my content warning. I'm a veteran romance reader so I didn't bat an eye but if that matters to you, then you're going to want to skip this. I appreciated the mix of physical and emotional especially with the brief reflections of Wren's best friend and her boyfriend's relationship, which also seems to balance the physical and emotion.

Wren is not my favorite character as I sympathized with her parents' concerns over her deferment of college but even more so with her delay in telling them (a delay of months). They did not act in the way she hoped but I wish she had found the courage to let them know sooner. Still I identified with her feelings of expected to be perfect though mine were more internally imposed. Charlie, though, I adored. His early life was brutal with a poor excuse for a mother, a dad who ran, and various poor foster parents. But now Charlie has a good family and I loved them all to bits (there could have been more of them in all honesty!)

BUT the ending is where it really fell apart for me. With a different ending, this book maybe could have gotten a 4. What happens is that Charlie's ex, who has been a thorn between Wren and Charlie throughout their relationship, causes a scene that challenges the young couple and at the very end, Charlie makes what I consider to be a pretty dumb decision. And that's how the book concludes. Jen Ryland's review with spoiler captures my feelings pretty strongly. For reference, I thought the ending might be a bit more like Elana K Arnold's Burning and it is not. I don't want to say too much for fear of spoilers other than that I expected more after the brilliance of Shine.

Content Warning: A lot of underage drinking and sexual content; moderate amount of language-definitely recommended for the more mature reader.

Other Opinions:
Alexa Loves Books
Rather Be Reading
Readers in Wonderland
The Flyleaf Review
Young Adult Book Haven

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Awaken by Meg Cabot
3.5/5 stars
Point, 2013
346 pages
YA Greek Mythology Paranormal

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Meg Cabot has long been one of my favorite authors and as a prolific writer, she's also at the top of my list for most read. Saying that, this series hasn't really done it for me. Though I dutifully read Abandon and Underworld, something seemed to be missing. When I had the chance to read Awaken, I was hoping to rediscover that Cabot magic while also checking off another series as finished.

And to my surprise, I actually really ended enjoying this book. Though there were times when Cabot's signature style annoyed me, I loved it when I was a teenager but now it no longer seems fresh and surprising, I was pretty swept away. The most enjoyable part was generally how take charge Pierce is. I read a comment somewhere about how previously John saved Pierce but now the cover shows a reversal with her saving him and I really like the strong female doing that while also retaining a sense of humor in the face of seemingly impossible odds.

It is difficult to review the third book in a trilogy without spoilers but I'm not going to go too in depth here other to say that I believe all the major players continue to be her with a few new introductions and the questions that have been posed throughout are addressed. Previously I remember not really enjoying the Pierce/John romance but I feel like that was toned down in this book and subsequently became more palatable. Pierce's parents also play a rather significant role in the plot, reminding me why I enjoyed them in the first place.

Overall: A satisfactory conclusion to the series-personally I think it ended up being my favorite although I'd have to carve out the time to read them all back to back to take a strong stance on the issue.

Cover: I do really love this cover-I think it's my favorite as it just seems very romantic to me with the purple rather than the color palettes of the previous covers.

Other Opinions:
Books Live Forever
Ems reviews books...
Forever Young Adult
The Teen Book Guru
The Best Books Ever

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Taste Test

Taste Test by Kelly Fiore
2/5 stars
Walker Childrens, 2013
334 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I adore cooking shows despite not being much of a chef or gourmet eater. But as a reader, I also love reading about cooking so discovering that this book was about a competitive cooking game show (in my beloved YA category) had me very excited!

Right away I found myself drawn into Nora's world of cooking, eating up all the setup before she arrives at the competition. However once she's there, the takes a turn for the worse when Nora instantly finds herself disliking fellow competitor Christian. Now I'm not saying he gives the best first impression but her instant hate seemed extreme to me. Their relationship continues to be filled with childish bickering and put-downs as the competition heats up.

There have been times when I've really liked characters that other bloggers/readers find unlikable; those characters are difficult people often flailing in a world where they feel misunderstood. That is not the case here as I felt both characters were supposed to seen as charming and appealing by the reader, while I was increasingly turned off. I was especially exasperated by Nora's frequent use of "ho-bag" and such words to describe her roommate (who is certainly mean but does not warrant the other terms). Nora is just so judgmental and it really wore on me; Christian is really no better and since they take up the majority of the page space, the fact that I couldn't stand them substantially lowered my rating.

The other characters don't add much either. Sometimes a great secondary character can save the day but Gigi, Nora's friend and competitor, while cool, ultimately fails to do so for reasons that would be full of spoilers to spill. No other character gets enough page time to make up for Nora and Christian's sniping.

On the bright side, I love the bright colors of the cover and that recipes are included at the back. I'm not much of a cook but I do love looking at recipes (if only there were pictures!)

Overall: A solid start quickly deteriorates with extremely unlikable characters ruining an interesting premise.

Other Opinions:
Finding Bliss in Books
Princess Bookie
The Bookshelf Sophisticate

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Prep School Confidential

Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor
4/5 stars
Thomas Dunne Books, 2013
304 pages
YA Contemporary Mystery

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Yay-I am finally getting to this! I have seen loads of reviews from my blogging friends and was hopeful that this boarding school setting combined with murder would enthrall me. The reviews I saw were mostly positive with some qualms so I had hopes.

I am very pleased to be on the positive side as I was utterly charmed by bold and brassy Anne Dowling, our heroine. She begins the book as queen of the school but is quickly kicked out after she almost burns it down. Instead she is shuffled off to a boarding school outside of Boston. Within a week her new roommate Isabella is killed and since the administration seems determined to cover it up, Anne takes it upon herself to identify who done it, uncovering layers of hypocrisy and corruption in the process while also juggling two very intriguing boys.

As I said, Anne rocks! In a rather rigid environment, she is somewhat messy and pushes up against that which she knows to be wrong. I particularly enjoyed her anger over the general lack of apathy toward Isabella's murder (Isabella being a scholarship student without famous parents and thus "not worthy") and toward the adults for covering everything up. In fact, Anne has a lot of understandable anger that she mostly channels in a productive way (tracking down Isabella's murderer). She's also snarky and kept cracking me up, which kept the pages turning.

You may notice that this review is mostly talking about Anne. That is for good reason because as our narrator and protagonist, we spend the most time with her. The aforementioned boys were not very interesting to me though I can see that she has made a clear choice by the end-we'll see if that holds up.

Meanwhile I found the mystery itself a bit confusing. It starts out seemingly straightforward (someone is killed) but soon many threads are added like the FBI tracking a teacher, a big sexual harassment case covered up, a parent's extortion, etc. That adds up and I had some trouble following it all. This is a long-winded way of saying that I did not figure out the murderer and was completely blindsided. Luckily Anne also had not really anticipated this person so we were caught off guard together.

Overall: A surprisingly fun murder mystery that left me eager for the sequel, due out next year!

Other Opinions:
Bananas for Books
Books Live Forever
In Bed With Books
Into the Hall of Books
Michelle and Leslie's Book Picks
The Book Babe's Reads

Monday, August 26, 2013

ARC Review: The Song of the Quarkbeast

The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde
4/5 stars
Harcourt Children's Books, 2013
289 pages
YA Fantasy
Scheduled to release September 3

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

After enjoying book one The Last Dragonslayer, I was pleased to get an early peek at its sequel (not really early as it has already been released in the UK). I picked this up one weekend expecting more hilarious shenanigans from Jennifer Strange and her coterie of magicians and assorted associates. As I anticipated, this was quintessentially Ffordian. I think if you enjoyed the first book and Fforde's writing in general, then you'll want to check out this sequel.

This go-around makes mention of the resurgence of magic following the events of the first book and continues some of the same threads but mostly the story is new, giving us further insight into the world of the Ununited Kingdoms. The big threat is over the future of magic with the king and wizard Blix eager to monetize it for their own gain while Jennifer and her crew want it available for everyone. These divergent philosophies battle it out, culminating in a bridge rebuilding competition to decide the fate of magic.

But really the plot doesn't much matter. Instead you'll be enchanted by the charming writing with its asides and the way that everything will come together. Small details are carelessly tossed to the side but later events prove how we had all the clues we needed, if only we could piece them all together the way Fforde does!

Jennifer continues to be plucky as foundlings are and we get to spend some time with the mysteriously disappearing and reappearing Great Zambini as well as all the fun characters from last book. I think my favorites here were greedy King Snodd IV and the King's Useless Brother (this is his actual title from the book) who is easily distracted by just about everything.

Overall: Though you could probably read this as a standalone, I do recommend checking out the first book beforehand and just being prepared for a zany ride!

Other Opinions:
Adventures of a Bookonaut
Lauren's Loquacious Literature (how cool is that blogname? I'm a sucker for alliteration)
Yolando Sfetsos

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ramblings and the Week to Come 25AUG13

I think I caught most of these but this month I've had difficulty leaving comments at non-blogpost blogs. I believe they went into the spam filter. Thus I highly recommend that you check your spam at least every few days to make sure no actual comments are getting stuck there. This happened on my blog a few months ago where legit comments were put into spam (including a few of my own, oddly enough.)

This has been a tough week for me. If you looked closely, I did not post on Friday but I did make it up and post twice yesterday. I may need to rethink my blogging schedule, which is unfortunate as I have a very busy September in the works. I am trying to give myself grace but it's hard-I put myself under a lot of pressure sometimes and I really wish I didn't!

Book Received:
I did receive a few e-galleys but I rarely post them. Instead I will share one ARC I received from the publisher and my two Amazon Vine picks this week.

The Creature Department by Robert Paul Weston ~ from Razorbill, apparently the cover lights up in the dark!
 Rogue by Gina Damico ~ to bring the "Croak" trilogy to a close
When the Marquess Met His Match by Laura Lee Guhrke ~ sometimes I just want a good romance!
Yes, our team is back! We had an amazing game with 15 people coming out (last season we sometimes struggled just to get the required 10) and scored 15 runs, with me getting on base from both my at-bats (a walk and a single). Sadly I did not score any runs and we lost the game but spirits are still high and I look forward to our next game in September (we already have a bye this week!)

Reviews to Come: It's the usual mix of YA 2013 releases, some out already and some to anticipate
The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde
Awaken by Meg Cabot
Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor
Taste Test by Kelly Fiore
The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle
The Deepest Night by Shana Abe

Saturday, August 24, 2013

ARC Review: The Truth About You and Me

Since I ran out of time to post yesterday, you're getting two reviews today!

The Truth About You and Me by Amanda Grace
4/5 stars
Flux, 2013
225 pages
YA Contemporary Romantic
Scheduled to release September 8

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I'm not entirely sure why I wanted to read this book as forbidden romances like student enters relationship with her professor don't tend to be my preferred reading material: I like more comedic books if possible. But it's always nice to sink my teeth into a contemporary and I really liked this one.

The plot is pretty straightforward. Sixteen-year-old Madelyn just completed her sophomore year of high school but with her excellent grades, she is enrolled in a program to start taking classes at a community college. On the first day of biology class, she meets Bennett Cartwright who seems instantly attracted to her, listens to her, and supports her under the pressure she feels from her parents. The problem though is that he's her professor and he thinks she is eighteen. The novel traces their relationship up to the fateful day when everyone finds out as well as an epilogue where they meet again two years later when she actually is eighteen.

First I must mention how this book is written in second-person perspective with all of her "you"'s being directed at Bennett as this is a letter to him, as she tries to exonerate him from his role. Earlier I reviewed The Winter Prince where I hated this technique but for some reason it really worked for me here. I guess there are no firm rules about what I do and do not like in books; just sometimes things please me and sometimes they confuse me.

Second I found Madelyn oddly sympathetic. I'll confess that I had a few crushes on professors, unsurprising when you consider that I value knowledge and they knew a lot, but obviously nothing approaching her level. My parents were also not as pressuring as hers nor do I have an older brother so it's not like we had a lot in common, as is usually the case when I identify strongly with a character. Yet Madelyn's desperate attempt to try to write her wrongs while also still struggling to figure out who she is and what she wants touched me.

Third, mostly added because I like to try to have three points, is that Bennett is oddly a cipher to me. The main personality trait I have for him is that he loves teaching, its order and structure appealing after a childhood with scatterbrained parents. Because of this relationship, he loses that. Still I do wonder how he could not confirm she was eighteen. Basically I just don't have strong feelings about him but he doesn't seem like a jerk so that automatically makes him better than a long list of other YA love interests.

Overall: Though I can see how this book is definitely not for everyone (the very premise, the writing, the fact that the romance really isn't the important part), I liked it and found its easy writing style to be a perfect read for a few hours.

Other Opinions:
Good Choice Reading
Once Upon a Twilight!
Some Like it Paranormal

The Winter Prince

The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein
2/5 stars
Open Road Media Young Readers, 2013
Originally published 1993
292 pages
YA Historical

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

After adoring Wein's Code Name Verity (my favorite 2012 release and still highly recommended), I was thrilled to see this older release from her. My excitement only grew after reading Liviania from In Bed With Books' enthusiastic review!

Unfortunately I ended up strongly disliking this book, I think largely because of my expectations. The Arthurian legends I am most familiar with are ones involving Merlin or are light like Disney's The Sword in the Stone. They are not dark with unfamiliar names, disorienting passages of time, and a confusing narration. With character names like Artos, Ginevra, and Medraut (I was expecting Arthur, Guinevere, and Mordred), I think this book harkens deep to tradition but it wasn't what I wanted. And the novel is written as a letter from Medraut to his godmother Morgause with frequent use of "you" that kept making me think he meant me even though that made no sense.

Most of the book is about Medraut's jealousy and anger of and toward his half-brother Lleu who is a legitimate son of Artos and heir to the throne. Medraut's hatred has been nursed by Morgause and leads him to take a dark path in regards to his relationship with Lleu. Though I can understand how Medraut would have those feelings, I didn't always follow why he took the actions he did and when I was able to follow, I often found them despicable. Basically every character is pretty awful and while I don't expect characters to be perfect, I want to be able to like at least one of the important ones and that didn't happen here.

Overall: I just could not connect with the writing or characters here; it was a slog to complete and I will definitely not be finishing this, instead preferring to focus on Rose Under Fire, which will hopefully completely enthrall me.

Other Opinions:
In Bed with Books
Susan Hated Literature
The Book Geek

Thursday, August 22, 2013

ARC Review: This Song Will Save Your Life

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
5/5 stars
Farrar, Straus and Giroux BFYR, 2013
274 pages
YA Contemporary
Scheduled to release September 17

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I had seen a lot of rave reviews of this book before I picked it up for myself but I hadn't read them too closely, to preserve some surprises for myself and to hopefully avoid having it become overhyped for me. At the least I figured I'd enjoy it because I liked Sales' previous books, Mostly Good Girls and Past Perfect, in particular because of their portrayal of female friendships over romance. Well, way to go instincts. Though it took a few chapters, I ended up being completely captivated by this book and experiencing a very powerful emotional connection to it.

Main character Elise has never seemed to fit in-being too precocious, too consumed with topics her peers didn't care about, too something. While she studies the magazines and pop culture that are popular, her attempts to reach out and make friends are continually stymied. This one-hundred percent resonated with me. I was fortunately never bullied and I had a small circle of friends but I spent so much time in middle school, high school, and even college wondering if there had been some class about how to socialize that I missed somehow (the fact that I thought there would be a class to teach some skills may explain the problem somewhat.) I so bought into her isolation and pain, making this sometimes a difficult read when I over-identified but also a powerful one as I worked through some lingering feelings from that period.

Back to the story, which honestly won't seem like much as I summarize it. When Elise suffers another humiliating day at high school, she hits on the idea of killing herself. That is thwarted and her divorced parents watch over her as closely as they can to prevent a reoccurrence. But life has not improved for Elise who spends her nights wandering aimlessly before stumbling upon Start, the hottest warehouse party around and meets Vicky, Pippa, and Char; the latter introduces her to DJ-ing, exploiting her vast knowledge of music and filling Elise's life with something she unabashedly adores and excels at. He is also the love interest but true to Sales' style (as I've observed), he does not take over the entire book or Elise's world; he is more an object of physical attraction, a brief stopping point in her life as Elise goes on to bigger and better.

Far more intriguing is Vicky, a musician whose friendship and cheering on of Elise were excellent to read. Elise also does manage to make two friends at school who, yes, are genuine friends she realizes as the story progresses. Sally and Chava receive a lot of scorn from Elise at the start but they stick by her and I appreciated that they were good people at the core.

Overall: I just adored this book. Though I might quibble with Elise's high and mighty opinion about what constitutes good music (I suspect she'd turn her nose up in disgust at my playlists and I do resent music snobs), I am in mad love with this book and plan to push it on several other people in the hopes that they experience the magic I felt.

Other Opinions:
Good Books and Good Wine
I Swim For Oceans
Inspiring Insomnia
Paranormal Indulgence
Reading Teen
The Flyleaf Review-features playlists!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Red Tour Concert Review

OK, I have finally had a chance to get down on paper all my thoughts about the RED concert experience. It's on the long side, which is part of the reason it took so long to prepare, and I'm afraid there is going to be a bit of ranting about the process of getting to and from the concert venue but I can assure you that I only have positive things to say about performers Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift.

The first rant is about the poor infrastructure particularly of I-5. I asked my dad if that is the state or city's responsibility and he said to blame San Diego and I can assure you that I do. Because of the poor maintenance and design, we ended up missing the first opening act, Casey James. Now I don't really care but I did care that we...
Ed got a haircut recently-it looks good ;) there late just as Ed began his set with "Give Me Love," a song that I initially didn't like much but now I'm kind of obsessed. Have you seen the music video about Cupid distraught over her inability to fall in love? Anyway I totally adore this song now. He continued with "Grade 8", "You Need Me, I Don't Need You," "Lego House" (among some covers) before ending with "The A-Team." He was amazing and I'm glad that we at least got to see most of his set. The above picture was taken by my sister on her iPhone from one of the large screens. I think Ed looks *very* good, presumably because of his hair cut (I always think guys look super cute after a hair cut.)

Ed finished about 8, leaving us half an hour to wait for Taylor. We dressed for the occasion in red with Keds and the rest of the audience did too. I think the only people not in red were the security people. There were also loads of light up songs (I admire the ingenuity of the people who had "ED" signs and then needed to only add an "R" when Taylor appeared.) Though this could have been dull, it was not for the screens promoted her various commercial ventures like Keds and her perfumes (not a fan of the Taylor one btw and my dad agreed that it smelled horrible; haven't tried Enchanted or Wonderstruck) as well as some random things like trivia and that great a capella version of "I Knew You Were Trouble" until the sound on the screens was interrupted by Icona Pop's (uncensored) "I Love It" followed by Lenny Kravitz's "American Woman" and then the show really started.

The anticipation builds as the music plays until finally Taylor makes her entrance with "State of Grace." If you read my album review, you know that I'm not the biggest fan of this song but it does seem to have been written to open the show so I appreciated it in that context. She had an introduction speech talking about how thrilled she was to see us and how much she loves San Diego before going smoothly into "Holy Ground" which features some inspired drumming. Next up was, to my opinion, an extremely long speech about color and how one particular color runs through the whole show. The next song was of course "Red."

This led to the first outfit change (keeping in mind that all of her outfits have red with some touches of white and/or black) and "You Belong With Me"-I loved her glitter here as well as the gloves (why don't women wear gloves more? I only wear them to keep my hands warm but I'd love to wear an elegant pair and pretend I was Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn.)

One more costume change covered by a video introduction to "The Lucky One" which seems taylor-made (haha) for a story to accompany the song. My sister said the video reminded her of Britney's (fabulous-my comment) "Lucky" and I cannot disagree with that. Then another little speech, this time about bullies and basically how you will never be able to escape them, launching us into "Mean" which yes, Taylor still performs with a banjo. Now some early stops got "Stay, Stay, Stay/Ho Hey" but San Diego did not, to my disappointment (I highly recommend you search this out, especially because she gives a great introduction.) So our next song was actually "22" and this is where she left the main stage for a smaller stage closer to the cheap seats, allowing more people to see her up close. Before that though, we saw clips of Taylor going from birth up to now (please note that she is 23 now!)

Her first song on the small stage is a "secret" song. I had been hoping for "Starlight" after seeing one playlist but since we were nearing back to school time, she went with "Fifteen." I love Taylor but "Fifteen" is my second-least favorite song of hers so I sat kind of bored. Let's go back to "Starlight": I was singing a lyric in the first verse as "I'm a Barbie on the boardwalk" but my sister corrected me that it's actually "I met Bobby on the boardwalk." This makes so much more sense:
1. Referencing Barbie would be anachronistic
2. It would also just kind of be a random thing to say, eh?
3. This brings in the guy and explains their conversation throughout the song, really setting the stage

Now back to the show and her lovely duet with Ed, "Everything Has Changed." I think I like it more live than I do in the studio so that's definitely another one to check out. The quieter more contemplative mood continues with "Begin Again" and while all this is happening, the stage has been spinning the whole time, allowing her to face the entire arena. Then she switches out guitars with a perfectly strummy one to begin "Sparks Fly" before flying over the audience to return to the main stage.

Another costume change for "I Knew You Were Trouble," beginning in a big white dress before it's ripped off to show a tighter black number (very similar staging to her AMAs performance, which my sister and I were fortunate enough to see last November). Then we get "All Too Well," which is definitely one of my favorite songs and was my favorite part of the show. She spoke about the process of writing it, how she gets some of her best writing done between 2 and 4 in the morning, and how she remembered the relationship upon which this is based all too well. In my opinion, this was the real showstopper and I was just in awe.
Taylor when she sits at the piano during tour de force "All Too Well"
After that, it's a quick jaunt through "Love Story" in a white dress with one of her dancers hilariously overacting as Romeo, another costume change for "Treacherous" with part of the stage lifting her up and down in what could be deemed a treacherous way, and concert closer "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" as a circus. I admit I would have loved for her to do the speaking part like she did at the Grammys, to say something like "Sorry but I'm performing for a sold out show in San Diego" but she just did it as on the CD.

Overall it was an amazing experience and I'm so glad I trekked out there to see her. One of my qualms had been her pitch problems, which I had heard before but I didn't notice anything egregious during this concert. Taylor seemed made to perform on stage as she loved our adoration and accepted it graciously.

Lastly is another little complaint, which is that our seats were on the opposite side of where we parked. No problem, we'll just walk around through that shortcut, right? Except that Taylor's many trucks were blocking and security would not let us cut through. A bit of a downer on what was otherwise a fantastic night.

Oh, and souvenirs? But of course! My sister and both got the below shirt, which also has the tour dates on the back :) And is currently available for purchase online along with loads of other merchandise. I am hopeful that Taylor will release another CD/DVD like she did for her "Speak Now" tour because I definitely want to own that!

One really cool thing was that I got an email the next day with a little "thank you" note-not sure if it's because I preordered tickets with a special code or just that my address is local but it was a nice touch and I'm not sure anyone else would do that.

So that's my experience. This ended up being super long so thank you very much if you made it to the end (almost 1500 words, yes I checked). Is there anything I didn't touch on that is a lingering question for you?


Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan
3/5 stars
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013
223 pages
YA Short Stories

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

I have been very interested in short stories lately so I was thrilled to see another collection available for review. I wasn't very sure about what to expect as I hadn't really noticed any other reviews. To be perfectly blunt: this book was weird. There were a few stories I really liked but most of them went way past me and were super uncomfortable (like the one from the point of view of a rapist) or just plain confusing (like last story "Eyelids of the Dawn"-I'm not really sure what went on there.)

In an effort to keep this positive, I'll just share about the three stories I liked and feel that I at least partially understood. The other seven either completely bewildered me or disgusted me (like the cruel fascinator who curses two girls just for having the audacity to not fall in love with him or the aforementioned rapist.)

"The Golden Shroud" is a new take on Rapunzel, focusing far more on the prince and Rapunzel's magical hair while the girl herself is pretty wimpy and weak. I would have liked a stronger heroine in this take on a fairy tale but I appreciated its familiar context at least.

"Night of the Firstlings" was incredibly confusing until I figured out that it was during the time of Moses when the plague is sent to kill all firstborns and the Red Sea is parted. As I said, the beginning of this was very confusing to me but I warmed up to it as I continued reading. I guess this shows how careful reading pays off.

Lastly we have "Ferryman" which I was highly anticipating after seeing it mentioned on the back cover. I was right to look forward to it as I really liked it-possibly my favorite. This relies on Greek mythology as well as a deep father-daughter relationship.

Overall: A set of stories that does not hesitate to take you to uncomfortable places; the kind that rewards careful reading and an adventurous mind.

Other Opinions:
Good Books and Good Wine
Steph Su Reads

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

ARC Review: The Social Code

The Social Code by Sadie Hayes
4/5 stars
St. Martin's Griffin, 2013
308 pages
YA/NA Contemporary
Scheduled to release September 3

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I believe this is one of my first New Adult reads and I actually really enjoyed it. I haven't been very interested in New Adult because it seems to be mostly presented as Young Adult with steam and that's not really the kind of story I liked. But this one followed college students battling it out in the rough and tumble Silicon Valley world with only a hint of romantic entanglements and I found it all deliciously juicy!

Adam and Amelia Dory grew up in the foster care system, sometimes lacking even basic necessities  but now they're at Stanford and the world is their oyster, particularly with Adam's ambition and Amelia's brilliant coding abilities. Soon they're working on their first start-up interacting with others of various intentions and navigating the wild and heady days of being young

Yesterday I reviewed Tumble and Fall and found myself dismayed with how the third person narration left me feeling disconnected from the characters. While this is also narrated from the third person perspective and I can't say that I feel very connected to anyone (maybe a little bit to Amelia despite us sharing very little in common beyond gender), it didn't bother me. I loved the constant shifting from character to character and getting just a peek into their ambitions and how they were pursuing them. Funny how that works, eh?

Part of the reason I didn't click with the characters is that they're really revealed at their core, with their basic petty natures coming to the fore. Basically only Amelia has a real moral integrity while the other characters compromise ethics in pursuit of their larger goal. I think I liked that Amelia has deeply held principles but I didn't mind that the others didn't. I found them all enthralling and the easy writing style helped me go through this book fast.

I'm not going to go very in-depth on the twists and turns but it looks like this book is a consolidation of three previously published e-novellas by Hayes so they may already be familiar to you. I can share that this book ends abruptly and may leave you wanting more as it certainly did for me. I certainly hope there will be at least one sequel and I know I will return for it.

Other Opinions:
Books Live Forever
Jen's Book Closet
Mind Reading?
Taking It One Page at a Time

Monday, August 19, 2013

ARC Review: Tumble & Fall

Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts
3.5/5 stars
Farrar Straus Giroux BYR, 2013
372 pages
YA Contemporary
Scheduled to release September 17

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I wanted to read this book solely because of how lovely I found the cover. My expectation of this was that it would be a crazy starcrossed romance filled with passion and young adults racing against the clock of the end of the world (I may or may not have read the official synopsis; okay, I basically just skimmed it.) Needless to say what I actually got was quite a bit different.

Yes, there is an asteroid heading toward earth that will result in destruction and yes, this book does follow young adults over the course of a week as the residents of earth prepare for the end. But it's not very romantic, despite what I feel the cover promises. We get three different perspectives of teens on an island struggling with lingering relationship issues, mostly familial but also romantic as they also wait to see what the asteroid will bring.

Right off the bat I noticed that the story was narrated in third person. Though I have enjoyed third-person narration, I tend to feel a more personal connection when it is first person and this book was no exception. Though I sympathized with the stories and situations of all three narrators, I never felt very emotionally tied to them no matter what they underwent. Even as I anticipated death for all of them, I never felt that sad.

Who are our three protagonists and how do they tie together? To answer the second question first, they don't have much of a connection; they just all have ties to an island and the final chapters put them all on the beach together.

First introduced is Sienna who is just released from a psychiatric home, picked up by her father to spend their last days as a family with her younger brother and the father's fiance. Reuniting with a childhood friend sparks a romantic relationship but also challenges Sienna's view on mental health and family. Second is Zan, mourning the death of her boyfriend Leo for ten months but suddenly confronted with information that might mean he wasn't as great as she always thought. And our third narrator is Caden, whose alcoholic mother and father who abandoned them means he has some lingering questions. I think I would have appreciated these more if they had tied together more directly. I understand that they all had unfinished business but a friendship among the three might have made it mean more to me.

Overall: An interesting read but one that lacked an emotional punch. I also feel like the cover promises a far more romantic story than it actually delivers.

Other Opinions:
Carina's Books
Realm of Fiction 
Scott Reads It
Young at Heart

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ramblings and the Week to Come 18AUG13

Golly, this is another week where I have a ton to say!

When I heard that NBC was going to start airing British Premier League Football, I was nervous that they would try to stuff in commercial breaks, which would have totally spoiled the viewing experience. Happily yesterday's Manchester United fixture was not interrupted and it had a delightful outcome in my opinion with Man U handily winning.
He didn't play but he's still my favorite <3
Upcoming Posts:
I've seen two bookish surveys around lately and I am working on posts for both of them. Then I've been reflecting on my beloved BSC books and how that impacted my reading life as I embark on a BSC reread experience. Another fun thing is a readalong with Jen Ryland/YA Romantics of The Scarlet Pimpernel-we may still be hammering out some details :) but I'm excited to read a classic with such a good friend. Lastly I have my Taylor Swift/Ed Sheeran concert experience post. Not all of these posts are not going up this week but be prepared for a bit more content than usual on the blog.

Real Life/Blogging:
I had a super fun day with my friends yesterday. We did a boot camp that had bonus content with the theme of "You are who you hang out with." I'm so glad that I hang out with positive people who push, encourage, and inspire me as we're working toward our goals. For me that includes the people I physically hang out with as well as all you wonderful bookish people with your exciting content and how you're maybe working on a novel of your own or reaching out to support others through social media. You're wonderful! I don't know how much I'll be around though as this week is kicking off a season of busy-ness for me with orchestra and softball beginning again...consequently my reading/blogging has already fallen off a bit as I prepare and will continue to take some hits. Eventually I will have commitments Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights in addition to planning social outings with friends. This means way less reading but I will definitely still be around. I managed it last year!

Week to Come:
Tumble and Fall by Alexandra Coutts-ever since I saw this gorgeous cover, I've been coveting this book so I'm pleased to be presenting an early review of it.
The Social Code by Sadie Hayes
Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan-I've heard mixed things about these short stories
This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales-I've heard so much good buzz
The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein-as the author of my beloved Code Name Verity, I have high expectations of this backlist title
The Truth About You and Me by Amanda Grace

What have you all been up to? How do you balance working full-time and other commitments with blogging if that's your situation?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Distance Between Us

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
4/5 stars
HarperTeen, 2013
312 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Library

After adoring Pivot Point, I was thrilled to discover that not only did West have another book coming out, but that it was going to be in my favorite genre: contemporary. How could I resist?

Caymen has grown up always knowing that she is separate from the rich people in her town. She lives with her single mother above their doll shop and she sees the financial struggles they endure. So when Xander Spence walks in and beckons her, she's ready to give him his grandmother's doll and get him out of there. But somehow he gets under her skin

Almost immediately I found myself caught up in West's addictive writing. I don't know what her secret is but I just click with it. Then, sadly, life got in the way and I had to put the book aside for a full day (see work, Taylor Swift concert, etc.) When I picked it back up, I found myself less enthused but I don't think it was necessarily the distance between us (haha) so much as some of the plot points that were increasingly emphasized.

Or rather one particular plot point, being Caymen's insecurity over how rich Xander is. This keeps hitting the reader over the head as the book progresses and I don't feel like it was dealt in a real and meaningful way. It was just the same observation repeated ad nauseam and Caymen unable to handle their socioeconomic difference. Another storyline that bothered me was involving Caymen's mother-a lot of information about her is thrown at us toward the end and I disliked how nothing was resolved. It is merely introduced-this is actually a case where I would have liked the book to be longer to more fully explore these issues.

So while those two elements bothered me and kept me from rating this higher, there were still a lot of things I liked. For one, Caymen is hilarious, maybe a bit rough around the edges with her sharp words but I clicked with her. For another, Xander reminded me very strongly of Dexter from Sarah Dessen's This Lullaby; this is not a compliment I give lightly but his sweet adoration of Caymen even when he found her bewildering struck a chord with me. One of my book weaknesses is reading about rich people so I also loved the peek into Xander's privilege like his own recording studio and jet.  While Caymen and Xander are definitely the main characters, it was also fun to meet her best friend Skye, her boyfriend Henry, another possible love interest for Mason (don't worry, it's not a love triangle) and Xander's grandmother were some of the other standout characters. Also as I mentioned above, the writing was just my taste.

Overall: Though I didn't think the ending really resolved anything, I am still very happy I read this book and it was just what I need to perk myself up! Trying to squeeze in one last contemporary before the end of summer? Make it this one :)

Cover: Love the cover-her dress is super covet worthy and I can't even see all of it!

Other Opinions: I almost feel like I didn't need to write this review because my blogging friends have already been so prolific about it. Sometimes I struggle just to find three other opinions but here I went with seven because there were just so many good ones!
A Reader of Fictions
I Want to Read That
Into the Hall of Books
Jen Ryland/YA Romantics
Katie's Book Blog
Rather Be Reading
The Flyleaf Review

Friday, August 16, 2013

ARC Review: A Wounded Name

**Sorry this is late-I forgot to prep it before the Taylor concert; I definitely have thoughts and will try to get them up this weekend!**

A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchison
4/5 stars
Carolrhoda Lab, 2013
310 pages
YA Retelling
Scheduled to release September 1

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

*Spoilers if you are not familiar with the play "Hamlet"*

Though I'm not the biggest Shakespeare fan, I do find myself inevitably drawn to the works that pay direct homage to his writing such as this take on "Hamlet," which focuses in on the tragic figure of Ophelia. I tend to prefer comedies so I was a little worried about how the drama and tragedy would play out.

Almost immediately though I was swept away by the beautiful writing and the intriguing updates to the characters. This variation follows (from what I remember) the Hamlet play very closely but because it is a novel from Ophelia's perspective, it emphasizes her feelings and actions a lot more. Here the twisted relationship between Ophelia and Dane (as Hamlet is known) takes center stage; though love is spoken of, it is dark and painful, abusive even at times. We also see a lot more of Ophelia's mother who is a ghost, seen only by Ophelia. Her mother's legacy hangs heavily over Ophelia until that inevitable conclusion.

I do have some problems with the world. I appreciated that it was all set at Elsinore Academy, its tight confines restricting the characters. But while references to computers and phones indicated it was set in the present day, it also felt very out of time. It seemed very old-fashioned especially emphasized with the school's odd curriculum that cultivates women to be ideal hostesses and companions to their successful husbands. Do places like that really still exist in this day and age? Do families really send their daughters off to expensive boarding schools content that they're getting an inferior education to their brothers? Coming from a family of just daughters that strongly values education, that is very difficult for me to wrap my head around.

This atmosphere is the kind that raised Gertrude who has always seen herself as the hostess, wife to the headmaster and that attitude really helped me to see how she so quickly married her husband's brother. She had grown up with both boys and had never really evinced a preference. When brother Claudius is posed to become headmaster, she remembers that childhood and her position as headmaster's wife and desires to retain it.

As for the end, my disappointment is that the book is narrated by Ophelia. If you remember what happens, she dies before the end of the play and the book follows that meaning we don't get to see the final duel between Dane and Laertes though we know how that shakes out. Still I wish there had been a way to actually show it all (note: I'm not complaining about the tragic nature as I was prepared by the source material and also because it seemed so fitting. No one was making very smart decisions so of course there's going to be a lot of death.)

One last note so I don't forget is that a lot of lines from the play are incorporated into the story. It has been probably about five years since I read it and even I managed to recognize some lines. A more recent reading would probably add greater depth to your connection with this story.

Overall: A beautifully written ethereal experience-a perfect companion to reading the play itself (I mean, the play's the thing :)

Cover: One might think I was drawn to the purple flowers that match so perfectly with the title. But it is front foot that grabs my eye-I do not think mine can arch quite like that and it makes me think she's a dancer.

Other Opinions:
Flying Kick-a-pow!
Katie's Book Blog

Thursday, August 15, 2013

ARC Review: Believe

Believe by Sarah Aronson
3/5 stars
Carolrhoda, 2013
287 pages
YA Contemporary
Scheduled to release September 1

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The sound of this book was so unique that I just had to give it a read-I loved how it seemed to be looking at BIG things like religion, war, and politics in the YA setting. While I enjoyed those explorations, I really had trouble clicking with the main character and often found myself frustrated with her, making this a less than awesome read.

When she was just six years old, Janine was the sole survivor of a suicide bombing in Israel, earning herself the title Soul Survivor and becoming famous. Ten years later, she struggles with the physical effects of this on her hands, with the notoriety of such a title and those who would push her to use her fame for a cause, and with the loss of her parents who died in the bombing that tragic day. She just wants to be left alone. However when her friend Abe survives an accident and a boy miraculously walks after she lays hands on them both, she starts to question what it means to believe.

As I said, I found the concept for this book very thought provoking and I think the author did a great job setting up these questions. I feel like I hear a lot about the potential for suicide bombings and I remember watching about them on TV. To read a book about someone who survived one is remarkably unique. Unfortunately I didn't really like Janine. I know she's only a teenager in a really crappy situation but I hated her protestations about not wanting fame and yet her ability to always drop her reason for fame if someone wasn't acting in accord with how she wanted them to.

The part that really worked for me was Janine's interaction with the man who pulled her out of the rubble, which was his own launchpad for fame in the religious community. He seems to earnestly believe and circumstances bring them together as she explores her own faith. Another part was Janine's more adult assessment of her parents. She remembers their life together as an idyll but after reading her mother's journal from the time, it is far more complicated than that.

Otherwise, I just didn't find Janine that compelling and though I dutifully finished this book, I can't rave and recommend it to you. I mean, it's an interesting read, could be good for a book club, but it's not a favorite of mine.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

ARC Review: The Chaos of Stars

The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White
3.5/5 stars
HarperTeen, 2013
288 pages
YA Paranormal
Scheduled to release September 10

Source: Received an e-ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Having read every other title from White, of course I was going to read her latest. For some reason I keep wanting the title to be The Chaos of THE Stars-has anyone else made this slip?

Isadora is literally the daughter of gods-Egyptian gods that is; Isis and Osiris to be specific. As just another in a long line of children, she finds herself fed up with these gods and grasps at the chance for a "normal" life in America with other mortals like the gorgeous writer Ry. But no matter how far she goes, she can't escape family.

This book was a very mixed bag for me with some elements I really enjoyed and some that I felt were not utilized very well. We'll start with the positive, which was the take on Egyptian mythology. I have not read many books centered on Egypt at all so it was cool to get a brief introduction to some of the gods and goddesses. I by no means consider this a definitive interpretation but I appreciated it. Each chapter opens with a little snippet of Egyptian mythology focused on these gods, which felt very informative. Another bonus is that this seems to be a standalone though there is room to explore the world more especially through the character Ry.

As White shares in her author's note at the end, she wanted to look at what it is like when you realize your parents aren't perfect, which is well-represented in Isadora's angst throughout the book. Her story also follows her coming to terms with her own mortality. Though her parents are gods who will endure forever, she and her siblings must face death and Isadora initially finds that incredibly unfair and it plays a huge role in her resentment toward them especially toward her mother.

As usual, I found White's writing very chatty, casual, and easy to read. However while I enjoyed reading this, I also felt that for rather a long stretch of time, nothing much seems to be happening. Yes, Isadora is meeting some new people (including a boy) and learning more about herself but I felt like all the action was packed into just a few chapters at the end instead of well-paced throughout.

Well, and just in general, I don't find myself very enthusiastic about it. Did I adore the California setting? Very much. Did I think there was a neat premise? Yes. Did anything really stick out as something I hated? No. But was there anything that will keep this book firmly in my heart and memory? I don't think so. Still a nice lightweight book when you just need something fun!

Cover: Gorgeous! White has been very fortunate with covers and the stars are very appropriate!

Other Opinions:
My Friends Are Fiction
Punk's House of Books

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

ARC Review: Just Like Fate

Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young
3.5/5 stars
Simon Pulse, 2013
294 pages
YA Contemporary
Scheduled to release August 27

Source: Received an e-ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

The concept for this book struck me as being very similar to Pivot Point's where at a critical juncture, a teenager's life separates and we follow her fate as she explores both option A and B. However while Pivot Point's premise employs characters with supernatural abilities, this book just has it happen for no reason other than for the authors to spend a lot of time musing on fate vs free will.

Here the book splits when Caroline's beloved grandmother falls ill and is rushed to the hospital. On what will be the last night of her life, Caroline has to decide if she will stay there with her family or go out for a night of fun and relaxation with her best friend. I kind of can't believe she even considered leaving as her grandmother seemed to be in very bad shape that last night but in one version she does go.

Caroline's family life is rocky. When her parents divorced, she found the tension so rough that she moved into her grandmother's house while her older brother and sister stayed with their mother who added another daughter with her new husband. Caroline's relationship with her sister Natalie is especially tense for reasons I never quite fathomed. My theory is that Caroline maybe caught her dad cheating on their mother and duly reported the news leading directly to the divorce. That is where the trouble seems to stem from and the sisters are very antagonistic from the start of the book. Other than that, I have no idea exactly why the sisters are so hateful to each other. Luckily in both scenarios, they seem to gain more understanding of each other although in general I found all the relationships lacking.

But the big difference in the stories is Caroline's romantic partnerships. In one version, she meets a cute new guy and begins a relationship with him; in the other, she finally gets to hook up with her long-time crush. And yet both paths lead her to the same seemingly inevitable conclusion so I'm not entirely sure what the point was. There is also a lot of repetitive talk about the meaning of fate with characters saying that certain events were fated-very heavy-handed!

Overall: I love the premise for this novel but found the relationships superficial and I especially never connected with the main character in the way I like to. If you really love the premise and/or are a big fan of the author(s), by all means give it a shot but otherwise, skip.

Cover: Sometimes, when I glance real quick, I think she looks like Emma Stone, which is definitely a compliment though i do prefer Stone as a redhead.

Other Opinions:
Chick Loves Lit
Paperback Treasures
Reading Teen

Monday, August 12, 2013

Love Disguised

Love Disguised by Lisa Klein
3/5 stars
Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2013
310 pages
YA Historical

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Though I'm not the biggest Shakespeare fan (I appreciate his contributions to the English language but I just don't read many plays), I find myself continuously drawn to stories about his life. There's just so much we don't know about the guy so it's ripe for various interpretations.

In this version, Shakespeare has a run-in with the sisters Hathaway that ends wrongly and he eagerly jumps on an opportunity to go to London and pursue his fortunes as a player. Meanwhile Long Meg has had trouble follow her for ages and is eager for a safe place to call home. When she meets Shakespeare, she undertakes to disguise herself as a man to aid him in his quest while also unwittingly serving as his first muse.

I've read some discussions lately about deciding when or even whether or not to DNF a book and this is an instance where I decided not to DNF and it paid off. I found the beginning of this book rather dull-it's clunky and it's hard to see how everything ties together. But I persevered and though I never fell in love with the characters, I found several elements to really admire.

First and foremost would be the language. I feel like Klein had a ball selecting just the right Renaissance-era language to reveal Shakespeare's quick and ready wit. Once the story gets moving, the writing really sparkles. It is just making it through the beginning that is difficult. Second, a big inspiration for this book was Shakespeare's comedies rather than his more famous tragedies. I recognized several elements (women dressed as men being the main one) but I bet fans of the plays will make out even more and enjoy it accordingly.

Meg is a really cool character! She gets to do so much over the course of the book, serving as enforcer, helping Shakespeare with his word choice and plots, and running all over London. Is there anything she can't do? And the book applauds her for her derring-do. Unfortunately Shakespeare is kind of a jerk and my inability to sympathize with him dragged down his bits. Yes, I enjoyed his way with words but as a person, he sucks.

Overall: I'm glad I stuck with this book and I think people who like language will find much to enjoy in that regard. Character and plot people will probably be less enthusiastic.

Other Opinions:
Alice in Readerland
Charming Chelsey's
Feminist Fiction

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ramblings and the Week to Come 11AUG13

Not too much to share this week. I have being feeling somewhat lackluster, meaning not up to doing anything including reading and especially blogging/commenting. I do have a full week of reviews planned but may have to cancel them if I can't motivate myself more :( As of this writing, I've only finished one book though I've started the second and plan to finish at least one more today. I really want to get ahead on my reading as the week of the 18th marks the start of orchestra and softball, both of which will take up quite a bit of time that could otherwise be spent reading. Just because I'm feeling a bit down though doesn't mean I don't have some good stuff this week like...

I've written before about my love of Taylor Swift and I'll be seeing her this week! I don't really go to that many concerts so this is my first one of hers. My sister and I are so thrilled! We are also Ed Sheeran fans so that's just the icing on the cake for us. I've already browsed their set lists and just can't wait for this experience. I may even write a post about it if I end up having time.

Today Manchester United takes on Wigan Athletic in the FA Community Shield game, something which seems to not necessarily be that important? Anyway last year I discovered how fond I am of soccer so I'm thrilled to be back to watching the beautiful game. It looks like NBC is going to be airing games too (watch the hilarious Jason Sudeikis ad for this-I really enjoy his comment about tackles which are very different depending on what kind of football you're discussing) but I kind of like my Fox Soccer channel and that is the channel I plan to continue to watch.
Week to Come:

Love Disguised by Lisa Klein
Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young
The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White
Believe by Sarah Aronson
Abandon by Meg Cabot
A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchison

The above are all egalleys for 2013 YA releases. However I may substitute in a post about library books Phoenix by Elizabeth Richards and/or The Distance Between Us by Kasie West. We'll see what gets read first!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Testing

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
3/5 stars
Houghton Mifflin, 2013
325 pages
YA Dystopia Post-Apocalyptic

Source: Library

I requested this from the library for my sister who read about it in a magazine and liked the sound of it. I liked the comparisons to The Hunger Games. She ended up saying she found it boring but I tend to be less picky than her and I already had it checked out from the library so I proceeded. I can fully see how part of this merited its The Hunger Games comparison but I personally found it lacking in multiple ways.

The titular testing comes from the government, where they attempt to select the brightest and best of recent high school graduates and put them through four rigorous tests to determine who will continue on to university. In this post-apocalyptic world, the citizens have worked hard to build a new life for themselves and going through the testing is one way to provide a much better life for yourself (through this new career) and your family (who receive a payment for your loss). Cia Vale is thrilled to be selected for The Testing even after warnings from her father who survived the tests himself. Once there, she has to decide who she can trust and who will happily kill her.

My general takeaway from this book is that we just didn't click. I had to force myself through each page instead of eagerly flipping through them. For whatever reason (writing, my mood, etc.) I could not connect with Cia who narrates and despite my love of students undergoing testing (like in Ender's Game), I didn't feel engaged with that part either. I feel comforted knowing that my sister wasn't impressed either and that there have been plenty of neutral to negative reviews out there

Of the four tests, it is the last one that brings to mind The Hunger Games. The first three take place inside the city grounds. The fourth deposits the remaining candidates (many have already died by that point) some days away and forces them to fend for themselves as they attempt to make it back. Some candidates use that opportunity to kill the competition. But even this failed to compel me. I don't know if I've read too many books in this genre (which isn't really my favorite anyway) or what exactly explains it but I found most of this book super dull.

Especially dull are the characters. Main character Cia is very intelligent, no doubt an that is clearly shown to us. She also possesses good instincts, knowing who to trust, when to hold back, and when to go full throttle (for the most part). I feel like she's exactly the kind of heroine I ordinarily love but not here. Her friend/love interest Tomas is even worse-I kept thinking he was going to turn out to be quite evil but that probably would have been too interesting.

Overall: I have so little enthusiasm for this book and cannot encourage you to check it out unless you are a very serious hardcore dystopia/post-apocalyptic fan who can't get enough. Lovers of contemporary would do well to steer clear.

Other Opinions: Some of my blogging friends had more positive things to say-read their reviews to excite yourself about this book!
Jen Ryland/YA Romantics
My Precious
New, Borrowed, Used
Once Upon a Prologue
The Book Cellar
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...