Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Midnight Star

Continuing the catching up on reviews with the final installment of the Young Elites Trilogy by Marie Lu. I fell in love with Lu's writing with Legend, and the love did not stop with her new anti-heroine story following Adelina. I've actually had the good fortune of seeing Marie Lu twice at signings, and she's such a nice person, it's hard to believe she comes up with such twisted characters as she does in this series. Onward!

Retrieved from Goodreads
Adelina is a empress, but she still doesn't have what she wants. Her sister has betrayed her along with her friends. All she has left is Maggiano, her trickster who seems like the only person to understand her heart. He helps quiet the voices that torment her more and more frequently. When Adelina must accept the consequences of the Young Elites' powers, she joins an uneasy alliance to find a cure. But finding a cure could mean losing everything she holds dear. Her sister. Her power. Herself.

If anything, I wanted this book to be longer. The twist that was revealed at the end of The Rose Society was so intriguing, I wanted to know more. Adelina is slowing going mad. Every one of the Young Elites is getting ill. I wanted more origin story for the powers. More Maggiano, more of Adelina's sister. More banter between all of the Elites as they try to find a cure. More insane Teren. Not that I was disappointed in this book. Adelina is a good antihero. She slowly starts to see the world with softer sides, and even though she hesitates, she is given a chance to redeem herself. But what made this book for me was the ending. I am a student of history, and if there's one thing all those classes told me, is that there is no such this as objectivity. Was Adelina a monster or a hero? It depends on who tells the story. And I love that Lu gets that and shows it was such subtelty. I'll definitely read her next series, whatever that is.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: After the End by Amy Plums

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Revenge of Seven

After the beauty and fun that was A Study in Charlotte, perhaps it was inevitable that the next book be a lemon. But here I am anyway, having read it. The Revenge of Seven by Pittacus Lore, the fifth book in a seven book series.

Retrieved from Goodreads
Five has betrayed them, Eight is dead, and the Garde are scattering for different missions again. Sarah goes off somewhere to find out about a website that's publishing the truth about Mogadorians and the Loric, some other people go attack a Mogadorian community, and some other people try to retrieve Eight's body. And one of them (I think Ella) ends up in space with the Mogadorians.

Okay, I did not try at all with that description, and that's because I have no idea why I'm still reading this series. Seriously, I think my compulsion to finish reading series is causing a misfiring in my brain and making me buy these books. Actually, I am interested to see how this series will wrap up. There are SO many characters that I want to know what happens to them. But it can be very tiresome getting there. In fact, it felt sort of like the majority of this book was just footwork to get to the last few chapters. For instance, I have no idea who each of the characters is anymore, except for maybe Nine and John. And that's because everyone has the exact same voice. Who's Marina? No idea. So the individual stories I don't particularly care about anymore. Even the Mogadorian turned good wasn't that interesting, even though there was an attempt at backstory with a dispassionate father that gets killed before he makes an impression. I won't go on about this book because I really hate giving bad ratings, I really do. I will say though, that the reason this book isn't getting one star is because of the ending. THAT was cool. If the last two books are more like the last few chapters of this one, I would be a happy happy camper. So have two stars, book, because that was a really cool ending.

Goodreads Rating: 2 Stars
Up Next: The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

A Study in Charlotte

I am a moderate to big Sherlock Holmes fan. I read the stories when I was a kid (really freaked out when I listened to the Hound of the Baskervilles on audiobook), I tried to watch Elementary when it came out (I might try again soon), I've seen the RDJ remakes, and I've watched the BBC Sherlock probably 3 or 4 times. I've also written about a few of the stories for English classes. I will not pretend I know the stories back to front. In fact, I'd say I've forgotten most of them. But there are several that still stand out (The Speckled Band being one of them). There is something about these characters that keeps drawing me in. So this will be a totally biased review, just letting everyone know.

Retrieved from Goodreads
Jamie Watson is a descendant of those Watsons. He's always wanted to meet his Holmes counterpart, Charlotte, but his mother discouraged him. But now he's going to boarding school in America, and as luck would have it, Charlotte is enrolled as well. When the two of them are framed for a murder that recreates a Sherlock story, they must figure out who the real murderer is before they are locked up. Charlotte and Jamie must figure out who they are and how they can work together before their time runs out.

Just. Wow. If there was one thing I wasn't expecting from this book, it was how much it would make me smile. The friendship between Jamie and Charlotte is just SO believable. They care about each other so much, even though they can be wildly difficult. Jamie is a worry-wart with a taste for adrenaline and a bit of a temper. Charlotte is a brilliant drug addict (like that Holmes) with some surprisingly human vulnerabilities and who loves ABBA. Any scene between these two made me so happy. On several occasions I laughed out loud. I had no idea who the killer was and I adored all the deductions Charlotte and (eventually) Jamie make. There's some gruesome bits (ewww diamond down a throat) and some heart-wrenching bits (under the porch). But the feeling I was left with after finishing this book was...hope. And excitement for the next installment. GIMME!!!

Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars
Up Next: The Revenge of Seven by Pittacus Lore

My Heart and Other Black Holes

I was definitely on a contemporary kick last month, I think totalling 4 or 5 contemporary novels. This is unusual for me, as long-time readers of this blog will attest to. Fantasy is my usual fare, with a smattering of sci-fi, romance, dystopian, historical, and yes, contemporary. But every once in a while I like to sink my teeth into contemporary. My Heart and Other Black Holes is certainly a book with a lot to sink into.

Retrieved from Goodreads
Aysel wants to die, and she doesn't want to do it half-assed. The last thing she wants to happen is to chicken out halfway through and end up a vegetable or worse...alive. So she needs a companion. And she finds one by the screenname of FrozenRobot. He lives one town over and he's just as screwed up, just as miserable as she is. As they plan their joint death, Aysel starts to have second thoughts about leaving the world behind. But FrozenRobot is determined. She'll have to convince him it's worth staying, and that's an argument she isn't used to making.

This book made me sad. Let's just get that out of the way. Aysel's depression, described as a black slug, is seriously well done. It drags on her spirit, it morphs into a rather twisted sense of humor, and she has a sort of peace when she finds her suicide companion. The story of why Aysel is suicidal is revealed in dribs and drabs, and FrozenRobot (who's real name is Roman) has an equally tear-jerking backstory. The focus on high school here is minimal, which I appreciated. There are some good family moments, and the climax made my heart race and sink all at once. I was urging Aysel to go faster, think faster. And I legitimately did not know which way the story was going to go, which I really liked. There were two distinct paths and I like when I can't tell which direction the author is going to go with it. That being said, I'm not sure how I feel about Aysel's depression being releaved so quickly. I like her moments of discussing how it'll be a struggle, and there will be good days and bad. I thought on the whole it was a good representation of what it's like to be depressed. But it was not perfect. And I think that will be a problem for those reading the book who have had different experiences with this area of mental health. So while I give this book 4 stars, it is a bit tentative because even weeks later, I'm not sure how I feel about the end. I myself have not suffered from depression and I don't want to presume to be able to judge how others will feel and relate to this story.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Extraordinary Means

I am not a John Green fiend (I swear this is relevant). I've read a couple of his books and I think Paper Towns is on my To-Read list. This is not to say that I don't enjoy John Green's books. Not at all. I just this background might be helpful going forward with this review. Sorry I've been posting so sporadically, guys!

Retrieved from Goodreads
Lane was about to start his senior year before getting shipped off to Latham House. He had big plans to get into a top-tier college, and every waking minute was spent pursuing that goal. But at Latham House, which is part hospital part boarding school, the school part is secondary. There, he reconnects with Sadie, a girl he sort of knew years ago, and whose carefree attitude both scares and excites him. With the looming spector of disease constant around them, Lane both rejects and welcomes these new attitudes, and they threaten to change his outlook forever.

I read a review on Goodreads which presented an alternate title that I think sums up this book in five words: The Fault in Our Alaskas. As luck would have it, I have read both The Fault in Our Stars, and Looking for Alaska. This is not to say that Extraordinary Means is not enjoyable. Now, it's interesting actually. The idea of a drug resistant TB really presents a sad world at Latham House. These teenagers have to confront their mortality on with shocking regularity, but not in a way like it happens in dystopias. No, death from TB is quiet and personal, and it's a slow descent into death. Sadie and Lane have a lovely relationship, and Lane's obsession with perfection which pushes him to try too hard and not actually focus on things he cares about is one that I think a lot of teenagers can relate to. I was an overachiever in school. I took AP classes and advanced math courses I did not enjoy, all so I could plump up my college resume. I burned myself out on many occasions trying to keep up with it all, sacrificing things I enjoyed in order to finish work for those classes. So this book is certainly relatable. But it also has a perfunctory death and teenagers who talk about how unique their tastes are and how that makes them better than everyone else. Sadie and Lane are kept apart by a never-fully-realized plot device which disappears in one conversation. I didn't feel like any of the revelations in this book were particularly new, and I got bored by the end because I knew what was going to happen. Very Fault in Our Alaskas, essentially. All in all, a pleasant, quick read.

Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars (More like 3.5)
Up Next: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tiny Pretty Things

Round two of catching up on my reviews! I was a gymnast for six years. I was nothing special, at all. I took lessons and did the yearly exhibition thing, and then I did a year of it in high school before a badly broken ankle ended my season. This actually turned out for the best because it inspired my short-lived book Balancing Act which dealt with the high school gymnastics world. All this to say, reading a book about the realities of the world of ballet really excited me.

Retrieved from Goodreads
Gigi, Bette, and June are students at a prestigious ballet school in New York. They compete for everything in a world that says they need to be a single body type. Every year only a select few high-level students are awarded lead roles in the ballets and then possible a role in a company. They all love ballet with a fierceness, even as it ravages their lives. As these girls compete for the top spots, rivalries form, secrets are revealed, and lives torn apart.

I'm of two minds with this book. Firstly, I love all the bits where they discuss the realities of the ballet. How a ballerina's feet actually look, how you have to starve yourself to be the classic ballet body type, the inherent racism in the system. All awesome things to focus on. I loved how each character struggled with something different. How they were still teenagers even though they also had to be adults. I will absolutely be reading the sequel. But there were a couple downsides. 1) No adults anywhere basically and they seemed to have no power. And 2) I wanted more showing, less telling about the characters' personalities. Gigi seemed to scream a lot more than a regular person too, but I'll give that one a pass considering all the stuff that happened to her. This book reminded me a bit of Anna Godbersen's Luxe series in the way the story was told, and I am a-okay with that! Overall, a very enjoyable (though sad) story that left me in suspense of what happens next!

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: Extraordinary Means by Robin Schneider

The Naturals

Well...I'm super behind on my reviews. Like, incredibly. I've been on a reading binge, and in addition to working full-time and trying to have a social life (moderately successful), I just haven't found the time to review all the books. But now I'll give it a go! I read The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes in early October...well, listened to it on audiobook while I put together a puzzle, but same thing.

Retrieved from Goodreads
Seventeen-year-old Cassie has always had a knack for reading people. But it isn't until the FBI shows up that she realizes what she has in an insane natural ability, one that other people share with her. She goes into a special training program to learn how to assist in cold cases. Her fellow "students" seem great, but they definitely have secrets they aren't sharing. But when dead bodies start showing up around town, ones that start sharing an eerie resemblance with Cassie's mother's unsolved murder, Cassie is pulled into a situation she  might not get out of with her life.

I really enjoyed this book! I watch a few crime procedurals (White Collar, Castle, Sherlock) and profiling is fascinating to me. So Cassie's ability to get into the victim's head and her friend's ability to get into the killer's head was really cool and legitimately freaked me out on a few occasions. There was a really great enhanced-ability game of truth or dare. A very fun read. And the murder mystery with the bodies showing up was really creepy. On the downside, there was a romance I didn't care about, though that might change as I read the next few books. And I didn't feel like I learned a whole lot about Cassie outside her abilities and her trauma around her mother's death. But overall, a very enjoyable listen, and I'll be reading the sequel!

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton