1.18.2014

Review: Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers


"Why. Why. Why. Why.
The question my life has become"

Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers
Publishing Date: December 21, 2010
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
# of pages: 230
Genre: Contemporary  

Struggling to understand the reasons behind her successful photographer father's suicide, Eddie Reeves pursues a dangerous relationship with one of her father's former students, who seems to know more about Eddie's father than she does. 

This is one of those books were after you read the last word, you sit, and then realize you aren't really sure how to process it. It's a difficult set of characters, a difficult plot and subject to grasp, and a difficult set of questions whose answers are never really provided.

Eddie is... very difficult to get into the mindset of because her father's suicide has left her really fucked up. She's obsessed with knowing why her father killed himself (which is normal).

Then Culler, the former student of Eddie's father, comes into the picture with his creepy, Criminal Mind's antagonist vibes. But alas, that is just me. Still something is off about him, and at the end of it he seems a lot more unstable about Eddie's father than she is. His artistic approach is something interesting to consider though, that lies can help you get closer to the truth, but it falls through at the end.

The one thing that really captured me was how each person in the novel personified different ways someone deals with grief. Eddie personified the person who becomes obsessed with the why. Her mother personified how one just completely shuts down. Milo, Eddie's best friend, personified one just continuing to live life despite the grief. Beth, her mother's best friend, the one who tries too hard to pretend it didn't happen and be overly happy. And finally Culler, who like Eddie is obsessed with why, but takes it to the extreme and devotes himself completely to the one thing that he thinks will finally get him through. It became very interesting to see how each person first dealt with the grief and, for some, how they moved past that stage.

Fall for Anything is a really provoking read if you really examine it. It takes the stance on how if you're really obsessed with finding the why, you really will just fall for anything, and how it's important to be aware of yourself and what you're doing and who you're with. Courtney Summers has such a vivid, alive style of writing that makes you feel on such a deep level and simple descriptions become alive and emotional.

1.15.2014

Review: White Lines by Jennifer Banash


"Children should love their mothers."

White Lines by Jennifer Banash
Publishing Date: April 4, 2013
Publisher: Putnam 
# of pages: 304
Genre: Contemporary / Historical 

A gritty, atmospheric coming of age tale set in 1980s New York City.

Seventeen-year old Cat is living every teenager's dream: she has her own apartment on the Lower East Site and at night she's club kid royalty, guarding the velvet rope at some of the hottest clubs in the city. The night with its crazy, frenetic, high-inducing energy--the pulsing beat of the music, radiant, joyful people and those seductive white lines that can ease all pain--is when Cat truly lives. But her daytime, when real life occurs, is more nightmare than dream. Having spent years suffering her mother's emotional and physical abuse, and abandoned by her father, Cat is terrified and alone--unable to connect to anyone or anything. But when someone comes along who makes her want to truly live, she'll need to summon the courage to confront her demons and take control of a life already spinning dangerously out of control. 

Drinking game: one shot every time a simile or metaphor is used, two shots every time either one is used to describe whatever horrible emotion Cat is experiencing. Albeit, there were some moving passages but overall I've about had my fill of both writing devices for... ever.
The last third is definitely the shining part of this book. It's not horrible by any means but it could've still used a lot of work. Character developments fell short and the pacing was so stagnant that if you asked me to clearly outline the novel I couldn't. I couldn't tell you the purpose of all the characters and what role they each played in Cat's journey. I couldn't even point out major parts or stages of the book. After awhile it all just blends together. Granted I've been reading this for awhile but if the plotting and pacing of a novel is clear enough that shouldn't really matter. All you'd need is a quick refresher but even that couldn't do it for me. (Please hold your 'that's what she said' jokes. I've made them for you.)

What is it with horrible mothers and YA? Is a mother's love that elusive to writers? There is way more than the absence or abuse of a parent that can fuck a person over. I know that very well. I'm just so very sick and tired and repulsed by the role (or lack thereof) of mothers in novels. 85% of all contemporary novels I've read so far have used the shunning of a mother to the main character as a plot device. It's very depressing to read, you know. It's a hard thing to really argue in this case because all of Cat's issues are rooted in her mothers abuse towards her--physical and emotional--but I'm commenting on how this is the general case in most YA novels. And it sucks.

But hey, those club passages be bangin'. I loved how Banash really made Cat's other-life seem so electric and alive. As demonstrated in the summary, some of those description ran way too long but the feel and emotional intensity Cat feels is so nailed down. Even if you aren't a club person, it kind of makes you want to be one. (If you've never been, I'd recommend going to a club once. You don't have to give into the entire culture of it all but it is very freeing to just literally dance the night away.)

It's clear the editing and plotting needed to be way more well-done and certain aspects of the novel needed to be much more fleshed out. Cat, however, was fleshed out just fine and empathized with her on several parts. Her personality or self isn't very well defined but it's not meant to be me, mostly because she doesn't know who she is. Girl is a down-right mess. It was actually rewarding to see her make that final crash and realize that her life isn't one worth giving up on despite how it's been so far. Though how she got there was predictable.

Overall, great if you need something to read before heading to bed but not so great if you want something more guilty pleasure (which you'd think this was) or more provocative. I don't think it's something that'll provoke any deep thought but it's one of those things that, while depressing to read, does actually make you feel not as isolated.

8.31.2013

Review: Fire with Fire by Jenny Han + Siobhan Vivian


"An eye for an eye,
A tooth for a tooth,
a burn for a burn."

Fire with Fire by Jenny Han + Siobhan Vivian
Publishing Date: August 13, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
# of pages: 528
Genre: Supernatural (I suppose) / Drama

Lillia, Kat, and Mary had the perfect plan: work together in secret to take down the people who wronged them. But things didn't exactly go the way they'd hoped at the Homecoming dance.
Not even close.
For now it looks like they got away with it. All they have to do is move on and pick up the pieces, forget there ever was a pact. But it's not easy, not when Reeve is still a total jerk and Rennie's meaner than she ever was before.
And then there's sweet little Mary. . .she knows there's something seriously wrong with her. If she can't control her anger, she's sure that someone will get hurt even worse than Reeve was. Mary understands now that it's not just that Reeve bullied her--it's that he made her love him.
Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, burn for a burn. A broken heart for a broken heart. The girls are up to the task. They'll make Reeve fall in love with Lillia, and then they will crush him. It's the only way he'll learn.
It seems once a fire is lit, the only thin you can do is let it burn. . . . 

I was really hesitant over the sequel. The first novel, Burn for Burn, I felt had a decent conclusion. After all that went down, Mary, Kat, and Lillia were obviously going to be forever reminded of what they had and were going to live with personal guilt they feel over it. I just didn't feel like the first warranted a second book, much less a trilogy.
Add on the fact that for some goddamn reason, Mary was still obsessed with Reeve. There's no reason she should be. The reason, "He can be different" is used to justify her "love" but it why would you love someone that made your life a living hell? It doesn't matter how he acts, why would you love someone who so easily turned on you and was only there when it was convenient? It's not like he gave her the necklace or came to her birthday (as mentioned in book 1) because he wanted to, it was because his parents made him. I just don't get it. If you do, please, explain it to me. I'd love to know.

Want to know what also frustrates me? The constant outfit description. I don't care if Lillia is wearing a blue silk dress shirt or a suede booties (that I want). Move on. Also, Kat's language is... eccentric. She shouts things that are over-the-top and out of place for the setting and how others talk. Rennie also occasionally had dialogue that was jarring, taking me out of the novel. They also like to word the use baby a lot. Not in that mushy-couple-God-where's-a-bin-so-I-can-hurl way, but in a way of, "I'm a badass so I say baby because nothing says badass like saying the word baby a lot"? Putting it short (which I will never learn to do), dialogue needed cleaning up. It was just weird at times.

However, despite all the rage, I really did enjoy the novel. It's a guilty pleasure to the core and rides that fact to the very end, just being a classic revenge plot with a slight twist that never seems to get old. The characters are shallow as hell with you not really rooting for anyone as much as you are just wanting to see how everything plays out, even if you have a big honking idea on how.



With the last novel, I had problems with the supernatural elements of it and that still hasn't changed. I'm actually even more frustrated about it because it makes no damn sense. There are way too many plot holes for it to even work. There was zero explanation. They spent too little time investing on the idea in the first novel for it to even sell in here. I definitely dig the idea of it but the execution was just no. No, no, no. I ended being so frustrated over it because of all the holes and all the questions but lack of answers it provided. Damn, it would've been so interesting if it was just fleshed out earlier.

The same point goes for the secondary characters. I could not give two flying fraks about either of them. They had no personality, playing out every trope in the book, who serve no purpose. There's a realization that some of them only serve the purpose so that there's a posee surrounding Lillia and Rennie for both to manipulate, but some sort of plot or development would've been nice. Or at least more than a paragraph appearance for one of them. The supporting cast is to support the main cast, and usually steal the spotlight. But these guys? Nothing. On top of everything else, the will-they-or-won't plot line for Lillia + Alex is in play for no reason. Other than to make Reeve jealous? But that's a cheap shot at best. I feel bad for Alex, I really do. Way to screw over the only decent friend you have Lillia. (Even if he's only doing everything to impress you. But even then!)

I seem like I'm complaining a lot. Truth to be told, there's so many things I can rave and nitpick on but I'd be flat out liar if I said I didn't enjoy it one bit. Like I said, guilty pleasure to the core so while there were issues it's not to say it isn't a fast, fun ride. I'll say the three girls friendship is very fun to read. Despite being such different people, they find little things to have in common making it work enough to be believable and maybe the only thing you root for in the novel.

6.17.2013

Flash Reviews: White Cat//Red Glove

Clever as the devil,
and twice as pretty.


White Cat by Holly Black
Publishing Date: May 4, 2010
Publisher: McElderry
# of pages: 320
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Goodreads // Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Cassel comes from a family of Curse Workers - people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn't got magic, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail - he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

Even with several reads the world building in this book still holds up and is still some of the best I've ever read. What's really nice about White Cat is that it introduces its world and characters without bogging you down with meaningless piles of text block. It's all just as cleverly introduced as the main character, Cassel. It doesn't take long to pick up the syntax of the world or how it works, easily sucking you in while astounding you with all the backdoors Cassel manages to find and/or create.
The ending was wrapped up way too quickly and things happened a little too conveniently for my taste, feeling like Holly Black was just running out of time and needed to just quickly wrap things up. That's a lot what it felt like, the story just ran out of time.
A good read if you want something for a one-sit read and feel clever enough to untangle shady characters with shady motivations.

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Changing is what people do
when they have no options left.

Red Glove by Holly Black

Publishing Date: April 5, 2011
Publisher: McElderry
# of pages: 325
Genre: Urban Fantasy


Cassel comes from a family of Curse Workers - people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn't got magic, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail - he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

With how much I enjoyed the first, I was really looking forward to this. But like anything else, the hype you set up for yourself usually makes it end in disappointment. There was a strong focus on romance this time around with Lila re-entering the picture but alas! She has been worked so the love is not real. It was really bothersome to see the romance get in the way of world and plot development. This time around, the curse workers world focuses a lot more on rights with riots in the streets and protest. That to me was so much more interesting than the whole Cassel/Lila fiasco. Mostly because at the end of it all, I have no idea where Lila stands. I don't know if she actually cares for Cassel, if she actually did care for him, if she really wants to be a part of her father's "business." Ambiguity abound. The world that Holly Black has crafted was what drew me in the first place; the world is a character of its own and it got shoved aside from all the ~drama~. 
Still, Cassel remains to be as crafty as always, even if his loyalty does change in the book. His narrative remains to be enjoyable. How this all gets wrapped up? I have no idea! I think the plot is starting to really unwind and faces the threat of going nowhere in a world that offers so much.

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And that's it for these reviews. I'll probably get around to finishing the third and last book in this series this summer. If you guys have read it, let me know how it is! And leave me any thoughts you have on these two books. 

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

"Listen, the truth is, nothing is guaranteed."

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Publishing Date: May 11, 2004
Publisher: Penguin
# of pages: 374
Genre: Contemporary

A long, hot summer...
That's what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two fo them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy's father.
But sometimes unexpected things can happen--things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister's project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl's world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder, is it really better to be safe than sorry? 

After like two years of putting I hold, I HAVE FINALLY FINISHED.

It wasn't because it was bad I took so long, I was just never in the mood. But man, once I was, I stayed up pretty late to read and the first I thing I did this morning was to sit my ass down and finish this book.
It's your a-typical Sarah Dessen read. Good, complex characters; a sa-woon worthy love interest (see what I did thar?); and a dictator mom. Okay, the last I'm not sure if it's a typical trope her in novels but goddammit, it's annoying.
Every scene Macy's mom was in, I could literally feel myself get a headache. I just couldn't deal with it. What is it with YA contemp novels + dictator moms? Or overworking moms? It's heartbreaking, is what it is. I realize they're there for "conflict" and "character development" but I think Rory Gilmore has shown you can have an awesome, supporting mom and still have lots of "conflict" and "character development." (If if some of those developments didn't make sense. Seriously, the DAR, Rory?) I would've liked to have seen a more fuller development for Macy's mom and for Macy to actually tell her mom what's up in her life but I suppose that would've been out-of-character for Macy (at the time). Grief, all the various degrees of it, is difficult to deal with but suppressing it never works and I just find it a little hard to believe that Macy's mom wouldn't be concerned at all Macy had zero social life and was just so insanely strict.

Easily, the best part of this novel was Macy + Wes's romantic chemistry and development. THEY'RE ARE SO ADORABLE TOGETHER, I CAN'T. Nearly every scene with them together was just so sweet, so electric, and just so damn adorable. It wasn't instant romance either which is awesome. The thing that makes it work so well is it felt so natural. The pacing of it, the dialogue, the interaction between the two. You really got to see Macy and Wes's character not just when they played Truth but when they just talked to each other. And really, Sarah Dessen, you had to write such an adorable, sa-woon worthy lead? Wes is everything and more.

My other favorite thing in this book is the secondary characters. Oh secondary characters, how you always manage to win my heart. The group chemistry between the Wish Catering Crew is phenomenal. They mesh so well together, play off one another, and just really fun to read. These are some crazy developed characters with full personalities and hopes and goals. Can we please get some short stories or a series just around the Wish Catering Crew and their chaotic adventures? Because I would read those forever.

Now contemporary kinda of demands you have at least one major introspective chain of thought (I mean, they're usually all about change and life, right?) but wow this book had A LOT. Like every other chapter, Macy would come to this conclusion about life or one of the characters would deliver "the life monologue" and it was just a lot. I feel like some of those could've been cut out and it would've have majorly impacted the book or they could've been condensed because some of them I swear had the same message. It just hit the same points over and over again making it tiresome to read.
And this is a really small nitpick but wow adverbs. Lots of them. Adverbs that could've been changed to verbs! Also there are mishaps in the editing department. Towards the end (huh how funny) there were a few sentence and grammar mistakes and unfinished sentences? The editing department is human, makes mistakes, I know but some of those were pretty big.

This is a nice contemporary read that is repetitive but really, read it for the romance because W O W. It really is all sorts of adorable that guarantees to make you melt.