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Review – All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places

By Jennifer Niven

SummaryThe Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!
 
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
 
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
 
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
 
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy

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Review:

It’s official. Those quirky contemporary books that everyone else seems to gobble up like candy and rave about all over social media? Not for me. And when the hype gets to me and I’m like “oh, maybe the book IS decent, even for a contemporary issue book with quirky characters” I need to remember where I stand. Because All the Bright Places is just not the book for me. I can’t really say I hated it, but I’m frustrated by it. I can’t tell if maybe it’s just a tired trope or not as well written as I’d hoped or I’m just simply too old for the YA issue books with absent adults and inherently wise teenagers. But whatever the problem is, I just have to keep reminding myself to not let the hype get to me.

I don’t want to sound cold or ill informed when I say that I just didn’t think All the Bright Places captured anything real. I’m sure there are people out there who would vehemently disagree. But I will say that the book didn’t have the kind of writing that sucked me in or characters who found their way into my heart and that made any actual realistic aspects of depression, suicide, bipolar disorder, etc just fall flat. I feel like books should call out to not only those who have suffered from the tough topics they talk about, but to those who haven’t, so they may feel that they walked a mile in someone else’s shoes. If I haven’t felt like it was enlightening or realistic or remotely moving, what was the point?

All the Bright Places was like Paper Towns except the main characters were suffering from an array of mental disorders. Violet was dealing with the loss of her sister and having to face life without her. Finch was bipolar, but he was also from an abusive home and neglectful parents. In this story, he was the girl from Paper Towns, leading Violet on grand adventures. If Violet was the type to try to make herself appear smaller and avoid the spotlight, Finch was the loud and proud class clown who runs around in order to stay in the spotlight. Both characters were not dealing with life in a healthy and stable way and neither of their parents seemed to pay attention to anything. 

The book felt contrived, full of issues, lacked real character depth, and left me feeling frustrated. It announced itself as a suicide book from page one and I knew I was waiting for someone to die. I knew who it would be and I’d hoped for some real emotion along the way. I’d hoped both characters would save each other in some way, even if one of them would die. But I never really connected with the story.

Star 2

 

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Review – Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

 

Everything Everything

By Nicola Yoon

SummaryMy disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I avoided Everything Everything after hearing some criticism about the ending and not really being sure if it was a book I’d enjoy in the first place. A few months ago, I read The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon and it was very good, so I decided I’d amend my decision to not read Everything Everything. It fit a category for my POPSUGAR Reading Challenge and was decently priced at the store.

I devoured the book within a matter of hours. To be fair, that is the norm for me and contemporary novels, but it is still normally a sign that I’ve enjoyed the book.

Everything Everything was written in a way that just sort of sucked me in and I couldn’t get enough. The fact that I knew the twist based on reading other reviews when the “hype” around it was happening did not hinder my enjoyment at all. In fact, knowing how it ended made me pay close attention to some of the dynamics in the book and I appreciated the twist more because it still fit with the story and the behaviors of characters in the story. 

I prefer The Sun is Also a Star because it more closely explored the cultural aspects of both Jamaican and Korean cultures and what it means to be those things and be American, but I think Everything Everything delivered a story with diverse characters as well. My only real complaint is that I wish there was more depth in regards to the medical aspect, though I imagine it would’ve been difficult to incorporate that knowing the story. 

Everything Everything wasn’t realistic, but it wasn’t annoyingly so. I felt like it captured emotions and the essence of falling in love and being a teenager well, even if it wasn’t completely grounded in reality. I definitely recommend the book for a short and sweet contemporary YA read.

Star 4

Review – Ivory and Bone (Ivory and Bone #1) by Julie Eshbaugh

Ivory and Bone (Ivory and Bone #1)

By Julie Eshbaugh

SummaryA prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.

Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.

As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

Ivory and Bone was incredibly disappointing. 

Jane Austen retelling/reimagining books in the YA world have been extremely dazzling and unique. I expected there to be a reason for the setting in prehistoric times and I expected a story that focused on interpersonal relationships because there was little else for clans to do in prehistoric times but create legends, survive, and carry on. 

To be quite honest, I couldn’t help but feel like the book was a waste of potential. The setting, while boring to some, left a lot of room for real character development. The Pride and Prejudice inspiration seemed like it would be a story that was inspired and passionate. There was even a unique aspect to the POV because Kol, the narrator, spoke to you, a love interest in the story. But none of those things worked well. I almost feel like the prehistoric aspect was a way to strip down a simple story and make it even more simple and to the point. It is a story that could’ve happened anywhere, so I don’t feel like there was real storytelling or character development.

At the end of the book, I didn’t feel like I really knew anyone. Let me be clear, there was next to nothing else aside from characters interacting with one another in the book because that’s all there was. Someone hunted, they moved, they made pelts, they found honey, they told stories. It was a prehistoric setting. So to feel like I didn’t really know anyone meant that the ONLY aspect in the entire book that existed wasn’t very well done.

I just.. I just don’t get why this book exists. It didn’t really work. It was boring, forgettable, and it told a story that could’ve been whittled down to a few sentences because there wasn’t much else going on. Why would anyone do this story in this setting in this way?

To be honest, I would’ve been more intrigued if it was detailed in the way they hunted, made weapons, worshipped, and lived their lives. Chapters full of the hierarchy of each clan, complete with legends told by the fire would’ve made the book worth my time because there would’ve been something MORE to it. 

The POV didn’t work at all. The lack of communication and lack of understanding that everyone had for one another just made the first person to second person narration simple (since Kol only understood his own life and assumed everything else about Mya’s and we never really got into Mya’s head because we were in Kol’s the whole time) and I think I would’ve needed to get into the head or daily life of everyone to have enjoyed myself. 

Star 2

Sweet Peril (Sweet Trilogy #2) by Wendy Higgins

 

Sweet Peril (Sweet Trilogy #2)

By Wendy Higgins

SummaryAnna Whitt, the daughter of a guardian angel and a demon, promised herself she’d never do the work of her father—polluting souls. She’d been naive to make such a vow. She’d been naive about a lot of things. 

Haunted by demon whisperers, Anna does whatever she can to survive, even if it means embracing her dark side and earning an unwanted reputation as her school’s party girl. Her life has never looked more bleak. And all the while there’s Kaiden Rowe, son of the Duke of Lust, plaguing her heart and mind.

When an unexpected lost message from the angels surfaces, Anna finds herself traveling the globe with Kopano, son of Wrath, in an attempt to gain support of fellow Nephilim and give them hope for the first time. It soon becomes clear that whatever freedoms Anna and the rest of the Neph are hoping to win will not be gained without a fight. Until then, Anna and Kaiden must put aside the issues between them, overcome the steamiest of temptations yet, and face the ultimate question: is loving someone worth risking their life?

Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from my local library

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Review:

I admit that Sweet Evil was a total guilty pleasure YA romance read that took me out of a reading slump, but wasn’t amazing or mind blowing. I could say the same about Sweet Peril, but I also have to admit that it was a really good sequel. In the land of second-book syndrome and awful sequels, YA trilogies with sequels that are better than the first book are rare. Sweet Peril was awesome and much more addicting than the first book. 

Anna was thrust into a lifestyle and had to embrace her darker side in order to fit in and escape the radar of worse characters. Unfortunately, Kaiden’s father was one of those worse characters and it meant her relationship with him wasn’t to be. There was miscommunication, romantic tension, and resistance. It was so much fun.

Sweet Peril was a steamy YA paranormal romance with a ton of conflicts and darker adventures and I couldn’t get enough. I loved the characters, the romance, and the plot and I definitely don’t care if it’s a guilty pleasure kind of book. It was exactly what I needed to get me out of my slump and I can’t get enough. 

Star 4

Review – Sweet Evil (Sweet Trilogy #1) by Wendy Higgins

 

Sweet Evil (Sweet Trilogy #1)

By Wendy Higgins

SummaryEmbrace the Forbidden

What if there were teens whose lives literally depended on being bad influences?

This is the reality for sons and daughters of fallen angels.
Tenderhearted Southern girl Anna Whitt was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She’s aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but it isn’t until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage and her willpower is put to the test. He’s the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna.

Forced to face her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?

Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from my local library.

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Review:

I was in the mood to read a lighthearted and romantic YA paranormal story, but the main issue is that I’ve read so many books. I couldn’t really figure out what was left to read in this category and I stumbled upon Sweet Evil and decided to dig in.

I enjoyed Sweet Evil. It dealt with guardian angels, demons, and the Nephilim and was from Anna’s POV. She was a teenager who always knew she was different. She could see auras and she interpreted them in the form of emotions, so she could sense the emotions of everyone around her. She started to see wisps around people around the same time she turned sixteen and ran into a bad boy drummer without an aura. She wanted to know who he was and why he didn’t have an aura.

Meeting Kaiden propelled her into a dangerous and intriguing life that she was a part of. 

I think my favorite part was that Anna, while somewhat oblivious, wasn’t your typical naive perfect human teenager who suddenly found out she’s supposed to change the world. To some degree, she knew she wasn’t human and it made her a little less naive, despite the fact that she lived a demon-free life unlike the other beings who were like her. I liked that it was a little different and she wasn’t as insufferable as her fellow YA paranormal romance heroines.

Sweet Evil was fun to read and suited my mood. It wasn’t the most complex or thought provoking read, but it was exactly what I needed and I loved the push and pull between Anna and Kaiden.

I definitely recommend the book to anyone who loves YA paranormal romance.

Star 4

Review – Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined by Stephenie Meyer

 

Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined

By Stephenie Meyer

SummaryWHEN BEAUFORT SWAN MOVES TO THE gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edythe Cullen, his life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With her porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edythe is both irresistible and enigmatic.

WHAT BEAU DOESN’T REALIZE IS THE closer he gets to her, the more he is putting himself and those around him at risk. And, it might be too late to turn back…

IN CELEBRATION OF THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY of Twilight, Stephenie Meyer has crafted Life and Death, a bold and compelling reimagining of the iconic love story that will surprise and enthrall readers. This special dual edition includes a foreword by the author as well as the complete original novel. Turn this book over to read Twilight.

Source: I borrowed a kindle copy from my local library

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Review:

Curiosity got the best of me and I finally decided to pick this up. I have always liked Twilight, though I’m not one of those fans who think it’s not without its flaws. I frequently defend Bella because I think she was a certain way because of her personality in general and wasn’t meant to be a symbol for all girls everywhere to submit to a creepy man with abusive tendencies. I think people read way too much into things to be honest and Bella has her own strengths. I don’t feel like it’s that awful to find out who you are at the same time you meet someone you can’t live without and I don’t think the book pushes that, but I also believe that teens are NOT idiots and can read a romance without mimicking it, so there’s no real harm, but that’s an argument I’ve made before in greater detail so I’m moving on. 

Anyway, the idea of gender swapping the characters appealed to me because I wanted to see Meyer make her case that the story can work without Bella being a doormat that “sets women back” or symbolizes an unhealthy girl stuck in gender roles that will make teen girls also become doormats. Because I defend Bella as a character, I wanted Meyer to prove to me that it CAN work the other way around.

I do feel that some things worked by switching genders and I feel like Meyer successfully presented the situation. I hope she stops getting so much flack for “ruining feminism” or YA romance or whatever the heck people tend to accuse her of doing to women that’s so wrong by creating Bella’s character. 

Beau worked really well as a guy who fell for a vampire girl and took care of the cooking in his household because he enjoyed it and not because he was a girl and her place was in the kitchen. I totally believed that I was reading a character who was supposed to be guy, even with the occasional internal monologues and awkwardness. I never imagined Bella as a guy, but it worked for me in this book in a way I didn’t expect. Edythe as the girl version of Edward also worked really well, surprisingly! I thought it would be tough with her super strength and protective tendencies which I’ve always associated more with male characters who are supposed to be dangerous, but it worked perfectly with her being a female vampire. She was a little eerie, but I could see how Beau would be drawn to that. In some ways, I feel like I liked Edythe better than Edward because she was so strong and quiet and totally badass and creepy in a more believable vampire way. Like I never believed Edward was dangerous, but Edythe? She might snap at any time and I believed her more when she kept trying to push Beau away for some reason. While I prefer Bella and Edward, I was down to root for Beau and Edythe. 

So why did I rate this 3 stars?

THE NAMES. OH GOD, THE NAMES. I feel like the author wrote this with the sole intention to prove that Renesmee was an amazing name and she could do a lot worse… by pulling out some of the most awful names ever. BEAU? EDYTHE? JESSAMINE? ROYAL?! EARNEST? ARCHIE? (In place of Bella, Edward, Jasper, Rosalie, Esme, Alice.) Omg. Ugh, can we just stop? Seriously, it was so off putting that I couldn’t even really picture the side characters anymore and just wanted to gag at the horrendous name swaps. UGH.

Which brings me to my next point…

I don’t feel like EVERYONE had to be gender swapped. It would’ve worked just as well had everyone except Bella and Edward swapped. She could’ve swapped Jacob just for the potential love triangle, but that’s seriously it. She could’ve had Jessica want to get with Beau instead of swapped every friend and Cullen in the entire book aside from Renee and Charlie. There really wasn’t a need to swap everyone and it just made it that much harder to get through the book. Not only was I reading awful names, but I was trying to match them up with whoever they were supposed to be and it distracted me from the main characters: Beau and Edythe. I would’ve preferred familiar characters with just the two characters swapping genders.

It wasn’t the best book and sort of redundant up until the end, so I can’t really give it much more than 3 stars to be fair, but I’m still glad I read it. I know fans wanted Midnight Sun and there’s another set up fans ready to riot over the lack of sequels to The Host, but I respected Meyer’s decision to write this and send the message that it can be done. And as much as I would’ve preferred maybe a different vampire romance with a human guy and vampire girl, the fact that’s is a complete gender swap does give it a certain OOMPH that shouts to the world that Bella can be a guy in the same exact story that is almost verbatim and it still works. So, there.

Star 3

 

Review – Caraval by Stephanie Garber

 

Caraval

By Stephanie Garber

SummaryRemember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

Source: I received a hardcover in an Owlcrate

February_owlcrate_circus.jpeg

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Review:

I enjoyed Caraval so much. It promised an atmosphere similar to that of The Night Circus and it came in the Run Away with the Circus themed Owlcrate box. It wasn’t quite the same, but I see why the two books are compared or recommended to fans of one or the other.

I enjoyed the mystery and intrigue. Everything that happened from the moment Scarlett awoke to find herself headed to Caraval was a mystery. Who could she trust? Could she even trust herself? What would happen? Is everything just a game? I love books that can surprise me and throw something at me and make me doubt my own instincts. Caraval did a wonderful job with maintaining the atmosphere, surprising the reader, and remaining unpredictable to the very end.

My only real complaint was that I never really cared for Scarlett or her sister and I thought the book could’ve been amazing had they been more likable. But I am one to read books often with characters that are unlikable, sometimes on purpose, and enjoy them, so it wasn’t off-putting for me. Fair warning, if you tend to dislike books as a whole when you don’t like the main character, Caraval may not be the book for you.

I definitely recommend Caraval and I’m glad i finally picked it up and read it. It was exactly what i was in the mood for and did not disappoint. I loved the ride and figuring out what, if anything, I could trust.

Star 4