Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’


Corrie Wang’s novel, The Takedown, takes our current technological society and multiplies it by 1000. Take what you know about the Facebook currently works–if you post a photo, it scans the faces in that photo and suggests that you tag the person it thinks it sees in that picture based on some facial recognition algorithm that I can’t begin to claim to understand. In The Takedown’s equivalent, Connect Book, this idea goes to a new level via something called Woofer. Woofer scans the photos and videos EVERYONE posts and tags EVERYONE in them, and it’s completely legal due to the user agreement everyone signs when they create their account. Taking a selfie at the mall on the escalator? Woofer is tagging everyone on that escalator with you. Making a video of the latest and greatest subway musician? Well Woofer is tagging every person crowded on that train platform. Sounds fun, in theory, and protagonist Kyla Chang agrees. At least until a video surfaces of a teacher and a girl in a classroom having sex–and when that girl turns to the camera, it’s Kyla.

Only it isn’t. 

Someone has taken Kyla’s face and put it on someone else’s body in a perfect edit, and Kyla’s entire life explodes. Her school tries to suspend her; the organizations she belongs to disconnect from her, and no college will accept her. The video attaches to absolutely every aspect of her life, and Kyla has to figure out where the video has come from so that she can take it down before her life, and the lives of everyone attached to her, completely explodes.

I love this book for a lot of reasons. First off, Kyla. I want to hate her, but I also want to love. She’s that super popular girl in high school that all of us non-popular people want to despise. She’s written in a very two layered way–that girl we wanna hate is right there, but there’s also the girl below that that is every one of us. Kyla is just as insecure about her place in society as anyone else, just in a different way and for different reasons. It’s harder to be at the top than it looks, and Wang writes from this perspective masterfully. Audra, one of Kyla’s best friends, was, by comparison, underwritten. From a feminist perspective, she could have been played up much more. While the focus of the book is clearly Kyla, an opportunity comes with Audra (staying spoiler free!) that could be played up and written more. As women, what does in mean to be in control of our bodies? What does in mean to ask others to respect them? How does the gaze of others change us? There are a lot of questions here that, while responded to by Wang’s text, don’t go as in depth as they had the potential to.

The Takedown also makes some strides in terms of diversity. I love how broad it is in terms of race, but I more love how that’s absolutely not the focus. It’s more just how it is. Wang doesn’t make a point of saying “this person is white, this person is African American, this person is Asian.” They just are. 

The society in The Takedown is fantastic just because of how clearly it aligns with the path of our current lives. In a few years, this could be where we are. Many people still think that it doesn’t matter what you do online, that no one sees it. That’s just not true–people do see. And in the future, everyone will see, much like Kyla’s situation. This book is going to be great for teens in that, though it’s not tech currently available to us, it still promotes a message that will make people think. Think about what you say, what you do, what you post. You never know who’s watching. All in all, if you are a teen who uses the internet (every teen ever) or if you have a teen who uses the internet, pick this up. This isn’t us today, but it could be us tomorrow. 

5 stars.

Hey, y’all! It’s been a while. I’ve been inspired by BookCon to get back on the writing book reviews train, so hopefully the motivation sticks! It got to be not fun for a while there, being REQUIRED to review books. So for a change of pace, I’ll review a few I am absolutely not required to! Starting with this gem!

I had a fantastic time at BookCon. The most notable event for me, was, of course, meeting Sarah Dessen. I’ve read her books since her beginning as a writer, and I was very excited to tell her so. For her part, she was super sweet and wonderful. And her publicist handed out flowers. It was amazing. Ignore my messy hair and weird eyes in this photo, but please share the joy:


I was super stoked to get Once and For All a few days early, so that I could have it done by the time the rest of the world got their hands on it. The book follows the standard Dessen formula: girl meets boy; girl rehashes some past traumatic event; girl avoids getting with boy we all know she should be with; girl ends up with boy, “healed” from trauma. We all know that I am not a romance person. But for some reason, Dessen and her formulaic approach to contemporary romance just really work for me.  I love her writing, her stories, her characters…etc etc. Clearly I am a fan.

To the specifics of THIS book!

I love Louna as the protagonist. I love her name, for starters, the combination of Louis and Natalie. Louna is a strong girl, but she’s damaged in the typical Dessen fashion. A romance set in a wedding planning society is a fun concept, but with massive cheese potential. Once and For All, does not, however, stray to the land of the cheese. The wedding planning aspect forms a nice background to the story–damaged girl sees everyone else falling in love, but she remains cynical after the terrible events that befell her first epic romance. Louna doesn’t wish. Louna doesn’t have expectations. She comes to work for her mother’s company, and she makes weddings run smoothly, but she does not believe in true love. 

“‘Do you believe that true love can last forever?’ … I knew she wanted a yes or no, something concise and specific and if this were any other question, I probably would have given it to her. But instead, I just sat there, silent, as I tried to put the image in my head … into any kind of words”

Enter Ambrose. He is the fairly typical Dessen male counterpart to the female protagonist. I have to be honest and say that he didn’t totally ring true for me. I wanted to like him, so badly. The text itself screamed at me to like him, especially when he saved the dog (read the book to find out more, that’s as spoiler-y as I get!). But there was something about him that didn’t ring true to me. I think it’s that, while we see Louna come full circle as a character, we don’t see Ambrose actually change. He is A one minute, and he is B the next. Others may disagree, but his evolution is too abrupt in my opinion, especially when laid beside the evolution of our lead. Louna gets there in a legit way for me. We can follow the gears in her head shifting:

“Everything in weddings and life had its phases, and if you were smart, you learned to appreciate them all. What really mattered, though, were the people in those moments with you. Memories are what we have and what we keep, and I held mine close … I was choosing to believe we had time, plenty of it.”

I just love Louna. This is the same for me for all of Dessen’s female protagonists, and it comes from the way she crafts them–Dessen’s writing of her lead is so strong that she gets us inside their heads. We follow them every step of the way down their healing path, and we’re so inside their point of view that we feel with them when they get there. I think this love is, largely, what makes Ambrose a weak counterpart for me. 

Long story short, because you’ve figured out by now that I can rave about Dessen all day long, if you like romance that’s a cut above the average, then Dessen is for you. If you like weddings and reading about behind the scenes bridal shenanigans, then Once and For All is DEFINITELY for you. Pick it up; you won’t be sorry.

4.5 stars on the Goodreads scale, .5 deduction solely for my Ambrose dislike. Agree? Disagree? Hit me up.

tg

Tragedy Girl by Christine Hurley Deriso tells the tale of a teenage girl, Anne, and her path through the high school landscape after the death of her parents in a car accident. Anne meets Blake, and it seems like a match handed to her directly from her parents—he too has suffered a great loss; his girlfriend Cara drowned in a freak accident before the beginning of the school year. But the more Anne gets to know Blake, the less she wants to be alone with him. She begins to think that perhaps Cara’s death was not really an accident at all, and wonders what part Blake had in her death.

This is not a love story.

Well, okay. It’s supposed to be a love story. Anne meets Blake. Everyone says “there’s something off about him,” “you should stay away from him,” etc etc, but Anne decides to go on a date with him anyway. They are mirrors for each other’s grief, or so she thinks. But Blake shows a darker side quickly, and Anne realizes that something isn’t quite right with him. However, SHE KEEPS MOVING FORWARD WITH HIM ANYWAY.

Note from the book author: “Attention readers. When a significant other is verbally abusive to you, it’s all cool. Go ahead and stay with them even if you suspect they’ve done deeper darker things.”

Anne learns that Cara’s body was never found, and in trying to do some investigation, encourages Blake to take her to the beach where Cara died. Blake, of course, flips out at the beach. (Predictable, but okay. I guess I’ll go with the mystery here). I just can’t buy that Anne would stay with Blake through all of his outbursts and ups and downs combined with the mysterious notes warning her away from him and his best friend Jamie.

Note from moi: “If you have relationship doubts, it’s okay to leave that relationship. Don’t stay just because you think you’ll make the person sad.”

Long story short, the borderline (and at times flat out) abusive nature of the Anne/Blake relationship ruined this book for me. I get the idea that in our grief, we can be drawn to things that aren’t good for us. However, there are too many red flags and too many icky messages that aren’t carefully delivered to the reader to make it really stick.

I would, however, like to say that Deriso does a pretty good job writing wise. Characters aside, her set/world building is great, the dialogue is lovely, and she has some great prose happening. The characters just simply aren’t there for me, and really, it’s the characters that make or break you. As this is a message close to my heart, I was looking for something stronger.

2 stars.

**I received Tragedy Girl, by Christine Hurley Deriso, as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Tragedy Girl is expected for publication April 8th, 2016, by Flux.

flawed

Cecelia Ahern’s Flawed reminds me of many of the other young adult novels I’ve read as of late. We have our female protagonist, Celestine, who has a perfect life with perfect grades and a perfect boyfriend and a seemingly perfect family. The people in society are branded with an F for “flawed” if they do something wrong or make a poor decision; these people are not allowed to lives the same lives as the non-flawed and are forced to exist under a completely different set of rules. In true young adult dystopian form, Celestine recognizes the insanity of this society, stands up against it, and gets punished for that rebellion. This punishment leads her to a situation where she is forced to choose between two suitors in her life—the typical good boy and bad boy scenario. There is a definite formula to this first book of the series, and it is followed to the letter. You might be thinking now, “Okay, so then why do I want to read this?” Answer? There’s just something about this book.

Ahren’s prose is spot on. The writing is smooth and engrossing, and I never found myself annoyed or lost. The pacing is perfectly laid out and kept me flipping the pages; Flawed never dragged, and I didn’t want to put it down. World building is worked into the story in a way that is shown and not told. I’m really a fan of this sort of build, as a lot of times society setup can turn into one giant info dump. The characters are well constructed as well, albeit slightly predictable. Most characters get a narrative arc of some sort and display growth over the course of the story. Celestine goes from rule follower to logical savior. Her sister Juniper goes from being sassy and not totally authentic in her actions to being very real and gaining a more solid backbone. Even Colleen, a side character, gets a nice little growth arc where she learns about expressing anger.

I found myself wanting to know more about Carrick, as he was intriguing but relegated to a back burner position for most of the novel. I assume his character will play a strong role in the sequel—at least I hope so!!! The only character in this I really didn’t care for was Celestine’s boyfriend, Art. He doesn’t really grow or change at all over the course of the narrative, remaining very fixed and rigid despite many opportunities to grow and change with those surrounding him.

The assessment of this as being a Divergent and Scarlett Letter hybrid is pretty accurate. While nothing unique, Ahren’s prose makes this worth a grab.

Four stars.

**I received Flawed by Cecelia Ahern as an ARC from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. Flawed is expected for publication on April 5th, 2016 by Feiwel and Friends.

storm

I was quite excited to receive The Storm by Virginia Bergin as a DRC. I read its predecessor, H2O, the week that it was released last year, and I quite enjoyed it. This book picks up about three months or so after H20, finding Ruby alone in her house with the deadly rain still falling. As the story progresses, Ruby finds out a both devastating and amazing secret—the key to saving the world. Trouble is, she has to keep her mouth shut.

My beef right out of the gate with this book (not to say that I didn’t like it, because I did) is that is has been over a year since I read H2O, and I didn’t completely remember where it left off. There was absolutely no recap; the story simply took off at a several months later point in the timeline. I’m not calling for a chapters upon chapters recap here, simply a page or two to fall back on. But I digress. I really did like The Storm, though not as much as I enjoyed H2O.

Ruby is as strong a narrator in The Storm as its predecessor, albeit a touch more on the whiny side. I enjoyed getting to spend a substantially larger amount of time inside of her head. Ruby seems to be much more self aware as well. I’ve noticed many reviewers saying that they liked Ruby more in The Storm than in H2O, but I disagree. She seemed a lot more comfortable with the goings on within her world, and a lot more able to handle herself, even though she was definitely a lot crazier than in the previous book. Ruby’s humor is another part of her that is spot on; I enjoyed reading all her “swears” and her nods to things she had read.

The plot of this was a lot more predictable than H2O. It was largely focused on running to and from different places and people, with near continual travel. Point A to Point B to Point A to Point C to Point A….we spent a LOT of time going back to Point A (the army base). Thus this has a bit of a repetitive ring to it. There is not as much unique conflict in this book as there was in the first, and what we do get to see seems quite rushed.

All in all, if you like deep point of view dystopian fantasy worlds, then this is probably a great book for you. But, in my opinion, this is a duology that may have been better off as one longer book.

3 stars, largely for the strength of Ruby’s character. Ruby made it worth the read for me.

I received The Storm, by Virginia Bergin, as a DRC from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. The Storm was publish October 1st, 2015, by Sourcebooks Fire.

gambit

Gambit, by C.L. Denault, is the first book of The Prodigy Chronicles series. It centers around Willow Kent, a seemingly ordinary sixteen year old girl. She lives in a village with her family, works in their tavern, and helps to take care of her siblings. But when the military, or Core, comes and discovers that Willow has the genetic code of a person they have been searching for, Willow must leave everything she knows behind and move from her village into the big city; she is expected to leave her family, marry a man she has never met, and blindly follow the Core without question.

Gambit has some excellent characters. I found myself deeply invested in Willow as a character. She’s incredibly well written and believable. She’s funny and a bit snarky at times, which I totally appreciate. Willow’s character grows throughout the story, expressing a wide range of emotions and actions fitting to the situations she finds herself in. I also really enjoyed Joshua as a character, and the more little pieces of him that were revealed, the more I desperately wanted to know about him.

The world building in this is also excellent. One of the hardest things in this genre to sell is the world; so many author’s don’t take their time and really just slop through the setup, or they take TOO much time building and lose the characters along the way. Denault balances her world building and her character development in a stellar way, making the book quite enjoyable to read. One thing that I struggled with in this regard was the difference between the first and second levels of abilities—but I feel like this will be explained more in the next book. At least, I hope so.

What I didn’t appreciate was the over the top down the throat romance. Gambit has this awesome world, but then Willow and Reece are at the center of it going hot and cold and everything in between. In all other aspects, I am completely sold on Willow. Reece’s character definitely fits the story, but their feelings for each other yo-yo’ed so much that it was difficult to keep up or to even decide which way to root in terms of their relationship. I also feel like Willow was too young for Reece, but, again, this is something that could be explained as a normal occurrence as the series moves forward.

This book is an interesting idea for sure. But it’s certainly not one we’ve never seen before. Girl has normal life; girl has to change that life in order to save the world; girl falls in love with a boy along the way. The formula is all too familiar. Well written, it will appeal to fans of the dystopian genre as a whole. But if you want something completely unique, this is not the book for you. 4 stars.

**I received Gambit, by C.L. Denault, as a DRC from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. Gambit was published March 31st, 2015, by REUTS Publications, LLC.