Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Title: The Truth About Forever
Author: Sarah Dessen
Format I Read: Paperback
Pages: 374
Genres: Realistic Fiction, Romance
Release Date: May 11, 2004
Stars: 5
Goodreads Link

I was a huge Sarah Dessen girl in my early reading days. You could probably even say that it was Ms. Dessen that made me a real reader, that made me an avid word-eater. So I decided to go on a trip down memory lane and reread one of my favorites, The Truth About Forever.

Gosh, it did not disappoint. No one does realistic fiction like Sarah Dessen. She is the queen. It's insane how she can take normal people--Macy, Wes, Bert, Delia, Kristy, Monica, everyone--and send a message. Every book of hers has a story and an impact. She's amazing.

The Truth About Forever revolves around Macy. She witnessed her father's death prior to the start of the novel, and her dismantled family struggles with the grieving process. Macy's boyfriend, Jason, is the "perfection" that she strives for: a model student, an adamant recycler, an encyclopedia of information. He's like a robot. And apparently so is their relationship. Macy signs an email with "I love you" while he's at Brain Camp, and he declares a "break" in their relationship. This spurs Macy to begin working for a catering company, filled with a rag tag group of coworkers. Soon, they all become more with co-workers to Macy. From her new bestie Kristy to the gorgeous Wes, they help her change for the better.

The characters are fantastic. Even Monica, who barely speaks more than three words, was great. I loved Kristy's interpretations of Monica's emotions. I loved Delia's kind motherly persona, the mama bird to everyone in the novel. I loved Bert and his crazy Armageddon theories. I loved how so many subplots culminated with the idea that chaos isn't always bad. The contrasts between Macy's mom and Delia revealed so much more than you could imagine. Even Macy's dad, gone before the book even begins, was pivotal.

Ms. Dessen is truly an expert at creating characters. They move you and pull you in. She's a master. The Truth About Forever is just one of her many impressive creations. Definitely worthy of five stars.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Inspire by Cora Carmack

Title: Inspire
Author: Cora Carmack
Format I Read: Kindle
Pages: 284
Genres: Romance, Fantasy, New Adult
Release Date: December 15, 2014
Stars: 3
Goodreads Link

I'd have to say that Inspire fell in the middle of the pack for Ms. Carmack this time. I love the Rusk University novels. Losing It and Faking It were meh for me. Inspire was just about in the middle.

I loved the concept. Kalli, the main character, is really Kalliope, the muse. She needs to inspire to survive. If she doesn't assist artists by bleeding out her inspiration, she will go mad. She struggles to live a normal life. And then she meets Wilder. She believes him to be a rational business man, someone who won't be endangered by her inspiration. Because too much inspiration can lead some people to insanity. Greatness is dangerous, which she had to learn the hard way. Kalli struggles to juggle her life without dropping any of the pieces. But is it possible for a muse to be normal?

The mythology was super fascinating. Ms. Carmack definitely did her research! The plot was impressive. Nonetheless, the book fell a little flat. Kalli was just a little too much for me. Her struggle and her insanity at times were a bit too overwhelming. Wilder was all things smolder and kind. He was the bad boy under the good boy facade. As much as I loved Kalli, I felt like Wilder who was the character who shined. He had more depth and complexity, in my opinion. I loved his character, though he did get a bit wishy-washy at the end.

Which brings me to the end. I didn't like it, but I kind of did at the same time. It was very abrupt and ended as a huge cliffhanger. I felt like the entire novel built up to something, some resolution, and suddenly "JUST KIDDING. BAM." It was disarming, to say the least. But I'm still interested, so I guess that says something.

So I'm torn with this novel. I'll definitely read the next installment because I'm dying of suspense. But the plot was just a little spotty and it kept tugging me back and forth. Kalli was a little too on edge for me. However, I'm still impressed. Ms. Carmack strikes again!

Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover

Title: Maybe Someday
Author: Colleen Hoover
Format I Read: Kindle
Pages: 385
Genres: Romance, Realistic Fiction, New Adult
Release Date:  March 18, 2014
Stars: 3
Goodreads Link

This book definitely caught me off guard. I found myself simultaneously pulling away and being drawn back in.

Sydney finds herself with no place to go after she catches her best friend and her boyfriend in their lie. They've been cheating together, and Sydney's left angry and confused. Luckily, the man in the apartment across the way is willing to take her in. Deaf, yet musically gifted, Ridge is an enigma. He's been stuck with writer's block, but Sydney inspires him. They make a deal that he'll let her stay in his apartment if she helps him write songs. Together, they're fantastic. But it's not that easy... Especially when Ridge already has his perfect match, Maggie.

I really loved the chemistry between Sydney and Ridge. I loved how eager Sydney was to make Ridge feel normal and her willingness to fit in to his deaf lifestyle. The whole dynamic was really cool. I really loved the book until Maggie came along. She kind of ruined it for me. She was so sweet and I loved her character, but she shattered my hopes.

I felt myself rooting for Sydney and Ridge, but also fighting against them because Sydney was becoming the cheater. The push and pull kept me from enjoying the book fully. However, I did like how the book ended. It had a good ending and everything tied up.

There was nothing inherently wrong with the book. The character development seemed steady. The characters themselves were good, though Ridge made me a little angry. I'm just not a girl who likes reading drama like this. It physically hurt, the pain everyone was going through. From Sydney's pain that Ridge is choosing Maggie, to Maggie's pain at knowing Ridge loves Sydney, to Ridge's pain at being put in his position, I hurt. I stuck through and the book redeemed itself, but it hurt nonetheless. Because of that, I had to give it 3 stars. However, it would be a high 3!

If you like music or new adult, this is definitely for you. Especially if you like drama! Well done, just not quite my style.

Hollowland by Amanda Hocking

Title: Hollowland
Author: Amanda Hocking
Format I Read: Kindle
Pages: 312
Genres: Supernatural, Romance, Adventure
Release Date: October 6, 2010
Stars: 3
Goodreads Link

The zombie apocalypse. I know it's overdone. Walking Dead, World War Z, and even iZombie (what even) have built an entire new genre of pop culture. Yet Hollowland manages to pave its own path with its plot.

Remy escapes after her quarantine is overrun by zombies. Supposedly, her younger brother Max left protected by soldiers. But he was in the infirmary... why would they protect a sick kid? That's the question on everyone's minds as Remy collects a rag tag group on her venture across America. Her rescue team includes Harlow, Lazlo, Blue, Ripley, and more. Harlow is a weak, whiny young girl from the quarantine. Lazlo is a rock star from before the apocalypse. Blue is a doctor, or at least he would have been. And Ripley is a lion--yes, a lion.

Throughout this trek, Remy encounters the countless possible reactions to the apocalypse. She experiences the quarantines that she initially stayed in. She meets a cult, who believe that their "father" is basically the messiah. She runs from a group of Marauders, violent looters who thrive on murder. She is assisted by a peaceful refugee camp underground. And finally--she visits a carefully structured and regulated military quarantine. It was fascinating that Hocking included so many possibilities. She showed how many different ways a person can react to the apocalypse, both good and bad.

In general, the book was well done. I was interested by the plot and the conflict. Like I said, I also liked the series of conflicts brought up by the various groups. The end really caught me too. I thought the plot was captivating enough for 4 stars.

Unfortunately, the characters did fall flat for me. Harlow grated on my nerves. Remy honestly didn't always seem realistic. Lazlo just didn't sit right. Remy's relationships felt too fake and forced. I didn't feel like any of the characters had depth, and I didn't connect with them at all. Even when they did evolve or grow, I felt like it wasn't quite believable. Because of this, I'd have to bump it down to 3 stars.

For people who like zombies and adventure, this is a great book. For people who like character-driven novels, maybe take a pass. Nevertheless, well done to Ms. Hocking!

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Format I Read: Kindle
Pages: 320
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Stars: 5
Goodreads Link

I will always love a strong female protagonist who refuses to be defined by her love affairs. One of my favorite responses to the Team Peeta/Team Gale question is by Willow Shields, who declared herself "Team Katniss." In Red Queen, Team Mare always wins. Yes, there's Kilorn. Yes, there's Cal. Yes, there's Maven. But in the end, there's Mare. Mare proves time and time again that she isn't a silly, lovesick little girl. She isn't just everyone's little lightning girl.

Basic premise: Mare lives in a world divided by blood. You're either a Red or a Silver. The Reds keep the empire running--they're the servants, the laborers, the workers, the soldiers. However, the Silvers have the real power. The Silvers are the new gods--they have powers reminiscent of X-Men. Each Silver has an ability, varying for super strength to controlling metal to controlling minds. The empire fights a longstanding war that leaves thousands threatened by conscription. Mare is no different in that case. When she turns eighteen, she will have to leave her family. But a run in with a strange boy named Cal plops her into the royal family's summer home. She is no longer a thief, but rather a servant. But she soon finds out that she's more than just a Red. Rife with politics, fantasy, betrayal, and sprinkles of romance, Red Queen will blow you away.

I loved everything about this book. From the characters to the setting to the world Aveyard created to the fierce politics. I loved Mare. No matter her flaws, I was rooting for her. And I still am. The characters reached a new level of complexity. Maven and Cal were far more than they appeared. The second I thought I knew them, surprise, they shocked me. They kept me guessing, just like real people do. Ms. Aveyard did a fantastic job creating her characters--creating everything. The setting was exquisite. The world she put together was simultaneously awe-inspiring and fear-inducing. Everything fit together so perfectly and was so well structured. It was all so captivating. It will take me a while to realize that, no, I do not live in a world where people have cool powers. She just sucked you in.

I'd also just like to give a huge round of applause for Ms. Aveyard's plot twist. I never would have guessed that would happen. So wow. I'm not sure that I've ever been so caught of guard. Well done!

Anyone who compared Red Queen to The Selection needs a rude awakening. Red Queen is so much more. In The Selection, the love triangle is the main attraction. In Red Queen the love square (?) is just an afterthought. It's just a small detail in the grand scheme of things. It's just an added layer to the neverending web of lies, betrayal, and politics in the novel. Red Queen blew The Selection out of the water.

Ms. Aveyard's debut left me speechless. Congratulations on the release and I can't wait to see what's in store for the world you created.

For anyone who likes Game of Thrones, X-Men, The Hunger Games, Merlin, or all of the above, this is definitely the book for you.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Title: The Selection
Author: Kiera Cass
Format I Read: Kindle
Pages: 336
Genres: Romance, Fiction, Drama
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Stars: 4
Goodreads Link

I've been meaning to read The Selection forever. The hype for this book (and series) is insane. However, the complaints are just as insane. I was turned off by the reported roller coaster love triangle. But, stuck in Boston with nothing else to read, I finally buckled down and read it.

For those who don't know, the premise is similar to The Bachelor. In the future, after an attack on the country, the United States becomes Ilea. In Ilea, we are ruled by a monarch. The prince has come to age and needs a wife, who will be chosen through the Selection. Thirty-five young women, one from each province, are chosen ("at random") to meet Prince Maxon, where they will all be narrowed down to the One. Stuck in a caste system where America (the protagonist) is a Five (out of Eight levels), her mother insists she apply for the Selection. America is reluctant, but her lover actually pushes her to apply, too. Ha, yeah. America has a lover/boyfriend. She's been secretly dating Aspen for two years, but he's a Six (in a lower caste). Because Aspen is so poor, he feels he can't support America if they marry, so he insists that she apply just for the opportunities. They end up breaking up. And joke's on him because she was chosen. So America leaves for the palace, brokenhearted because of Aspen. And she meets Maxon, who isn't as terrible as she expected...

I thought the plot was very interesting. I really enjoyed how Ms. Cass incorporated politics. The rebels and Maxon's progression into the "king" role was pretty fascinating. It added another layer to the novel.

I enjoyed the developing relationships. Maxon and America were pretty adorable. But I hated the sudden wrench in their relationship when (spoiler) shows up. That was kind of obnoxious. I just felt like I was constantly pulled back and forth. Between aw Maxon and America are adorable and wait he's still "dating" a dozen other girls. Between aw Aspen and America are meant for each other and wow what a dick. Between wow Marlee is so sweet and What the heck is she hiding. Between this and that. It really was a roller coaster. I didn't mind it as much at first, but it got kind of old.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the novel. I really loved America, who was a strong protagonist. I loved her voice. Like I said, I also loved the politics. It was all very interesting. I am eager to read the next installment, The Elite.

Good job, Ms. Cass!