Category Archives: stand alone

Review: Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross
Publisher: Egmont USA
Release date: April 10, 2012
Source: Purchased
Rating: Four Stars

Going into this book, I’d read very few, if any, reviews. But I had somehow seen this being compared to that Once Upon a Time show on ABC which looks like a fun show to watch. I must get around to seeing it someday. But I love fairy-tale retellings, and this was a slam dunk book for me. I loved it.
I grew up with the Disney versions of these tales, as I’m sure many of you did. I’ve never gotten around to reading the original tales though, mostly because they’re darker than their Disney counterparts. But some of these tales don’t have happy endings, and I was introduced to that in Kill Me Softly. Like with Bluebeard’s tale, which I’d never actually heard of so I looked it up on Wikipedia. What frustrated me about this tale and it’s importance is that Mira reacted like she thought this person had a choice in what was happening later on near the end, when in reality he didn’t. He was cursed, and had to follow that curse. But then again, he was less forthcoming than the other guy with the same curse, so he can still be seen as a villain. Still, I prefer one over the other, and wasn’t entirely pleased about who she ends up with, even though I do like him too. That may just be me though.
I loved seeing how Sarah was interpreting these curses and enchantments in modern day settings. It was very imaginative and really helped develop these secondary characters. If this becomes a series, which I can see possibilities for, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing everyone again, and hopefully seeing more of their day to day lives in this fairy tale town.

Review: Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn

Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn
Published: Viking Children’s Books (Penguin)
Released: June 14, 2012
Source: Purchased

This was a fun read, especially while on vacation. I love Japan and almost anything to do with Japan, though I’ve never once visited. I’ve been looking forward to reading this book ever since I discovered it a couple months ago, and I was not disappointed.
I always love these whodunit mysteries that always leave you guessing. You think it’s character A because it’s so obviously character A, and yet you question your guess because that’s TOO obvious. I’m always unsure of my guesses because of this, and maybe that just highlights a character flaw about myself, but I can’t be the only one like that. Everytime Violet latched on to a new suspect I was like OF COURSE! How could it not be them?! Only to find out, well yeah that’s why it couldn’t have been them… Some people might get frustrated with those kinds of stories but I love them. In the end I wasn’t really all that surprised by one of the involved suspects, but I was just a touch disappointed because I’d liked what we see early on of that character.
Violet has to be one of my favorite characters of all time. She’s just so real. Bursting with ideas, but also the insecurity that virtually everyone deals with at that age. She’s very creative and artistic. I love how she’s drawing her own manga and using that as an outlet for figuring out her ideas on the case. I also love how she uses kimono fabrics to create scarves. Absolutely adore that. All the secondary characters are great as well, and I would have liked to have seen more of Edge, even though romance isn’t really the focus of the book. I’m just a romantic, what can I say? The only thing that marred this book in any way for me was how readily the FBI were taking tips from a teen. That seems a tad bit unrealistic, but then again what do I know? Anything is possible.

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release date: June 12, 2012
Source: Purchased

The only book by Jane Austen that I’ve actually read was Pride and Prejudice, after watching the A&E version with Colin Firth in fifth grade, so it was so long ago I don’t even compare anymore. With Persuasion, obviously I’ve never read the book, but I’ve seen the movie starring Ciaran Hinds, so there were comparisons between that and For Darkness Shows the Stars. Thankfully not many, since this book holds it’s own and only draws inspiration, and doesn’t copy. 
Overall I liked all the characters very much. The captains were interesting, as were the admiral and his wife. I would say that I would’ve liked to have seen the admiral, but we didn’t get much exposure of him throughout the story. He took a backseat to his wife and captains. I was very impressed by Elliot’s sister Tatiana, and definitely less so with the father and cousin Benedict of course. There were times when Elliot seemed extremely dense, more so than the story really required, and that was frustrating at times, especially when things are being spoken of quite clearly by the other party.
The story itself was very interesting. I would have liked more details about the world itself and not just the divide between the Reduced and the Luddites. More explanation about the Reduction would’ve been nice, and how the Reduction led to the Reduced besides humanity being arrogant. The one thing I felt weird about while reading was that they were made to seem as though they weren’t actually human, and that just didn’t sit well with me. It seemed like more than just them being from different social classes. Like slavery, but worse in a way, if that makes any sense at all. That was the only thing I didn’t like.
All in all, this was definitely one of my most anticipated novels of this year, just because it was inspired by a work of Jane Austen’s. I was definitely not disappointed with the overall book and would recommend it to those who love post-apocalyptic and dystopians combined, as well as fans of anything Austen related.

Review: Wrecked by Anna Davies

Wrecked by Anna Davies
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release date: May 1, 2012
Source: Purchased

Secrets of the sea have never been sexier than this.

Ever since the death of her parents, Miranda has lived on Whym Island, taking comfort in the local folklore, which claims a mysterious sea witch controls the fate of all on the island and in its surrounding waters. Sometimes it’s just easier to believe things are out of your control.

But then a terrible boating accident takes the lives of several of her friends, and Miranda is rescued by a mysterious boy who haunts her dreams. Consumed by guilt from the accident, she finds refuge in late-night swims—and meets Christian, a boy who seems eerily familiar, but who is full of mystery: He won’t tell her where he is from, or why they can only meet at the beach. But Miranda falls for him anyway…and discovers that Christian’s secrets, though meant to protect her, may bring her nothing but harm.

I really wanted to like this book. I love mermaid stories, and I absolutely adore the cover to this. But Wrecked just didn’t work for me.

Short explanation starts now. The characters didn’t really feel all that fleshed out. I didn’t understand why everyone automatically hated Miranda just because she was driving the boat during the accident. The writing was not great, and things were sometimes repeated or were contradictory. There were choppy sentences sometimes, and then there were just wordy sentences that felt like filler. I also couldn’t understand how Miranda could fall in insta-love with Christian after the crash. The story was just full of little holes that I couldn’t get out of my mind.

Every now and then when I read a debut I’m sometimes flabbergasted by how awesome a book is and surprised it’s the author’s first. That was not the case this time. I could tell this was a debut. If you like mermaid stories give it a try, but I would definitely suggest borrowing this from a friend or the library, instead of buying.

Review: Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame

Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release date: May 1, 2012
Source: Purchased

Summary from Goodreads:
The prettiest people often have the ugliest secrets…

Eighteen-year-old Maggie Darlington has turned into an entirely different person. The once spirited teen is now passive and reserved. A change Lord and Lady Darlington can’t help but be grateful for.

It’s 1912, and the Darlingtons of Wentworth Hall have more than just the extensive grounds to maintain. As one of Britain’s most elite families, they need to keep up appearances that things are as they have always been… even as their carefully constructed façade rapidly comes undone.

Maggie has a secret. And she’s not the only one… the handsome groom Michael, the beautiful new French nanny Therese, the Darlingtons’ teenage houseguests Teddy and Jessica, and even Maggie’s younger sister Lila are all hiding something. Passion, betrayal, heartache, and whispered declarations of love take place under the Darlingtons’ massive roof. And one of these secrets has the power to ruin the Darlingtons forever.

When scandalous satires start appearing in the newspaper with details that closely mirror the lives of the Darlingtons, everyone is looking over their shoulder, worrying their scandal will be next. Because at Wentworth Hall, nothing stays secret for long.

I was so incredibly excited for this book. It’s one I had thought about trying to actually request a review copy from the publisher, but decided to wait and just purchase it. I have to be honest though, it didn’t quite meet my expectations. It felt a little bit like a rip off of Downtown Abbey.

There are two sisters, Maggie and Lila. Maggie would be Mary, and Lila would be Edith. Lord and Lady Darlington are trying to marry off Maggie to a rich old guy, or the rich young guy that’s recently come to stay with the Darlingtons. There was no real character growth for any of these characters since we’re dropped into the middle of the story at the beginning. The two rich twins that come to stay didn’t really feel necessary at all, because as soon as Maggie spurns Teddy, it’s like they’re instantly forgotten, and only a small bit is said about them at the end of the book.

The focus is mainly on the romance between Maggie and someone on the staff, and a shocking secret that is revealed. Actually two shocking secrets, because one of the other staff has something revealed that was entirely predictable. I didn’t really like the newspaper satires that were inserted throughout the story, they felt more ridiculous than they should’ve been and just felt like interruptions. The only thing I really enjoyed was the ending, because that did surprise me just a little bit.

Overall, this book suffered from being short. I think it could’ve been fleshed out better plot-wise and character depth-wise if it had been longer than just 276 pages. I know many of us are feeling the void of no airing Downton Abbey right now, and while this definitely will not fill it, it may help temporarily. If you like historical fiction give it a try, but it just wasn’t really my cup of tea.

Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release date: April 17, 2012
Source: Purchased

It’s been decades since anyone set foot on the moon. Now three ordinary teenagers, the winners of NASA’s unprecedented, worldwide lottery, are about to become the first young people in space–and change their lives forever.

Mia, from Norway, hopes this will be her punk band’s ticket to fame and fortune.

Midori believes it’s her way out of her restrained life in Japan.

Antoine, from France, just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible.

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, but little do the teenagers know that something sinister is waiting for them on the desolate surface of the moon. And in the black vacuum of space… no one is coming to save them.

In this chilling adventure set in the most brutal landscape known to man, highly acclaimed Norwegian novelist Johan Harstad creates a vivid and frightening world of possibilities we can only hope never come true.

I was bored for the first half of this book. I didn’t think I’d end up liking it at all, which was sad since I had really been looking forward to this. By the end though it was okay, but only because it did manage to creep me out. Seriously, the second half was so creepy.

For the most part, the book seemed choppy. Back and forth between different characters every single chapter and it was sometimes hard to tell who’s POV you were reading at first. And even though we’re given information about the characters, I still didn’t connect for some reason. I didn’t feel for them.

Another thing that bothered me was the lack of tension building. The cover hints at something ominous, as does a chapter here or there throughout the first half of the book, and yet tension still wasn’t building for me. Not until they actually got to the moon and then it was like BAM everything happening all at once. First slow pacing and then super fast pacing. The last third of the book was extremely creepy, but still left me a little confused. One critical question I had was never answered as far as I can tell so I don’t even know how the end came about really.

Overall, I think for me at least something may have just gotten lost in the translation of this book. I think it would have maybe been better as a movie instead of a book. I would suggest borrowing this if you’re interested in reading it.

Review: Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: January 2012
Source: Purchased
Series: Standalone

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances… a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life… and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last…

This is another book I’ve read while on a contemporary kick and I adored it. I have to say I think I like the contemporaries with sports themes, even though I’m not actually a fan of most sports. I like playing in a few, but I never watch any. Anyways, I’ve have always had a little bit of interest in figure skating, judging by the different movies I’ve watched over the years. That sport is actually fun to watch because of how graceful the skaters are, and the routines they do paired with music, etc.

One thing I absolutely loved about this book were the cupcake descriptions that went along with every chapter title. Like this one for chapter fourteen: Cupcakes with Benefits – Vanilla cupcakes topped with whipped peanut butter cream cheese icing, milk chocolate chips, crushed pretzels, and a drizzle of warm caramel. Some of my favorite parts of this book were when she was just in the kitchen at Hurley’s baking away the day.

Some of the interactions between all the different characters were frustrating, but then again the drama is what moves the story along, so I didn’t let it bother me too much. There’s definitely romance in this book, and for a while Hudson was going in one direction and I was absolutely cheering for that direction but after she heard something at a party she decided to go in another direction, without even getting confirmation about what she heard. Then I have to admit I was banging my head some. I would’ve liked to have seen a little more of the father, but his lack of presence also helped shape things.

I can understand Hudson’s obsession with wanting to get out of Watonka. I live in a smallish town, but not super small since we do have a university. I believe there are around 27,700+ people here. But it’s small enough that there really isn’t a whole lot for the younger crowd to do even with the university here. It’s one of those places that you kind of chafe in while growing up and you move away for a while. But then when you have kids of your own you come back to this place. I too have felt the desire to leave and never look back, but it’s not always the place that makes it home, it’s the people you know too. And I think at one point Hudson does come to realize that.

Bittersweet was my introduction to Sarah Ockler, and I have to say I’m definitely interested in reading her other books after this one. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves YA contemporary romances, especially ones with sports themes in them. 

Early Review: Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker (eARC)

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release date: May 22, 2012
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Purchase: Book Depository

Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life.

Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now.

Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart?

Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to.

This is the kind of contemporary novel that I absolutely adore. Because in one way or another every single person can relate to it. There are other contemporaries, more dark and gritty, that I read and enjoy, but I can’t relate to those as well since I was lucky to have a good childhood. But who can’t relate to heartbreak?

I loved Clementine. I know some people might think she was too mopey and whiney for too long but really she wasn’t. We all handle our emotions differently, deal with things differently. I had something that took me 4 years to get over. Completely overshadowed my entire time in high school. There was no point where I was thinking that she needed to just stop. She had to work things out for herself, and she did. James was major help in that department. And in her way, she helps James with his own issues. I loved seeing them get closer and closer over the summer. And Clem’s family is one of the most awesome families that could ever exist.

I enjoyed how the story unfolds between the summer present, and the school year past in alternating chapters. That’s a great way of giving back story, and ensuring your reader will continue reading since they’ll want to know what happened. Melissa C. Walker is an excellent writer as well. I was always able to picture everything in my mind, which also made me really wish it was summer already. The only thing I didn’t like about the book was that we didn’t see what happens between Clem and Amanda and Ethan after the summer. There are hints as to how it could all go down, but really you’re left guessing.

Definitely a good summer read, because even though it deals in heartbreak, Unbreak My Heart is about healing and moving on, with plenty of light moments and laughter. A contemporary that shouldn’t be missed.

Review: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: December 1, 2011
Source: Purchased
Purchase: Book Depository

What girl doesn’t want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn’t just surrounded by hot guys, though – she leads them as the captain and quarterback on her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that’s just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there’s a new guy in town who threatens her starring position on the team… and has her suddenly wishing to be seen as more than just a teammate.

So night before last I’m climbing into bed. Literally, I have a loft bed and the ladder broke so I’m using a combination of chair to stool to bookcase to bed. I took Catching Jordan with me, because for some reason now I always fall asleep when I read in bed, no matter which book it is. I figure I’ll get a few pages in before I fall asleep. WRONG! And that’s how awesome this book was. It kept me up so long that I only got maybe 2 hours of sleep. I couldn’t even finish it that because I got so tired. Finished it the next day.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of football. So you’re probably thinking to yourself, why did I even buy it? First of all, I’ve heard awesome things about it and that piqued my interest. Second of all, I may slowly be changing my mind about football because of a friend. So even though I had no idea what was going on in the actual game or practice parts of the book, I still enjoyed this.

Jordan is hilarious. I love her. I want to be her. She has all this spunk and courage. Major courage to want to play in such a rough sport that can make or break you. And she really was just one of the guys. All these guys she’d grown up with, and they had absolutely no problems with a girl on the team. This was such a tightly knit team I don’t think anything could’ve broken them. Extreme loyalty barely begins to touch on how close these people are. My favorites were definitely Carter and JJ, even Jake sometimes. My favorite of all though was Henry, one of the most awesome best friends you could possibly have. All of the characters in this book felt real. And I loved her parents. Even her dad, who was initially an a-hole, but came through for his only daughter when it mattered.

Now, I came into this book not expecting a love triangle, but there was one. It was gradual though, not right off the bat. I started off rooting for one guy, but definitely changed my opinion not even halfway through the book. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was how weepy Jordan got sometimes. Such a strong girl reduced to so many tears. Other then that, this has been one of my favorites so far of 2012. I will most definitely be reading anything Miranda Kenneally writes in the future, especially the companion novels that are coming out this year and in 2013.

Review: Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release date: January 3, 2012
Source: Publisher for review
Series: Stand Alone
Purchase: Book Depository

Joy Delamere is suffocating…

From asthma, which has nearly claimed her life. From her parents, who will do anything to keep that from happening. From delectably dangerous Asher, who is smothering her from the inside out.

Joy can take his words – tender words, cruel words – until the night they go too far.

Now, Joy will leave everything behind to find the one who has offered his help, a homeless boy called Creed. She will become someone else. She will learn to survive. She will breathe… if only she can get to Creed before it’s too late.

Set against the gritty backdrop of Seattle’s streets and a cast of characters with secrets of their own, Holly Cupala’s powerful new novel explores the subtleties of abuse, the meaning of love, and how far a girl will go to discover her own strength.

This is one of the darkest contemporaries I’ve read, but also one of the best. I had a hard time getting into the book for the first 70 or so pages, but once I delved deeper into the story, it grabbed me. I think I stayed up all night to finish it. Dark and gritty, this is one story that won’t be forgotten.
Would I loved most about this book was that it doesn’t give you the answers at the beginning. While you have an idea of why Joy needed to escape her smothering boyfriend, you have to read the entire book to truly understand what was going on. It’s presented in alternating chapters between past and present, with the past mostly highlighting her interactions with Asher. He seems perfect at first, but as you go back with Joy you realize who he really is. I didn’t like Joy’s family one bit, especially her older brother. Her parents were completely oblivious, but her brother had an idea of what was going on. But when Joy shows up with her friend unexpectedly, he turns her away. His own sister. I’m sorry, but honestly? I’m incredibly thankful I don’t have a family like that.
Joy is an unforgettable character. She endures everything Asher throws at her, and yet hits a point where she realizes enough is enough. And is then brave enough to leave and live on the streets. I don’t know that I could be as strong as she was and survive on the streets. She searches for Creed, the boy she remembers seeing on previous trips into Seattle, and finds him. With Creed and his group she learns how truly dark the world is, and yet still fights to be her own person.
This was the first book of Holly’s that I had read, and the writing was amazing. She covered a span of tough subjects brilliantly without sugarcoating them, but still managed to give Don’t Breathe a Word a somewhat believable ending that I was pleased with. This is definitely one of those books that will keep you thinking about the different problems that face our society after you’ve finished the book. And helps to raise awareness of those problems. Verbal abuse is just as hurtful as physical, and I’m glad Holly wasn’t afraid to write about this subject.