Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin

From Goodreads: Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan. Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different - he’s taller, stronger ... more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis. While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from. As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all. 

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Emily Martin’s The Year We Fell Apart was a book I picked up without looking at its rating on Goodreads. Big mistake! Had I done so, I would have realized that this book and I wouldn’t get along.

First of all, I found the main character, Harper, extremely annoying. She made the same mistakes over and over again – getting drunk, hooking up, regretting what happened – and justified her bad decisions to herself so that she wouldn’t have to own up to her choices. The issue of Harper using alcohol as a coping mechanism didn't seem to get resolved, and she experienced very little growth over the course of the novel.

I didn’t really like the plot either. Although I love stories revolving around a second chance, I felt too old while reading The Year We Fell Apart because it was just so filled with juvenile drama. To me, the aspect of Harper’s mom getting cancer wasn’t explored enough, and the whole Declan situation was just lame. Declan and Harper don’t talk about their issues so it’s not a surprise then that Declan is angry – rightfully so, I might add – when he finds out the reason why he and Harper actually broke up.

The Year We Fell Apart was released in January 2016 by Simon Pulse. 

Comments About the Cover: The cover doesn’t match the angsty tone of the novel.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab

From Goodreads: Kell is one of the last Travelers - rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now. Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'. But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive - trickier than they hoped.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: After reading a bunch of less than stellar books, I was more than looking forward to reading Victoria Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic with Christina from Christina Reads YA because the reviews that I had seen for A Darker Shade of Magic had all been positive. Moreover, I had really enjoyed Schwab’s debut novel, The Near Witch, when I read it a few years ago.

Like with The Near Witch, I really loved the worldbuilding in A Darker Shade of Magic. Originally, I was worried that I would get confused by all the different Londons Kell kept talking about, but Schwab did an exemplary job of showing how they differ from each other in the present and explaining how they diverged in their history with regards to magic.

Although the character development wasn’t as strong, I really liked the characters. Kell is one of only two Antari, magicians able travel between the Londons. A Red Londonder and an adopted member of the royal family, Kell is also a smuggler. Meanwhile, Lila is a Gray Londoner who has learned to survive on the streets by being great at pickpocketing. You just know that when Kell and Lila meet, they’re going to get more than they bargained for!

I didn’t get hooked by A Darker Shade of Magic until about a third of the way in; but after that, there was so much action and adventure that I had to keep turning the pages. Since I have a copy of the sequel, I’m hoping to read it soon!

A Darker Shade of Magic was released by Tor Books in February 2015. 

Comments About the Cover: I don’t particularly like or hate it. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Mini Reviews: The Leaving Season by Cat Jordan and The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

From Goodreads: Middie Daniels calls it the Leaving Season - the time of year when everyone graduates high school, packs up their brand-new suitcases, and leaves home for the first time. It happens every late August, but this year Middie’s boyfriend, Nate, is the one leaving. Nate, who’s so perfect that she can barely believe it. Nate, who makes her better than she is on her own. Nate, who’s promised to come back once he’s finished his gap year volunteering in Central America. And when he does, it’ll be time for Middie to leave, too. With him. But when tragedy strikes, Middie’s whole world is set spinning. No one seems to understand just how lost she is … except for Nate’s best friend Lee. Middie and Lee have never gotten along. She’s always known that she was destined for great things, and Lee acts like he’s never cared about anything a day in his life. But with the ground ripped out from under her, Middie is finding that up is down - and that Lee Ryan might be just what she needs to find her footing once more.

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Cat Jordan’s The Leaving Season was a book I decided to read because I was in the mood for something predictable. And it was ... until an unexpected plot twist, which kind of ruined the rest of the story for me because it created unnecessary tension. (To be honest, even then there was hardly any drama since Nate is supposed to be a great guy.) I knew going into The Leaving Season that it would be cheesy, but I wish there was more to the plot than Meredith missing Nate and discovering that she’s wrong about Lee’s reputation. I didn’t feel like I got to really connect with the characters, and felt that Meredith’s relationship with Lee was more of a rebound situation than her actually falling in love with him.

The Leaving Season was released by HarperTeen on March 1, 2016.  

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Harpercollins) via Edelweiss.

From Goodreads: David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he's gay. The school bully thinks he's a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth: David wants to be a girl.On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long, and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl. As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means.

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson was a book that I wanted more from. For example, although it addresses the fact that transgendered teens are often bullied and are more likely to have mental health issues, I would have liked this to have been done more through showing than telling. As well, despite the book beginning with David wishing that he was a girl, David didn’t end up being as interesting a character as Leo, who appears to have a huge secret for at least half the book. Unfortunately, I knew what this secret was because of the summary on Goodreads so I was frustrated by how long the secret took to be revealed. Finally, I thought that some parts of the story were rushed (e.g. I personally didn’t feel that Leo and David were that close when the two decided to open up to each other) whereas other parts weren’t explored enough (e.g. we never find out Leo’s mother’s side of the story with regards to his dad and how her opening up to Leo then changes Leo’s relationship with her). 

The Art of Being Normal will be released on May 31, 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Macmillan) via NetGalley.