Review: Beware That Girl- Teresa Toten

29602203Title: Beware That Girl

Author:  Teresa Toten (site)

Publisher//Date:  Delacorte Press//May 31, 2016

Genre: YA Contemporary, Thriller

Source: Local Library

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Synopsis: For fans of We Were Liars, Gone Girl, and The Girl on the Train comes a powerful psychological thriller with a gripping pace and Hitchcockian twists. Set against the backdrop of New York City, this compelling novel delves into the dysfunctional yet mesmerizing world of the mega-wealthy elite and will keep readers guessing until the very last page.
 
The Haves. The Have-Nots. Kate O’Brien appears to be a Have-Not. Her whole life has been a series of setbacks she’s had to snake her way out of—some more sinister than others. But she’s determined to change all that. She’s book-smart. She’s street-smart. And she’s also a masterful liar. As the scholarship student at the elite Waverly School in NYC, Kate has her work cut out for her: her plan is to climb the social ranks and land a spot at Yale. She’s already found her “people” among the senior-class “it” girls—specifically in the cosseted, mega-wealthy yet deeply damaged Olivia Sumner. As for Olivia, she considers Kate the best friend she’s always needed, the sister she never had.

When the handsome and whip-smart Mark Redkin joins the Waverly administration as head of fund-raising, he immediately charms his way into the faculty’s and students’ lives, becoming especially close to Olivia, a fact she’s intent on keeping to herself. It becomes increasingly obvious that Redkin poses a threat to Kate, too, in a way she can’t reveal—and can’t afford to ignore. Mark has his own plan for a bright future and never doubts that he can pull it off. How close can Kate and Olivia get to him without having to share their dark pasts?

Rating: 3/5

This is one of those rare books that I knew absolutely nothing about before checking it out from my library’s Overdrive selection and taking on vacation with me, and I don’t know if the lack of information helped my opinion of the book or not. Because I was very mixed in my opinions on this book.

Let’s Break it Down:

What I Liked

  • The Plot. This is what this book REALLY had going for it. The plot kept me interested. I could never figure out what was going to happen next. And while I had a hard time connecting with the characters, I really needed to find out what was going to happen and to find out who was who at the beginning. The larger plot, once it unfolds, is easy to get drawn into. I also personally, found it relevant to local school scandal that was breaking at the time I read it.
  • The Ending. I found it very fitting and extremely suitable to the book as a whole. It open-ended in some respects, but it leaves you on a satisfying’ – if somewhat unexpected – note.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The Characters. I found every last one of them extremely unlikable. I think of all of them I like Kate the most because we saw a great deal of the story from her POV, and I was able to empathize with her – hell, I was rooting for her to succeed – but I can’t say that I liked her. The way that she seeks out Olivia solely because she’s the most vulnerable person at her and the easiest to con. She’s an extremely well-done morally gray character, I don’t know that I like her. I couldn’t stand Olivia, I thought she was annoying and made extremely questionable decisions when the right and wrong choice was utterly clear. The supporting characters were either not meant to be sympathetic or utterly annoying. I had a really hard time with the fact that teenage girls were throwing themselves at a man in his 30s or the fact that he was encouraging it and the rampant and flippant use of prescription drugs. I know that people actually do all of these things in real life and I think its wrong. I can deal with characters that I find morally objectionable but it’s hard to connect with an entire cast of such characters.
  • POV Switching. I found it extremely jarring at first – I’m not always a fan of changing tense with POV – but I got used to it. I did prefer Kate’s to Olivia’s, not surprising with how I feel about the characters, but I did feel that Kate’s voice was stronger and more memorable and Olivia’s did drag a bit.
  • A Pointless Romantic Subplot. There’s a romantic subplot that adds nothing to the story. I actually enjoyed it until I realized that it wasn’t really going anywhere, and compounded with the fact there is no resolution to this thread, I couldn’t understand why it was included at all.

All in all, Beware That Girl is a decent YA thriller with an intriguing, morally gray main character and addictive plot, but with an extremely unlikable supporting cast.

November Releases I Need in My Life ASAP

Every month, publishers come out with shiny new books that make us all go crazy. So, once a month, every month, I place a GIANT PREORDER of all the books I don’t think I can live without. These are the books coming my way in November.

18584855Heartless – Marissa Meyer. I NEED IT AND I NEED IT NOW. I PREORDERED THIS IN MARCH AND IT’S FINALLY COMING. I devoured The Lunar Chronicles last year (and became ever so slightly obsessed) and have been waiting EXTREMELY IMPATIENTLY for another retelling from Marissa Meyer’s brain. Seeing those arcs in their little boxes did not help matters in the slightest. Release Date (as if you di28960100dn’t know): 11/8

 

 

 

A Million Worlds with You – Claudia Gray. I really enjoyed the first book in the Firebird series and I’m reading the second as I write this. I’m quite invested in this world and the characters and I have to know how this ends. Release Date: 11/1

28763485The Sun is Also a Star – Nicola Yoon. It socially relevant and generally interesting topic – immigration – and an absolutely gorgeous cover. Of course I preordered it! I do feel bad that I’m practically the last person on earth to not have read Everything Everything but, to be honest…this one sounds more interesting. Release Date: 11/1

 

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – J.K. Rowling . Yes, I know it’s not really a book, but it’s Harry Potter related and it’s in book form. Plus I love reading screenplays in general. Automatic preorder. Release Date: 11/18

 

 

 

 

 

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The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid. While admittedly, I don’t know much about this book, the basic premise – sci-fi about a bodyguard who impersonates her charge in court for security reasons – sounds pretty badass. Why not check it out? Release Date: 11/1

 

 

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This is Our Story by Ashley Elston. It had me at murder mystery. It looks like it could be twisty and wonderful and it has a vague vigilante feel to it that has me verrrrrrry intrigued. Release Date: 11/15

 

 

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The Chemist – Stephanie Meyer. Okayyyyy, so I almost didn’t add this because I have a complicated history with Ms. Meyer. I was a full on Twi-hard back in the day, but after rereading the series before the finale, I began to lose interest and I didn’t like Breaking Dawn. I never read The Host and I wasn’t planning on reading this one….until the synopsis came out and it sounded fantastic. So…I’m giving it a shot. Release Date: 11/15

 

 

 

That’s what I have for this month. What November releases are you looking forward to?

Review: Iron Cast – Destiny Soria

28818313Title: Iron Cast

Author: Destiny Soria (twitter) (site)

Publisher//Date: Amulet Books//October 11, 2016

Genre: YA Historical Fantasy

Source: Purchased

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Synopsis: It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—captivate their audience. Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, they realize how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn.

Rating: 5/5

This. Book.

OH MY GOD I LOVED THIS BOOK. I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF IT AND I WANT TO READ IT AGAIN RIGHT NOW I LOVED IT SO FREAKING MUCH. I AM FULL ON FANGIRL TRASH FOR THIS BOOK AND I LITERALLY CANNOT. DESTINY SORIA NEEDS TO WRITE MORE BOOKS BECAUSE I WILL BUY THEM ALL.

*ahem*

Basically, I FULL-ON, NON-STOP, HEART-EYES LOVED this book and I’m going to tell you why.

Let’s break it down:

What I Loved:

  • The Magic System. It’s fascinating. Hemopaths are able to manipulate what they see or how they feel, but it’s done through various forms of art: music, poetry, painting and in one hilarious example, theater. Iron is their kryptonite and it is illegal for them to practice their powers – but they do. Basically, its AWESOME. I have never had a magic system completely drag me into a story like this before – as soon as it was explained, I wanted to know more. I have never read a book with magic remotely like this before and so many questions and potential scenarios popped into my head that I had  to keep reading.
  • Ada and Corinne’s Friendship. Ugh. Yes. The friendship between our two heroines is the primary relationship of the novel and it is FANTASTIC (I’m going to over-use that word in this review but just go with it). They are both strong characters but they are complete polar opposites  – yet they are such a team together. They’re dedicated to each other. They look out for each other. They know how the other operates and all their idiosyncrasies.They are what you want out a best friend and partner in crime.
  • The Romantic Relationships. There’s two romantic relationships that get a great deal of focus in the novel. One is an established couple trying to navigate through the directions that their relationship is going, something that I haven’t seen in YA that still managed to make me fangirl. The other couple got me from the moment they met; they might as well have had a flashing sign over their heads flashing my name. (Hint: my all-time forever OTP of OTPs started our with her interrogating him at knife-point within five minutes of meeting – it’s not on that level but in that vein). Both relationships progress in a realistic fashion and had me at my shameless fangirling best. There is a third kind of sort of couple that I’m going to talk about more in a minute.
  • The Pacing. Iron Cast has that perfect balance of action and calm. The story moves like lightning, every scene moves the story forward, even if isn’t apparent why. It’s also addicting. This book was like crack for me. I would have finished this in a day if I didn’t have to work for a living.

What I Liked:

  • The Diversity. Ada is bi-racial – her father is Portuguese and her mother is from Mozambique (and she is lovely and I adored her). There are flashes and moments where she talks about her upbringing and the differences in what life affords Ada and Corinne, who is white and comes from an extremely privileged background; they’re both at a disadvantage being hemopaths, but Ada even more so because of her race. It adds a layer to both the novel as a whole and the girls’ relationship There are also two LGBT characters, neither of which is there for the sole purpose of being “the gay character” –  I was used to this trope when I first started reading YA back in the mid-2000s, when diversity wasn’t really though of in YA and what was there was something that 14 year old me wasn’t going to read (I grew up a lot since then). I thought the “reveal” of both of these characters’ sexuality, which are hinted at at various points throughout the novel, to be obvious from the first hint and the eventual reveal lacking a bit of punch.
  • The Historical Aspects. I loved the time period – I’m somewhat obsessed with the fashion of 1910s and 20s, which was one of the reasons that I was so eager to read this book in the first place. I also love that Prohibition is a looming reality and that the Iron Cast is very much a speakeasy before they became popular (#hipster). The history major in me wanted more historical detail – though that could happen with pretty much any historical fiction book I read.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Nothing but the fact it ended.

All in all, Iron Cast is an A+ historical fantasy featuring a friendship between two very strong young women and a kick-ass magic system.

 

 

Top 10 Tuesday -Books that Scared the Bejeesus Out of Me

top-ten-tuesday-header

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

I’ve officially decided to throw my hat into this SUPER popular meme. I mean, it’s list related – of course I’m going to do it!

Confession time: I love being scared. I am also the world’s biggest scaredy-cat. I love going to haunted houses around Halloween. I come out of the shaking and crying and knowing I probably won’t sleep that night – and I love every minute of it.  I didn’t think I would be able to come up with 10 books that scared me…but I did (and I only cheated on one!).

Let’s break it down (in no particular order): Continue reading

Review: A Torch Against the Night – Sabaa Tahir

25558608Title: A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2)

Author: Sabaa Tahir (twitter) (site)

Publisher//Date: Razorbill// August 30, 2016

Genre: YA Fantasy

Source: Purchased

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Synopsis: Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.

Rating: 4.5/5

I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS BOOK FOREVER AND IT’S FINALLY HERE AND I WASN’T DISAPPOINTED. I tend to put off reading sequels – especially second books – because I’m worried about it falling short of my expectations (I’m currently  doing this with Crooked Kingdom and I feel like an idiot). An Ember in the Ashes was EASILY one of my favorite books in 2015 and I was dying to get back into this world and , while A Torch Against the Night wasn’t quite the same HOOOOOOLY CRAP THIS IS SPECTACULAR book like its predecessor, it was a fantastic follow-up and widened the scope of the series, with lots of world and plot for the next two (!!!!!!!) books to play around in.

Let’s Break it Down:

What I Liked:

  • The Expanded World. OH MY GOD THIS WAS GREAT. An Ember in the Ashes, while a great introduction to this world, almost entirely to the confines of the city of Serra. And while we start in the city, we travel to extremely different sectors of the world. We see the worlds of the Tribespeople and the Illustrians and cover a great deal of ground in the Empire. We also see the supposedly “mythical” creatures that inhabit the world, especially the Jinn. Like I said, there’s a whole big world to play around with here and Sabaa Tahir made the most of it and I think she’s going to continue doing it, and I am here for it.
  • The Character Development. First of all, I missed these guys. I was immediately remembered why I fell in  love with all these characters in the first place and got to see them in a new light. The main characters were taken in darker directions and very low points in this novel and I hated to see it because I love them so much and because, for some characters, you know it will probably go lower before the series is over.  It does give you an idea of where they will be going in the upcoming books in the series and IT’S GOING TO BE SO GOOD. Probably painful but so good. Mostly. More on that later.
  • The Tone. This is the same brutal and violent world of Ember in the Ashes and it some respects it might be more brutal. The stakes are higher in this book and we’re in the real world. It has a more urgent and darker feel to the book and its so fitting.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The Pacing. This was the only real complaint with the whole book. The pacing felt a bit off. Ember had this ridiculous mounting cliffhanger chapter endings – one chapter would end in a cliffhanger, the next would change POV character, which would end in another cliffhanger and then return to the first. I thought it would be more of the same in Torch, with the added POV character but it wasn’t. Two of the three characters were together for most of the novel and it lost the urgent “I must read this next Elias chapter so that I can find out that happens in Laia’s NEXT chapter,” drive because the next chapter would just pick up where it left off. There’s also a great deal of travelling in this book which, by nature lends itself to slower pacing. While it wasn’t necessarily bad, it was completely different from the first book and was one of the things that made that An Ember in the Ashes so special.
  • One Particular Plot Line. This is kind of a personal thing, but one of the character’s story arc was kind of off for me and it really felt they were written into a corner. I know that a lot of the third book will be spent in rectifying it and I don’t really know how I feel about it as a whole. I understand why it went this way, but I’m still very meh about it. I’m hoping my feelings change with the third book or with a re-read.

All in all, A Torch Against the Night is a solid second book with a a ton a exploration into a fascinating world and into established characters, though the pacing may leave some to be desired for fans of the first book in the series.

Review: The Call -Peadar O’Guilin

28600081Title: The Call

Author: Peadar O’Guilin

Publisher//Date: David Fickling Books// August 30,2016

Genre: YA Fantasy/Horror

Source: Purchased

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Synopsis: Imagine a world where you might disappear any minute, only to find yourself alone in a grey sickly land, with more horrors in it than you would ever wish to know about. And then you hear a horn and you know that whoever lives in this hell has got your scent and the hunt has already begun.

Could you survive the Call?

Continue reading

Review: Joyride by Anna Banks

Title: Joyride22718685

Author: Anna Banks (twitter) (website)

Publisher/Date: Feiwel and Friends// June 2, 2015

Genre: YA Contemporary

Source: Purchased.

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Synopsis:A popular guy and a shy girl with a secret become unlikely accomplices for midnight pranking, and are soon in over their heads—with the law and with each other—in this sparkling standalone from NYT-bestselling author Anna Banks.

It’s been years since Carly Vega’s parents were deported. She lives with her brother, studies hard, and works at a convenience store to contribute to getting her parents back from Mexico.

Arden Moss used to be the star quarterback at school. He dated popular blondes and had fun with his older sister, Amber. But now Amber’s dead, and Arden blames his father, the town sheriff who wouldn’t acknowledge Amber’s mental illness. Arden refuses to fulfill whatever his conservative father expects.

All Carly wants is to stay under the radar and do what her family expects. All Arden wants is to NOT do what his family expects. When their paths cross, they each realize they’ve been living according to others. Carly and Arden’s journey toward their true hearts—and one another—is funny, romantic, and sometimes harsh.

Rating: 3.75/5

I bought Joyride for the sole purpose of reading it and getting it signed by Anna Banks at a Fierce Reads event at the beginning of the month. While I didn’t get to go to the event *sobs forever*, I did still read the book. And while I had some issues with the book, I still enjoyed it and it made for hard time rating it.

Let’s break it down:

What I liked:

  • Our Main Characters. This is the first book I’ve read by Anna Banks, and I loved the way she writes her characters. They were relatable and realistic and I wish I would have been friends with them in high school. I really got Carly. I understood where she was coming from with the need to fulfill familial obligations and expectations.  She had me with “a girl needs nail polish”.  I loved Arden (who was played by a very young Matt McGorry in my head) and his need for pranking. And I LOVED their relationship and how it progressed – especially Arden’s single-minded pursuit of Carly as his accomplice. It’s kind of hilarious and very endearing.
  • The Depth at the Heart of the Story. There’s a lot to be said for the places that this story goes. It touches on racism and privilege and the lengths to which people will go hide maintain a certain image – none of which I was expecting when I went into the novel. It took me by surprise and I ended up liking the more serious aspects of the novel more than the pranking and other typical contemporary rom-com-ish fare.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The Secondary Characters. I adored Carley and Arden, but with the exception of Cletus, I felt that most of the secondary characters were shorted in their “screen time” and it gave them a flat feeling. Julio and Sheriff Moss were the two that I felt suffered the most from this. I could feel the depth of their characters lurking in the background, but not all of it came to light. I liked Julio despite this, but I felt that Sheriff Moss’s lack development made him feel almost like a caricature and made his treatment of Arden and Carly harder to take seriously.
  • The Tropey-ness. There were moments throughout the story, particularly around the halfway point, that felt very tropy and predictable. I figured out some of the plot twists before they happened and it messed with my enjoyment of the story in the middle of the book. And while none of this is necessarily a bad thing, it wasn’t cutting edge.

All in All, Joyride is a standard and somewhat predictable YA contemporary with great main characters and surprising depth.