Thursday, July 3, 2014

{Review} Hemlock (Hemlock #1) By: Kathleen Peacock

Title: Hemlock (Hemlock #1)
Author: Kathleen Peacock
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Recommended For Fans Of: Maggie Stiefvater, Cassandra Clare, Amy Plum

Synopsis: Mackenzie "Mac" Dobson is still reeling from the murder of her best friend, Amy. Seeming to be just another tragedy in the series of werewolf attacks in Mac's town, Amy's death ignites the fear of those who have been cursed with Lupine Syndrome. An extremist group called The Trackers are determined to put an end to those with LS; even the harmless were-beings that Mac believes are out there. However, the Trackers' leader will stop at nothing to poison the already-damaged soul of Mac's best friend Jason, while she desperately holds tight to the shattered remains of Amy's friendship and her sweet best friend Kyle. In order to protect everything she's ever known, Mac uncovers secrets about the people she thought she knew best- and chilling truths about Amy's murder that she will never be able to forget.

Review: I don't usually read supernatural books that involve werewolves. But when I do, I really hope that they are as notable as Hemlock is. Hemlock weaves just the perfect amount of fantasy with reality.

Storyline/Characters: I'll admit that it took me a while to warm up to the romance, and to even form an opinion about the characters. To me, that just means that the characters aren't memorable. I guess you could say that I'm  indifferent. Especially towards Mac, who I absolutely didn't hate, but I didn't absolutely love at the same time. She had amiable qualities that I admired, but I can't truthfully say that she is on my list of favorite-female-protagonists. However, Mac is a character who contributes to the eminence of this story rather than for lack of a better word, downgrading it. The characters that I did have a fondness for were Trey and Mac's best friends, Jason and Kyle. These are the type of boys that you'll wish you were friends with as a teen; genuine, dependable, and as I'm sure, easy on the eyes as well. *exaggerated wink*

Although Hemlock's storyline doesn't have a slow start, personally I felt that it took a while for the really really really good parts to come in. I'm going to go off on a limb here and compare this to a delicious slice of chocolate cake. Yes, a chocolate cake. You've got the simple icing and the general bread-crumb taste at first bite (can you tell I'm not much of a baker?), but maybe on that third or fourth bite of cake, you'll sink your teeth into a rich and creamy hidden center filling. And that's when you know that despite the initial blandness, you still love that cake. This, my dear readers, is how I would like to officially describe Hemlock's storyline to you all. The beginning will keep you interested, and towards the middle and ending of the book, you won't be able to put it down (or in the case of that chocolate cake, you won't be able to stop eating.)

*I apologize for that analogy. I'm not entirely too practiced concerning these, but there's a first time for everything, right? :)*

Other thoughts: Hmmm.. I have to say that Hemlock is a bit predictable as well. It doesn't entirely spoil the book, but as a reader, I think you can figure out the ending pretty easily. Still, you'll enjoy being right, huh? :)

Conclusion: Hemlock is definitely worth the read! Since Hemlock is the first in a series, I'm curious as to what Kathleen Peacock will be pulling off with the sequel! Off to the library I go (as you should be, too!)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

{Review} Independent Study (The Testing #2) By: Joelle Charbonneau

Title: Independent Study (The Testing #2)
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science Fiction
Recommended For Fans Of: Suzanne Young, Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth

Synopsis from Goodreads: In the series debut The Testing, sixteen-year-old Cia Vale was chosen by the United Commonwealth government as one of the best and brightest graduates of all the colonies . . . a promising leader in the effort to revitalize postwar civilization. In Independent Study, Cia is a freshman at the University in Tosu City with her hometown sweetheart, Tomas—and though the government has tried to erase her memory of the brutal horrors of The Testing, Cia remembers. Her attempts to expose the ugly truth behind the government’s murderous programs put her—and her loved ones—in a world of danger. But the future of the Commonwealth depends on her.

Review: This review is going to be slightly shorter than most of my regular reviews. If you'd like to read a full-length review of The Testing, here it is! However, for those of you who have read The Testing and decided to read the sequel as well, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

I loved The Testing from the very start, and at this rate, it seems like I'll be loving it until the very end as well. The sequel was just as fabulous as I hoped it to be. Although there wasn't the same rush from all the action that the first book provided, I still think Independent Study was a mind-warping thrill ride. For those of you who have yet to read Independent Study, Cia is now at the university, where she has been assigned to the governmental branch, to her own surprise. Once she begins her classes, she is immediately overwhelmed- with the eyes of authority that seem to be constantly watching her, the workload that no other student seems to have, and the whispers of threats just beyond the horizon- threats that speak of a rebellion that will put a stop to the dangerous testing once and for all.

Cia was fabulous in Independent Study. She had to endure a lot of mind games and intelligence testing in Independent Study, and as a reader who loved Cia from the start, I felt a sense of pride at how amazing of a character she was. I really admire how much Joelle Charbonneau encompassed into Cia's character; making her one of the best heroines I've encountered in YA fiction. My only complaint was that at times, Cia seemed a bit TOO perceptive and I wanted her to accept her slight weaknesses in more ways throughout the book. However, Cia is still among my top favorite characters, and she will always be.

The introduction of amazing background characters was also a great move on Joelle's part. I loved seeing Ian and Michal make their way into Cia's life, and into the reader's heart. It wouldn't be a bad idea if Joelle wanted to do a spin-off series based on their own stories... *winks*

Conclusion: Independent Study was a very satisfying sequel to an amazing book, and I couldn't have asked for anything better from this fantastic author and this heart-pounding series that gives Divergent a run for its money.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

{Review} The Test (The Testing #1) By: Joelle Charbonneau

Title: The Testing (The Testing #1)
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science Fiction
Recommended For Fans Of: Suzanne Young, Veronica Roth

Synopsis (From Goodreads): Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same? 

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career. 

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies--trust no one. 

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.
Review: This is my second time reading The Testing, and it has only gotten better. I have so much love for this book, and I really wish more people would know about and read The Testing! At this point, I realize many people are tired of dystopians. In fact, I, myself am tired of them as well. But The Testing is an awesome, amazing exception. It exceeds my expectations in a world of worn-out dystopian themes. While the general idea behind this book is very similar to both The Hunger Games and Divergent, The Testing is written so well that it can completely stand out against two of dystopia's biggest hits.

Why did I love it? Well, for starters, The Testing has some heart-pounding action. I often find it really difficult to keep up with the jumps and twists and what-nots in dystopians and general thrillers, but I had no trouble with The Testing. It kept me engaged and utterly captured at some of the best and most heart-pounding scenes that Joelle Charbonneau wrote. One of the best things about The Testing is the way it combined romance, suspense, action, and science fiction into one explosive story.

Characters: Cia is the main character, and she is absolutely amazing. Cia is strong, but not overly strong; intelligent, but not a complete genius; and confident; but not even a bit arrogant. She is the perfect example of strong feminism and yet, she is genuine and real. Dare I go so far as to say that Cia is one of the best heroines I've encountered upon in young adult dystopia? I do dare to say this, and I hope that many of you will agree with me once you read The Testing. Cia is a character you will root for, and you will enjoy following her along her testing. Cia's love interest Thomas is another example of a wonderful character. Although he seemed like Cia's back-up, Thomas's own story is something that gives a reader pause and thought.

Romance: There is, very obviously, romance between Thomas and Cia. However, unlike Divergent and The Hunger Games, this relationship is not obstructed by too many obstacles. It is a nice change to see a relatively "smooth" relationship among many that frustrate you to the point of extreme annoyance. Thomas and Cia had a passion that while was not extremely highlighted in The Testing, became a background that was very enjoyable and made me smile.

Plot: The Testing, while not entirely a unique IDEA, is unique in its own way. The introduction of many parts of the actual tests itself had me craving more, and I guarantee the same will happen for you. The plot is quick and easy to keep up with, like I have said before.

Conclusion: I've actually been recommending The Testing to many of my own friends, which only happens with books I truly, truly love. And The Testing is one of those books. So here I am, recommending this to you, dear review reader. Read The Testing. And love it. :)

Friday, May 23, 2014

{ARC Review} Noggin By: John Corey Whaley

Title: Noggin
Author: John Corey Whaley
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: April 8th, 2014
Source: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Format: Physical ARC

Synopsis: You only live once... unless you're Travis Coates, one of the miracle survivors of new cryogenic studies. Five years after his body died from the cancer that plagued him, Travis and his head are back... just on a new body. So imagine you're a teenage boy with an amazing girlfriend and an awesome best friend. Then cancer takes you away, leaving everyone behind you stricken. Five years later you're back, and back to witness your girlfriend's engagement, and everyone else moving on. But you can't. You're still stuck five years back, when you thought the end was near... but hey. You only live twice, right?

Review: A HUGE thank you to the wonderful people at Atheneum Books for sending me this galley for review! John Corey Whaley. Remember that name, memorize the face (LOL) because John Corey Whaley is greatness itself. In fact, this entire book is greatness itself.
{Literally me when I finished reading Noggin??}

And where do I even begin to describe how much I LOVED this book? Is it the brilliant voices Whaley must have floating around in his head, that he somehow managed to capture perfectly on paper? Is is the never-ending humor, even through the soul-touching, heart-string pulling moments? Something about Noggin is magical, and it just might be all of the above.

I loved the eerily realistic feel of the science fiction aspect. Travis comes back to life after dying, which is pretty sci-fi to me. The super cool, super mindblowing part is that Whaley put Travis in modern day surroundings. Everything was spot on, and Travis acted exactly as a 21st century teenager would.

The storyline was ADDICTING. When you read Noggin, I have a feeling you won't be able to put it down. It moves at the perfect pace, and everything just flows so well. I can't help but gush and rant over just how wonderful Whaley's writing is. And it is truly awesome. The dialogue was engaging and Travis's jokes and charming personality had me like:
And what makes Noggin important is that it is MEMORABLE. Something about this books makes it stay in your mind. Travis is a unique and stirring character, put in a very moving and heartfelt story.

Conclusion: Both deeply meaningful and comically hilarious, John Corey Whaley's enigmatic new novel is full of bursting with (second) life. I think Noggin is a book that everyone needs to read to truly enjoy for themselves. And what the hey. Go out and buy a copy, for goodness sake! It's really THAT good :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

{Review} Side Effects May Vary By: Julie Murphy

Title: Side Effects May Vary
Author: Julie Murphy
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Recommended For Fans Of: Wendy Wunder, A.J. Betts

Synopsis: When 16 year-old Alice was diagnosed with leukemia, not only does her physical being become sick, but also all the aspects of her life that she once thought so stable come tumbling down. A year later, when told she is now officially in remission, things have not gotten any easier for Alice. Instead, they seem to get harder as her best friend and the love of her life, Harvey, tries to fix what Alice has already broken, and the own parts of her soul that she was sure was going to die. But Alice is about to learn that even without cancer, side effects of life will always vary.

Review: About halfway through this book, I thought I knew for sure that I was going to rate it perhaps a 1 out of 5 stars. But thank god I waited because sometimes, the things that are worth reading are always in the end.

Characters: Let's talk about the characters, shall we? Alice was the main character, a young girl who had gone through hell and survived. So imagine my surprise when she turns out to be a world-class *insert another word for mean girl here*. Alice was manipulative, annoying, distant and moody. She treated Harvey, her best friend who also happened to be in love with her, as her slave. Alice not only took advantage of him, but she played with his heart. Halfway through this book, I was about done with Alice. While I appreciated Julie Murphy's efforts to create a looser character whose heart was not purely gold, Alice felt like a science fair experiment gone wrong. But, choosing to read past the first half, Alice started to change just a little bit in my eyes. For some reason, I couldn't help but defend her in my mind. Think of Alice like this: she's that friend that you never see eye-to-eye with, but she's also that girl you'd defend in a fight. And although those rare moments of warmth and gold that came through in Alice were enough to raise my review to 3 stars, it by no means meant she even made my list of lovable characters. Harvey, on the other hand, was just the boy you could not help but love. He was a handsome Prince Charming, even when Alice refused to be his princess.

Writing: Now here's where I also had some concerns. Side Effects May Vary is told from two points of view; both Harvey and Alice. However, these points of view also go back and forth between the year Alice was diagnosed with leukemia and the period after her remission. You don't find out the reasoning behind this "time switch" until the very end, but even then, it's still a bit unclear. Although it's not DIFFICULT to keep the settings straight, it takes a bit of effort to piece together the string of events that played out from Alice's sickness. And contrasting to that, one part I really liked about Julie Murphy's writing is her exploration into the theme of "cruelty inspiring cruelty." We all know that high school is a tough time, and some people can be downright vicious no matter what stage of life you are in. This is seen in Side Effects May Vary, when Alice's enemies are absolutely cruel and miserable. In retaliation, however, Alice does some things that aren't too easily forgivable, and sometimes, that is the human nature. Alice is definitely one of the more flawed characters I've read in YA contemporary.

Ending: Like I said in the beginning of my review, the ending of Side Effects May Vary is likely the best part. I enjoyed the way Julie Murphy ended this story. I truly did. A perfect way to end an imperfect book, right?

Conclusion: Although Side Effects May Vary is not a book that you will love right away, maybe you'll be able to find those hidden silver linings and just possibly give this book a chance.

Monday, May 5, 2014

{ARC Review} The Chapel Wars By: Lindsey Leavitt

Title: The Chapel Wars
Author: Lindsey Leavitt
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publication Date: May 6th, 2014
Source: Bloomsbury USA Childrens for review
Format: Physical ARC

Synopsis: Love is never easy, and it seems to only become harder when you're the seventeen year-old owner of a wedding chapel. After the death of her beloved grandfather, Holly inherits the family business- a quaint wedding chapel in one of the most romantic cities in the nation; Las Vegas. Soon, Holly finds herself struggling to keep her chapel in business while denying that she's falling for Dax- grandson of Holly's grandfather's worst enemy; who just so happens to be the owner of a rival chapel. Will Holly lose her chapel or her first true love? After all, all's fair in love and chapel war.

Review: First, a HUGE thank you to Bloomsbury USA Childrens for sending me this galley for review! The Chapel Wars is such an adorable contemporary novel with a really sweet premise that stems from an original idea. But I have to say that what first drew me into this book was the author: Lindsey Leavitt. I ABSOLUTELY ADORED Lindsey's other novels, including the Princess for Hire series and her standalone, Going Vintage. I've always thought of Lindsey as an excellent contemporary romance writer and she did not disappoint in The Chapel Wars.

Writing/Romance: I'd like to applause the writing and romance in this novel first, as it was one of the things that I enjoyed most. Lindsey Leavitt brings her signature charm and bubbly sass in her writing. I loved the way that Lindsey gave Holly's view of Las Vegas an almost vintage feel- making it easier for me to connect to an otherwise reputably distant place. I've never actually been to Vegas before,  but the suburban side of this flashy city was brought out in The Chapel Wars, which I really loved! Now when we speak about the romance, I have one word: ADORABLE. There couldn't be a cuter couple found in Vegas. Although this relationship's wonderful reputation is more than partly due to Dax, I still found their banter and playfulness so so sweet. 

Characters: Now here's where my review falls down to 3.5 stars. Holly was a great character, but she was hard to relate to in many ways. For one, I found it completely unbelievable that she could be given the freedom of a 25 year-old at the age of 17. Even though she seemed like a very mature and capable girl, the lack of Holly's parent's supervision and lack of opposition towards anything she did seemed kind of unbelievable to me. The only time Holly's parents were really present was during scenes that involved the chapel. It would have been nice to see the parents of a teenaged girl more involved in their daughter's life. Holly also became a bit distant for me when I realized that most of her thoughts were trained on her chapel. At 17, Holly should have been thinking of school or even of other possible hobbies. Instead, the concept of school was discussed very briefly and dismissed very quickly. What could have been a possible alteration and therefore solution to this problem would be to change Holly's age. Although it could have possibly put The Chapel Wars out of the Young Adult genre, I felt like it would have been more appropriate for Holly's character to be in her twenties.

Conclusion: The Chapel Wars is worth a read. And on the other hand, Lindsey Leavitt's other novels are worth MORE reads as well. For those of you who do pick up The Chapel Wars and reads my review, let me know what you think! :)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

{ARC Review} Fool Me Twice (If Only... #1) By: Mandy Hubbard

Title: Fool Me Twice
Author: Mandy Hubbard
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publication Date: May 6th, 2014
Source: Bloomsbury USA Childrens for review
Format: Physical ARC

Synopsis: If only... Landon hadn't broken Mackenzie's heart after a summer of whirlwind romance. Now, a year later, Landon and Mackenzie are back at the ranch where it all started for another summer of work.. and possibly romance? When Landon takes a fall to the head, he wakes up believing that he and Mackenzie are still together! Now it's Mackenzie's turn to give Landon a taste of his own medicine, but can she pull off the ultimate heartbreak, or will she be fooled twice?

Review: A big THANK YOU to Bloomsbury USA Childrens for providing me with this galley for review! I am just the type of girl who enjoys any contemporary, no matter how unbelievable and how unrealistic it may be. Fool Me Twice may not appeal to contemporary readers who enjoy the more realistic side of this genre, but it was a really cute story for me.  

Romance: They say "old flames never die", which was basically what the plot of Fool Me Twice was centered around. Although I wouldn't say that Mackenzie and Landon had the CUTEST relationship I've ever read in contemporary romance, they still had their affectionate moments that kept me pulling for them. There's a lot of focus on Landon's character development, which also really affects the way his and Mackenzie's romance is played out in this novel. Props to you, Mandy Hubbard for working in some pretty substantial characters as well. Landon and Mackenzie both had their flaws, but that's what makes many relationships work.

Plot/Storyline: Well, the plot was pretty predictable. There was a little curveball thrown in at the end, but nothing that jumped out at me to make it a SPECTACULAR storyline. But that's perfectly fine. I knew Fool Me Twice was a light contemporary that I could enjoy reading in the park on a sunny Saturday morning. The plot is easy to keep up with, and it would definitely appeal to horseback riding fans, which I found pretty cute.

Conclusion: It wouldn't be a waste of your time to pick up Fool Me Twice and to try it! Just know what you're in for; an endearing book about teen romance that is just as adorable as its cover;)