Auracle by Gina Rosati

August 1, 2012 Reviews 0

Auracle by Gina RosatiAuracle by Gina Rosati
Buy from AmazonBuy from The Book DepositoryBuy from Barnes & NoblePublished by Roaring Brook Press on August 7, 2012
Genres: YA Paranormal
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from a swap
DNF
16 year old Anna Rogan has a secret she's only shared with her best friend, Rei; she can astrally project out of her body, allowing her spirit to explore the world and the far reaches of the universe.

When there's a fatal accident and her classmate Taylor takes over Anna's body, what was an exhilarating distraction from her repressive home life threatens to become a permanent state. Faced with a future trapped in another dimension, Anna turns to Rei for help. Now the two of them must find a way to get Anna back into her body and stop Taylor from accusing an innocent friend of murder. Together Anna and Rei form a plan but it doesn't take into account the deeper feelings that are beginning to grow between them.

I’m in such a reading slump! I had one awesome book and one good novella in the last week, and every other book I’ve read since then has been either mediocre or bad. I don’t like the way it makes me look like I hate everything because I don’t. I’m just in the company of some unimpressive books that clash with my feminist ideals or are lacking in quality. I wanted Auracle to break me out of that slump, but… Well, this is probably the worst of the books I’ve read since my slump began. Almost all of it is because of the portrayal of the antagonist, a young woman named Taylor.

I wanted to enjoy this so badly, but it’s a little hard to find nice things to say. I love the love interest being half-Japanese (yay for diversity in YA romances!) and Rei’s little sister being named Saya automatically won her awesome points because she shares a name with one of my favorite heroines ever. Anna’s voice reads well and is likable, though Anna herself is not because of the way she treats/describes Taylor, and the novel is well-paced. If Auracle weren’t causing my blood pressure to skyrocket every few pages, finishing this today would be easy.

Taylor’s portrayal. There are so many problematic elements to it that it pains me just to talk about it. When Taylor was fifteen, she was having sex with a twenty-one-year-old man, lying to him about her age and swearing she was on birth control pills. When she got pregnant, she told her parents she was raped, the man was charged/possibly convicted of statutory rape, and he must now register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Right after that, she moved to Anna’s town.

In an act of implicit slut shaming, Anna puts the reader’s focus on how short all of Taylor’s skirts are and how low-cut her shirts are by describing them all the time. She even mentions when Taylor wears a skirt so short that her underwear is visible when she sits down. Taylor develops a crush on Anna’s friend Seth, who calls her a stalker in front of the class when she tries to talk to him. After she insinuates he must be gay to not like her, Seth responds with, “You think because I’m not interested in a slut like you I must be gay… why doesn’t that surprise me? (ARC p.54). After she dies and takes over Anna’s body and decides she’s going to frame Seth for murder when her death was nothing but an accident.

Seriously? This is offensive no matter what way you look at it. The way she’s characterized, the way she is dressed, her actions–all of it is deeply problematic in the way it oversimplifies why people do such things and makes a caricature out of it all. Letting revealing clothes be labeled bad by association (or is revealing clothes just a way to characterize how eeeeeeeevul she is? I’m not sure) doesn’t fly with me either.

Maybe Taylor is given depth later in the novel and some light is shed on why she has behaved the way she has. I flipped ahead a little and she brings up her not-so-great relationship with her parents and they way they pushed her to do certain things whether or not they wanted to do them. In my eyes, this bit of depth I stumbled across is nowhere near enough to make up for everything done to Taylor. I lack the ability to care about any resolution on this front and the time to keep wading through the book to find the good stuff. I’ve read over half the book and if all the good stuff is in the second half, that’s still the book’s problem, not mine.

I don’t have time for this. Look at all these books stacked up waiting for me. Just look!

I move in a few weeks, so I’m packing up everything, and I want to get at least a few more of these read before I move. I do not have time for offensive books like Auracle.

And this is why Auracle is a DNF.

What am I reading next?: Fated by Alyson Noel

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

July 31, 2012 Reviews 1 ★★★½

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. MaasThrone of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Buy from AmazonBuy from The Book DepositoryBuy from Barnes & NoblePublished by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on August 7, 2012
Genres: YA Fantasy
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
three-half-stars
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

And now the moment of truth: Throne of Glass itself. I went for the novellas first and after seeing those slowly decline in quality, I was worried the novel itself would share those flaws. I suppose I worried for nothing; Throne of Glass was the lengthier version of everything I wish the novellas could have been. I still had a few problems with it, but I’m hooked well enough to stay around.

Maas writes a clear and very readable story with few to no narrative tripping points to knock me out of Celaena’s world; it took me only two days to read the novel in its entirety. If it hadn’t been for the pesky necessity known as sleep, I would have read it in one. About halfway through the novel, I exclaimed to myself, “Finally, someone gets that a woman can be a butt-kicker and still like clothes and jewelry and girly stuff!” Celaena was someone I loved reading about because of her bright yet hardened personality and the challenges she faces.

Celaena, Prince Dorian, Captain of the Guard Chaol Westfall, noblewoman Kaltain Rompier, and the king himself all take their turns as narrators and show the readers far more than just what’s going on with the tournament. A secret scheme or two is hinted at and while they are not given much of a spotlight, there is the promise they will come to be very important. The grand mystery of this novel—who is killing the other potential champions?–may seem a bit obvious to some, but red herrings and small hints keep readers guessing. Believe me, I was happy to see improvement in the author’s ability to write a mystery. The second novella The Assassin and the Desert also had a mystery as its central plot and it was a poorly written one, in my opinion.

When it comes to Celaena’s clothes and how each of her two love interests feel about her (ah, love triangles: how I have not missed them), we get plenty of description. Concerning the all-important Tests that determine who stays in the competition and who gets knocked out, we get very little. I wanted to see more of the challenges Celaena had to go through. The focus on somewhat unnecessary details and the romance slowed down the pacing to the point where I had to force myself to keep reading until I hit a point where something of interest was finally happening.

There will be two more books in this series at the very least and that means at least two more books for the explanation of Celaena’s world, but I wanted to know a little more about the magic and the history of it in their world. In a scene at the beginning of the novel, Celaena wakes up in a tent to find small footprints leading in and out of the tent, along with flowers at the foot of her cot. This is promptly dropped and never brought up again. It may have been small, but I really wanted to know about it.

My recommendation? Pick up the novel but think long and hard about whether or not you want to read the novellas. They’re nothing compared to the book. As for me, I’ll be patiently awaiting the second novel in the series so I can see where the scheme revealed at the end of the novel will go and what Celaena will do about it.

(But I will continue to ignore its marketing as Game of Thrones for teens or, more specifically, teenage girls. I’ll tell you what Game of Thrones for teenage girls is: Game of Thrones. It really gets my goat when the marketing for a novel stereotypes it to “_____ for teenage girls” because it stars a girl and there’s more romance. That’s kinda sexist, don’t you think? I had this same problem with the way Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini was marketed as Percy Jackson for teenage girls. Last time I checked, Percy Jackson for teenage girls was Percy Jackson.)

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A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young

July 30, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★

A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne YoungA Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young
Buy from AmazonBuy from The Book DepositoryBuy from Barnes & NoblePublished by Balzer + Bray on June 21, 2011
Genres: YA Paranormal
Pages: 272
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
three-stars
We all want to be remembered. Charlotte's destiny is to be Forgotten...

Charlotte’s best friend thinks Charlotte might be psychic. Her boyfriend thinks she’s cheating on him. But Charlotte knows what’s really wrong: She is one of the Forgotten, a kind of angel on earth, who feels the Need—a powerful, uncontrollable draw to help someone, usually a stranger.

But Charlotte never wanted this responsibility. What she wants is to help her best friend, whose life is spiraling out of control. She wants to lie in her boyfriend's arms forever. But as the Need grows stronger, it begins to take a dangerous toll on Charlotte. And who she was, is, and will become--her mark on this earth, her very existence--is in jeopardy of disappearing completely.

Charlotte will be forced to choose: Should she embrace her fate as a Forgotten, a fate that promises to rip her from the lives of those she loves forever? Or is she willing to fight against her destiny--no matter how dark the consequences.

Don’t enter giveaways for sequels to books you haven’t read. I hope that lesson isn’t necessary for anyone reading this and I doubt that it is, but I’ll say it anyway. A Need So Beautiful was never on my radar simply because I wasn’t interested, but I stupidly entered a giveaway for its sequel A Want So Wicked and won, meaning I had to read the first book. It didn’t feel right to win a sequel from the publisher and instantly get rid of it without reading it, so I got myself a copy of the first book and started reading.

I didn’t expect terribly much from the novel and that’s what I got: not terribly much. Not to say it’s oatmeal in the YA supermarket, though–it’s got some great highlights. Charlotte was sympathetic and I understood her conflict is written very well, as are all the scenes where she gives in to the Need and helps people. The climactic scene and the Need Charlotte fulfills just before then nearly made me cry! The other characters didn’t quite get the same depth, but they weren’t annoying caricatures either. I got the lesser of two evils.

A little more focus on the capricious nature of Charlotte’s gift (why this person and not this person when both are equally deserving and in need of help?) would have been great. The length of the novel is perfect and I don’t think it needs extra pages added to it just for that; cutting down on the huge focus on Harlin and replacing it with a little philosophical stuff would have worked. Their romance was a little cloying, especially because it didn’t feel authentic to me and I didn’t care about whether or not things worked out for them, and that reduction wouldn’t have bothered me at all.

For most of the novel, I was bored. I skim-read at least eighty percent of the time and kept trying to wander away to something else. Only my determination to get this finished today got me through to the end. Charlotte’s dilemma was well-drawn, but for the most part, I had no emotional investment in the novel and there wasn’t much to keep me reading. Whether it was my YA expertise coming out or issues with the novel itself, I saw much of what was thrown at Charlotte/the reader coming and it lacked the impact it was supposed to have.

There’s more I could say about both the positive and negative aspects of the novel, but I care so little about it that I keep forgetting what I want to say. Now that I have book one out of the way, I can start on book two… as soon as I get some other required reading out of the way first. If you want to write about angels and want books that adequately exhibit an angel character’s conflict with who they are/what their higher purpose tells them they have to do, this is a good place to start. If this never seemed like your kind of book or reading this review has made you wonder whether or not you should read it, I suggest skipping it.

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Fated by Alyson Noel

July 28, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★

Fated by Alyson NoelFated by Alyson Noel
Buy from AmazonBuy from The Book DepositoryBuy from Barnes & NoblePublished by St. Martin's Griffin on May 22, 2012
Genres: YA Paranormal
Pages: 352
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
two-stars
The first book in a magnificent new series about a girl who can navigate between the worlds of the living and the dead by #1 New York Times bestselling author Alyson Noël.

Lately strange things have been happening to Daire Santos. Animals follow her, crows mock her, and glowing people appear out of nowhere. Worried that Daire is having a nervous breakdown, her mother packs her off to stay in the dusty plains of Enchantment, New Mexico with a grandmother she’s never met.

There she crosses paths with Dace, a gorgeous guy with unearthly blue eyes who she’s encountered before...but only in her dreams. And she’ll get to know her grandmother—a woman who recognizes Daire’s bizarre episodes for what they are. A call to her true destiny as a Soul Seeker, one who can navigate between the worlds of the living and the dead. Her grandmother immediately begins teaching her to harness her powers—but it’s an art that must be mastered quickly. Because Dace’s brother is an evil shape-shifter who’s out to steal her powers. Now Daire must embrace her fate as a Soul Seeker and find out if Dace is one guy she’s meant to be with...or if he’s allied with the enemy she’s destined to destroy.
Most readers know this author for her Immortals series and opinions about it vary. Some call it the best thing since sliced bread. Others think it’s decent. Still others think it’s gut-wrenchingly terrible. Then there’s that contingent who think it’s hilariously bad, and that’s where I am. I spent months thinking over whether or not I wanted to read Fated and a few weeks ago, I decided to go for it. (You may notice that means I made my decision at the same time the cover for the sequel came out. Shut up! Whatever you’re thinking, just don’t say it.) I can’t say I’m entirely surprised that I disliked Fated.When Fated gets good, it gets really, really good. I love each and every one of the ideas in this novel, even if they’re executed a little weaker than I’d like. Creative, fresh, and fun–exactly what I expected and wanted from it. One thing I love about this author in particular is that she always uses names most authors wouldn’t touch because they’re so weird. Marliz, Jannika, Django, Daire… Such strange and lovely names. On occasion, the prose is perfect for the scene and the imagery is astounding.

The rest of the time, however, this does not read like this author’s eighteenth published novel. That’s right: eighteenth published novel. That’s pretty impressive, but it reads more like someone’s second attempt at writing a novel when they’ve never been published and they’re still trying to learn the ropes. The way most of the novel is written in sentence fragments made me ache for some sentence variety and adherence to the rules of grammar. Fragmented sentences? They’re alright with me as long as they’re not overused because it’s not like everyone speaks or thinks with perfect grammar–not even a stickler like me!–but this novel went wild with them.

Fated is sluggishly paced and feels at least twice as long as it is. I had to force myself to keep reading half the time and that was no easy feat, let me tell you. The lack of characterization and an over-reliance on stereotypes when someone decided it was time to make an attempt at characterization made all the characters start blending into one gray, oozing mass in my mind. The insta-love between Dace and Daire? So over it. I’ve got to hand it to this book: it made the all-too-common insta-love a little more memorable this time around. How many books have their characters practically in love with one another before they ever meet?

Quite honestly, I was in it for the Foe Yay between Daire and Cade for most of the novel. I will never be able to explain why I love it so much. I just do. Maybe I just like the tensions between protagonists and antagonists so much that I start shipping it? Is it the result of my natural aversion to shipping normal/canon couples? You are better off asking a rock what the meaning of life is than asking me why I love Foe Yay.

I sound really unhappy with this book, don’t I? Like I wouldn’t touch the next book of the series in a million years. Well, I’m going to. In fact, I’m looking forward to Echo’s release November 13th. I think Noel is really onto something with this series and I want to support her because even when I’m ranting and raving about the myriad of problems both are permeated by, I love the publishing industry and YA.

2 stars!

What am I reading next?: Scorch by Gina Damico

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Circle of Silence by Carol M. Tanzman

July 26, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★

Circle of Silence by Carol M. TanzmanCircle of Silence by Carol M. Tanzman
Buy from AmazonBuy from The Book DepositoryBuy from Barnes & NoblePublished by Harlequin Teen on July 24, 2012
Genres: Mystery, YA Contemporary
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
three-stars
THE BIGGEST STORY OF MY LIFE COULD BE HOW IT ENDS

It's my turn to run a "Campus News" crew, and I've put together a team that can break stories wide open. And Washington Irving High has a truly great one to cover, if only we can find a lead.

A secret society has formed in our school. It announced its presence with pranks: underwear on the flagpole, a toilet in the hallway, cryptic notes. A circle of silence keeps the society a mystery. No one knows its members, agenda or initiation secrets-until a student lands in the hospital under "strange" circumstances.

I "will" blow this story wide open and stop others from being hurt...or worse. And while my ex, Jagger, might want to help, I don't trust him yet. (And, no, not because of our past together. That is "not" important to this story.)

But whether you find me, Valerie Gaines, reporting in front of the camera, or a victim in the top story of the newscast...be sure to watch "Campus News" at 9:00 a.m. this Friday.

Ah, stories with elements of student journalism… There aren’t nearly enough YA novels featuring student journalists. There need to be more! Utilizing the excitement of capturing a possibly-dangerous story rather than the suspense of a stalker as she did in dancergirl, Tanzman’s new YA thriller keeps readers glued to their seats and unable to put the book down for very long. It has a few issues, though. Issues I really can’t ignore.

As Valerie ran around trying to break the MP story wide open, I was reminded of my own days as a student journalist. Good times, I tell you. Good times. Working on a good story for an entire class period, editing the other students’ articles (oh, the horrible articles one girl kept handing in…), spending an entire class period photographing the graffiti problem in the bathrooms (I think I still have all the pictures; pretty nasty stuff, the free time I got when I finished my articles early–and I always finished my articles early, the panicking about getting ads in on time so we could make our print deadline, the constant reminders that my alcoholic grandmother was once a journalist herself…

Okay, so all those times weren’t good, but Valerie captures the best of them and because of that personal detail, I was more interested in where Circle of Silence went than I expected to be. She might be into television journalism while I preferred print journalism, but they share so many common elements that I can easily overlook it.

Overall, I wanted more development. More than anything, it wants to build suspense and be a thriller, which it does and which it is. At the cost of the well-built suspense and the utter readability of the novel, none of the characters really grow over the course of the novel and I didn’t get to know any of them very well. Jagger’s grand plan for infiltrating MP has too many holes in it from the beginning and seeing the characters take so long to catch on to those snags didn’t do the novel any good. Toward the end, Valerie picks up the Idiot Ball and presumably beats herself with it to near-unconsciousness. It’s the only explanation for how stupidly she acted just before and during the climactic scene.

And I admit, one star of this book’s three-star rating comes solely because the love interest’s name is Jagger. It’s better if you don’t ask.

I’m not sure if there will be more books in this series, but if there are, I’ll surely read them! It’s nice to be able to sit down and read a book straight through in one sitting.

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Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

July 25, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarryPushing the Limits by Katie McGarry Published by Harlequin Teen on July 31, 2012
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
three-stars
No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.

But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Sometimes, an author’s agent sells a book/series to an editor and that’s that. Other times, multiple editors express interest in acquiring the book/series and then a book auction happens. Every time I hear that a book went to auction, I challenge myself to try and see what captured the interest of multiple editors; I feel like it’s really got to be something to go to auction. I clearly see why Pushing the Limits went to auction–oh my, that chemisty! It nearly blew up my house!–and it’s hard to stop reading, but it needs improvement on the pacing, the melodrama, and the details of Echo’s insomnia.

McGarry’s gift is creating chemistry between her characters, and not just romantic chemistry between Echo and Noah (though the chemistry there was pretty explosive too). The relationships between Echo/her parents and Noah/his brothers are similarly well-developed and just as powerful as the romantic storyline I never quite cried while I was reading, but my eyes misted over two or three times, occurring each time during scenes where Noah interacted with his brothers, who were in foster care with another family.

The book’s pacing is a little uneven. At first, short chapters and developing storylines/chemistry make it hard to put Pushing the Limits down, but once Echo and Noah get together around halfway through the book, the pacing slows to a crawl and it was a struggle to keep going. Once we enter the last 50 to 100 pages, things speed back up again, but readers can easily be lost by that sluggish middle third. The melodrama the novel devolves into during that middle third doesn’t help matters. True dramatic tension is a huge draw for me, but once it starts getting over-the-top, I want out.

The little details of Echo’s trauma-related insomnia rang false to me. I have suffered from insomnia in the past for weeks or months at a time and with that personal experience in my arsenal, I know Echo should not be behaving like she gets a full night’s sleep every night. I can count one or two occasions where we actually saw her insomnia affecting her by making her fall asleep in class and have a difficult time paying attention, but for the most part, she walks, talks, and behaves like someone getting all the rest they need. The telling-not-showing of insomnia and the way the disorder is glossed over is not cool with me. If a character is given a medical disorder, I want them to show signs they actually have it, but just be told so.

McGarry’s next book, Dare You To, will center on Beth’s life and from what little I saw of it during Pushing the Limits, it has the potential to be even more of a grabbing, intense story than this one was. Depending on what information comes out about it as the publication date comes closer, I may or may not pick it up. Fans of unique dual perspectives and people struggling to overcome the problems that plague their lives and psyches will surely enjoy Pushing the Limits.

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The Assassin and the Empire by Sarah J. Maas

July 24, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★★

The Assassin and the Empire by Sarah J. MaasThe Assassin and the Empire by Sarah J. Maas
Buy from AmazonPublished by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on July 20, 2012
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
four-stars
Celaena Sardothien is the assassin with everything: a place to call her own, the love of handsome Sam, and, best of all, freedom. Yet, she won’t be truly free until she is far away from her old master, Arobynn Hamel; Celaena must take one last daring assignment that will liberate her forever. But having it all, means you have a lot to lose . . .

This fourth fantastic e-novella gives readers an inside look at the characters who appear in the full-length novel Throne of Glass. Don’t miss out!

Now that’s better.

While reading the first three novellas, I found myself liking each one less than the one before until I outright hated the third one. With The Assassin and the Empire, it makes improvements in leaps and bounds and creates the set-up for Maas’s hyped-up debut novel.

Celaena realizing exactly how spoiled and entitled she is after she loses access to the endless supply of money she had while still under Arobynn’s command was great, and I liked how the struggles she and Sam had to endure now that they were free were portrayed. I originally disliked they became lovers, but after seeing the imperfect yet likable way they worked together as a couple, I finally got won over by it. The twisted, abusive relationship between Celaena and her father figure/mentor Arobynn also showed that a relationship doesn’t have to be romantic for it to be abusive and/or unhealthy. Well-written, that part was.

In a problem that has occurred multiple times throughout the novellas, there is a mystery that is no mystery at all because it’s too easy to figure out. The big reveal of whodunnit is supposed to have some kind of impact, but when we see it coming a mile away, it loses that punch. Speaking of thing that lack punch, the most important event of the novella (which I can’t detail because it spoils too much) that leads Celaena to make the decisions that seal her fate and put her in the Endovier salt mines she is plucked out of at the beginning of Throne of Glass left me surprisingly disinterested. It certainly impacts Celaena, but it doesn’t make me feel anything at all.

I’m thinking I should give this three stars, but I’m feeling generous right now because this was such an improvement on the other novellas (and also on some of my recent reads, but that’s another story altogether) that I’ll round it up.

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