27 July 2016

You're the One That I Want

Author: Cecily von Ziegesar
Series: Gossip Girl #6
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Was it only yesterday that she'd told another boy, "I love you"?
Yup, that's right.  Yesterday.

Beautiful Serena who got kicked out of boarding school gets into practically every college she applied to, so she flaunts around New England, touring the schools and meeting hot tour guides.

Dan and Vanessa are apparently a couple again?  And now they decide to live together (that sounds like the logical, smart thing to do), along with a squatter who has keys to the apartment.

Blair is still determined to lose her V card, and now she has her eyes set on her cheating, stoner ex-boyfriend Nate, all while juggling her own (and Nate's as well) acceptance letters and a new baby in the family.

Jenny wants to become a supermodel like her idol, Serena, but learns that perhaps her super huge boobs may not be the asset she thought they were.

It's hard to feel any kind of pity for these characters this time around.  When Nate, who admits himself he didn't think he'd get in anywhere, gets into most of the Ivy Leagues when I worked my ass off in grade school just to try to get into a decent university in state, it just irritates me to no end.  And I can't feel sorry for Blair either, because she's just waiting for her letter from Yale so that she can celebrate by losing her virginity.  Seriously, can this girl really think of nothing else?  I think the elitist snobs side of the characters felt pretty strong in this installment in the series.

I did think it was kind of cute how Nate was spoiling the newest addition to Blair's family, even if he was doing it for purely selfish reasons.  And Chuck's relationship with his monkey (and his desperate attempt to get into college somewhere) added some fun to the story.  But for the most part, this one was completely forgettable for these characters I love to hate.

24 July 2016

Playing with Fire

Author: Kate William
Series: Sweet Valley High #3
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

"Not all of us can walk around cheating and blackmailing and lying and not feel guilty about it."

Are there really people out there as stupid and annoying as Jessica Wakefield?  I certainly hope not.  She is the antithesis of a role model for young girls.  She's conceited, self-centered, self-destructive, and she completely loses herself for a guy who - surprise, surprise - treats her like crap.

Here are just a few of the things she does in this novel:

- ditches Winston at the school dance competition (or whatever it was) to go hang out with Bruce

- ditches Robin time and time again, then only pays attention to her when she wants to use her to steal something at school

- cheats on her tests/quizzes

- bails on cheerleading to hang out with Bruce, who ends up canceling on her all the time anyway

- let's Bruce treat her like %&$^ over and over again, all the time telling herself she loves him.

I'm sorry, but in what universe is this love?  What is the one character trait he possesses that she actually likes?  Oh, right.  His wealth, popularity, and good looks.  Well, okay then.  Excuse me while I sit here and roll my eyes and fake gag.  I really don't understand these types of toxic relationships, or how people like Jessica let themselves think they enjoy this!  I keep waiting for her to redeem herself in one of these novels, to show that maybe she isn't such a turd, but so far, still no luck.

Another thing that annoyed me was how Elizabeth and the others seem to blame Bruce for changing Jessica.  I think that's utter BS.  He didn't force her to change.  Jessica made that decision entirely on her own.  They should be pissed at her for not wanting to be the better person.  They could be pissed at him, however, for how terribly he treats her throughout this entire novel.

The really sad thing is, I don't feel like there was even a moral or a lesson to this story.  I doubt Jessica is going to learn anything from it, which may make it hard for young readers to either.  I just don't know, fellow readers.  I really don't know.  But at least Liz and Todd are still cute together and not completely dysfunctional.

21 July 2016

I Like It Like That

Author: Cecily von Ziegesar
Series: Gossip Girl #5
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

And what bothered her, what made her feel like crying all over again, was that now they were broken up, she had no one to love, and no one to love her.  Not that she didn't love almost every boy she'd ever met, and not that every boy in the world didn't totally love her.  It was impossible not to.

Seriously, what is it about this series that makes it so readable even though the characters are kind of terrible?  It feels like we are rehashing old themes yet again, what with Blair still desperate to lose her virginity, though she's met her fair share of guys more than willing to take up the cause to help her out.  Her latest victim is Serena's older brother, which does add a new element to the mix.

Stone cold sober or just stoned cold, Nate still can't seem to decide what he wants.  While trying to get into the pants of ultra druggie Georgie (Harriet the Spy, y'all!), he can't seem to stop playing knight in shining armor for Serena or lusting over Blair, the one he let away.  And Blair still finds Nate attractive even though he cheated on her with her best friend (still can't get over this one, sorry!).

The Humpreys are a sad bunch.  Shallow Jenny learns her new boyfriend might not be all he's cracked up to be, much to her dismay after lots of stalkery moments (desperate, anyone?).  And sad, loner Dan is living it up (ha) with his new internship of a lifetime.  Turns out, he can't even mail letters properly.  I guess once you get a bit of an ego, or get a taste of the privileged life, you're too good to do the remedial tasks we all start off doing.

I definitely love to hate and hate to love these characters.  They are so unrelatable on the surface, and yet there is one or two characteristics in each of them I can strike a chord with.  But, again, I'm glad I don't have any of their lives.  I am definitely not a drama mama.  But I so enjoyed the interactions that the additions of Georgie and Chuck added to this installment in the series.  Bwhahaha.

19 July 2016

Truthwitch

Author: Susan Dennard
Series: Witchlands #1
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

She was trapped here, inside herself.  Forever, she would be this person.  Stuck within this body and this mind.  Tied down by her own mistakes and broken promises.

If you can get over the initial I-have-no-idea-what-is-going-on-what-do-all-these-terms-mean, Truthwitch is quite a good read.  It takes a little while to get into, with slow explanations to all the different types of witches, and all the different political players in this game of clashing kingdoms.  But I think I much prefer this steady stream of information as it unwinds naturally through the story than the initial info dump at the beginning that a lot of authors tend to do.

Safi is interesting because she is flawed and relatable.  To some extent, Iseult is as well, though I think she's a little less flawed.  She's more cloaked in darkness, with her full potential yet to be revealed it seems.

I think the only thing that Truthwitch suffers from, that other readers might not even notice, is that the plot may not make the most of sense.  If we have these aetherwitches that can control winds/air/etc., I feel like there was a much simpler way to fulfill the plot of this story and the contract regarding Safi than boats and piracy and huge foxes, etc.  I realize why Dennard added all those elements in, but to me it didn't seem like the most logical decisions on the characters' parts sometimes.

Overall, however, it rarely draws away from the story.  And the romance doesn't stifle the plot either, which is a refreshing change though there is some for romance readers.  I think the bond between Safi and Iseult is stronger than any romantic relationship in the story, and the characters introduced along the way, whether as romantic interests or not, are dynamic enough to hold their own in the story.

Though I wasn't sure about this story in the beginning, it definitely won me over by the end.  I look forward to the next installment.

18 July 2016

Because I'm Worth It

Author: Cecily von Ziegesar
Series: Gossip Girl #4
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

The title of this novel is a bit ironic.  I got through to the end of the book, and it honestly didn't feel like it was worth reading.  The drama/plot lines this time around were a little boring and felt like we've maybe already done them before.

Serena still can't seem to stay interested in a guy for more than a few weeks, though she does suggest getting matching name tattoos, so that's something I guess.  Still, her flighty personality when it comes it her relationships is already getting a bit tired.

Blair is on the fence with her own relationship problems.  Between one of her father's Yale friends, one of her step brother's friends, and once again Nate, her own problems seem trivial as well - especially since they all still seem to revolve around one main key element still - losing her V card.  Sometimes these characters are so far out there from my own personal experiences that they are just a little too unbelievable to enjoy.

Vanessa and Dan run into some trouble in their rocky but new friendship turned relationship.  In all honestly, I thought they were doomed from the start, but the way their story arc goes is not exactly what I thought it would be.  How ironic, though, that these teenagers both get their first break into big time entertainment right around the same time - Dan with his poem and Vanessa with her film.

And Jenny considers a breast reduction surgery while befriending someone who is actually her age and gets her to experiment in some new things she hasn't tried before (and that doesn't include her inclination to smoke weed, which she picked up from Nate).

And sad, pathetic Nate.  I actually kinda like what happens to him this time around.  He skates through life with not a care in the world expect the worry that his pot dealer is leaving the country.  It was nice to see him sweat (a little bit) for a change.

17 July 2016

Secrets

Author: Kate William
Series: Sweet Valley High #2
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Homecoming time has come!  Surprise, surprise, but Lyla and Jessica have made the list for homecoming queen.  The real shocker is that Edin and Elizabeth did too.  Thinking they only got the nod because they are dating hot boyfriends, Jessica is determined not to let either one of them show her up.  No matter what.  Seriously, why hasn't one of her parents taken her behind a shed yet and beat some manners into this girl?  If I had done a fraction of what Jessica has gotten away with, my mother would have had me kidnapped in the middle of the night and sent off to a boot camp in the woods to scare some sense into me.

Edin is worried about her past coming out, especially with her super jealous boyfriend (her first clue that maybe he isn't the best guy to be wasting her time with in my opinion).  She confides in Elizabeth, and Elizabeth swears to keep it between the two of them.  But secrets have a way of getting out, and all hell breaks loose in Sweet Valley.  Except between Todd and Liz.  They are too cute, even if he was a complete twat in the first novel.

Light and entertaining, Secrets is a quick read that further goes to show that Liz is the ideal teenager and Jess is an insufferable bitch who doesn't care about other people's feelings at all and only wants what's best for her.  Again, I feel like all of us can relate these characters to people in our lives, even if it's been forever since high school (thank God).

All I Want Is Everything

Author: Cecily von Ziegesar
Series: Gossip Girl #3
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

The truth is, the only thing that makes famous people interesting is that they're famous.

I think the same applies for the characters of this novel.  The only thing that makes them interesting is that they are rich and somewhat famous.  Otherwise, they are just those whining, annoying, spoiled people we don't even want to associate with.

This third time around, good old Nate might be back on the fence in a classic he only wants what he doesn't have.  Now that he and Jenny (sorry, Jennifer) are apparently a thing, he finds himself thinking about Blair.  Blair's new step brother is having some not very sibling like feelings towards Blair, Dan and Vanessa's story line is getting old already, and Serena is starting to annoy.  It would be one thing if she showed some true, honest characteristics.  But she doesn't really seem to have a personality.  She is defined by her beauty alone, which is what every guy sees in her, including her new rock star boyfriend.  Oh brother.  At least it looks like she and her bestie are finding a way to make up and be BFFs again.

Still, the style of the series is kind of enjoyable.  "Gossip Girl"'s narration and her snarky comments thrown into the storytelling make the novels enjoyable.  And though I couldn't care less about upper society's trends and fashion and shopping needs, I like to mock it a bit through the series, even if that isn't the author's intent.

Again, there is no depth to be gained from this series or these characters at all.  But I kind of enjoy the drama, as it makes me appreciate that I don't have to deal with any of this kind of nonsense in my real life.

Ivory and Bone

Author: Julie Eshbaugh
Series: Ivory & Bone #1
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

The problem with Ivory and Bone is that there isn't really a problem with Ivory and Bone.  The writing isn't terrible.  The characters aren't annoying.  There is no one thing I can pinpoint about this novel to explain why I didn't enjoy it.  The only issue I have with it is that, plain and simple, it was boring.

There isn't a lot of excitement.  It's billed as a romance, but there really isn't much romantic tension between any of the characters.  There are clashing clans with a lot of predated history and tension, but even that doesn't turn into much.  In the end, I simply found myself skim reading the majority of the novel once I'd reached halfway or two, simply to get it off my nightstand and allow me to start a different story.

I honestly don't see this being a trilogy though.  Once through it was enough for me, until Eshbaugh really pulls out all of the stops the second time around.

Dragonfly in Amber

Author: Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #2
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

"Undated.  Unknown.  But once... once, she was real."

Dragonfly in Amber picks up more than a decade after the end of Outlander, which is a bit unsettling at first.  The dynamic relationship between Jamie and Claire, and some of the antics of the member's of Jamie's clan/gang are what made Outlander such an enjoyable read.  Pulling the characters out of that element and tossing in a whole new dynamic throws readers like me for a loop.  Granted, Brianna and Roger are likable enough characters, but it seems like their characters are trying to force you to like them off the bat, instead of the slow, easy introduction we got to the characters in Outlander.

But, fear not!  We soon pick back up with Claire and Jamie before too terribly long.  But in the back of my mind, the entire time I read this novel I couldn't help but think 'why?' and 'when?'  Because we know, now, that Jamie and Claire will eventually be separated (boo!), and that Claire winds up back in her original time.

I do like how there isn't a huge scientific issue of time paradoxes in this series.  Though Gabaldon has yet to explain how it works, she hasn't forced an unsatisfactory explanation on me either.  I much prefer it this way.  And though I am saddened the entire novel about how I know it will end, I still enjoy Jamie's sometimes snarky, sometimes silly character, and Claire is as independent and forceful as ever.

The plot, while much more substantial than that of its predecessor, was a lot more political as well.  It felt a little dense at times, though probably because of my own ignorance of the history of that time.  It was certainly interesting, even if a bit futile.  I only wish these novels were a tad shorter.  It just seems to take forever to get through them, and the ending always leaves me wanting to immediately pick up the next one to continue the saga.

15 July 2016

You Know You Love Me

Author: Cecily von Ziegesar
Series: Gossip Girl #2
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

And Blair was still starring in the most depressing movie ever made.  The movie that was her life.

Just in case you were wondering if You Know You Love Me is full of beautiful prose, the quote above should give you a hint.  But it also hints to as why I continued to like this guilty pleasure the second time around.  It's kind of fun to watch their train wreck of lives fall apart around them.  This time, we focus mainly on Blair.

Blair is definitely not have a good time.  She's insecure with her relationship of Nate, yet doesn't seem inclined to breaking up with the cheating scumbag.  Instead, she still seems determined to lose her virginity to him, even though he gave his V card to her best friend.  Also, Nate is making a new female friend, while Blair is still blaming all of her relationship problems on Serena.

As if the drama with Nate isn't enough, Blair also has to deal with her mother getting married (on her birthday no less) to a guy she really doesn't care for, and she has to worry about inheriting a new step brother.  Oh, and admissions to Yale.  And a film festival at school, apparently, too.  But even though she's got all this drama going on, it's still kind of hard to feel sorry for her, because 1) she's so desperate to have sex with Nate that her relationship with him is really her own personality trait and 2) the only other parts of her personality that chip the surface are off putting as well.

The other characters are just as annoying as before as well.  Jenny is still obsessed with hanging out with the cool kids, and now she's dreaming of kissing Nate even though she knows he's in a relationship.  Dan still trips over his drooling tongue if he even thinks about Serena.  Vanessa is desperate to get Dan's attention even though she has a boyfriend now.

And Blair and Chuck, from the cover?  Not even a thing at all in this story.  This cover makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to the story.

13 July 2016

Killer Spirit

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: The Squad #2
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

"I'm starting to think the CIA is seriously deranged for letting us do this," I told her, "but that doesn't mean that I don't want to do it."

Toby and friends are back with more school spirit and spy missions that you can handle!  As they continue to unravel the mystery left a bit open ended in the first installment to the series, Toby faces a more serious, more pressing matter - homecoming court.  As a cheerleader on the Squad, she's nominated to court almost automatically.  And with her maybe/maybe-not boyfriend and her cheerleader chasing brother running her campaign for her, the unthinkable may happen - she might actually win.

I like Toby because she is the exact opposite of what you might expect for a stereotypical cheerleader.  I like the rest of the Squad because they add depth to that stereotypical character, each in their own unique way.

What I don't like is that this series is apparently done!  Which hardly seems fair at all, as we just got started.  Sure, it's highly unlikely that the government is using teen spies without the consent of their parents under the rouse of a cheerleader team.  And I doubt there's cheerleaders out there selling cookie that are actually hacking into and spying on evil corporations.  But still.  The audacity of the plot is kind of its charm.  Now where am I going to find more books about cheerleading super spies?

12 July 2016

Double Love

Author: Kate William
Series: Sweet Valley High #1
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

It's the summer of nostalgia.  First with Gossip Girl, and now throwing all the way, way, way back to Sweet Valley.  I grew up reading about Elizabeth and Jessica, be it in Sweet Valley Twin, Sweet Valley High, or Sweet Valley University, though I don't think I've read the entirety of any of the series.  I even saw a bit of the TV series.

Returning to Sweet Valley is like going back to high school.  There is drama abound, especially since uber popular Jessica and reserved, brainy Elizabeth just happen to have crushes on the same guy - Todd.  I'm not a twin and have never had that kind of dynamic with someone like Liz and Jess share, but I can definitely relate each one of the characters in this story to someone I went to high school with.

Definitely a summer read, Sweet Valley focuses on the drama of Liz and Jess warring for Todd's attention.  It also deals with Steve's hidden relationship (they think) and her father's potential affair with the hot, young new lawyer at his firm.  In the background is also the rival between families over what to do with the football field (high school drama at its finest).  These books are a quick read, and the characters are tolerable (some more than others).  Jessica is definitely not my favorite, and is a bit of a bitch.  And after Todd's interactions with both girls, I definitely would want to date him.  He seems a bit like a spineless prick.  But that makes the series charming, as each character is flawed and imperfect.

Gossip Girl

Author: Cecily von Ziegesar
Series: Gossip Girl #1
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

If I hadn't watched the television show on and off, I probably wouldn't really care about this series.  It's a look into New York City's elite Upper East Side.  So, believe it or not, it's full of spoiled rich kids concerned with being invited to the biggest parties and wearing the latest fashion and hooking up with the hottest people.  Basically, it's the opposite of my own life of working hard to be a middle class American while wearing clothes from Target and being married to a nerd.

Still, like the show, it's a bit of a guilty pleasure if you can get over how self absorbed and 'important' these characters are.  Blair is only concerned with being the queen of her preppy school and of losing her virginity to her boyfriend, Nate.  Nate is a stoner kid with less than stellar grades that really has nothing going for him except that Chase Crawford plays him in the TV series.  Serena would almost be likable, despite all the rumors flying around about her, except for the one thing she did that isn't a rumor but is true - mainly, sleeping with someone else's boyfriend.  Jenny is a popular girl wannabe, desperate to do any and everything to get a peek into the lives of the elite.  Dan is a sappy loser completely obsessed with Serena though it seems they've hardly talked at all, if ever.  And Chuck?  Well, Chuck is Chuck.  What else is there to say?

The prose is light and trivial, but it's supposed to be, as it's told from the POV of a secret high school blogger.  This series is literally for people who live for gossip, but it's a light, quick summer read for me that's easier than trying to ever finish the TV show (because, let's face it, that's never going to happen).  There shouldn't be anything really enjoyable about it, and yet the characters are just interesting enough to make me want to continue the series.  I can imagine that a lot of teenage girls eat these novels up though.  Who wouldn't want to be rich and semi-famous with their portrait plastered all over the side of buses in the city?

10 July 2016

Born to Run

Author: Ann Hunter
Series: North Oak #1
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Alex's life has never been easy.  Given up for adoption when she was born, she has been in the system ever since.  Though she has lived in several foster homes, she always finds herself returning to particular home, even though the foster mother is anything but loving and caring.

When Born to Run starts, thirteen-year-old Alex is holding a gun over her dead foster mother while panicking.  Her heart is also breaking over her dead foster sister, who died in her arms.  With the police on their way, Alex decides to run, afraid of going to jail for the murder.

Alex winds up at North Oak horse ranch, the most prestigious horse racing farm in the country; considering the revelations later in the book, I found it oddly coincidental that she should just happen to end up there of all places.  Taken in, somewhat begrudgingly, by the vet and her family, Alex struggles to fit in while continually running from her past.

I've been on the search for a new horses series to read while I wait patiently for Netflix to add the next season of the Heartland series.  This first installment in the North Oak series was available for free on Amazon, so I decided to give it a try.  Though Alex is thirteen and the writing level feels like it is definitely targeted for middle grade kids, the main topic - the murder of her foster mother - of this story felt higher than that level.  Especially when, throughout the novel, Alex has flashbacks to what exactly happened that night as she struggles with the guilt and the fear.  I thought some of that should have been toned down for the targeted audience.  The book also has some Christian/God undertones.  While not overly preachy, it was definitely there.

While not on the same par as the Heartland series (which I obsessed over growing up) in my opinion, Born to Run was still a fun read for avid horse readers.  While the horse farm felt more like a backdrop that an integral part of the novel, Hunter sets it up to definitely be a horsey series down the road now that the main conflict has been resolved.  Alex also reminded me of a younger Kris Furillo.

07 July 2016

Eleanor & Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell
Rating: 1 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Fangirl was the first fiction audiobook I borrowed from the library.  It took a lot of commuting to finish it, and in the end I wasn't that impressed.  But like I'd heard good things about Fangirl, I'd heard even more positive feedback for Eleanor & Park.  So when it showed up on my search of available audiobooks at the library available for download, I decided to give it a try.

Unlike Fangirl, I couldn't even finish Eleanor & Park.  I don't think I even got a fourth of the way through.  I made it a little over an hour of the way through and then Eleanor and Park, though probably mostly Eleanor, bugged me so much I deleted it off my phone and called it a day.

Eleanor is the new kid at school.  Her mother is abused by the step father that Eleanor resents her younger siblings calling Dad.  She no longer has a bedroom of her own, and the one bathroom in the house is behind a curtain (when it's even up) in the kitchen.  I feel for Eleanor, I really do.  Especially when we learn that she was kicked out of her house for a while and almost got sent to Child Services.  The fact that as the redheaded new girl she's also getting teased adds to the pity part (the RAGHEAD scene is a prime example).

The problem with Eleanor is that I feel like she's a racist.  For one, and probably my biggest pet peeve of this entire novel, she keep referring to Park as "that Asian guy".  It got to one point where I thought on my drive into work as I listened that if she called him "the stupid Asian guy" one more time, I was going to chuck my bluetooth speaker out of my car on the interstate.  The real kicker was when she went something along the lines of 'If I wasn't sure I like that f-ing Asian guy, I know now.'  WHAT?!  I realize that Rowell was probably trying to juxapose the "star-crossed lovers" of Eleanor and Park against the "love at first sight" of Romeo & Juliet, but seriously?  Especially when she admits that she isn't even sure he's Asian (and it's revealed that she really needs to pay better attention in her geography class).

In fact, it seems like a lot of the elements in this story are attached to the race of the characters.  The narrators refer more than once to the "black girls" at the school, though Eleanor also says that she'd never seen a black person before and that her girl is overwhelming white.  Park and his friend refer to something along the lines of 'the blacks like the jungle fever' while chatting one day.  And Park (who is "stereotypically Asian with his obsession with comic books and martial arts) comments on his mom's accent (the narrators even try to add it into the audiobook).  My best friend in high school (who I sat with on the bus everyday until we were old enough to carpool together) is first generation American with parents who immigrated from Thailand.  He's never once said anything about his mother's or father's accent, let alone made fun of it.  That did nothing to endure me to Park either.

Both characters seemed like annoying high school kids, and I just couldn't get into the romance while they seem to have no chemistry and don't seem to really like each other much either.  In a genre flooded with different novels, I didn't feel like this one was worth my time, and I think I'm done trying Rowell's contemporary works, unless I break out of the YA genre.

06 July 2016

Perfect Cover

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: The Squad #1
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Late June/early July has been a rather slow period for me with books, so I decided to dive into another one of Barnes's series since I just inhaled the new Fixer novel and am eagerly awaiting the next installment in The Naturals series.

Perfect Cover, the first novel in The Squad series, isn't quite up to par with Barnes's more recent novels.  The plot was kind of bland.  Toby gets a few mysterious and coded messages left for her, telling her to go meet the Bayport cheer squad members to audition.  Since School Spirit is about the last thing on Toby's mind, she isn't all that excited, but goes anyway since they are inviting her with messages written in invisible ink.  She shows up, isn't all the impressed, then gets another message, and almost at the snap of the cheer squad's leader's fingers, ends up being a government spy whose cover is a high school cheerleader.

Granted, most teenage spy plots have similar eye rolling developments, but everything at the beginning of Perfect Cover happens so quickly I can't help but poke fun at it a little.  In fact, I wish Barnes had as well.  I think Perfect Cover may suffer from taking itself a little too seriously.  It could have used more humor to fluff the plot a little, since the plot is more technology plotting than adventure.  Humor could have helped make up for a lack of excitement.

Still, Toby is likable enough, and her brother adds a little comic relief.  While not a book I would stay up under the covers all night reading obsessively, it's probably a nice light summer read perfect for a day at the beach or a long ride on a plane.

03 July 2016

Winning

Author: Lara Deloza
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

'I don't love playing a damsel in distress, but I hate breaking a nail even more.'

Lexi has one goal in life: winning the honor of homecoming queen.  With a mother who has forced her into beauty pageant after beauty pageant after beauty pageant (she has a shelf and a closet full of trophies to prove it), it's no surprise Lexi wants the crown of the school as well.  And when newcomer Erin, who already won the honor at her previous school just before she transferred, looks to be an honest competition for Lexi this year, the gloves come off.

I kept waiting for one of the characters to become likable.  I kept waiting for some humor to be added in to balance out the bitchy, unlikable characters who only care about popularity.  I kept waiting for her to finally get the newsflash and realize this is a high school homecoming.  It's about as important as winning a $2 scratch off lottery prize.  After all her issues with her mother, you would think she would do everything in her power to not be her mother instead of being her shadow and following in her footsteps.  But nope.  All Lexi wants is to win homecoming queen, no matter what.  Wow.  Who thought that would be a good idea for a main character in a novel, especially if it isn't a comedy?

The book likens itself to Mean Girls.  And if you take all the humor out of Mean Girls and get rid of Tina Fey, I guess it kind of is. But without humor, it's just a petty plot without a moral to the story that reminds me of how trivial high school was (and how desperate the people were who thought it mattered so much).  But it was at least mildly entertaining, laughing at how asinine it all was.  I just wish one - just one! - of the characters hadn't been so flawed.

Let's do a quick breakdown, shall we?


Sam is perfectly happy letting Lexi treat her shit just so she can hover in Lexi's shadow.  She doesn't complain at all when Lexi just decides she's not going to give her a ride to school anymore.  She's fine with doing Lexi's homework for her.  She doesn't complain one bit about being treated like dirt.

Sloane is bulimic and doesn't really stand up for herself.  Lexi ruined her high school life by spreading rumors about her an ex-boyfriend, but Sloane is still rather cordial with Lexi since they are in Key Club together.  That is, until she snaps and goes all Mean Girls plot on Lexi.  I'm thinking there was probably some in between she could have gone for, instead of basically becoming what she hated about Lexi.

Ivy is tortured and confused, but is happy to go along with Lexi's plan, even though she knows it's not out of the kindness of Lexi's heart that she's decided to help boost Ivy's popularity all of the sudden.  And even though something terrible happened to Ivy in the past which made her go a little mental, and even though she says anything that even reminds her remotely of it makes her sick to her stomach, the next second she's in a situation like that and it doesn't faze her one bit!  Really don't understand.

The only really likable character is Erin, and - oh yeah - she isn't a narrator.

I'm not sure exactly why I thought Lexi would try to redeem herself at the end of the novel, or why I thought she might change for the better.  But the ending is so true to her character that it made reading the entire novel pointless, because nothing good seemed to come out of it at all.  Which is just like high school, I guess (she gets points for being realistic).  But why would anyone subject themselves to reading that for fun?  I'd rather read high fantasy instead.  Give me dragons!

01 July 2016

A Court of Mist and Fury

Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns & Roses #2
Verdict: Bury

I feel like Sarah J. Maas is that person at work or school or at a party that I really want to talk to.  Everything you hear about that person makes you think, "We are souls sisters!  She sounds amazing.  We are going to be BFFs", blah blah blah.  But then you actually meet that person and it's very confusing.  You stop and think, 'Have I been punked?  Maybe they meant someone else who looks exactly like that with that exact name.'  Because no matter how hard you try, you don't see what everyone else sees in them.  All the elements are there for perfection, but the real life encounter is a let down of epic proportion.

That is how I feel about Sarah J. Maas.  First it was the Throne of Glass series.  I thought the first couple of books were okay, but wasn't sure why they garnered such outstanding applause.  And then I couldn't even get through the fourth installment, Queen of Shadows.  A Court of Mist and Fury fell to similar demise.

A Court of Thorns and Roses was okay, but that's probably the best adjective I could come up with to describe it, apart from 'meh'.  Still, I wanted to give A Court of Mist and Fury the benefit of the doubt.  I checked it out from the library, trudged my way through it, then had to return it before I finished.  A glutton for punishment, I checked it out again, waited patiently on the waitlist queue, got it back from the library, read about five more chapters, and then finally called it quits for good.

Sarah J. Maas can create epic fantasy worlds, of that I have no doubt.  Unfortunately, the characters in her stories leave a lot to be desired, as do the plots.  A Court of Mist and Fury is a prime example.  Here is the note I jotted down on my phone while trying to describe the plot for the beginning sections of the novel:

Girl meets guy (who is not entirely human, mind you).  Girl loves guy.  Girl wonders if she will ever get to have sex with guy before marriage.  Girl and guy promptly bang.  Guy becomes extremely overprotective.  Girl runs off to other guy.  Gag.

I don't mind my high fantasy having elements of romance, but 'plots' like this are so overdone and underwhelming and her books are soooooooo long that I just can't muster the will or attention span to try anymore.