Tuesday, May 29, 2012

READING: The Girl In The Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross

The Girl In The Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross

Publication date: May 22nd, 2012
Published by: Harlequin
Genre: YA Steampunk
Rating: 4/5
In New York City, 1897, life has never been more thrilling - or dangerous.

Sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne and her "straynge band of mysfits" have journeyed from London to America to rescue their friend Jasper, hauled off by bounty hunters. But Jasper is in the clutches of a devious former friend demanding a trade-the dangerous device Jasper stole from him...for the life of the girl Jasper loves.

One false move from Jasper and the strange clockwork collar around Mei's neck tightens. And tightens.

The Girl In The Clockwork Collar starts just right where Steel Corset left off. The gang, consisting of Griffin, Finley, Emily and Sam, travel to New York to find out what is the reason behind Jasper's incarceration and find a way to free him.

Those who enjoyed The Girl In The Steel Corset, will surely enjoy Clockwork Collar, as well. It has action, romance, scheming, betrayal. I liked all the characters, just like I did in Steel Corset. The line between good and bad is pretty distinct in both books. I would have liked the characters to be a little bit more flawed, have a darker side, too. The only one who is the embodiment of that is Jack Dandy (you remember him from Steel Corset, right?) who regretfully we don't get to see at all in Clockwork Collar. Too bad, I enjoyed his scenes in SC very much. I guess he was "replaced" by Tesla, who was interesting, to say the least. I am not sure if I love the crazy, kinda insensitive super scientist type of guy (think Dr. Bishop in Fringe) but he didn't annoy me either, which is good. Besides, his interactions were mostly with Emily, who I'm not crazy about, anyway. I love both Sam and Jasper and somehow I think they can do way better than Emily. I don't know why I have this feeling about this girl since Steel Corset. She just rubs me the wrong way.

I kinda had the feeling Collar was a little bit less steampunk-y than Corset. Weirdly enough for me, that's a good thing. Also I would have liked nothing more but for both these books to be shorter at least 50 pages.
That being said, I would recommend it to those who liked the first book and even to those who were on the fence about it. 
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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

READING: Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Publication date: May 15th, 2012
Published by: Viking Juvenile
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Rating: 4,5/5
When Kitty Tylney's best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII's heart and brings Kitty to court, she's thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat's shadow, Kitty's now caught between two men--the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat's meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.

As a big fan of The Tudors, a TV show about Henry VIII, and an even bigger fan of books, when watching season 04 I kept thinking "Wow, wouldn't it be great if there was a book about Catherine Howard, where did she come from, how she came to be a queen, how did she feel about everything?" Well, with Gilt, I got my wish! Without the hot steamy sex and Henry Cavill unfortunately, but I am not one to complain.

I admit to only knowing Cat Howard from the show. I haven't read a biography of Henry the VIII (I have one though, does that count?) so everything I know of him is from the series. Not a very reliable source, I know, but it'll have to do. In Gilt, Cat's story, surprisingly enough was not from her POV but from her "best" friend's, Kitty. Along with other young girls, they lived in a covent-type institution for ladies from not so wealthy families, either because they are orphans, or because their parents wanted to get rid of them and provide them with some sort of education, something like and old maid's school. 
Cat is always the little vixen, urging others in mischief and not shying away from any romantic offer. She is incredibly ambitious and she would do just about anything to get into court, what every young lady aspired to back then. She worms her way into Henry's life and before she knows it she becomes queen. Now, at the time, Henry was a sick man. His leg was seriously injured and smelled soooo bad and he was old. Not a husband a 17,18,19 year old dreams of having. But he was the King of England and that was all Cat wanted and needed. Besides, she had other things going for her which I am not gonna discuss here in case someone doesn't know the whole story. 

Kitty is Cat's friend in the institution. She is supposed to be the level-headed one, the one that keeps the others in check and tries not get in trouble.
On paper. Because in reality Kitty was a miserable little mouse with no backbone or sense of anything, basically. She fell in love with a guy, but she persuaded herself she couldn't and wouldn't be with him because Cat needed her in court and she just couldn't live without her best friend. A best friend who threatened her, talked down to her all the time and was flat out mean to her. Kitty for some inexplicable reason, looked up to her. I guess that explains Cat's very charismatic personality, and the reason she was able to win Henry's heart so easily.
That being said, Kitty was miserable throughout the whole book and she had no one to blame for her misery but herself. She made her choices and every one of them was wrong because they were all based on making a person that neither loved nor respected her happy at all costs. At least that's my take.

What surprised me was how Longthorne chose to portray Culpepper. In the show he is the same smug jerk, but you can see he has some feelings for Cat and Cat is deeply and madly in love with him. In Gilt, Culpepper is this deranged villain, drunk with power, and Cat couldn't care less about him. So, I don't know which side of him is closer to the truth but the romantic in me hopes it's the first one.

Debuts are always hard, but a historical fiction debut must be even harder. You have to have your facts straight and do a lot of research. Even though what I know about Henry and his life story comes from a TV show, Longshore made me believe she knows what she's talking about and that's enough for me.
So despite Kitty's general absurdity, Gilt was a very good historical novel about the life and demise of a woman you can't help but be intrigued by.
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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

READING: Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

Publication date: May 1st, 2012
Published by: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Paranormal, Angels/Demons
Rating: 2/5
What if there were teens whose lives depended on being bad influences?
This is the reality for sons and daughters of fallen angels in Sweet Evil.

Tenderhearted Southern girl, Anna Whitt, was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She’s aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but it isn’t until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage, and her will-power is put to the test. He’s the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna.

Forced to face her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?

I keep seeing 5 star rating after 5 star rating for this book and I just don't get it. I really don't. I think I'm getting too old for the frivolity of YA. Or maybe Sweet Evil was that bad.

And it's a real shame because the arch story wasn't that bad. There are the 7 deadly sins, only with a bunch more in there just so that we can have more characters, and each is represented by a Duke who is a demon. Duke's daughters and sons' job is to embrace their trademark sin and kinda spread it among their peers. Problem is, some of them don't want to follow on their daddy's footsteps and chaos ensues. See? Not too shabby, right?

Because the book had very little to do with that and everything to do with pretty much everything else.
Kaidan (hottie), as Patti (Anna's mother) explained to Anna (angelic virtue personified but in a sarcastic way), is very dangerous and she shouldn't be anywhere near him. After said mother met Kaidan for 20 minutes (Anna knew him less than a day at that point) she decided he was a respectable lad with sensible shoes, so she let her only daughter go to a road trip with him. All alone. Sharing rooms in motels. That kinda road trip. But that's OK. She made snacks for the road.
No comment on how parenting is portrayed in the book.

I don't know what is wrong with YA and romances lately, but I am not a fan of the "hold the sex but throw everything else in there" kinda relationship. This is not the first YA that's done it. Very sensual scenes between Anna and Kaidan. Minus the sex, of course. Because that would be wrong. Honestly, I wouldn't have minded if it hadn't been for the fact that Anna knew him for hardly 2 days, and for the fact that she was emotionally unstable. She keeps throwing the L-bomb at anyone with nice enough hair it seems like, and she wants me to be invested in her relationship and care for it? No way.

Exposition scenes were so awkward. Anna and Kaidan are in the car and he says out of the blue "Is there something you want to ask me? Is there something you want to learn about out heritage? Come on, you know you want to". Ish, you know. But that was the gist. And she started asking questions and he kept answering them, all robot-like. And then later he goes "OK, one last question because girl my bladder is about to burst. I need a loo break stat! We'll come back to the weird, spontaneous Q&A when it suits the story". I'm not kidding. Wish I was. And then again when she goes to see her father, exact same thing. Her father, the Duke of substance abuse, this alcoholic druggie, who has ended up in jail and hasn't seen his daughter for 16 years goes "OK estranged daughter. What do you want to know?" Whoa! OK I'm all for exposition chapters but jeez! Try ease the info in a conversation, don't force it. If you force it, it sounds more of a business transaction than a real dialogue.

I'm very upset because the idea behind Sweet Evil sounds insanely good but the execution was insanely bad. The scene at the end with Gluttony was so intense and perverse, I kinda loved it. Why wasn't the rest of the book like that?? I would surely be a fan of that!
But as it is, Sweet Evil for me, will always be the book about a girl who cried gonorrhea at the first chapter.
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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

READING: This Is So Not Happening by Kieran Scott

This Is So Not Happening by Kieran Scott

Publication date: May 1st, 2012
Published by: Simon & Schuster Childrens Books
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 5/5

After their long summer apart, Ally and Jake were hoping for a drama free senior year. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like things will work out that way...again.
It turns out that Chloe is pregnant and says that Jake is the father. Hammond is pissed at his best friend, but mostly can't believe that Ally would stay with Jake. But Ally is tired of being apart from Jake and is willing to make it work. But that is easier said than done when Jake starts blowing Ally off to go to doctor's appointments with Chloe and Ally joins the school play and meets a new cute guy.
But as graduation approaches, things get more complicated as new secrets come out and Ally realizes maybe Jake isn't the guy she thought he was. After everything they've been through can Ally and Jake get out of Orchard Hill with their relationship intact?

I can believe it's over. It's been 2 years but it feels like yesterday when I first read about Jake and Ally. If you guys haven't read the first two books, She's So Dead To Us and He's So Not Worthy, go to your nearest bookstore or library and get them, you will not regret it.

For those of you who are still trying to pick your jaw off the floor after the last book's explosive ending, This Is So Not Happening will kill you! The answer to the question on everyone's lips comes after the first half of the book, so I can see a lot of bit nails in your future. Scott's writing makes it all worthwhile, though. Alternating POVs between Jake and Ally, she captures the mind of a girl who's dealing with so much crap but tries not to lose it, and a guy who is going through so many changes in a short amount of time, that he feels like he's losing his marbles. The way these two teenagers, with apparently a very different view of things, handle a very serious situation is heartbreaking, awkward, funny, aggravating and admirable, everything it should be. The thought alone of everything one stands to lose but also gain from this experience, is overwhelming for adults, much less teenagers. Scott did an excellent job writing these two, kudos.

I have a tiny insy bit objection, though. 
SPOILERS [highlight to read]
Why did Jake got blamed SO MUCH? I mean yeah, maybe he was a little obnoxious at times, but come on! The guy is 17, he finds out that after one night of protected sex he left Claire pregnant. He had to keep his grades up, his girlfriend and also his mind. And after 5 months he finds out that Claire had lied to him about the baby?? And for what? So she could be more respected by the other Cresties instead of them finding out she had sex with a Norm. Pffff the guy flushed his life in the toilet for her and the baby and everyone was against HIM! Not fair at all. Chloe was way too pampered and spoiled, in my opinion.

So, I guess that's it. This is so not happening concludes the She's so/He's so trilogy. No more Jake and Ally. Unless Scott decides to write another trilogy with them in college. Maybe. Could happen. Just throwing it out there.
Whatever she decides to write next, I know it will be amazing. The Private series is one of my favorite series ever(I swallowed those books up like nobody's business), so her future books are automatically on my to-read list.
Thank you, Mrs. Scott for yet another awesome series :)

NOTE: the reason I decided to use the highlight method for the spoiler zone is because I noticed in a couple of blogs that had spoilers in their reviews, that sometimes my eye got drawn to that area. So I always caught a word or two. With background same as the text, that's not an option. I rarely add spoilers in my reviews so you won't be seeing it all that much. I hope it's not very annoying :)
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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

READING: Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

Publication date: April 24th, 2012
Published by: Walker Children's
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 2/5

Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a horrible car accident—including her memory of the event. As their small town mourns his death, Allie is afraid to remember because doing so means delving into what she’s kept hidden for so long: the horrible reality of their abusive relationship.

When the police reopen the investigation, it casts suspicion on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around town. Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free? Debut writer Jennifer Shaw Wolf takes readers on an emotional ride through the murky waters of love, shame, and, ultimately, forgiveness.

When I first found out about this book, I thought to myself that's a book for me, contemporary YA with a heartbreaking story behind it. And after the first few chapters I really thought it was. Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there.

In an nutshell: Allie is in a car accident with her boyfriend, Trip, from which only Allie comes out alive. Allie does not remember what happened the night of the accident and what made Trip drive his car of a cliff. At first we are led to believe that Allie and Trip are the perfect couple. As Allie starts to remember however, we find out that Trip was sick, and abused Allie consistently. 

Everything was hanky dory up until that point. Well, not the abuse part, you know what I mean. After reading about the myriad disgusting things that Trip did to Allie, I was almost convinced she somehow had a hand in his downfall.
Now here lies the problem of the book in my opinion. Not only Allie didn't speak up during her whole ordeal with Trip (how long were they together? More than a year I think), not only she let her brother suffer watching her being abused, she also had moments after Trip's death when she actually remembered him with fondness and with some perverse sense of love and longing. I just can't accept her not saying anything, not to her parents, not to a guidance counselor, someone. There was no "No one is going to believe me" scenario, since she had the bruises and cuts to prove it. I am enraged by women who can't stand up for themselves. And remember, we're not talking about a married woman with kids, whose husband abuses her and she has to live with him every freaking day. We're talking about a teenage girl, who at the end of the day goes back to her parents who are there for her. I'm not saying that married women shouldn't speak up, quite the opposite. But living with your abusing partner, spending every day with him, and especially if you have kids, it makes women second guess themselves and their decision to pack up and leave. Also for some of them, her husband is their only support, financial mostly. Sad, but true. Allie's situation is completely different. Trip was a high school crush, for Christ's sake! She was afraid she was gonna tarnish his reputation, to which I reply "Who cares?" He's sick, he needs help. If you don't care about yourself, think about all the other women he may abuse in the future. But no, she couldn't. And because of that her brother and only friend got caught in the crossfire and paid the price for something she should have taken responsibility for.

Eventually, Allie was free because Trip drove off a cliff. Horrah. What if Trip made it? What then? I doubt Allie would have talked. We're talking about a girl who got emotional selling the stuff her abusive boyfriend gave her because she said it felt wrong somehow. I can't even.

Also, the fact that the story dragged, was not to its books favor. Pages after pages of Allie wishing her life could have taken a different turn and feeling miserable overall. I wanted to shake that teen so hard and yell at her that she doesn't have a life yet, not really. All her life is ahead of her and she does nothing, NOTHING, for it to take a different turn. 

Excuse my rant, but reading stuff like that especially in books for teens, enrages me.
I have never been abused in my life so maybe I don't have the right to speak about these things. I don't know how it is, how it feels. I just express my opinion as an individual and as an outside observer. I mean no disrespect to anyone who has/had similar experiences. 
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