Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Review: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend
Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

I can't believe that I waited so long to read The DUFF, everyone has been raving about it for years and I never really thought to pick it up. That being said, I'm glad that I did wait, I don't think I would have loved this book as much as I did a few years ago. It would be so easy to say that this is just a book about a girl having lots of sex with a guy she claims to hate but it is actually much more than that....

The DUFF is a fantastic read. The writing is gripping, the dialogue is witty and the characters are all engaging in their own ways. Bianca is actually an amazing character, even though a few years ago I might have called her very shallow she was simply very real. The way she was with Wesley was annoying at times, but they were just real. It was relatable, real emotions and confusion and insecurities and it really did just get into the teenage psyche. That was the best thing about this book.

I mean, I could go on and on about how I loved the fact that this was a book about insecurities where the main character is actually popular and has friends, and how it was so nice to read and I really enjoyed it and it wasn't mind-blowingly gripping but I really cared about the characters.

I'm not going to do that.

I'm going to say that if you want to read a teenage romcom, this is the book for you. Quote me on that. 

Overall Rating: A

Book released 7th September 2011 by Poppy
Book received from the author in exchange for an honest review

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Shelf Spotlight (5/3/15) and The Week in Review

Shelf Spotlight is my weekly haul meme where I talk about all of the books that I have got this week in print and ebook format!

It's based on Stacking the Shelves hosted over at Tynga's Reviews and The Sunday Post hosted at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

For review - NetGalley/Edelweiss:

From Where I Watch You Never Always Sometimes Alice in Zombieland (White Rabbit Chronicles, #1) The Edge of Forever

Review: The Memory Key by Liana Liu

The Memory Key
In a five-minutes-into-the-future world, a bereaved daughter must choose between losing memories of her mother to the haze of time and the reality-distorting, visceral pain of complete, perfect recall.

Lora Mint is determined not to forget.

Though her mother’s been dead for five years, Lora struggles to remember every detail about her—most importantly, the specific events that occurred the night she sped off in her car, never to return.

But in a world ravaged by Vergets disease, a viral form of Alzheimer’s, that isn’t easy. Usually Lora is aided by her memory key, a standard-issue chip embedded in her brain that preserves memories just the way a human brain would. Then a minor accident damages Lora’s key, and her memories go haywire. Suddenly Lora remembers a moment from the night of her mother’s disappearance that indicates her death was no accident. Can she trust these formerly forgotten memories? Or is her ability to remember every painful part of her past driving her slowly mad—burying the truth forever?

Lora’s longing for her lost mother and journey to patch up her broken memories is filled with authentic and poignant emotion. Her race to uncover the truth is a twisty ride. In the end, Liana Liu’s story will spark topical conversations about memory and privacy in a world that is reliant on increasingly invasive forms of technology.

I think it's best that I mention right now that I didn't finish this book - I gave it my best shot, got to around the halfway mark, but I couldn't finish it. It's a pity because I had soooo many high hopes for The Memory Key, but this book just didn't live up to it. It lacked in world building, the main character was reckless and annoying and the romance seemed pointless, underdeveloped and not interesting. 

I think my main problem though was the formatting and the writing. I don't know if this is because of issues with the eGalley or if it will be the same in the published version, but it was so hard to tell when Lora was having a flashback and this was really disorientating and really put me off my trail. As well as that, the writing was another big let down. The dialogue seemed overly formal and clumsy, it was difficult to read and actually feel immersed in this conversation because I was too busy cringing at some of the wording.

The storyline was good, the premise was interesting and I was in half of a mind to push myself through just to see how it ended, but with a review schedule absolutely packed until at least June, I have much better books to spend my time reading...

Overall Rating: DNF

Book released 3rd March 2015 by HarperTeen
Book received from the author in exchange for an honest review

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Review: Death Wish by Megan Tayte

Death Wish (Ceruleans, #1)
Seventeen-year-old Scarlett Blake is haunted by death. Her estranged sister has made the ultimate dramatic exit. Running away from school, joining a surfing fraternity, partying hard: that sounds like Sienna. Butsuicide? It makes no sense.

Following in her sister’s footsteps, Scarlett comes to the isolated cove of Twycombe, Devon, with grand plans to uncover the truth. Alone. But she hasn’t reckoned on meeting two boys who are determined to help her. Luke: the blue-eyed surfer who’ll see the real Scarlett, who’ll challenge her, who’ll save her. And Jude: the elusive drifter with a knack for turning up whenever Scarlett’s in need.

As Scarlett’s quest for the truth unravels, so too does her grip on reality as she’s always known it. Because there’s something strange going on in this little cove. A dead magpie circles the skies. A dead deer watches from the undergrowth. Hands glow with light. Warmth. Power.

What transpires is a summer of discovery. Of what it means to conquer fear. To fall in love. To choose life. To choose death.

To believe the impossible.

I received Death Wish for review and judging by the gorgeous cover and that blurb I was expecting for a stunning mystery with a paranormal twist and more focus on Scarlett's creepy death powers. For me, I was a little disappointed because the paranormal in this book is so subtle even though it is a big deal - in fact it kicks in right near the end and it made this book feel like a very long winded prologue as opposed to a first book. The plot creeped very slowly for me, which was really annoying because there were so many aspects of this book that blew me away!

For one, the setting was gorgeous. As someone who spent many a summer in Cornwall and Devon with my family during my childhood, I was really blown away by how well Tayte describes the location. The dangerous, choppy seas, the quaint environment of a coastal village - it really was beautiful and so easy to envision. Scarlett's process of getting used to the location was well written and I loved the characters that she met there - Cara was brilliant and the old man that Scarlett meets and works for (forgive me for forgetting his name) was just so genuine. In fact all of the characters were pretty well written, even Jude - the typical broody bad boy with a secret - was bearable. I though Luke was nice but he didn't really offer a whole lot and I wish there was a little less focus on this relationship and a little more focus on Scarlett's mystery and the story behind her sister's death.

I was also taken aback that Scarlett's parents just let her disappear off to the village her sister supposedly killed herself in just months later. Surely they would be more concerned? It seemed very confusing to me that they didn't really seem to care - and Scarlett is only 17 in this book! It was just convenient that Scarlett's parents weren't around to see her self-destructive behaviour. I was also put off Scarlett when she was ignoring her mother's attempts at getting in touch. Surely if your sister has killed herself, you would be more respectful of your mother's worrying?

I felt that the writing was good, but it did seem clunky in the way that indie published books often are. Many people has put that down to the writer being a Brit author, but as a Brit reader I think it is just down to the lack of streamlining the dialogue and I can't blame Tayte for this - it could just have used another round of editing, I think.

Overall, Death Wish was a pretty average book. I think that I was put off by the very slow pace, but the writing and setting was well done, so I would read the sequel. The book doesn't pick up to the end, but I am interested in it now that the story is picking up.

Overall Rating: C

Book released 7th February 2015 by Heaven Afire
Book received from the author in exchange for an honest review

Monday, 30 March 2015

Review: Red by Alyxandra Harvey

Red is the color of Kia Alcott's hair.
It's her temper, which blazes hot and always gets Kia into way too much trouble.
And it's the color of fire. Fires that Kia can start…just by thinking about them.

When her latest “episode” gets her kicked out of school, Kia is shipped off to her grandmother, who works for the wealthy Blackwoods. It's an estate shrouded in secrets, surrounded by rules, and presided over by a family that is far from normal…including the gorgeous and insolent Ethan Blackwood.

Ethan knows far more about the dangers of the forest surrounding the estate than Kia can ever imagine. For this forest has teeth, and Ethan is charged with protecting the outside world from its vicious mysteries.

But inside, even the most vibrant shade of red doesn't stand a chance against the dark secrets of the Blackwood family…

I'll start off with this: Red wasn't the most original book in the world, nor was it the most thrilling or gripping or the best at anything. What it was though was good, it managed to stand on it's own despite filling pretty much every single YA book cliche possible. If a book can take a tried-and-tested formula the way Red did and still have me flicking the pages in earnest then it is a good book. It isn't innovative and new and shiny, so I can never call it an A book, but it is the better side of average and I liked that.

Kia was such a great character. She doesn't make stupid decisions and she is sassy but not in that reckless way that so many authors think makes a character strong. She was witty and had a voice that I enjoyed reading. The other characters were great as well - Ethan, despite being the typical broody YA hero, was also a very likable character and I liked that there was a development in this relationship. No instant love - well not as much as in other YA books!  

The storyline was great as well, it was eerie and developed slowly, building the tension in an atmospheric way that I sort of felt in my bones. It was great. The ending was fantastic, the twist as absolutely fantastic even though I had guessed it was coming, and how the characters dealt with the situations felt real and great.
Overall, despite the lack of originality in this book, it was fresh and fun the read. it kept me gripped and I came to really care about the characters. Harvey did good again!

Overall Rating: B

Book released 10th March 2015 by Entangled Teen
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Review: Ever Darkening by Janeal Falor

Ever Darkening
Perfection. Goodness. Elimination of evil. It's what seventeen-year-old Kaylyn has trained her entire life to achieve. But no one is prepared for the consequences of her actually defeating all evil people on the planet. Finally successful in her mission, Kaylyn faces an unfamiliar world, full of good people doing good things, in which she no longer has purpose.

When the skies grow dark, and a stranger from another village pleads for her help, her instincts roar to life. It turns out their perfect world isn't exactly what it seems. Kaylyn's new quest, harder than any she's been on before, will rip apart her friendships, her life, and her soul more than any evil man ever managed to.

What a pwetty cover. This cover is sooo pwetty! The rose and the floor and the cracking, and the grey in the background as well, which is funny since grey is not something I would associate with this book - this book is about good or evil, there seems to be very little grey area between these two extremes.

I feel like this book was very basic and just didn't meet it's full potential. Kaylyn was a difficult character to like - she was a Mary Sue to the max, desired by the man her best friend want, powers to saaaave the world, defacto leader (why do the parents just let the kids do the savey world thing?). She was just very difficult to like - I feel like she never questioned things before the book when she should have, for someone who is the chosen one she was very dense and made a lot of stupid, rash decisions - most of which revolve around the boy she likes. 

I feel like the end of the book just really annoyed me. Kaylyn decides that to restore equilibrium to the world which she has destroyed she has to put evil back into the world. It sort of makes sense in the book. So she decides that she will turn her best friend evil, y making out with the boy she likes in front of her, yet she barely feels an inkling of guilt for it. It felt poorly thought out and poorly written.

I think this book let me down so much, especially since I so much enjoyed Falor's previous offering, You Are Mine. Ugh. I really was glad this book was short otherwise it would probably have been a DNF read for me.

Overall Rating: D-

Book released 28th January 2015 by Chardonian Press
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review: You Are Mine by Janeal Falor

You Are Mine (Mine, #1)
Serena knows a few simple things. She will always be owned by a warlock. She will never have freedom. She will always do what her warlock wishes, regardless of how inane, frivolous, or cruel it is. And if she doesn’t follow the rules, she will be tarnished. Spelled to be bald, inked, and barren for the rest of her life—worth less than the shadow she casts.

Then her ownership is won by a barbarian from another country. With the uncertainty that comes from belonging to a new warlock, Serena questions if being tarnished is really worse than being owned by a barbarian, and tempts fate by breaking the rules. When he looks the other way instead of punishing her, she discovers a new world. The more she ventures into the forbidden, the more she learns of love and a freedom just out of reach. Serena longs for both. But in a society where women are only ever property, hoping for more could be deadly.

This is one of those books which was so much more than I expected. It appealed to me from the blurb but I wasn't expecting it to grab me the way it did and keep me hanging on the whole book through, which it definitely did.

I feel like I've had a run of subpar books recently and I really needed something fresh like You Are Mine to bring me back to a nice place. It is a great book, with a fantastic plot and some real messages to tell. I loved all of the characters, especially our main character Serena, who was as strong as a girl can be in a society like the one in this book. I really enjoyed watching her grow as a person as she was given more freedom by Zade, and I just loved Zade as well. I do feel like this book was slightly lacking on the romance side, but it didn't matter to me. It was there, the feelings developed naturally and I would be a hypocrite to complain because Serena and Zade didn't just throw themselves at each other at every corner. There was also the inkling of something coming between them, which thankfully was resolved and we got a lovely ending. Serena has been passed around between men and thinks this is just another man who will treat her like crap, so she deserved that ending.

I can't wait to read the sequel now, which focuses on Serena's oldest younger sister  If it's anywhere near half as well written as this book, it will be great. Janeal Falor really pulled it out of the bag with You Are Mine, and the only gripe I can have with this book is that the pace just wasn't fast enough to take it that extra mile.

Overall Rating: A-

Book released 6th May 2013 by Chardonian Press
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review