Emily May (The Book Geek)

Gated - Amy Christine Parker
I don't know what I was expecting from [b:Gated|15752340|Gated|Amy Christine Parker|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1356086554s/15752340.jpg|21447291]. My first bet was on zombies but, if not that, my second guess was Mormons. Turns out I was wrong! This is a book that starts mild and entertaining. It paints you a picture of the protagonist - Lyla - and introduces the reader to her life which, though strange, seems peaceful and pleasant. But then, like a hidden monster crouching beneath the surface, the dark creepiness starts to be unveiled to us. The community where Lyla lives might not be the sanctuary she's always believed. And the man who leads them might be hiding secrets Lyla never imagined.

[b:Gated|15752340|Gated|Amy Christine Parker|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1356086554s/15752340.jpg|21447291] completely took me by surprise; from the plot to the characters to the way I felt myself getting more and more hooked as the story went on. This is one of those times when I really appreciate a creepy realistic thriller instead of something more supernatural. There's something deeply chilling about the knowledge that - not only could this happen - but it actually does in many places around the world. I've always been a bit fascinated by cults and their many forms. What does it take to convince people to give up their lives and join you in believing something that, more often than not, is completely bizarre? It amazes me even further the way these small communities tend to reject national law in favour of placing all power in the hands of their own dictator. It amazes me that some people actually have the charm and influence to make this happen.

It's weird to think that these aren't all crazy people or those who've been born into this life and know nothing else. Cults also recruit people who have your standard, 9-to-5, average lives and make them believe something other than what they've always known. It's scary. I don't know about you, but it makes me question my own susceptibility. As much as I'd like to say a very firm "no", is it possible that I could get caught up in something like this? I mean, judging by the half-empty tub of Ben&Jerry's in my freezer, I wouldn't say I'm about to win any willpower awards. Who knows? The psychology of cult behaviour is both fascinating and terrifying.

Back to the book. As I touched upon before, the pace of the novel seems to slowly increase as you move along. One minute I thought I was safe and then suddenly I'd gotten to the climax of the novel and my pulse was pounding. It's a book that will make you angry, then sad, then scared for Lyla, then angry again. More than anyone in this book, I felt such a huge sense of outrage towards Lyla's parents. They let her down, put her in danger and stood by while she was physically abused. I don't know if this is really a spoiler but I'll tag it just in case: I was still really angry at the end. I wanted them to be punished for the terrible way they'd treated their daughter. Lyla forgave them for everything way too easily, IMO.

Possibly the thing I like most about this book is the way the author isn't afraid to go there. Not many YA authors are brave enough to put their characters through several levels of hell. I don't like situations in books (or movies, tv, etc.) where the tension is sapped out of the moment by the knowledge that the writer(s) will never dare kill the good guys or just, you know, go there. I don't even know why the Vampire Diaries writers insist on having those scenes where Damon nearly dies with dramatic music in the background. No one actually believes they're going to kill off Ian Somerhalder's character - they'd lose at least half their viewers! Okay, I will stop digressing.

There is one thing I take issue with in this book. And it's Cody. I didn't mind the touch of romance between him and Lyla because it was kept on the sidelines but I would question her decision to trust him in the first place. Lyla has never trusted anyone from the outside because she believes they're damned and evil and yet, despite this, she trusts Cody. Why? I'll tell you: because he is SO HOT. It didn't bug me in this anywhere near as much as it did in [b:Hopeless|15717943|Hopeless (Hopeless, #1)|Colleen Hoover|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1353489892s/15717943.jpg|21389085], but I keep seeing this whole thing where girls trust male strangers/people they've been specifically warned about because of their pretty faces. It's kind of a dangerous message, even if Lyla was right to trust him. But the positives outweigh the negatives by a lot.

I really enjoyed this book and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more by Ms Parker.
The In-Between - Barbara Stewart Sometimes a great idea is not enough.

Let me ask you: do you rate logically after weighing up all the literary pros and cons of a book and assessing its creativity and originality? Or do you rate emotionally based on your own personal reaction to a book? You see, I find it difficult to do anything but the latter. And I do appreciate that this book has a lot to offer. It's crept rather quietly onto the goodreads scene out of nowhere and is already making waves on Kirkus and in the early GR reviews. I can see why. The idea is genius and, as I became more aware of what the author was doing, I found myself pleading with the book at every turn to become a new favourite. Sadly, though, I think this is a fantastic idea that fails on the execution. Only time will tell if I'm in the minority.

The real question is: how many points do you earn for originality? Especially when enjoyment was scarce? I found this story to be incredibly dry in its telling, lacking any depth of emotion to keep me invested in the journey of the characters. I like my characters. They are possibly the most important thing for me in a novel and my interest quickly dies if I don't care about them. And this book more than most relies on the reader's desire to find out what is going on. The ambiguity of the novel should be a driving force, pushing you onwards on your quest for answers, and yet it was a barrier for me that prevented me forming a connection to any of the characters. Or perhaps it was a lack of character connection that made me uninterested in finding out the answers... who knows? Chicken or the egg.

But the idea. WOAH, the idea. This book does something I love. It questions the nature of reality, mental illness and the supernatural. It makes you unsure of what is real and unsure of who is alive and who is dead. Is Madeline a ghost? Or a product of Elanor's imagination? And, in the end, what's the difference? It suggests the possibility that mental illness could actually be a blurring of worlds - is "crazy" merely what happens when people straddle the line between this world and the next? Ellie's story is nothing if not creative. It all starts when Ellie, her parents and her cat are in a car accident. They were moving to a smaller town for a fresh start after Ellie suffered from depression and eventually attempted suicide. The car accident is just the start of this bizarre story that leads us to question pretty much everything that happens afterwards, including the arrival of Madeline and whether or not she even exists.

[b:The In-Between|17286845|The In-Between|Barbara Stewart|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1359589044s/17286845.jpg|21861424] will appeal to readers who appreciate it when authors do something different. This book explores several interesting concepts and raises numerous questions. But I think it lacks a spark. A spark that interests me in the characters and the story. I feel it is not so much a novel as it is a genius concept and I'm not sure that "different" can always be called "good". Though I finished feeling it was necessary to compliment the author's originality, I never once experienced excitement at what the next page might hold.
More Than This - Patrick Ness
Look. Here's the thing. I am not generous with my five star ratings. Five star readings must have shocked me or blown my mind or done something really original or otherwise awesome to get me to throw that final star in their direction. So a four star rating is, for me, really really good. I want you to remember that and realise how good this book is when I say I just expected something more from Ness. Let's make a joke about it: I just expected more than this. Ha. And maybe it's because I'm too hard on Ness. Maybe it's because I expect him to continue churning out five star books as if it's as easy as breathing. But this book made me feel like something was missing.

[b:More Than This|17262303|More Than This|Patrick Ness|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1365542595s/17262303.jpg|22008332] is a compelling read with a wonderful and diverse set of characters. It's creative and different. It has you on the edge of your seat, turning pages as fast as possible and making a nearly 500-page book fly by at an almost impossible speed. It's philosophical and clever. It's sad and creepy. It throws in some funny dialogue to lighten the incredibly dark mood. It's a great book. Really. And yet it felt like 480 pages of build-up that never actually reached a climax. But, honestly, I was never bored for a single second. I was mesmerized, horrified, confused, excited. So much so that I think the lack of a climax bothered me even more.

This book is about existentialism. It's about those old questions: what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything? What is "reality"? Is there a pattern amid this chaos or can it all really be random? And, of course, is there something more than this? Ness is a genius and I love what he does here. I love the message. I love that every answer opens up five more questions. I love that every time you and the characters think you know what's going on, he throws another surprise into the philosophical pot and stirs up this crazy story a bit more. And what it all comes down to, what this whole book is really doing, is answering that question above all questions: do any of the answers really matter anyway?

Ness also finds himself back in familiar territory when telling the story of unlikely friendships blooming in the most unexpected places. He isn't the kind of author who wastes secondary characters and he delivers small pieces of heart-breaking humanity to even the most fleeting glimpses of those we never see again. I love authors that can do this. It lends an extra layer of believability to the story when it feels like that person who only appeared for a couple of pages went on living past what we saw of them. I was also delighted to see a gay protagonist; there is still nowhere near enough of them in YA books, but then I suppose Ness has never shied away from breaking the mold.

I do love me some existentialist philosophy and [b:More Than This|17262303|More Than This|Patrick Ness|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1365542595s/17262303.jpg|22008332] is full of quotes that could give me goosebumps if I spent too long thinking about them. I guess there's always something a bit scary about it, isn't there? When some book (or whatever) lays out a haunting piece of truth that you didn't even realise you knew was true until you read or heard it. Then you're like: Oh shit, yeah. That's true. That's life. That's me. Ness just writes about things we all feel or worry about or obsess over. And he writes about it beautifully. Here's a couple of quotes I liked but there were so many more:

"Haven't you ever felt like there has to be more? Like there's more out there somewhere, just beyond your grasp, if you could only get to it..."

"People see stories everywhere," Regine says. "That's what my father used to say. We take random events and we put them together in a pattern so we can comfort ourselves with a story, no matter how much it obviously isn't true. We have to lie to ourselves to live. Otherwise, we'd go crazy."


So, believe me, I liked this. If you're excited about [b:More Than This|17262303|More Than This|Patrick Ness|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1365542595s/17262303.jpg|22008332], you can stay excited. If you're thinking about maybe reading this, I say YES! If you didn't really like his other books but think this sounds pretty interesting, I again say YES because this isn't anything like his other books. It's just me, I guess, always expecting too much from Ness. Just being stupid. Just being human and always expecting more than this. Ha.
Hurt - Tabitha Suzuma
There are now three years and over five hundred books between me and my completion of Suzuma's [b:Forbidden|7600924|Forbidden|Tabitha Suzuma|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1302655056s/7600924.jpg|10018976]. The last three years have seen my reading tastes change a lot; books I used to love often start to pale in comparison to newer treasures who do similar things but do them far better. So I don't know how I would feel if I read [b:Forbidden|7600924|Forbidden|Tabitha Suzuma|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1302655056s/7600924.jpg|10018976] now but, going on memory alone, I recall liking it a lot. I thought the author was brave to tackle such a controversial and edgy subject. And I thought it was sad, emotional, moving, powerful... you get me, I'm sure. Basically, all the usual adjectives applied to teen "problem books" that are done well. Well, whether it's me who has changed or the author, I can't say without doing a re-read but I can say that I found [b:Hurt|12946782|Hurt|Tabitha Suzuma|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1358341246s/12946782.jpg|18103444] to be painfully melodramatic. So much so that the very important subject it focuses on felt like nothing more than fuel for cheap shock tactics.

The book started reasonably well, even if the third person present tense took some getting used to. My memory is fuzzy but there seemed to be a lot more attention paid to detailed descriptions of people and surroundings in this than there was in [b:Forbidden|7600924|Forbidden|Tabitha Suzuma|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1302655056s/7600924.jpg|10018976]. It's not a complaint; I actually found myself admiring Suzuma's pretty writing in the first couple of chapters. The story opens with a confused Matheo Walsh waking up in his destroyed bedroom. He knows that something isn't right, that there's a memory he can't quite recall of something... something really bad. We then get a flashback to bring us to up to speed with who Matheo is. He's a popular, good-looking, diving champion who seems headed for Olympic gold. He has good friends and a girlfriend who loves him. So the question is: what could have possibly happened to this boy who has everything to turn his life upside down?

I'm not going to come out and say what this book is about - even though I don't think it's particularly hard to guess - but I do think it's something that more needs to be written about. Only recently I was thinking how very few books seem to address this subject after I read another book that touched upon it. I will spoiler tag the name of this other book because, if you've read it, it will obviously give a big part of the story away. It's up to you if you want to know what I'm referring to - [b:Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock|13477676|Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock|Matthew Quick|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370282544s/13477676.jpg|19008613]. Anyway, in my opinion, the approach of this other book worked much better for me. It was more subtle and the build-up to the reveal didn't feel quite so melodramatic and cringy. I couldn't shake the feeling that every emotion portrayed in [b:Hurt|12946782|Hurt|Tabitha Suzuma|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1358341246s/12946782.jpg|18103444] was over the top and disingenuous.

There's a lot of drama in this novel that feels like a plot tool to stretch out the length of the book. A lot of Matheo's feelings are repeated constantly. Every other paragraph seems to include a metaphor for his emotional state, like him jumping from a plane without a parachute or something equally trite. It also focuses a lot on the romance between Matheo and his girlfriend (Lola) and how this is affected by what happens. I understand why it was important, in part, but I got tired of Matheo and Lola's conversations going around in the same circles of "Are you okay, sweetheart?" "No, but I can't tell you why" "Yes you can, I love you" "No I can't" *storms off dramatically* A lot of [b:Hurt|12946782|Hurt|Tabitha Suzuma|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1358341246s/12946782.jpg|18103444] seems to be about the characters wandering around in the same cycles of conversation and thought until Matheo eventually admits what's wrong.

Lola also annoyed me the more the book went on. She is an astonishingly under-developed character despite having such a central role to play in the story. She exists in this book solely as Matheo's girlfriend; she seems to live for him and not have a thought for anything beyond him and their relationship. Who is she? What does she want other than Matheo? What does she care about? She stands by waiting to tell Matheo she loves him when the occasion calls for it. Other than that, though, she is nothing more than a throwaway character.

In the other book I mentioned before, the big reveal doesn't matter so much. It matters only in that we care about the main character and want him to be okay (well, I did). The problem with [b:Hurt|12946782|Hurt|Tabitha Suzuma|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1358341246s/12946782.jpg|18103444] is how everything is built up around the mystery of what happened to Matheo and who was responsible for it. So if, like me, you manage to figure out (from a bunch of clues that were totally obvious, if you ask me) exactly what is going on, then there's little else here for you. Everything about this book felt contrived and full of melodrama that left me cold and unmoved. There's also a nice big tragedy at the end that only made me angry and annoyed at the stupid characters and the book itself. Very disappointed.

Two stars for writing about an important issue and not completely boring me. But no more because of everything I've said above.
Tampa - Alissa Nutting
Believe me, I can easily understand all the negative reactions to this book but I can't help but find it absolutely fascinating.

In fact, since putting the book down, I've given myself a while to think about it and, the more I do, the more I find myself acknowledging how clever and brilliant it is. And even feminist in a way, but I'll get to that later. You should be aware, if you haven't already gathered from other reviews, this book is full of vile descriptions and crude language. Being inside Celeste's head makes you feel like you need a good long shower afterwards and if you're not ready for graphic descriptions of the female anatomy and masturbation methods, then you're not ready for this book. No details are spared here: you have been warned.

The story is about eighth-grade teacher, Celeste Price, who on the outside appears to be everything anyone would want to be: attractive, intelligent, happily married... but underneath the surface lurks a secret she has kept hidden since she was fourteen years old. A secret desire for fourteen year old boys. It plagues her every thought, every step, every move. In private, all she can think about are ways to act upon her longing. She wants to set herself up in a position to engage in an affair with one of the objects of her desire. And eventually, an opportunity arises. Celeste begins a sexual relationship with the fourteen year old Jack. She pursues him, seduces him and uses him to fulfill her sexual needs. There is no love or romance in this story. The only one fooled is Jack. Celeste is not another Humbert in that she never attempts to convince the reader or herself that what she does is for love. It's all about sex.

What this book does, above everything else, is make us question the gendered view we have of sexual relationships. We are inside Celeste's mind, getting a good look at how perverted, depraved and even sociopathic she is, so we experience outrage at the way society and the law allow her to escape justice because she is an attractive young woman. There's an assumption still often being made that women are the passive gender in a sexual relationship and that men are natural predators/aggressors. It's hard for us to imagine a woman sexually abusing a man. This question is even asked in the book: "If you were a teenage male, would you call a sexual experience with her abuse?" A teen girl with a male teacher is considered a victim of his evil manipulation - a passive victim without a sexuality of her own coming into play. But a teen boy with a female teacher is victim of nothing more than the perfect teen male fantasy. Can attractive women really be rapists? Isn't Celeste just giving the boys what they want? Doesn't that make it okay? These are the questions one might ask if they weren't living inside her mind.

While the disgusting and graphic language left me feeling uncomfortable at times, I also felt it was completely necessary to make the point effectively. The point being that a woman can be as much of a sexual predator as a man and that teen boys can be as much of a victim as teen girls. If we'd been treated to something akin to Humbert's narrative in [b:Lolita|7604|Lolita|Vladimir Nabokov|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1377795869s/7604.jpg|1268631], if it was our sympathy that Celeste looked for, I think the important message would be completely missed. We needed Celeste to be a monster and a sexual predator to show that women can be. And to show how female monsters often go unpunished because of their gender. It reminded me of Gillian Flynn's characters and the way she creates such fantastically evil women. It's strange, I suppose, to consider that creating female murderers and rapists is a form of feminism but I think it serves to break down ideas we hold about gender. I also think it's incredibly important to acknowledge male abuse by females because it does happen and nowhere near enough is written about it. It's such a taboo subject that male victims often feel ashamed of it and unable to get help.

I have to confess: I quite liked the language. Well, okay, perhaps "like" is the wrong word but I really appreciate crude honesty in books, particularly when the author utilises language the way this author does. I'm not sure we needed such a graphic description of Celeste's vagina and her masturbation methods but, what the hell, it certainly achieved it's purpose with me. And, strange as it may sound, there was an odd beauty to the author's writing that gave a certain artistry to such descriptions. They were gross, naturally, but weirdly poetic.

One thing that is true most of all about [b:Tampa|17225311|Tampa|Alissa Nutting|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1364845637s/17225311.jpg|23731028]: it makes you think. I put it down and literally spent about an hour sat there, just going over everything in my head. I thought about the way we view relationships, what this means for both men and women, victims and rapists; I thought about the judicial system and the way the law isn't about guilty/not guilty but the show you put on (which admittedly made me sing Razzle Dazzle from Chicago); I'm still thinking about it all now. One thing I can say for certain - I'm really glad I picked this up.
WILD CARDS - Simone Elkeles Normally with Ms Elkeles, you know what you're going to get. Nothing too serious, a few touches of cliche, but generally a romance that is sexy, entertaining and filled with hilarious banter. I might not be the ideal reader for this kind of novel, but I confess that I've enjoyed her books in the past and fully expected to find myself a new guilty pleasure with [b:Wild Cards|13065327|Wild Cards (Wild Cards, #1)|Simone Elkeles|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1368194466s/13065327.jpg|18230950]. Well, I'm not sure what happened here but this just doesn't have the compulsive readability of Elkeles' other books. I never expected fine literature, but I'd hoped for more than this.

The writing of this new series takes a huge step back from the style of the other books I've enjoyed ([b:Chain Reaction|8662836|Chain Reaction (Perfect Chemistry, #3)|Simone Elkeles|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327881446s/8662836.jpg|13534308], for one) and is an annoying example of the tells being very different from the shows. We're given the usual tells of bad boy meets good girl. Though, this time the good girl is a football player, which is a bit different. I liked that Ashtyn wasn't your typical heroine and I was intrigued by how the author would handle the storyline of a girl becoming captain of the football team and carrying out a typically male role (plus, the sexism that unfortunately tends to come with something like that). But what we're told - about Derek being a bad boy and Ashtyn being a star footballer - is nothing like the way they act. Derek is referred to as "trouble" and "bad" by the other characters but I can't for one second see why. His most nefarious deeds seem to be the sexy smiles he's always flashing at Ashtyn.

It's the same with how much they supposedly like one another. All tell, no show. In fact, it happens so quickly and unnaturally that I'm not surprised there's no show - because, frankly, what was to show? There's this thing that authors seem to be doing (it happens a lot in NA) that seems to be a way around being slapped with the instalove label, but it actually isn't much better. While they're not exactly instantly in love, they are instantly obsessed, instantly pining, instantly imagining futures together and/or instantly unable to imagine their lives without the other. It's so strange. The characters go so quickly from getting a glimpse of one another for the first time to becoming so obsessed with everything the other person does. Even if this is a realistic depiction of some teen relationships, there's no fun or tension in reading about it.

The characters in this were, for me, particularly bad. Derek is literally described by Ashtyn as being completely free of flaws or blemishes... O_o ??? But... flaws and blemishes are what make characters interesting and well-rounded, they make them human and unique, they're the kind of things that make us care about them and laugh with them and cry for them. Flawless characters are bad characters. One-dimensional paper dolls. I knew fairly early into this book that I hadn't found a new favourite and it was mostly because of that line. I was already finding my interest waning when the cheesy language and cliches started rolling in.

I have to say: pet names just aren't hot. Not for me, anyway. And I think "sugar pie" has to be my least favourite yet. Honestly, I would not find it sexy if a man called me that. At best, I would laugh. Then came Ashtyn's coyness: "I want to look in his eyes... only because the colour is so pretty, of course!" (or something like that). I like romance when it's done well or at least done in an entertaining way but I think I need to decide to make this my last time with this author. The books seem to get worse the more I read. Whatever I'm looking for, it clearly isn't here.
Antigoddess - Kendare Blake I might write a proper review for this sometime soon but, in short, the second half is MUCH better than the first. I found the first half of the book to be slow and tedious; I even considered not finishing at one point, but I'm glad I did. Still, not as good as [b:Anna Dressed in Blood|9378297|Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)|Kendare Blake|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1317793801s/9378297.jpg|14261925].
The Assassin and the Captain (Throne of Glass, # 1.2) - Sarah J. Maas God, I love these two. The chemistry between Celaena and Chaol sparks constantly, even in this tiny little story of banter between the two of them. How do they manage to be simultaneously so sexy but so sweet together?
The Assassin and the Princess - Sarah J. Maas This is a cute little story that gives us a closer look at the friendship dynamics between Celaena and Nehemia. But I didn't enjoy it as much as The Assassin and the Captain (probably because I love Chaol).
Crown of Midnight - Sarah J. Maas

Shit seriously just went down. Oh wow, where do I start with this sequel? I wasn't even sure I was going to read it when I recently finished [b:Throne of Glass|7896527|Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)|Sarah J. Maas|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1335819760s/7896527.jpg|11138426] and found it entertaining but a poor excuse for fantasy. You want to know what [b:Crown of Midnight|17167166|Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)|Sarah J. Maas|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1375810518s/17167166.jpg|21581860] felt like? It was like the author listened to every piece of criticism I could have thrown at the first book, listened to everything I loved and everything that irritated me... and then wrote a perfect kind of book. The kind I wanted the first one to be; the kind I hadn't dared to hope she might produce in this sequel. There was more action, more nastiness, more character development, more surprises, more complications, more sexy, no love triangle - all of this and a well-placed, never-saw-it-coming twist. Ms Maas, consider me impressed.

[b:Crown of Midnight|17167166|Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)|Sarah J. Maas|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1375810518s/17167166.jpg|21581860] takes a huge step away from the tame romantic/bitchy drama of its predecessor and opens up a story that is a bigger, bloodier and meaner than I think many readers will be expecting. Celaena gets to fully explore all aspects of what it means to be an assassin in this book; she is tested constantly and you can see her growing and changing and learning as the story progresses. And this story is one tumultuous journey of extremely high ups and unbelievably low downs with Celaena taking relationships to all new levels and watching others fall apart. Old enemies resurface and we start to get a glimpse of just how big the picture Maas is painting for us actually is.

One of the strengths of this book is having no idea how it's going to end. You might think that's a given, but [b:Throne of Glass|7896527|Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)|Sarah J. Maas|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1335819760s/7896527.jpg|11138426] introduced us to a plot that was fairly easy to see mapped out. We are told of the challenges Celaena must compete in and win, we know that's what the book is moving towards, and it isn't too much of a leap to assume that (one way or another) Celaena is going to emerge victorious. Not in this book. This book starts with a blank slate, any mysteries or troubles that are to come are completely unknown to us - so every turn the plot takes is a surprise and every surprise is thrilling. I can't wrap my head around just how much better this sequel is. Maas has already grown as a writer and storyteller, making me wonder what she can possibly have in store for us next.



The characters are also so much better developed in this book. Maas is brave enough here to allow the main characters to make mistakes, do the wrong things and test our ability to like them. Well, I don't know about you, but the new dimensions to their personalities, their faults and weaknesses, only served to make me like them more. Dorian surprised me most of all. In [b:Throne of Glass|7896527|Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)|Sarah J. Maas|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1335819760s/7896527.jpg|11138426], Dorian feels like something of a plot tool, a pretty little obstacle to Celaena and Chaol's romance. The scenes with him felt like filler between the parts I was actually waiting for. But not in [b:Crown of Midnight|17167166|Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)|Sarah J. Maas|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1375810518s/17167166.jpg|21581860]! In this, Dorian emerges as an interesting character with secrets of his own; he makes sacrifices for the people he loves and his importance to the bigger story starts to become apparent.

In short?

[b:Throne of Glass|7896527|Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)|Sarah J. Maas|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1335819760s/7896527.jpg|11138426]...
Romance, love triangle, pretty dresses, one-dimensional characters, little action...

[b:Crown of Midnight|17167166|Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)|Sarah J. Maas|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1375810518s/17167166.jpg|21581860]...
Badassery, twists, nastiness, betrayal, more action, magic, secrets...

If you were so-so about the first one and considering *maybe* reading this, you have my thumbs up.
White Space - Ilsa J. Bick 1.5
Goodreads ratings are going to drive me insane one of these days. Many times there have been books that I give one or two stars to and it seems wrong somehow. Because I don't mean "this book is terrible" or "stay away from this", I mean "I didn't like it" or "it wasn't my thing". And that's a bit like how I feel about [b:White Space|13449631|White Space (Dark Passages, #1)|Ilsa J. Bick|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370991460s/13449631.jpg|18970835]. I feel my rating doesn't say what needs to be said. I also think this book is going to be a real mind-blowing favourite in the hands of the right reader, but I know that myself (and quite a lot of other people I know on goodreads) won't be that right reader. This is my first read by Bick so I can't compare it to the author's other work, but I will say that it's a complex, densely-written mindfuck.

I'm going to try to give you some idea of where I stand when it comes to complex sci-fi so you can see if we're likely to think the same. [b:White Space|13449631|White Space (Dark Passages, #1)|Ilsa J. Bick|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370991460s/13449631.jpg|18970835] is compared to The Matrix - a movie which I like a lot - but if you found the concept in The Matrix even vaguely complex, you might feel the neurons in your brain starting to explode while reading [b:White Space|13449631|White Space (Dark Passages, #1)|Ilsa J. Bick|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370991460s/13449631.jpg|18970835]. Plus, if you ask me, The Matrix is mentioned far too many times in this book; it felt like the author was trying to convince us of the similarities and it didn't work for me. Though I think what makes [b:White Space|13449631|White Space (Dark Passages, #1)|Ilsa J. Bick|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370991460s/13449631.jpg|18970835] even harder to struggle through (and struggle through I did), is not simply the complexity of the story, but the fact that the majority of these 560 pages keeps you completely in the dark. There's only so much not knowing that I can take before I lose interest and no longer care. When you don't know what's going on for many pages of a book, I suppose it can go two ways: either your need-to-know is strong enough to keep you reading (as it was for me in [b:Charm & Strange|16045088|Charm & Strange|Stephanie Kuehn|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1363712741s/16045088.jpg|19056527]) or your lack of understanding leads to a lack of caring. As it was here.

The truth is, the idea behind this story is fantastic. It's mainly about a seventeen year old girl called Emma who experiences "blinks". During these blinks, she zones out and finds herself viewing the life of someone else. One of these other lives is the life of Lizzie McDermott who is the daughter of a famous author - Frank McDermott. Frank has been meddling where he shouldn't, using the Dark Passages to travel to what are essentially alternate universes and dragging things from the Dark Passages onto White Space. I'd like to say this makes a lot more sense when you read the book, but that might be something of a lie. Anyway, Frank has become addicted to the Dark Passages and this is, to put it lightly, a very bad thing.

Sounds really unique and imaginative, right? Oh, it is. But the cool idea and the interesting payoff in the end didn't make up for nearly 600 pages of dense writing and boredom. The way it was written made the book feel twice the length it was, even forcing me to re-read passages in order to understand what was going on. The constant changing of POVs also meant I struggled to feel a single connection to any character. I felt like I was trying to watch and understand something moving at 200mph but I couldn't make sense of it. New POVs came whizzing in from nowhere and transported me to another equally confusing part of the story. This may be the first time I've used the words "couldn't put it down" as a negative because I literally couldn't put it down if I wanted to carry on understanding what was happening. Every time real life demanded my attention, I'd return and have to skim read the previous chapter to work out where the hell I was in the story (and this is coming from someone who regularly reads 3 or 4 books at once with ease).

There's some fantastic philosophical questioning going on here when you get into the story and I really do LOVE the idea of it. Bick makes us question the nature of reality and that would normally have me freaking out with happiness. But it's too dense, too all over the place, too many POV changes... the result, for me, was less brilliance and more of a mess. I think readers' opinions will be seriously divided on this one. I read a positive review that said: "This book exists solely for the payoff at the end" which couldn't be more accurate. Maybe that statement will help you decide whether this one is for you or not.
Throne of Glass - Sarah J. Maas It feels like [b:Throne of Glass|7896527|Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)|Sarah J. Maas|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1335819760s/7896527.jpg|11138426] has been a book I've been thinking about maybe reading for a million years. The reviews and ratings from my GR friends on this book are very mixed and I can easily see why after finishing this entertaining but disappointingly tame and romance-y young adult fantasy. [b:Throne of Glass|7896527|Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)|Sarah J. Maas|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1335819760s/7896527.jpg|11138426] is like [b:Shadow and Bone|10194157|Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)|Leigh Bardugo|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1339533695s/10194157.jpg|15093325] round two. The premise is awesome for both: full of hardcore warriors/assassins, royal/noble secrets and scandals, a touch of magic... but each one, though entertaining, quickly hangs up its weapons and becomes far more concerned with dresses, bitchiness and whether or not that sexy dude thinks the MC is hot (he does).

This book is to the fantasy genre what [b:Twilight|41865|Twilight (Twilight, #1)|Stephenie Meyer|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1361039443s/41865.jpg|3212258] is to vampires; though I have to stress that it is a fast-paced, compelling read and Maas does tame fantasy as well as it can be done. Despite my frequent eyerolls and disappointment at the romantic turn the story took, the pages seemed to fly by. I tend to read several books at once; I'll spend a few chapters with one and then mix it up by moving on to another, but [b:Throne of Glass|7896527|Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)|Sarah J. Maas|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1335819760s/7896527.jpg|11138426] managed to hold my attention from start to finish with no time for interference from another book. This, in itself, was quite an achievement.

Celaena Sardothien is the star of this show. A former assassin turned prisoner, she spends every day in the salt mines prison of Endovier. Having given up on hoping for freedom, she wishes only for death. That is, until one day The Crown Prince (Dorian) and his Captain of the Guard (Chaol) arrive with a proposition for her - fight in a competition, win, become the King's Champion for four years, and finally earn her freedom. It's an offer Celaena can't refuse. But, of course, things aren't that simple. Some dark evil is at work inside the King's castle; something that is killing off the competitors one by one. Plus, there's the handsome Prince and moody Captain to deal with too.

I don't think Celaena is in the King's palace for a day before she starts obsessing over her looks, her new dresses and whether or not either or both of the aforementioned men find her attractive. She still manages to have more badassery than Alina in [b:Shadow and Bone|10194157|Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)|Leigh Bardugo|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1339533695s/10194157.jpg|15093325] and the book is, in my opinion, nowhere near as boring as [b:Grave Mercy|9565548|Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)|R.L. LaFevers|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1337042881s/9565548.jpg|14452295]. But, still, I couldn't help being like "BUT you said ASSASSIN!" when she's there swanning around in front of the mirror. I like that she's "feminine" (whatever you want to take that to mean) as well as a brutal killer, but there's only so much high school changing rooms behaviour I can take. I think there's an excellent quote, a question that Celaena wonders to herself, that basically sums up what was running through my head for a lot of this novel:

"How had she gone from the most feared prisoner in Endovier to this sappy mess?"

How, indeed. But, that being said, I really enjoyed the banter between her and Chaol. And Dorian wasn't bad either. I've said it before but I'll say it again for the benefit of this review: I actually don't mind love triangles when they're convincing and both candidates for the MC's heart are on equal footing so there's some tension over who they're going to end up with. Though I may have to do all kinds of evil things - like... stomping around my bedroom angrily or letting library books become overdue - if Celaena doesn't end up with Chaol. Ms Maas, you've been warned.

So, yes, I will be reading [b:Crown of Midnight|17167166|Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)|Sarah J. Maas|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1375810518s/17167166.jpg|21581860], god help me. I'm hoping it will please me more than the sequel to [b:Shadow and Bone|10194157|Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)|Leigh Bardugo|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1339533695s/10194157.jpg|15093325] did, but the ending of this does make me think the second book could have more action and nastiness (yes!). I think you can enjoy this book if you go into it knowing exactly what you're letting yourself in for. It isn't high fantasy. It isn't mind-blowing. But it is kinda fun *grins*
Losing It (Losing It, #1) - Cora Carmack
I am conducting what I'm shelving as a "New Adult (NA) Experiment". I'm going to work my way through some of the popular New Adult books and see if I can weed out the crap and hopefully find some surprising gems. Here's hoping!

No review is completely objective. But there are two reasons I should warn you of why this review might be prone to even less objectivity than usual:

1) I recently read a book about a teacher/student relationship that was excellent - Unteachable and there were some funny bits. Humour is a hard one to talk about in a review because it completely depends on the individual and what they find funny. For me, it was a little too ridiculous, too over-the-top. The funny parts focused on the embarrassing situations the protagonist - Bliss Edwards - found herself in. It relied on Bliss saying unbelievably stupid things at inappropriate times, making a fool of herself constantly and landing in one awkward situation after another. It was like Bridget Jones x 100 and I found it too much for my tastes. Though perhaps everything I've described so far sounds really appealing to you. Fair enough, that probably means this book would suit you more than me.

Back to my first point: this book just doesn't stand a chance when compared to [b:Unteachable|17978680|Unteachable|Leah Raeder|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370445739s/17978680.jpg|25207434]. The latter is better written; it's about more than a relationship; it's sad, moving and memorable; there is more than one important relationship in it. It's a different kind of work entirely and I, personally, liked that a lot more. But the real question is:

Would you like this book?

1) Do you like over-the-top, exaggerated humour that uses situations you'd never see in real life?
a) No - go read something else.
b) Yes! - go on to question 2.

2) How much do these gifs turn you on?

















a) Not at all - run away from this book and never look back!
b) Maybe slightly - are you sure? Look again.
c) So, so much - congratulations! You have found your next favourite book.

I hope that helps ;)

....................................................................

* Though, I am partial to the occasional American pretending to be British...

*faints*
Omens (Cainsville Trilogy) - Kelley Armstrong

The first thing you should be aware of before starting this book? It isn't what you think. If you've jumped up at the sound of the name [a:Kelley Armstrong|7581|Kelley Armstrong|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1199068298p2/7581.jpg] and are considering this book as your next adventure into the land of urban fantasy, complete with standard supernatural creatures and romance, you might want to step away and look somewhere else. Less than 5% of this book is paranormal and I think there's a very strong argument to be made that this book isn't paranormal or urban fantasy at all. What this is, more than anything, is a contemporary mystery/thriller with hints at supernatural elements that is engaging and exciting, if approximately 50-70 pages too long. And it probably opens up more questions than it answers but, if I'm honest, I don't even care and I can't wait to find out more from the rest of the series.

No disrespect to the individual reviewers, but I think this book has confirmed what I've long suspected to be true: Kirkus and I are completely incompatible. Our relationship has been on the rocks for a while. It probably started with their negative review of [b:The Spectacular Now|3798703|The Spectacular Now|Tim Tharp|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1320493552s/3798703.jpg|3842894], and deteriorated further when [b:Pandemonium|9593911|Pandemonium (Delirium, #2)|Lauren Oliver|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1310371414s/9593911.jpg|14480923] and [b:Reached|13125947|Reached (Matched, #3)|Ally Condie|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1330717582s/13125947.jpg|14449480] got starred reviews but [b:Froi of the Exiles|10165727|Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2)|Melina Marchetta|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1306866851s/10165727.jpg|15064442] and [b:Days of Blood & Starlight|12812550|Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2)|Laini Taylor|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1337964452s/12812550.jpg|17961723] didn't. And now their review of [b:Omens|16101040|Omens (Cainsville, #1)|Kelley Armstrong|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1351111087s/16101040.jpg|17110092] paints the book as mediocre at best, largely because of the "insufficient material for romance-seekers". Fair enough. But there it is, our incompatibility in black and white. Because I think one of this book's greatest strengths is the lack of romance (though, admittedly not something we'd expect from urban fantasy).

Romance is a spotlight stealer. It just is. Even the most subtle of romantic tales are constantly in our peripheral vision when we're trying to focus on a creepy and clever mystery. So I like that Armstrong keeps the focus very clearly on the mystery in [b:Omens|16101040|Omens (Cainsville, #1)|Kelley Armstrong|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1351111087s/16101040.jpg|17110092]. She tells a story about a woman - Olivia Taylor Jones - who discovers her whole life has been a lie. Olivia's not the daughter of a wealthy Chicago family as she had always believed, but she's actually the adopted daughter of notorious serial killers. The press attention that comes with this revelation threatens to tear her family apart and ruin her relationship with James, her fiance. Forced to flee the glare of the cameras, Olivia is drawn back to the town where she was born. There she discovers secrets that have laid buried for years and she must face the possibility that the truth behind her parent's murdering rampage is far more sinister than anyone imagined.

There is a man in this - Gabriel - who has been set up in a nice position for potential future romancing but I prefer the way Armstrong has handled this. She's given us characters we can care about before she goes the romantic route so, when she does, we're probably going to be salivating for it (or maybe I'm just gross). I don't know how well this will make sense to those of you who haven't read a million bad romance novels, but I love Armstrong's descriptions of men. They're never described as beautiful. Or pretty. Or gorgeous. Their character is built up through showing their personality, rather than telling us how crazy hot they are. It works. It's so much easier to fall in love with a personality than a shiny, 2D pyramid of pretty adjectives. It's the simple old "show don't tell". Don't tell me why I should love them, show me. I'm not quite throwing my knickers across the room just yet, but I can see comparisons being made between Gabriel and Barrons from Moning's Fever series. Which, for me, is a good thing. Armstrong may not have given me romancing and sexytimes but she certainly has my attention.

I really enjoyed the story and the mystery, even though the bigger mystery is really only just beginning in this first installment. One thing brought in which is a personal love of mine is the use of real life events. It always adds an extra dose of believability for me when an author ties the story in with something that actually happened (especially when it's something that I've never heard of!). Not only does it make the story more convincing, it makes it scarier to think it theoretically could happen. And this is a creepy book, anyway.

In short, I'd be happy to recommend this but perhaps not to those expecting the usual from Armstrong. But I liked the characters, including hilarious secondary characters like the crabby old Grace. I liked the mystery. I liked the witty dialogue. The second book just landed on my wishlist.
The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden (The Coincidence, #1) - Jessica Sorensen
I am conducting what I'm shelving as a "New Adult (NA) Experiment". I'm going to work my way through some of the popular New Adult books and see if I can weed out the crap and hopefully find some surprising gems. Here's hoping!

I don't know if I should call this one and a half stars because I didn't hate it straight away or minus one star for luring me into a false sense of security. The beginning of this book gave me an inoffensive - if somewhat formulaic - introduction to the story and characters. I can feel my standards slipping the more I read these new adult books because not offending me seems to be rapidly becoming a reason for an extra star. However, it was only a matter of time before the usual slut-shaming started to creep in, making it increasingly impossible for me to care for our formulaic protagonists.

It's the same old story.

He was a boy, she was a girl.
Can I make it any more obvious?
They were abused, love saves the day.
What more can I say?




Well, okay. Love doesn't quite save the day but if I mention that, then I would have to talk about the stupid melodramatic cliffhanger ending that left me feeling cheated of a proper ending to this mess. I hate cliffhanger endings to books I didn't like. It's not as if I'm going to read the sequel. But I feel like I should read it. It aggravates me that I can't say a very final goodbye to these silly, recycled characters. It aggravates me even more to know that they're out there somewhere, living on in another book and probably annoying someone else with their silly, recycled nonsense.

Predictably, both Callie and Kayden have issues. Kayden was physically abused by his father and Callie sexually abused by her brother*. These are both very serious issues and I have no intention of making light of them. But the book, predictably, handles both issues unsuccessfully and simplifies them into a story about romance and (as Rose pointed out) awkward "healing" sex. I can see why some people love this book because it moves at a breakneck pace from one melodramatic event to another but the use of shock tactics to keep the reader's attention wasn't enough for me and lacked any kind of sensitivity for the serious issues being addressed.

But the real problem that ruined this novel for me? The thing that turned it from a silly, predictable issue-book into one I really hated? Dum, dum, dum... everyone meet Daisy. Put your hands together for the latest throwaway "slut" Kayden uses and casts aside. Because anyone who wears that little clothing can't possibly be hiding any feelings. I mean, where would she put them?



Look, I have no problem with people using each other for casual sex. The Rolling Stones have made decades of hits off of doing just that. But there are two problems I do have here. One, the separating of women into two categories: 1) usable (i.e. "slutty" and wears revealing clothes) and 2) not to be used (i.e. virginal and innocent). And also the way Kayden looks down on Daisy while they are still sleeping together. Am I supposed to like a guy who smiles to a woman's face but holds such contempt for her the minute she turns away? Am I supposed to feel sorry for Callie when she calls Daisy the "super slutty girlfriend"? Because I don't. These weren't easy characters for me to find sympathy for, even with the serious issues they had to deal with.

This is the end of the road for me and this author. I'm sorry but I don't like books where I can predict every plot turn, every scene, every sentence... it was like when I watch one of the movies I've seen a million times; I could speak the words with the characters. The handling of the issues was predictable. The progression of the romance was predictable. Even the "surprise" ending was predictable. No more, thank you.

*"her brother's friend" - I shouldn't write reviews at 2am.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock - Matthew Quick

I don't know how helpful this review will be because I read most of the book through a film of tears. Which is an embarrassingly melodramatic statement to make after this book managed to be so dark and sad without feeling forced or manipulative like my words. But it's true. Some of the tears were laughter, most of them were sadness. I just... I don't know how to review books like this. I want to string together a list of beautiful, funny or sad quotes from the book when what I'm really saying is: "Just read it. Don't take my word for it. Look, it's there. Go love it." Most of the book's strengths can't be talked about without spoilers and one of the main issues targeted in the story is very much needed; there's not nearly enough books out there about it. But I can't tell you what it is.

I'm tempted to say "I wish all books were like this" but that would totally defeat the point of what I'm saying. Because [b:Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock|13477676|Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock|Matthew Quick|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370282544s/13477676.jpg|19008613] felt so different to everything else out there and that's partly why I loved it so much. Some of Leonard's problems have been explored in other young adult novels, but none of them do it in quite the same way. I especially liked the creative use of letters Leonard wrote to himself from the future (this makes a lot more sense when you read the book, I swear). But, as with [b:Sorta Like a Rock Star|6763730|Sorta Like a Rock Star|Matthew Quick|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1263329051s/6763730.jpg|6961579], the real strength lies with the vibrant, full-of-life protagonist himself. He takes center stage and captures your attention for the whole book, dragging you into his life until you find it hard to put down the novel and convince yourself he isn't real.

[b:Sorta Like a Rock Star|6763730|Sorta Like a Rock Star|Matthew Quick|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1263329051s/6763730.jpg|6961579] is a darker book than the cover would have you think but it looks a bit like sunshine and rainbows when compared to this. And yet, somehow, Quick manages to make the dark story of [b:Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock|13477676|Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock|Matthew Quick|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370282544s/13477676.jpg|19008613] work by mixing in some scenes of humour and, ultimately, hope. I can handle dark and depressing stories just fine, but a light at the end of the tunnel to balance out a story where I care so much about the main character is essential. And in this book, I cared so much I couldn't look away from the sad story of Leonard and how he decided his eighteenth birthday would be his last. Taking his grandfather's P-38 pistol in his backpack, he sets out to kill his former best friend and himself. Over the course of the day, we slowly learn the reasons behind Leonard's decision and are forced to sit on the edge of our seats, hoping one of the people in his life breaks the pattern and stops letting him down.



Leonard Peacock has to be one of the loneliest characters I've ever encountered. He's weird. He's confused. Part of him wants to die but most of him just wants to be saved. There's a sad honesty to his voice that makes the story so convincing and that much more effective. I also love books that weave in questions about morality that actually make the reader stop and think for a while. There's plenty of questions being asked here about life, death, parental responsibility, the way we view others and religion. The last of which, in my opinion, gives us some of the funniest moments of the whole novel (though perhaps not if you're particularly devout). There is some mockery of the whole "believe or be damned to hell" aspect of religion but, let's be honest, that is hilarious.

All I can say now is: read this. But be prepared for sadness. There's a sad tone to the novel that goes beyond the "issues" targeted. And I think the reason is Leonard Peacock. Because the author makes you love him from afar and you just want to hug him and solve his problems, knowing that you can't. That's the only reason I can think of to explain why this book was so sad even in the happier bits. And why I was tearing up even when Leonard said "the world would be a better place if they gave medals to great teachers rather than just soldiers." Jesus, I'm going to cry again if I don't stop talking about this book. So, get out of here. Go READ IT.

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