1 star · romance · young adult

once and for all by sarah dessen is, for once, 1/5 stars

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once and for all

author : sarah dessen

pages : [hardcover] 358

memorable quote :

It’s about the courage to go for what you want, not just what you think you need. 

favorite character : ira

summary :

As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen’s thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.

review :

This is the first Sarah Dessen book I’ve ever read that I wished I DNF’d.

love Sarah Dessen. I think a lot of YA readers go through a phase between those pre-teen and teenage years where they discover Dessen, and her writing, and the wonderfully beachy, romantic, comedic, quirky books she writes. I love how each of her books references characters in the others. I love that feeling that there’s this town where all of the people are meeting and falling hopelessly, madly in love with one another in adorable ways.

I didn’t get any of that from Once and For All.

To be fair, I knew nothing about this book going in, because since high school Sarah Dessen has been on my auto-buy list. New book coming out? Say no more. I’ll end up reading it at some point. Quite the feat, because I can only name two contemporary writers on that auto-buy list, and not many more where I’ve loved their books. Contemporary, usually, isn’t the genre for me. I saw a copy of this book at my local Target that was autographed, freaked out a little, and immediately knew it had to come home with me. And so it began.

Once and For All is about Louna, who works for her mother’s wedding planning company even though she’s cynical about love because of a certain tragic backstory and doesn’t plan to follow the career past her last summer before college. Which was a little disappointing, because I feel like there was so much focus on her job, and it would have been nice if she’d been a little more enthusiastic about it. After all, she’s annoyed whenever anything goes wrong or a certain someone bumbles through her day, but she’s never happy about . . . anything. Even if it isn’t a lifetime career goal it would have been nice to see her involved, maybe with the creative aspects, or . . . Actually, I don’t think we were given any indication of what Louna would like to do besides this. And it’s fine, not to have your life set in stone when you’re eighteen, but it would have been better to know what she’s passionate about, or even just likes, rather than her moping around all of the time.

Another huge chunk of the plot concerns a bet that seems like a common staple in romantic comedy movies but I’m not sure I’ve read about in a YA book before. Rather than taking an unexpected or even whole-heartedly romantic turn like I’d hoped, it turned into something very predictable, very cliche, and very disappointing.

I may be one of the rare ones who doesn’t need to sworn over the romantic lead in my contemporary romance to ‘get it’. All I need is a good character. And I’m not sure I got even that much. Ambrose is very . . . quirky. And so not ready for a serious relationship, which I guess would be the only thing to save Louna from a certain tragic backstory.

Which . . . I’m not certain of how that was meant to fit into the rest of the plot. It happened five months before the book starts, I think, but everyone is already pressuring her to move on and basically find true love when she’s barely eighteen. Everyone in this book, Louna and Ambrose included, just needed to take a little time to just sit back and enjoy themselves a little.

While it was boring, the writing wasn’t absolutely terrible. I’ll still try more of Sarah Dessen’s books in the future. But I’m afraid that, now that we’ve hit book thirteen, if she doesn’t mix something up, the stories will always end up this bland.

1/5 stars

 

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1 star · fiction · middle grade

The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden: faeries, death, & mystery

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the accidental afterlife of thomas marsden

author : emma trevayne

pages : [hardcover] 247

favorite character : thomas

summary :

Grave robbing is a messy business. A bad business.

And for Thomas Marsden, on what was an unremarkable spring night in London, it becomes a very spooky business. For lying in an unmarked grave and half covered with dirt is a boy the spitting image of Thomas himself.

This is only the first clue that something very strange is happening. Others follow, but it is a fortune teller’s frightened screams that lead Thomas into a strange world of spiritualists, death and faery folk.

Faery folk with whom Thomas’s life is bizarrely linked. Faery folk who need his help.

Desperate to unearth the truth about himself and where he comes from, Thomas is about to discover magic, and ritual, and that sometimes, just sometimes, the things that make a boy ordinary are what make him extraordinary.

review :

I found this book at a library sale and was instantly attracted to the gorgeous cover and intriguing title. It seemed a little dark for a middle-grade book, enough so that I dove into it without reading anything about the book so I could get the full, uninhibited experience.

The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden is kind of hard to pin down with it’s genre. Set in the past, with fantasy elements, a mystery plot, as well as a hero’s quest, it’s truly unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Paired with some confusing, rushed writing and my surprise at how unfinished this standalone book ended, this book left me unsatisfied and, mostly, disappointed.

Let me first state that I wanted this book to be standalone. It was only in the last thirty pages or so that I realized the plot couldn’t possibly wrap up each of its elements neatly in the space left to it. Unfortunately, Trevayne did try to finish it all before the pages ran out. It’s extremely hard to write a fantasy book as short as this one. Throwing in all of the half-heartedly realized plot elements that appear in this novel . . . It reads like someone got to the last week of NaNoWriMo and realized they needed to patch up the plot quickly enough to reach their goal on time, never again to revisit the manuscript and fix anything.

I’m still confused. There were points where the characters would literally have the answers to their quest handed to them, with no foreshadowing whatsoever, possibly because, again, there was no time in the novel for anything but easy answers. Elements so fully thrown in that I needed to read whole paragraphs several times over to try to understand what was happening, only to fail. I don’t want to spoil anything by leaving any examples, because these random moments would always serve to answer some part of the plot that hadn’t been mentioned until the page before.

Mostly, I’m frustrated with this book because it had the potential for so much more. It could have been a cute fantasy, or an interesting mystery. I love books that are complexly written and aimed toward children, because far too many authors in middlegrade tend to belittle their readers. No, what The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden needed was a thorough overhaul, or at least a duology to spread this cluttered plot out a little more.

1/5 stars

1 star · fiction · young adult

“Piper Perish” by Kayla Cagan was nowhere near as good as it could have been

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Piper Perish

author : kayla cagan

pages : 405

release date : (expected) february 28th 2017

favorite character : adams

summary :

Piper Perish inhales air and exhales art. The sooner she and her best friends can get out of Houston and into art school in New York City, the better. It’s been Piper’s dream her whole life, and now that senior year is halfway over, she’s never felt more ready. But in the final months before graduation, things are weird with her friends and stressful with three different guys, and Piper’s sister’s tyrannical mental state seems to thwart every attempt at happiness for the close-knit Perish family. Piper’s art just might be enough to get her out. But is she brave enough to seize that power, even if it means giving up what she’s always known? Debut author Kayla Cagan breathes new life into fiction in this ridiculously compelling, utterly authentic work featuring interior art from Rookie magazine illustrator Maria Ines Gul. Piper will have readers asking big questions along with her. What is love? What is friendship? What is family? What is home? And who is a person when she’s missing any one of these things?

review :

I really wanted to like this book. Not just because I’ve had a great record with loving YA novels published by Chronicle Books. Not just because I share a fantastic first name with the author. It sounded so interesting, like nothing I’d ever read before. Unfortunately, there were more frustrations in this novel than anything else, and it left me with nothing unique to hold onto. It’s the kind of book where the plot will grow fuzzy a few days from now.

Piper Perish is about just that: A girl named Piper Perish. She’s an artist, from Houston, in high school. I know this because the book is told in journal entries and in about every entry she complains about how limited Houston is compared to NYC. Actually, I feel like this was a very accurate representation of teenage ranting, but it didn’t translate well to real storytelling. The journal entries didn’t progress throughout the half year they detail so much as passionlessly chronicle Piper’s lives in a vividly failing attempt to capture teenage slang in the written form. There’s no indication of what year this is intended to take place within, so with the technology available in Piper’s world I assumed 2017 was a fair choice for setting. For teenagers so “cool” Piper constantly harps about how cool they are, their word choices are awfully . . . uncool, for lack of a better way to describe it. It was hard to read.

There was a big factor in the beginning of the novel that almost made me DNF it right away but I hung on, because I partially hoped it would right itself partway through the book and also thought I should give the rest of the plot a fair chance. A main character in the book reveals very early on that he has an interest in boys, while he has been dating a girl for a few years. Thus said girlfriend goes on a slightly insane spiral thinking that because she has short hair, she has accidentally convinced him that he likes men. Later that thinking shifts to how did everyone but me know that he was gay? 

I’m so incredibly tired of authors just ignoring the fact that, hey, it’s true: You can like GUYS AND GALS. Basically most of the book was her coming to terms with the fact that yes, he loved her, just not in that way. This is a horrible example for teens who’ll be reading this book. There’s EVERY CHANCE some guy could love a girl, yes in that way, and then when he finds a guy to date instead, love him too. He doesn’t have to be straight. Or gay. Or even define himself by being bisexual, because I get that people don’t have labels, sexuality is more complex, and all. But the word bisexual? Not once does it appear (and I’m reading an advanced copy so, if for some reason this changes, I would be incredibly pleased to know about it!). Not even as a consideration or an afterthought.

Throughout the rest of the book, this was marring my experience, but I have to admit it didn’t truly detract from the plot because not much happens. Tiny situations resolve themselves. Plotlines that could have been interesting, such as a certain character potentially having very serious unresolved mental illness issues, are never even addressed. The only thing that isn’t stagnant is time.

1/5 stars : should have DNF’d

I received an advanced copy from Chronicle Book for review and this in no way affected my honest review. They are an incredible publishing house and I’ve loved working with them. If you would like to read some of my favorite books by them, check out my reviews on The Clockwork Scarab and The Falconer.

1 star · adult · fiction

DNF Review: Somebody Else’s Business by Charlton James

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Somebody Else’s Business

author : charlton james

pages : [paperback] 400

summary :

Somebody Else’s Business, embarks on the lives of everyday people facing dilemmas of circumstance and fate. The fascinating journey begins with John and Kelly’s wholesome love affair and their expectant wedding date. Circumstance begins with the deployment of John, and the acceptance and trust with Tiffany. John sends Tiffany a letter of reassurance on his love, drizzling from one relationship to another, snowballing the lives of others bringing guilt, destroying trust, honor and relationships. How do we handle somebody Else’s Business? Whether measured with the soft touch or the hard hand, prepare for the circumstances that follow when dealing with Somebody Else’s Business.

review :

I think that this book had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, the way that the story was taken, it just wasn’t for me.

The book begins with an “about the author” that details how this manuscript caught the attention of an unnamed production company and, for some reason, James decided to self-publish the manuscript instead. It’s a little confusing to me that something that could potentially have been made into a film wasn’t picked up by a mainstream publisher. I feel like this novel might have been better off in some other form.

I read over fifty pages of this book and gave up before I’d gotten to any of the premise. This is the kind of book that you will enjoy if you like to hear every detail of the characters’ lives, but they seem much too perfect, perky, and unrealistic in these beginning pages. Everyone seems to love them. The other characters they meet are stereotypes of people that seem to be placed into random roles surrounding them.

There are also some basic typos in this book that are disappointing because they appear so often I feel like they should have been caught. The characters’ dialogue is also stranger, stilted, and doesn’t flow well. It’s hard to say much more because I’m not sure when in the book the basic plot structure was set to begin.

I feel like someone out there would probably enjoy Somebody Else’s Business, but that just wasn’t me.

1/5 stars

 

 

1 star · science fiction · young adult

DNF Review: Username: Evie was a hot mess of a graphic novel

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Username: Evie

author : joe sugg

pages : [paperback] 192

summary :

Like anyone who feels as though they just don’t fit in, Evie dreams of a place of safety. When times are tough, all she wants is a chance to escape from reality and be herself.

Despite his failing health, Evie’s father comes close to creating such a virtual idyll. Passing away before it’s finished, he leaves her the key in the form of an app, and Evie finds herself transported to a world where the population is influenced by her personality. Everyone shines in her presence, until her devious cousin, Mallory, discovers the app… and the power to cause trouble in paradise.

review :

DNF 55 pages in.

Well. This was so disappointing. I picked this book up because I’ve been really into graphic novels and comics lately and this looked like a cool concept. Evie basically doesn’t fit into her real world so, before her father dies of a fatal illness, he creates a virtual world for her to live in where she can essentially make everyone positive and affect things around her.

To start, I’d like to say that I had no idea who Joe Sugg was or why he was creating a graphic novel. Apparently he’s a YouTube creator, which is cool. I love watching YouTube, but I’ve never watched him. I was thrown off, however, when I opened this graphic novel and the first thing it lists on the inside cover is the rest of the team behind Username: Evie. This is where I became really confused as to why Sugg’s name was the only one on the cover. He isn’t the illustrator or the writer. He’s merely the person who came up with the idea and characters and then let other people run with it to make it into a cohesive narrative. I think that’s probably why it turned out to be a bit of a mess. Knowing nothing about Sugg, I can assume that he’s passionate about the storyline, because he’s the one who thought up this world and Evie. But he isn’t the one who translated that world to words, or artwork, or even the coloring in the panels. This left everything feeling stiff and wrong. None of the characters speak the way that people would–I mean, even for a graphic novel. I know there’s some leeway. But these voices were so cardboard and awkward.

Also, for some reason Evie climbs into her fridge every time she’s anxious and throws all of the stuff (shelves included) onto the floor of the kitchen when she does this. And her dad does nothing about this? I mean, they must waste a lot of food.

I barely got into the part where Evie explores the world her father has created for her. I just wasn’t interested. I doubt that even a world like that could have gripped me.

I was also extremely confused about why everyone was so terrible to Evie even after she experiences personal tragedy because, y’know, her own cousin doesn’t even like her. And it seems like Evie has done nothing wrong? I can’t tell. I couldn’t tell most of her personality apart from her being “different”. A loner for . . . no real reason.

I won’t end up recommending this book to anyone.

1/5 stars

 

1 star · adult

DNF Review: A Girl’s Guide to Landing a Greek God by Bill Fuller

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A Girl’s Guide to Landing a Greek God

author : bill fuller

pages : [paperback] 432

release date : april 8th 2016

summary :

When Angie’s big fat Greek wedding goes bust, her grandmother sends her on a trip to Greece with the instruction to set sail on a mysterious fishing boat that will take her to an uncharted island. Waiting for her at the dock is Milos, who’s charming and handsome and confesses he’s been crushing on her for years, even though he’s never met her. He also tells her he’s a descendant of the original Gods of Olympus, who are plotting their return to power.

Before she can say “Oh my God,” Angie is flying a winged horse alongside Milos and finding love in his arms. But there’s one little hitch: Milos’s elders are forcing him to marry a malevolent goddess named Electra to fulfill their plan. If Angie is to have any hope of hanging onto Milos, she’ll have to battle monsters, both reptilian and lipsticked; uncover secrets about her past; and go toe-to-toe with Zeus himself, whose recipe for world domination doesn’t call for a sassy girl from the outer boroughs.

review :

I downloaded a review copy of this book on Netgalley and am extremely grateful to Midnight Ink for approving my request. This in no way affected my review/opinions of the book.

I don’t think I’ve ever marked a book as DNF so early on in the story. I barely made it to 50 pages before I decided that A Girl’s Guide to Landing a Greek God wasn’t for me.

I was initially attracted to this book because the cover was awesome and I’m very interested in Greek myth; I love books about it and even took a course about it last semester. I’m all for modernizing these myths and making them more fun and accessible to people.

However . . . this book had a lot of problems for me. Maybe it stems from the fact that this is a man writing a “girl’s guide”. I’m all for authors writing from the viewpoint of someone completely different from who they are, but it has to be believable. You have to capture what it’s like to be a woman–and not only that, but a specific kind of woman, because Angie, like any character, is supposed to be unique. Instead she’s kind of all over the place. Here’s a line that I really had trouble with:

As Angie wound her way through the crowd, she found herself skipping.

Well, that was only one of the lines that took me out of the story. How old is Angie? Old enough to worry about marriage, kids, and ending up alone. Besides, in the context of this line, she isn’t even skipping toward anything fun. She’s just going to ask someone a question. Something else in the story that really knocked me out of the narrative was when Angie mentioned overhearing her grandmother having sex and just smiled about it. And wished that she had as many opportunities as her grandmother. No matter what your age, gender, or sex–who would really react like that?

In these 50 pages, the Greek God was only mysteriously alluded to a few times–and in all of them, he’s anxiously pining for the human he’s been obsessing over from afar. I didn’t stick with the book long enough to see why he started to watch her/want her so badly, out of these billions of humans, but . . I’m hoping it was a good reason.

I won’t be recommending this book, but maybe there’s a chance romance readers would be able to push through these pages to get to the bulk of the story. For me, and the reading goals I have for 2016, it just wasn’t worth continuing.

1/5 stars

1 star · fiction · young adult

DNF Review: Cinderella’s Dress by Shonna Slayton

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Cinderella’s Dress

author : shonna slayton

pages : [paperback] 340

summary :

Being a teenager during World War II is tough. Finding out you’re the next keeper of the real Cinderella’s dress is even tougher.

Kate simply wants to create window displays at the department store where she’s working, trying to help out with the war effort. But when long-lost relatives from Poland arrive with a steamer trunk they claim holds the Cinderella’s dress, life gets complicated.

Now, with a father missing in action, her new sweetheart shipped off to boot camp, and her great aunt losing her wits, Kate has to unravel the mystery before it’s too late.

After all, the descendants of the wicked stepsisters will stop at nothing to get what they think they deserve.

review :

Just in skimming over the Goodreads page of reviews for this book, I can see that it’s one people either utterly hate or love. I’m DNFing this book at 202 pages because I realized that there’s a second book in this possible series, nothing is happening, and apparently no new information about these Cinderella dresses is going to be shown in the next 100 pages. I’m determined to spend 2016 reading as many amazing books as possible–books that I don’t feel like I’m trudging through or skimming over, just on the brief, dim hope that something interesting is in those distant pages.

Cinderella’s Dress looked awesome. I had it on my TBR list for a few years. It isn’t the typical fairy tale retelling we see today; instead, it takes objects from that familiar fairy tale, that have been passed down through the generations and . . . Well, I don’t know what the significance of these dresses would end up being, because nothing ever happens to explain what’s going on with them. Why they’re so important. Why vaguely evil people are trying to steal them away.

Most of the book has nothing to do with them. Kate, our main character, is pretty interesting because she’s struggling to get into a business that is typically only seen as a man’s job. I never thought much about window dressing before, and I honestly don’t know if it was really such a huge deal in the 1940s as it is in this book, but it’s Kate’s dream. I can appreciate that. What I can’t appreciate are the lengths she’s willing to go to in order to try to get this dream for herself. She’s willing to insult and isolate herself from her friends, which . . I’m not sure why she thought that was a great idea, and she got nothing out of it. Even worse (the moment that made me stop and finally decide to DNF) was when Kate decided to do something she knew would torment her great-aunt who suffers from dementia. Even in the midst of her great-aunt’s fit, Kate isn’t evenconcerned for her. She’s just worried about how much attention is being brought to them and thinking to herself Oh, I never expected that kind of a reaction. Yes, Kate. You did. You meant to shock her.

There were some elements in the book that had real potential–I loved reading the letters Kate wrote to the soldiers she knew. But then the war ended, I think, in the middle of the book. There was no real concept of time, for me, because the letters and chapters weren’t dated. It was only because Kate mentioned something about years passing (not that she seemed more mature for it) that I realized how much time had been skipped over.

I think that this book was so frustrating to me, ultimately, because it could have been so great. Instead, nothing really happened in the 200 pages I read, so I feel like I didn’t even read the book that was summarized for me.

1/5 stars