Vigilante Nights by Erin Richards
When Lucas’ sister is killed in a gang-related car crash, he sets out to form his own group of vigilantes to take them down.
Silver’s babbling continued at racecar speed. Seriously, I didn’t want to hear about the target of my sister’s lust.
This book is a bit outside what I normally read, but I figured I’d give it a shot. It’s a contemporary YA, but also has a bit of (ghost/spirit) paranormal and romance.
What I liked: The second half of this book was intense. High stakes, tough choices, desperate characters all made the last hundred or so pages hard to put down. Although the characters definitely didn’t make decisions I would make, they were well-developed enough that I still rooted for them, still liked them despite their flaws. I also liked the subtle paranormal aspect, which added to the story instead of stealing the spotlight.
What I didn’t like: I’ll admit, the first half was a bit hard for me to get into. There was a lot going on in the main character’s life, and at times it seemed rather unrelated. The narrator has a very unique, very descriptive voice (which I liked) but at times the unusual figures of speech made it difficult to understand what was actually going on.
Heads up: gang violence, teen drug/alcohol use, some strong language & racial slurs, some sexual content
A mechanic in a future world tries to save her stepsister from a plague and prevent the handsome prince form finding out that she’s really a cyborg.
The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle. Her knuckles ached from forcing the screwdriver into the joint as she struggled to loosen the screw one grinding twist after another.
With the recent release of the third book in this series, I found myself wondering once again why I hadn’t taken the time to read this yet. It’s got a fun mix of elements, from fairy-tale re-tellings to cyborgs to an insane/supernatural race of people that live on the moon. It’s one of those things that sounds so crazy, there’s no way it can’t be awesome.
What I liked: I loved the sci-fi aspects (the mind control, the cyborgs, the search for a vaccine for a worldwide plague) and how the author tied in so many of the Cinderella elements (a cruel stepmother, a handsome prince throwing a ball, even an old beat-up car the color of a pumpkin) and yet made it new and fresh, turning Cinder into a character who was trying to rescue the Prince, rather than the other way around. And on that note, it was nice to see a female lead who didn’t spend the entire book swooning over the handsome love interest.
What I didn’t like: Well, if you’re paying attention at all, you’re likely to be able to figure out the ‘twist’ at the end within the first fifty pages or so. It also ends on a cliffhanger, so be sure to have Scarlet ready to pick up as soon as you’re done with it.
Overall: Really fun sci-fi twist on a fairy tale
The Elite (The Selection #2) by Kiera Cass
Of the 36 girls invited to the palace to compete for the prince’s heart, only six remain, and America struggles with questions of whom she loves and where she belongs.
The Angeles air was quiet, and for a while I lay still, listening to the sound of Maxon’s breathing. It was getting harder and harder to catch him in a truly calm and happy moment, and I soaked up the time, grateful that he seemed to be at his best when he and I were alone.
What better weekend to get absorbed in a YA love-triangle romance than Valentine’s? If nothing else, it made me appreciate being in a secure, committed relationship and NOT having to worry about any third (or fourth) person in the equation. Yeeesh.
What I liked: I did like that we got a bit more world-building in the sequel, got to learn a bit about what came to pass to get the country to that point.
What I didn’t like: Um… the characters?
So, our main character tells the prince that she likes him. You know, likes him likes him. What does he do? IGNORES HER for the next two weeks while spending time w/ the other girls! No, no, no, no.
So, (slightly spoilery) one of the girls gets kicked out and physically punished for the treason of being caught secretly meeting with another guy while part of the Selection. So what does Aspen do? Almost IMMEDIATELY arranges for America to come meet him in secret so they can talk about it! No, no, no, no.
And these are the options that America spends 80% of the book going back and forth about. Every time Maxon does something she doesn’t like, she runs to Aspen. Every time Maxon does something she DOES like, she completely forgets about Aspen. And then she has the gall to get mad at Maxon for kissing someone else when she’s been doing the same thing w/ Aspen the whole time. Seriously, Maxon, pick someone else… America has some major growing up to do before she’s ready to be anyone’s wife.
Heads up: Some [non-graphic] violence
Overall: If you’re a fan of love triangles, this book’s for you.
Enclave (Razorland #1) by Ann Aguirre
In a Freak(zombie)-filled post-apocalyptic world, Deuce comes of age in her underground civilization and must team up with outsider Fade when her Enclave exiles her.
I was born during the second holocaust. People had told us legends of a time when human beings lived longer. I thought they were just stories.
I’ve taken a break from YA dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories, but I happened to see this one again the other day and figured it’s been long enough since my last foray into the genre that I’d give it a whirl.
What I liked: An underground society… zombies… I really liked the enclave aspect and exploring what it’d be like to live underground. The world-building in this first part was really neat, and reminded me a bit of The City of Ember, which I’ve always really liked.
What I didn’t like: Love triangles annoy me, and this one shouldn’t have even been an issue, considering the ‘third wheel’ was kind of a creep. Also, the second half becomes more violent and it ends on a cliffhanger, which I’m not really fond of either.
Heads up: Violence, gore, rape, and other things with the potential make your skin crawl
Overall: Not for the squeamish, but a good read for those still interested in YA dystopian/paranormal stories
The Prince (The Selection #0.5) by Kiera Cass
Pub: March 2013
A novella set in the world of The Selection, which retells the first part of the novel from Prince Maxon’s point of view.
I paced the floor, trying to walk the anxiety out of my body. When the Selection was something in the distance–a possibility for my future–it sounded thrilling. But now? Well, I wasn’t so sure.
Describing The Selection series as “The Bachelor” meets The Hunger Games isn’t really too far off, and though it’s been awhile since I’ve watched any reality TV shows, this novella recently caught my eye on my to-read shelf, possibly because I’d recently read that the final book (with this gorgeous cover) is coming out in May.
What I liked: As someone who hasn’t read the first book in awhile, this one really did a great job pulling the me back into the world and reminding me of the important elements. It was kind of interesting to get another character’s perspective as well.
What I didn’t like: I don’t feel that it really added a lot. The teaser hinted at a prior relationship between Maxon and a girl named Daphne, but this comprised of only a small part of this novella, and in the big scheme of things, was rather insignificant.
Overall: A quick little recap of the early events of The Selection from another perspective. Take it or leave it, and you probably won’t miss a whole lot.
Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Expected Publication: May 13, 2014
Wendy Darling goes searching for her missing surfer brothers and finds herself in a mysterious cove inhabited by runaways.
I can smell the bonfire before I even get out of the car. It’s dusk, and the sun is low on the water.
Full review coming in May!
Overall: A beautiful setting, cool Peter Pan references, but the unresolved ending made me unable to ‘think happy thoughts’ about it.
Alex: The Life of a Child by Frank Deford
A father’s story of his daughter’s life as she suffered the debilitating effects of cystic fibrosis.
This is one of those real-life, heartbreaking stories that I have a hard time reviewing. There comes a point where you feel cruel if you nitpick the prose or pacing or other literary elements when the poor guy’s pouring his heart out over his dead child.
This is definitely one of those ‘trigger’-warning books. If you have a hard time dealing with reading about a child’s suffering and death, skip this one.
If you would, however, like to read about a sweet (and somewhat precocious) child as remembered by her doting father… If you’d like some information about what it’s like to have a child with a fatal illness… If you want to know more about cystic fibrosis and how it effects a person and his/her loved ones, by all means, pick up this book. It’s tough to get through, emotionally, but holds some really important truths about mortality, hope, and the tough realities of being a parent.
Anyone But You: A Modern-Day Spin on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet by Kim Askew & Amy Helmes
Teens from two feuding Italian restaurants in Chicago fall in love and, in order to be together, must uncover the source of their families’ hatred for one another.
I took a deep breath and backed through the swinging stainless steel door, leaving the chaos of the kitchen and entering the hushed, dimly lit dining room.
As the third book in the Twisted Lit series (which includes Exposure: A Modern-Day Spin on Shakespeare’s Macbeth), the authors once again take some basic elements and themes of Shakespeare’s plays and works them into a modern-day scenario that teens can relate to.
I loved the idea of two feuding restaurants, and although I saw the *twist* in the 1930s/40s backstory coming a mile away, it answered a question that Shakespeare never did — the question of how this feud began in the first place. Interesting take on it, for sure!
There is a bit of insta-love, but you can hardly fault the authors for that in this particular case, and — although I don’t want to spoil anything — the modern-day characters don’t go nearly as overboard with proving their love as the original Shakespeare characters!
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
Pub: June 2013
A time-traveling serial killer hunts down girls who “shine” in Chicago from the 1930s to present-day as Kirby, the one girl who survived his attack, tries to stop him.
He clenches the orange plastic pony in the pocket of his sports coat. It is sweaty in his hand. Mid-summer here, too hot for what he’s wearing.
I’ve mentioned before how much I love time travel, which is why this book has been on my to-read list for awhile. The means of time travel that the author sets up is unique, a House in which time seems to fold over on itself, where things happen simultaneously across eras. I liked this concept, more fantasy-based than sci-fi-based, so you don’t have to worry about the mechanics of how it works, it just does.
The book is told from multiple POVs (third person), including that of the serial killer himself. His sections get rather grisly and are not for those with weak stomachs. Kirby, the girl who managed to survive his attack, reminds me of a slightly-less-jaded Lisbeth Salander (from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).
Overall, it was an interesting concept, and the ‘magical House’ take on time travel was enough to hold my attention and keep me reading, but because of the nature of the narration — jumping back and forth in time with the characters, often re-living the same event more than once — it ends up being too predictable, and the main character Kirby spends most of the book simply researching and asking questions we already know the answer to, which kills any sense of suspense.
Heads up: lots of violence, gore, sex, language
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
Going through the box of mementos of their brief time dating, Min writes a letter to Ed about what went wrong with their relationship.
In a sec you’ll hear a thunk. At your front door, the one nobody uses. It’ll rattle the hinges a bit when it lands, because it’s so weighty and important, a little jangle along with the thunk, and Joan will look up from whatever she’s cooking.
I don’t know why I liked this book. I think it’s because it’s incredibly realistic and honest when it comes to high school relationships.
The main character, Min, has an obsession with old movies which is downright irritating (especially since the movies she references are made up by the author), but which everyone seems to think is clever and special. Her boyfriend, Ed, is from a different crowd and is kind of a jerk and always manages to know how to say something that sounds sweet at the time, but you know through the whole thing that he’s going to break her heart. And then he does.
And I think that’s what makes this book so powerful, so relate-able, because even if the reader’s situation was nothing at all like Min & Ed’s, s/he can relate to that feeling of knowing that someday it’s all going to come crashing down, and yet being absolutely heartbroken when it does.
Heads up: Underage sex & alcohol use