Review: Fallout by Ellen Hopkins

FalloutPublished: September 14, 2010 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 665
Format: Kindle Edition

This review is for the third book in the series Crank.  There are spoilers for the first two books, Crank and Glass, in the blurb below and in the review itself.  My review for the second book is here and my review for the first book is here.

Hunter, Autumn, and Summer – three of Kristina Snow’s five children – live in different homes, with different guardians and different last names. They share only a predisposition for addiction and a host of troubled feelings toward the mother who barely knows them, a mother who has been riding with the monster, crank, for twenty years.

As each teen searches for real love and true family, they find themselves pulled toward the one person who links them together – Kristina, Bree, mother, addict. But it is in each other, and in themselves, that they find the trust, the courage, the hope to break the cycle.

This book is really different from the first two books in the series, which really threw me off. While Crank and Glass tell Kristina’s story from her perspective, Fallout is different in that it doesn’t really continue Kristina’s story, but that of three of her children.

I was initially somewhat annoyed by this change. I wanted to know more of Kristina’s story, to see if she would ever break free of the cycle, and Fallout answers that question in a way much different way than I was expecting.

The narrators in this story are Hunter (born at the end of Crank), Autumn (whom the reader learns about at the end of Glass), and Summer, a completely new character to previous readers of the series. Hunter lives with Kristina’s mother and stepfather, Autumn lives with Trey’s father and sister, and Summer lives in a foster home. Between sections of the story, the book also includes newspaper clippings which reveal what happened to characters from the previous books over the past twenty years.

Each of Kristina’s children has his or her own story, and the book tells them in alternating sections. Hunter’s story revolves around his job as a radio personality and his life with his girlfriend Nikki. Autumn yearns for a relationship with a family she knows she has but has never contacted. Summer has come and gone from various foster homes.

One thing that really confused me about this book is that I felt the vibe from the foster homes was overwhelmingly negative, verging on abusive, with few positive aspects. I found myself wondering if Hopkins’ other books are the same way, or if that was just this particular book. Some of Hunter’s comments about Kristina’s rape also made me really uncomfortable. I also found it a bit difficult at times to differentiate between Autumn and Summer’s stories because I found their voices to be very similar.

Hopkins’ goal with Fallout, apparent from the title, seemed to be showing the effect drug use could have on the user’s family, not just on the individual, and I can see why she would have changed POVs in this way if that were the case. While the reader was able to see that kind of thing in the first two books, it was difficult to see the extent of it through Kristina’s eyes alone, and through the eyes of three of her children, the reader gets to see the “fallout” of Kristina’s actions through a much wider scope. That said, it took me a while to come to terms with the large changes to the POV.

Overall, I felt like there were several things that weren’t quite tied up to my satisfaction, but on the other hand, I guess that isn’t really what the book was about, so I can live with it. I enjoyed reading this series in general, and would be interested in reading more of Hopkins’ books in the future.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Review: Cheat by Kristin Butcher

CheatPublished: October 1, 2010 by Orca Books
Pages: 107
Format: Kindle Edition

Laurel discovers her passion for investigative journalism when she writes an article for her school paper about the homeless man who’s been living at the school. Eager to write more articles with impact, she launches an investigation of a cheating scam at her high school. Laurel’s efforts elicit hostility from her classmates. Nobody is interested in seeing her article go to print, not even her own brother. It is evident that the cheating is widespread, and Laurel, caught up in the thrill of the investigation, is willing to commit social suicide to get the story, but her ultimate discovery changes everything.

I felt like this book was written for a much younger audience than a lot of other YA, which is fine, but it surprised me a bit. This one was a really quick read, though… took maybe an hour, hour and a half to read altogether.

I felt like this book set out to send out a message to its readers, so things like characters weren’t given a lot of thought. They don’t have much depth, and there’s not a whole lot of character development and whatnot here. But I also kind of felt that toward the end of the book, the message wasn’t so much about cheating, but about the consequences of doing whatever it takes to get what you want without regard for others. I thought that was a message worth expressing, but since it was muddled up with cheating, it left me a little conflicted and confused.

I didn’t really know a whole lot about this book or the author when I picked it up – just spotted it in the new eBooks at the library and figured I would pick it up when I was done with the book I had been reading. It was definitely on the lighter side of things tone-wise compared to the other books I’ve read lately, so that was a nice change for me. I definitely would have liked more development all around, though, to make things feel more authentic, instead of a bit of a vessel for the author’s message.

I enjoyed the book well enough, having read it in one sitting, and would be interested in reading more of Butcher’s books in the future, despite having mixed feelings about this one.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Review: The Hit by Allen Zadoff

The HitPublished: May 24, 2013
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 352

Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about.  He shows up at a new high school in a new town under a new name, makes a few friends, and doesn’t stay long.  Just long enough for someone in his new friend’s family to die – of “natural causes.”  Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, moving on to the next target.

But when he’s assigned to the mayor of New York City, things change.  The daughter is unlike anyone he has encountered before; the mayor reminds him of his father.  And when memories and questions surface, his handlers at The Program are watching.  Because somewhere deep inside, Boy Nobody is somebody: the kid he once was; the teen who wants normal things, like a real home, and parents; a young man who wants out.  And who just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program’s mission.

This book is apparently known by at least three different titles (Boy NobodyI Am the Weapon, and The Hit), which confused the hell out of me at first. Once I sorted that out, though, I was good to go.

I had an extremely difficult time getting through the beginning of this book. It wasn’t boring, it wasn’t badly written, none of that stuff, but I still struggled. I must have reread the beginning sections three, four, maybe even five times before I finally got through it for good and read the rest of the book. Before that, I kept putting it down in favor of other things. The beginning of the book made me so nervous because I was afraid it was going to be violent/gory beyond what I could handle at the time, and I couldn’t figure the main character out. I didn’t know what his motivations were or why he was doing any of this, and I don’t like seeing bad things happen to good people, through no real fault of their own, which, of course, happens in books all the time… but seeing it from the POV of the “bad guy” made me kinda go, “Oh no, oh no, oh no,” and put the book down… repeatedly. I generally love books that do this kind of thing, but for some reason, in this book, it just made me super nervous and it was really difficult to continue.

Thankfully, the book wasn’t too gory or violent, and once I actually got through the beginning and continued on, I found it to be a really enjoyable book. There were still scenes that made me really uncomfortable, but I think that was the point. The main character has a really unique voice, and I liked that a lot. His observations let the reader see things in a different way than if another person were telling this story, and I thought that gave the story a lot of character and let it stand out.

The main character is a type of assassin working for The Program, an organization which appears to work for or be part of the government. This book covers what happens when that assassin starts to question things. It’s hard to go into why I found this book so unique compared to similar stories without spoiling anything, though. The premise of the book itself isn’t unique by any means, but it still stood out from a lot of books I’ve read recently, and I’m still thinking about it long after finishing it.

Overall, I found this book pretty enjoyable once I was able to get through the beginning and get a sense of what was going on with the main character, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next installment in the series!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Review: Glass by Ellen Hopkins

Glass (Crank, #2)Published: June 20, 2008 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 720
Format: Kindle Edition

This review is for the second book in the Crank series.  There are spoilers for the first book in the blurb.  My review of the first book is here.

Crank. Glass. Ice. Crystal. Whatever you call it, it’s all the same: a monster. And once it’s got hold of you, this monster will never let you go.

Kristina thinks she can control it. Now with a baby to care for, she’s determined to be the one deciding when and how much, the one calling the shots. But the monster is too strong, and before she knows it, Kristina is back in its grips. She needs the monster to keep going, to face the pressures of day-to-day life. She needs it to feel alive.

Once again the monster takes over Kristina’s life and she will do anything for it, including giving up the one person who gives her the unconditional love she craves – her baby.

Glass was pretty similar in tone and style to its predecessor. It picks up a short time after the events of Crank. This book is also written in verse (I believe all of Hopkins’ books are, though I could be wrong), which made for a relatively quick read, if not necessarily easy, due to the subject matter.

In terms of format and layout, Glass was easier to read than the first book. I guess the poem layout was maybe a little less creative, but it definitely helped me understand the flow of the words better, and I didn’t need to do nearly as much rereading as I did during the first book. There were a few things that I wasn’t sure were intentional – italics generally seemed to be used for dialog, but sometimes, in the middle of what appeared to be someone’s sentence, they would be dropped, and then come back again. Not sure if that’s a mistake or not. So in a lot of ways, the paperback would probably still be easier to read than the eBook, but there were improvements made in that department. I ended up reading the book with my Kindle on its side with the font at the smallest size, and that seemed to preserve 90% of the originally intended layout.

Kristina’s choices over the course of the book are predictable, but frustrating. As with the first book, knowing it is based on a true story is difficult and sad. My only real issue with the book itself was that the dialog didn’t seem realistic to me a lot of the time – sometimes, it was great, and other times, I felt like it was a major miss and Kristina didn’t feel like an authentic teenager. Crank had some of the same issues, though, and I guess it would have been even more jarring to change some of that in the second book.

I am interested in continuing the series and seeing where it goes from here (have the third book on my Kindle from the library right now).

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Review: A Promise of Magic by Melissa Giorgio

A Promise of Magic (Silver Moon Saga 2.5)Published: November 20, 2014 by Crushing Hearts & Black Butterfly Publishing
Pages: 172
Format: Kindle Edition

This novella takes place after the second book in the Silver Moon Saga and sets up events for the third book in the series.  As a disclaimer, I am friends with the author.

As a child growing up in California, Evan Underwood only has a basic knowledge of Silver Moon, the organization that keeps the world safe from demons. After accidentally setting his parents’ house on fire with magic, he’s sent to the New York Silver Moon HQ to learn how to control his powers. Frustrated by his teacher’s refusal to show him anything beyond magical theory, Evan decides it’s time to take matters into his own hands. But teaching himself magic isn’t as easy as Evan imagined, and it’s during one of these practice sessions that he’s discovered by Alexandra Chen, a strange girl Evan finds both frustrating and alluring. Making a promise to show Alex magic, Evan is determined to live up to her expectations, even if it means breaking a few rules in the process. But when things backfire, Evan must rely on his friends to help free him from the clutches of a new, sinister character.

It was great to read this one while waiting on the release of The Shadow StealerA Promise of Magic is a collection comprised of one novella and two shorter stories. The novella centers around one of the main supporting characters in The Silver Moon Saga, Evan Underwood, and is followed by two stories taking place after the events of The Soul Healer.

“A Promise of Magic” takes up the majority of the collection, and spans eight years of Evan’s life. It chronicles his magical education in Silver Moon and his relationship with Alex. I LOVED this. I loved getting to learn more about Evan’s past and loved being able to see the beginning of his relationship with Alex. She’s a character that we’ve heard a lot about at this point in the series, so it was great to actually meet her. I also liked being able to see some major events in great detail that we’ve heard a lot throughout the series.

The pacing of the novella is a bit up-and-down, though that makes sense, since a lot of it takes place during Evan’s childhood. We get to read about the beginnings of his friendship with Rafe, which was nice to see, especially after the events that took place during The Soul Healer. Several other characters also make appearances, and in a way, it was nice to see them through another character’s eyes. Gabi can be a bit quick to judge (to say the least!), so it was nice to meet some characters, such as Charles, from the POV of someone who didn’t flat-out hate them right out of the gate.

As Evan ages over the course of the story, we get re-introduced to the jokes and whatnot that we’re used to seeing in the other installments in the series. I love the humor in these books and I kind of can’t get enough of it, haha.

“The Favor” is a short story told from the POV of Philip, one of the characters introduced during The Soul Healer. It was nice to get to see more of Kain, one of my favorites of the new characters, and I thought the story itself was really sweet. Looking forward to seeing more of both of them in the next book!

“An Unbeatable Team” is told from Gabi’s POV. I LOVED this story, and didn’t realize how much I was missing Gabi’s narration until I started it. Her voice is definitely unique, and she’s sassy from beginning to end. I loved it. The story takes place during Valentine’s Day weekend, and readers can definitely expect some cute moments. Some of them made me a bit nostalgic thinking of the earlier parts of my own relationship. This story was absolutely adorable and left me wanting more. I flew through the last installment in this collection for sure. It almost felt too short!

I can’t wait for the next book to come out! Very excited to see where the series is going next.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Review: The Wicked Within by Kelly Keaton

The Wicked Within (Gods & Monsters, #3)Published: September 13, 2013 by Simon Pulse
Pages: 320
Format: Kindle Edition

This review is for the third book in the series Gods & Monsters.  There are spoilers for the first two books in the blurb.  My review for the second book is here and my review for the first book is here.

Her fate is not set in stone.

Having temporarily defeated Athena, Ari races to break the gorgon curse that has plagued the women in her family for centuries. Her one lead sends her on a quest for the Hands of Zeus, an ancient relic last seen in the charge of New 2′s ruling elite, the Novem. But if there is one thing that Athena desires as much as revenge, it’s the Hands of Zeus – and Athena always gets what she wants.

Before either can locate the Hands, the statue goes missing, and a trail of blood follows those who once protected the relic’s secrets. Ari knows that her city, her friends, Sebastian – her life – depend on her finding the statue before Athena. And with rumors an ancient power is on the rise, that may not be her only concern…

OMG THE SERIES ISN’T OVER AFTER ALL. AHHHHHHHH. SO EXCITED. FEBRUARY 17TH CANNOT COME SOON ENOUGH!

*cough* Anyway. :)

I love the cover of this book so much. I love the covers of all of them, but there’s just something about this one. :)

The Wicked Within is another book with a slightly slow build in the beginning, but once it gets going, it hits the ground running. It differs from the first two books in that it switches from Ari’s POV to Sebastian’s every once in a while. I had mixed feelings about that at first, but at the same time, it was really cool to see stuff from Sebastian’s POV. The second book in the series set a lot of things in motion, so there’s a lot here to enjoy.

There was one thing at the end that really bugged me, but other than that, I was pretty happy. I also kind of felt like things were left pretty open-ended, without everything necessarily tied up – but that’s solved now that I know a fourth book is coming! :D YAY.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who thinks they won’t be too turned off by the combination of paranormal stuff in the series. It took me by surprise, but I absolutely loved it, and I recommend that anyone else who thinks they wouldn’t mind at least give it a shot.

I’m really glad that I discovered this series thanks to PulseIt! :D

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Review: A Beautiful Evil by Kelly Keaton

A Beautiful Evil (Gods & Monsters #2)Published: Februray 21, 2012 by Simon Pulse
Pages: 285
Format: Kindle Edition

This review is for the second book in the series Gods & Monsters. There are some spoilers for the first book in the blurb.  My review for the first book, Darkness Becomes Her, is here.

When Ari first arrived in the dilapidated city of New 2, all she wanted was to figure out who she was.  But what she discovered was beyond her worst nightmare. Ari is a descendant of Medusa and can already sense the evil growing inside her… a power the goddess Athena will stop at nothing to possess.

Desperate to hold onto her humanity and protect her loved ones, Ari must fight back.  But Athena’s playing mind games, not just with Ari, but with those she cares about most. And Athena has a very special plan for the brooding and sexy Sebastian.

Ari is determined to defeat Athena, but time is running out. With no other options, Ari must unleash the very thing she’s afraid of: herself.

Gods & Monsters was one of my favorite series that I read in 2014, and I am SO FREAKING HAPPY to learn that a fourth book is coming out next month! So now I am finally getting around to writing my reviews for books two and three. :)

I was SO EXCITED to read the second book in the series after I finished Darkness Becomes Her earlier in 2014. This one was a birthday book buy, thanks to my sister and brother-in-law, and it was definitely worthwhile!

A Beautiful Evil is much more slowly paced than its predecessor, but it’s still a quick read. The reader gets to learn more about Ari’s friends, which I was happy for – that was something we lacked in the first book. While it takes its time doing so, once the action does ramp up, it pretty much doesn’t stop.

I LOVE ARI. She’s one of the main things I love about these books, and she doesn’t disappoint. She’s still badass, with a bit of the stubbornness that drives me crazy in most YA heroines. I won’t lie – it drove me a bit crazy in this book, too, but Ari is still better than a lot of others who have pissed me off in the past, haha.

It was great to see more of the secondary characters that we didn’t get to see much in the first book. I enjoyed getting to learn more about them, too. New 2 is so vivid to me, and I love how it feels like a place where anything is possible. While the conglomeration of different paranormal things (witches and warlocks, vampires, Greek gods… the list goes on) might be a bit too much for some readers, I loved it. Ridiculous, maybe… but also awesome.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars