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Review: We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

We Are the GoldensPublishing Date: May 27, 2014 by Wendy Lamb Books
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 208

Nell worships her older sister, Layla.  They’re one unit, intertwined: Nellayla.  As Nell and her best friend, Felix, start their freshman year in high school, on Layla’s turf, there’s so much Nell looks forward to: Joining Layla on the varsity soccer team.  Parties.  Boys.  Adventures.

But the year takes a very different turn.

Layla is changing, withdrawing.  She’s hiding something, and when Nell discovers what it is, and the consequences it might have, she struggles.  She wants to support Layla, to be her confidante, to be the good sister she’s always been.  But with so much at stake, what secrets should she keep?  What lies should she tell?

I saw the e-mail from NetGalley about this book, checked out the mini-summary in the e-mail, read the first line of the blurb -Nell knows a secret about her perfect, beautiful sister Layla. If she tells, it could blow their world apart. - and I was basically like, “YES, read now, send to Kindle.” So other than that very vague line and little else, I had no idea what I was getting into, and I liked that.

I loved Nell’s voice. She was pretty unique and I liked her connection to her sister, though time and time again, I got the sense that it wasn’t completely mutual, or that maybe it had been in the past, but wasn’t anymore. Because of that, I kept wanting to see more of the bond that Nell felt she had with her sister, since I felt like we as readers didn’t see it very often. I’m sure some of that was the usual “little sister being annoying” thing, but since the story was being told from Nell’s point of view, it was hard for me to tell which was which. Regardless, I did like their relationship, or at least, Nell’s view of it. I’m a twin and I kept reading Nell and Layla as twins, even though they weren’t, but they had a relationship that made me feel like they were. I loved that the book read as her talking to her sister, referring to Layla as “you” and little touches like asking if she remembered certain details or events.

I loved the way Nell’s relationship with Felix was introduced, and I loved his role as her best friend. I liked that Nell and Layla’s parents were much more present in the novel than parents are in a lot of other YA, despite being so wrapped up in their own lives that they didn’t seem to be aware of what was going on with their children.

There is also an implied comparison between the Golden sisters and the Creed brothers, two teenage brothers who die before the time the story begins, which I liked the idea of in theory, but I’m not sure I liked the execution. Nell imagines the ghosts of these two brothers and sees them around her and talks to them, but I didn’t get the impression that she was close to them when they were alive, so it didn’t really make sense to me that Nell interacted with them so much in her head after they’d died. I didn’t feel like it was necessary to the story and didn’t understand why Nell couldn’t come to the conclusions she reached in interacting with them on her own. I guess she was doing that on her own, in a way, since she’s not actually speaking to their ghosts, but I didn’t like the way it was portrayed. It felt, to me, like it took away that those choices and thoughts were Nell’s and not someone else’s.

I found the open ending to be fairly frustrating. I was sitting there, reading away, loving this book, then I saw the Kindle was at 96% and I was like, oh no, and then I saw it was at 99%, and I was like, OH NO, but overall, I was satisfied with this read and I really enjoyed it, seeing that I read it in one sitting, which is pretty rare for me. Yes, it’s a short, fast read, but that’s not a bad thing. I liked that despite the other things going on in the novel, the relationship between the two sisters was the main focus, and the book never lost sight of that. A definite thumbs-up from me!

I was pre-approved for this title by the publisher via NetGalley. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Review: Darkest Fear by Cate Tiernan

Darkest Fear (Birthright, #1)Published: January 7, 2014 by Simon Pulse
Format: Paperback
Pages: 368

Vivi has known the truth about her family – and herself – since she was thirteen.  But that doesn’t mean she’s accepted it.  Being a haguari isn’t something she’ll ever want a part of.  How can she feel like anything but a freak knowing that it’s in her genes to turn into a jaguar?

Now eighteen, Vivi’s ready to break away from the traditions of her heritage.  But all of that changes with the shocking, devastating deaths of her parents, and the mysteries they leave behind.  Vivi discovers family she never knew she had, and a life open with possibility.  New friends, new loyalties, and even romance all lie ahead – but so do dangers unlike anything Vivi ever could have imagined.

I first heard of this book when it was up for a week for free on Pulse It, but didn’t have a chance to read it the week it was available, so I was excited when I won the Goodreads giveaway for it at the beginning of February. My first impression of Darkest Fear was that I was in love with the cover. I loved the contrast between the black and white and yellow, and the claw marks through the series title. I would probably describe it as a YA paranormal mystery. Shapeshifters and stuff. Very fun!

Due to other reading-related obligations and stuff going on in real life (yay, fiance moving in with me :D), I was only just recently able to read this book, but I’m glad that I was finally able to get around to it. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, but there were a few things I had issues with that brought down my enjoyment a little bit.

I was a bit worried after skimming a couple of reviews prior to reading the book because there was a lot of complaining about the main character, Vivi, but I actually found myself really liking her. I found it fairly easy to relate to her except for a few specific instances which I won’t go into for spoiler reasons, and generally thought she was likable for the most part. The main thing that frustrated me was that she would tell herself/the reader that she had to do or should do something, and then would put it off over and over, generally without justifying it or otherwise giving a reason, which was frustrating for me as a reader because I felt like she kept, well, basically putting off moving the plot forward. But other than that, I really liked her character and the other main characters in the book.

I really loved the way that Tiernan brought New Orleans to life for me, as someone who has never been there before and probably won’t get the chance to, at least for a long time. While parts of it felt a bit vague in parts, there were some things that seemed to be pretty specific to the area that really brought it to life for me, and I liked that because it’s not something I’ve really felt in a book about a real city before, or at least one I haven’t been to before.

I also enjoyed the glimpses we got of haguari society. I think that’s part of what brought this book to life for me – I liked that it seemed to be weaved into a bunch of different cultures in different ways, and I liked seeing Vivi’s family’s traditions and stuff.

I did have a few issues with the pacing – the book picks things up pretty quickly in the beginning, then slows down quite a bit, though it did keep bringing up enough mystery and such to keep me interested. The last hundred pages or so pick up the pace a lot again, and it left me really wanting the second book NOOOOOOOOOW, but it seems like it’ll be quite a while (I don’t know that I can trust the September 2014 date on Goodreads, lol, since this one just came out in January). So I do think that the pacing will cause issues for some readers. There were a lot of mundane details that I found interesting because it was something I personally didn’t have any experience with, but I can see where that would put some readers off as well.

I liked the supporting characters and there seemed to be a bit of diversity with them, which was nice, but at the same time I felt like there were so many of them that Tiernan didn’t really have the time to develop them all to the same extent. There were a few that really only got a little bit of page time, and even by the end of the book’s 359 pages, I didn’t feel like I knew them despite having just spent most of a book with them. So I did feel that the supporting characters could have used a lot more development, other than getting some characteristics to set them apart from the other supporting characters, if that makes sense… something to make them feel like people instead of background pieces.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the love interest, though I could maybe see that changing in future books. Some of the romance-related parts were really WTF to me and seemed pretty much out of left field. The only other thing that really bugged me, which is only somewhat related to that, is how obsessed everyone but Vivi seemed to be with Vivi’s general appearance, the clothes she wore, and stuff. It was brought up over and over and over, and I just kind of wanted to be like, OKAY, WE GET IT, PLEASE STOP. It bugged me that every other freaking person seemed to want to weigh in on telling Vivi she would be ~so much prettier~ if she wore makeup, or asked her why she wasn’t wearing a skirt/dress, and stuff like that. That really got on my nerves. I just wanted to shake them and be like, WHY IS IT EVEN ANY OF YOUR BUSINESS, SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

I haven’t read any of Cate Tiernan’s other books, though I do own some of her Sweep series and her Balefire series (I own a lot of books I haven’t read… let’s just leave it at that :)), and after reading this one, I am excited to check them out! Really looking forward to reading the next one in this series and very thankful that I was able to check out the first book after missing my first chance at it. :D

I received a paperback of Darkest Fear through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Review: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

The Here and NowPublishing Date: April 8, 2014 by Delacorte Press
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 288

Follow the rules.  Remember what happened.  Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve.  Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country.  She came from a different time – a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community.  Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

The first thing I really liked about The Here and Now was that it was not quite as focused on the romance as the blurb led me to believe. I tripped over a lot of the time travel stuff, to be honest – I spent too much time wondering about the plausibility of it and the implications of every action to 100% enjoy everything that was going on, but once I learned to let it go and just enjoy the story, it took me for a ride that didn’t stop until the book came to an end.

To say that I was glad the book was not as focused on the romance as I initially thought implies that I didn’t like the romance, but that actually isn’t true in this case. I have mixed feelings when it comes to a lot of romance (not just in YA, but in general), so I went into the book with that impression, and thankfully it wasn’t anything like I thought it might be. Prenna and Ethan’s romance is a breath of fresh air in the face of what I’ve gotten used to reading, and other than one bit where it made me uncomfortable, I really liked it overall.

I enjoyed Brashare’s writing style. I haven’t read any of her other book yet (just realized she wrote The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants!), but think I am more interested in reading the Sisterhood books now that I know what her writing is like. The words and sentences flowed really well and I liked Prenna’s voice a lot.

All in all, I had three issues with this book. The first (and biggest) was the time travel stuff. I know not every reader will be able to just push past it and take it at face value like I was able to, but I think that once you can, the story will be a lot more enjoyable (though the story still threw me for several loops that I struggled with, haha). The second was that the story takes a little while to get going, but once it did, I found it extremely difficult to put down. The third was a minor sideplot thing that wasn’t 100% resolved, and I WANT TO KNOW EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED, but I guess we’re not meant to know.

I would definitely recommend The Here and Now to anyone that’s able to look past the headache of the time travel stuff. It was really enjoyable and is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read so far this year!

I was pre-approved for this title by the publisher via NetGalley. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Review: Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski

Don't Even Think About ItPublishing Date: March 11, 2014 by Delacorte Press
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 336

We weren’t always like this.  We used to be average New York City high school sophomores.  Until our homeroom went for flu shots.  We were prepared for some side effects.  Maybe a headache.  Maybe a sore arm.  We definitely didn’t expect to get telepathic powers.  But suddenly we could hear what everyone was thinking.  Our friends.  Our parents.  Our crushes.  Now we all know that Tess is in love with her best friend, Teddy.  That Mackenzie cheated on Cooper.  That, um, Nurse Carmichael used to be a stripper.

Since we’ve kept our freakish skill a secret, we can sit next to the class brainiac and ace our tests.  We can dump our boyfriends right before they dump us.  We know what our friends really think of our jeans, our breath, our new bangs.  We always know what’s coming.  Some of us will thrive.  Some of us will crack.  None of us will ever be the same.

So stop obsessing about your ex.  We’re always listening.

Don’t Even Think About It isn’t a book I would have picked up on my own, but I decided to give it a shot since I was pre-approved for it through NetGalley. It ended up being a pretty fun read, though I did have a few big issues with it.

My biggest problem with the book was the number of characters that are covered in it. I liked the experimentation with the “we” perspective, and felt it worked to an extent, but I don’t think the book was long enough to cover all the characters very well. I don’t know that it necessarily meant to, but that was what I expected going in, since the book points out early on that all of these kids are telling the story, and I definitely didn’t feel like that ended up being the case. There were a few who got quite a bit of page time, and then others were brought up now and again, or mentioned a couple of times and then seemingly forgotten altogether. I also found it kind of funny/strange that despite the huge number of characters, there weren’t any that I could have related to as a teenager. On top of that, some of the characters were pretty stereotypical, and the book didn’t really dispel all/many of those stereotypes, which I found to be pretty disappointing. The book’s premise could have done a lot with that kind of thing, but the author didn’t really cover it that much.

I didn’t really buy the science of how the telepathy worked, but I tried to make myself look past that and just take it for what it was and enjoy the story, and while it didn’t entirely work, I managed well enough. I spent a lot of the book wondering what it was all going to lead up to, and I wasn’t super invested in the kids’ lives at first and what their little personal dramas were, but it all slowly grew on me.

I didn’t get super attached to any of the characters other than Cooper, but I liked him a lot. The book also made me think about what life would be like with ESP, and how it would make me feel if I could hear others’ thoughts or if they could hear mine. It’s definitely not something I’d want! But yeah, I wasn’t expecting this book to make me think about something like that, but it did, and I liked that about it. I was reading it before my shift at work today and thought about it until I could get back to it, so it has that going for it!

Overall, I kind of waffled between a 2.5 and a 3 for this one, but I settled on a 3. The book took a while to build up for me, but I didn’t want to put it down in the second half. There was one part that I found to be fairly predictable, but overall the book was enjoyable despite my issues with it, and in the end I’m glad I gave it a try.

I was pre-approved for this title by the publisher via NetGalley. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Review: The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson

The Tyrant's DaughterPublishing Date: February 11, 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 304

When her father is killed in a coup, fifteen-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S.  Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past.  She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost.  Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?

I haven’t read any other books focusing on the specific subjects touched on in this book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect going in to The Tyrant’s Daughter. I ended up really enjoying the story and the characters. They were real to me in a way that a lot of other books’ characters aren’t. I really liked that while there is a huge disconnect between Laila’s world and mine, and I haven’t gone through anything remotely similar to what she has, I was still able to relate to and understand her actions and emotions.

I found the very beginning of the book a bit hard to follow, as it jumps around a lot between scenes, but the story settles in quickly and the book is a fast-paced read. Seeing the US through Laila’s eyes was really interesting and seeing it through the eyes of someone whose experiences were so different from my own added another layer to the story. Initially, Laila sees things almost as caricatures of themselves, and I thought it was interesting to see how her point of view of some things changed (or didn’t change) over the course of the book.

I also loved the section at the end where we learn a bit more about how the author approached the story, as well as some information that I felt added a new perspective to the events in the book that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Overall, I thought this was something truly different from what is available in YA right now, and that was really refreshing.

I was pre-approved for this title by the publisher via NetGalley. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Review: Save the Enemy by Arin Greenwood

Save the EnemyPublishing Date: November 12, 2013 by Soho Teen
Format: ARC paperback
Pages: 288

Everything has been downhill since Zoey Trask’s mother was murdered in a random mugging.  Her younger brother, Ben, is on the autistic spectrum and needs constant supervision.  It’s senior year, and she’s the new girl at a weird private school in Old Town Alexandria, VA, full of kids who seem too nice to be true – including a very cute boy named Pete.  Aside from half-forgotten martial arts and survivalist skills that her widowed father insisted on teaching her (because that is excellent for her social life), Zoey has nothing to offer Pete or anyone else.

Then Dad is kidnapped.  Zoey suddenly finds herself sole caretaker of a younger brother she barely understands.  Worse, Ben seems to hold the key to their father’s disappearance in his Dream Diary, a bizarre journal of names and places Ben claims that their mother shares from beyond the grave.  And as if Zoey didn’t have enough on her plate, there’s Pete, who stubbornly refuses to leave her side.

Relying on the skills she never wanted to learn – Dad might have had his reasons after all – Zoey is plunged into a lethal battle to rescue her father, protect her brother, and determine the identity of her family’s true enemy.

This book was really different from what I was expecting, but it was really fun. Zoey’s family is really interesting, unique, and I liked the way the Trask family was portrayed. I do think the reader needs to suspend a certain amount of disbelief throughout the story, though – Save the Enemy is definitely a bit over the top, but that’s what makes it such a fun read. Zoey felt authentic and I really liked that.

Another thing I really enjoyed is Zoey’s voice. She’s funny and very out there, which I liked a lot, and her interactions with the other characters in the book were fun to read. My only complaint in regards to her character was at times she seemed to put off moving the story forward, which was a bit frustrating because I wanted to know what was going to happen!

My only other major complaint is one I can’t include in the review due to spoilers, but overall this was a really fun, over-the-top read, so as long as you’re on board with that as a reader, this is a book you should enjoy. I am hoping that there might be another book written in the future!

I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads program and I am writing a review to say thank you. Thank you to Goodreads and to Soho Press!

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Review: Little Red Lies by Julie Johnson

Little Red LiesPublishing Date: September 10, 2013 by Tundra Books
Format: ARC paperback
Pages: 352

The war is over, but for thirteen-year-old Rachel, the battle has just begun.  Putting childhood behind her, she knows what she wants – to prove she has acting talent worthy of the school drama club, and what she doesn’t want – to romantically fall for someone completely inappropriate.  Worries about her veteran brother’s failing health and repugnance at her mother’s unexpected and unwanted pregnancy drive her to seek solace from a seemingly sympathetic but self-serving teacher.  The lies she tells herself hoping to reach solutions to the problems complicating her life merely function to make matters worse.  Ultimately, she finds a way to come to terms with life as it reaches an end and life as it begins.

This book appealed to me originally because of the beautiful cover, and then I read the summary on Goodreads and became intrigued and entered the giveaway.

Little Red Lies seemed to be following two storylines at once, that of Rachel, the main character, and Jamie, her brother. Unfortunately for the book, I thought her brother’s storyline was the more interesting one.

Rachel is also a bit of a difficult character, and I found myself wanting to know much more of her friends than I ever knew about her. While I know she’s just a kid, she seems completely oblivious to how selfish or rude she is being to her friends and family, while resenting those same people when they act that way to her. That kind of attitude is definitely something I’ve seen in other YA protagonists (and teenagers in general), but they at least seem to justify it to themselves/the reader, rather than just leaving it as it is. I couldn’t always understand why Rachel was acting out when she did, and it often felt like she was just acting out for the hell of it, rather than because it was actually a justified reaction to what was going on in her life.

Early on in the book especially, Rachel is very focused on being sophisticated and adult, which is frankly ridiculous from my POV as an adult reader, seeing that she’s thirteen years old, and I found her difficult to relate to for that reason as well. Her own storyline was also a bit difficult to follow, and certain things seemed (to me) to be unnecessary when compared to what I felt was the real story with her brother, which frustrated me a bit. I thought Rachel’s “little red lies” would become a part of the story more than they did, due to the title, and I was a bit disappointed on that front.

That said, I really enjoyed the core story Little Red Lies told, about a soldier returning home from war and attempting to reintegrate himself into society and back into his family and circle of friends. The family’s interaction in the book was definitely the high point of the book for me, and it was when the book was focused on the family’s interactions and relationships that it was the strongest for me.

The book was a quick read (while it took me about a week to read it due to other obligations, I essentially read it in 2-3 sittings). There is definitely a lot going on, which can feel like a bit much at times, but it all definitely kept me turning the pages. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a YA historical fiction read.

I received a copy of this book through Goodreads’ First Reads program. Thank you to Goodreads and Tundra Books!

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Review: This is W.A.R. by Lisa and Laura Roecker

This is W.A.R.Publishing Date: July 2, 2013 by Soho Teen
Format: ARC paperback
Pages: 278

This Is W.A.R. begins with a victim who can no longer speak for herself, and whose murder blossoms into a call-to-arms.  Enter four very different girls, four very different motives to avenge Willa Ames-Rowan, and only one rule to start: Destroy James Gregory and his family at any cost.  Willa’s initials spell the secret rallying cry that spurs the foursome to pool their considerable resources and deliver their particular brand of vigilante justice.  Innocence is lost, battles are won – and the pursuit of the truth ultimately threatens to destroy them all.

I really enjoyed the writing style. The book was definitely enjoyable to read and I am looking forward to reading the authors’ other books. It was a great summer read, considering the time of year the book takes place. :)

The premise of the book interested me, though I also found it to be a bit hard to swallow – four teenage girls plotting to get revenge on an extremely rich and influential family. That said, I did find the characters to be more believable and relatable than I was originally expecting. I still had some difficulty (it is a bit hard to relate to characters who can just throw $25,000 around!), but it was easier than I expected it would be.

The way the book was set up was interesting, but threw me off at first because I wasn’t expecting it. The book begins with Willa Ames-Rowan’s death and then has different sections whose POVs alternate between the four main characters. I admittedly had a bit of a hard time relating to most of the characters – there was information supplied on each one, and while there wasn’t information overload, I also didn’t get to know the characters as well as I would have liked. I kept wanting more reasons for all the characters’ motivations and more was unfortunately not delivered. XD So it was enough… but not quite enough at the same time.

That said, I did enjoy this, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a YA mystery. The book had a relatively good pace and I had a hard time putting it down. There were a lot of twists and turns. I read the grand majority of it over two days.

I received a copy of this book through Goodreads’ First Reads program. :D First book I’ve won, yay! :)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars