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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: Etched on Me by Jenn Crowell

Etched on MePublished: February 4, 2014 by Atria Books
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336

I received a paperback of Etched on Me through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

As a heads up, this is not a book I would recommend to everyone, as I think a lot of the content could be pretty triggering. That said, I thought the book was an interesting look at mental illness through one young woman’s eyes. I was both surprised and sad to learn that parts of the story was inspired by actual events.

Etched on Me was incredibly difficult to read at times (enough so that I originally picked it up toward the end of February and put it back down for a while), but I really loved Crowell’s writing. Lesley felt very real to me, which is part of what made the book so heartbreaking to read. I ended up crying several times while reading it. Crowell really made me want Lesley to succeed. I loved the phoenix metaphor that was used several times throughout the story. I also was not familiar with Crowell as an author and was surprised to learn at the end of the book that she is from Portland – the book takes place in England and Lesley’s voice feels very realistic.

The only thing I didn’t like was how a few things turned out toward the end of the story, and I wasn’t sure how realistic that was, but after learning it was based off true events, I reconsidered that stance a bit.

I originally thought it was a YA novel because I learned about it on SimonTeen’s Facebook page, but after reading it, I wouldn’t describe it that way. But it is a coming of age story, and I enjoyed seeing Lesley’s transformation over the course of the story. Despite this one being a difficult read for me in a lot of ways, it was definitely worthwhile for me and I’m looking forward to reading more of Crowell’s books in the future.

Rating: 5 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