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: 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