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Cover Changes, Good and Bad

I've come across two cover changes, one that I approve of and one that... not so much. First, for the bad!

Here's the original:

I normally am not the biggest fan of covers with people on the covers, but I actually really like this one. It gives a sense of motion, and the cool typography is certainly eye-catching. I especially like the neat colors twisting in the back.

Here's the new:

No no no no no. There's nothing hugely wrong with this cover, but the old one was so pretty! I just don't feel like the new one properly conveys the darkness and intrigue that the first one does.

What's your thought on the cover change?

Narc: Review

Title: Narc
Author: Crissa-Jean Chappell
Release Date: August 2012
Published By: Flux
Pages: 288
Goodreads Rating: 3.58 stars
Review: Seventeen-year-old stoner Aaron Foster was offered a choice: go to jail or turn undercover narc to find the dealer who's funneling drugs into Miami's Palm Hammock High School. To get close to the school's biggest players, Aaron lies to everyone--most of all, the cute but troubled Morgan Baskin. With the Everglades party on Halloween night--and a planned drug bust there--just days away, Aaron realizes that he's falling hard for Morgan... and trying to protect her could cost him everything.

NARC opened with an interesting premise and a fast-paced plot, but it ultimately left me disappointed. Even though the actual concept was certainly intriguing, a good book needs not only a great plot but great characters as well, and it was this latter category that failed for me. There wasn't anything particularly wrong with Aaron, Morgan, or Haylie, but they didn't stand out either.

More importantly, their motivations weren't that believable to me. For example, Aaron was purportedly struggling with this issue of whether or not it's ethical for him to be working with the police against the people at his high school. However, the few scenes that attempted to portray him having difficulty with this seemed too rushed to me and didn't really give as much insight into his character as they could have.

I also didn't think their interactions went as well as they could have. The various character relationships seemed forced rather than real, and I didn't always find them believable. I feel like if maybe some more time was spent on developing these relationships, they could have been fleshed out a lot more and provided a better sense of the characters to the reader.

All in all, NARC had a lot of promise but ultimately left me feeling disconnected. Even though the plot was interesting, I just couldn't feel anything about the characters. Their interactions and motivations were unreal to me and definitely could have been a lot better. I still look forward to reading other books by the author but I would not recommend this particular one.

Waiting on Wednesday (61)

This week, I'm waiting on...

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery...who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.

Shooting Stars: Review

Title: Shooting Stars
Author: Allison Rushby
Release Date: February 2012
Published By: Walker Childrens
Pages: 272
Goodreads Rating: 3.63 stars

Review: Meet Josephine Foster, or Zo Jo as she’s called in the biz. The best pint-sized photographer of them all, Jo doesn’t mind doing what it takes to get that perfect shot, until she’s sent on an undercover assignment to shoot Ned Hartnett—teen superstar—at an exclusive rehabilitation retreat in Boston. The money will be enough to pay for Jo’s dream, but she certainly doesn’t know what she’s in for: falling in love with Ned was never supposed to be part of her assignment.

Jo was the absolute perfect narrator for SHOOTING STARS. She was quick, witty, and full of personality, and her telling of the story was both amusing and relatable. In particular, though, I loved that she was someone that everyone could feel a connection to because even though she was a fun character, she still had her flaws and struggled with a great deal of emotional issues.

The concept behind the book was also an interesting one. Although I've read novels featuring characters that are celebrities or come from families of wealth or are close somehow to such families, I've never come across something quite like this. The world of papping was an intriguing one to explore, and it was both a bit dark and fun. 

To go along with the unique concept, there was a plot twist that I definitely didn't see coming - and right when I'd thought the plot was predictable! Other aspects were a little easy to foresee but not in a necessarily negative way. I especially loved the romance even though I could see it coming from miles away, and Jo and her love interest seemed to fit together perfectly as a couple.

All in all, SHOOTING STARS was a lovely novel with a sweet romance and a feel-good ending - just the perfect thing to read on a sad day. The concept is intriguing and the plot executes it well, albeit predictable in certain respects. There's still a major twist that does come out of nowhere - in a good way! - and I'd recommend this book to anyone looking for something different in the contemporary genre. 

Numbers: Review

Title: Numbers
Author: Rachel Ward
Release Date: February 2010
Published By: Scholastic
Pages: 325
Goodreads Rating: 3.41 stars

Review: Ever since she was child, Jem has kept a secret: Whenever she meets someone new, no matter who, as soon as she looks into their eyes, a number pops into her head. That number is a date: the date they will die. Burdened with such awful awareness, Jem avoids relationships. Until she meets Spider, another outsider, and takes a chance. But when everything goes wrong with no sign of getting better, does she have a choice?

One of the best aspects of NUMBERS is immediately obvious just from reading the plot summary: the concept. I've read tons of books about characters with various paranormal powers, but the coolness factor of all those pales in comparison with the idea of someone who can see the date people will die. Not only is it just a novel idea, it also brings up many factors of complexity for the plot itself, such as how she deals with forming relationships.

However, I did find myself disappointed with the plot as a whole. Even though the concept was definitely fascinating, there were a lot of plot twists and turns that just didn't make sense to me. They were either kind of confusing or didn't really fit in well with the story at large, and sometimes they came across as rather unbelievable. They just weren't realistic.

Probably one of the largest let-downs for me was the romance. I just couldn't get into the romance between Spider and Jem, especially because it was almost like the narrator went out of her way to make him unappealing (such as frequently referring to his "rank smell"). I'm all for realistic romances where the characters aren't exactly supermodels, but this one just came across as awkward.

All in all, NUMBERS was a book with a great deal of potential and a fantastic concept that ultimately disappointed me. Perhaps my expectations were just too high, but I found many parts of the plot to be unbelievable or to simply make no sense, and I found myself unable to get into the romance at all. Perhaps I will be able to enjoy the author's future books more, however, because the writing certainly wasn't bad.

Waiting on Wednesday (60)

This week, I'm waiting on...

Pretty Girl-13. The only summary I've been able to find is: About a girl abducted at 13, returned at 16, with no memory of the missing years but with a host of alternate personalities who have kept her sane.

How cool does that sound! What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

The Odd Parts of Books

So recently I realized I'm in the minority of book readers because apparently not many people actually read sections of books, such as Acknowledgements. I find that whenever I read a book that's particularly good, I don't want it to end so much that I end up reading the acknowledgements just for fun.

Similarly, when I start a book that I've been really anticipating, I read through the initial page that contains the publisher information, the two-line summary, the genres, and other assorted information. I'm not entirely sure what this page is called, nor why I read it, but still, it ends up digested in my brain.

So, what about you? Do you read these sections?

Choker: Review

Title: Choker
Author: Elizabeth Woods
Release Date: January 2011
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 233
Goodreads Rating: 3.65 stars

Review: Sixteen-year-old Cara Lange has been a loner ever since she moved away from her best and only friend, Zoe, years ago. Then one day Cara comes home to find Zoe waiting for her. Zoe's on the run from problems at home, and Cara agrees to help her hide. With her best friend back, Cara's life changes overnight. But just as quickly as Cara's life came together, it starts to unravel. You're supposed to trust your best friend no matter what, but what if she turns into a total stranger?

CHOKER is one of my new favorite psychological suspense novels! The plot is fascinating, grabbing you in from the first page and refusing to let go, and while it's not the most super unique plot to be floating around, it's definitely not derivative. Most importantly in a novel of this genre, there are plenty of plot twists that make you reel in shock at what just happened.  

Most notable of these was the ending itself. I was honestly shocked when I read it, and it quite literally gave me chills. In retrospect, I totally should have seen it coming, but I guess it's the mark of an amazing ending when everything clicks and you feel that way. To some extent, it's all the ending that makes me give it such a high rating.

All in all, CHOKER was a fantastic book and there's not really much more to say than that. From a plot that basically never lets you go to an ending accompanied by many plot twists that makes you want to put down the book and stare at the wall, this is a novel that everyone should read - especially fans of psychological suspense!

Waiting on Wednesday (59)

This week, I'm waiting on...

Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon. Here's what Goodreads has to say: On a day like any other, six smarter-than-most teens wake up in the same hospital after having experienced a traumatic event that they can't quite remember ... other than being forcibly sucked into an abyss at the moment of their deaths. Somebody or something seems to be pulling the strings. With individual clocks tickingand with each guarding an individual secretthey band together and conspire to piece together the whole of what happened.

Soon they discover that they've been trapped in a future that isn't of their making: a deadly, desolate world at once entirely familiar and utterly strange. Only one of them holds the key to getting them home. But which one, and why? As the truth is revealed through the eyes of its three key players, the reader is taken on a dark journey into both the hearts of teens who must do anything to survive, and into the heart of a parent who will do anything to protect his child.

Strangelets releases April 2013 from Soho Teen.

Favorite Place to Read

Everyone has one - a place like no other where you can truly just lean back, relax, and read. It has to have the right blend of quiet, comfort, and of course, accessibility to other books, so for me, that place is my living room. I like to lie out on the couch or even just sprawl on the floor with a good book and tow, and if I finish my current one, there's a whole pile of library books in the same room for me to dig into.

So what about you? What's your favorite place to read?

Fever: Review

Title: Fever
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Release Date: February 2012
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 341
Goodreads Rating: 3.81 stars

Review: Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous, and worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the any means necessary.

I read the first book in this series, Wither, a while back, and while I definitely enjoyed it, it didn't come across as particularly amazing to me. However, the ending of that book grabbed me enough to pick up FEVER, and I'm glad I did because I liked this sequel even more than the previous book, which is a rare thing to find! In particular, the plot line was more intriguing, with the characters finding themselves in increasingly suspenseful situations.

In addition to a more interesting plot, I thought that the character development was done better here as well. Rhine and Gabriel seemed to really flesh out in this book and thus became much easier to relate to. The situations they found themselves in had their emotions running high, naturally, but it felt more realistic and grabbing because I could feel for the protagonists more than before.

One thing that the author kept the same - in a perfectly good way! - was the writing. In the previous novel, the prose was gorgeous and lovely, and that didn't change in the slightest here. There were so many turns of phrase that I just had to repeat in my mind because they were so pretty, and I really think it added another dimension to the story as a whole.

All in all, FEVER was a wonderful sequel to Wither, complete with the same gorgeous writing but a more improved plot and cast of characters. The ending in particular was fantastic, leaving me on the edge of my seat and desperately in wait for the next book in the series. If you liked the first book, then you definitely have to pick up a copy of this one!

Wonder: Review

Title: Wonder
Author: R. J. Palacio
Release Date: February 2012
Published By: Knopf Books
Pages: 313
Goodreads Rating: 4.40 stars

Review: Auggie Pullman was born with a facial deformity worse than anything you can imagine that prevented him from attending mainstream school - until now. He's entering fifth grade at Beecher Prep, which would be hard enough for any new student, but especially him. On the inside, he's really just an ordinary eleven-year-old kid, but will the other students learn to finally see that?

As you can probably tell from any book with a unique summary like that, WONDER was at once new and heart-breaking. I've never really read a book with such a hard concept as this one had, so it was amazing to see what the author was able to do with such a difficult topic. And of course, the results absolutely tore you apart emotionally.

In particular, I really appreciated the fact that the author chose to use multiple perspectives to tell this story. The voices used ranged from Auggie, his sister, his friend, and a couple others, and although I sometimes dislike the use of so many varied point of views, it actually worked well here. Each new perspective shed a completely different light on the book, and added rather than detracted from the overall experience.

The one aspect I didn't like as much, however, was just how convenient and perfect the ending was. This is a book about a very hard topic, and I would have expected it to be a little darker than how it actually was. I mean, don't get me wrong, I can appreciate a good, uplifting story, but this was just too candy-sweet. I would expect more of a bittersweet ending, or at least something a little bit more realistic.

All in all, WONDER was a beautifully heart-breaking novel with a wonderful cast of characters that provided great new perspectives to the story. I only wish that the book itself was a little more realistic in terms of how it ended. However, although this book had an eleven-year-old protagonist, it truly is a story for everyone and I recommend it to any fans of contemporary.

Cliches in Novels

It happens all too often: you're reading a book, getting steadily absorbed in a plot, and then realize, to your dismay, that it's exactly like a million other plots you've read before. Congratulations, you've found another plot cliche.

These kinds of tropes and cliches bother me perhaps more than they should. When I read a book, I want something new and different. It doesn't have to exactly revolutionize fiction, but it shouldn't remind me of every other book I've read in my life, either.

That's why I always love it when I come across a book that seems like it's going to plant itself smack dab in the middle of cliche-land, and then ends up being completely different. One example I can think of is Fair Coin by E. C. Myers - you think it's going to be a stereotypical "wishing" book but then whoa, plot twist.

What other examples can you think of?

Break: Review

Title: Break
Author: Hannah Moscowitz
Release Date: August 2009
Published By: Simon Pulse
Pages: 262
Goodreads Rating: 3.95 stars

Review: Jonah is on a mission to break every bone in his body. Everyone knows that broken bones grow back stronger than they were before. And Jonah wants to be stronger—needs to be stronger—because everything around him is falling apart. Breaking, and then healing, is Jonah’s only way to cope with the stresses of home, girls, and the world on his shoulders. When Jonah's self-destructive spiral accelerates and he hits rock bottom, will he find true strength or surrender to his breaking point?

I picked up BREAK for two main the reasons: (1) I'm a follower of the author's blog and she's amazing, and (2) the concept is very intriguing. There are many books out there where characters deal with issues of self-harm, but nothing is quite like what the summary of this novel portrays. And of course, once you actually start turning pages, it's striking how honestly everything is shown.

In particular, I thought the relationship between Jonah and his brother was wonderfully depicted. His brother struggles with food allergies, and not just the kind you may be familiar with - violent allergies to seemingly everything that require him to be on guard everywhere he goes. This leaves Jonah feeling protective of him, and the actual dynamics of the relationship are very moving. While it didn't draw tears from me, it did come close.

However, I did think that his relationship with his parents seemed more odd than real. His parents were written as ridiculously oblivious, and I just have trouble believing that they could be so ignorant of what was going on. They were supposed to be generally okay parents, not abusively negligent or something, but the slips they kept making with Jesse's allergies or the fact that they would question Jonah's broken bones and then drop it struck me as weird.

All in all, BREAK was an emotional, moving story about a boy's struggle to cope with his crumbling world in the most destructive way he knows how. There's not a huge emphasis on love, which is refreshing, but rather his relationship with his brother. I did wish that his relationship with his parents was more realistic, but it didn't mar the story too much and I would still recommend this to any fans of contemporary fiction.