Saturday, July 9, 2016


Rating: A+
They tell me that my memory will never be the same, that I'll start forgetting things. At first just a little, and then a lot. So I'm writing to remember.

Sammie was always a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as humanly possible. Nothing will stand in her way--not even a rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly start to steal her memories and then her health. What she needs is a new plan.

So the Memory Book is born: Sammie's notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. It's where she'll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime crush, Stuart--a brilliant young writer who is home for the summer. And where she'll admit how much she's missed her childhood best friend, Cooper, and even take some of the blame for the fight that ended their friendship.

Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it's not the life she planned.

My thoughts on the book:
The Memory Book was touching, depressing, and inspiring, all at the same time. Sammie was such a brave character and fantastic narrator. If you want a strong female lead in YA lit, then Sammie is your girl. I can't get over how brave she was. I know I already used that word, but the dictionary should be rewritten to say "Brave (adj): Sammie." If I had been in her position, I'm not sure that I would have been able to keep my sense of humor, go after the guy I had a crush on, or rekindle old friendships. She really made the most of her life, even though it wasn't the life she wanted or had planned to have. She was valedictorian, an amazing debater, and planned to go to NYU and become an attorney. Those dreams were shattered when she found out she had what basically amounted to be super-early-onset Alzheimer's, but did she just lay down and feel sorry for herself in a fit of depression? No, she didn't. It would have been justified had she done that, and I would have completely understood that, but she didn't. She carried on, trying to get as much out of her life as she could before she couldn't remember it any longer. And writing herself a journal to let her future self remember the good and bad times was a beautiful and inspiring way to deal with what had to be a terrifying diagnosis.

Avery's voice is strong,  and I was hooked from the first page. The writing was wonderfully done, and the descriptions were vivid and beautiful. The relationships formed were realistic and touching, and everything that happened fit perfectly and felt natural. The pacing was spot on, and I wasn't bored for one second of this text. I'm not a huge contemporary fan, but I got this ARC at BEA and decided to give this one a try, and it did not disappoint. Avery is a fantastic author. This book broke my heart and gave me hope. I'd recommend it to anyone. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

AND I DARKEN by Kiersten White

Rating: D
This vividly rendered novel reads like HBO’s Game of Thrones . . . if it were set in the Ottoman Empire. Ambitious in scope and intimate in execution, the story’s atmospheric setting is rife with political intrigue, with a deftly plotted narrative driven by fiercely passionate characters. Fans of Victoria Aveyard’s THE RED QUEEN, Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING, and Sabaa Tahir’s AN EMBER IN THE ASHES won’t want to miss this visceral, immersive, and mesmerizing novel, the first in a trilogy.

NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.

My thoughts on the book:
I have a love/hate relationship with Kiersten White's books. I absolutely adore some of them, and I cannot stand some of the other ones. The main thing that kills me in her books usually is the characters, and in that, this book was no exception. White is an extremely talented author. She has a strong voice, writes beautiful descriptions, and paces her stories very well. The concepts are always intriguing, if not completely captivating, and the plot always makes sense and is engaging. However, some of the characters she writes are just atrocious, and that's a shame.

I hated every single character in this book. Lada was a freaking sociopath, and most of the story was told from her perspective - third person. She was just not a good person. I had no sympathy for her whatsoever. She was a bully at best. She also was apparently ugly, which to me just says that her outsides matched her insides. Radu was such a pansy. Oh my goodness, I just wanted to throat punch him (see? now I'm acting like a bully, haha). He just whined and cried and sniffled and couldn't handle anything. He needed to toughen up. It was really pathetic, and it disgusted me. This has nothing to do with him being a male character. I don't really buy into gender roles, but male or female, he was just a whiny brat. So this gender reversal brings up a bigger gender role issue. Would I have been okay with Lada had she acted like Radu? No. I would have wanted to throat punch her. Would I have been okay with Radu if he acted like Lada? No. I still would have thought he was a manipulative sociopath. Now, on to Mehmed, who was weak. stupid, and a bigot. I hate zealots. I hate people who want to conquer other lands. I hate people who think in terms of manifest destiny, which is more or less what the little bigot was doing. And he couldn't handle his own crap at all. Just yuck. 

The composition of the story also irked me a bit. The alternating points of view between Lada and Radu had no rhyme or reason, and honestly all it served to do for me was make me hate both characters equally. A teenager should not be crying for his/her nurse all the time. Grow up. Jeez. Aside from the POV issue, the writing was extremely well done. I was treated to beautiful descriptions of Transylvania and the Ottoman Empire. The world-building was fantastically written, and I felt I had a good grasp of what life could have been like in those days and in that geographic region. The gender issue was woven delicately throughout, and I fully agree that no one should have their life laid out for them easily, simply because of their gender. Women's rights in that time period were virtually nonexistent, and I felt that White handled that wonderfully and really brought the conversation to a modern context as well by assigning generally accepted "masculine" traits to Lada and generally accepted "feminine traits" to Radu. The pacing was wonderful, and I was engaged for the full story. The ending tied up a lot of loose ends and did a good job introducing the sequel. 

Overall, this book was a good read, but the characters killed it for me. I felt like I spent hours with the most annoying people ever created, and that put me in a crappy mood. However, not everyone has the same taste in characters (or people for that matter), and the rest of the book was pretty solid. I may say give this one a try at the library first, just to make sure you can stand the characters, if you are huge on characterization like I am. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

UNPLUGGED by Donna Freitas

Rating: C-
The first book in a provocative new series from acclaimed author Donna Freitas—Feed for a new generation.

Humanity is split into the App World and the Real World—an extravagant virtual world for the wealthy and a dying physical world for the poor. Years ago, Skylar Cruz’s family sent her to the App World for a chance at a better life.

Now Skye is a nobody, a virtual sixteen-year-old girl without any glamorous effects or expensive downloads to make her stand out in the App World. Yet none of that matters to Skye. All she wants is a chance to unplug and see her mother and sister again.

But when the borders between worlds suddenly close, Skye loses that chance. Desperate to reach her family, Skye risks everything to get back to the physical world. Once she arrives, however, she discovers a much larger, darker reality than the one she remembers.

In the tradition of M. T. Anderson’s Feed and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies, Unplugged kicks off a thrilling and timely sci-fi series for teens from an award-winning writer.

My thoughts on the book:
Unplugged grabbed my interest due to its use of Descartes' philosophy, better known as "the Matrix philosophy." I wanted to see how this book, where you could exist only in your head or in your body - with two fully developed worlds - portrayed that philosophy. It fell a bit short, to be honest. The world-building wasn't done in a way where everything made sense, which made it hard to achieve a willing suspension of disbelief. Some of the things that happened in the book also didn't really make sense, in a scientific way, and were not explained well at all. Furthermore, the "romance" was kind of god awful. A lot of questions were left unanswered throughout the story and even in the abrupt end (the book just kind of stopped without warning. Not a good conclusion for book 1 or lead-in for book 2), and it didn't add mystery as much as it created annoyance. The pacing was okay, and the concept itself was interesting, which kept me reading, but the writing wasn't that great. I'm not sure if I'll read book 2 or not. 

The characters were okay, but none of them felt fully developed. Skye was maybe pretty or maybe not. Not sure, to be honest. She just kind of existed as this shell who liked the ocean and maybe or maybe not liked a boy. Rain was dull and annoying. I think the author was going for mysterious with him, but I just saw him as wishy-washy, kind of weak-minded, and bland. Lacy was maybe a mean girl or maybe she wasn't. Not sure. No one's personalities were really defined, much like the worlds (real and app) weren't really defined. I needed more information on all accounts to fully immerse myself in this world and story. 

Overall, this book was just okay. It wasn't the best thing ever, but it also wasn't awful. I'd recommend checking it out from the library before buying it.