Thursday, January 29, 2015

All Fall Down by Ally Carter

(4/5 stars)

A new series of global proportions -- from master of intrigue, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter. 

This exciting new series from NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter focuses on Grace, who can best be described as a daredevil, an Army brat, and a rebel. She is also the only granddaughter of perhaps the most powerful ambassador in the world, and Grace has spent every summer of her childhood running across the roofs of Embassy Row.

Now, at age sixteen, she's come back to stay--in order to solve the mystery of her mother's death. In the process, she uncovers an international conspiracy of unsettling proportions, and must choose her friends and watch her foes carefully if she and the world are to be saved.

So if you know me at all, you know how much I love Ally Carter's books. I don't know, there's just something about the characters and the writing that makes me love them all. All Fall Down gets added to that list. After all the anticipation for its release, it definitely did not let me down.

What I liked: This is by far Ally's darkest book. There's lots of psychological damage going on, and Grace is broken. She's so beautifully broken and scarred. She has sass and girl-power determination, but she definitely has an attitude. And for good reason: Grace saw her mother murdered. Those things change a person. In this case, it causes an obsession and a dark shadow that's always following her. But, Grace is strong and funny. She's incredibly well rounded for somebody so screwed up. The world of Embassy Row is fascinating, and I love that they say things like (and I'm paraphrasing) 'I'm headed over to Brazil' or 'We can't be in Iran right now'. It's so cool. The politics and tensions with that subject are extremely well done and interesting to read about, even when they aren't the main plot line. The characters on Embassy Row are just as great. Grace's new friends are gutsy and up for adventure. And then there's Alexei and I like him (wants a thousand scenes of him in the next book pretty please). 

What I didn't like: Like Grace, I felt incredibly frustrated with all the adults in the book. Nobody was willing to give her the time of day and they expected her to be a puppet and move on with her life. It was pull-you-hair-out frustrating. And you know how I love active adults in YA who don't treat teenagers like they're...well, idiotic teenagers. I do have the feeling that's going to change in the sequel though, just based off how this one ended. 

I loved the crazy plot-twist at the end of this book. I feel like it's going to cause even more psychological damage and I'm so excited. What a weird thing to be excited about... Great ending to a great book. A teeny bit cliffhanger-y but it completely changes things in a very good way. Can't wait for the next one!


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

(5/5 stars)

With this stunning debut novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver emerged as one of today's foremost authors of young adult fiction. Like Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why and Gayle Forman's If I StayBefore I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person's life can affect so many others.

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—"Cupid Day"—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

I love Lauren Oliver's books. So much. I liked the idea of this book so much, and it devastated me in the best possible way. 

What I liked: The writing is beautiful. Oliver knows how to string words together to make the most haunting and effective sentences. Also, the idea is super cool. It brings up that age old question of 'what would you do on your last day alive?'. It's also very Groundhog Day-esque in how Sam has to relive that day multiple times. I liked that it took Sam a couple tries before she finally got it, understood what was really going on. By the end of the book, she's such a completely different person and I'm in love with that character development. She doesn't take life for granted anymore, she tries to do everything right on her absolute final day. There's a sacrifice that was poetic and god, I cried like a baby. 

What I didn't like: I was a teeny tiny bit annoyed that she put up with so much stupidity from her friends and boyfriend for so long every day. And when I say every day, I mean that specific day she relives. I also can't say I'm super happy about the end. Which is weird because I thought it was perfect for Sam and the storyline, and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Except, I did want it to end another way. Basically, I didn't want to cry so much. 

I don't want to over-rave because it'll take away from the book. But it's a beautiful message about life and humanity, and I one-thousand percent recommend it to everyone. You can even borrow my copy. That's how much I need people to read this. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

(3/5 stars)

A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

I kind of picked this one up on a whim. It had a lot of hype and I was at the bookstore and I had money and just decided to check it out. It was definitely worth checking out, and as a debut novel, it's quite good.

What I liked: MEIRA. What a great/kickass/amazing female protagonist. She has this sass that reminds me a lot of River Song, and I'm obsessed. Meira is incredibly multi-dimensional with a sketchy background that leads to a major plot twist. She's a fighter, through and through, and her loyalty to her kingdom makes you like her even more. The world itself is stunning. There are so many details (I'll come back to that in a bit) that make it unique and let your imagination run wild. I have to be honest and say that my favorite part of the book was when we got to see the Winterian work camps. That was when Meira shone the brightest, in my opinion. It's where we saw that loyalty and determination. It cemented my love for her. It also gave us a bigger glimpse into the world and characters. It was the part that I think was written the best. Lastly, there are a few plot twists that I enjoyed. They were a bit predictable, but didn't take away from the story. 

What I didn't like: I have to be honest and say that it took me a really long time to get into this one. A really long time. My main problem was all those little details and how they were thrown immediately into the beginning. For most of the book, I feel like there was so much background and info-dumpy passages that could have been carefully strung into the prose much further in. Does that make sense? As much as I loved reading about the history, it slowed down the 'here and now' of the immediate action.

I enjoyed this book. Personally, I'm not as obsessed as I've seen other people to be, but it was still pretty good. I know I'll be reading the rest in the series for sure.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

(4/5 stars)

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Wow. So, I've had some time to mentally process this book and I think I can finally write a review for it. Maybe. Bear with me, this one is going to be set up differently from other reviews. Starting with...

What I didn't like: First things first, I didn't think Cady, Johnny, Gat, and Mirren needed to call themselves The Liars. The fact that they were all hiding something and lying about something was pretty clear without it having to be said straight up. Anyway, when I first started this book, I immediately thought I was going to hate it. I didn't understand the hype. To me, it seemed like a bunch of spoiled rich kids who were ignorant of the real world and spent their vacations on a fancy schmancy private island. Gross. Where's the plot in that? Where's the appeal? Sure, the writing was pretty and flowy and super well done, but Cady didn't have much substance. Then, things changed...

What I did like: The accident changed everything. And when you finally realize the enormity of what "the accident" actually is, it'll blow you away and leave you speechless with tears silently streaming down your face. Cady became something more; she became complex and multidimensional in the best way. With her change, brings change to the rest of the island. We see that it's not all sparkly and shiny. The Liars become complicated and confusing. And in the end, you feel shattered. Because let's be real: nobody actually saw that ending coming. Or at least, I definitely did not!

I don't want to say any more about this book because 1)avoiding any spoilers is difficult and 2)it would take away from the art if I said anything else. It's worth a read, and don't give up on it. Follow it to the end, and you'll be glad (and depressed) that you did.