Monday, May 20, 2019

DNF Review: Die For Me (Amy Plum)

Die for Me (Revenants, #1)
Title: Die For Me
Series: Revenants, Book 1
Author: Amy Plum
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: May 12, 2011
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Told: First Person (Kate), Past Tense
Content Rating: Teen (up to Page 126: death by subway train)
Format Read: Paperback (purchased)
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In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity.

When Kate Mercier's parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life--and memories--behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.

Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate's guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he's a revenant--an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others. Vincent and those like him are bound in a centuries-old war against a group of evil revenants who exist only to murder and betray. Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again.

*          *          *

I did not finish this book. I stopped at Chapter 16 (36% through).

The full Revenants trilogy has been lingering on my shelves for years, so when it caught my eye yet again last week I finally decided to give it a try. I recalled this 2011 release was supposed to resemble Twilight, and boy did it. A "normal" girl moves to a new place and catches the eye of a beautiful immortal boy who accidentally but irrevocably entangles her in his dangerous paranormal world. Also like Twilight, I found the writing inexplicably engrossing, and despite the stupidity of a young girl insta-falling for a "bad" boy, I couldn't put the book down.

Until Chapter 15. The confusing paranormal element had been revealed, leaving just the romance to look forward to - and I almost never look forward to romance. There I was, reading about their sweet date and gorgeous view (Paris and Vincent), and I was immediately bored.

All interest suddenly lost, I searched the reviews for how the paranormal elements might intriguingly expand and add action to the romance. I read the summaries of the next two books, looking for twists and reasons for me to continue reading. But sadly, I didn't find any. Clearly Kate continues to be a teenage girl making bad decisions in the name of instalove, and after I really didn't find the paranormal element all that plausible I just didn't feel like devoting any more of my hard-earned reading time to the rest of the series.

Do I regret trying it? Surprisingly, no. I've been curious about it for years and now know exactly what it's about. And although it wasn't my kind of read, with its engaging writing style, unique paranormal elements, and (as far as I read, anyway) innocent teen romance, I could easily recommend it for paranormal romance lovers who enjoy exotic settings.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

WoW: RAGE (Cora Carmack)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blogging event in which one spotlights an upcoming release they are eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Rage (Stormheart, #2)
Title: Rage
Series: Stormheart #2
Author: Cora Carmack
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Publisher: Tor Teen

Princess or adventurer.

Duty or freedom.

Her Kingdom or the Stormhunter she loves.

If Aurora knows anything, it's that choices have consequences. To set things right, she joins a growing revolution on the streets of Pavan. 

In disguise as the rebel Roar, she puts her knowledge of the palace to use to aid the rebellion. But the Rage season is at its peak and not a day passes without the skies raining down destruction. Yet these storms are different—they churn with darkness, and attack with a will that’s desperate and violent. 

This feels like more than rage. 

It feels like war.

Why I'm Looking Forward To It: The wait is finally almost up! I really enjoyed Roar's solid writing and unique storm magic (see review here) and have been looking forward to continuing Rora's story since an early April 2017 read. I even applied for the author's street team this year, I'm that excited! If you love fantasy and romance and haven't yet given Roar a try, I definitely recommend you do (purchase links in my review).

So what book are you waiting on?

Monday, May 13, 2019

Paragraph Review: Ghostly Echoes (William Ritter)

Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby #3)
Title: Ghostly Echoes
Series: Jackaby, Book 3
Author: William Ritter
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Genre: New Adult Historical Supernatural Mystery
Told: First Person (Abigail), Past Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (violence and supernatural violence, dead bodies, death, gruesome images)
Format Read: Paperback (trade)
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Tread lightly, Miss Rook, warned Mr. Jackaby. It would not do to push Miss Cavanaugh too far or too fast. 

Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, has enlisted the investigative services of her fellow residents to solve a decade-old murder--her own. Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, R. F. Jackaby, dive into the cold case, starting with a search for Jenny s fiance, who went missing the night she died. But when a new, gruesome murder closely mirrors the events of ten years prior, Abigail and Jackaby realize that Jenny's case isn't so cold after all.

Fantasy and folklore mix with mad science as Abigail's race to unravel the mystery leads her across the cold cobblestones of nineteenth-century New England, down to the mythical underworld, and deep into her colleagues' grim histories to battle the most deadly foe she has ever faced.

*          *          *

Series: This is the third book in the 4-book Jackaby series. Click on the titles to read my reviews of Book 1: Jackaby and Book 2: Beastly Bones. The books do follow and connect with each other and must be read in order.

The shadowy loose threads of the first two books entangle in this knot-like mystery as deadly history repeats itself and Jackaby finally tackles the case of their beloved resident ghost. This book picks up just a short while after the open end of Book 2, Beastly Bones, and soon sends the team into even darker and more deadly situations than ever before. Abigail's signature voice with its cheeky dialogue, colorful description, and light touch on the gruesome details made for yet another fast and engrossing read that I was reluctant to put down, and the fortitude of her personal growth continues to delight. Quirky Jackaby doesn't disappoint as a steady role of strength and information into the unseen, and as always I enjoyed Charlie in his many applicable forms (hound, protector, boyfriend). The mystery did get a bit convoluted with its many technical and supernatural parts and I didn't quite follow all the reasoning, but the action and intrigue kept me engaged. Although I typically avoid stories involving the fae, I've come this far with Jackaby and after this book's "we're off to save the world" ending I'll definitely be finishing the series with Book 4, The Dire King. Highly recommend this New Adult Alternate History Mystery for fans of Sherlock Holmes, Black Butler, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Scribble Rating
3.5 of 5 Scribbles

Monday, April 29, 2019

Review: Just One Wish (Janette Rallison)

Just One Wish
Title: Just One Wish
Series: standalone
Author: Janette Rallison
Publisher: Speak (Penguin)
Release Date: March 5, 2009
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Told: First Person (Annika), Past Tense
Content Rating: Teen (kissing, foolhardy decisions)
Format Read: Paperback (purchased used)
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Seventeen-year-old Annika Truman will do anything to fulfill her little brother's only wish before his frightening cancer surgery. The trouble is, he wants a certain superstar actor to pay him a visit. Annika has only a few days to drive to California and convince the celebrity to come home with her. On a seemingly impossible adventure that includes paparazzi, bows and arrows, and one enormous snake, Annika learns a few lessons about family, love, and having her own wishes granted.

*          *          *

Janette is a local author I've been wanting to try but just never got around to - until now. I've been making an effort to read more backlog, and thanks to a lot of recent book purging and shifting this ended up in a front pile and piqued my interest for a quick, fun read.

And it was just that. Until it wasn't.

Just One Wish tells the story of how far a girl will go to lighten her brother's fear (and her own) about his cancer surgery. The adventure includes a lot of zany things that only someone seriously desperate would attempt, and only a seriously desperate teenage girl could possibly get away with thanks to a handsome and famous older boy who instantly falls for her. Despite a lot of things going wrong, Annika perseveres, and be sure to have a box of tissues ready for Chapter 16.

But then there was Chapter 17.

Confession: I prefer light, playful stories to have uplifting endings. And some might consider this book's ending on the uplifting side. But for me, it was bittersweet at best, and left me somewhat depressed. After all the fun and zaniness, the last chapter was a heavy wet blanket that retrospectively ruined the rest of the book for me.

And then there was the romance. After only having known Annika a few hours, during most of which he thought her a creepy stalker fan, the fact that despite this Steve immediately fell in love with her was one of the most unrealistic occurrences I've ever read. Given their extremely brief acquaintance I had hoped there would be no romance at all - one seemed so very far fetched - but after admitting that he didn't trust her the 19 year-old boy proceeded to kiss her repeatedly and asked if she'd consider going to college in California.

On the plus side, the simple, playful voice made for a quick read that I was surprisingly reluctant to put down and breezed through in two days. Annika's motivation was a strong one of fierce love and a desire for hope that was definitely worth rooting for, and most of the cast were quite the characters with distinctive and interesting personalities. But with the insta-instalove romance and wet blanket ending I'm extremely wary to try another Rallison book any time soon. Despite my problems with it though, I could easily recommend Just One Wish for someone who likes zany stories with bittersweet endings, if they don't mind extreme cases of instalove.

Scribble Rating
2.5 of 5 Scribbles

Monday, April 22, 2019

Review: Honor Bound (Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre)

Honor Bound
Title: Honor Bound
Series: The Honors, Book 2
Author: Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)
Release Date: February 19, 2019
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Told: mostly First Person (Zara), Past Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (strong language, strong violence, creepy aliens, cage fighting, sensuality, light threesome)*
Format Read: Hardcover (library)
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Savvy criminal turned skilled Leviathan pilot Zara Cole finds new friends and clashes with bitter enemies in the second book of this action-packed series from New York Times bestselling authors Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre that’s perfect for fans of The 100 and The Fifth Wave.

Zara Cole was a thief back on Earth, but she’s been recently upgraded to intergalactic fugitive. On the run after a bloody battle in a covert war that she never expected to be fighting, Zara, her co-pilot Beatriz, and their Leviathan ship Nadim barely escaped the carnage with their lives.

Now Zara and her crew of Honors need a safe haven, far from the creatures who want to annihilate them. But they’ll have to settle for the Sliver: a wild, dangerous warren of alien criminals. The secrets of the Sliver may have the power to turn the tide of the war they left behind—but in the wrong direction.

Soon Zara will have to make a choice: run from the ultimate evil—or stand and fight.

*          *          *

Series: This is the second book in The Honors trilogy. You can read my 5-scribble review of the first book, Honor Among Thieves, here.

Honor Among Thieves is one of my favorite books of all time, so even though it meant reading a rather large hardcover, I was eager for the sequel. While it proved entertaining enough to keep me engaged with an easy writing style and lots of action, Honor Bound was just not as good as the first book on every level.

It began a little quiet as the team regrouped and recuperated from the previous book's violent climax, but I breezed through it thanks to Zara's smooth, simple voice and soon became excited as the group headed for a criminal space station, one of my favorite space settings. Although their time there was a string of "what else can go wrong?" subplots, I enjoyed the imagination behind each twist and turn and marveled at the new aliens and tech.

But then the criminal space station fed into a retrieval heist. I also generally like this type of plot, so I tried to just enjoy the intrigue and thrill of the snatch and run.

But then the heist fed into a chase across the galaxy. And then a new villain, along with an escalation of the old baddies. And then it became a race to save not only themselves, but the entire universe. There was also lesser of two evils bargains, fights for survival, enemies to allies, even repeating history, all the while between the chapters things on Earth were shifting badly in the background. On the whole, this book had a little of pretty much everything that can happen in a book set in space.

And I think that was its downfall. While I will admit I surprisingly had no trouble keeping everything straight despite so very much going on, since the book didn't focus and really delve into any one plot for very long but instead breezed through them like a whirlwind of action and revelation, none of it left any sort of impact on me. The book was entertaining, but only as a long string of action centered around interesting characters, and I had no trouble setting the book aside for a few days right in the middle of tense situations. Even the serious mid-battle cliffhanger ending only left me thinking, "I guess I'd be interested in seeing how things turn out in the final book. Now, what's next on my reading pile?"

And then there was the romance. I really liked the lack of it in the first book, although I have to admit there was something blooming between human Zara and alien sentient ship Nadim I decided not to acknowledge. In this book, that bloom grew into something unconventional that, considering it was in a teen novel, personally made me uncomfortable. While not much came of it in this book, a human-alien threesome (or even foursome?) was all but promised for the next book, and I'm not looking forward to the exploration.

After my ardent love for the first book I'm not sorry I read this sequel, although I am disappointed that it crammed in so much that it gave me so little to love. With the cliffhanger ending and an old Earth acquaintance on their way to join the party I'm curious enough to try the final book, Honor Lost (currently releasing February 2020), but I sadly won't be scrambling for a copy like I was with Honor Bound.

*A Note on Content: Unconventional sensuality and heavy violence aside, there was quite a lot of strong language in this book, much more than the previous one. It wasn't suffocating like I've experienced with other books, but it especially peppered the second half like concentrated machine-gun fire. Why Zara suddenly started swearing every other sentence when she hadn't all that much before, I have no idea.

Scribble Rating
3.5 of 5 Scribbles

Monday, April 15, 2019

Paragraph Manga Review: That Wolf-Boy is Mine! Series (Yoko Nogiri)

That Wolf-Boy is Mine! Vol. 1 (Watashi no Ookami-kun, #1)That Wolf-Boy Is Mine! Vol. 2 (Watashi no Ookami-kun, #2)
That Wolf-Boy Is Mine! Vol. 3  (Watashi no Ookami-kun, #3)That Wolf-Boy Is Mine! Vol. 4 (Watashi no Ookami-kun, #4)

Title: That Wolf-Boy is Mine!
Original Title: Watashi no Ookami-kun (Japanese)
Author: Yoko Nogiri
Volumes Reviewed: 4 (complete)
Publisher: Kodansha
Release Date: August 9, 2016 - March 21, 2017
Genre: Young Adult Supernatural Romance
Content Rating: Teen (minor bullying, child abandonment, minor animal abuse)
Format Read: Paperback (library)
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Summary for Volume 1:

After some traumatic experiences at her Tokyo school, Komugi Kusunoki transferred from the city to start a new life in rural Hokkaido with her father. But on her first day of school, the school heartthrob Yū Ōgami blurts out, "You smell good!" Despite the hijinks, Komugi tries to adjust to her new school, but it’s not long before she stumbles across Yū dozing off under a tree. When she attempts to wake him up, he transformed…into a wolf?! It turns out that Yū is one of several other eccentric boys in her class year–and she’s the only one who knows their secret…!

*          *          *

This is a short but sweet teen supernatural romance about a human girl who accidentally discovers several of her classmates are animal shape-shifters and falls for a half-human, half-wolf boy. Despite heavier themes of childhood trauma, bullying, and finding courage in the face of both, it's a light and quiet feel-good story with loyal characters and an innocent first love that does not match the title. The artwork has a soft, minimalist touch with cute animal characters, and while there isn't much to the narrowly focused plot, the gentle teen romance with its fuzzy-eared boys made the four volumes a pleasant breeze of an afternoon read. Given the animal shape-shifting and heavier themes, I definitely recommend it for fans of Fruits Basket.

Scribble Rating
4 of 5 Scribbles

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Review: I Believe in a Thing Called Love (Maurene Goo)

I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Title: I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Series: standalone
Author: Maurene Goo
Publisher: FSG
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Genre: Young Adult Romance
Told: First Person (Desi), Past Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (some language, sensuality, innuendo, teen partying and mention of drugs)
Format Read: ARC (trade)
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Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

*          *          *

Confession: I've never seen a Korean drama. Never even been intrigued by them. What little snippets I've caught on social media were too over-the-top for my tastes, and without an easy way to watch them (I'm old-school, no streaming) I decided not to even try.

After reading this book: I'll be trying even less.

Because if K-dramas are anything remotely like this story, I couldn't handle all the cringing. An opening scene involving vomiting and phlegm-hawking, followed a few chapters later by the main character accidentally dropping her pants at school in front of her new crush? *shudder* But despite all the cringing this book produced, I couldn't not see it to the end. Why?

I wish I knew.

This is a hard book for me to review, just as it was a hard book for me to read. The writing and story were just engaging enough to keep me interested, but I almost gave up half a dozen times after one too many cringes and had to force myself to continue. The light voice and playful plot reminded me so much of favorite author Kasie West, but the non-Kasie older content (language, sensuality/innuendo, teen partying, etc.) put me off. Despite the negatives outweighing the positives though, I still had to see how it ended. But again, why?

I think it was because I was hoping the romance would fail. I wanted this to be the story I've been craving for years: a contemporary romance that ends with the girl not getting the boy. After Desi's dangerous manipulation (she almost killed him 3 times!), I wanted her to lose and learn from her mistakes, to realize she didn't have to go to such extreme lengths to get the guy and be better prepared for the next time.

Did this happen? No. Was I disappointed with the happy ending, despite being a romantic? Yes. Does that make sense? Probably not to most, so apologies.

Despite my disappointment, I must admit it was a rather adorable romance. And I understood Desi's desperate need for structure after her seriously epic flailures (flirting failures) in the past. But she went way overboard and crossed some dangerous lines, and I think it would've been better for both of them if they hadn't ended up together. But that's the power of love, right? It surpasses all understanding, most especially mine in this particular case.

Conclusion: A sweet if ridiculous teen romance that just wasn't for me, but I would easily recommend it to those who enjoy their romances over-the-top. Definitely recommend for K-drama junkies.

A Note about Future Maurene Goo Novels: After struggling with this book and DNFing the author's latest novel, Somewhere Only We Know, I sadly think I'll be passing on any other novels by Ms. Goo.

Scribble Rating
2.5 of 5 Scribbles