Shadowlands by Kate Brian

Shadowlands by Kate Brian

Publisher: January 8th 2013 by Hyperion

Format: ARC

Reviewed by: Brittany from The Book Addict’s Guide

Dear Amy at Tripping Over Books – Thank you for writing your review because otherwise I may have never picked up this book, and I’m SO glad I did! Upon finishing Shadowlands, my first reaction was, “Okay. WHO ELSE HAS READ THIS?” I had several things I needed to discuss and I was all in a tizzy about what had just happened.

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Torched by Andrea Lynn Colt

Torched by Andrea Lynn Colt

Publisher: Andrea Lynn Colt Books (September 6, 2012)

Format: Kindle Edition

Reviewed by: Brittany from The Book Addict’s Guide

First off, a big thanks to the author, Andrea Lynn Colt, for approaching me to review her book, TORCHED. I have to say that at that point I hadn’t been reading a lot of contemporaries since my first loves are dystopians and paranormals, but TORCHED sounded like it had a bit of a mystery in it and could easily sneak its way into my heart. I have to confess that it actually took me a really long time to read, but mostly due to the fact that it was on my Kindle and I just keep forgetting about all the books I have on my Kindle because I frequently revel in the glory that is my bookcase and then panic because of all the books that sit on it that I haven’t read yet. Anyway, I’m glad I finally finished and I promise that I’m working much harder on reading my Kindle books!

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Help! Blatant pleading and searching for a reader/reviewer on I Love YA Fiction

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number of books I want to read/review is just overwhelming. I think our reading queue is something like 40 deep! Poor Ellen is trying to finish out Grad School without flunking and I keep seeming to have crazy things like hurricanes and earthquakes take over my life.

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Adventures in Funeral Crashing by Milda Harris

Adventures in Funeral Crashing by Milda Harris

Publisher: Self Published

Format: Kindle edition

Guest Post by fabulous, Melissa Baron!

Plot: Every teenager has after school hobbies; sports, reading, music, video games, napping. Kait Lenox likes to crash funerals. Ever since her mother died, she’s found a small measure of comfort in attending funerals and listening to the stories and remembrances of others who’ve lost their lives, and has become something of an expert in the fine art of subtly crashing strangers’ funerals without getting caught. Until the one time she picks the funeral of the sister to the most attractive boy in school to crash, and the cat’s out of the bag. To Kait’s surprise, this turn of events leads to her helping Ethan try and solve what he is convinced was the murder of his sister, as other girls around town continue to die of mysterious drug overdoses. Kait just has to be careful she doesn’t become the next target as she and Ethan try and find the killer…

Review: Guys! I liked this one! Quite a bit, actually. I gobbled it up almost as fast as Kait can suck down a peanut butter banana milkshake. Kait is a really likable girl, with funny inner monologues and this resignation to her lot in high school life as a social pariah, keenly aware of her place in the social caste. Despite, or maybe because of, her mother’s illness and subsequent passing away, Kait just keeps her head down and doesn’t let it get to her, unless her former best friend is there to throw her misfit status in her face. My heart hurt a little for her that she sat alone during lunches; I can unfortunately relate. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but trust me; it can suck the will to go to school right out of you. Kait finds solace in books, movies, and funeral crashing.

I love how she stumbled upon Ethan; or rather, how he found her indulging in her secret favorite pastime at his own sister’s funeral. Kait has no other choice but to come clean with him, and pounces on the opportunity to help when he confides to her that he thinks his sister was murdered, but the only proof he has is the certainty that his beloved sister was not the type to die of a drug overdose. Kait simultaneously enjoys helping to solve the mystery and all the time she’s able to spend around Ethan, a previously untouchable, gorgeous, popular guy. The crush she has on him started with one simple kindness he gave her mother when she was dying, so I can see where Kait would put him up on this unattainable pedestal in her head. This moment, actually, was something of a missed opportunity that I wish Kait would’ve brought up to Ethan later on; that would’ve been a nice conversation.

But the cool thing about Kait’s expectations is that Ethan doesn’t live up to them at first. He’s still a great, thoughtful guy, but he’s also a grieving mess at times, and lashes out when he’s frustrated. At first I thought, huh – he’s not quite matching up to the portrait of this selfless, sweet volunteer Kait gives us in the beginning, but then I realized that’s the point. He almost trashes the investigation in its infancy, convinced he was wrong and they’re wasting their time, and you can tell even he thinks he might just be using Kait to find out the truth about his sister and their relationship isn’t really one at all; it’s just convenient. Kait sagely picks up on this and wildly fluctuates between accepting that and praying that through all this, Ethan might actually look at her and SEE her. So he’s not perfect, and argues with Kait and disagrees with her, but then he chooses to spend time with her in school and becomes surprisingly ferocious (in the hot way. YOU know) when he feels Kait is putting herself in harm’s way or is in a bad situation. Watching those two getting to know one another (they get to crash a funeral together! Huzzah!) and bounce ideas off each other was a joy. And they do it in the most realistic fashion, in the way actual teenagers would approach solving a mystery like this. Many times they’re stumped and have to reevaluate their plans, and sometimes sheer dumb luck helps them out.

There were just a few things that didn’t jive for me, however. It’s hard to go into it without spoiling the whodunit, so I’ll just say that I felt it wrapped up too quickly, the ending felt a little rushed, and the big showdown of the story fell completely flat for me. There was a scene before that involving Kait and an email that I thought packed in more genuine dread and suspense than the climactic scene did. I know this is chick lit, and maybe this is the diehard horror/thriller fan in me talking, but I was expecting more fear, more of a real sense of danger. The characters didn’t react the way I thought they should have in a situation like that, especially Kait, and the revealed killer almost degenerated to a caricature of a cartoon villain who makes really sloppy, bad decisions.

Beyond that, this was a quick, entertaining read with a love angle set to slow build mode, which I love. It allowed the characters to get to know one another, and the attraction and affection felt like it grew naturally. It gets bonus points for being set in a town not far from where I live, AND for featuring a heroine just as socially awkward as I used to be (still kind of am).

Based on the following criteria: 

How much did I like the heroine: 10. Kait is an extremely relatable heroine. She doesn’t have all the answers; she second guesses herself all the time, she’s a little bit boy crazy and subsequently distracted by that at times (in amusing ways), a junk food junkie, and prone to giving in to her temper when she feels she or someone she cares about is being slighted. She stands up for herself, shows surprising empathy for some of her fellow classmates, and displays some pretty savvy detective skills, even when some of her snap decisions aren’t so well thought out. She’s also very funny, and I laughed out loud a number of times at her observations and one-liners.

How much did I like the love interest: 10. Ethan is so adorable. Oh gosh, I really love him. He’s multi-faceted, crazy attractive, and clearly loved his sister very much. It’s amazing what you glean from him based on his behavior towards Kait, even when she’s not seeing it for what it is yet. He’s a pretty smart guy, too, unintentionally funny, and he *volunteers* in his spare time. And a snazzy dresser.

How believable is the plot: 7. Seriously, I only had two hang-ups here, otherwise the plot is great. Everything Ethan and Kait do to try and solve the case is utterly believable; they don’t go to great, ridiculous lengths beyond their means, no Deus ex Machina neatly answers all their questions. They’re frequently stumped, and I liked that it wasn’t easy. But. I had two qualms involving the murderer that I can’t talk about much without giving the mystery away, so all I’ll say is that I find it hard to believe that forensics would not have done an autopsy to determine cause of death (they kind of have to), and I found the grand finale a little unbelievable.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 6. Loved Kait’s voice. Little repetitive with a few words and phrases, but entertaining. There are some grammar issues and typos here and there (break instead of brake, for instance), and there’s a big issue with comma splicing. It’s all over the place, and it actually kind of distracted me at times. Instead of completing a sentence before the dialogue starts, a comma is put in place of the period, creating a run-on sentence. It would’ve work if a conjunction had been used to connect the two sentences, but as they are, they really needed to be two complete sentences and not joined by the comma splices. Commas are a wee bit abused here and there.

How much did I want to keep reading: 10. I really loved the dynamic between Kait and Ethan, and I know I’ve got a good thing in my hands when I can overlook certain problems and still really enjoy the story. I was genuinely interested to see how they were going to solve this, and it was also a joy to watch their relationship develop.

Final Score: 8.6/10

 

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Existence by Abbi Glines

Existence, by Abbi Glines
Publisher:
Wild Child Publishing
Format:
Kindle edition

Guest post by Melissa Baron.

Hey. So. I read this book here. Isn’t that a nice cover? It’s pretty cool. It hooked me. The premise got me, too. I read some good reviews, got real hopeful. What’s not to love about a story where Death falls for someone?
…I feel like I read a completely different book from the people that raved about this one. I am straight up baffled. Because this? I just…help me understand what I’m missing here. Let me tell you why this was a painful exercise in perseverance.

Plot: Heh. So, Pagan Moore can see dead people (hey, that’s familiar). She’s seen these ‘souls’ all her life, never told anyone she could, and just deals. The souls can see her, but don’t interact and never talk to her. Until one actually does. Except he’s not a soul; he’s Death, and unbeknownst to her, Pagan’s time is almost up. And he’s about to break all the rules for her.


Review:
It started out promising. Pagan is a nose to the grindstone kinda gal, has this pesky ability she’s learned to live with apparently quite well, since she’s never told anyone about it and it doesn’t appear to bother her much. I found that a little odd in and of itself, that such a potentially frightening ability was so humdrum to her, or presented that way. She has a perky best friend who toes the line of complete caricature. A jock she easily dismissed as an arrogant jerk turns out to be quite the opposite, and I liked Pagan’s realization that snap judgments on people don’t always work. I know that misunderstood jock with a heart of gold is such a cliché, but I had a similar experience in high school. My hot guy actually looked a lot like Leif’s description, and funnily enough, it was in Speech class during a speech he gave where I realized I’d judged him rather harshly all semester. So, I was prepared to like this at that point.

But. Pagan’s growth completely stopped the minute she discovered Dank. Pagan’s a judging drama llama. Normally, it’s refreshing to have a deeply flawed character, but I feel like she straight up de-evolved when Dank came into the picture. I also grew tired of Pagan taking a backseat in her own story, never knowing what’s going on around her. I’m reading about her everyday life, that’s largely unchanged by whatever events Dank has set in motion by doing what he did (which is never clear to anyone until the very, very end). She doesn’t really try to get answers from Dank. It’s frustrating to feel like there’s a much cooler story going on when Dank is elsewhere, dealing with the reason Pagan is in ‘danger.’

Dank could be an interesting character to follow, if he wasn’t purported to be the love interest I’m supposed to find so amazingly hot. Or maybe I would’ve found him more attractive if Pagan actually challenged him, instead of letting him run the show and act like the immature child he accuses Leif of being. I was just not feeling him at all. He did nothing to endear himself to Pagan other than stand around and look sexy, and outside of that he’s intrusive, secretive in a really annoying way, a stalker, and condescending. He’s able to walk among the living, and transfers to her school with the cover of being in a band (of course. Of course you’re in a band), and for reasons that are never explained, he dates Kendra, a popular girl Pagan can’t stand, and I swear he only does it to make Pagan crazy jealous, because if there was an actual reason it’s just never stated or addressed at all.

I felt no sense of urgency over Pagan’s predicament, and I wasn’t even sure what her predicament was beyond falling in love with a jerkface and then being a jerk herself to the guy she chose to have a relationship with because he’s ‘safe.’ It’s totally cool, Pagan, you go right ahead and lead Leif on because he’s comfortable while you hunt Dank down and make out with him. It’s not cheating, because he’s not human. Also? This needed a good editor like whoa. The repetition killed me dead. Pagan repeats herself over and over, hammering the reader with ideas and thoughts already presented a dozen times over. Each character has a certain thing they do, and it’s repeated all the time. Miranda bats her eyelashes; Dank chuckles, and growls, and lounges; Gee (yeah, you read that right) cackles, Ky (see previous note) has tinkling laughter. The dialogue didn’t read like natural dialogue to me. Long-winded monologues about the many ways Dank and Pagan love each other – oh, let me count the ways – don’t happen like that outside of a Shakespeare play or an Elizabeth Browning poem, and it was hard to

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swallow. Everything was overly dramatic. Losing Dank is not just soul crushing, she loses the will to live completely, and I about ground my teeth into dust reading about her horrible, horrible existence as Dank ignores her, or flirts with Kendra, or isn’t in class, or disappears altogether.

Guys, gals, I guess I’m just sick and bloody tired of the heroine crumbling to pieces without her man. I lose respect for a character when they tie up all their happiness and reason for living into one person who doesn’t even treat them very good. It’s not romantic, it doesn’t show me how true their love is, it makes me want to slap everyone.

There’s also this brief stint where Pagan agrees to go to a home for girls dealing with mental illnesses, and that entire sequence literally made me want to punch a puppy. And I love puppies. Don’t even get me started on the events leading up to that, where apparently medical personnel can approach a girl having hysterics after witnessing a car accident with a syringe and sedate her, are you kidding me? Oh, we don’t need your permission to administer sedatives, even though you might be allergic to this, we’ll just stick you right – oh, my, you are allergic? Huh. That’s a shame.

Anyway, Pagan goes to this facility, and the therapists are either incompetent or mouthpieces for how not crazy Pagan is (because she’s kind and compassionate. You know, crazy people are incapable of kindness and compassion), and every girl there is a walking stereotype for whatever illness she’s supposed to have. Every phrase for crazy gets bandied about, and Pagan gets to be the one eyed chick in the kingdom of the blind because she’s not a ‘mental case’ like them and she doesn’t really belong there, she just can’t deal with life because Dank left her. As someone who has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression in the past, and who has gone through counseling to overcome those issues, I absolutely hated the way mental illness was treated and portrayed here. Hated it so much I wanted to stop reading.

Things didn’t get interesting until the last fifteen pages, hand to God. I actually perked up a bit, and sorely wished a lot of this information had been brought to light sooner to give this book bigger scenery to chew than the inside of a classroom. Also, the ending – not an ending at all. Not even a good cliffhanger. I honestly expected another chapter to pop up, and I let out a ‘what the fritz?!’ when it was just over. So many questions went unanswered, and it didn’t have to be that way. There was plenty of room to make things clearer, and Dank could have still maintained his air of reticence and been a little more forthcoming to give Pagan, and the reader, some answers. And something to look forward to.

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 4. Pagan. Darling. I need you to break out of this ‘I am nothing without my man’ trope. I need you to have your own desires, hobbies, future plans. I need you to grow a little. You started out so good. Smart girl, able to admit when she’s wrong, a good friend. And then…and then Dank showed up and – what’s that? Is that…is that a dead brain cell on the ground? Are brain cells just dribbling out your ears? Oh, dear. And suddenly you’re a judge-y, jealous, sobbing mess all the time, who uses Leif for comfort but will leave him hanging every time Dank so much as bats an eyelash your way.

How much did I like the love interest: 5. The entire 5 goes to Leif. I guess he doesn’t even count as a love interest, since Pagan overestimated her interest in him, but I liked him, poor guy, I don’t even care about that stupid cliffhanger in the end concerning him. I’m going by what I was shown, and I was shown a decent guy who treated his girlfriend like a queen and will get his heart broken for it. Dank, on the other hand, only simmered the few times he gave in to his feelings for Pagan, which I didn’t buy for the longest time. You’re saying the words, Dank, but your actions don’t really back it up. I know people like that: they’re called liars.

How believable is the plot: 4. Dank is Death who stalks and protects Pagan from…something. Other soul-type people who will do Bad Things to her? We only see this bad thing once. Pagan has a car wreck, recovers, flip flops between Leif and Dank, pines after Dank, loses him, then loses her ever-loving mind. If I’d known what the plot was other than Pagan and Dank circling around each other and Dank saying vague things about protecting her because he broke the rules, I’d have rated higher. But the plot doesn’t show up until the end, and then I was just sad for the missed potential. And it was amazing how long Pagan went before figuring out who he really was.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 1. Hardly any description, which is a shame, because Pagan’s supposed to live in a coastal town of Florida, which would’ve made for a pretty backdrop. I don’t even know if this was actually edited. Every so often typos and grammar issues pop up, but the worst is the repetition. Ideas and information are constantly repeated; as if we’d forgotten the first five times we were told. And let’s talk about how often the word ‘soul’ was used. Answer: 201 times. There are 170 pages in this book. There are huge scenes completely unnecessary to the plot – I do not need to hear about homecoming dress shopping, what speeches Leif is working on, every lesson in literature class, every meal they partake in, more poetic waxing from Dank or about him (that is the book, right there. Throw in a skiing trip with a car accident and a brief stay in a home for mentally ill girls.) If all of the repetition and unneeded scenes were taken out, I think it would’ve eliminated half the book.

How much did I want to keep reading: 3. If only to find out when the plot would kick in.

Final Score: 3.4/10. It needed a thorough edit. Cut out on the repetition, help me root for someone I actually like, and give me a plot. Dress shopping, football games, vacations, and wangsting do not a plot make. I wanted to like this, and I saw potential, but the execution left a lot to be desired.

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Blood Red Road (Dustlands #1) by Moira Young

Have you ever read a book and been all, “huh. That was…interesting. I wonder what a guy would have thought of that story. Wait, I don’t know any guys who read YA fiction (or at least none that would admit it) so I guess I’ll just have to sort of make up a male point-of-view. Can I do that? Is my mind even capable of comprehending whatever’s going on up there?”

Well, you don’t have to wonder any longer cause: this is a male review! An all-male review! Get what you want out of that line because seriously, I’ve been waiting to use it FOR WEEKS.

Blood Red Road (Dustlands #1), by Moira Young
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Format: Paperback

Review by guest blogger: Aaron Bergh

Summary:

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That’s fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba’s world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she’s a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Review:
I dare anyone to read the first chapter of this book and then try to put it down.  Blood Red Road is easily in my top ten best YA reads of all time.  Fighting, Killing, Kidnapping, Rescuing…I mean come on!

This book is a refreshing break from the norm in YA fiction.  It’s basically written in its own dialect and is narrated by the main character Saba.  She almost sounds like my redneck in-laws in Alabama, but not so honky-tonk.  I admit, it takes a few pages to get the rhythm and flow down of the creatively spelled words, but it’s worth it.  There are no quotation marks used anywhere and plenty of breaks within the long chapters.  Don’t let “long chapters” scare you!  The pace of the story moves quickly as you feel Saba’s determination to find and rescue her twin brother Lugh.

AND YOU WILL FEEL HER DETERMINATION.

Saba is an ass-kicker.  She’s not a trained fighter.  She has no special powers or giftings.  She’s a survivor.  She’s a scrappy country girl who’s on a mission to rescue her brother from the men that kidnapped him.  She is ruthless in her pursuit.

Tagging along with Saba is her younger sister, Emmi.  The development in the relationship between Saba and Emmi might possibly be my favorite aspect to the story.  In the beginning of the book, Emmi is annoying as hell…and Saba lets her know it.  As time goes on, the relationship changes as both Emmi and Saba change.  It’s beautifully done!

There is a whole host of interesting characters in this story.  I should mention Jack, since I’m sure that’s all Judith and Ellen are waiting for.  I’ll let the ladies decide if he’s a stud or whatever.  What’s entertaining about Jack and Saba is watching Saba try to figure him out.  Jack is well-traveled and knows how to manipulate people.  It’s Saba’s first time away from home, on her own, and she sure as hell isn’t going to let some handsome boy sweep her off her feet.  Then there’s the Free Hawks, a group of assassin-like girls that Saba joins up with.  And of course, Nero, the loyal pet crow.  I admit that it sounds silly, but it plays out well.

The only part of the story I didn’t find myself loving was the Bad Guy-Vicar Pinch.  He says weird things and dresses funny.  He reminds me of the creepy King from those Burger King commercials.

So based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 10.  Saba is flawed to pieces.  She has a bit of a temper.   She’s uneducated.  Mean.  But if there is anyone in the world you want coming to rescue you…it’s her.  She is loyal to the death.  Determined.  Nothing is going to stop her!  She’s a redneck Rambo.

How much did I like the love interest: 9.  Jack is a great match for Saba.  He’s good to her, but doesn’t always put up with her crap.  For me, the romance between Jack and Saba wasn’t a main focus, and I have no problem with that.  The only boys Saba grew up around were her brother and father, so it would have been a bit unnatural for her to dive in to a deep romantic relationship.

How believable is the plot: 9.  It’s technically a dystopian book, which to be quite honest, is irrelevant to the heart of the story.  Yes, it takes place in the future, and yes, things are different, but the story could have been set in any time period in any desert and I would have felt the same way about it.

How much did I like the writing style/editing: 12/10.  Yes.  I know.  Seriously though, the writing is special.  It’s original and clever.  Once you get the hang of reading it you will fly through it.

How much did I want to keep reading: 10.  The story moves with action and emotion.  I felt Saba’s fury.  I felt her heart for her brother.  It’s the same way I feel when I’m in line at Chipotle and am about to order that burrito.  Passion.

Times I had to tell my kids to go to bed early because I was trying to read Blood Red Road! 100

Final Score: 10/10  In a YA fiction market saturated with “I wanna be like the Hunger Games” dystopian novels, Blood Road Read kicks all there asses.

*The second book in the Dustlands series, Rebel Heart, is due out in October of 2012.

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Melissa Baron Guest Review: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Publisher: EgmontUSA

Format: Kindle edition


Hello! I am so, so pleased to help out the ladies of I Love YA Fiction, and very grateful they invited me to be the summer guest blogger for reviews. So here we go, kids! I heard about this novel through a teaser on another blog that quoted the first line of the book, which hooked me even more than the cover did, although the cover its quite pretty: ‘My small Southern hometown is beautiful in the haunting way an aging debutante is beautiful. The bones are exquisite, but the skin could use a lift.’ I was pretty much sold. And I read this sucker in one day, y’all. I sacrificed sleep to finish it, and that is a huge deal for someone who naps with alarming regularity.


Plot:
Emerson can see phantoms of lives already lived; people long dead appear to her at anytime, anywhere, a ‘gift’ that has nearly ruined her life as she struggles to try and find a way to cope with it on top of her parents’ tragic death four years ago. After trying countless different ways to find a cure or some answers for Emerson, her well meaning brother seeks out a little known organization called the Hourglass, and Emerson reluctantly agrees to give it a try. Michael Weaver, the young man brought in to help her, proves to be quite different from anything she’s encountered; he can see the ghosts, too. What Emerson thinks she knows about her ability, the Hourglass, and the mysterious Michael, doesn’t hold a candle to the revelations to come as she is hurled down the rabbit hole faster than her best friend Lily can whip up a Cubano. Now if only she had an explanation for why light bulbs pop and the air crackles whenever she gets near Michael…


Review:
I enjoyed this novel, even with its flaws. Emerson’s struggle to try and maintain a normal life while coping with her odd gift is fascinating and sad. There are neat little touches, mechanisms she uses to establish who the real people are and who are remnants of the past; Emerson forced herself to study fashion, to pick out the ghosts based on the style and era of clothing. Her unspoken personal rule – don’t touch people, don’t approach them unless they’ve been studied thoroughly to see if they interact with their surroundings – struck me as lonely and difficult and made me feel sorry for her. She lives in constant fear of talking to the wrong person – the last thing she needs is the kind of incident that took her out of school in the first place. I also adore solid, realistic sibling relationships, and Emerson and her brother are so sweet. I could easily empathize with her, trying her very best not to be a burden to her successful older brother, feeling guilty that she’s screwing up his life with her mental problems. I really appreciated how Emerson’s grief over her parents’ death is handled. It’s painful and moving to read, and sprinkled throughout at the right moments, never forgotten about as the single most traumatic thing that has happened in her life. There are a handful of poignant, beautiful scenes when she’s remembering them and what happened (among one other thing not involving them) that almost put me in tears.
Okay, the love thing. So Michael was charming and a little shady and temperamental at times, which kind of gets explained later, but he took a bit to grow on me. He doesn’t appear to actually help Emerson all that much. He has a hidden agenda that Emerson all but finds out about herself because she moonlights as Nancy Drew and will not sit around and wait for him to come clean (I kind of loved that). When she does discover what she can actually do, no one bothers to coach her in how to use it effectively, and then they want her to use it to save someone’s life and not screw it up even though the training wheels haven’t come off – okay, not even training wheels, this is the first time she’s sat down on the flipping bicycle, people. But – the charged…uh…tension between Michael and Emerson is awesome. She’s drawn to him immediately, but it’s not the insta-love plot device I am starting to hate in romances; it’s allowed to build throughout the novel.
Then a love triangle shows up, and I didn’t find it believable at all. In fact, I hated it a little. Kaleb is Michael’s best friend, smoking hot, and a total ladies’ man. So he’s a natural flirt, and hits on Emerson all the time, but I really didn’t expect Emerson to suddenly develop a thing for Kaleb, or for him to reciprocate. Yes, Michael kind of kept Emerson at a distance for his own reasons and she didn’t understand it and there’s a miscommunication thing involving another girl, but would Emerson’s feelings for him be so shallow that she’d seriously consider dating his best friend? Is Kaleb such a terrible friend that, knowing how Michael feels about Emerson, he would pursue her as aggressively as he did? It made me dislike them both for a stretch of time. Up until that point in the book, Emerson didn’t strike me as that fickle, and I couldn’t tell if it was maybe some kind of desperate attempt to force Michael to make a move, so the whole thing just kind of threw me.
I had a few other quibbles involving the characters. Some minor characters fell completely flat for me; they were a bit one dimensional and I never got a feel for what kind of people they were. Lily, at first, was a marvelous side character as Emerson’s best friend, but halfway to the end of the book, she kind of gets forgotten about. There’s a huge reveal concerning her, and it’s left dangling and unanswered when the book finishes. I know it’s something that will be addressed later in the series, but it didn’t have to end on such an unsatisfying note where I’m all, “So…Lily? Did we leave her stranded somewhere? Has anyone checked on her?”
But, I still liked this one. It went in a direction I didn’t foresee, but it’s interesting enough that I plan on reading the next book in the series, if only to find answers to all the questions left by the end of the book.


Based on the following criteria:


How much did I like the heroine: 7.
I really enjoyed Emerson for the most part. She used her wry sense of humor to cope with the gift she has, and genuinely loves her brother and sister-in-law. She stood up for herself when she felt she was being treated unfairly or bullied, and it’s refreshing. She becomes an idiot concerning Kaleb, but mixed in with the bad decisions is courage, a willingness to act and help others, and a great deal of wit.


How much did I like the love interest: 7.
Michael…Michael. I didn’t know how I felt about him at first. I kept forgetting he’s only supposed to be a few years older than Emerson, around 20, because he certainly doesn’t speak like it. The way he responds and reacts to her made me picture a much older, more confident man. His behavior doesn’t make any kind of sense until much later in the book. But I did enjoy his clear interest in Emerson and his concern for her. And Kaleb I have a hard time considering as another love interest, because this aspect of the love triangle irritated me, and it felt kind of contrived for the sake of drama. I like Kaleb as a character tremendously; I didn’t like some of the choices he made. I think his presence in the book would’ve worked just fine as someone who flirted with Emerson in a not so serious way, because he flirts with everyone, and not because he wanted to move in on his best friend’s crush. Or heck, keep it in, but downplay it; subtle that puppy down and it would’ve had that much more meaning for a certain future happenstance involving Michael.


How believable is the plot: 7.
This is tricky. The tone of the novel shifts halfway through, when Emerson discovers what Hourglass really is, hurling the story into X-Men territory. It could have completely missed the mark and weighed the story down, but somehow it worked. I found the revelation behind the ‘ghosts’ Emerson sees intriguing. However. A few characters at the end of the story reveal themselves to not be who they seem, and for one in particular, it was borderline unbelievable for me. I guess the signs were there, but the motive behind the person’s actions was as fragile as a house of cards, and I couldn’t really take it seriously. The end, though, pitches a fast ball involving Emerson’s past that all but hits you in the face, and it was a twist I did not see coming and I loved it. I actually gasped out loud. What it does to Emerson’s psyche is delicious, in a character development/reveal sort of way.


How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 9.
The writing is superb. McEntire uses fresh metaphors and analogies, amusing and fresh and unique. She remembers to use all five senses to create a scene, and Emerson’s hometown comes to life and is a vivid backdrop to the story.  The characters were always in motion, always interacting with their environment and each other as they spoke. McEntire gives Emerson a very funny, entertaining voice.


How much did I want to keep reading: 10.
Unbelievable love triangle aside, I was definitely invested in Emerson’s journey to discover more about her ability and the task she’s given to aide Hourglass. Her past was touched on and talked about, but never in depth, and when I got the sense that there was much more than what was being shown, I had to finish.


Final Score: 8/10.
Because Emerson is still pretty cool and messed up, Michael does romantic tension like nobody’s business, and Kaleb is…Kaleb is hot. Also, time travel and mustache twirling villains with unclear motives.

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Meet Melissa Baron, Summertime Guest Reviewer

Hey guys! It’s no secret that we’re swamped. We have a queue for author submissions well into the double digits and our own reading back log to get to again one of these days. Plus I probably should, you know, pop my head out from behind this computer occasionally otherwise hubby

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and get all grumpy which is something we never, ever want, people. So the long and short of it is, we need help this summer and that’s where the picture comes in. Meet Melissa Baron. No, that half eaten apple core is not her. She just loves the quote which comes from The Miserable Mill, in A Series of Misfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. She says, “I adore that series and it’s been a heavy influence on me, and well, this graphic just makes me chuckle.”

Here’s a bit more about her: Melissa is just a small town gal trying to make it in the big c…err…publishing world. She writes, dabbles in a little part time work for a small press publishing company, blogs occasionally to love on books and rant about bad grammar. Currently working on a degree in English, lurks around Chicago in her spare time. She is a frequent napper, loves horror and coffee, and hopes to find her own Peeta Mellark one day. One day…

She also blogs for herself at: http://miskadoodlewrites.wordpress.com/

Now you’ll see an occasional post from her as the summer wears on but do not be alarmed! She’ll give you the same snarky wit and indepth review that you’ve come to love from me and Ellen. Only it will written by a girl named Melissa. The only advice I have for you, dear readers: please be kind.

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On the hunt for a FT guest blogger

Hello.  Do you like to think and write? Are you pretty good at both? Do you love books? No, I mean do you love  love books? Do you have a bit of free time on your hands and want to read some new YA novels that you wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to? Do you consider yourself one or more of the following: witty, snarky, thought provoking, a decent writer, intelligent, captivating, and/or able to follow directions. Yes? Yes! I Love YA Fiction is looking for a FT guest blogger for the summer (mainly July and August). I need someone who has the time, inclination, and talent to give us 2 reviews a month.  I know, I know: we were impetuous and brash, promising a review daily way back in the beginning of the site. But now, we’ve matured and realized, who the heck has time to read and review a book a day?! I just can’t, people! So I need you to help me out. I can’t pay you anything but I can publish your reviews (hey, you’ll be a published author!) and talk about how cool you are on twitter (@iloveyafiction), facebook (our FB page), and any other social media site you request.

If this is you, here’s what I need:

a writing sample

a little biography of yourself which you will allow to be posted on the site

a graphic you feel represents you which you will also allow to be posted to the site

Send it to: iloveyafiction @ gmail dot com.

If you want to include a funny story to make me laugh, I wouldn’t say no.  Please submit everything by Friday, June 22nd, and I will contact the person I best think fits our site and views.  Thanks for the help! I’m going to be very happy to meet you.

xoxo

Judith

 

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Reason To Breathe by Rebecca Donovan

Reason To Breathe by Rebecca Donovan

Publisher: self-published

Format:Kindle Edition

Judith here: this review is courtesy of our ever ready, always fabulous guest reviewer, Richelle. Thanks to her for pulling through when we can’t! And btw, god! I hate books about rampant and flagrant child abuse. Should I read it or not?

—–

So, I’ve created a monster! I now have another friend who reads a lot of YA books and loves them. I don’t know if we will ever have enough time to read all of the books we recommend to each other, but this is one she told me about that I actually decided to read and I’m glad I did!

Plot: After Emma’s father died and her mother could no longer take care of her, she has to move in with her father’s brother, his wife, and their 2 kids. Unfortunately, her aunt, or as I like to call her, the Psycho Witch, is very abusive. Emma keeps very quiet at school so no one finds out about what is happening at home. If someone were to find out, she is worried that her aunt and uncle will lose their kids, and she loves the kids! She only has one friend, Sarah, who sort of knows what is going on, but helps Emma by keeping her secret. Emma’s goal is to concentrate on her grades and sports so she can get out of the Psycho’s house and go away to college. But, of course, she meets Evan, hottie extraordinaire.
Evan and Emma (cute or vomit?) become friends and start dating, which makes Emma happy. Of course, Aunt Witchy cannot stand it that Emma is happy and gets more and more crazy as the days go by. Evan and Sarah continuously grow concerned, but are not sure what to do, especially because Emma will not tell them how bad it really is. Oh, and it’s bad, especially the end.

Review: I have to admit, that I knew I was going to like this book! Not that I don’t trust my new reading buddy, but I checked with my book-a-day friend also and she told me she loved it, so I had to read it!
This story was interesting from the beginning. In the opening scene, you find out that Emma wakes up sore and realizes that she will have to wear long sleeves all week (to cover the bruises). You learn how close she is to her 2 cousins and how much she cares about them. It is very easy to be sympathetic to her situation because it really is lose/lose. Right from the start, you see how controlling her abusive aunt is with Emma completing her chores and how she is not even allowed to take a granola bar if it is not on her “list”. The abuse just keeps getting worse and worse. This book really tugs at your heart strings from beginning to end.
The relationship between Emma and Evan was sweet. I love that Evan basically makes Emma be friends with him, no matter how rude she is to him and how much she tries to push him away. He really is good for her and, duh, they start dating. And as predicted, things get hot, or as hot as they can get with a nut job for a guardian!
I was really starting to get aggravated that everyone was basically ignoring what was happening! Do people seriously do this? She had at least 3 people that knew something was happening and no one said or did anything. And this crazy aunt even convinces the idiot uncle that Emma is the problem, so of course he believes his wife because he doesn’t witness any of the abuse until almost the end. People finally start

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taking a stand for Emma, but she keeps convincing people to just let her deal with it or she just blows up at them to avoid the confrontation. And they listen to her! Why? I bet they are sorry now!
There is a lot more to this book than I can put in this review. After all, I don’t want to give away the entire story. So, read it! You won’t be sorry! But… You will be sucked in to read the second book, and THIRD book (when it comes out)!

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 9 Emma reacts the way a lot of people in this situation would act. She hides, acts like nothing is wrong, and does everything she is supposed to do at home and in school, in hopes of escaping this abuse eventually. She also acts the way most teenagers act, Stupid!! Especially when dealing with the opposite sex, teenagers (and many adults I know) don’t really think about the consequences of their actions while they are “in the moment”. The only issue I had with Emma was that someone in her situation probably wouldn’t do some of the things she decided to do, but I guess who knows? YOLO, at least that’s what the kids are saying now, so I’m cool, right?

How much did I like the love interest: 9 Evan sounds really cute and like a really good guy. He is interested in Emma right away, regardless of her basically hiding in school and being totally bitchy to him right away. (I get it, it’s a defense mechanism for her, but that was pretty cool of him to keep talking to her). He plays soccer, interested in photography, he’s hot, he’s rich and more. Like Emma says at one point, “Is there anything you aren’t good at?” He really cares about her more and more throughout the story. The one issue I had with him is that he doesn’t ever step up to defend her until it is too late!

How believable is the plot: 9 This could definitely happen, I’m sure it has happened unfortunately. I hate hearing about people being abused or killed in the news, yet I love to read about them in FICTION books, figure that one out! It was disconcerting to me that Sarah, Evan, Sarah’s mom, and Emma’s uncle all basically knew what was going on, but no one would do anything. I get it that there is more to think about than how much Emma is getting hurt, but it sure was getting bad before anyone stepped up.

How much did I like the writing style / editing / etc: 10 It was a well written story, told from Emma’s point of view. This was essential to the story in my opinion because you were able to really see what Emma was dealing with in the confines of her Aunt Crazy Person’s home.

How much did I want to keep reading: 10 I really did want to keep reading! What was Aunt Lunatic going to do next? Why was she flipping out this time? Where is Emma’s mom? Are Emma and Evan together? Is someone going to stop this abuse from happening? No?! And then I read the last few pages and crap!!!!! What the hell just happened?! Oh, yes, there is a sequel…

Final Score: 9/10 Aside from the unspoken agreement of everyone to ignore the abuse, this book really kept my interest. I would recommend it for sure, just beware, there are some graphic abuse scenes.

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