YA review: Forbidden by Lori Adams

ForbiddenForbidden: The Soulkeepers by Lori Adams

Publisher: Flirt

Format: Kindle ARC

Reviewed by: Onnica

Genre: YA

Final score: 5/10

It’s no secret that from time to time I just love, love, love to dive into a good paranormal YA book. Done well it can be so much fun – there’s the folklore, the romance and the coming of age of the heroine that makes her rise to her destiny and come into her own. So I was pretty excited about this book when I saw it on Netgalley and when the author made contact on Goodreads.

Plot: (taken from the book’s blurb) When Sophia St. James learns that she’ll be moving from Los Angeles to a podunk town somewhere in Connecticut for her senior year of high school, she isn’t expecting an otherworldly encounter. But there is more to Haven Hurst than meets the eye: it’s home to a family of Guardian Angels, and she is the only one who can see them in spirit form. Sophia soon realizes she wants to see much more of Michael, an irresistible yet volatile Guardian who seems drawn to her too.

As Michael battles his forbidden desire for the beautiful young newcomer, one of Hell’s most notorious Demon Knights arrives. Handsome and charismatic, Dante has come to claim the reincarnated soul of his lost lover trapped in Sophia. Cursed with the demon of Persuasion living inside him, Dante will use his seductive charms to lure Sophia into a dangerous game that ends with the kiss of death—unless Michael, who has captured Sophia’s heart, can now capture her soul.

Review: So although I love a bit of fantasy, usually that love doesn’t extend to angels/demons. It’s just a bridge too far and not even I can suspend my disbelief to that extent. Forbidden made me believe the realm of heavenly bodies and demons – that was not the problem. Ok, so what was the problem I hear you ask? First of all, it was the action – or rather, the inaction. A large portion of the book is Sophia and Michael engaging in terse conversations, sharing heated and hateful looks and then…nothing. One of the main ingredients in a fantasy book (in my humble opinion) should be action and the plot needs to move along at a steady pace. If there’s conflict between the hero and heroine then there need to be sparks and the heat should leap off the page at you. It started well, I was fully engaged then it flatlined until approximately 70% of the way through the book. Then suddenly I started getting answers and finally there was some action!

My second problem was that the plot chopped and changed, certain passages weren’t described well enough to evoke exactly what was going on – which led to me getting frustrated. The dialogue of Sophia’s friends (who I’m guessing were supposed to be latino?) was really over the top and made very little sense to me. Sophia was a typical teenage character and her tendency to whine and pick arguments at the wrong time did alienate me from her at times. Unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with this book. Its stilted pace and dialogue wasn’t enough to draw me in, nor was the character development. Ironically however, there was enough action towards the end of the book to make me curious about book two, Awaken. So for these reasons I’m giving it 5/10.

Review based on the following:

How much I liked the heroine: 5 – I didn’t really. Sophia has settled with her father in a smalltown following the death of her mother. She’s worried about her dad who seems to have checked out of life completely and she’s nursing her own scars from an ex-boyfriend with anger management issues. I know she was a high school student who has been through stuff, but she was immature, judgemental and lacked grit. I need a fantasy heroine to grab life by the balls and get on with it rather than whine!

How much I liked the love interest: 6 – it was sweet once they started speaking to each other. A little Twilighty in places and unfortunately their ‘sparring’ did not work for me. But, I think their relationship will be better in Awaken.

How believable was the plot: 5 – Ok, not really relevant here, as we’re talking demons and angels, but in more experienced hands I doubt I’d have had such a hard time believing the story and caring about the characters.

How much I liked the writing style/editing etc: 5 – As mentioned above, I had real problems with the dialogue and the fact that some chapters made very little sense. I stuck with it, but it was really hard work. I’ve never written a book, so I don’t want to criticise too much, but it was a struggle to persevere.

Final score: 5/10 – an interesting premise, if the subsequent books drive the plot forward and develop the characters, then it will be a good series. Sadly, I won’t be pursuing it.

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If I Can’t Have You by Lauren Hammond

If I Can’t Have You by Lauren Hammond

Publisher: S.B. Addison Books (January 31, 2012)

Format: Kindle Edition

My internal monologue as I get ready to write this review: Gah! What was I thinking?! That cover alone should have warned me to stay far, far away from this book and yet I didn’t listen to what was right in front of me.  Oh no, I bought this and now have only myself to blame because it really is as bad as the cover suggests.  Seriously though, what’s wrong with her arms? Am I the only reader who’s noticed that? Maybe I really am the only reader and that accounts for the fact that no one noticed she has Gumby arms! Sigh. Why do I do this to myself? At least the guy pawing at Gumby has a passably good body…and what is that they’re lying in? An ocean of rocks? Isn’t this set at the beach? Where’s all the water?

Plot:

Robin Mason has been infatuated with lifeguard, Drake Robertson, since he saved her from drowning when she was 15.  Now that’s she’s off to college, she thinks this summer is the one where he will truly notice her. She and best friend, Whitney, make it their goal to ensnare the gorgeous Drake and when Robin does so almost immediately, she begins envisioning a picture-perfect relationship with him. But Drake has no desire to be attached and breaks Robin’s heart when she catches him rolling around in the bushes buck naked with her neighbor.  Her heart wounded, Robin attempts to pick up the pieces while Drake’s younger brother, Elliott, attempts to woo her.  At first she can’t see past Drake’s deception but eventually gives in to Elliott and realizes that maybe picking the wrong brother is all that she needed to find the right one.

Review:

For the love of all that is good and sweet, first that cover and now the book itself.  I promised myself since the last smaltzy love story I read that I would take a break. But of course I can’t resist a good romance and now, I’m paying for it. I don’t mean to be overly harsh but this book is just a big old mess. All of the relationships happen far too quickly and seem to be based on absolutely nothing. First Drake, a hot guy who has never shown Robin the slightest romantic interest, falls all over himself to be with her, then breaks her heart by fooling around with her neighbor, and then swings back around to attempt to win her back. Robin’s feelings for Drake are so flimsy yet all consuming that it just feels fake. Then there’s his equally gorgeous brother, Elliott, who claims he took one look at her (after bonking her in the head with a door no less) and knew she was the one for him. As in the one for him in a future that ends in marriage.  At 18 years old.  Now I have no qualms with love at first sight but I find it very hard to stomach an 18 year old boy claiming that he saw one shy girl and wanting her desperately for the rest of his life.  The speed of his confession and his pointed interested just feels completely forced and unreal. Likewise Robin’s reaction to both boys is wholly out of proportion to the length of time she spends with them. She seems almost manic and utterly dependent on their feelings. If she’s not deliriously happy basking in the glow of their gorgeous faces and bodies, she’s crying, sobbing, or running away from their confessions of love for her.  It’s Neediness 101 and Robin Mason deserves an A for all that effort. At its heart, there’s really not much substance to If I Can’t Have You.  It’s one girl stuck between two boys who seem to want her without knowing why.  It’s all pretty innocuous until the very end when it seems the author decided that her characters were better suited to erotica than YA fiction and all sort of sexy times come out of the woodwork.  But even those were peppered with neediness and tears and frankly they stopped being sexy right away. The premise of this book is great but the execution is sadly lacking. Add to it banal writing and poorly written sequences and you just have a mish mash that is quite dull.

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 2. Robin was so whiny and so utterly dependent on whether Drake or Elliott loved her that I just disliked her immediately. Any girl that places all of her emotional eggs in one basket has deep seated issues and I didn’t really want to watch her fragile ego be destroyed by not one but two gorgeous love interests who happen to be related. Double ick btw.

How much did I like the love interest: Wait, wait. Is it Drake or is it Elliott? We don’t find out until about halfway through that Drake is a cad and by that time Elliott seems like such a prince in comparison that we immediately love him for not being a selfish, sex-obsessed teen like his brother.  I give him a 3 because I have a thing for blond surfer dudes but ones that become obsessed with a single girl and make some weird proclamation about all the girls they’ve been with before (at the age of 18 mind you) lose serious points.

How believable is the plot: 5. I’ve never met two brothers who happen to be gorgeous and fall in love with me simultaneously. Maybe there’s some jealousy there or something but I find that plot point highly suspect.  The young girl who becomes infatuated with the guy who rescued her years ago? Now that’s a premise I can get on board with.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 2. This writer needs an editor. Sometimes Robin would think the same thing in two separate paragraphs only using different words.  I remember thinking, “Now, wait, didn’t I already read this part?” But no, I hadn’t because she was just reiterating what she said three paragraphs earlier.  A good editor would clear that right up. There were lots of typos and grammatical issues as well as bad pacing and dialogue.

How much did I want to keep reading: 1. I didn’t. I didn’t believe that Elliott really wanted Robin. In fact, I kept waiting for the punchline where he turns out to be an even bigger cad than his brother who was just toying with Robin’s emotions. Only that didn’t happen and the book sank deep down into the depths of “Judith almost can’t finish this but will because the Kindle progress bar claims it’s almost over”.

Final Score: 2/10. This wasn’t one of my most enjoyable reading experiences. The overall story was subpar and the writing left a lot to be desired.  Sorry if this review feels a bit lackluster but I’m just reacting to what I’m given here, people.

 

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What’s that? It’s Monday already! Roundup time!

Helloooo! Do you know what today is? Do you? Are we thinking the same thoughts? Have you finally linked telepathically to I Love YA Fiction? If so, then yes! It is the day before Valentine’s Day and yes, it is time for our weekly roundup.  It’s going to be slim pickins’ here, folks, and for that I’m sorry but not really because I was on vacation and it was fantastic. A girl needs her R&R.  And Ellen, you ask? Well, she claims she was sick but personally, I think she used this supposed illness as a front for reading trashy romance novels in bed on the weekend.  Or maybe she was just sick.

First things first: tell me what you want for Valentine’s Day! Here’s what’s at the top of the I Love YA Fiction wishlist (http://www.swarovski.com/Web_US/en/1123123/product/Nirvana_Petite_Provence_Lavender_Ring.html?CatalogCategoryName=0112).  And yes, husband of mine, if you are reading this, there is a Swarovski store 1 block from your work.  Stop being so lazy and go look!

Now on to more pressing matters.

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher: Finn and Claudia tell simultaneous stories of being trapped–he on the inside of the mazelike prison of Incarceron and she within the confines of a rigid society that forces the norms of 200 hundred years ago on absolutely everything, including the weather.  Together they search for a way in and out of Incarceron in the hopes of changing the lives of all mankind for the better. 10/10 It doesn’t get any better than this!

Sophie and Carter by Chelsea Fine: High school seniors Sophie and Carter are neighbors who share an unbreakable bond based on years spent aiding one another through abuse and degradation.  In the end, their bond blossoms into love and their future together becomes limitless. 2.4/10 Ouch. That seems a bit extreme, even for me.  Read it and judge for yourself.

Run (The Hunted) by Patti Larsen: Utterly disoriented, Reid wakes up in a nightmarish terrain where he is hunted by mutant creatures bent on utter destruction.  He must band together with others like him in order to outwit his captors.  Ellen gives it 5/10 while I would say 1/2.

That’s it for reviews this week.  So sad…but we have some cool author/book news:

Onyx, the sure to be sizzling sequel to Obsidian by Jennifer L Armentrout, is set for release on May 15th, 2012! Get all the deets here.

Writer Tara Fuller is giving away copies of her book, Perigee Moon.  Read here to enter to win.

Incarceron author, Catherine Fisher, has a new novella set to be released  on March 31st.  It will feature the legendary Welsh character, Henwen the oracular pig.  Read on for more details.

All in all, not such a bad week. You got your 3 book reviews and your 3 random author news.  It can’t get any better than this (except of course if we were to have done four more reviews like we had originally planned but who’s counting? Me. Okay, I am).

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Run (The Hunted) by Patti Larsen

Run (The Hunted) by Patti Larsen

Publisher: Self Published

Format: Kindle Edition

I literally just finished this book and really don’t have much to say about it so this might be a short review. I didn’t like it, I didn’t hate it, but I definitely won’t be paying money for the next book in the series

Plot: Reid wakes up in the back of a van, tied up and blindfolded with no memory of how he got there. He’s quickly untied and tossed out in the middle of a forest with his only clue about what he’s about to face coming from one of his captors who says “he’ll be needing the fight in him”. I have to admit as soon as I read that I knew EXACTLY what this book was about (I didn’t read the synopsis before “buying” since it was free), and so will you if you’ve ever read that short story “The Most Dangerous Game”. Reid has been dropped in a huge fenced-in enclosure (seriously – miles and miles worth of land) where he and other children are being hunted by what turns out to be three Wolverine-like creatures (who I’ve decided to call “Jefferson Starships” because in the words of Dean Winchester “they’re horrible and hard to kill”). For the first half of the book Reid is alone – which of course means ½ of the book is 99% internal monologue – but as the book progresses he meets up with more kids and eventually becomes the reluctant leader of what sounds like at least a dozen boys and girls.

Review: As I said I really have no strong feelings toward this book one way or the other. There’s very little character development, Reid’s internal monologue is incredibly repetitive and boring, the same can be said for the action scenes, all the stuff with the other “tribe” of kids was just too Lord of the Flies for me, and there was zero romance. Granted it’s not like I expected romance when you’re on the run for your life but honestly by the time he started to have feelings for Leila I was becoming convinced she’s bad news bears. As has already been proven by the many other successful “man hunting man” books/movies/tv shows this

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is a plot that can work but you also need to have engaging characters and enough action that I’m drawn in. I was just bored, and to be honest all I wanted to do was quit and re-read The Hunger Games.

One thing this book did reinforce was my serious dislike of how many current YA novels are being made into trilogies. QUIT WITH THE TRILOGIES!!! I’m sure it’s awesome to have 3 books you can sell instead of just one but when that comes at the detriment of your plot is it really worth it? This book, like so many first books, just drew out the “action” in such a repetitive fashion and only started moving things along toward the end, I’m assuming in the hopes of sucking in the reader and making them want to buy the next book. Save it Patty Hearst, I’m not buying any Stockholm Syndrome today!

I’m giving this book a 5/10 because I’m so meh about it but it wasn’t awful. I just think it would have been much better if she had made it A book, instead of part of a series.

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the hero: 9. I’ve really got nothing bad to say about Reid. He does his best to protect not only himself but all these other kids from the evil Jefferson Starships and find a way out. He never loses sight of his humanity (until the other group of kids) and sticks up for his friends. He seems like someone I’d like to be friends with, except for his fairly frequent bouts of self-pity. Dude, I know your situation sucks but you’re the best shot these kids have of surviving. Suck it up and do what you can.

How much did I like the love interest: Well there really isn’t one, but if you push for Leila I’m going to give her a 5. She ditches Reid but then comes back to save him, then they seem to get close, then she saves his life and kills one of the Jefferson Starships, but then at the end she seems to be plotting against Reid. She has her moments when she seems great but then just as many when I want to yell at Reid she’s not trustworthy.

How believable is the plot: Ummmm. Man hunting man? It’s not that I don’t think humans are capable of it but it’s just so far-fetched. Also: why is there all this free land in the middle of the Northeast? And are these Jefferson Starships supposed to be some sort of Army experiment into super-soldiers or something? It was a bit too much for me. 5.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: I did see a few mistakes but overall the writing style wasn’t bad. But the book was seriously boring for the first half and all of the interactions with the Jefferson Starships were repetitive. 6.

How much did I want to keep reading: Not at all. Honestly the only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that when I finished I could re-read Catching Fire (my favorite of the HG books). Kids being hunted in the woods…how could my mind not go there? 2.

Glasses of wine I drank while reading: 0. Because I drank a little too much last night. But I’m going to have one now in order to try to forget I read this. Which I’m sure I will in 5 seconds because it just wasn’t memorable.

Final Score: 5/10. I do kind of want to know if Leila is going to betray Reid, what these Jefferson Starships are, and if the whole escape via the mine is going to work, but not enough to buy the second book. If anyone out there can give me a serious reason why I should change this opinion I’m all ears but it’d have to be the most compelling argument ever.

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Sophie and Carter by Chelsea Fine

Sophie and Carter, by Chelsea Fine

Publisher: Acacia Publishing, Inc (June 20, 2011)

Format: Kindle Edition

It’s about to get real here, folks, because the feelings that I have for this book  go above and beyond what can be considered healthy. I’m sorry, Chelsea Fine, I really am.  I bought this wanting to like it but I did not except for at the end when it stopped.

Plot:

Sophie Hartman and Carter Jax are neighbors but not friends.  By day, at school, they make a big show of not knowing each other and hardly acknowledge one another unless hard pressed. They have no interactions except on the neutral ground of their houses at night because each harbors a dark secret.  Sophie’s mother is a prostitute who leaves all child raising of her three younger siblings to Sophie.  Carter’s mother is mentally unstable and vacillates between lucidity and utter craziness and his father was a child abuser of the worst sort before he finally ran off.  Both of them have scars, visible and invisible, that they are working to eradicate. While they can’t do it with friends at school who have no point of reference for the sort of horrors they’ve seen, each of them can rely on the other and they do every night as they discuss their respective days on the porch.  Sophie and Carter eventually realize that the closeness and safety they feel when together means that they care about one another far more than they thought.  Through loving and learning to trust, they both are given the chance to heal and to finally begin living.

Review:

Watch out. I’m about to get up on my high horse and I might not ever come down. One of my biggest pet peeves in any book, be it classical literature, current YA fiction, romance, biography, what have you, is incorrect spellings of words and/or using a spelling of a word that is correct but doesn’t mean at all what the author thinks it does.  In the 3rd sentence of Sophie and Carter, (the third sentence!!!), Chelsea Fine makes a rookie mistake like this and it completely soured my opinion of her book.  Let me just put it out there now: Doddle is brit slang that means something easily accomplished. Dawdle means to waste time.  The word she uses is doddle and the word she wants is dawdle.  It might not seem like such a big deal but I feel like any published author should a) know how to use words if he/she is a writer and b) have a good editor who picks up on mistakes like this.  Obviously neither a) nor b) is true of this book and mistakes like this cropped up all over the place driving me nuts.  It’s hard to believe that so many mistakes can happen since the book itself is very sparse.  There’s not much detail, not much depth, and really not much story.  It reads like the lite version of a much longer, in depth novel.  There’s practically no character development and really no meat in what we learn about the characters.  What also drove me crazy as I read was the fact that two teenagers have severely f’ed up home lives yet they don’t tell anyone and no one ever seems to notice.  How is this possible?! I would hope that the public school system is a bit more watchful than this because if I were a teacher and had students come to school with bruising and knife wounds, I would say something.  Sophie and Carter’s teachers are oblivious in a way that smacks of poorly developed plot and an author who is too lazy to explain important details.  The fact that the story is told in alternating view points is refreshing but what makes it a chore to get through is that while each chapter is labelled with the respective point of view (either Sophie or Carter), Sophie’s POV is italicized. Each and every time.  It feels like I’m reading someone’s internal monologue or hastily written diary entry, not a girl’s voice about incidents happening in her life.  All in all, the writing, characterizations, and plot felt really juvenile and everything would have benefited from an editor of any kind.  I couldn’t figure out where the story was going as it seemed to be more the telling of two weeks of two people’s lives than an actual plot involving these little necessities called a climax and denouement. Okay I’m starting to feel bad about the constant ragging on Sophie and Carter so without further ado…

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 2.  Sophie really didn’t have a personality beyond moping about like a downtrodden girl prematurely aged by the fact that she is forced to care for her siblings while her prostitute mom lives the good life of sex and drugs.  She just felt like a stereotype of a kid who has seen too much and none of her sentiments offer anything novel.

How much did I like the love interest: 3. I’m giving Carter a bonus point because he seems hot, stood up to an abusive father, and constantly is trying to keep Sophie out of harm’s way.  He wants so badly to protect her from the ugliness of life that you can’t really dislike him as a character. Now the fact that he reads like an after school special bad boy with a heart of gold does begin to wear on the nerves pretty darn quick however.

How believable is the plot: 5.  I can see two teens leaning on one another in tough times and eventually falling in love due to the trauma they’ve been exposed to.  But there really isn’t a plot here, just a vignette detailing roughly two weeks out of their lives and that’s it.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 1.  This was already discussed and I don’t want to harp on it but…this book could totally have used a good editor! And some details! And maybe a fleshed out plot! And some descriptors of some kind! And…

How much did I want to keep reading:  1.  I didn’t, let’s keep it at that.

Final Score: 2.4 / 10. Sophie and Carter came highly recommended (so highly that I can’t help wondering if those people were paid to write good reviews or maybe are reviewing the wrong book?) so maybe you’ll like it if you give it a chance.  It lost its chance with me after sentence 3 and unfortunately never really got it back. Enjoy.

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Cinderella in Cleats by Carly Syms

Cinderella in Cleats by Carly Syms

Publisher: Self-Published (August 1, 2010)

Format: Kindle Edition

Remember how I said that I love books about girls who play sports so long as they’re even halfway decent? Well here is one of the few that show I can dislike a girl-sport book. And while I really don’t enjoy writing a negative review I SERIOUSLY disliked this one. I wish we had a tally of “how many times I did say ‘this book is beyond inane’ aloud to myself while reading” because my total would have been about 15. No joke.

SIDE NOTE: Oh my God. I never properly looked at

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this cover. WTF sort of Timberland shoes is this girl allegedly wearing on the field? And her feet are freakishly enormous when compared to her ankles and arms. Has the illustrator never seen cleats? Or feet? Or people? Highly disturbing.

Plot: Whitney has loved playing football her whole life, especially with her dad, her bff Jason, and his dad. Then her dad has a sudden heart attack one Saturday afternoon while they’re all throwing a ball around at the local park. After her father’s death Jason completely abandons her as a friend and she lets go of football because it brings back too many memories. Two years later she’s finally ready to renew her love of football and decides to try out for the state championship football team at her high school. But what will happen when she has to face Jason for the first time in two years? (Btw – this is all revealed in the 1.5 page length prologue. And this might be the most action that happens in the entire book.) Here’s the rest of the book: Whitney tries out for the team, is a way better QB than Jason, the coach is a sexist ass who won’t hire her, she gets in contact with a nearby school whose coach sees that she’s talented, she suddenly changes schools (which is so unrealistic – she changes school districts without moving and no one cares? It doesn’t work like that!), everyone hates her at the new school, she is okay at the first game until a hottie hot hot dude from the other team walks over to her sideline to hit on her AND NO ONE ON HER TEAM NOTICES, every guy in the world falls for her, her game gets awesome, everyone in the new school loves her, Jason (shocker!) admits he avoided her because his love for her was just too powerful, and they go head to head in a game.

Review: As I’ve already stated I REALLY disliked this book. So much so that I don’t even know where to start. In fact when Judith asked me why I disliked it so much I replied “let me count the ways” and then got all excited because I realized I can loan it to her and when I did so actually typed “HAHAHAHA SUFFER ALONG WITH ME BIATCH!!” (She owes me for all those Melanie Marks books). There is little to no plot, the characters are either poorly developed or asses or poorly developed asses, Whitney’s insta-love with every guy around her was so sudden and their reciprocal feelings were…grrrrrrrrrr. I can’t even go on to tell you the truth. And to be honest I started skimming about ¾ of the way through the book because it was a) beyond predictable and b) happy hour waits for no (wo)man and was seriously needed.

So now that I’ve stated parts that I disliked I’m going to focus on bits I enjoyed. Ummmmmmm. Oh! Scott seemed really nice, but she never gave him a chance. And Matt (Jason’s older brother) seemed awesome, I’m not sure why they weren’t better friends. Whitney did stand up for herself against the bullies a few times, and Sophie and their guy friend (I don’t have the book in front of me but it was Dirk or something?) seemed like great people. Oh and I really did like that she gained so much strength from thinking about her relationship with her father. I’ve never lost a parent but that seemed very realistic to me.

In the end I’m giving this a 3/10. I KNOW. I want to rate it higher (because, yet again, I do realize how much effort is put into writing a book) but I just can’t. And I really want to tell you “even though it has no redeemable qualities I still loved it” but this is one of the few books which made me think of throwing my brand new Kindle across the room.

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 2. Okay she’s very talented and realizes it which I think is great but she lets everyone walk all over her and is beyond fickle. She took too many friendships for granted (Brendan, Scott, Sophie, Dirk, the guys at the new school) and seemed to just drop people when it suited her. OH! And she flirted with a player from another team while her team is losing (due to her mistakes) and then got mad when the team thinks she didn’t play her best!? But the final straw for me was when Sophie is being a good best friend and says “hey, Jason was an ass to you for 2 years during the toughest time of your life and then uses some lame ass excuse to get back in to your good graces and you forgive him but I think you deserve better” (paraphrase) and Whitney stops being Sophie’s friend because she claims Sophie isn’t “being supportive”. DUDE! Get some priorities. I’m sorry to have to say this to the young women out there but most likely your high school romances won’t stand the test of time but your best friends – even if you don’t talk to them every day – will most likely always be your best friends.

How much did I like the love interest: Which one? Scott – seemed awesome but then was quickly thrown aside. Colt – well he was really great and I love the name Colt (side note: I worked with a guy who once said “if you name your son Colt you better hope he’s good at football otherwise he’s going to get beat up”) but for some reason as soon as Whitney decided some other guy was better Colt became a complete controlling bastard. The new school guys kept hitting on her but nothing happened. Jason – OMG no. Okay I get you were bff’s back in the day but her father dies while you’re together and you immediately ditch her and don’t speak to her for 2 years? And then suddenly decide to admit to her that you were just sooooooooooo in love with her that the power of your love frightened you? Gag me. I did get some spark from Scott and Colt (when they first met) but none from Jason – and that’s including after they’re “together”. I’m going with a 2. So much wasted potential.

How believable is the plot: 2. A 5’8”, normal sized girl as a starting QB? One who is so hot that every guy around her falls in love with her? Her mother hating the idea of her playing football one day and then pulling a 180 and fully supporting her the next? A teenage boy admitting he ended a friendship because of the strength of his love? All of that is a serious 0. But a girl not knowing what she wants in a guy and being completely fickle? And not seeing the potential pitfalls in her actions? So believable.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: Hey! I have nothing bad to say! Maybe after Judith reads it she can add some to this but for now it’s a 10. Yay!

How much did I want to keep reading: Well I’m torn – I didn’t enjoy it but I really didn’t want to stop reading simply because I wanted it to be over. But I did skim areas knowing that there was more booze in my future. So 5.

Glasses of wine I drank while reading: None because I had to drive. But number of drinks ingested while venting about this book? Honestly: A BOTTLE. (FYI: I didn’t drink a bottle and then drive home. I vented while out having a drink and then continued venting while safe at home and drinking much more.) This book just upsets me on so very many different levels.

Final Score: Thanks to styling and desire to keep reading this book has been bumped up to 3 out of 10. Just more proof that I have no ability when it comes to math. Seriously though: if you’re looking for a book about girls who play sports PLEASE skip this one and go read Catching Jordan. So much more enjoyable.

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Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik

I don't think Mr. Darcy wrote love notes

Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik

Publisher: HarperTeen (August 2, 2011)

Format: Kindle Edition

So I have two confessions to make about this book. 1) This is the first time I’m not writing a review directly after reading the book. I read it this weekend while on vacation – but I swear I was sober for the vast majority of my time spent reading. 2) This was the second time I’d read the book but I’m ashamed to say that on my first read it took a pathetically long amount of time to figure out that this was a take-off on Pride and Prejudice. (Oh, subsequent confession: I’ve never read P&P so all my assumptions about the plot are taken from pop culture – the Keira Knightly version, “Bride and Prejudice”, the Bridget Jones books, and the shirtless scene from the BBC miniseries that seemed important after reading Bridget Jones. So anything I get wrong in relation to the book is obviously the fault of Hollywood and not me.)

Plot: Elise has just moved from Amherst, MA to Beverly Hills with her family (including her 3 sisters – blatant hint #1 I missed) because her mom has been hired as the principal of the most prestigious prep school in LA. Somehow within the first hours of school her older sister Jules has already caught the eye of one of the most popular guys in school – Chase Baldwin. Along with Chase comes his evil sister Chelsea (were the siblings in P&P given such similar names? Cause this bugs me) and hottie hot hot Derek Edwards, son of Hollywood’s top power couple. Too bad Derek is such a jerk all the time – he barely speaks and when he does the vast majority of what he says is either condescending or offensively brusque. Granted there are the moments when it’s just Derek and Elise and they seem to connect but something always seems to happen which makes him revert back into JerkDerek – especially when classmate Webster Grant is around. And then it gets way more into the P&P similarities (which is when I finally picked up on it) – the mom is a total flake, Chase breaks up with Jules for no apparent reason, Derek is mean to Webster with no explanation other than Webster’s lame excuses of an old friendship which ended poorly. Will Chase and Jules get back together? Will Derek finally stop being a jerk and get together with Elise? What happened between Derek and Webster? I think we all know the answers to every single one of these questions without even reading the book.

Review: I can’t say that I disliked the book because I didn’t but I really wish that I hadn’t figured out that it was a P&P retelling because then I might have been more engrossed in the story. To continue with the P&P connection for a minute I felt like there were a lot of instances where Ms. LaZebnik’s characterizations made no sense – it’s like she was writing scenes and then would have to remind herself that she was straying too far from the original. For instance Elise’s mom bugged the heck out of me – we’re supposed to believe this is a woman who is such an excellent administrator that the best prep school in LA paid to move her and her entire family across the country and yet she comes across as the most vapid parental figure in the history of time. And Webster Grant really does seem awesome, no smarminess at all until about halfway through the book when I can only assume the author was like “Crap! He’s too nice! I need to make him more evilllllll!”

But all (and I mean ALL) the secondary/tertiary/fourthiary plotlines aside I really liked the Elise/Derek scenes. When you think about someone who has had Derek’s parental background it’s understandable that he’s completely standoffish. And all the stuff at the end – smoking hot. I honestly wish that the author had just written an Elise/Derek story without all the other characters and P&P crap because the few scenes they had were awesome.

In the end I’m giving this a 7.5/10.

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: I really liked Elise. She has a great head on her shoulders, is loyal to her sister Jules, realizes that her younger sister is a complete idiot but is still there in her time of need, is seriously funny, and loves crossword puzzles. However is she any different from the character of Elizabeth Bennett (crossword puzzles aside since I don’t think they existed in Victorian England)? I don’t think so. So I’m giving this a 7 of 10 just for lack of originality.

How much did I like the love interest: 9 of 10. I almost hate to admit it but I totally squee’d a few times over Derek toward the end. I think of him as a teenage Jolie-Pitt child – his entire life his parents have been at the top of the Hollywood pyramid and therefore he’s been exposed to awesome things like travelling the world but also to negative experiences like never seeing his parents and constant paparazzi attacks. He knows that anyone in his life might be persuaded to sell details to the press for cash and therefore is reticent when meeting new people. But underneath it all he’s just a normal teenage guy who is loyal to his friend(s), loves his parents enough that he’ll try a raw food diet with his mom (what teenager would do this?), is so protective of his sister, and has no idea how to deal with a girl he likes. I’m giving him some extra points for putting himself out there, his awesome relationship with his nanny, his serious attractiveness (we all know I’m shallow), and also because I felt like he strayed a bit more from Mr. Darcy than I expected.

How believable is the plot: I don’t even think I can judge this one properly. Why would the mom have been moved from MA to Beverly Hills when she seems completely ineffective? Why does Chase latch on to Jules so fast? (Side note: I have always really disliked these characters. Even in a modern day retelling of the story there is no better word to describe them than “milquetoast”.) What sort of parents won’t let their high school age daughters leave the house without a jacket but lets a younger daughter leave looking like a floozy? And would a Hollywood party – even one thrown by a teenager – really have no alcohol? I’m giving this a 6 but I’m not really sure why. Again, then ending stuff between Elise and Derek is really skewing the whole system for me.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: I’ve already said that I usually don’t notice this stuff so when I do it must be glaring…and I noticed about a dozen errors. Typos, formatting issues, and my personal pet peeve – incorrect usage of “your” vs. “you’re”. I really don’t ask for much people! Grrr. 5.

How much did I want to keep reading: Eh, I went back and forth on this one. I really liked it in the beginning, then figured out what was going on and grew apathetic, but then the infrequent but awesome interactions between Derek and Elise drew me back in. I’m going to give it a 7 since sometimes I didn’t mind putting it away but then there were times when I was fully engrossed.

Glasses of wine I drank while reading: About 3. Now part of my reading was on a plane with a screaming child right behind me for 2.5 hours but that only accounted for 1 drink (airplane alcohol is not cheap and the mommies around me were giving me seriously jealous stares – it was scary). The rest were simply because of the unoriginality of the plot and my subsequent boredom. Not that bad but not great.

Final Score: I think Judith is using math to come up with these but I try to avoid math at all times and so I’m just taking what I think my average would be. And so for this I’m saying 7.5. And honestly if the last few chapters hadn’t been as awesome as they were then the score would’ve been much lower. This really is a book I’m glad I stuck with since it showed the most originality – and had the best scenes – at the end. Can I reiterate my statement that I wish the author had just written an original Derek/Elise story and forgotten all the P&P crap? I think I would’ve enjoyed that MUCH more.

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Caveat Emptor for sure: Melanie Marks (An Official Ellen Rant)

So originally this was going to be a book review and then I was strolling through Judith’s recent posts and saw this. Which made me pause and then get very upset because both Judith and I fell into the trap (well: Judith fell and then dragged me down by loaning me the books WITHOUT WARNING) of buying a bunch of books by the same author which turned out to be – I’m sorry to admit – awful . I really don’t type this lightly. I know that as an author you work long and hard over your finished product but sometimes you need to realize that not every book is a gem. And so I felt this was a perfect time for our first Official Ellen Rant in order to save anyone out there from suffering from the same punishment I did (and I said “I” because after I sent about 5 threatening emails to Judith entitled “How could you do this to me” she admitted she didn’t even read them all. She gave up. And then pushed them on me. WTF?)

Okay I’m not going to lie, I love to rant. I can rant about almost anything. Politics, that new Tim Riggins movie (looks awful but he’s shirtless, so I’m in), even which infomercial is the best (please, no question). So while I’m going to try keep this as organized as possible, please forgive me for any tangents or insanity. If you knew me (which is possible since I think the only people currently reading are friends) you’d realize this is just going to happen. Oh, and I’m sorry for any Kanye-level CAPS rants but sometimes that really is necessary.

My problems with Ms. Marks’ Books:

  1. The fact that the first book both Judith and I read was “His Kiss” is cosmically hilarious. As you read in her review it’s a cute book but nothing much happens. And come on, how many of us haven’t read a so-so book and then thought “I could read more so-so books by this author”. So that’s what I expected! And instead each one got worse and worse. Either my Kindle actually loaded them in order from best to worst (“best” being used subjectively) or they just wore me down in the exact way something is NOT supposed to wear you down, by making you realize how terrible they were.
  2. THE COVERS. Okay I only need to focus on one right here – can we please all agree that the girl on the cover of The Dating Deal is maybe 13? Cause that’s just creepy. I know some YA books are written for younger audiences but when your book is about high school students pretending to date each other PLEASE don’t have a girl this young on the cover. Oh, and this was only compounded by the fact that the author kept describing her as looking child-like. Let’s say it together: ewwwwwwwwww
  3. As I read through the books I noticed that the author LITERALLY CUTS AND PASTES PASSAGES FROM ONE BOOK INTO ANOTHER! I’m not even joking. I read one passage in at least 3 books. I remember several instances of her pasting entire pages from one book into another (I’m sorry that I can’t give you specific pages but they were loaned from Judith and I’m so not buying them to make a point. Judith can help out if she wants!) Seriously? If you can’t come up with original material then at the very least skip that section. Don’t f’ing cut and paste. If students in a middle school English class can’t do it then neither should you — someone who is CHARGING people to read what they write.
  4. The hidden religious agenda. Look I’m not going to lie, I’m not a reader of religious fiction but I have no problem with it as a genre. As much as I rant about certain topics, I truly don’t care if you want to write books rated G or X, about aliens or even angels – just be up front with what your books are about so I can avoid them if I choose to. I don’t think it’s necessary to specify what religion is mentioned in terms of this rant, all I have to say is that I felt like it was constantly pushed on me. For instance – in When Kyle Came Back the boy (Kyle) has been through an amazing amount of stuff. He was kidnapped from his idyllic home by his clinically insane father and forced to do awful things. Then he is found and comes back to his original (foster) family. And you know what: he handles all his shit completely admirably. Yes, he smokes a few cigarettes but always puts them out in front of his little sister because he doesn’t want to be a bad influence. AND THAT’S IT. He doesn’t go crazy, or lock himself in a room, or become an alcoholic – he just tries to get through his day. And yet the main girl (who was his bff before Kyle was kidnapped) is worried because he won’t go to church. She seriously at one point was like “I knew he was on the right track back to being MY Kyle because he was hanging out with church friends” (paraphrase). Oh! And in the aforementioned The Dating Deal the main dude is so in love with and inspired by his secret crush (obvi the girl he’s “pretending” to date) that he and his younger sister convert to their religion WITHOUT DISCUSSING IT WITH HIS PARENTS. Ugh, talk about unrealistic.
  5. The ultimate “piss Ellen off” topic. It turns out (spoiler alert) that part of the reason Kyle came back in (wait for it) When Kyle Came Back is because the power of the main girl’s prayer saved Kyle’s life when he was supposed to die. And so now ANGELS AND DEMONS are chasing after Kyle and generic girl. Oh, there are also A+D in A Demon’s Kiss (not as shocking that they’re there, though). Are you kidding me? I just….I just can’t with this one anymore. Please just read my comment here.
  6. The punishment my liver had to go through due to these books. Now granted I read these over a long weekend but I still think it took me between 3-4 BOTTLES of wine to make it through. You guys – that is NOT okay. And for those of you who know me this isn’t like “all I drank over a 4 day period was 4 bottles of wine” because we all know that’s nothing for me. I’m saying in order to get through these 5 books I had to drink 3-4 bottles of wine. That’s almost a bottle per book! And (no offense) but I need to save my liver for nights out in NYC and bad days at school, not YA books. So even though I’m not rating the books I’m giving them a -50 (-10 per book) on behalf of my liver. Someone needs to speak out for the unspoken YA victims!

So there it is. I promise next time I’ll review an actual book instead of several (with a lot of ranting along the way). And if you ever want to rant along with me just drop us a line, I’m always interested! Especially if you want to discuss the eternal Pajama Jeans vs EZ Cracker Infomercial debate. I truly love them both.

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His Kiss by Melanie Marks

His Kiss by Melanie Marks

Publisher: ThunderStruck Publishing (November 2, 2011)

Format: Kindle Edition

Plot:

When Ali Grange’s boyfriend, Aiden, trash talks the school hockey team’s star player, everyone expects Griffin ‘The Grief Master’ to retaliate with his fists. Before he can, Ali begs Griffin to leave Aiden alone. He agrees but his price for doing so is a kiss. It takes some convincing but finally Ali agrees to his deal and they share one brief, magical kiss. Then everything goes back to normal but it only lasts a short while since Ali can’t get the kiss out of her head. She and Aiden begin fighting and when they eventually break up, one of the hockey cheerleaders sinks her claws into Aiden as quickly as possible. With Aiden out of the picture for good, the unresolved feelings Ali has for Griffin become a full blown crush. Yet when he shows interest, Ali pushes him and her feelings away. They spend the rest of the book playing a cat and mouse game and it’s not until the very end that we learn if the two can ever make it as a couple.

Review:

This so rarely happens when it’s time to review because frankly, I adore reviewing new books but I’m feeling rather uninspired tonight. The thought of picking apart this novel is like one big flashing BLAH in my mind, mainly due to the fact that this, my friends, is a book without any substance. Sure, there’s a story there. It’s your basic girl and boy share forbidden passion, girl ignores the passion, and girl and boy skirt around their passion and attraction for ages until finally it all explodes in some pretty harmless G-rated action. The end. Well let me tell you: I really have nothing to add. There’s nothing wrong with this sort of book. It’s generically good and we’re predisposed to like it since this is a book we’ve all read before in one variation or another. It’s easy, it’s formulaic, it gives us warm fuzzies even though the main characters don’t have a lot of depth and the ending has been done a million times over. The writing is decent, everything is believable but in the end, who cares? I couldn’t even remember all that much of the story and I finished it only two days ago. It was like reading cardboard, all bland and one-dimensional. I enjoyed Griffin and Ali’s story but nothing about it stood out as exceptional. Actually, no wait. There was one thing that really stood out but not in a good way: Melanie Marks uses the words luscious and pillow soft in every single sentence that refers to Griffin, The Grief Master’s lips. God, it was annoying! And since the title of the book is His Kiss you gotta realize that we hear about his lips all the freaking time. It got to the point where it was so distracting that I started counting the number of times she referred to the lips as either luscious or pillow soft. Let’s just say I left off at 9 and leave it at that…

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 4. Ali was just a normal girl and usually

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I find that sort of fresh faced, squeaky cleaness appealing. Here, it was just boring except for the pillow soft lips’ thoughts she had and those were just plain disturbing. She actually loses points for that.

How much did I like the love interest: 6. He of the pillow soft, luscious lips, Griffin himself gave me hope for a better book but there’s no depth in his character. He just sounds like a random cute boy who could easily have been replaced by a different cute boy. He was pretty sweet though and the way he was constantly protecting Ali was hot but it wasn’t enough to save him from a 6.

How believable is the plot: 10. It’s beyond believable mainly because the story is so basic and I swear I’ve read something similar before…I swear, there must be a bagillion books of almost this same plot and style being written every day.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 5. The first pass through didn’t register much but this second one pointed out all sorts of glaring editorial mistakes. If it’s plural in one sentence it’s gotta stay plural in the next, girlfriend! The dialogue was a little stilted and there was really no descriptive prose going on.

How much did I want to keep reading: 2. This was kind of a snoozefest to be honest. Not because it was bad, but because it lacked originality. I didn’t really want to keep reading but felt obligated to due to the short length of the book and obviously the fact that I knew very soon it would be over for good.

Final Score: 5.4 / 10. Like most of the books that turn out to be banal, this only gets a middle of the road score. Read it for something light and unassuming because you won’t get much else.

 

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Shipwrecked Summer by Carly Syms

Shipwrecked Summer, by Carly Syms

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services

Format: Kindle Edition

Before we get to the good stuff, I need to point out some of life’s undeniable facts:

1. Every book about the beach and/or summer love at the beach will end up being trite and lackluster.

2. Lifeguards are jerks.

3. Lifeguards (who are jerks) are all long-limbed bronzed gods who love to run up and down the beach and also frequent bonfires where they meet the heroine and then treat her like complete and utter crap.

4. The good girl never gets the lifeguard and if she does, something stupidly bad will happen to make it so she can’t keep him.

5. Enter…Shipwrecked Summer!

Plot:

Alexa “Lexie” Jurgens is off to Wisconsin for college and decides to spend one last summer in Ship’s Wreck, NJ in the hopes of finding her true love. She arrives at Grandma Jurgens’ house late in the day and decides to go for a walk on the beach. While there, she meets the hottest lifeguard she’s ever seen named Jeff. Only the guy is abrasive, rude, and disagreeable in a way that is not endearing nor cute but makes you instantly dislike him. Lexie forces herself to feel the spark of something nonetheless but forgets about it when she finally reconnects with her summer friends, Pia and Joey. They all decide to check out the local parties and end up at a bonfire. Across the fire, Lexie spots hot Jeff from earlier rubbing up against a beautiful, blonde vixen. She begrudgingly let’s go of any hopes she had for falling for him and decides to walk by herself along the water. Lifeguard Jeff finds her there and confronts her. He claims he saw in her eyes that she wanted to fall in love with him but he has a girlfriend and Lexie will not be getting a piece of his buff bod. In the midst of this tirade, another hot, buff guy cuts in and tells Jeff to stop his verbal abuse. It turns out this savior is her grandma’s new neighbor, Anthony, and he’s looking for local friends. Lexie sets her romantic sights on him instead of Jeff and invites him to spend time with her, Pia, and Joey. As summer progresses though, Anthony and Pia begin a tentative relationship and Lexie finds her opportunities for summer love slipping through her fingers. Luckily, one afternoon she chances upon a baseball game and is drawn by unseen forces to watch it, leading her to reconnect with Jeff the Jerky Lifeguard. He turns out to be a decent guy and is newly single. They develop their own tentative relationship and the book culminates with Lexie facing her own fears of open water in order to save Jeff during a storm.

Review:

Why, why, why?! Why did Carly Sims write this particular story? It’s the same story every other young author has written about summer beach love and it’s actually more poorly written than most. It was trite and overly sentimental, drawing on overused beach cliches and stupid plot devices to make you care about the characters. Only I didn’t care about them. I found them to be shallow caricatures of people with no depth of feeling. From the moment I read Lexie’s silly summer mantra, “make this summer count”, I knew this book was doomed. Why is finding love this summer so important? Why does Lexie assume she’ll find it at the Jersey Shore? Why, oh why, did I keep reading when I should have filed this under DNF (Did Not Finish)? There is nothing new in this book. It is wholly unoriginal with the sole exception being that I hated the love interest. The guy was an a-hole from the very beginning. My personal summer mantra is, “once an a-hole, always an a-hole”, and Lexie should have listened to it instead. There was no way I believed that Jeff could change from being the utterly narcissistic jerk who berates Lexie for liking him to a sweet, dreamy, sensitive type. I just couldn’t see it. It felt forced, just like a lot of the scenes. The pacing was off, the characters were one-dimensional, and even the name of the town was eye-roll inducing. I found nothing redeemable except maybe the scenes describing the ocean or the actual beach which were still lackluster only they didn’t involve any of the dull characters. Carly Syms just took all the overused high school romance scenes that were out there and set them at the Jersey Shore in a failed attempt at giving us a fun, beach read.

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 2. Lexie was BORING! I hated her personal mantras, found her insipid and whiny, and just wanted her to shut up.

How much did I like the love interest: 1. The guy is a jerk at heart. A leopard can’t change his spots and a lifeguard can’t change the fact that he’s a jerk. No matter how hard he tried after their initial meeting, nothing Jeff did could make him less of a jerk. Bad choice, Lexie. Bad choice.

How

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believable is the plot: 5. I’ll admit it–I live in NJ so the setting and plot seemed more accessible than it would have otherwise. But let’s face it, most girls don’t spend their last summer before college looking for real love at the beach since it would mean leaving that love come September and being forced into a time-consuming, nerve-wracking long distance relationship.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 3. Pacing was off, editing was okay, and writing wasn’t anything special. There was nothing unique or new here, nothing to set it apart from any other bad beach fiction. Not even the characters redeemed this in any way.

How much did I want to keep reading: 1. I just wanted it to be over so I could go to sleep. It didn’t inspire me in any way and I actually was thankful I could loan it so I could discuss it’s lack of redeeming qualities with other friends.

Final Score: 2.4 / 10

I wish there were more to say but…there isn’t. We didn’t get much to work with here so, there you have it.

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