Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Review: Control by Lydia Kang (ARC)

Control (Control #1) by Lydia Kang
Dial Books (an imprint of Penguin), 400 Pages
US Release Date: December 26, 2013
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

When a crash kills their father and leaves them orphaned, Zel knows she needs to protect her sister, Dyl. But before Zel has a plan, Dyl is taken by strangers using bizarre sensory weapons, and Zel finds herself in a safe house for teens who aren’t like any she’s ever seen before—teens who shouldn't even exist. Using broken-down technology, her new friends’ peculiar gifts, and her own grit, Zel must find a way to get her sister back from the kidnappers who think a powerful secret is encoded in Dyl’s DNA.

A spiraling, intense, romantic story set in 2150—in a world of automatic cars, nightclubs with auditory ecstasy drugs, and guys with four arms—this is about the human genetic “mistakes” that society wants to forget, and the way that outcasts can turn out to be heroes.
-----------------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
Failure is always a real possibility. But nothing would be accomplished if we always succumbed to fear.
Control was a weird read for me. It’s not my usual cup of tea (can’t say biomedical YA is normal in general!), and I felt like this book was trying SO hard. Too hard. And despite all that, it was still every bit as typical as ever. Every personality you could want is here, all types of rivalry and friendship and brotherhood and sibling love and relationships and real love, and none of it in a really special way. The book was predictable in the weirdest ways; even the “twist” of the “trait”, the good house versus evil house, the nightclub.

It was definitely a slow start for me. I just wanted it to hurry up, and I may have even skimmed through a page or two or nine. What probably didn’t help is that I felt like I recognized a thousand different books in the pages. Which also makes me feel like Control wasn’t entirely original. A lot of it was fun, and I’m not saying I’ve ever read a singular book like this—except it seemed to be built off a lot of good parts of other books, and it was a bit weird. I didn’t like that almost every scene I could say, “Hey, that’s like X-book!”

Still, I read it. All of it. Control definitely picked up in the latter half and I finally started to feel like I was getting invested. The characters, though typical and pretty predictable, are endearing in their own little ways. I enjoyed seeing how their “traits” affected them and made them quirky. I enjoyed them all in the house, especially when they were all in a group. Is it weird to say they have chemistry together? Because they do.

Perhaps the only thing I didn’t predict was the end between Zel and…well. You know. But it’s my own naivete. If I’d bothered to take a step back and see the story as a whole rather than pieces of others, I would have seen it and known it was meant to be this way at the end of Book One.

Control was a mixed bag for me. I liked it only because I found it to be parts of books I do like, and the better parts…which is also its downfall. But I will definitely read the second book to know where it’s going to and what happens with the entire crew, so at least there’s that.

3 stars

Monday, January 20, 2014

Review: Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor (ARC)

Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor
Harper Teen, 304 Pages
Expected US Release Date: February 18, 2014
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Critically acclaimed author Melissa Kantor masterfully captures the joy of friendship, the agony of loss, and the unique experience of being a teenager in this poignant new novel about a girl grappling with her best friend's life-threatening illness.

Zoe and her best friend, Olivia, have always had big plans for the future, none of which included Olivia getting sick. Still, Zoe is determined to put on a brave face and be positive for her friend.

Even when she isn't sure what to say.

Even when Olivia misses months of school.

Even when Zoe starts falling for Calvin, Olivia's crush.

The one thing that keeps Zoe moving forward is knowing that Olivia will beat this, and everything will go back to the way it was before. It has to. Because the alternative is too terrifying for her to even imagine.

In this incandescent page-turner, which follows in the tradition of The Fault in Our Stars, Melissa Kantor artfully explores the idea that the worst thing to happen to you might not be something that is actually happening to you. Raw, irreverent, and honest, Zoe's unforgettable voice and story will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.
-----------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
I think it stopped being fun when I started wanting to be the best at it.
This is a weird confession, but here it goes: when I was younger, I was obsessed with cancer books. Books where characters had cancer, or were best friends with people who had cancer, or had family with cancer…whatever it was, I read it. Lurlene McDaniels was practically part of my daily diet.

I’ve since widened my reading repertoire, but I feel like I can safely say my knowledge and “experience” (this is such a weird thing to have experience in) had me going into Maybe One Day pretty prepared. I knew what to expect, I figured I could sense how it would end or progress within the first 100 pages, and I was determined to face whatever Melissa Kantor threw at me. I mean, I made it through TFiOS, I can make it through anything. As long as I have a tissue box.

And damnit, did I need that tissue box.

Maybe One Day is a strong, heart-achingly beautiful book of friendship and love. Of finding what we love, of learning that love does not always have to be forever; but it will always be for the things and people that matter.

I definitely did get a feeling what was going to happen less than 100 pages in, and I did get it right…but the entire story itself was so good I didn’t even care that I could figure it out. I loved the incorporation of dance and how it seemed to influence and echo a lot of their friendship and beliefs. I loved the families, how they struggled but were supporting, how they were just the right amount of involved.

I love Olivia and Zoe, so much. As individuals, but also together as friends. They are the epitome of everything I hope to find in a friend and hope to be in a friend. And what made this book so special is that their friendship just…was. It never felt forced or lacking, I didn’t think Melissa Kantor was trying to prove they had a friendship stronger than anything—it was fluid and beautiful, something I couldn’t see but believed in as wholeheartedly as I do air.  Even separate, each character was so strong with her own personality and distinction. There was enough in common for you to see how it works between them, but they are definitely their own people too, and that was fantastic.

I wish Calvin was in the book a little more, I felt he could have been a bigger part—but for what he was, I loved him. He had few parts, but each one was meaningful and said a lot about him. All together he probably comprised less than 50 pages of this book, but I knew him wholely.

Because I can’t talk about the entire last third of the book without giving away what happens, just trust me that it will pull you every which way you could possibly go, without anticipation and only with hope. I cried pretty solidly through a lot of it, because there are moments you just…you don’t know.  There was one line that just made me start weeping: “It is agony to thaw.” And in that one line, I feel you can see so much of this book. The emotions, the feelings, what may or may not happen, the parts that do and the ones you wish could.

Maybe One Day may not be on the same level as The Fault in Our Stars, but it definitely stands on it’s own. You are able to find yourself in their friendship and in both the characters, while feeling like you are a part of them as well. It made me want to hug my best friends harder, to tell them how much they mean to me.
4.5 stars

Monday, January 13, 2014

Top Ten 2014 YA Debuts I'm Most Excited For

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the fab ladies at The Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten Most Anticipated
2014 YA Debuts
All release dates are subject to change

1. Extraction by Stephanie Diaz (July 22)
^^Steph is one of my IRL friends, of course this has to be #1 on the list! And it does sound pretty damn amazing, too.
2. Falls the Shadow by Stefanie Gaither (September 16)
3. Vivian Divine is Dead by Lauren Sabel (June 3)
4. Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern (June 3)
5. Pointe by Brandy Colbert (April 10)

6. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige (April 1)
7. Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy (March 18)
^^I've actually already read this one, and it is AMAZING. Review coming soon!
8. Landry Park by Bethany Hagen (February 4)
9. A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller (January 23)
10. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (January 28)
^^Read my review here to find out how much I loved Cruel Beauty!

Which 2014 YA Debuts are you waiting for?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

[Blog Blitz] Review: Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill
Delacorte (an imprint of Random House), 352 pages
US Release Date: January 7, 2014
Format/Source: eARC via NetGalley - thank you!

Meet Sloane Emily Jacobs: a seriously stressed-out figure-skater from Washington, D.C., who choked during junior nationals and isn’t sure she’s ready for a comeback. What she does know is that she’d give anything to escape the mass of misery that is her life.

Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player from Philly who’s been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she’s playing the worst she’s ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over.

When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself.
-----------------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
"Wannawatchamovietonight?" I say it so fast it all comes out as one long, newly invented word (country of origin: Swoonistan; meaning: "to swoon so hard as to b rendered incapable of enunciation").
So I have to admit, I had really high hopes for Being Sloane Jacobs. Meant To Be was one of my favourite books of 2012 (and 2013, let’s be real--read my review here!) and I seriously still refer to it probably on a weekly basis. So I went into BSJ a bit…reserved. And while it didn’t blow me away like MTB did, Sloane Jacobs can hold her own in my love of contemporary YA fiction.

First, let it be known that I am obsessed with figure skating. I had a poster of Nancy Kerrigan on my wall when I was 8. I watch it religiously—and not just during Winter Olympics seasons. I may even know all the different types of jumps (I still get a couple confused, but generally). And I had a minor obsession with the Mighty Ducks movies when I was younger*, so I do happen to know a bit about hockey. 

Which set up Being Sloane Jacobs quite nicely. Not that you have to love or know the sports in the slightest to—it’s just that I immediately went in with a connection, and it was wonderful to visit these worlds again. I thought Lauren did a great job explaining certain aspects of each sport, conveying how certain things are difficult or intermediate level. There’s such an open, accepting quality to the writing, and it worked so well.

Enough of the technical mumbo-jumbo – this book was so darn cute! You completely understand why both Sloane’s want to escape their lives, you even commiserate with both of them. My life is nowhere near either of theirs, but I felt for them. The underlying core of their lives is the pressure to be someone, to live up to expectations set to them—earned or given or otherwise. And I think that’s something every person can relate to, no matter what. Lauren really has a nack for creating relateable characters and situations, and I love it.

I also happen to love all the boys in this novel…really all the characters. Each one has a bit of fun and serious, a bit of jokester and a bit of hard-worker. There’s dimension to the ones that need it, and it’s believable to me. Every interaction was so enjoyable - even the pranking parts ;). Plus, the setting was so much fun! I've always wanted to go to Montreal (Canada, really), and there's really a sense of the city woven throughout this book. I was surprised how much I felt like I was really there, since the settings always seemed to be skimmed over--but Lauren's got this way of description that sticks with you even if it's background.

Something I’m always delighted to see in novels is the element of family, and BSJ really incorporated that—to every extent, in all facets. There are some baddies in families, some good ones, some friends, some that you’d expect to be as they are, and others who surprise you. And all of it is so, so good.

Being Sloane Jacobs is one of those perfect contemporary novels, filled with lessons and hardships about friendship, family and love—and while it didn’t make me squeal or fall so hard in love like Meant To Be did, it definitely made me appreciate Lauren Morrill even more. She’s got a permanent spot on my To-Read shelf.

*ok fine, I’m still obsessed with Mighty Ducks. Do I own the box set of MD1-3? YOU KNOW IT.

4 stars / 5

Connect with Lauren!
Website | Twitter | GoodReads
Purchase Being Sloane Jacobs!
Amazon | BN | The Book Depository | IndieBound

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (ARC)

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Balzar + Bray (an imprint of Harper), 352 pages
Expected US Release Date: January 28, 2014
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!
Challenges: Debut Author Challenge, Standalone Challenge

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.
-------------------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
If there's one thing I've learnt as the Lord of Bargains, it's that knowing the truth is not always a kindness.
Is it too early to declare a book my favourite of the year? Because Cruel Beauty is definitely a contender. A frontrunner, and I suspect will stay there for the next 12 months.

I’m not a Fantasy kind of girl. For someone with a crazy imagination like mine, I’m always pretty grounded even when not realistic. And I don’t really like paranormal, and I’m just…for whatever reason, I’m not really into magic and powers and all (excluding Harry Potter, of course. HP is the exception to every rule in the universe). So, I didn’t really expect to like Cruel Beauty. I love the story of Beauty and the Beast, and this one sounded just the right amount of different and familiar. But I definitely did not expect to be so blown away!

I have to mention the writing. I don’t think I’ve moved faster through pages before. The writing, the story, everything is just so smooth, I felt like I was gliding over the words and suddenly I found myself 130 pages in and I didn’t even know how I got there.  The language completely transports you into a different world, a different time, and I was completely sucked in.

This was one of my status udpates on Goodreads:
Because oh my god I love Ignifex. Demon Lord and Darkness and all. He is so hilariously cheeky and mysterious and manly. Which is weird, I usually don’t get “manly” from a page, but oh heavens Ignifex has got it. I kind of love how he’s got his flaws, built in and up front, and that we are made to guess the reason for them and how it effects Nyx and everyone else.

I could not stand Nyx's family (I'd spit at Aunt Telomache, too),  Astraia, and I was not sold on Shade—as people. As characters in a book, they were freakin’ fantastic. Just enough catalyst and annoyance to get me feeling, but endearing and intriguing to keep me eager and going. Shade reminded me quite a lot of Owen in The Archived by Victoria Schwab (review here!), in function and personality and everything. But it’s a good thing, because I thought that character was different and added a fantastic level to the book. But back to the characters as people---ugh. Astraia. I want to drive that damn knife into her and just…AGH. I hate her.

Cruel Beauty is one of the few books that I was kept guessing. I mean, I can generally assume…and since we know Beauty and the Beast…but there’s still something completely surprising and different about everything that happens. I love that the pacing seems to go along with the revelations in the book, that you feel like you’re supposed to start suspecting The Kindly Ones and the riddles and Hearts at the right moments in the plot, that everything feels like it comes together at that exact time that your breathe and heart is caught in your throat.

Cruel Beauty is a wonderful, sweeping novel, you guys. It is beautiful and different and filled with the intrigue and loveliness we all want from a fairy tale. There is darkness and light, flickers of hope and desire and strength at the other end of the pitiful despairs. Read, read, read this.

PS. Cover loooooooooove. Absolutely stunning.

5 Stars
and crimson roses more

Waiting on: Split Second (Pivot Point #2) by Kasie West

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine
meant to highlight an upcoming release we're excited for!

Split Second (Pivot Point #2) by Kasie West
Harper Teen, 320 Pages
Expected US Release Date: February 1, 2014

Life can change in a split second.

Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too . . . but not without a price.

When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories . . . once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school—but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her.

As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot . . . and a future that could change everything.
----------------------------Goodreads summary

If you've read my review of Pivot Point, you'll pretty obviously know why I'm waiting for this one. In summary, I LOVED PIVOT POINT. And Trevor. Mostly Trevor. But also Pivot Point, and to finally know what happens after…and what it means…and that things still develop farther?! And that TREVOR IS STILL HERE?! I need this. Need need need.

What are you waiting for this Wednesday?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Resolutions for 2014!

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the fab ladies at The Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten New Years Resolutions
Split into bookish/bloggish and not-so-bookish/bloggish :)

Book/Blog Related

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Ashley has read 3 books toward her goal of 100 books.
3 of 100 (3%)
view books
1. Read more than last year.
75 books was pitiful. 100+, I will see you again!

2. Finally get my own domain.
I've put it off forever, and I don't know why. I can't wait to drop the "blogspot" in my URL. (Where did you register your domain? I'm looking for suggestions!)

3. Respond to comments.
This is a HUGE thing, because I feel so rude when I don't! I WILL this time, every single one! (except spam. You know.)

4. Get my NetGalley review percentage up & figure out Edelweiss.
I actually read most of the stuff I download (now, at least. I've finally learned something that resembles restraint when it comes to requesting), but I've got an issue with never freakin' giving feedback! I don't know why, and it's sad. My percentage is something like 20%, and that's unacceptable. Also, Edelweiss. I get it, I kind of know, but…not really. Help?

5. Figure out my feed burner to get things pushed to all my social media sites.
It's sad I don't already do this. Or know how to do this.

Non-Book/Blog Related
6. Cut back on Starbucks.
It could be as little as getting a Tall rather than Grande, but I hope to at least drop my 5-a-week habit.

7. Stop working so many hours.
I averaged 58 hours a week in 2013. That needs to stop, because the hours I'm there are the hours I'm not putting towards reading/writing/blogging. And while I do like [most of] my job, I need to find that balance again.

8. Go outside my baking bubble.
I'm great at chocolate chip cookies. And peanut butter cookies. And rice krispy treats. But now it's time to expand! The world is my oyster! Muffins! Cupcakes! Crepes! Pastries!
From my Instagram

9. Get back to doing yoga.
I used to do it in college all the time, and I loved it. I miss it, and I don't know why I dropped it.

10. Be more respectful to my family.
It's a hard thing to admit, but I'm pretty rude to my parents and brother sometimes. It comes from all of us still living together (both my brother and I are in our mid- to late-20s) and trying to shove 4 adults into a small space and expect it to be ok. We're allowed to get irritated or angry, and we accept the arguments we get into…but I love my family no matter what, and I feel guilty that I feel like I tell them less and less.

What are your resolutions for 2014?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

[Une Petite Revue] Parallel by Lauren Miller (ARC)

Parallel by Lauren Miller
Harper Teen, 432 pages
US Release Date: May 14, 2013
Format/Source: ARC via DAC ARC Tours - thank you!
Challenges: Debut Author Challenge, Stand Alone Challenge

Abby Barnes had a plan. The Plan. She'd go to Northwestern, major in journalism, and land a job at a national newspaper, all before she turned twenty-two. But one tiny choice—taking a drama class her senior year of high school—changed all that. Now, on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, Abby is stuck on a Hollywood movie set, miles from where she wants to be, wishing she could rewind her life. The next morning, she's in a dorm room at Yale, with no memory of how she got there. Overnight, it's as if her past has been rewritten.

With the help of Caitlin, her science-savvy BFF, Abby discovers that this new reality is the result of a cosmic collision of parallel universes that has Abby living an alternate version of her life. And not only that: Abby's life changes every time her parallel self makes a new choice. Meanwhile, her parallel is living out Abby's senior year of high school and falling for someone Abby's never even met.

As she struggles to navigate her ever-shifting existence, forced to live out the consequences of a path she didn't choose, Abby must let go of the Plan and learn to focus on the present, without losing sight of who she is, the boy who might just be her soul mate, and the destiny that's finally within reach.
---------------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
"A most likely path," Dr. Mann agrees. "Which isn't to say our fates are sealed. In fact, I believe the very opposite is true. At every moment, each person has the freedom to choose a different path, thereby changing the trajectory of his life. Nothing is set in stone."
The Goods
*The science. It’s nerdy, but I love it and it makes so much sense. I love getting to learn why things are happening, or at least the plausibility factor.
*There are certain passages that just blew me away. Some about love, some about destiny, others about finding order in chaos. They were fantastic and eye-opening and I want to have them pasted around my walls.
*Caitlin. Such a great best friend and anchor throughout all the changes and effects. I love that she offers explanation at the same time as being a casualty, too.

The Bads
The only bad thing, and it was BIG, was the ending. I seriously want to just tear out the last 2-3 pages of the entire novel. I didn’t watch Lost for the entire series run, but I watched enough of it to watch the series finale, and I think Parallel’s ending is on the same plane as that. The whole “It was all a dream” effect.

The Consensus
Save the last 3 pages, Parallel was gripping and fantastic, with brilliant characters and a great intelligence woven through all the pages. I love that it felt like it was told in dual narrative (dual time is probably a little more appropriate).

The Recommendation
READ READ READ this book! There’s great insight into our lives and how we live it, how one choice or situation can change our entire lives. Just…perhaps stop 3 pages before the end. Or if you read it, just disregard them, as I am.

4.5 stars
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