Review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

wintergirls by laurie halse anderson

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.


Description taken from Goodreads.

I normally love Laurie Halse Anderson’s books and voice as a writer, so I didn’t expect for this book to not work for me as much as it did.

The thing that really made this story wrong for me was how poetic Lia tries to be. She goes into unnecessary metaphors that don’t make sense, uses strikethrough that’s endearing annoying and can’t explain anything simply. She’s got the why-yes-I-am-the-victim-here mentality that often strikes girls in complicated situations in contemporary YA.

“Dead girl walking”, the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret”, the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

This ^^ is not even close to the worst of it.

Other than the forced poetry to this story that encompasses the issues of the writing and the main character, I thought this story was interesting, to say the least. The plot comes up with some ghosts, deals with the issues between Lia and Cassie and eventually Lia comes to terms with her anorexia. The journey to that point in time feels long as the writing wore down on me and slowed down the pace, but I was happy with the ending and the way that not everything was quite tied up in the sense that I felt like Lia had a good future ahead for her, but not everything is certain.

If nothing else, WINTERGIRLS was pretty unique in it’s approach to anorexia and eating disorders in general. It was nice to see the ghost element to see how exactly she would pull it off because she does have a reputation as a contemporary writer, but while WINTERGIRLS was well-done, it just wasn’t for me. I am going to be trying MIRRORS NEVER LIE, a slightly older book by Isaacsen-Bright that’s also about anorexia. For now, I wouldn’t recommend WINTERGIRLS as the best YA book about anorexia out there, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as my favorite Laurie Halse Anderson book. Instead, I would read SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson. 2 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 278

Review: Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

sea of shadows by kelley armstrong

In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.

Description taken from Goodreads.

This book was interesting.

no it's NOT gif

Or… not.

yeah that's true I guess gif

In fact, it was really boring. For most of it.

obviously gif

There was so much potential to this story I was actually sad when it ended and I realized that none of that potential meant anything because NONE OF IT BECAME ANYTHING.

SEA OF SHADOWS is built up well. I enjoyed the world-building especially, even though there was a lack of a backstory to much of the world, backstory, etc. The writing wasn’t too simple and the plot was fairly straightforward. The pacing was what was really disappointing in the beginning, but that grew into an issue that was a lot bigger.

For me, characters can make or break a book, and I really disliked the way that the characters were drawn up in this book. The romances were terrible to the point where it was tiring to even think about the characters and their relationships, and that wasn’t even when I was judging the characters as they were by themselves. SEA OF SHADOWS is about twins, Moira and Ashyn. Right from the beginning right until the very end, I struggled with figuring out which was which, but it didn’t matter too much because the POV differs between the two girls and really–all you need to do is identify one of them and then you realize who the other is, because they both have clearly defining traits and don’t deviate much from those traits over the course of the story. It’s really very simple.

Moira: Rash, stupid, impulsive.

Ashyn: Quiet, dull, forgiving.

Moira is constantly talking and making bad, rash decisions and getting people–including herself–into trouble. As for Ashyn, she is always forgiving people. That might seem like a good trait, but it’s not when Ashyn is basically being stepped on all the time by others, especially her romantic interest.

Then there’s the romantic interests, Gavril and Ronan. And just as Moira and Ashyn are equally dumb (okay, maybe Moira is more apparently dumb) in different ways, Gavril and Ronan are both equally annoying, standoffish jerks in different ways.

Gavril: constantly shoving down Moira, who of course is the person he’s interested in.

Ronan: uses people, is a criminal, unforgiving.

You know, now that I think about it–these four were made for each other. I just hate the way that they’re constantly stumbling about from one scene to the next, being chased from one place to another, out of the frying pan and into the fire and then being rescued continually. It’s annoying and it makes the plot extremely repetitive. I had hoped to see a lot more from this book than I got, and while there were parts to it I enjoyed, I didn’t like much overall with this story and would not recommend it. Many people have, however, said that they enjoy Kelley Armstrong’s adult novels far more than her YA ones, so I would recommend taking a look at her other titles if you are interested in her work. As for YA that is like this, I would recommend books by Leigh Bardugo and Maggie Stiefvater (the one and only), especially her THE RAVEN CYCLE series. 1.5 stars.

pg count for the paperback: 409

Series: Age of Legends

Review: Ashlynn’s Dreams by Julie C. Gilbert

ashlynn's dreams by julie c. gilbert

Before she was kidnapped, Jillian Marie Antel Blairington was just an average bright, brave, headstrong child. She was excited for life in a new house with her Momma and new Daddy. Afterward, she’s all that … and so much more. Held in a scientific facility, Jillian discovers her past-a family she never knew and a power she doesn’t understand. With her ability now activated, she can enter and even shape a person’s dreams. Jillian’s been kidnapped, and her Gift has been triggered, so she can locate and save Benjamin Connelly, a brother she never even knew she had. She’d better master this strange ability quickly, though, because her life isn’t the only one at stake. Her babysitter, Danielle Matheson, is being held as a hostage to ensure Jillian’s full cooperation. Slowly, Jillian begins to learn more about her captor and the other genetically altered children held at the facility.

Join Jillian as she tries to survive the training being forced upon her, find her unknown brother, escape with Danielle, and work her way back to a normal life once more.

Description taken from Goodreads. 

This book had a fun concept and I enjoyed several parts of it, but between the journal format and the way this book is written, it was extremely hard to understand, enjoy and fully appreciate.

Normally, I like accents in books. I feel like it makes what the characters are saying, where they’re from and what they’re doing more authentic. Good examples of accents that sometimes irritate people but I liked are from Patrick Ness’s THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO (Chaos Walking series), Paolo Bacigalupi’s SHIP BREAKER or even–less frequently–Frances Hodgson Burnett’s THE SECRET GARDEN. The main reason why I found myself not enjoying this story to the fullest extent was how the book is narrated, which is mostly in the eyes of Ashlynn. Some of the POV (point of view) switches up, but it mostly stays in the eyes of Ashlynn. I wished that it wasn’t written the way it was with her accent and the way that the story was hard to read.

As for plot and premise, I did like the idea of the story. I think that sometimes the story went off on unnecessary tangents, but other than that I liked the way that Ashlynn found out about her powers and began to use them. It was also cool to see how the book was portrayed and how the premise came to define the story. I wished that this book was a little bit more character-oriented, but I did like how the plot was executed.

Then on to characters. As hard as I tried, I had more of a love/hate relationship with Ashlynn than anything else. I had really hoped that she could come to grow more as a character and she could formulate real, deep and meaningful relationships with other people, but I felt like I was looking in from the outside while I was reading ASHLYNN’S DREAMS.

Overall, I would rate this book 2 stars. It was an okay read, but I didn’t fully enjoy anything about it and I had hoped to see a lot more. There were parts to it that were entertaining, but it wasn’t enough to save the entire story.

If you’re looking for a book that’s like this that’s a little better executed, I would recommend James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series or Madelyn Rosenberg and Mary Crockett’s awesome 2014 debut, Dream Boy.

pg count for the paperback: 216

Novella Review: Poison Dance by Livia Blackburne

poison dance by livia blackburne

James is skilled, efficient, and deadly, a hired blade navigating the shifting alliances of a deteriorating Assassin’s Guild. Then he meets Thalia, an alluring but troubled dancing girl who offers him a way out—if he’ll help her kill a powerful nobleman. With the Guild falling apart, it just might be worth the risk. But when you live, breathe, and love in a world that’s forever flirting with death, the slightest misstep can be poison.

Description taken from Goodreads.

Two days ago, I wrote a review for Livia Blackburne’s recent official YA debut, Midnight Thief. In it, I mentioned that this novella to the MIDNIGHT THIEF series, was an amazing companion to the first book. It was then that I realized I had yet to review this book and after I got an anonymous user request to review it, I decided to.

POISON DANCE is all about James. His backstory, his personality, and the conflicting elements of good and evil that readers are able to see collide over the course of MIDNIGHT THIEF. This book is definitely not my favorite novella, but it is one of the most well-written novellas I’ve ever read, because more than being entertaining or having beautiful prose or elegant structure, it completes the job of a novella very well.

There are quite a few novellas I know of that are like POISON DANCE, based around the events that happened to one of the major characters to the main story. Right off the bat, I think of the novella THE BLUE HAIRED BOY by Courtney C. Stevens, author of Faking Normal. Or Infinite Repeat by Paula Stokes, author of The Art of Lainey. I must admit that THE BLUE HAIRED BOY and INFINITE REPEAT were significantly more entertaining and well-rounded than POISON DANCE, but POISON DANCE provided a complexity of character that I can’t help but admire.

Throughout the story of MIDNIGHT THIEF, James can be perceived as nothing but a bad guy, but that’s not true. In many moment of MIDNIGHT THIEF, James’s sense of justice and morality comes through. It’s the life he lives that doesn’t allow him to show that most of the time. And in POISON DANCE, as I got into James’s inner thoughts, I was very impressed by the way he comes to truly care about other people and see things in them and notice things about life that other people don’t stop to see.

While this book didn’t really feel complete to me, that was okay, because this is a novella. In a regular novel, I wouldn’t accept that nearly as easily, but it came without too much effort for POISON DANCE. It’s more what comes through in the story, the course of events that throws James into MIDNIGHT THIEF, that I admired–if a little lacking in other ways.

I think the most important thing about a novella is being able to pair well with the series that it correlates to, and POISON DANCE does an excellent job of that, going right back to character.

If you’re interested in reading MIDNIGHT THIEF, I would really recommend that you read this book first, as I didn’t think too highly of it in my review and ended up being disappointed. However, if you enjoy this read and want to see more, I encourage reading MIDNIGHT THIEF. Overall, I had a good time with this book and I really enjoyed seeing more of James and I think that Blackburne did an amazing job with him. (If you want to read this book, it’s free on Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook.) 4 stars.

pg count for the ebook: 86

Review: Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

midnight thief by livia blackburne

Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.

But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

Description taken from Goodreads. 

I really, really wish I could have liked this book. I have been wanting to read this book since 2013, and it was one of my highly anticipated high fantasies of 2014. The only thing that really brought this book down for me was the characters, Kyra especially.

Let’s start from the beginning, which is the fighting scenes. Kyra is supposed to be this awesome thief that’s amazing. In actuality, she’s more of a happy-go-lucky, motherly character who has someone magically appear and save her from whatever situation she’s in once she gets in a pinch. The maternal part is fine, there’s nothing wrong with her, it’s the fact that your characters’s personalities need to fit their character.

On to the romance. If this had been a good love triangle, I could’ve accepted it. Heck, if this had been a good love PYRAMID, I would’ve accepted it. But I couldn’t, because for one all the guys fall in love with her in this story, for no real reason in particular. Oh yes, it’s her grace and skill right? Yeah, the skill she doesn’t have and doesn’t earn.

The hardest part about disliking Kyra is her character. It’s not even the annoying things she does. It’s that she has no sense of street smarts, lacks common sense, is weak and loyal to no one–constantly betraying people for what she perceives as her own gain.

When it comes to Tristam and James, the leader of the Assassin’s Guild, Tristam was acceptable. I really appreciated the backstory and the way he grows so much as a character through his friend’s death. It was very well executed by Blackburne. And then there was James, the one character who especially stuck out to me for the better.

I originally read POISON DANCE, the novella telling James’s story set before MIDNIGHT THIEF, as a way to hold me over until MIDNIGHT THIEF came out, but if you want to get a glimpse into this story and Blackburne’s style, I recommend that you read POISON DANCE. It meshes very well with MIDNIGHT THIEF for one reason–and that reason is it shows a completely different side of James. Having read the novella, I admired James because of how well his character is crafted. He’s complex and fleshed out, showing no clear line between good and evil and constantly tricking the reader.

The world-building in this book description wise was okay, but dwindled towards the end of the story and there were many things that weren’t explained that are crucial to the core of the story, such as explanation of the magic or the beasts. This book was a let down for me, but I did really love seeing James again and some parts of the story were very entertaining, but not enough to save it. Would only recommend this book if you read POISON DANCE and really enjoy it. 1.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 376

Series: Midnight Thief

Review: Acid by Emma Pass

acid by emma pass

The year is 2113. In Jenna Strong’s world, ACID—the most brutal controlling police force in history—rule supreme. No throwaway comment or whispered dissent goes unnoticed—or unpunished. And it was ACID agents who locked Jenna away for life, for a horrendous crime she struggles to remember. But Jenna’s violent prison time has taught her how to survive by any means necessary.

When a mysterious rebel group breaks her out, she must use her strength, speed, and skill to stay one step ahead of ACID, and try to uncover the truth about what really happened on that terrible night two years ago. They have taken her life, her freedom, and her true memories away from her. How can she reclaim anything when she doesn’t know who to trust?

Description taken from Goodreads. 

I think what surprised me the most about ACID was how much of it was spent in futile explanation. The beginning is awesome, with Jenna showing off how cool she is and what kind of situation she’s in. I also got a good grasp for what her world looked like inside the prison. I admired the way that Pass wrote her fight scenes and the way Jenna thought, but most of all the scenes where Jenna gets sick. There was so much description that I really enjoyed in the first quarter of the story, but–like much of the other good components to this book–that dissolved pretty quickly.

ACID is one of those questions books, where all the author wants to do is torment their main character and the people around them until finally the MC breaks free and goes off to find their own answers. The problem with stories like these for me are that often times, by the time the MC has figured out some of their situation, their questions still far out number their answers and I’ve figured out all the things that the main character has and then some to the point where any information that they get is useless. It was incredibly frustrating to think about all the questions that are asked over the course of the story.

There is so much to this book that is left as an extremely promising, half-baked idea but then is completely wasted and thrown into the flames before those ideas can ever come together and be fully formed. I think that was the most irritating part of ACID and one that I felt was a shame because of how much promise this story had to it. The world-building and plot were unfocused and not detailed as well.

Overall, I think that there are much better books with these types of elements out there. I expected a lot more from ACID than I got and was really disappointed to find that it wasn’t all that it had appeared to be in the first few chapters of the story. If this was a series, I might have been able to continue on just to see if things get better, but unfortunately I wasn’t happy with the ending and there was just too much to this story that wasn’t completed. For fans of this type of world and romance, you might want to try the MATCHED series by Ally Condie. 2 stars.

pg count for the paperback: 431

Review: Red by Alison Cherry

Red by Alison Cherry

Felicity St. John has it all—loyal best friends, a hot guy, and artistic talent. And she’s right on track to win the Miss Scarlet pageant. Her perfect life is possible because of just one thing: her long, wavy, coppery red hair.

Having red hair is all that matters in Scarletville. Redheads hold all the power—and everybody knows it. That’s why Felicity is scared down to her roots when she receives an anonymous note:

I know your secret.

Because Felicity is a big fake. Her hair color comes straight out of a bottle. And if anyone discovered the truth, she’d be a social outcast faster than she could say “strawberry blond.” Her mother would disown her, her friends would shun her, and her boyfriend would dump her. And forget about winning that pageant crown and the prize money that comes with it—money that would allow her to fulfill her dream of going to art school.

Felicity isn’t about to let someone blackmail her life away. But just how far is she willing to go to protect her red cred?

Description taken from Goodreads. 

Ariel Scott
Ginger St. John
Mayor Redding
Rose Vaughn
Ruby Johansen

There are exactly five characters that have red-oriented names in this book. The only way that this book could get more red is if the font was red. Even the author’s name is Alison Cherry, and yes–she’s a redhead. In this story, everything is about the color red, specifically having red hair. That grows to be a fun concept that’s also incredibly annoying.

There’s nothing special with the writing in RED. It’s actually quite simplistic and not at all hard to understand. The characters follow the same principle. Each one of them have a defining characteristic and don’t show a whole lot of depth over the course of the story. Especially with Felicity, I was hoping that she would grow and change, but she doesn’t do much of that over the course of the story. Yes, she grows to understand many things better, but she never truly as a revelation big enough to inspire a change in her character.

During the whole course of the book, I was entertained but I also felt like the story was held down because of the themes behind the premise and plot. Basically, someone discovers that Felicity is a “strawbie” and this fact alone is enough to ruin her entire life so Felicity has a meltdown and almost loses her best friends, her boyfriend, her family and many of the people who care about her because of the things she does under the blackmail of the person who knows her secret.

If you want a quick, fun read, RED may seem like the perfect book, but I would not recommend it. The whole book is very dramatic and certainly fun to read at times, but it’s also wearing and not to be taken seriously. The prejudice in RED is the most exhausting thing about it. Still, it’s believable, which is why I didn’t try to judge that part of it too harshly. I felt like it was understand and realistic. The real reason why this story let me down was because of how these themes (being dramatic, all the prejudice, the backstabbing) made the plot descend into a wave of pettiness and immaturity.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad read, but the themes really got to me. I wish it could’ve come out on a positive note, as a life-lesson kind of story, but it didn’t for me. I also disliked the way that Cherry left things hanging. She didn’t fully capture the power of the story she had built up. There were so many questions as to what happens now? that don’t get answered, but all in all, it was an okay read. 2.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 320