Thursday, May 31, 2012

In Honor by Jessi Kirby

Published: May 8th, 2012            
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 240
Rating: 2/5
Hours after her brother’s military funeral, Honor opens the last letter Finn ever sent. In her grief, she interprets his note as a final request and spontaneously decides to go to California to fulfill it.

Honor gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn’s best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn’t seen Rusty in ages, but it’s obvious he is as arrogant and stubborn as ever—not to mention drop-dead gorgeous. Despite Honor’s better judgment, the two set off together on a voyage from Texas to California. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn’s memory—but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?
[Book Description from Goodreads]
            To be honest, I really wished I could have liked this book more than I do. I absolutely love the concept of grieving baby sister going on a road trip to fulfill her late brother’s last wish (and her brother’s buddy tagging along). It could have been so much more enjoyable if it weren’t for…the language. Yes, the language. There was too much of it. Period. And it was unnecessary. *sigh* And it bothered me enough to taint my perspective of this novel.
            I’m not a big fan of contemporaries, but I do pick one up ever so often. And sometimes I enjoy it. And sometimes I don’t. I usually enjoy them more when they’re clean. Sadly, a lot of them aren’t. This was one of those. Honestly. It seemed like Rusty cussed nearly every time he opened his mouth. Yeah, I get it. He’s a bad boy. But all that language was unnecessary. As were some of the other dirty insinuations and implications. I really hate it when authors stuff all that cussing into their books, because it means they aren’t going to get good reviews from ME. Others might be able to overlook it, or it may not bother them, but it did me.
            So, I’m sorry to say I can’t recommend In Honor. The language really bugged me, if you haven’t gotten that point yet (hehe). I probably should have stopped reading it once I realized all the cussing there was, but it was like a bad car accident- you know you should look away, but you have this curious desire to see more. Again, I loved the concept, but in my opinion, the author butchered the idea with all the bad content. Such a shame.
Quick Content Review: *may contain spoilers*
Language: Heavy (Rusty has a mouth on him, and swear words fly around like crazy.)
Violence: None-Mild (Honor’s brother is killed in Iraq)
Sexual: Moderate (one or two kisses and several dirty insinuations- not going to list them here, just take my word for it.)
Other: Rusty’s mom, Celia, is really into New Age stuff. Bru, Celia’s boyfriend, takes people up to “vortexes”, or places where the universe speaks to people through vibrations (or something like that…*rolls eyes*). My opinion: craziness.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Belles by Jen Calonita

Published: April 10, 2012
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 356
Rating: 4/5
Fifteen-year-old Isabelle Scott loves her life by the boardwalk on the supposed wrong side of the tracks in North Carolina. But when tragedy strikes, a social worker sends her to live with a long-lost uncle and his preppy privileged family. Isabelle is taken away from everything she’s ever known, and, unfortunately, inserting her into the glamorous lifestyle of Emerald Cove doesn’t go so well. Her cousin Mirabelle Monroe isn’t thrilled to share her life with an outsider, and, in addition to dealing with all the rumors and backstabbing that lurk beneath their classmates’ Southern charm, a secret is unfolding that will change both girls’ lives forever. [Book Description from Goodreads]
            Isabelle Scott and Mirabelle Monroe couldn’t be more different. While Izzie grew up in sketchy Harborside with responsibility laid on her shoulders at a young age, Mira grew up in the lap of luxury in refined Emerald Cove. Both are happy and satisfied with their lives; that is, until the Izzie’s grandmother takes a turn for the worse and Mira’s family adopts their long lost cousin, who happens to be Izzie. Izzie struggles with the glamor and prep of Emerald Cove while Mira is divided between welcoming her less-than-trendy cousin and keeping her snotty friends pleased. As the tension builds, the mean girls at Emerald Cove put everything they’ve got into patronizing Izzie, who must learn to not be ashamed of her upbringing, but Mira must also make a decision- between her backstabbing friends and her homesick cousin.  
            Belles was a fun summer read. Very light and fluffy. Written simply. Full of drama, but not gut-wrenching intensity. I have to say, the plot was pretty good. Better than I expected. Well, at some parts. At points it was cliché (as were a lot of things in this book) and predictable, but other parts were pretty good. I wasn’t completely thrilled throughout, and I found myself rolling my eyes at some things, but it wasn’t bad. In fact, it was really enjoyable and fun.
I think your final perspective on the book depends on what you expect out of it. I’d heard of the author and her other series (Secrets of My Hollywood Life) so I knew I wasn’t signing up for something amazingly fantastic, because my opinion of her other books (from what I’d heard about them) was that they didn’t seem incredible. I knew Belles wasn’t going to be as dramatic as Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liers and I was hoping it wasn’t going to be as middle-school as, say, The Clique series (yes, I had to do a Google search on middle-school books because I couldn’t think of a ridiculous juvenile series off the top of my head). Nonetheless, Belles was fun and charming, and honest made me thankful I don’t go to a preppy private school with a bunch of snubs.
            As a side note, to anyone who’s wondering what specifically annoyed me about Belles: first off, the names. This wasn’t a big issue, of course, but the author could have gotten more creative. Isabelle and Mirabelle? Hayden and Brayden? What’s with the rhyming names? Second, the cliché prep act. And the whole money-growing-on-trees mentality in Emerald Cove. I felt like it was a big overdone. Yes, there are people who live like that, but countless books and movies have used this kind of thing before, and it’s gotten old. Really old. Also, the characters are hard to connect with, but for a light book like this one, it’s not too much of an issue.
In conclusion, Belles isn’t extremely fabulous, mainly because it has some slightly irksome issues, but for a light summer read, it’s great. I think anyone can enjoy it if they get past the predictability and clichés.
*And now for my favorite part: the cover! Oh my word, this has to be one of the most gorgeous covers I’ve ever seen. Very eye-catching and girly. I absolutely adore it. It’s just what this book needs to draw people in.*
Quick Content Review: *may contain spoilers*
Language: None
Violence: None
Sexual: None-Mild (a kiss or two- very very tame)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Just Between You and Me by Jenny B. Jones

Published: September 1, 2009
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Pages: 316
Rating: 5/5
Maggie Montgomery lives a life of adventure. Her job as a cinematographer takes her from one exotic locale to the next. When Maggie's not working, she loves to rappel off cliffs or go skydiving. Nothing frightens her. Nothing, that is, except Ivy, Texas, where a family emergency pulls her back home to a town full of bad memories, painful secrets, and people Maggie left far behind . . . for a reason.
Forced to stay longer than she intended, Maggie finds her family a complete mess, including the niece her sister has abandoned. Ten-year-old Riley is struggling in school and out of control at home. The only person who can really handle the pint-sized troublemaker is Conner, the local vet and Ivy's most eligible bachelor. But Conner and Maggie keep butting heads--he's suspicious of her and, well, she doesn't rely on anyone but herself. As Maggie humorously fumbles her way from one mishap to another, she realizes she's going to need to ask for help from the one person who scares her the most.
To save one little girl--and herself--can Maggie let go of her fears and just trust God? [Book Description from Amazon]
            I had no doubt in my mind that I would enjoy this book. After reading Jenny’s YA novel, There You’ll Find Me, I knew I was lethally hooked. Her use of humor to offset the heavy issues she deals with delights me beyond words, but at the same time touches our souls with heart-felt stories of renewal and grace. I just can’t get enough of it!
            Maggie likes to think she escaped Ivy, Texas. She likes to think she loves her job, and that she’s not avoiding her father or her deranged sister. She likes to think she’s not afraid of anything. So when life calls her back to Ivy, back to her father and sister, back to the place her mother died, where memories haunt her and her past has yet to be forgotten, she’s anything but thrilled. And then there’s Riley, her wild and tough-on-the-outside-but-hurt-on-the-inside niece. Oh, and then Connor shows up. The kid (or one of them, at least) that she tormented in high school. But he’s no math nerd anymore. Nope. He’s Ivy’s number one (or only one) veterinarian. Not to mention, he’s hot and eligible. And he and Maggie hate each other’s guts, pretty much. Well, until they start to fall in love (that’s NOT a spoiler- you knew it would happen the minute you read “hot and eligible.” Don’t deny it. *wink*). Returning to Ivy forces Maggie to open her eyes to all the things she’s been running away from and makes her realize surrendering to God is the only way to true freedom.
            I loved this book to pieces. I think I’ll like every Jenny B. Jones book I ever read. I just love her use of humor and her unique style- it keeps you entertained but when you’re finished, you realize how touching the story was and how God reveals new truths to you through it. I highly recommend this book and all of Jenny’s others (even though I have yet to read her Charmed Life series…that’s coming soon, I promise! I’m sure it’s just as good as this one, though). Just Between You and Me will make you laugh, cry, and blush (yes, the romance is amazing! And Connor is just about as hot as they come). Its humor offsets its spiritual intensity, making for a perfect summer read.
Quick Content Review: *may contain spoilers*
Clean Read!!! (Though Just Between You and Me is an adult novel, it’s squeaky clean and in my opinion, is very suitable for young adults or any age group, in fact.)
Language- None
Violence- None
Sexual- Mild (a kiss or two).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Legend by Marie Lu

Published: November 29th, 2011
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Pages: 304
Rating: 5/5
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills
I was super excited to read Legend. I’ve been meaning to for months now and finally got around to it. And I’m so glad I did.
Hands down, this book was fantastic. The concept of infamous-criminal-teams-up-with-military-spy gave me goosebumps. According to the back cover, Les Miserables was the inspiration for this epic dystopian, which just made me love it even more.
Lu crafted her dystopian right- meaning, uniquely. I’ve read a vast amount of this genre recently, and I can’t begin to tell you how similar dystopian worlds become. But the Republic in Legend was different from any setting I’ve read. Post-apocalyptic, but not completely destroyed. And I loved how Lu picked Los Angles as her setting- somewhere the readers can relate to, imagine, and have a connection with. Though I’ve never been to LA, readers who have visited (or even live there) can get a better image of how this city has changed due to rough times and government control/oppression.
I have to say, June is now my favorite butt-kick heroine. She’s tough and independent, but not to the point of acting like she doesn’t need anyone or their help. She’s vulnerable at parts (Metias’s death, for example) and I like that about her. Day’s character was awesome, too, but didn’t stand out as much for me. First of all, he seemed to preoccupied with his family. I needed to be more convinced of him as a criminal rather than Robin Hood (playing harmless pranks, giving food and money to the poor, etc). But I can’t complain. Day was brave. He didn’t fear death, even when it looked him in the eye. Even when he didn’t deserve it.
An issue that must be address: I adore this book to pieces, but it has a bad case of insta-love, I’m afraid. June and Day just…fall for each other. Without much reason. That’s kind of what love is like, I suppose, but I reallllly wasn’t convinced in this case. Thankfully, the romance doesn’t dominate the whole book, and the relationship between Day and June does get better in the end, in my opinion, but their relationship while in the street together just doesn’t quite hit the mark.  
As a side note, the sacrifice that Day’s brother John makes for him at the end reminded me of the sacrifice made at the very end of A Tale of Two Cities. I love how Lu brought in that connection with classic literature into her very modern and futuristic dystopian thriller. It might just be what I love best about Legend.  I truly believe it is.
In conclusion, Legend was amazing. I give it five US quarter heart pendants out of five (readers of Legend will get this…for everyone else, don’t expect me to explain. Read the book yourself, silly.). The end is especially gripping, and doesn’t leave you too much of a cliffhanger, thankfully. This is definitely one I’ll remember for a while.
Quick Content Review: *may contain spoilers*
Language: Mild (two or three h-words, one or two d-words)
Violence: Heavy (Kind of reminded me of the violence in Divergent- not sugar coated in the least. The kind of violence in Legend, though, had a World War II feel to it- gassings, firing squad executions, etc. Anyhow, there is too much content to go into detail about, so I’ll just leave it at this: Lu, like Roth, doesn’t sugar coat it. She doesn’t insinuate. It’s right there on the page.)
Sexual: Mild (one or two kisses and nothing else that I can remember)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Published: February 8, 2005
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 425
Rating: 3/5
Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that? Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license -- for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.
But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.
*pant pant* Oh, hello there. I was just recovering from reading Uglies. Which, if you don’t know, is just about the most enormous book ever. And sadly, it’s content doesn’t make up for it’s longevity. My poor brain hasn’t experience something more entertaining than watching paint dry for the last two-three weeks. Yep. IT TOOK ME THAT STINKING LONG. It was never ending, devastatingly extensive, infinite. Call it what you like. This book is one hunk of a novel.
Sorry to start my review out complaining, but I seriously had to force myself to get through this book. I found myself pushing through it, fifty pages at a time, bit by bit. Day by day. Week by week. Year by…ok, it didn’t take that long to read it, but when a book’s nearly half the size of War and Peace, and it’s not even that entertaining, it takes a while to read. I wouldn’t have minded the lengthiness if it had been, well, better. But it just wasn’t.
I’ve heard mixed reviews on this book. Some people like it, others love it. Some people don’t care for it, other hate it. I’m somewhere in the middle, I suppose. The overall concept of Uglies is fascinating, and the detail that the author went to in order to make his created world real were impressive. On the downside, though, the book starts out at a sloth’s pace (extremely slow!) and takes a good 100 pages or so to actually speed up a bit (but only to a turtle’s pace, mind you). I would get all excited when the storyline finally picked up, then fall to the “depths of despair” (yay for Anne of Green Gables references!) when the plot slipped back into its monotonous pace. I felt that the part about the Smoke was a bit long, as is the case with anything with this novel. The one word that describes this book perfectly is “long.” Everything about it drags on and on and on. I felt like the author was trying to reach a certain number of pages. It seriously could have been condensed.
The dialogue and the characters didn’t really engage me that much. Maybe that’s just me. I think the romance was kind of ridiculous (David gives her his gloves, and voila! He’s Prince Charming in a Daniel Boone leather jacket and coon cap), but most romances that are written by guy authors can be a bit on the unrealistic side (no offense- just my opinion about some books. This opinion makes an exception for the romance in the Maximum Ride series, though…Fang and Max FTW!).
In the end, then, the only reason I’m giving Uglies three stars is because of the amazing concept of the whole book. I’m not rushing out to the library to get Pretties, book #2 in the series, but I’m sure I’ll eventually read it, mainly because I’m interested to see if the remaining books get any better. I’m a sucker for series, and I hate putting one down without picking it back up again.
Quick Content Review:
Language: Mild (a few h-words)
Violence: Mild (An old man is killed for resisting in an invasion; also, brief description of how the “operation” works and how it’s done. Not pleasant sounding, but not exactly violent.)
Sexual: None- Mild (a kiss or two) 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Published: May 3, 2011
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 487
Rating: 5/5
In a future Chicago, 16-year-old Beatrice Prior must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomaly who does not fit into any one group, and that the society she lives in is not perfect after all. [Book Description from Goodreads]
I know this review is coming out kind of late, since most people are getting ready to read Insurgent, the second book in the Divergent Trilogy, if they haven’t already. But honestly, I put Divergent on hold 4 MONTHS AGO and I just got it from the library recently. That’s how popular this book is, and now I know why.
When it takes four freakin’ months to get a book from the library, you know it’s going to be good. And Divergent didn’t disappoint in the least. I was enamored from the start- the action was incredible and left your breathless, the subtle yet skillfully woven plot was fantastic, and the romance was amazing. Roth did a surprisingly awesome job with the romance. You’d be shocked at how difficult it is to add romance to dystopians (depression and depravity don’t make for a good romance factor). I felt like Roth had everything well-thought out; every little detail was convincing, and that’s one of the biggest things an author must do: convince the readers. Despite the hugeness of the book, the plot sweeps you along so swiftly that the 487 pages don’t feel daunting at all (for those of you who’ve read the book- see what I did there? Daunting? Ok, I’ve reached my allotted number of lame jokes for this review; no worries).
I found myself gluing Divergent to my side- I seriously took it EVERYWHERE. To my brother’s football games, to the dentist, to church (and no, I didn’t read it during the church service). Divergent has been my drug for the past week- I was sad to finish it. With the release of the second book, Insurgent, comes a tide of rippling excitement among the bookworm crowd-me included! If you haven’t read Divergent yet, do so now. Then go buy the next book. Then wait in anticipation with the rest of us until the ingenious writer Roth completes this thrilling trilogy!
Quick Content Review: *contains spoilers*
Violence: Heavy (Dauntless trains their initiates by toughening them up, i.e. making them fight one another, among other less-violent activities. While training, several initiates bully the others. Mention (and a bit of description) of a boy getting stabbed in the eye; also mention of a suicide. Several different mentions of people getting shot. I cannot list all the instances of the violent content in this book, as they are too numerous, but just take my word for it- nothing is sugar coated.)
Language- Mild (a couple h-words)
Sexual- Mild (Two characters talk non-descriptively about having sex; they aren’t ready, so nothing happens. A few kisses and caresses.)
*Side Note: A lot of people have told me that Divergent’s “twin” is The Hunger Games. Wrong, at least in my opinion. This book did not in any way remind me of The Hunger Games. I did feel, at moments, that certain aspects were similar to other dystopians I’ve read, but no idea is truly a brand new one, right? Just wanted to clear that up, in case any of you were wondering or have heard that it’s similar, too.*