The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

18044277The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Length: 336 pages
Genera: Paranormal
Subjects: magical realism, juvenile detention centers, thriller
How I obtained the book: NetGalley eARC

Rating: 

“Ori’s dead because of what happened out behind the theater, in the tunnel made out of trees. She’s dead because she got sent to that place upstate, locked up with those monsters. And she got sent there because of me.”

The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.

We hear Amber’s story and Violet’s, and through them Orianna’s, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture—which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.

Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and innocence, and what happens when one is mistaken for the other.

We were still alive, and we couldn’t make heads or tails of the darkness, so we couldn’t see how close we were to the end.

Haunting and eloquent, The Walls Around Us is a chilling story of two girls, whose lives are forever tied together in both life and death. Simultaneously feverish and ethereal, Amber and Violet’s paths towards the truth are both compelling and soul-crushing. The Walls Around Us is a unique ghost story, as it is ultimately about the death of dreams and ghostly lingering of hope.

The Walls Around Us is a desperately, achingly sad book. Nova Ren Suma wove ounces of melancholy into each and every chapter, making your heart ache for all the girls within its pages, and their wasted potential. From Violet to D’amour, each character brought something new to the novel, and without even side characters, the atmosphere wouldn’t be the same.

Despite their actions, both of the main characters were relatable and immensely well written. Throughout everything, Violet has squirreled her way into my heart with her conniving and morally grey ways. Amber, while not personally my favorite in the book, was an extraordinary character whose actions garnered my respect and love. Orianna’s personality was the most likable of all of them, and I felt incredibly sad for her and everything she went through.

The writing is light and airy on one page, and dark and desolate on the next. With poignant detail, the world of The Walls Around Us is hyper-realistic and I could practically feel the cold, harsh walls of the Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center and watch Ori’s solo piece from the dance of the Firebird.

Suma’s novels have never been the fastest or the easiest to read. Despite their gift with writing, their books can often be difficult to get through, and fully understand the book. While Suma’s issue isn’t completely resolved and at times I found my attention slipping, I found The Walls Around Us much easier to read than their other books, like 17 & Gone. The plot is much easier to understand here, though some chapters took me a couple extra readings to fully comprehend.

Like most Nova Ren Suma books, the plot feels very faraway, tying everything together but never the focus of the book. While The Walls Around Us is certainly not lacking in plot, it is sometimes hard to find it through the thick prose, and it’s easy for important strands of the story to slip through your fingers.

Told in half truths, the reader is forced to sift through the chapters in order to find the truth. Heavily character driven, Suma focuses on character development in order to tell the story. As we learn about the two girls and their stories, it becomes increasingly obvious what truly happened. The Walls Around Us is most definitely not a quick read, as it requires more comprehension and focus than most books.

Beautifully crafted, Nova Ren Suma continues to delight their readers with stories of guilt, innocence, and the price of the truth. It’s dark and somber, yet strangely beautiful and peaceful. The Walls Around Us is an all-around must read.

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Skulk by Rosie Best

17155389Skulk by Rosie Best
Publisher Strange Chemistry
Length387 pages
Genera: Paranormal
Subjects: Urban Fiction, Shapeshifting, Mystery, Murder, Romance
How I obtained the bookPaperback ARC provided by publicist

Rating: 

When Meg witnesses the dying moments of a shapeshifting fox and is given a beautiful and powerful stone, her life changes forever. She is plunged into the dark world of the Skulk, a group of shapeshifting foxes. As she learns about the other groups of shapeshifters that lurk around London – the Rabble, the Horde, the Cluster and the Conspiracy – she becomes aware of a deadly threat against all the shapeshifters. They must put aside all their enmity and hostility and fight together to defeat it.

Skulk starts off very slowly and awkwardly. In fact, these pages were so off-putting to me, that I dropped it the same day I picked it up, around the 60 page mark, for a few weeks before reading it again. The writing coupled with the main character just put me off entirely.

But today I picked it up again. I also finished it on the same day because I didn’t stop reading for an hour and a half after picking it up again. After the initial hundred pages, the plot picks up at an extraordinary speed and the book really starts. I am so so happy that I did end up picking Skulk up again because I really enjoyed it. It’s not a brilliant book in terms of originality or writing or plot, but it’s very enjoyable.

The novel begins with Meg, our protagonist, escaping from her house, with a backpack filled with spray paint, with one goal – to cover the walls of her high school with her art. However, things take a turn for the worse when she finds a dying fox. A fox which changes into a man. From then on, her life is forever changed when she develops the ability to shapeshift into a fox and discovers a group of secret organizations of ravens, rats, spiders, butterflies, and foxes.

The first quarter of the book was bogged down by rich girl idiocy, you know the average ‘oh my god I’m so rich and ugh my life sucks I’m going to be rebellious because I’m bored’. But it doesn’t take Meg to get her head back into the game, thankfully.

One of the first things that will strike you while reading Skulk is how Meg’s voice really shines through. She’s not your average heroine. She doesn’t have an overwhelmingly large hero complex, nor a damsel one.

Meg did not adhere to any YA stereotype of either a damsel or an ultra Strong Silent type. She wasn’t scared to be assertive or tell people that they’re being douches, but wasn’t above makeup.

Also, guess what, we’ve got a larger main character who’s pretty fine with her weight and doesn’t end up skinny by the end!

The shapeshifting aspect was very original, as instead of confining itself to the “normal” shapeshifting types, Best branched out to include other creatures that I haven’t seen considered anywhere else such as spiders.

The plot was fast paced, enjoyable, and well put together. Along with Best’s colloquial writing, Skulk was a very easy and entertaining read. The plot was a bit predictable, but once you read a certain amount of books, what plot isn’t?

I really recommend this book to everyone. The beginning is a bit rocky but the rest of the book makes up for it. It’s got everything you’d ever want – a badass main character, shapeshifting, cute boys, cute girls, murder. Go get a copy now!

Ink by Amanda Sun

13423346Ink by Amanda Sun
Publisher
 Harlequin Teen
Length
377 pages
Genera:
 Paranormal Fiction
Subjects
Romance, Japan, Painting, Kendo
How I obtained the book
Netgalley e copy

Rating: 

I looked down at the paper, still touching the tip of my shoe. I reached for it, flipping the page over to look.

Scrawls of ink outlined a drawing of a girl lying on a bench.

A sick feeling started to twist in my stomach, like motion sickness.

And then the girl in the drawing turned her head, and her inky eyes glared straight into mine.

On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they’ll both be targets.

Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.

I’ve been really wondering if I read the right book or if I somehow got sent a different book on accident. It’s seems like the most logical explanation for this failure I read. The real INK just can’t be this bad, right?

… right?

WRONG

The reason INK was so bad was because it was so average. There wasn’t anything unique about it other than the premise of paper gods. It’s a very standard YA paranormal romance that deviates very little from the set of “rules” that much of the genre follows. Y’know, this stuff:

– someone moves into new town
This step is a must because how else are you going to find an awesome, mysterious guy that the heroine doesn’t know? While the love interest can be the one to move to the town, it is much preferred to have the heroine move as to add to her outcasty, uniqueness. durh

– girl has trouble at school
This is also a must. The girl must have enemies so add a popular girl and get some stupid and silly reason for her to utterly despise the main character. Sometimes there isn’t even a reason really.

– “best friends”
These “best friends” usually have zero personality and are used as filler material. There isn’t any real reason for them other than nice and cheap plot and character development. Often they are used to push the heroine into the love interest.

– the heroine must bump into a hot paranormal dude
The sad part about this is that when I say, “bumps into”, I mean quite literally as the heroine usually falls into the love interest. I’m quite certain that every one of these guys have the power to somehow make the force of gravity stronger on these heroines.

INK fits into every one of these categories and more. It’s like Amanda Sun had a pile of clichés and very poorly stitched them together. The main character, Katie, not only moves into a new town, she moves into a new country and continent.

Wow, way to take that nice and far.

While you can’t often escape clichés and tropes, I really hate when the entire book is such walking cliché like INK is. There isn’t a single point that makes this book even sort of redeemable unless you count the fact that it’s set in Japan. Katie is an extremely annoying character and the romance is so insta that you just need to add water.

Katie is, for the most part, a bland Mary Sue. She can’t lie at all. This character point is actually really depressing if you count the fact that it’s one of the first things that come to mind when I think of her. She loves to endanger her life – y’know because you obviously it’s a perfect idea to stalk a guy who supposedly beat up his best friend. She often morphs into possessive stalker a la Lucinda Price. She’s also got a habit of being incredibly overdramatic:

I stared at him, my hands shaking. I’d been standing until then, but my legs buckled under me and I sank down to my knees beside him. I opened and closed my mouth, but no sound.
– 21% in ARC

I can’t even…

What elicited this response? He told her that his mother is dead. She was having a completely normal conversation and then all of a sudden, she just falls to the ground. Guys, read the passage in a really dramatic voice and picture that. It’s so hilarious.

Tomo is pretty bland as a character. He’s supposed to be this awesome hunk with an equally awesome personality but tbh, he’s more of a hot guy than anything else. He doesn’t have any qualities that jump out at you, whether they are positive or negative. He’s a nonentity that I really don’t care about.

The one fairly redeeming quality that saved this book from a disgusted DNF was the setting and the lore. I am the biggest lore sucker there ever was. I live for it. The lore behind the paranormal aspect of INK was interesting enough to keep me reading. If Sun had focused on this aspect instead of the romance, the book would have been so much better and actually would have lived up to the hype.

The writing was fairly average for the most part but I really enjoyed the sequences that described Tomo’s art. They really felt like what I thought the book would be like. It was moments like this that kept me turning the pages quickly.

This book has so much wasted potential that it almost makes me sad to think about it. It could have been so amazing if it weren’t for the averageness of the story, it could have gotten a much higher rating. I cannot recommend this to anyone and I won’t be reading the sequel.

lol we all know I will.

Last Cut by Wren Handman

15027183Last Cut by Wren Handman
Publisher
:
 James Lorimer & Company
Length:
144 pages
Genera:
 Realistic Fiction
Subjects
Movies, drama, acting
How I obtained the book
Netgalley, E-galley

Rating: 

Caitlin Myers’s greatest ambition is to be a star, and she can outshine anyone at her school. But then Lianne comes to town and starts to give Caitlin a run for her money, even getting top billing in the school play. So when Caitlin’s offered a bit role as the bikini girl in a low-budget slasher flick, she ignores the warning bells (and her parents), lies about her age, and takes the part. It’s not long before Caitlin finds herself out of her element when it comes to bossy directors and experienced film crews. Her only way out is to fess up about her age, but if she does, she’ll have to come clean to her parents, her friends, and her boyfriend about the things she’s done.

Being that first reviewer on Goodreads is a lot of pressure. Well, at least that’s what I feel. It’s just kind of scary knowing that you’re the first out of every person on Goodreads. I don’t mean to sound full of myself but it’s kind of like I have the opportunity to make or break an author’s book.

While I enjoy writing rants about books I hate, there’s always this little part of me that says: “This isn’t who you are. These aren’t the reviews you write”. And it’s true. When I write rants, I’m bitchy, crude, and honestly, not very good.

I’ll admit it to everyone: I write rants for the views. My rant of FROM ASHES is one of my most liked and commented on reviews of all time and I like that. Who doesn’t like the attention? I certainly cannot say I don’t like being popular for a few meager moments.

However, I never feel that my purposely ranty-reviews are my favorite or my best. They’re just not as good as my other reviews. My favorite review out of all that I’ve written is actually a favorable review (five stars and all that).

So, even though this book is definitely among the books I hate, I will not be ranting in this review – or at least I will not be purposely ranty. I will be expressing my honest opinions, which aren’t really favorable.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s get on to the actual review.

LAST CUT is a book that I normally would never pick up but it was on NetGalley and it’s physically impossible for me not to request everything and anything from that site because well it’s free and I’m poor.

So, I requested it and got approved because everyone loves me there and promptly forgot about it because I do that – a lot. However, I soon remembered it and picked it up. LAST CUT is an extremely fast book to read since it’s smaller than my 7-year-old brother’s chapter books.

My main problem was with the MC, as I’ll be covering in the next segment.

Characters
Caitlin Myer isn’t the worst heroine I’ve ever encountered but she definitely is pretty high on my I-really-hate-you list (and yes, I really have one). Caitlin is a pretty generic heroine – for the most part at least. I could go over her “generic qualities” but I’d rather go with the one worded explanation: Mary-Sue.

What I really hated about her was her tendency to slut shaming. If you don’t know this about me, I really really hate slut shaming and her overall hate of girls. Caitlin just seems to hate every female that she meets – including her “friends”. Some examples for you:

What does she have that I don’t? Other than a tiny waist and gigantic breasts. And she acts so innocent, like she has no idea that her tank top is three sizes too small.

“Book?”
“Ender’s Game…”
“Didn’t you say that if there wasn’t a love triangle in it, you weren’t interested?”
“That was two years ago,” Hannah says defensively and I shrug. She’s probably just trying to seem smart for some guy.

Seriously? This is what the whole book was like. I could go on but honestly? It’s physically painful to go over these again. The other characters were lifeless and the only real character in this was Caitlin. The other characters really just were there to pamper Caitlin and tell her how amahzing she is.

Plot and Writing
Plot
The plot is basically a caution tale except it was done horribly. The plot to this is basically Caitlin applies for a job in a movie, gets the job but needed to lie about her age, has to take of her shirt for boob shot, people find out she’s sixteen and is kicked from the movie, and the ending? Everyone leaves her. I’m serious. The last scene is her boyfriend walking away after Caitlin’s friends had walked away.

I think Handman was trying to say something with this. Maybe it was “don’t lie” or something to that key but in the end? It failed terribly. It didn’t teach me anything. It didn’t do anything except leave me thinking “Did I really waste half an hour reading this?”.

Writing
By the 5%, I was sure this was fan fiction or written by a twelve year old. I’m sorry but the writing was atrocious. I really don’t think that Wren Handman had an editor because there were so many grammatical errors and poorly phrased sentences (and don’t say that’s because this is an ARC, it’s not – LAST CUT is a republished book since it was originally published August 13th, 2012).

Likes and Dislikes
Likes:
N/A

Dislikes:
– Characters
– Plot
– Writing

In conclusion
LAST CUT is a really bad book and I do not recommend it to any one.

Mini DNF Review – The Lost Prince

First ever mini-DNF review (act excited and such)
Yeah, since I’m like the only goddamn person who doesn’t like The Iron Fey series, I didn’t have high expectations for this book. My suspicions were accurate in that affair but I did spot of redeeming aspects, and these are what I found:

What I liked:
* The love interest
* The writing
* Julie Kagawa
* Grimalkin

What I didn’t like:
* Ethan.
* The pacing

I shall now go through each of the bullets and tell you a bit more about them (like a newb because I have no system for these reviews).

Kenzie
Kenzie was a very interesting character, a bit clichéd but still very well thought out. She was brave, intelligent, witty, and practically everything Meghan was not (for more info on why I hate Meghan with a passion here). As I never finished the book, I’m not exactly sure if she stays this way but I’m going to live in denial and pretend she will always be like this. I regret nothing.

The Writing
I really think that Julie Kagawa is a good author. I really do. I never liked her series (from what I have read of it) but I did adore her other book, The Immortal Rules. The writing was very expressive and accurate. I didn’t find any odd things in this book.

Julie Kagawa’s Maturing
In her previous series, Meghan was a very poorly written character. She was stupid, shallow, and what ever other insults that start with a “s”. I mean, Meghan didn’t move an inch while a huge person/thing ran charging up to her. In this book, the characters are more real and less idiotic. The plot was less holey and more thought out.

Grim
There are no words necessary. He is amazing.

Ethan
He is the MC for this story and I despised him. He was a jackass in all respects and though I didn’t finish (which is why I’m doing this weird half review thing) I still hated him. Perhaps Kenzie straightens him out but I seriously doubt it.
The problem with my hating the character so much is the simple fact that he is the main character. I couldn’t stand being in his head. He was an emo, angsty (I guess he has reason for this but still) teen. It was a major drawback from being able to like this book to the full extent.

The Pacing
You might be asking yourself (but probably aren’t) “Lisbeth, you said you loved the writing! *gasp*”. It’s true, I did. It was lyrical and fun, but still dark at times. My major give with the writing is something called pacing. Dun, dun, dun.
It was either too slow or too fast and I had a lot of trouble concentrating on the story and focusing on what’s happening. I felt generally disconnected with the story and it’s characters, which is a shame because I did fall for the hype and the fact that everyone loved it and I hadn’t seen many less than 3 star reviews.

In conclusion:
The gist of my long mini review is that I did like it, but two major flaws stopped me from enjoying it as much as I ordinarily would have.