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.

September Girls by Bennett Madison

16065555September Girls by Bennett Madison
Publisher HarperTeen
Length352 pages
Genera: Paranormal
Subjects: Urban Fiction, Romance, Finding Yourself, Mermaids,
How I obtained the bookLibrary; hardcover

When Sam’s dad whisks him and his brother off to a remote beach town for the summer, he’s all for it– at first. Sam soon realizes, though, that this place is anything but ordinary. Time seems to slow down around here, and everywhere he looks, there are beautiful blond girls. Girls who seem inexplicably drawn to him.Then Sam meets DeeDee, one of the Girls, and she’s different from the others. Just as he starts to fall for her, she pulls away, leaving him more confused than ever. He knows that if he’s going to get her back, he’ll have to uncover the secret of this beach and the girls who live here.

I went into this book with such a low expectation I don’t think it existed. How could I have not after reading reviews like this or this? In the end, I’m not quite sure whether I loved it or if I hated it. All I really know is that I enjoyed it and in the end, isn’t that what matters?

Before I get into the review, I need to start by clarifying some things just to avoid any misunderstanding. Sorry for the inconvenience – it’s standard procedure.

September Girls is a potentially very offensive book, there’s no way of sugar coating it. It is a very crude and vulgar book that will not appeal to everyone. I completely understand why many people did not like it because, honestly, it’s not an easy book to like.

September Girls can be read as either a very anti-feminist book or – actually scratch that, it can really only be read as an anti-feminist book. While it does not directly target them, it does not portray feminists in a very nice light. The mother leaves her family because, understandably, she felt imprisoned. However, the boys think it’s actually because of Tumblr and Farmville. l’m honestly torn between speechlessness and um, laughing hysterically. I have no idea what Madison was trying to say here. Was it a metaphor or just for comedic value? I’m not even sure.

With that said, September Girls is not a sexist book. It had sexist things, it has some extremely horribly misogynistic things but it’s not a sexist book. Personally, it seemed like more of a commentary of how society pressures boys into being misogynistic. It was part of Sam’s struggle to become this ideal, this perfect ‘man’, which he eventually figures out isn’t attainable.

Now, without any further interruptions, my review.

September Girls focusses heavily on Sam’s internal struggle to become this man that every one wants to be. It deals heavily with sexuality and the idea of finding yourself. I honestly didn’t expect this deepness, this emotion, from the book.

The summary is extremely misleading as the book has very little to do with mermaids or anything supernatural and anything in supernatural in the books seems to be more of a metaphor for growing up. If you go into the book thinking it’s a supernatural, mermaid book, you’ll be very disappointed because there’s actually very little mermaidness in the book. It’s more of a jumble of hormones, dicks, breasts, and emotions.

That’s not the most appealing summary but it’s the most accurate.

Madison created a very realistic representation of a young boy with September Girls. It was a very honest portrayal of how teenage boys can (but not necessarily) act. Many books leave out details that don’t put the character in a savory light but Madison included every dirty detail and that’s definitely something to be admired.

You definitely need to go into this book – or most books written from a teenage guy’s perspective – with an open mind.

Sam’s growth, not just as a character but as a person, was very well done. He doesn’t morph from an immature teenage boy into an respectable adult man or anything equally impossible. His growth is very realistic, and definitely the most appealing part of the book.

September Girls certainly isn’t a book for everyone and I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but I actually really liked it. It’s a very different book that I don’t think you should write off just because it doesn’t read like an ordinary YA book.

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!

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

12971662

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
Publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Length295 pages
Genera: Paranormal
SubjectsMermaids, Gore, Death, Romance,
How I obtained the bookLibrary, hardcover

Rating: 

Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

I don’t know what happened with me and Monstrous Beauty. We just didn’t click at all. I understand why people like the book but I just don’t feel it. Yes, the book is beautifully written but it’s also just kinda… boring. Nothing really happens in the book except for different people feeling bad for themselves and people getting torn up.

While I understand the allure of the book, of the writing, I can’t help but notice all the flaws and faults. The beautiful words and imagery are masking some pretty big faults like the fact that the book for the most part isn’t really well executed.

The flow of the book was very poor and clunky, and the book moved at such a slow pace that it had trouble holding my attention. It tried to do something special with two different POVs that seem different but come together but it failed mostly due to the fact that the transitions were poorly done.

Beautiful writing is great but it doesn’t make up for having an otherwise pretty average novel. The writing sort of convinces you that Monstrous Beauty is a really amazing book, all around. But the truth is the only thing really spectacular about Monstrous Beauty is the writing.

There were two main characters, the first of which is Syrenka the killer mermaid. She’s absolutely awesome, for the most part. I really loved her chapters because they were full of mermaid badassery. Who doesn’t like dark mermaids anyway? While her romance was really weak, surprisingly it didn’t detract too much from her POV.

What made Syrenka truly awesome was how she was a very real character. Under all her beauty and mystery is a truly flawed character with very human characteristics. Syrenka wasn’t the all perfect character. I don’t know how to describe her. She was magical and ethereal without being ‘perfect’.

The second character is Hester. She’s a human with a ‘mysterious family curse’, which to an extent was interesting. I guess. Compared to Syrenka, her chapters were incredibly lackluster. While Hester wasn’t a bad character, she was a very emotionless character that left it hard to really root for her.

Hester’s chapters had none of the deep, dark beauty of Syrenka’s. You go from a chapter written with the most beautiful language, something that can only be described as sensuous, to a chapter written like an average book. It makes sense that I didn’t love her chapters. Maybe I would have appreciated them more if they weren’t after Syrenka’s but that’s just not something you can change.

Monstrous Beauty was a very gritty and dark mermaid story with rape, murder, and gore. It’s definitely not for the weak of heart. I really loved the brutality of the story. Fama definitely spent most of her efforts on plot execution instead of other things.

While personally I can’t say I liked Monstrous Beauty, I can’t say that I don’t recommend it you read it because it’s a very unique experience that everyone should have at some point.

The Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce

16006117The Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce
Publisher Strange Chemistry
Length350 pages
Genera: Paranormal
SubjectsCurses, High School, Romance, Murder, Mystery
How I obtained the bookNetgalley, eArc

Rating: 

Sixteen year old Taylor Oh is cursed: if she is touched by the ghost of a murder victim then they pass a mark beneath her skin. She has three weeks to find their murderer and pass the mark to them – letting justice take place and sending them into the Darkness. And if she doesn’t make it in time? The Darkness will come for her…

She spends her life trying to avoid ghosts, make it through school where she’s bullied by popular Justin and his cronies, keep her one remaining friend, and persuade her father that this is real and that she’s not going crazy.

But then Justin is murdered and everything gets a whole lot worse. Justin doesn’t know who killed him, so there’s no obvious person for Taylor to go after. The clues she has lead her to the V Club, a vicious secret society at her school where no one is allowed to leave… and where Justin was dared to do the stunt which led to his death.

Can she find out who was responsible for his murder before the Darkness comes for her? Can she put aside her hatred for her former bully to truly help him?

And what happens if she starts to fall for him?

There isn’t really much going for this book other than the premise. Dude, how awesome is the idea of a girl cursed by ghosts to hunt murderers? For some reason though, Pearce thought it a better idea to make Taylor’s social life the main point of the book instead of I don’t know, her curse.

Brilliant, just brilliant. Yes, that’s a perfect idea. Focus on high school, because obviously that’s going to attract more YA readers who can’t read books without a huge focus on high school.

*sigh*

While, sure we do get some time focusing on the curse, most of the book doesn’t pay much attention to it. I really only read the book because of the awesome sounding plot and Pearce does a very poor job of keeping it the center of attention. Instead it gets piled under loads of unnecessary bits and pieces that detract from the overall book. I don’t get it. Why would you bog down your murder mystery with an boring drama and angst?

It honestly seemed like, that even though there was a lot resting on this, Taylor really didn’t care too much about finding Justin’s murderer. She seemed more interested in his pretty body to be honest. It was more of something she had to do at some point but it didn’t really matter when. If it took a while, she would basically shrug her shoulders and say “c’est la vie”.

Taylor, gurl, you do realise you, the main character, don’t even care about your own plot? At all? I don’t think that’s how it usually works but okaaay…

Like I said, Pearce focuses so much of her efforts into building drama and angst that the curse is largely underdeveloped. We are given the bare bones to work with and are basically left to speculate about the rest. There is some backstory but it’s presented in such a way that it makes it a chore to read through and I, like many others, really just skimmed or skipped these parts.

The Weight of Souls isn’t an entirely bad book. The main character, Taylor, is actually pretty cool. She’s one of those fun narrators that aren’t really amazing but just keep the book going and you reading. Taylor is pretty level headed and actually, fairly intelligent.

Before I end this review, I have to mention two things: Justin the asshole and the ‘illusive super secret organisation’ that is part of the mystery for a long time.

Justin the asshole is this guy who’s died and now he’s a ghost who refuses to acknowledge this. He’s also, *gasp*, the love interest. You’re so surprised, I know. Who would have guessed right? Well, he’s also the guy who bullied Taylor for years. You know, the guy who sent his goons after her. The goons harassed her and called her horrible things all under the blessing of this Justin guy.

Yeah, really romantic backstory.

Somehow, when someone bullies you, it means that they have a crush on you. Yes, friends, every bully that will ever bully you is actually someone who has a huuuge crush on you and you’ll end up living happily ever after.

What? No. That’s not how it works. Bullying ≠ Crush nor will it ever. Romanticizing bullying is absolutely horrible and should not be accepted.

The second thing is much less atrocious, and more humourous.

I’m going to try and not spoil anything but basically this extremely powerful club is a bunch of kids doing dares and having sleep overs. But not just any dares, *whispers* bad boy dares. Oh yeah, they’re doing big kid dares. So. Scary.

There is a lot of unexplored potential in this book that really just went to waste. The Weight of Souls could have been so much more if certain aspects were fleshed out a bit more and others given a more minor role. Overall, The Weight of Souls was a huge disappointment. While it wasn’t completely unenjoyable, it wasn’t very good either. I don’t really recommend this book to anyone.

Gone by Michael Grant

2536134Gone by Michael Grant
Publisher
 Katherine Tegen Books
Length
558 pages
Genera:
 Science Fiction
Subjects
Dystopian, Mutants, Horror, Paranormal
How I obtained the book
I own a copy.

Rating: 

Actual Rating: 3.5

In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE.

Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what’s happened.

Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents–unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers–that grow stronger by the day.

It’s a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else…

It’s always kind of scary when you reread a book that you read from that mystical “Before I was a Reviewer” time. That time back when you wouldn’t dream of giving books a one star rating and your problems with books were only “this was too short” or “the main character isn’t superfragilisticexpialidociously amazing”.

It’s always scary because even though you love the book so much, what if it’s simply not as good as you remember it. What if you tarnish your memory of it by rereading it? What if you… hate it?

And what do I have to say to these little feelings of doubt?

… you’re probably right. I MEAN, there is no way in hell that I wouldn’t like this! Go away little doubt machines. We don’t want you here. No one likes you!!!1!!

With all jokes aside, even with these feelings of immense doubt, somehow I managed to pick the book up again. All right – I was forced into picking this book up because I wouldn’t buy LIGHT without rereading the series and someone wanted it really soon. Thankfully, I was sucked right back into the world of the FAYZ.

GONE is obviously the weakest book of the series but I really liked it all the same. I first got into these books in late 2010 and I fell in love with the characters and the plot. These are the books that initially made me want to read Stephen King because I knew that no other YA series would be as dark, gruesome, and oddly amazing as GONE was and still is.

One of the best parts of GONE is how realistic the actions of the characters are. I know an adult (who may or may not be my mother) who read these books and she repeatedly tells me how stupid the characters are sometimes. I do believe this is a matter of opinion and how you read the book.

I think that, to truly enjoy these books you have to stop thinking like a reasonable adult. I once read someone talking about how the kids’ first instinct was to go for the candy instead of looking to save the babies that were in abandoned cars and houses. The reviewer kept saying how idiotic that was.

Yes, you’re right. They should’ve looked to go save the babies and the young children. Especially since many of the characters are pretty intelligent. However, would I have done that?

No, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t have thought of that for a while and by the time that I did eventually think about it, they’d probably be dead.

Kids think, “Oh, all the adults are gone. I can eat all the candy I want because Mom and Dad aren’t there to stop me.” They definitely wouldn’t think, “Oh shit, what about the babies in the cars and houses?”

As I mentioned, my friend is an adult. I’m not. The way I think is identical to the characters in the book. There are simply some scenarios which she can immediately say, “they should have done this and this and then they’d be done” whereas I’m like, “dude, that’s more than I would’ve thought of.”

Grant’s characters are not only realistic but they’re amazingly well developed. Every character has its flaws and strengths – some more than others though. There are some characters that are underdeveloped in this book. Personally I think Sam and Astrid are fairly bland in this book. They’re both pretty lacking compared to characters like Lana and Albert. However, they are both still a very good characters which do eventually get the necessary building.

There are some characters that make you want to scream. In many instances, Sam made me want to throw the book at the wall. Dude, I get it. You’re fourteen and you should be worrying about your algebra test and not keeping hundreds of kids alive. Angst is ok in this situation.

But please, stop it. You’ve had your time to mope. Please step up to the freaking position. All these kids look up to you and here you are sulking in the corner because omg responsibility.

What I love about these books is the fact that Grant doesn’t sugarcoat anything. Violence, abuse, murder, rape – these books have everything. Everything that would have happened happens. There are many moments that I had to put the book done for a bit. While this one isn’t as graphic or intense of the others, there are still a lot of these moments. I cannot recommend someone with a low tolerance for these sorts of things to read this series.

Now, onto the bad things about this book because believe or not, there are a few of them.

1. Plot Holes and Continuity

It’s inevitable with book with so much going on, there are simply going to be plot holes and continuity. It’s not that bad the first time around but as I’m rereading the series, I’m noticing more and more of these. They don’t detract much, personally but with so many, I find it necessary to deduct a star for that.

There are also a lot of plot details like that are simply never mentioned again and forgotten about. I understand that’s it’s incredibly hard to remember all these plot details but at least, reread your own books!

2. Writing
I’ll admit it. Grant is not a fantastic writer. He’s sort of the J.K Rowling of YA science fiction. Rowling’s characters are superb and her plot is amazing. Is she the best writer? No, she’s not. Her writing has a lot of problems. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Harry Potter but I’d still be the first one to tell you that Rowling doesn’t know how to use any dialog words other then “said” and “asked”.

3. Lack of Answers
From the beginning, it’s obvious that Grant mapped out the series for 6 books. I understand why this book has zero explanation for anything but I do like my books to finish with a concrete ending and some answers. I don’t like being kept in the dark. In all, the ending of GONE doesn’t have a cliffhanger and I really appreciate that. Though I’ve read books with even less answers than this, I still would have liked some more answers then what I got.

Overall, the GONE series is still one of my favorites and GONE is an excellent start to a fantastic series. I recommend this book to people who can overlook plot holes, continuity, and often angsty stupid teenagers to see the truly amazing story underneath.

——–

Gone: 3.5 stars
Hunger: 4 stars (review to come)
Lies: ???
Plague: ???
Fear: ???
Light: ???

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

10861195Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
Publisher
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Length
281 pages
Genera:
 Paranormal
Subjects
Dystopian, Romance, Love
How I obtained the book
Library Hardcover

Rating: 

In this gripping exploration of a futuristic afterlife, a teen discovers that death is just the beginning.

Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next. Along with her fellow drones, Felicia passes the endless hours reliving memories of her time on Earth and mourning what she’s lost—family, friends, and Neil, the boy she loved.

Then a girl in a neighboring chamber is found dead, and nobody but Felicia recalls that she existed in the first place. When Julian—a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life—comes to offer Felicia a way out, Felicia learns the truth: If she joins the rebellion to overthrow the Morati, the angel guardians of Level 2, she can be with Neil again.

Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself at the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake… but the salvation of all mankind.

When I first found LEVEL 2 in my local library, I was very excited to see it, mostly because of the concept of a leveled afterlife. However I was a bit hesitant to pick it up after reading this:

Three levels. Two loves. One choice. Debut novelist, Lenore Appelhans has written a thrilling otherworldly young adult novel about a place that exists between our world and what comes after life.

Two loves? One choice?

Um… no.

As you can imagine, such this did not make me all that enthusiastic to read the book. Thankfully, the rest of the blurb sounded awesome enough to convince me to actually pick it up.

LEVEL 2 is very different from what I thought it was going to be. For one, I didn’t expect that much of the book was spent as flashbacks to Felicia’s life and that the romance would mostly be told through flashbacks as well.

I enjoyed seeing Felicia through her memories, though I would however have liked some development to happen in the present. Most of Felicia’s personality is in her memories, leaving her emotionless in the present.

The one part about these memories that grated on my nerves will require some explaining.

Every soul in Level 2 has a video screen where they can watch their memories and, if they wish, other people’s memories. To watch someone else’s memories, the person must rent them. I’m not sure what the currency was but they used it to rent these memories.

Anyway, Felicia is extremely rich because she apparently has the best of the best memories and everyone wants to rent them. I find that kind of special snowflake-ish because I don’t think that someone could have practically every one of his or her memories wonderful.

But, that’s just me. Maybe, you guys have only awesome memories.

Characters
Felicia started off as a nice character. She wasn’t outstanding but I truly liked her during these hundred-fifty pages or so. This is where the majority of the character and world building took place actually.

However, everything that had been built up in the first hundred-fifty somehow was lost during the rest of the book. I would say that the book started to seriously head downhill once Julian stepped into the picture, which I’ll talk about in second.

Felicia was never a strong character. I don’t think useless would be the right word to use but that’s really all that comes to mind. For a main character, she felt surprisingly out of the action.

Felicia can be very irritating at times. It’s not really one thing. It’s just a bunch of little things that add up to be extremely annoying and make you want to stop reading the book because of how much you want to kill the main character (even if she’s already dead).

Could she have used something more? Yes, yes she could’ve.

Julian is one of the love interests – sort of. The book is about Felicia trying to find Neil, who was her boyfriend when she was alive, but Julian is definitely in the picture.

Or at least fans want him to be because I’ve already seen Team Julian on people’s reviews. I cannot see anyone ever being Team Julian because he is a terrible person.

He’s definitely not the worst love interest I’ve come across (Patch from HUSH HUSH, Travis from BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, and Daniel from FALLEN to name a few) but he’s definitely not anywhere close to being on my favorites list or even my don’t-care-about list.

If I had to describe this guy in one word, it would be scary. Or asshole – that’ll work too. No really guys, he’s a huge asshole. Just thinking about him makes me angry so I’m going to stop now.

The only characters that actually had a personality were Felicia and Julian so there isn’t much to go over when it comes to minor characters. The minor characters were really just names without any body. I wish that these characters were elaborated upon, but they weren’t.

Plot and Writing
Plot
I had absolutely no idea what was going on.

From what I was to understand, I surmised that there is a rebellion, angels are mean, and Felicia finds it really hard to move on. That’s all I could take from the book by the end. To be honest, it could’ve used some clearing up. I’m certain the author knew what was going on but I think she sort of expected us to just know.

I didn’t.

The rebellion felt very forced in my opinion. LEVEL 2 isn’t the sort of book that needs a rebellion. It’s more of a paranormalish contemporary than a dystopian. In fact, I don’t see how LEVEL 2 could be counted as a dystopian because there isn’t a dystopian world.

It’s about the afterlife!

Writing
Well, it’s not bad.

I don’t really see how people are calling the writing amazing and beautiful. It’s not. It’s confusing and the pacing is weird. No matter how I love the memories, the interruptions they cause are really annoying because they’ll come up in the middle of a chapter without much warning and disrupt the flow.

Likes and Dislikes
Likes
– memories
– plot idea
– afterlife thing

Dislikes
– characters
– plot
– pacing

Conclusion
LEVEL 2 is not a really bad book. It’s an enjoyable, yet confusing, read with a lot of flaws. I don’t know whether I can really recommend it and at this point, I am not sure if I will read the second book.

The Blood Keeper by Tessa Gratton

12476341The Blood Keeper by Tessa Gratton
Publisher
:
Random House Books for Young Readers
Length
432 pages
Genera:
 Paranormal
Subjects
Blood Magic, Romance
How I obtained the book
Hardcover, Library

Rating: 

For Mab Prowd, the practice of blood magic is as natural as breathing. It’s all she’s ever known. Growing up on an isolated farm in Kansas with other practitioners may have kept her from making friends her own age, but it has also given her a sense of purpose—she’s connected to the land and protective of the magic. And she is able to practice it proudly and happily out in the open with only the crows as her companions. Mab will do anything to keep the ancient practice alive and guard its secrets.
But one morning while she is working out a particularly tricky spell she encounters Will, a local boy who is trying to exorcise some mundane personal demons. He experiences Mab’s magic in a way his mind cannot comprehend and is all too happy to end their chance meeting. But secrets that were kept from Mab by the earlier generations of blood magicians have come home to roost.
And she and Will are drawn back together, time again by this dangerous force looking to break free from the earth and reclaim its own dark power.

THE BLOOD KEEPER is a book that started off smoothly and had everything I loved: blood magic, action, and mystery; however it didn’t continue like that. A few days after reading the initial hundred pages or so, I picked it up again and to my great disappointment, it soon felt like a completely new book.

This book is actually a sequel, something I didn’t find out till a few moments before writing this review. I didn’t even suspect it since this book felt like a standalone. From what I see, the first book has nothing to do with this book – please correct me if I’m wrong however.

There are three POVs in THE BLOOD KEEPER – Mab’s, Will’s and Evie’s. Mab’s POV and Will’s POV are very similar, the only difference being Mab knows what she’s doing and Will is basically doing what ever Mab wants. He’s so infuriatingly spineless. He needs to be saved every few minutes and he never seems to stop fainting (ok, I’m exaggerating – I think he only fainted once or twice).

Evie’s POV is set a few decades in the past, I think 1920s. I think it is meant to be a surprise why it was linked to the story but it was all quite predictable. However, I still enjoyed the short story that the POV told, finding it darker than the rest of the book.

While I have no problem with YA romance – or romance in general – I do hate when the romance seems to govern the plot, like in this book. The romance seems to overtake anything, including the interesting blood keeper concept, which is why I loved the first 100 pages so much more than the rest of the book.

Characters
Mab is the Blood Keeper, which basically means she maintains the land around her with her blood magic which is cool and all but she doesn’t really do that in the book. She mostly dreams about Will and saves him and possesses people (actually that’s pretty cool).

Will is the one of the weakest heroes ever. He doesn’t do anything. I don’t like heroes who can do anything but I sort of prefer them to do something other than ask Mab what to do. I think he’s like that so the Gratton can say “wow look at me, my heroine is so strong. Flipping around gender stereotypes, yes sir.” I’m sorry but it doesn’t work like that.

Will’s only strength is his amazing ability to whine and whine and never stop whining. Practically the whole book was spent whining about how is parents want him to join the military and how he doesn’t want to and how they’re like totally not understanding.

Dude, I get it, you don’t want to join the military and I fully understand and appreciate that but in case you haven’t noticed, something really bad is going on and I don’t think whining about your evil parents is the right thing to do right now.

The romance between the two happens to be the worst part about it. Scenario:

Will and Mab are talking about how horrible what’s going on is. Will then think about how much he wants to kiss her. Switch to Mab’s point of view and she’s pretty much thinking the same thing. After longing looks are exchanged, they go back to talking about how dire the circumstances are.

The saddest thing is that this scenario happens all the time in the book. I swear, it happens at least five times. Romance = good. Romance at the wrong time = very bad.

Plot and Writing
Plot
The concept of blood magic which is tied to the land instead of the as an antithesis to nature is an interesting take on the subject. Most authors go with the conventional blood magic is evil thought, which I have to admit I was part of. I never really thought of blood magic as tied to the land, the animals, and life, which makes complete sense if you think about it.

As you have seen, I loved the concept. Blood magic in YA fantasy is almost unheard of, or at least not all the common. Though I would hate it become the new dystopian (I highly doubt it will), I’m glad to see that blood magic is popping into YA lit.

My major qualm with THE BLOOD KEEPER is the lack of defined plot after a certain point. Though you can always tell what the main plot is, it seems like the characters are more focused on how beautiful the other one looks at the moment.

Once again, I will say that I have no problem with romance in my books, but when either the romance takes over the plot or interjects itself into the scene at the weirdest moments I don’t want it in my books. At all. Ever.

Writing
While it wasn’t terrible, I was extremely annoyed at the lack of word building. Mab spent most of her time in a forest – or is it a valley? And where? It’s obviously close to a biggish city where Will lives but if Will goes there to swim or something, does that mean anyone could go there? It seems like it’s too open for a place with secret witches…

Likes and Dislikes
Likes:
– Blood Magic
– The Beginning

Dislikes:
– Everything Else

In conclusion
THE BLOOD KEEPER had a very promising concept but sadly, the execution was lacking extensively. I am very sad to say that I cannot recommend this book to anyone.

The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

12411635The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett
Publisher
Tor Teen
Length
367 pages
Genera:
 Paranormal
Subjects
Dreams, boarding schools, romance
How I obtained the book:
Won Paperback, Library

Rating: 

Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.Literally.Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.

Then Eli’s dream comes true.

Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.

Want to win a copy? Visit my giveaway!

THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR is a sort of difficult book to explain, hence my almost a month late review. Though it is definitely an enjoyable read with numerous laugh out loud funny instances, THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR falls desperately below what I thought it would be like.

My expectations weren’t high since I could tell that this book would be a classic example of funny-with-no-substance and even though this book met that expectation, it somehow fell short of what I thought it would be.

The ideas weren’t exactly unique, as the whole paranormal boarding school idea was been regurgitated throughout the years while little to no changes. This book is no different. I didn’t hate it but I’ve never liked boarding school stories.

The characters were humorous though at times they became excruciatingly boring and monotonous. Most of the characters were one-dimensional blobs but I say that in the kindest way possible. Truly.

The plot was horridly predictable with little plot twists that truly surprised me. It wasn’t a bad idea but it could have used some sprucing up I suppose. It needed something more substantial than what was given to the reader.

Characters
Dusty is a nightmare, which happens to be one of the most original aspects of this book. A nightmare basically feeds off dreams, not necessarily nightmares though. She can’t talk to anyone or interact with anyone in the dream though. Personally, I found this whole “going into dreams” idea better executed in INSOMNIA.

Dusty is a fairly strong heroine. Nothing special really to say her but she wasn’t a stupid unless you count the “big” twist, which honestly was easy to guess.
Eli, the love interest, was surprisingly bland. I honestly expected something more than him being a side thing with little personality. His relationship with Dusty is undeveloped and bland. It seemed as if Dusty viewed him as a friend one chapter and in another as a potential boyfriend which is one of the lamest excuses ever.

Sadly, since I read this over a month ago, I couldn’t tell you too much about the other character because for some reason, some of the plot and character elements of INSOMNIA by J. R. Johansson are seeping into this book even though they are utterly different books. All I remember is that the other love interest was entirely see-through and had more defining qualities than Eli.

I can end this segment by saying that by the end, I do remember not being very steady on who the characters were. They were under characterized at best, with no characterization at worst.

Plot and Writing
Plot
Though not terrible as I said, the plot lacked a lot of what I expected (well developed and paced with only moderate predictability). My expectations weren’t high but somehow THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR somehow managed to fall past those.

My biggest problem is that all the surprises in the book were predictable and I guessed the entire plot from very early on in the book. That almost ruined my reading experience for this book if it wasn’t for the entertaining Dusty. Though her humor got on my nerves at times, she was still able to save the book from a two or even one star.

The pacing was weird at times, either very very slow or very fast. There wasn’t much in the middle of those two extremes.

Another problem with the story is the murder mystery. I know it’s the main focus of the book but I really didn’t feel attached to it in any shape or form. I didn’t care what happened or who killed the girl. It was disappointing as well.

Writing
The writing wasn’t beautiful or eloquent but it was quick, fast, and fit the book well since I don’t really take Dusty for the kind of girl who appreciates fine, flowing language.

Likes and Dislikes
Likes:
– Dusty Humor
– Writing
– Overall Tone to the book

Dislikes:
– Lack of Characterization
– Too much Dusty humor
– Plot
– Predictability

In conclusion
I recommend THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR to someone who wants a quick, entertaining read because it’s not really the book for anything else.

The Dead and Buried by Kim Harrington

the dead and buriedThe Dead and Buried by Kim Harrington
Publisher
:
 Scholastic Point
Length
304 pages
Genera:
 Paranormal
Subjects
Romance, Ghost, Murder, Mystery
How I obtained the book
Netgalley, E-galley

Rating: 

A haunted house, a buried mystery, and a very angry ghost make this one unforgettable thriller.

Jade loves the house she’s just moved into with her family. She doesn’t even mind being the new girl at the high school: It’s a fresh start, and there’s that one guy with the dreamy blue eyes. . . . But then things begin happening. Strange, otherworldly things. Jade’s little brother claims to see a glimmering girl in his room. Jade’s jewelry gets moved around, as if by an invisible hand. Kids at school whisper behind her back like they know something she doesn’t.

Soon, Jade must face an impossible fact: that her perfect house is haunted. Haunted by a ghost who’s seeking not just vengeance, but the truth. The ghost of a girl who ruled Jade’s school — until her untimely death last year. It’s up to Jade to put the pieces together before her own life is at stake. As Jade investigates the mystery, she discovers that her new friends in town have more than a few deep, dark secrets. But is one of them a murderer?

Just so everyone knows, I’m trying to limit my cursing in this review because someone *glares accusingly at that someone who knows who she is* told me that I do that too much. I’ll be substituting every expletive with the name of a fruit or vegetable.

THE DEAD AND BURIED is a book that I had really high hopes for since at that time, I seemed to think that I have pretty good luck with these sorts of books (I don’t really have that good luck with mystery ghost books actually – I have no idea what I was thinking). However, THE DEAD AND BURIED really disappointed me.

The book actually started off really well, like many of the evil books do. The main character Jade was interesting and compelling. I really liked her gemstone hobby and the fact that she knew useless things about practically every gemstone was awesome. In case you don’t know, I collect useless facts so this was right up my alley.

So, I had this crazy idea that maybe, just maybe, the rest of the book might be great too.

HAHAHAHA NO
Crazy idea, I know. I have no idea what I was thinking at the time. Obviously, not much.

The main problem I had with the book has the romance plot. It was just URGH no. Horrible. I suppose the best thing I can say about the romance was that the two loves interests weren’t total mushrooms but that wasn’t because they were nice and cute.

It was because they were nothing.

No, what I hated about the romance was Jade. Jade turned into a complete orange when it came to the two guys. Minor spoilers ahead but nothing major really since the whole cheating scandal is treated like it wasn’t cheating at all.

Jade enters a non-relationship with Kane. Non-relationship because she tries to tell her dad that she’s not dating him even though they go on numerous dates – I mean non-dates. Kane however thinks they’re dating and so does everyone. I think Harrington was trying to excuse what Jade did by saying that the dates are “non-dates” even though she makes it clear that Kane thinks they are and so does every pickle-ing person in the whole town (even the dad).

She then cheats on Kane and with Donovan who insists that they not tell anyone. Donovan and Jade have numerous make out sessions all while Kane and Jade go on their “non-dates”. On one of these non-dates, Jade goes to the bathroom to make out with Donovan before returning to Kane who calls her “his girl” and gives her hot chocolate. She accepts without feeling bad that she cheated on her boyfriend.

Next is a spoiler for the rest of the plot, not just romance. 

It turns out that the dead girl, Kayla, was cheating on her boyfriend with Kane and guess who is the boyfriend? That’s right: Donovan.

DONOVAN. The guy that broke up with his girlfriend because she was cheating on him is making Jade cheat on her boyfriend for him.

… I’m speechless. I’m banana-ing speechless.

AND GUESS WHAT THE BEST THING IS?

Jade ends up with the apple Donovan. So guess what girls? It’s ok to cheat as long as your cheating for a hot guy.

Ok, I’ve spent long enough detailing the romance. Onto the characters.

Characters
Jade started off really awesome but that awesomeness tapered until it hit rock bottom and didn’t work on climbing back up – at all. After about 40%, Jade as an awesome character slipped further and further until I could barely remember that Jade was an awesome character at one point.

I’ve already detailed why I hate her somewhat so this will be a fairly short part but there are some other parts which made me see red.

Number one, she was hypocritical. She was saying how horrible a person Kayla the dead person was even though she copied some of those qualities in her own actions. As everyone says, actions speak louder than words. Judging everyone? Check. Cheating? Check.

The next part I hated was the slut shaming. Jade was saying how horrible it was that she slept around. It was obvious that Kayla wasn’t a virgin and personally, I found Jade’s words to have a minor slut-shaming feel to it.

The rest are simple, everyday YA heroine occurrence which honestly, most of you know about already and there’s no reason to talk about them. Pick pretty much any of my reviews and take the qualities from there.

The other characters were unoriginal and bland. I found no personality to them and didn’t hate any of them really. Just disliking. No need to cover that really.

Plot and Writing
Plot
The plot mirrored the standard plot of basically every murder paranormal mystery there is – ever.

– Girl moves into haunted house.
– Girl goes to school and everyone is like “OMG she moved into zeh haunted house”.
– Girl gets scared.
– Someone (usually little sibling) gets possessed.
– Girl needs to find out who killed ghosty.
– Ouija board.
– Kissing.
– More kissing.
– OMG THAT’S WHO KILLED GIRL?

Yup. That’s it. Except sometimes, this can be done really well sometimes.

THE DEAD AND BURIED was not one of those cases however. It was done really really badly. And the murderer exposed scene? One of the worst I’ve ever read. Just terrible and I can’t see the person’s motive. Seriously people. It’s like Harrington said “Umm… we gotta wrap this up quickly so… yeah, that person works. Let’s make up some random backstory to it. And we’re done.” I’m not even overreacting.

Writing
Not terrible, but not fantastic either. Horrible tension building and very little plot twisting.

Likes and Dislikes
Liked:
– The beginning

Disliked:
– Jade
– Plot
– Writing
– Everything

In conclusion
Definite not recommend. In fact, unless you’re Ade and can’t resist it, don’t read it.