Tag Archives: 4.5 Birds

Review of Sever by Lauren DeStefano

Sever (The Chemical Garden, #3)Sever (The Chemical Gardens #3) by Lauren DeStefano
Released February 2th, 2013 by Simon & Schuster
384 pages
*ARC received at Ontario Book Blogger Meet-Up courtesy of Simon &Schuster Canada

With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.(Goodreads)

So as I sit here writing my review not only with the real rain outside the window but also accompanied by the rainy sounds coming from rainymood.com, I can’t help but feel sadness that this series has ended. Although I did not think this book was perfect, nor was I one of those people desperately going crazy for this series, I do think that these books are beautifully written and so imaginative, and I will miss reading them.

Sever picks up close to where Fever left off, although that’s a bit of a guess for me, as I can’t quite remember the end of Fever. Either way, a new setting is quickly introduced – Vaughn’s brother’s house. Reed is so different from Vaughn, and this new setting brought a lot more life into the story. Although grew to like Cecily a lot more as she became more mature and wiser, and I’ve always liked Rhine as a main character, I wasn’t quite attached to this book. There were some big moments that probably should have made me fall off my couch in shock, or at least gasp a little bit, but I just… didn’t. Yes, I was definitely surprised, but I didn’t react like I’m guessing most people did, because I wasn’t THAT attached the story. I think the characters are very well developed and seem so real, and I even surprised myself when I didn’t react. I wholeheartedly enjoyed this story, but for some reason I just didn’t have that emotional response.

But anyway, for the first half of the book I was interested and content with how the story was going. I could clearly separate the good characters from the bad, and I had a general idea of the point of the story.

However, when I got closer to the end, I felt like the plot began taking all these sudden twists and turns, and I was no longer sure of Rhine’s intentions. The prose is so beautiful in this book, but I just couldn’t decipher what Rhine was feeling anymore. Throughout the whole series it was clear that Vaughn was not to be trusted; he was the “bad guy” of the books. But in the second half of Sever, with the story going all over the place, I was just kind of lost. I could still understand what was happening, and I could still follow the plot, I just no longer understood Rhine, and I wasn’t sure what to think of Vaughn anymore. Most times when I read a book my feelings are influenced by the main character’s feelings, but in this case I just wasn’t sure what Rhine thought of the whole thing, and it threw me a bit off kilter. Perhaps I’m too easily influenced and I should make my own decisions, but I no matter what, I always rely a bit on the main character to guide my opinions.

Anyway, beyond the plot, the writing in these books is just so amazing, especially for a dystopian series. A lot of the time in dystopian books you find jarring, loud writing that seems like it should be written in bold font. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily, as these kinds of books tend to have a lot of action, and bold writing usually fits that. However. Sever (and the rest of the series), is written with such grace and elegance that it completely transports you into the world of the Chemical Gardens. The words are so beautiful and descriptive, and so subtly portray the harshness of humanity and the awful truths of life and death.

Lastly, the ending. Seeing as this is the end of the trilogy, I was obviously curious as to how it would end. By the time I reached the last 50 pages I was worried. I couldn’t see how the book would end, especially not in a way that would tie off the series. But I think that DeStefano pulled it together and made it work. Not perfectly, and I still feel like I have unanswered questions, but enough that I can imagine what happens next.Overall this book is so beautifully written, with fantastic characters and such an interesting plot. I was a bit unsure about parts of this book, but don’t let that deter you. This series is so fantastic, and Sever is a wonderful ending to the trilogy.
4.5 birds

Sweet read! Would definitely knock out a few birds for this one, and then some!

*I swear I’m not being paid to advertise their site, I just thought using the real website name was better than “the rain sounds coming from the internet”

Review of Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Released May 24, 2011 by Scholastic Press, 396 pages.
Source: Bought

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.What’s a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program – or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan – or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

 

My Thoughts

*Update: Okay, a few months after reading this, I did a satire unit in English class, and I can now say that this book is a complete satire and I have SUCH a greater appreciation for it.*

Having read and enjoyed a couple of Libba Bray’s other books, I was really eager to read this one. When I started it, my initial reaction was pretty much what the heck is going on? This book was so not what I thought it was going to be, and I think it took me about 50 pages to rearrange my expectations to finally settle in to the style of the book. That’s when I really started to like it.

So basically, these Teen Dream beauty pageant girls crash onto a deserted island, and from there on out it’s just sheer madness. This book is a wild mix of discovering yourself + girl power for the win + cliched but somehow okay mystery. Not to mention an overall theme of examining how women and beauty are portrayed in modern North American society. Actually, this book had so many things going on that my head started to spin at times. I loved the scenes that focused on the Teen Dreams and their survival on the island, because although it could be a bit unrealistic and superficial, it was so, so entertaining. Their were a lot of different characters, all representatives from different states, but the book mainly focused on about 6 or 7 different girls. I loved how they all had their own personalities and back stories, and their interaction was brilliantly funny.

Here’s one of my favourite quotes from the book, the first one that made me laugh:

“Taylor clapped three times for attention. “Ladies! Ladies! My stars! That’s enough. Now. We all know Miss Arkansas’s girls are fake, Miss Ohio’s easier than making cereal, and Miss Montana’s dress is something my blind meemaw would wear to bingo night.”

I guess overall I was more entertained than I was laughing out loud, but nonetheless, this book is chock full of fantastic girl power humor.

However, when the book switched to it’s mystery/weirdness aspect, I was a bit confused. In the end I love the way everything came together, but there are so many plot lines to follow in the middle that my mind was just going round and round. Yet somehow, it worked. Bray kind of just scratched the surface with most of the plot lines, so there wasn’t really one individual plot line that was deeper than the others. They just sort of all wove together into a strange, hilarious, jumbled up book. Although I liked that the book didn’t get too caught up in one story or plot, there were a couple things that I wish had been explored more. Like the situation between Adina and Duff, and maybe a bit more of Adina’s background. There wasn’t really a main character, but I think Adina came closest, so I do wish we knew a bit more about her home life. When it comes to my favourite character, I have to say Tiara, AKA Miss Mississippi, because she was just so, so stupid. She was such a stereotypical dumb beauty queen, but she was so nice and funny.

One other thing that bugged me was the unrealistic elements to the book. I like things in books to be realistic, and it’s one of my pet peeves when things are just so unbelievable. But with Beauty Queens, that’s pretty much half the plot. I had to learn to let go, which I think I did pretty well – but the one thing that I could not get over was Miss New Mexico having an airline serving tray stuck in her head the whole time. It bothered me to no end.

Overall

This book was the ultimate girl power book. It made me want to dance. Also, there are some hilarious one liners, plus an excellent cast of characters. I really enjoyed it. That being said – be prepared to change your expectations for this book. It’s odd, but in a good way. Oh, and if you’re like me and you can’t stand unrealistic books, then go into this with an open mind, and try to just get past the darn tray in her forehead!

4.5 birds

Sweet read! Would definitely knock out a few birds for this one, and then some!

Review of Belles by Jen Calonita

BellesBelles by Jen Calonita

Publisher: Little, Brown
Release Date: April 10th 2012
Pages: 356
Reading Level: Young Adult
Buy the Book: Amazon
Thank you to Hachette Canada for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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. (Goodreads)
my thoughts

Okay, before we start, I’d like to mention one thing – on the back of the ARC, it actually tells you what the big secret is. The Goodreads description (above) thankfully does not giveaway the big secret. But, as I unfortunately knew what was going to happen, I wasn’t quite so shocked at the end, obviously.
I don’t know if the finished copy gives it away, but hopefully it doesn’t.

So, this book. Honestly, I was looking forward to a fun contemp – and that is exactly what Belles is. In the beginning I was a little hesitant. The situation Isabelle is placed in is not very believable, as well as the reactions of those around her. I was skeptical about the likelihood of this whole thing really happening. At points in the book I felt like I was watching a Family Channel show, with the scenarios and the dialogue that came about. But, as I kept reading, I got really engrossed in the whole story, and I could not put this book down!

All throughout the time I was reading it, when I was doing other things, I kept looking at the book, wishing I was reading it. Jen Calonita’s writing makes the book feel so effortless, and the pages just kept flipping. Izzie’s former life is so different from the life she has to live now, and one can only imagine what she is going through. And Mira, who has always lived such a privileged life, doesn’t know how to cope with Izzie suddenly appearing and changing everything. The book is told in third person, but we get to see things from both Mira and Izzie’s points of view, which I liked.

I was a little upset that Izzie didn’t connect much with Connor, the youngest Monroe child. I also wished she spoke more about her mom who had passed away a few years before. At one point, on what would have been her mom’s birthday, Izzie talks about how much she misses her, and I think that scene definitely added to Izzie as a character.

Overall, this book is sweet, charming, and fun. While it is a bit hard to believe some of the things that go on in the book, if you just keep reading you are sure to get swept up in Izzie and Mira’s story.

4.5 birds
Sweet read! Would definitely knock out some birds for this one!

Review of Dead to You by Lisa McMann

Dead to You
Dead to You by Lisa McMann
Goodreads | Amazon

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: Feb. 7th 2012
Pages: 243
Reading Level: Young Adult

Ethan was abducted from his front yard when he was just seven years old. Now, at sixteen, he has returned to his family. It’s a miracle… at first. Then the tensions start to build. His reintroduction to his old life isn’t going smoothly, and his family is tearing apart all over again. If only Ethan could remember something, anything, about his life before, he’d be able to put the pieces back together. But there’s something that’s keeping his memory blocked. Something unspeakable…

My Thoughts

I didn’t have huge expectations of this book, so maybe that’s why I enjoyed it so much. I’ve read Wake (so-so) and Cryer’s Cross (good), and while I was hoping to like this book, I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular. And while it may not be the best book I’ve ever read, I really enjoyed it.

Ethan is faced with this insane situation – being returned to your family after having been abducted nine years ago. I thought perhaps we’d get a lot of that teen angst, no one understands me, I’m just going to sulk because poor me, I’ve had it harder than anyone else in this family. But, surprisingly, Ethan is really kind. He loves is mom, and forms such a great friendship with 6 year old Gracie. I liked his character, for the most part. Sometimes when he lost control I was a bit upset, but I understand that he can’t always be perfect.

As far as plot goes, I thought it was creative overall but maybe a bit predictable within itself. See, the whole idea of Ethan being returned, and him not being able to remember his past life, had me captured. But when you get into the whole idea of it, and the way she could have taken the plot, I think McMann played it fairly safe. There were some surprises and mild twists, but overall it was sort of tame. Then, the ending. Honestly, I was hoping for it to continue, but it didn’t – and now I’m hoping for a sequel. McMann leaves the book completely hanging, and I really want to know what happens next. This is perfect if there is a sequel, but as far as I am aware, there isn’t, so I am a little disappointed. I think if she was set on that big twist, then ideally for me it would’ve been earlier in the book, or the book would’ve been longer, so that the story could continue and at least feel complete. Some people may have liked the surprise, and the quick, unexpected ending, but for me, I needed more to have closure with the book.

As for the writing, I read two reviews for this book which used phrases that I thought described the prose perfectly: stream of consciousness, and minimalistic. It really is just Ethan’s mind, describing this massive event in his life, how he sees it. Sometimes there are short sentences, almost jot notes from his thoughts. And some of the chapters are very short.

Overall

This was a fairly fast paced, intriguing read that I really enjoyed. I liked Ethan, and I really liked the other characters he meets. I was a bit upset with the way she ended the book, and the safeness of the plot. But, in the end, I would definitely recommend this book, especially to anyone who likes a mix of contemp. and mystery.

4 birds

four-starsfour-starsfour-starsfour-stars

Review of After by Amy Efaw

After by Amy Efaw

Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Release Date: August 11th 2009
Pages: 350
Reading Level: YA
Challenge: N/A
Extra: Read this in summer of 2010
After
After by Amy Efaw

An infant left in the trash to die. A teenage mother who never knew she was pregnant . . .

Before That Morning, these were the words most often used to describe straight-A student and star soccer player Devon Davenport: responsible, hardworking, mature. But all that changes when the police find Devon home sick from school as they investigate the case of an abandoned baby. (Goodreads)
This was one of my favourite reads of 2010. It was also one of the more disturbing reads, not in terms of content but in terms of plot and theme.
Devon is a straight A student, responsible, intelligent, and reliable. At least that is what the author tells you. You never really get to meet this mature girl named Devon Davenport. Right from page 1 you meet Devon – in pain, lost, confused, in denial… This is what really shapes the story, I think – the fact that you never know this seemingly PERFECT girl. You only know what she has become. In some ways it helps you like Devon more, and in other ways it makes you hate Devon for what she has done.
Another thing I really liked about this book was the creativity and originality of the plot. I have never read something like this before. I will not give anything away, but I will just say that it is very different from the average YA book.
But I think overall the best part of this book is that you know nothing. All you know is what happened That Morning and the chain reactions of That Morning. It is not until the end that you find out Devon’s story, and she makes one of the hardest choices.
My only downfall of this book is that it had some dull moments. Devon’s character grew depressed and sullen, and while it created the right aura for the book, it made the reader sleepy as well.
A deep read not for the light hearted. However I recommend this fully as it is so well written.
4.5 birds
Chloe

Review of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Hello everyone!

I just finished reading the magnificent book, Before I Fall.

Here is the Goodreads blurb & pic…

Before I Fall What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life? 

Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.

 
Well, when I started reading this book, I was excited. Everyone who had read it said it was amazing. I thought, this is going to be great. But… it wasn’t. In fact, I thought it was sort of bland. But my friends told me, just keep going, it gets better! So I did. And… they were right 😀 This book is stunning. It has fast dialogue and funny characters. The book has so much depth and makes you think about everything you take for granted, the little things you never notice that might not be there someday. The end is spectacular, and leaves you wanting more, though you know you can’t have it. Overall I rate this book 4.5/5. I would rate it a 5, but the beginning sort of took away from the beauty of the whole book.
 
Definitely a must read! AND Lauren Oliver is coming out with a new book, Delirium! Pre-order today!
 
Chloe