Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: Roman Holiday (A Radio Hearts novel) by Ashelyn Poston

Eighteen-year-old Junie Baltimore is glad the band Roman Holiday is dead, done, so last year. But when she meets an estranged yet sexy ex-rock star blamed for killing his band mate, she tumbles into the cover story of the year.

Because he is none other than Roman Montgomery―the lead singer of Roman Holiday―and unbeknownst to either of them, his career rests on her shoulders. 

When a paparazzo offers her the chance to save her late father's bar from foreclosure, it's up to Junie to decide what is more important... a lie to save her dad's beloved bar and damn Roman Montgomery to his rightful place, or the truth that will set Roman free.

Who is she kidding? That's an easy choice... right?

A free e-ARC copy was given to me in return for an honest review.

Well!  What can I saw about Roman Holiday?  It isn’t nearly the same book as it was when I first saw it, slapped up on inkpop and titled Junebug (the sequel to Roman Holiday is titled Junebug now, for one).  That was a long time ago.  And by long I mean three years.

Uh anyway.

Roman Holiday is a self-published new-adult novel.  I’ll say up front that it does suffer from a typical self-published ailment: sprinkled with typos.  It isn’t that bad, but they’re quite obviously there and it makes me sad.  I just don’t like typos is all.  The only other thing I have to complain about is the consistency of the details on the condo.  It was a matter of getting things in line, I think, because the details of it were a little slushy for it being a main plot point of the novel.

Getting past that, though, the actual book is great.  The characters have several layers to them and are witty without being overly-so (believe me, when you get a character who knows just what to say at every single turn, it can get old really fast).  The characters were my favorite part of the book, in fact; it’s been a long time since a single line in a book has been able to make me sit back and laugh for a while before I can start reading again (that line being "... And then a big green penis came out of the sky and K.O.-ed everyone.").  The plot itself is a somewhat of a standard romance plot (girl meets boy after something tragic happens in her life and the boy helps her heal) but the characters and unique situations breathe life into it that I’ve failed to see in other takes.  Although I will admit it’s a little strange how Junie puts it, that Roman is filling in the hole left by her father.  I can see where the book was going with it: Junie feels lost without her father, who shared a love of music with her as Roman is now.  It just feels odd to compare your father to your love interest like that…

As you’ve probably guessed, I would definitely recommend this book!  Look it up, will ya?  I might have to send that giant, green penis after you if you don’t.

Teaser Tuesday!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser:

"What will you do if this turns out badly, Darius?  Will you have what it takes to bind him?"
-Gemini Rising: Ethereal Fury by Jessica O'Gorek

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review: Level 2 (The Memory Chronicles #1) by Lenore Appelhans

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.

Level 2 has an interesting premise, and unlike some books I’ve been reading lately, it actually delivers on it.  I will admit that there are some bizarre parts of the book, but they aren’t that frequent and they don’t take away from the book rather than helping it.  It’s also well-paced; despite the fact that a good amount of the book could be considered flashbacks, it doesn’t drag at any point

The book’s idea of how the afterlife goes is an interesting one, mostly because it does deviate from the traditional ideas in more ways than one.  It does have its flaws, considering it takes from Greek mythology as far as the rivers in the underworld, but it’s pretty much implied that heaven exists, but other than a small pool of water they encounter when running away from the hives, it isn’t really explained where they are or why they exist alongside the Christian idea of the afterlife.  The original idea was that people would find out what their purpose in life was and face things from their life that will help them move on to heaven (or hell, it’s assumed) and that is a rather comforting idea for the afterlife.

One more detail I would’ve liked to see would’ve been more detail for the night she was attacked and started having her nightmares.  It’s supposed to be a big part of the book (a big reason she’s so important to the Morati for their mission) and supposedly her soul left her body, but it’s never showed that anything happened other than the thugs jumping her.  While it would admittedly be a bit gruesome, it would’ve helped as some background for the story and how things work.

Also the ending works, but it’s one of those bizarre parts.  It’s… really, really bizarre, in my opinion.  But even though this is part of a series, it does nicely to wrap up the events of the book, rather than leaving in the middle of the action with a gimmicky non-ending that’s supposed to make you want to read the next book.  I’m still interested to see why this is going to be a series, though.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Book review: Crash (Visions book one) by Lisa McMann

Jules lives with her family above their restaurant, which means she smells like pizza most of the time and drives their double-meatball-shaped food truck to school.  It’s not a recipe for popularity, but she can handle that.  What she can’t handle is the vision.

Over and over, Jules sees a careening truck hit a building and explode… and nine body bags in the snow. 

She has no idea why this is happening to her or if she’s going crazy.  It hardly matters, because the vision is everywhere—on billboards, television screens, windows—and she’s the only one who can see it.

But it’s not until the vision starts coming more frequently, and revealing more clues, that Jules knows what she has to do.  Because now she can see the face in one of the body bags, and it’s someone she knows.

Someone she’s been in love with for as long as she can remember.

Another library book, one I’ve had the pleasure of being the first to check out.  As you can see it’s part of a series, and the ending, which I won’t reveal for obvious reasons involving spoilers, does make that fact clear.

Overall it was a great book.  Jules is a compelling main character with quirks that fit in without being harped on and overly-explained to the point that you think the author is proud of thinking of them.  She makes little lists of five, such as “Five Reasons I, Jules Demarco, Am Shunned” and says “Oh my dog” instead of “Oh my god” (the last one, likely, is because her parents are devout Catholics and would probably wash her mouth out with soap if they heard her taking the lord’s name in vain).

A weakness is that it’s never really explained why no one likes Jules at school—the pizza rivalry is an obvious answer, but there’s really no evidence that it effects anyone but the families, besides the one instance where Angotti’s is closed and Jules’ classmates complain that they’d rather eat there.  Some details like that aren’t really shown rather than told; to give another example, the fact that Jules’ brother, Trey, is made fun of at school for being gay. In that same scene, Jules tells him to stay in the kitchen so “the bigots” won’t make him upset, but for how close Jules and Trey are, there really isn’t an instance of him having a hard time because of his sexuality, something I’m sure Jules would know about if it happened.

The most unique and compelling part of the book, though, would definitely be the main plot: the vision.  It isn’t the typical delivery of visions, where she just sees it in her mind.  She sees it everywhere, on every TV and reflective surface (and any surface, near the end).  It, admittedly, did drive me a little crazy near the end because it was so frequent and Jules was seeing them everywhere.  It was simply a way of whatever causes the visions to tell her that she wasn’t solving things right, but Ms. McMann probably could have stood to handle it a little less… annoyingly.

Still, it was a good book, and definitely worth it to pick up and follow the series, when the next one comes out.  It’s also a quick read; at just over 200 pages, I finished it in less than a day.  I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a trilogy or a full-blown series, but I look forward to seeing it flourish.

Teaser Tuesday!

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Miz B of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser:

"Can you sing?" "I'm so good I can shatter windows."

-Roman Holiday by Ashleyn Poston

Review: Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress by Maria Padian

Meet Brett McCarthy: best eighth-grade corner kicker in Maine, vocabulary ace, best friend to Diane.

Until the prank.

Overnight she’s become: a loser at school, archenemy to Jeanne Anne (it’s all Jeanne Anne’s fault, anyway), and a juvenile delinquent who has to eat lunch with the principal every day.  Indefinitely.

Now Brett’s got to figure out how to get through her days right when everything and everyone—including her other best friend, Michael the Brainiac, and her bazooka-blasting grandmother, Nonna—is changing and nothing is staying the same.

And here we have another book that takes place in Maine.  I believe I mentioned on Girl Unmoored how thankful I am for books that take place in Maine; they’re rare, especially in the young-adult range.  Where it counted, Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress was a pretty good book; it was paced well, the writing style wasn’t too murky or simple, and there wasn’t any one part of the book that made me just want to put it down or read one of the other books on my reading list.

It’s also pretty creative; the characters themselves are interesting, especially Brett’s grandmother, “Nonna.” My favorite parts of the book were the ones that focused on her, such as the huge garage sale she has every year, or Nonna’s birthday party, where instead of having people bring presents, she has them bring something (or a symbol of something) they want to get rid of, and Nonna’s friend Mr. Beady would blast them out of a potato bazooka.  There are often extremely creative things in books that I sit back and think: I’d never think of that.  It kind of makes me sad for my own creativity as a writer.

It did, of course, have its faults.  There were little things, such as Diane’s little brother having a “ring of orange” around his mouth from eating what isn’t named but is obviously Goldfish crackers; I’m a veteran of the snack and would like to assure Ms. Padian that they are nowhere near as messy as cheese puffs.  It also shares a fault with Girl Unmoored, in that it mentions the fact that the characters live in Maine every chance it gets.  I’m thankful for Maine-based books, but do authors who write them really have to slap it in your face so much?

The biggest fault in my eyes would probably be the stereotypes.  It uses a LOT of stereotypes of people who live in Maine, and I have to say it was annoying.  Thinking back on it, it’s not really clear if it was unintentional or if Ms. Padian did it on purpose to show how naïve Brett is, but it still worked against the book.  The “stereotypical Maine accent” is extremely uncommon unless you’re old or live in the northern part of the state, for instance (Brett’s town is a short drive from Portland).  No one I know describes someone from out of state as “from away,” either, and you’re no more likely to find a girl who can take apart a chainsaw than any other heavily woods-covered state (I certainly can’t, and I don’t remember a single female friend over the years with that particular talent).  Of course there was also the mention of how “everyone can drive a snowmobile” especially “in the northern part of the state, where you need it to get groceries in the dead of winter” to paraphrase the book.

Come on, Ms. Padian.  Northern Maine is no worse than Canada.  Do you think Canadians are speeding through their rural towns with bags of groceries on the back of their ATVs because there are so few roads that can be cleared?  My stepfather spends hours every winter plowing people out of their driveways.  It’s a simple and common, if time-consuming, task.

But I digress.  Despite the stereotypes, which probably seem more offensive to me considering I live in this state, it is a book worth reading, in my opinion.  So happy reading.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Gadget Girl In You Tour: Review


Aiko Cassidy is fourteen and lives with her sculptor mother in a small Midwestern town. For most of her young life Aiko, who has cerebral palsy, has been her mother's muse. But now, she no longer wants to pose for the sculptures that have made her mother famous and have put food on the table. Aiko works hard on her own dream of becoming a great manga artist with a secret identity. When Aiko's mother invites her to Paris for a major exhibition of her work, Aiko at first resists. She'd much rather go to Japan, Manga Capital of the World, where she might be able to finally meet her father, the indigo farmer. When she gets to France, however, a hot waiter with a passion for manga and an interest in Aiko makes her wonder if being invisible is such a great thing after all. And a side trip to Lourdes, ridiculous as it seems to her, might just change her life.

Gadget Girl began as a novella published in Cicada. The story won the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award in Fiction and was included in an anthology of the best stories published in Cicada over the past ten years.

I was actually pretty excited to read this book.  I’m in the target demographic, based on the summary: a fan of anime and manga; when I was younger I even tried to create my own manga, though I haven’t drawn seriously in years.  There is very little in books for Americans that involves a main character who’s into this kind of stuff, mostly because I’ve seen firsthand that it’s still considered immature to like anime and manga, even though there is plenty of it that is certainly not appropriate for children.  So while it does get points for being original, it wasn’t quite as good as I was hoping it’d be.

I will give Gadget Girl credit: it’s a fast and easy read.  Unfortunately, I suspect that’s because it doesn’t have a whole lot of substance.  So much happens in the book, and yet none of it is gone into in any significant detail.  Most events take up a page or two at most even if they’re supposed to be significant, such as the art gallery opening or Aiko going to Moulin Rouge.  I also would’ve liked her reaction to things to be less rushed; when finding things out about her father, the information is dropped in her lap, and she spends all of a few pages feeling bad about it before she suddenly has a revelation.  However, Aiko will act the exact same way the next time something goes bad; the boy in Paris, for instance.  She’s constantly agonizing over Hervé, thinking he’s not interested or thinking that he already has a girlfriend.  She’s so quick to flip out about things right to the very end that it is a bit annoying.  It’s understandable because she has self-esteem issues related to her cerebral palsy defects, but the fact that it happens over and over before she finally realizes that Hervé likes her for real and not out of pity seems more like an artificial way to add drama to the plot.

There’s also the fact that while Aiko is always stated to be a huge fan of anime and manga, there are very few examples of her being anything more than a casual fan who knows what are considered the “starter” titles.  Sailor Moon and Hayao Miyazaki are mentioned, but even people who aren’t into manga know those, as they’re probably some of the most popular titles in America.  There didn’t need to be namedropping everywhere, but I would’ve liked to see some that proves she knows what she’s talking about, or even some titles or manga-ka who’ve influenced Gadget Girl, in story or style.

In the end, I found it to be about average.  It wasn’t bad, as I was more than happy to finish it and see how things end up for Aiko.  But because of the rushed pace, the unique character attributes of being an otaku and having cerebral palsy don’t raise it to a higher ranking in my mind.  If the book had just spent more time on the important events and delved more into how Aiko felt rather than the obvious guilt about holding her mother back, anger that she can’t meet her father, and shame over her defects from her cerebral palsy, it could have been above average.
You can find Gadget Girl on GoodReads here, or buy it on Amazon here.  Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Book review: Requiem by Lauren Oliver

They have tried to squeeze us out, to stamp us into the past.

But we are still here.

And there are more of us every day.

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor.

Maybe we are driven crazy by our feelings.

Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it.

But we have chosen a different road.

And in the end, that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose.

We are even free to choose the wrong thing.

I was a bit iffy about this final installment in the trilogy (is it final?  I think it is.  This isn't a series I care about enough to follow *coughs*).  I don't remember if I reviewed the book before this or not, but I remember thinking that it left off on a really horrible cliffhanger.  The kind of cliffhanger that doesn't leave you thinking "I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE NEXT ONE" but "Wait, that's it?  That wasn't an ending..." even for a series book.  I felt like the first few chapters following Lena would've made for a better ending.

But I digress.

Uh anyway.  The book this time is in two points of view: Lena's and her friend Hana's, so we do get to see the other side of things.  Hana's POV was admittedly more interesting than Lena's many times, simply because Lena's is wandering around the wilds while Hana's has to do with her slowly realizing what's wrong with the Cure and rebelling from the inside even as she is supposed to be wed to the mayor of Portland.  Hana is clever, and she has the power to do things that Lena can't, being out in the wilds and running from people who would kill them or Cure them.  I think the only thing I found a bit off-putting about Hana's POV is that there... was a strangely high amount of focus on her breasts.  Physical descriptions of her (what she's wearing, her sweating after riding her bike) usually included them.  It just seemed odd to me.

Lena's POV wasn't completely boring; there was plenty of action at times, though to tell the truth, they didn't do very well in proving that love isn't a real disease that a doctor could diagnose you with.  There was one or two instances of them mentioning that if they did such-and-such they'd be no better than the Officials that are after them, but it was a side note at best as far as I could tell.  Love may not be a real disease, but they weren't the best people to show that one doesn't need the Cure to make them reasonable, well-functioning members of society.

One more thing that put me off was that they mentioned it had been seventy years since the Cure had become mandatory in America.  That just doesn't seem long enough to me for this kind of thing.  I would've liked to learn more about the people who declared love a legitimate brain disorder, but unless I'm forgetting something int he previous two books, we don't.  It also mentions that America is the only country that uses the Cure, and that children are taught in school that other countries are gone, torn apart by the Deliria.  Maybe I'm thinking about this too much, but not even a century seems like too short a time for such teachings to be so ingrained in a society.

So yeah.  It's an okay enough book, but the world building and the ethics behind the main characters just seem off to me.