Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight, by Jennifer E. Smith

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2 stars

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. Having missed her flight, she’s stuck at JFK airport and late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

I’m suppose my rating of The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight is only another sign that I expect too much from Jennifer E. Smith’s fluff novels, but I this time around I held back on the predispositions. With Hello, Goodbye, And Everything In Between, the first Smith book I had read, my problem was the lack of depth in the realistic situations faced by the two MC’s, and The Geography Of You And Me fell flat due to its lack of character depth and bland writing. I guess with her debut novel I expected and wanted something plainly cute and fluffy, something to make me happy after the emotional ride that was Dark Triumph. I had high expectations too, considering Aliza had enjoyed it and it was the most well-received out of Smith’s other novels. Unfortunately, while I appreciate Smith’s concepts concerning relationships, they never reach their full potential because of poor character writing and uninteresting descriptions in general. The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight does explore more familial themes that Smith’s other books lacked, but due to the forgettable characters, cliches, unmemorable writing, it doesn’t really live up to the immense hype it carries.

Firstly, the writing was dull and somewhat stagnant. This might just be me, but for such a short and fast-paced novel, TSPOLAFS (what a long-ass title…I’m never doing that again) is a really draggy read. The writing is far too conventional and just bland in general, and this was especially exemplified during the flashback scenes. I’m sure I would enjoyed whatever was going on in the story if the writing was a bit entertaining and consistent. I do wish the narration was in first person too, it would have contributed to character development just as much as the general writing.

Sadly, the characters weren’t as interesting and realistic as I wanted them to be, they were pretty similar to Smith’s past characters. Oliver was a cliche character, and while he was funny and cute at moments, there wasn’t much depth to him besides those facts. While the later events of the book attempted to change that, I still didn’t find him as charming as everyone made him out to be. Hadley herself was certainly more alive then Smith’s past characters and I appreciated the inclusion of an inner conflict between her nonacceptance of change and her past love for her father, as she travels reluctantly to her father’s wedding in London. While I liked the irrationality of her interpretation of the situation and young honesty of her character, her conflict never seemed to be resolved in a rational way. Hadley’s realization was a bit unrealistic and lazily-written, and this fact just reflected her initial brattiness and detached nature. Other than that, Hadley was still a cardboard cutout of a character, and while she sticks out from Smith’s collection of novels, she’s not particularly memorable in the plethora of female contemporary characters, that are, undeniably, much more well-written.

There were a number of events packed toward the end, yet I had lost interest by then. First of all, this book followed a plot line I had not expected at all. Initially, I had assumed Oliver and Hadley would spend much more time together before kissing and departing. While the story takes place over a 24 hour period, Oliver and Hadley’s only time together was on the plane, and here I was expecting a joint-experience a la The Geography Of You And Me, in which our lovebirds spend the night in an airport and bond before separating. Personally, I feel as though that would have been much more romantic than the short time they spent on the plane. A lot of things would have been more romantic than Oliver and Hadley’s relationship, actually. They aren’t completely lacking in chemistry, the witty banter and flirting was enough to make me smile a tad, but as individuals, they are completely uninteresting. Of course, when they come together they transform into clever, Charles Dickens-loving youngsters, but after their plane experience and all the Hadley blandness, you would have lost interest in their eventual reunion.

Overall, if you have enjoyed Jennifer E. Smith’s former novels, you would likely enjoy this one as well. Fortunately (or unfortunately, I don’t know), I haven’t given up on Smith’s books, as This Is What Happy Looks Like remains on my TBR list, and judging by the preview at the end of Love At First Sight, it sounds pretty cute. I can only hope it will satisfy my fluffy/entertaining needs.

-Haven

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Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Dark Triumph, by Robin LaFevers

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4.25 stars

I lean forward, pushing my body out past the battlements. The wind plucks at my cloak, buffets against me, as if it would carry me off in flight, just like the birds or the knight’s soul. Let go, it cries, I will take you far, far away. I want to laugh at the exhilarating feeling, I will catch you, it whistles seductively.

The convent has returned Sybella to a life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

It seems as though many who came into this book regarded Grave Mercy as a disappointment, and I can understand that. Personally, while I had my complaints, I thought Grave Mercy was pretty good effort, but after reading Dark Triumph, I immediately wanted to change its 4-star rating to 2. It’s true! I was told Sybella’s story was compelling, but wow. WOW. I think this is the most visceral reaction I’ve had to a character/backstory coming from a fantasy book, and a historical fantasy book at that! I wanted so badly to give it 5 stars, but due to a few problems I’ve experienced in Grave Mercy as well, I reduced my rating a tad. Nevertheless, Dark Triumph is one of the most enjoyable and painful (in a good way) fantasy releases I’ve read in a while.

As Grave Mercy was told in the perspective of Ismae, Dark Triumph tells the story of Sybella, another handmaiden of Death, after the duchess of Brittany has successfully escaped and found refuge in the capital of Rennes. Sybella, however, still stays in the castle, where she was sent to from the convent a while back with a promise of killing D’Albret, her cruel father and villain of the story. As Sybella painfully adjusts to her old life and looks to gain information on D’Albret and his future plans to capture the duchess, she receives orders from the convent to release the Beast Of Waroch from his imprisonment, into Rennes, to help protect the duchess and fight in the inevitable battle. As Sybella unknowingly gets dragged into Beast’s journey, she discovers a plethora of secrets about the upcoming battle she will have to face, or battles rather. Battles involving politics and court intrigue, battles with the convent, battles with her past, and most importantly, battles with herself.

I adored the writing, as expected. It’s sophisticated and quite formal, very similar to the what the actual speech in the 1400s could have been, but it is constantly brimming with life and never boring. The conversations are never forced or feel fake to create drama (and in this book, there is a lot of drama but it’s not necessarily a bad thing), which explains the wonderful character writing, specifically pertaining to emotion. Unfortunately, Dark Triumph suffers the same problems that Grave Mercy did, and that is, the slow pacing and unnecessary amount of long, dragging paragraphs. While I think this book is much more cohesive and has better flow than its predecessor, I still believe that Sybella’s story and the turmoil of war and a broken nation could have been told without the amount of description overpowering the dialogue.

Continue reading “Dark Triumph, by Robin LaFevers”

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Still Life With Tornado, by A.S King

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4 stars

“I am sixteen years old. I am a human being.”

Actually Sarah is several human beings. At once. And only one of them is sixteen. Her parents insist she’s a gifted artist with a bright future, but now she can’t draw a thing, not even her own hand. Meanwhile, there’s a ten-year-old Sarah with a filthy mouth, a bad sunburn, and a clear memory of the family vacation in Mexico that ruined everything. She’s a ray of sunshine compared to twenty-three-year-old Sarah, who has snazzy highlights and a bad attitude. And then there’s forty-year-old Sarah (makes good queso dip, doesn’t wear a bra, really wants sixteen-year-old Sarah to tell the truth about her art teacher). They’re all wandering Philadelphia—along with a homeless artist allegedly named Earl—and they’re all worried about Sarah’s future.

But Sarah’s future isn’t the problem. The present is where she might be having an existential crisis. Or maybe all those other Sarahs are trying to wake her up before she’s lost forever in the tornado of violence and denial that is her parents’ marriage.

“I am sixteen years old. I am a human being.”

Still Life With Tornado really took me by surprise. I’m down for anything that A.S King writes, and I knew right away (even from the premise) that there would be an underlying mystery and intrigue added to the initial contemporary feel. But, Still Life With Tornado kept me on the edge of my seat towards the very end with it’s magnificent magical realism topic and the reluctant yet determined unveiling of the terrible situation Sarah and her family are put in. While I didn’t love the characters and writing as much as those of Please Ignore Vera Dietz, Still Life With Tornado still remains an important and beautiful novel.

Still Life follows 16-year old artist, Sarah, as she faces an existential crisis in her life, claiming that nothing the world does is truly original. She is lost and unaware of her repressed memories of pain as she hungrily yet cautiously looks to unveil them. The book is actually not only about Sarah, but her parents’ poison-filled relationship, the reason of her brother’s departure from the family, and the mystery that is the Mexico vacation that happened six years ago. As Sarah painstakingly digs into her life and all that is unoriginal, we discover a heartbreaking, moving tale in this situation of lies, violence, hate and love.

It’s truly incredible the amount of light and originality King brings to common topics such as violence and abuse within a family, while keeping it realistic and easy to relate to. If you couldn’t tell already from the premise, there is a hint, a large hint of magical realism inscribed into this story, consisting of Sarah in the past and future. 10-year old Sarah, 23-year old Sarah, and 40-year old Sarah’s purposes are clearly not what they seem to be, and the way this aspect was utilized in such as situation was so prophetic and un-pretentious. The title itself is quite clever; it compares a still life used in art (a work of art depicting commonplace items such as flowers or a bowl of fruits) and an added tornado to Sarah’s stagnant yet chaotic position that her existential crisis poses.

Continue reading “Still Life With Tornado, by A.S King”

Books

The Art of Being Normal, by Lisa Williamson

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Update: I did actually go back and finish this book after writing this review, and I did like like it overall, though my issues with it still stand.

DNF

WARNING: Spoilers below

This is the first book ever that I’m writing a review for that I did not finish. I know, I’ve probably broken some sort of sacred code of book reviewers, but I read about 60% of this book, and couldn’t continue anymore, okay? And the thing is, I really liked it until about the 50% mark, where a “plot twist” ruined it for me. So, although I make it a point never to write spoiler reviews, I couldn’t find a way to properly rant without being specific about what I’m ranting about. Proceed at your own risk.

Final Warning: Spoilers below

The Art of Being Normal is a book about David, a transgender teen who hasn’t yet come out about his identity as a girl (since David is still a guy for the majority of this novel, I will be referring to him as a he). It’s also about Leo, the new, brooding boy with a past that’s new to school. Sounds like a typical romance with LGBT, right?

But before I proceed any further, let me establish that I am nothing but fully and completely supportive of the LGBT community. Being a cisgender reader myself, I’m sure that some of my opinions may come from a place of ignorance, but I genuinely mean no harm to anyone. There are so few books about transgender kids in YA, and I fully appreciate this book for being one of the first to depict the struggles of being a transgender teen. Any complaints that are to come only come from a place of loving support and a wish for things to be represented better. I do not want for anyone to take offense to anything I say in this review.

With that said, I’m going to continue with what my opinion of this book is. David is a genuinely an adorable character, and of the few YA transgender books I’ve read, I’ve never read about this perspective, being on the other side of coming out about your gender identity and the struggles that ensue. I would have easily read a book where the entire book was just about David and his friendships and struggles.

Continue reading “The Art of Being Normal, by Lisa Williamson”

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Gardenia, by Kelsey Sutton

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3.5 – 4 stars

Seventeen-year-old Ivy Erickson has one month, twenty-seven days, four hours, fifty-nine minutes, and two seconds to live.
Ever since she was a child, Ivy has been able to see countdown clocks over everyone’s heads indicating how long before they will die. She can’t do anything about anyone else’s, nor can she do anything about her own, which will hit the zero hour before she even graduates high school.
A life cut short is tragic, but Ivy does her best to make the most of it. She struggles emotionally with her deep love for on-again, off-again boyfriend Myers Patripski. She struggles financially, working outside of school to help her mom and her sister. And she struggles to cope with the murder of her best friend, another life she couldn’t save. Vanessa Donovan was killed in the woods, and everyone in town believes Ivy had something to do with it.
Then more girls start disappearing. Ivy tries to put her own life in order as she pieces together the truth of who ended Vanessa’s. To save lives and for her own sanity.
The clock is always ticking. And Ivy’s only hope is to expose the truth before it runs out completely.

*An ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

The science-fiction part of the premise of Gardenia may sound strikingly similar to those of Numbers, When, even Denton’s Little Deathdate if you want to go that far. I haven’t read those three, so I cannot say if Gardenia is original enough, but I can say that it’s definitely more invested in the emotional elements that come with this concept. It’s not too unique, but the overall writing and character writing kept me on the edge of my seat, making it a very pleasing story.

First off, I loved the setting. The story takes place in a very small town named Kennedy, a place that you either stay in forever or escape when you get the chance. It’s underdeveloped and the people residing in it are more or less bleak and stagnant in their lives. Ivy herself struggles financially, as she lives with her mother and sister in a trailer out in the woods, working for her uncle in his restaurant to survive. Sutton painted such an easily-understandable picture, every detail popped out the page effortlessly.

The writing was my favorite part of the book. It carried such an emotional and loving nature to it which fit right in with Ivy’s story. It’s a short, fast book, but the way the book muses on about life, death, and making the best out of a situation is so relatable and important. It’s not forced or pretentious but told in a rather realistic and brutally honest way, that might depress you to an extent, but you’ll love it because it’s so well-done. It’s kind of how I felt with reading All The Rage, it hurts, but it hurts so good.

The characters were also an integral part of shaping the story’s emotional depth. Ivy was a pretty realistic character, there was carefree, cynical side to her as well as a vulnerable side. Her thoughts about dying, using her gift for something useful, and finding solace in the fact that she has a short time to live were heartbreaking but reassuring as well. I developed a great liking for her throughout the book, and the countdown to the day she dies had me pretty emotional. I also loved her family and her relationship with them, as the story progresses, Ivy seeks to inspire her mother and sister, specifically her sister, to go out and live her life as passionately as possible. Their familial love is realistic and heartwarming, and it was great to see a family aspect explored more than a romance. Ivy and Myers’ complicated relationship was also one of my favorite parts of the book, it was so messy and frustrating but I loved those aspects because it made their romance so much more real.

My only complaint was the lackluster thriller/mystery plot line going on. It was hardly fleshed out and was not consistent with the rest of the story. The “seeing the death date” aspect was actually well-described and relevant to Ivy and her mission but her quest to find Vanessa’s killer fluctuated constantly throughout the book. Meaning, there wasn’t enough “mystery” to match with the contemporary concepts in the story. And while I’m satisfied with the contemporary takeover, I came into this book thinking it was a thriller/mystery. It wasn’t nearly as chilling as I wanted it to be and the final reveal of the killer and the motive behind the murder was a bit disjointed and random. The reveal wasn’t completely surprising either, as there are only so many characters we’ve been acquainted with, and the fact that some are easily ruled out as the book goes on makes the finale even more predictable. I like the idea of the death dates as it opens up many themes surrounding life and death, but I think Gardenia should have been marketed as a contemporary instead. It definitely excels in that department.

Overall, Gardenia is a solid read, that is excellent in its contemporary themes but lacking in development of the mystery/suspense story line I was expecting. Nevertheless, I would recommend to anyone looking for an engaging plot and well-written characters, as well as an interesting take on the “I can see death dates” concept.

-Haven

Books, New Releases, Original Post, YA Fiction

New Releases in YA for February 2017

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Hello everyone! I hope everyone had a great book-filled January. I was incredibly busy this month (AP Psych takes all the energy out of me -__-), so I didn’t get to read as much as I wanted. But, I’m definitely hyped for these February releases. Let’s get into it!

1. Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones – Coming February 7th, 2017

24763621Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.
All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

Wintersong sounds extremely rich and dynamic, I’m expecting great world-building to match with that beautiful cover!

2. Starfall, by Melissa Landers – Coming February 7th, 2017

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When Princess Cassia Rose fled her home world of Eturia to escape an arranged marriage, she had no idea her sudden departure would spark a war. Now after two years hiding as a ship hand, she is finally returning to her beloved home, but not in the way she imagined. Shackled by bounty hunters, she is violently dragged back to account for her crimes. Her only solace is that the Banshee crew managed to evade capture, including Kane Arric, her best friend…with occasional benefits.

Meanwhile, Kane and the rest of the crew of the Banshee plan a desperate rescue mission. But when they arrive on Eturia, Cassia isn’t exactly in need of heroics—she’s claimed her birthright as Eturia’s queen, but has inherited a war-torn planet simmering with rebellion. Cassia must make alliances, and Kane, the bastard son of a merchant, isn’t a choice that will earn her any friends. Kane knows he will never find someone to replace Cassia—and is certain she returns his feelings—but how can he throw away his own promising future waiting on a queen?

When the outer realm is threatened by the dangerous Zhang mafia, Cassia, Kane and the rest of the Banshee crew uncover a horrifying conspiracy that endangers the entire universe. In the face of unspeakable evil, Cassia must confront her own family’s complicated legacy on Eturia and decide once and for all who her real family is.

I’ve read the first book of this series, Starflight, a while ago and I really enjoyed it. This book will be told in Cassia’s perspective, who actually used to a supporting character in the first book. I think this is a great idea, as I’ve been dying to know more about her character, and I’m equally dying to know where Landers is going to take this exciting space opera!

3. We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour – Coming February 24th, 2017

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“You go through life thinking there’s so much you need. . . . Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.”

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

This definitely sounds like an emotional read with a mysterious air to it. While some of these books leave me a tad depressed and hollowed-out, a well-written book is a well-written book, and I appreciate those types of characteristics. I’m most certainly hyped.

 

 

4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Coming February 28th, 2017

32075671Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice. Movie rights have been sold to Fox, with Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) to star.

I love the idea behind this novel — with the recent events taking place in the black community, I think it’s amazing and important that The Hate U Give wants to deliver a story based on something so relevant today. I’m really looking forward this novel.

 

 

 

 

Gardenia, by Kelsey Sutton – Coming February 24th, 2017

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Seventeen-year-old Ivy Erickson has one month, twenty-seven days, four hours, fifty-nine minutes, and two seconds to live.

Ever since she was a child, Ivy has been able to see countdown clocks over everyone’s heads indicating how long before they will die. She can’t do anything about anyone else’s, nor can she do anything about her own, which will hit the zero hour before she even graduates high school.

A life cut short is tragic, but Ivy does her best to make the most of it. She struggles emotionally with her deep love for on-again, off-again boyfriend Myers Patripski. She struggles financially, working outside of school to help her mom and her sister. And she struggles to cope with the murder of her best friend, another life she couldn’t save. Vanessa Donovan was killed in the woods, and everyone in town believes Ivy had something to do with it.

Then more girls start disappearing. Ivy tries to put her own life in order as she pieces together the truth of who ended Vanessa’s. To save lives and for her own sanity.

The clock is always ticking. And Ivy’s only hope is to expose the truth before it runs out completely.

I’ve actually recently finished this book through an ARC, and I definitely think it’s worth a read. While the mystery/ thriller aspect isn’t as fleshed out as I wanted it to be, it carries a huge emotional capacity with its writing and characters. A more detailed review is coming soon.

That’s it, guys! I hope you all have a great rest of the month! 🙂

-Haven