Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January Reads!

I've been pretty lazy with my book reviews this month, but that does not mean that I haven't picked up some fabulous books in January! By my estimation, I have read around eleven books thus far (I started five or so cheap kindle books, but they were so poorly written, I couldn't bring myself to finish them. Sad freaking day!).

The following books range from "so-good-I-stayed-awake-till-the-wee-hours-of-the-morning-to-finish" good, to "I've-already-invested-so-much-time-and-eight-dollars-I'm-gonna-finish-this-sucker" bad.

So, in no particular order, here are this month's reads!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

This book is an eerie tale of angels, demons, love, battle, and family. Karou is just an average art student living in Prague. Or maybe not so average… the fantastical creatures filling her sketchbooks are actually real, and the mysterious monsters who raised her are the only family she's ever known. When a handsome, dangerous stranger enters her life, her entire world is turned upside down. No one and nothing is what she thought, and thought "the truth can set you free," it can also shatter your soul.

The imaginative world Laini Taylor created in this story is incredible. I found myself gasping for breath during the suspenseful moments, tearing up during the poignant ones, and throwing the book across the room at the ending (Well, not really, because that might damage the book or break a lamp… but I WANTED to!). Five-out-of-five stars for this haunting tale!

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

I LOVE Laini Taylor, and this collection of three short stories was true to her supernatural and romantic style. The first story focused on a girl, unique and independent, who longs to be someone and something else after being singled out by the hot new guy at school. Despite everything she's been taught and all the warning bells inside her head, she may just give in to get her first kiss… and lose her soul in the process. The second story is about a curse placed on a beautiful girl, and the man who falls in love with her. If the curse is true, she may end up causing the death of all she holds dear, with the simple act of speaking. The final story tracks a young girl who's strange upbringing is explained when she discovers she belongs to a strange world of magic, powerful shape shifters, and pale blue eyes.

This anthology of sorts was a quick, intriguing read. Slightly creepy and sometimes scary, these tales are super creative and thought provoking. Five-out-of-five stars for this one!

Falling in Love with English Boys by Melissa Jensen

This book follows Catherine "Cat" Vernon as she schleps off to England for the summer. While her mother spends her days at the museum researching a long-dead, un-famous author, Cat whiles away her hours poring over British gossip magazines and eating chocolate… That is until the descendant of her mother's research topic happens along and interrupts her lackluster London existence.

The story jumped back and forth between Cat's present day life, and the diary of the daughter of her mother's research. The two young people definitely have lots in common, even if it takes time for Cat to come to this realization.

Overall, even though I enjoy historical fiction, this book fell a little flat. Even the intriguing setting of London could not redeem the random scenes that did nothing to further character development or the story line. I frequently found myself thinking, "this scene was completely unnecessary," and just plain, "Why? WHY?!".

That being said, this book made me laugh. A lot. Thus, it earns a three-out-of-five stars.

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

This may end up being one of my favorite books of the entire year!

 Allyson, the obedient and safe good girl, embarks on a European tour as a high school graduation present from her parents. But when she meets the good looking and cosmopolitan Willem at an independent production of Twelfth Night in London, everything changes. Daringly, she joins him on a sudden, whirlwind trip to Paris- for just one day. While experiencing the City of Lights, an undeniable connection develops between them. The next morning, however, Allyson finds herself alone. The book follows Allyson over the course of a year as she puts her life back together and discovers who she is and what she truly wants out of life.

Maybe I enjoyed this book so much because I could relate to Allyson's character- falling in love; having that flame snuffed out; working through the feelings of loss, insecurity, and sadness; growing apart from life-long friends; assessing one's strengths and what really makes one happy; and risking disappointing loved ones by deviating from the plan. This book was real life. It delved into messy emotions, strained relationships, and difficult choices young people often face when they come into their own person.

This book definitely earned five-out-of-five stars, and I cannot wait until the sequel (told from Willem's perspective!) comes out! I am HOOKED!

Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik

This book was supposed to be a modern, high school interpretation of Pride and Prejudice. Elise Benton moves to glitzy Los Angeles and begins classes at a posh private school, where one of the most popular boys starts showing interest in her sister. Suddenly, Elise is stuck spending time with Derek, the son of famous Hollywood actors. With her obnoxiously embarrassing mother (who happens to be the new school principal!) pushing for them to get together, her little sister getting into mischief, and the attentions of the friendly fellow misfit Webster, "Will Elise’s love life be an epic win or an epic fail?"

I was so disappointed in this book! I thought the storyline held so much promise for a Jane Austenish tale, but once again, it just fell flat. The dialogue was often stilted, there was too much telling instead of showing, and the characters were too cliché. While some of the modern translations of Regency period issues were interesting, it was not enough to make up for this dull retelling of the epic romance between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Three-out-of-five stars, only.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

I made the mistake of reading this creepy, Jack the Ripper paranormal mystery at night, right before bed. Needless to say, every creak and rattle in my attic bedroom had me jumping awake, wide-eyed, heavy flash light in hand to throw at any psycho killer ghosts that might attempt to kill and dismember me.

Maureen Johnson pens a tale of a Louisiana girl, Rory, who beings class at a London boarding school. After nearly choking to death one night at dinner, Rory discovers that she has "the sight"- she can see dead people. An outbreak of suspicious murders modeled on the killings of Jack the Ripper grips the city in fear, and Rory becomes a sole witness in the crime. There's just one problem- the killer is a ghost. The story follows Rory as she assists a secret branch of the British police (very MI5!) to track down the killer, attempts to keep up with school and her social life, and avoids becoming the killer's next victim.

Five-out-of-five stars, for sure, and I cannot wait until the sequel, The Madness Underneath, comes out on February 26th!   

Decked with Holly by Marni Bates

This book was hysterical! High school artist, Holly, ends up trapped on a Christmas cruise with her two evil cousins as cabinmates. When she becomes desperately seasick, she gets kicked out of their room and stumbles into the cabin suite of a gorgeous guy who attacks her with pepper spray after mistaking her for a zombie (Seriously, one of the funniest parts of the entire book! I CRIED with laughter!). The hunk calls himself Nick, but the next morning Holly discovers amidst the screams and sighs of a hall filled with fans, that the attacker who begrudgingly allowed her to crash on his couch is none other than Dominic, the star drummer for one of the most popular bands on the billboard charts.

Since fooling around with a young girl would kill the band's carefully created image, the rest of the band forces Dominic to fix the situation- by pretending he and Holly are a real couple. For the remainder of the trip, the two must fake a relationship to fool the press. As they bicker and banter, they do a remarkably good job… but will their "fauxmance" turn into something more?

I loved this book. Sure, it wasn't earth-shatteringly insightful or all that intellectual, but it was a fun, whimsical read that left me giggling. Four-out-of-five stars for a successful, fluffy romance.

Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

Julia finds herself in a horrible predicament on a class trip to London- She, the super studious, type-A, "good girl" gets paired with the class clown, d-baggy slacker, Jason. When Jason drags her to a wild party, Julia decides to put on an ultra-cool, super confident persona with the aid of a little liquid courage. Only the next day, her killer hangover is accompanied by mysterious romantic text messages sent by someone she doesn't actually remember meeting. Over the course of the trip, Julia and Jason not only take in the historical sights, but also attempt to catch up with and win over Julia's secret admirer. Only, things may not be as they seem, and the least likely coincidences are meant to be.

I really enjoyed this light, funny read! Filled with quotes from Shakespeare, plenty of Beatles references, and the gorgeous setting of London, this book earned four-and-a-half-out-of-five stars.

City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments) by Cassandra Clare

I've read the first three books in this paranormal series, and I am hooked! Clary Fray is an average New York teenager… until she witnesses the murder of a boy in a night club and realized she is the only one who can see the individuals involved. Suddenly, Clary is thrown into the world of Shadowhunters- fighters responsible for eliminating demons. When her mom disappears and Clary is attacked, she must rely on her old friend, Simon, and new friends/frenemies Jace, Alec, and Isabelle to make sense of the madness that her life has become.

This series is INSANELY good! I can't go into too many details because I don't want to give too much away, but I love the world building, the character development, and the pacing of these novels. With the first book set to become a major motion picture in August, the series definitely deserves all the hype. Five-out-of-five stars.

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