Tuesday, July 30, 2013

YA Review- Ditched: A Love Story

(Picture from GoodReads)

"I don't know how I ended up on the side of Hollister Road, lying in this ditch."
-Opening Line

Book: Ditched: A Love Story
Author: Robin Mellom
Published: Hyperion 2012
Medium Read In: Hardcover
Pages: 275

Rating (Scaled 1-10): 4

Why I'm Reading It: I found it in my local library, and was mildly intrigued by the cover. Then, I read the blurb on the cover and was further drawn into the novel because of the whole "Bad Prom" theme, which I can relate to. It seemed like a fun read, so I read on.

Summary: Justina Griffith is ditched after Prom by her date and longtime friend, Ian Clark. She goes into a Seven Eleven and talks to the lady behind the counter about her horrible night. As she recounts the night, she slowly begins to figure out the reason things went wrong.

Review: I really wanted to like this book. I really, really, really wanted to like Justina. And believe me, I really tried to like her and sympathize with her and all those things I am meant to. But there was just something totally and completely off about this book. It may have been that I wasn't in too much of a prom-book reading mood, or that I had a stack of other books I was even more excited to read (see: The Pirate Captain's Daughter), but this just didn't work for me.

I felt no sympathy towards the main character, Justina. First off, I don't particularly like the name. Sorry to any Justinas out there, but it isn't one of my favorite names anyway. Besides that, the sort of punk-ish but-not-really POV character doesn't fit my idea of the name. Besides that, she just sort of managed to get on my nerves. I don't even know why. Its sort of like those kinds of people who you don't know why, but you just can't stand them.

And the rest of the characters didn't really fit what they should have been like, either. The most obvious example is the two girls who were best friends and got matching Jimmy Choos for prom. There is nothing wrong with matching shoes for a school dance. One of my best friends and I did it sophomore year (give it, they were both in different colors, mine a sparkly blue and hers purple, but its the same concept). However, the two girls with the matching shoes were hard core judgy, and Justina was just as judgy back.

The language used in those scenarios didn't particularly fit the bill for high schoolers and how they behave. The author obviously hasn't been to high school in a very long time. I'm in the place now, and I don't think anyone at my school would ever act in such a manner. With such out-of-character high schoolers, I just barely managed to trudge through this read.

When I picked up this book, I was promised a "best friends finally get together" romance. Justina and Ian have been friends for several months. And all of that happens before the novel starts. So it isn't really the kind of frame I was looking for. I was heavily disappointed with the set-up of their romance, and so this book sort of fell flat. The friendship didn't have much substance to it, either, so I couldn't even properly respect their friend zone status.

Furthermore, the ending came together a little too quickly- I didn't feel a buildup, no rise in action to make me sort of know where it could be going. It came out of left field. It was almost as if the author suddenly realized she should probably end the book, and decided to throw it all together randomly. The slightly random ending threw me off, and that was the end of that.

Don't get me wrong- I don't want to diss on the writer. It almost hurts to dislike a book this much. But I just didn't like the narrator, and when that kind of opinion happens, it all goes down from there. I really and truly wish I could have liked this book, but since I didn't, I do feel the need to let people know what they are getting into with Ditched. Hopefully someone else can enjoy it more than I.

Stacking the Shelves [1]

I recently found out about the world of blog memes. This is an entirely new concept to me, but then again so is blogging, so I figured that I'd give it a try! For my first blog meme post ever, I did some poking around the internet and decided to choose the one from over at Tynga's Reviews. The meme, called Stacking the Shelves, is pretty much dedicated to showing the world what books you are adding to your shelf this week.
(You already know I like pretty things. And this is gorgeous.)
Of course, I'm not going to be able to do this every week, because I don't always get books every week (the horror!). But I got a major haul this week, and just couldn't help but share all my pretty new books. So, here goes!

First up is Tessa Gratton's The Lost Sun. I've sort of already posted about this (and I swear my review is coming up soon!!!), but I still can't get over this cover. I finished the book a bit ago, and my review will be up shortly. Until then, I'm leaving you with another picture of the gorgeous cover. I'm definitely going to be getting my own hardcover of this so it doesn't fall apart constantly!

Next up we have an old classic, Pride and Prejudice. This is not my first time getting this book, but I picked up another copy of it because I have to read it for school. I can't take myself to write in my first copy of one of my favorite books ever, but I also can't really take notes in a book that is falling apart since I've read the book so much. So, my second copy.
The next book I have to share is K.C. Rivers' The Prince of Light. This one is actually an autographed copy that I was fortunate enough to win in a giveaway on Goodreads. I'm a sucker for getting free stuff, and who couldn't love this cover? Plus its about elves and that kind of fun thing, and I haven't picked up a read with good, hardcore fantasy in a while.

This here is my favorite thing ever. I'm going to be re-reading You Have Seven Messages (Stewart Lewis) soon, and I've now pre-ordered Divergent #3, a title I'm not even going to try to spell. Real books can't be substituted by electronic ones- the feel of the paper, the weight of the cover as you flip quickly through to get to the next part- but when my backpack or purse needs to weigh a little less, I'm always grateful to be able to read e-books.
 And finally, what is a bookshelf without sharing the bane of my existence??? I only have to take this test once more, but my prep book and I do not get along. At all.

Well, there you have it. All the books I've had the chance to stack my shelves with recently. Thanks to Tynga's Reviews once more for coming up with this blog meme, and if I'm really lucky I'll be able to get to reading, reviewing, and even continuing to stack my shelves pretty soon!! 

Friday, July 26, 2013

YA Review- The Pirate Captain's Daughter

(Cover found at GoodReads)

"I always knew my father was a pirate, and I always knew I wanted to be one, too."
-Opening Line

Book: The Pirate Captain's Daughter (Pirate Captain's Daughter #1)
Author: Eve Bunting
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Published: Sleeping Bear Press 2011
Medium Read In: Hardback
Pages: 201

Rating (Scaled 1-10): 5

Why I'm Reading It: I've spent forever looking for good books about pirates. Every time I see one, it's very likely to be a bodice ripper, when I'm more interested in finding fun, light reads along the lines of Treasure Island, or whatnot. I was ecstatic when I found The Pirate Captain's Daughter at my library. I liked the blurb for the book, and promptly brought it home with me for a read.

Summary: After the death of her mother, Catherine is determined to go to sea with her pirate captain father. Despite his reserve, he allows her to come aboard his ship, the Reprisal, disguised as his son 'Charlie.' Catherine has always believed in the romanticized version of pirates, and is disturbed by how dirty and vile their lifestyle is. As she struggles to find her place on the Reprisal, Catherine grows close with the cabin boy and makes enemies aboard the ship.

Review: This book had a lot of potential. I was super excited to read it, and despite the simplicity and slowness of the beginning, I continued to hope in vain for the book to gain more momentum. I liked William, the cabin boy, and I found the pirates we were introduced to to be fairly interesting. Ms. Bunting's writing was crisp and filled in just enough detail to not leave the reader wanting. She kept me engaged in the story, especially with her portrayal of Catherine's emotions. 

The emotional aspect was probably the best part of the novel. Catherine's sorrow at her mother's death, her relationship with her father, her original eagerness for sea, and then her disgust for the situation were all covered with fantastic language and accuracy. However, the relationship with William was under developed, in my opinion. The book was obviously geared toward the younger set of the YA readership, but that doesn't mean that the author needs to make it a magical-love-at-nearly-first-sight kind of romance.

There came a point about halfway through my read where I was about ready to put the novel down. Catherine makes quick enemies with two of the pirates, brothers Herc and Hopper. However, they sort of seem to ignore her. Sure, they bully her around a little, but her response to the two much senior pirates is a terribly stupid one. It almost seemed as if Catherine were the one going after the pirates, instead of them disliking her. Despite my reaction to this, I chose to continue on because of the short size of the novel and how quickly it took me to read the beginning.

Some reviews I have read have mentioned her father's willingness to take her aboard the ship as a dilemma. I feel the need to address this. I can see how that would be a problem in the actual setting of the novel,  but I also realize that without that small action on the father's part there would be no story. I personally allow my suspension of disbelief to accept that little falter for the author, especially with how realistically everything else is portrayed. These are not your gung-ho Disney-esque pirates: there are rats and rum and little-to-no water. The Pirate Captain's Daughter captures the essence of piracy, and so I will give it that.

Overall, The Pirate Captain's Daughter wasn't a horrible book, but it wasn't really a good one, either. I've heard there is a sequel(Voyage of the Sea Wolf), which I plan to read and review shortly because of the potential there was to the book. It captured my attention enough that I am willing to give the next one a chance, in hopes that the author decides to expand her characters a little bit and hopefully engage the bit of plot she had going. I will recommend this book for the younger set of YA, mostly because it is a well written story. Here's to hoping the next one is slightly better!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

ANNOUNCEMENT- Ambuzzador, Giveaway, and More!

I've been a member of a website for reading enthusiasts for a while now. Randombuzzers.com is especially dedicated towards YA novels from RandomHouse. Some of my favorite authors have published through Random House (Lauren Kate (Fallen), Tamora Pierce, Christopher Paolini, to name a few). So it was kind of awesome to join a website where I got the chance to follow authors, ask them questions, and learn about previous and future releases from Random House.

One of the best parts of RandomBuzzers is the chance to apply to be an "ambuzzador." Ambuzzadors are pretty much book ambassadors for Random House, with groups of Ambuzzadors being assigned a certain book. For this current season, I am very excited to be an ambuzzador for The Lost Sun, by Tessa Gratton. I get to represent this book over the course of the next few months, and get people to read it.
I get to use this pretty button here, too!!
I got my kit in the mail, and it comes with two books. One, I will be reviewing and lending out to people. This second copy is going to be in an extra spectacular giveaway!!
Isn't the cover stunning???

I will be posting my review of The Lost Sun as my tenth review sometime in the next week, hopefully. After I've posted my review, the giveaway will be going live. Currently I'm planning for it to last for around two weeks after I get my own review up. All that's required is a follow of Cloud9Shelf!! There will other ways to get extra entries, and when the time is right a winner will be randomly selected from all followers and the extra entries!

I'm off to go begin reading The Lost Sun, but in the meantime you can consider purchasing the novel, learning more about the author, or following her on twitter.
Happy Reading!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

YA Review- Aurelia

(Cover from author's website)

Book: Aurelia (Aurelia Book One)
Author: Anne Osterlund
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Mystery
Published: Penguin 2008
Medium Read In: Paperback
Pages: 246

Rating (Scaled 1-10): 7.5

Why I'm Reading It: I fell in love with this book the moment I saw it. The cover is absolutely stunning, and slightly reminiscent of Girl with the Pearl Earring, or at least I think so. The mask, the curly font of the title, the title itself ("Aurelia" is a gorgeous name!)- I absolutely fell in love with the book from the outside, and knew I had to read what was inside.

Summary: Someone is attempting to assassinate Princess Aurelia, the heir to throne of Tyralt, and so her father brings in the son of his former spy, Robert Vantauge. Robert is supposed to keep Aurelia from finding out about the murder attempts, but she finds out, and they both set out to find the would-be murderer before it's too late, and the villain succeeds.

Review: Luckily, this was not a case of "Book is horrible, but I loved the cover." Neither was it a "I fell in love with this book" kind of case. This book is a decent read, but I was very sad to realize that it was more the kind of book twelve or thirteen-year-old me would have been obsessed with, instead of a book directed at the older set of the YA audience.

Besides that small smidgen, I still highly enjoyed reading Aurelia. Since it was geared towards a younger audience, I did breeze through it rather quickly. I will say, however, that the "mystery" side of the the novel did catch me for a loop. I was pleasantly surprised by the ending, especially the growth in Aurelia as a character.

One of the best parts about this book is probably how low-key the romance aspect of it was. The romance slowly blossomed between Aurelia and Robert, however it wasn't the main focus of the novel as it is so often with YA books today. It promised a mystery/fantasy, and that was what it gave. It didn't have a romance with a pathetic mystery wrapped around it- instead, Aurelia gave us a novel in stride, and I highly appreciate and respect Ms. Osterlund for it.

The novel left me happy after I was reading it, and it was definitely a book I would recommend for most young readers. I had a hard time finding decent fantasy when I was younger- that's why I often reread my Tamora Pierce collection and the few fantasy novels that I had for my age group, and why I started to read Tolkien young. For any youngster who is looking for areas in the fantasy department, they should definitely check out Aurelia.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

YA Review- The Elite

(Picture found on author's website)
Book: The Elite (Selection Book Two)
Author: Kiera Cass

Genre: Dystopian Romance
Published: 2013

Medium Read In: Hardback

Pages: 336

Rating (Scaled 1-10): 7

Why I'm Reading It: I'm not sure why, honestly. The first book  and the mid-quel weren't too awesome or anything, but for whatever reason I feel compelled to continue reading about these characters and what is going to end up happening to America and Maxon (and kind of Aspen). Plus, we get a ridiculously gorgeous cover  (look left). I'm obsessed with this mirrors/dresses theme going on!

Summary: (Mild spoilers for the end of Book One) After the dangerous rebel attacks that occurred in The Selection, Prince Maxon sent all but six of the contestants home. These six are a group of girls called "the Elite." The Elite begin their princess-training while still competing for Prince Maxon's heart- and his crown.

America remains conflicted between her emotional feelings for Maxon as well as Aspen, especially as the Selection becomes more competitive. She is determined to figure out who her heart belongs to, while discovering more about who she is.

Review: The Elite has many improvements over its predecessor, The Selection. First and foremost, we actually met the antagonists during one of the rebel raids. The scene was brief, and I was left a bit confused as to what in the world was going on, but it still shows an attempt to bring the "dystopia" side of the novel to the front. This, of course, is where the novel needs more trying. I can't really tell you why it is a dystopia. However, the romance remains strong, and the main reason I stuck my nose into this book.

The romance elements are strong and very, very there. However, as the main focus of the novel, I was sort of disappointed by America's flip-flops. I just wanted to scream at her, "Fickle Mer! Don't you see how awesome Maxon is?" every time she went back to Aspen. She remained pretty focused on Maxon in the novel, but she got pretty angry at both him and Aspen at various points. I'm just waiting for the day Maxon realizes that his favorite girl used to date her main guard… DRAMA.

I'll also say I like how Maxon is finally taking control of his own life. As per The Prince, he normally lets his father do things for him and is walked over plenty. In The Selection, he sort of let America make the decisions in his relationship with her. But within the novel, Maxon begins to connect with the other girls and go on dates with them as well as America. She gets slightly upset over this, but I honestly think it is really good to see Maxon striking out on his own against his father and America and not being held down while he waits for others to make up their minds.

There is some slight character development in other characters as well, including America. To emphasize it the author has America's father send her letters with her attributes spelled out for us. Shoving it down our throats is not the right way to go with that kind of thing. Yet we still get to finally understand some of the background characters, the queen being the first one who we haven't ever really seen. She is very calm and doesn't seem to exert much authority, but the little time we spend with her makes me enjoy her prescence in the novel.

Another character who we saw some more of was May, America's little sister. I really liked her from the first novel, so seeing her and her sister together again was a lot of fun.  There was plenty of tension with Celeste, one of the main rival's for Maxon's heart. The interesting Frienemy-ship that developed between  Kriss and America also is something to look forward to, should you decide to read it.

The most surprising moment came after their Halloween party when Marlee ran into some trouble. I won't reveal what happens, but it shows lots of improvement in the plot as far as actually affecting characters lives goes.

Overall this novel should be taken for what it is: a nice, fluffy romance novel. It isn't the next Twilight or Harry Potter, but the plot is fun to read and the romance works for a YA. There are some mild improvements over the previous novel, and so it is worth reading to some extent. To read, you can get it here. Happy reading, and see you later!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

YA Review- The Prince

(Cover from author's website)
Book: The Prince (Selection #1.5)
Author: Kiera Cass
Genre: Dystopian Romance
Published: HarperCollins Teen 2013
Medium Read In: Kindle
Pages: 128

Rating (Scaled 1-10): 4.5

Why I'm Reading It: I decently liked the novella's predecessor, The Selection, and Maxon was one of my favorite characters. This novella explores Maxon's point of view a little bit, and so it seemed like a decent thing to read. You can read my review of the first book in there series here.

Summary: Pretty much the events pre- The Selection and the first few chapters, told in Prince Maxon's POV. It involves Maxon and a previous love interest, and expands on his relationship with his father.

Review: I was hoping for something a bit more full, I guess. This novella suggested, as per its description, that it would involve a love interest for Maxon, and it was sort of suggested (through the point of having a novella for Maxon) that it would be different and deepen Maxon's character. Iy definitely showed a new side of Maxon, however the intrigue of a former love fell flat as it was not the main focus of the novella.

With the YA genre, I've noticed that everything is advertised as a romance of some kind. This is truly a shame. This was a great chance for the author to expand on Maxon's character and humanity, however she wrote, instead, with the same Maxon we knew from The Selection. The novella presented a lot of insight into his dad and his relationship. However, by advertising The Prince as a romance, the novella lost a lot. Its main theme was not romance, and so it really, really lost me.

If my hopes had not been raised to hear more about Maxon's former girl, I probably would have given The Prince a shaky 6. I read it after The Elite, so a lot of what it hinted at didn't surprise me. However like the other two, The Prince is a nice, fluffy read when you need to do something for an hour. The new character, Princess Daphne, was a very flat character, and didn't come across very well. In the time we see her, she comes off as a love sick floozy without any backbone. Maxon and her had zero chemistry, and the entire romance angle was a flop.

The best part of the novella was seeing Maxon and his father interact. The tensions were a bit thick between the two, and the dynamic did come across well on paper, unlike the rest of the book.

If you like The Selection, this is a nice complimentary read for the series. However if you're only moderately interested in the series- such as is the case for many people- then the novella is easy to pass up. For those with interest, you can purchase the e-book version on Amazon.

I feel like now is a decent time for me to address my feelings towards this series. I don't find America to be a particularly good character. She doesn't come across well on the page, she's mopey, and overall I just don't like her. I don't find myself rooting for her and her plight. I dislike her more than I dislike Bella Swan. The series is, of course, a straight up romance with mild dystopian elements. But the author doesn't even try to elaborate too well on them, and it bothers me so much.

Yet, somehow I cannot stop myself from wanting to read them. I've even re-read The Selection! I don't understand why, but something about this series is addictive. I'm not quite sure why, but I want to read these books, which highly distresses me. Complex emotions aside, enjoy the words!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Books to Check Out- The Secret Ingredient

I absolutely loved You Have Seven Messages by Stewart Lewis. I recently found out that Lewis came out with a new novel last month, The Secret Ingredient. I'm going to go and get a copy pretty soon, and add it to the end of my very long list of reads to enjoy! If you follow the link, you can find the first two chapters on Scribd. They're definitely worth checking out, even if you haven't read the other book. The two aren't related at all, however it still is a good idea to check out the first one!!
 Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

YA Review- The Selection

(Photo found on author's website)
BookThe Selection (Selection Book One)
Author: Kiera Cass
Genre: Dystopian Romance
Published: 2012
Pages: 352

Rating (Scaled 1-10):6

 Why I'm Reading It: I was in the mood to delve into the dystopian genre and read up on some The Hunger Games -esque novels. Somewhere it was described as a combo The Hunger Games/Bachelor book, which a really weird and intriguing combination. I will admit I first heard about the book in an article about reader/writer relationships on Publishers Weekly, "Should Authors and Agents Weigh in on Citizen Reviews?" I, at the time, was more interested in the books mentioned then in the contents of the article, but it really is worth the read as an article. Furthermore, the cover is stunning. I'm a sucker for pretty dresses, and the way the mirror reflects it is absolutely dazzling!
Summary: In a world that I think was a couple hundred years from now, the US and the surrounding nations have been united under a monarchy as a nation now called "Ilea." Society is ruled by a strict caste system that is slightly hard to follow at first but eventually you catch on to.

Each heir to the throne, to show unity with the people, hosts thirty-five girls (chosen from a raffle) in his palace as they compete to win his heart and eventually become a princess of Ilea. America Singer is chosen for her province's representative in the competition. America, a Five, is a musician in a family of musicians. All she wants to do is settle down with her Six boyfriend, Aspen, but her mother (and him!) coax her into signing up for the competition.

America doesn't want to go to the Selection, and yet she can't help being attracted to Prince Maxon. Throw in a mess of rebels from the South and North, some crazy ladies who will do just about anything for the crown, and you get The Selection.

ReviewFirst off, the title is kind of boring. I mean, most novels are sort of like that anymore, but who can complain when you have that dress to look at on the cover. It sort of reminds me of a bubbling pond or lake or something, anyone seeing it? Well, either way, I'm obsessed with this dress 

You have to understand that this book isn't particularly good, yet it is still really enticing. I can't really put my fingers on why I liked it, but I can tell you why I didn't. The writing is kind of childish, the names make me roll my eyes, and I'm really confused by why life is supposed to suck. Sure, the family is a little hungry, but I don't see them downright suffering or anything. 

Kiera Cass doesn't normally have bad writing. I read The Siren, and I actually really enjoyed her language. Here, however, she just sort of gives us a bare plot and some words to go with it. If you do decide to read this, you have to go in with an empty head. It's like some of those fluffy novels- there isn't much going on, but people like to read them anyway. The Selection made for a very good escape on a rainy Saturday when I needed a book to read, but wouldn't become too attached to.

I have to say, the main rival for Maxon's affections-Celeste- is probably one of my favorite characters in the novel. She's a little bit too obvious with her hatred of anyone else, but I really like the Bachelor and she reminds me of a lot of people who have shown up on the show (a comparison for the current season of Bachelorette is Ben, who got kicked off a week or two ago). She's entirely there for him and mostly the crown, not to even try and make friends like some of the other girls. Her forwardness and openness to not particularly caring about anyone else kind of made me roll my eyes, but at the same time it was actually (sadly) real behavior.

I am totally Team Maxon. There was something very off putting about Aspen's almost forceful, definitely selfish personality. Maxon, on the other hand, is a bit reserved yet caring, and adorably innocent. He kind of reminds me of a puppy, but there is something strong about the way he is written. If anyone is Team Aspen, do speak up! Lots of people seem to not care for him much.

If you are interested, you can buy this book on Amazon. Plus, there's some fun "deleted scenes" on the author's website. I'll be adding other reviews over the next month, but I will also be re-reading and publish reviews for the other books in this series. Happy Reading!

Hello, Again.

Well, internet, I'm gonna be trying this again. Now, I'm actually going to be trying this time, so we'll see how this goes. I have a BUNCH of books stacked up that I've read, and I'm going to be writing out reviews of them, and of course posting the amazon link. Some are good, some are bad, but I'll try to find ones of all kinds! If anyone actually reads this, feel free to make a suggestion in the comments!

I'm going to be doing categories of books as I review them. I'll try to do at least one of each a month, although it may be a little sporadic for some. I'll have the "Classics" which will mostly be my opinions on the books I read for school, then I'll be actually doing some independent reading that falls there as well. Then I'll have the "YA" category, which will be mostly newer books from the- guess!- YA section of my local bookstore. I'll also being doing a "General" category, which will be anything from How-Tos to Self Help books, as well as more adult titles- such as The Inferno (Dan Brown) or other modern-ish books.

I may also end up doing reviews from stories posted on the internet on sites like Wattpad and Fictionpress because I have an addiction to online authors, but that'll wait until I have my footing on the ground. I'm still in the midst of getting Cloud 9 Shelf up and running, but we'll see how this goes!!

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