Why I Hate Romance So Much
Outside the Reviews / July 2, 2017

[Disclaimer: I’m 17, folks. While I’ve watched long-standing married couples around me, including my close-knit parents, read plenty of books, and drawn a few conclusions of my own, I’m the first to admit I know next to nothing about romantic love.) If you’ve read any number of my reviews, (you haven’t? Um… don’t worry, that’s easily remedied. Shoo. Go read.) you’ll have noticed a recurring theme in my outlook on romance. Ranging from mildly annoyed to severely aggravated to outright furious, if there’s a love interest in the story odds aren’t good for my thoughts on it. But it’s an inconsistent hatred, because there are the romances I fall in love with, the love interests I praise, even love triangles I can put up with. (I think. Not sure I could name one, actually.) So what’s going on? A number of things. I’ll start with the least important and work up. Number one: it’s generally trope-ridden. I’m not dismissing love and/or romance in a story as a cliche in itself; they’re some of the oldest building blocks. Love, death, (and taxes), right? But the romance I tend to encounter, perhaps most especially in YA, is filled with side-cliches. The sarcastic,…

Legion
Young Adult / June 24, 2017

Talon #4. Author: Julie Kagawa. Summary: Dragon hatchling Ember Hill was never prepared to find love at all–dragons do not suffer human emotions–let alone the love of a human and a former dragonslayer, at that. With ex-soldier Garret dying at her feet after sacrificing his freedom and his life to expose the deepest of betrayals, Ember knows only that nothing she was taught by dragon organization Talon is true. About humans, about rogue dragons, about herself and what she’s capable of doing and feeling. In the face of great loss, Ember vows to stand with rogue dragon Riley against the dragon-slaying Order of St. George and her own twin brother Dante–the heir apparent to all of Talon, and the boy who will soon unleash the greatest threat and terror dragonkind has ever known. Talon is poised to take over the world, and the abominations they have created will soon take to the skies, darkening the world with the promise of blood and death to those who refuse to yield. (Published Summary.) My Thoughts: Just a fluff-fantasy read because I hate not-finishing series. Simultaneously aggravated and delighted that Kagawa brought one of the characters ‘back from the dead’ (really just a…

As Old as Time
Young Adult / June 7, 2017

A Twisted Tale #3. Author: Liz Braswell. Summary:  What if Belle’s mother cursed the Beast? Belle is a lot of things: smart, resourceful, restless. She longs to escape her poor provincial town for good. She wants to explore the world, despite her father’s reluctance to leave their little cottage in case Belle’s mother returns—a mother she barely remembers. Belle also happens to be the captive of a terrifying, angry beast. And that is her primary concern. But Belle touches the Beast’s enchanted rose, intriguing images flood her mind—images of the mother she believed she would never see again. Stranger still, she sees that her mother is none other than the beautiful Enchantress who cursed the Beast, his castle, and all its inhabitants. Shocked and confused, Belle and the Beast must work together to unravel a dark mystery about their families that is twenty-one years in the making. My Thoughts: The prose was fairly mediocre, but I really liked the changes the author made to the Beauty and the Beast story. It’s not an easy one to pull off as a good retelling; weird enough that outside of the fairy-tale context often doesn’t work at all. But the background she built…

Jennifer the Damned
Young Adult / June 5, 2017

Author: Karen Ullo. Summary: When a sixteen-year-old orphan vampire adopted by an order of nuns matures into her immortal, blood-sucking glory, all hell literally breaks loose. Yet with every rapturous taste of blood, Jennifer Carshaw cannot help but long for something even more exquisite: the capacity to experience true love. As she struggles to balance her murderous secret life with homework, cross-country practice, and her first boyfriend, Jennifer delves into the terrifying questions surrounding her inhuman existence, driven by the unexpectedly human need to understand why she is doomed by a life she never chose. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Jennifer the Damned was marketed as an anecdote to modern vampire stories. It was supposed to hark back to Dracula and the other original horror tales. I was surprised and disappointed, therefore, at its ‘highschool YA feel’ and writing style. It felt like a YA vampire book + Catholicism, which is certainly more interesting than a straight vampire novel – but nothing like Dracula. To be fair, the Catholic element adds an entirely new layer to the entire story. Jennifer has never been baptized, ​but she learned to believe the Catholic truths from her vampire mother, who could, unlike any human…

The King of Attolia
Young Adult / June 2, 2017

Queen’s Thief #3. Author: Megan Whalen Turner. Summary: Eugenides, no stranger to desperate circumstances, has gotten himself into difficulties he can’t get out of. Used to being treated with a certain measure of wariness, if not respect, he suffers the pranks, insults, and intrigue of the Attolian court with dwindling patience. As usual, nothing is as it appears when he rescues a hot-headed young soldier in the Palace Guard. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: The point of view progression away from Gen continues. Now we are relegated to a secondary character, circling in Gen’s orbit. Poor Costis. Really, that’s exactly what he is – even to the readers. He’s quite likable; loyal, brutally honest, possessed of some sense of humor (despite Gen’s opinion), and totally trapped. But he gets only minor character growth, and what plot/arc of his own that he does get also revolves around Gen (coming to understand Gen better, finalizing loyalty to his king). Eugenides too is trapped. It is his misfortune that the woman he fell in love with is queen, and along with her he must accept the crown. This book is a length of struggle and personal growth for Gen, as he is forced to…

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between
Young Adult / May 21, 2017

Author: Jennifer E. Smith. Summary: On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan have only one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night leads them to family and friends, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever? (Published summary.) Content Review: Sexual Content: Light kissing. “They’d waited more than a year, until they were both ready. And then one night, […] it had happened right here on this couch.” Characters “end up tangled together” – they’re engaging in sex, but it’s no more explicit then that. Language: 6 scatological terms, 3 hell Violence: Two boys fistfight, and a nearby girl gets accidentally hit in the eye. Other: Some under-age drinking.

Everything, Everything
Young Adult / May 12, 2017

Author: Nicola Yoom. Summary: My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla. But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster. My Thoughts: I found it pretty fluffy, despite the live vs. living themes, but fun. For the first part, where she’s just messaging back and forth with her new friend. Once they were obviously boyfriend/girlfriend it kind of went downhill for me – I prefer plots that don’t revolve around romance/one special person. I mean, Everything Everything tried not to; the whole “am I living or…

Elsewhere
Young Adult / May 11, 2017

Author: Gabrielle Zevin. Summary: Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful. You can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice. Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Meh. The concept of de-aging…

The Star-Touched Queen
Young Adult / March 22, 2017

Author: Roshani Chokshi. Summary: Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen? Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire… But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself. (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: While normally romance isn’t my thing, The Star-Touched Queen felt more like a…

Holding Up the Universe
Young Adult / March 20, 2017

Author: Jennifer Niven. Summary: Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone. Until he meets…