Really Ravishing Review (Cracked Up To Be)

literati_rain66 Wednesday, March 23, 2011 , ,
Cracked Up to BeReview of Cracked Up To Be, by Courtney Summers. 

Reviewed by S.M. Schmidt. Check out her blog here!

The pithy rundown is like sushi, opera or any book with a challenging
topic you’ll either hate it and possibly grow to enjoy it, or you’ll
love it from page one and read it in one sitting.

Back of the book teaser: When “Perfect” Parker Fadley starts drinking
at school and failing her classes, all of St. Peter’s High goes on
alert. How has the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most
popular guy in school, consummate teacher’s pet, and future
valedictorian fallen so far from grace? Parker doesn’t want to talk
about it. She’d just like to be left alone, to disappear, to be
ignored. But her parents have placed her on suicide watch and her
counselors are demanding the truth. Worse, there’s a nice guy falling
in love with her and he’s making her feel things again when she’d
really rather not be feeling anything at all. Nobody would have
guessed she’d turn out like this. But nobody knows the truth.
Something horrible has happened, and it just might be her fault.

This is one of those books you kick yourself for waiting to read like
Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Twilight. Except unlike a series that
takes books to reward you for investing your emotions in the
characters, you can begin singing the praises of this standalone when
you reach the end. Debuting in 2008 it caught my attention when the
author announced releasing another book (Fall for Anything) later this
year. I didn’t realize at first how old this book was because the
excellent writing Cracked Up to Be has allows it to hold its own
against newer releases with even darker themes.

Courtney Summers’ writing was the first thing I noticed on page one. I
felt myself yanked right back to high school and didn’t doubt the age
of the narrator, Parker, for a second. Parker is a character that is
pushing everyone, including the reader, away and has the potential for
two things. Either it draws you in more with each little tidbit about
why she’s choosing to spiral into self destruction. Or you will be put
off as other reviewers on goodreads have mentioned. There is mild
profanity but it’s used for portraying the characters realistically
not for gratuitous shock value. Walk around any high school and you’ll
hear characters speaking like Parker, Chris, Jake and Becky.

Flashbacks to the event mentioned in the description give you hints
throughout the novel, but the pacing leaves the final reveal shocking
and lingering long after the book is put down. There is frank
discussion about alcohol, sex and the bizarre world of high school
relationships. Yet it is handled in a way that doesn’t come down as
patronizing nor will it make a teen reader feel awkward if they don’t
engage in such activities. The ending encourages readers, if they find
themselves spiraling like Parker, to seek real help. I applaud
Courtney Summers for realizing school counselors, parents, and friends
are not always the best equipped to help troubled teens. A positive
look on seeking help when ready is an excellent message to remind
teens that it can get better if they want it.

An excellent read for a gripping contemporary young adult debut. 

Five out of five stars.

Only One Opinion (Personal Demons)

literati_rain66 Tuesday, March 22, 2011 ,
Personal DemonsReview of Personal Demons, by Lisa Desrochers. 

Quickie: Not a bad story, but I felt that it could have been better.

Full: Frannie Cavanaugh is a relatively good girl. She goes to a Catholic school, tries hard, and loves her family. She likes to party now and then, but nothing too crazy. It gets a bit difficult to stay in her current "good girl" position though, when a new boy comes to school. Luc is dark and mysterious and Frannie is immediately drawn to him. He's sweet and sinful and fun- all things that Frannie likes.

But then there's Gabriel. Another new boy in town, Gabriel is as safe as Luc is dangerous. He's warm and comforting and gentle. The best part? He's parent-approved material.

Neither boy is there just by coincidence of course. They each have an agenda involving Frannie- more specifically, her soul. Frannie is blessed (or cursed) with a very rare ability that Heaven and Hell are both desperate to have. Gabe and Luc must fight to try to win Frannie's soul for their respective sides, but ultimately, it's Frannie's choice.

But how can she choose? And what will the repercussions of her choice be?

I'll start by saying that although the angels and demons plot has been used a bit too much lately (in my opinion), this was a fresh take on it. Frannie's special skill was interesting and it was amusing to watch Luc and Gabe try to win her over.

It was a bit difficult for me to really get into the story though, because it was all very obvious to me. I was bored. Luc's sarcasm felt over-done. I got that he was supposed to be the bad boy, but he really just seemed to be all talk. If he said "Oh, this is rich," one more time I was going to scream. I just felt that, for being a very important demon, he wasn't nearly bad enough. In fact, none of the baddies were as bad as a baddie from the literal Hell should be.

The love triangle was another spot where I was bored. About half of the book was love triangle build up, and it was clear from the first few chapters who exactly the love triangle would involve. I had it figured out way, way before it was clear to Frannie. Sometimes that's okay, but this was drawn out too long for my tastes.

Frannie seemed like a sweetheart at the start of the book, but once the boys showed up she kind of lost her zeal. She was all about the physical, not much emotional attraction was evident. This bothers me because she supposedly kept herself aloof and was an observer... it just didn't feel natural for her to be so swept up in the physical aspects. I thought she would be smarter that that.

Another thing that bothered me about Frannie's love story was how she felt that she absolutely deserved both boys unswerving devotion. "La la la, nobody's taken a real interest (save a more-of-a-friend band guy) in me in a long time, but suddenly when these two total knockouts show up, it's perfectly natural for them to be falling all over themselves to get to little old me!" Please. I don't buy it.

Don't get me wrong- This wasn't a bad book. It just didn't work for me. The writing was great, but there were too many things that just didn't mesh for me. I was bored through most of it, true, but once things got going I was a lot more interested. I'm sure most people will love it, so don't decide not to pick it up just because of me.

2 out of 5 stars.

Wonderfully Wacky Winner!

literati_rain66 Monday, March 21, 2011

And the winner of the Lucky Leprechaun Blog Hop Giveaway is... Estella! Congratulations Estella! An email will be coming your way shortly. 

Thanks to everyone who entered, I loved reading your comments. I personally would prefer to stay on the human side of the grave. It's knowing that life is finite that truly makes it wonderful, in my opinion. I'm afraid I'd lose my appreciation for life if I had immortality. Plus, drinking blood? Eating flesh? Ew. No thank you!! ;-)

Lucky Leprechaun Loot

literati_rain66 Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hello! Welcome to Literati's Literary Library! Thanks for stopping by my blog on the blog hop! And thanks to Inspired Kathy from I Am A Reader Not A Writer for hosting this hop. :)

What you can win:
 This Side of the Grave, by Jeaniene Frost. This is book #5 in the Night Huntress series. (Cat & Bones) This series is one of my favorites!

This Side of the Grave (Night Huntress, Book 5)

How To Enter:
-Leave a comment on this post
-Tell me which side of the grave you'd rather be on and why; Vampire/ghoul side, or human side.
-Leave your email in the comment so I can contact you if you win.
-Follow this blog. (It's simple and painless, I promise)

US & Canada only. Contest ends at 11:59 PM on March 20th. Winner will be drawn shortly after the contest closes. 

(Comment button is at the top of the post, left-hand side. It's a pink box that sticks out and has a number on it.)

Good luck and thanks for entering!! Make sure to check out the other blogs on the hop, they're listed in the linky below!


Only One Opinion (This Side Of The Grave)

literati_rain66 Wednesday, March 9, 2011 ,
This Side of the Grave (Night Huntress, Book 5)Review of This Side of the Grave, by Jeaniene Frost. 

Warning: This review may contain spoilers from the previous four books!! Please read Halfway to the Gave, One Foot in the Grave, At Grave's End, and Destined for an Early Grave before reading this review!

Quickie: Disappointing, especially when compared to the rest of the series. Enjoyed it, but didn't love it.

Full: Half-vampire Cat Crawfield and her vampire husband Bones have fought for their lives, as well as for their relationship. But just when they've triumphed over the latest battle, Cat's new and unexpected abilities threaten to upset a long-standing balance...

With the mysterious disappearance of vampires, rumors abound that a species war is brewing. A zealot is inciting tensions between the vampires and ghouls, and if these two powerful groups clash, innocent mortals could become collateral damage. 

Now Cat and Bones are forced to seek help from a dangerous "ally"- the ghoul queen of New Orleans herself. But the price of her assistance may prove more treacherous than even the threat of a supernatural war... to say nothing of the repercussions Cat never imagined.

Well, it sound nice in the back-cover description... but I felt like there was hardly any real action at all. I was so, so excited for this book, I've been dying to get more of Cat and Bones. And I did, I suppose. I'll break it down into the good and the bad.

The Good:
-Cat and Bones book 5, yay!
-Cat's new abilities were pretty cool, and it was interesting to see how they came into play throughout the book.
-Vlad. He's one of my favorites, and I just love having him around to liven things up a bit.
-Post-Eternal Kiss of Darkness Mencheres. Loved seeing him again, and seeing Kira as well.

The Bad:
-Okay we get it, Cat and Bones are in love. And in the honeymoon stage. Which is great for them and gross for us. True, it was cute to see them so happy and all that... but I missed the biting remarks and witty retorts. We glimpsed it, but it was an important part of the Cat and Bones relationship. I was sad to see so little of it.
-The action... or, what action? I'm used to all kinds of great butt-kicking scenes and some getting-butt-kicked scenes, but there were only like...3. Things just didn't seem as intense or important in this book. I felt like the "hunting down the ghoul" part was the plot thread in the background and the "Cat's feelings about everything" plot thread was front and center.
-To continue with Cat's feelings- While it was interesting to see what happened with Cat's new abilities, I was pretty bored of hearing how amazing and freaky she was. Yes, we know, she's being hunted down because she's so weird... now what are you going to do about it?!
-This book felt like a weaker re-play of all the other books. Cat has some new discovery about herself, Cat and Bones have passionate vampy sex, somebody wants Cat (or someone Cat cares about) dead, a bloody battle ensues and Cat makes the bad man dead. That formula worked for the previous four, but it just didn't work in this book.

Now before you go calling me a hater... I still love the series. It's one of my favorites. But this book just didn't deliver, not for me. My suspicion is that my beloved JF has been putting all her efforts into the wicked-awesome World stories, and maybe didn't get to put as much time into This Side of the Grave as it needed.

All that said, I'm still a fan. I love her, I love her work, and I can't wait for the next Cat and Bones book.

3 out of 5 stars.

My Magnificent Mailbox #24

literati_rain66 Sunday, March 6, 2011
And again, it's been a while since I've done an IMM post, so I have much to share with you. In My Mailbox is a weekly meme brought to you by The Story Siren.

What I've gotten recently:

From Nantucket Bookworks:
ARC of The Dark and Hollow Places, by Carrie Ryan
ARC of The Implosion of Aggie Winchester, by Lara Zielin
ARC of The Piper's Son, by Melina Marchetta
ARC of The Philosopher's Kiss, by Peter Prange
ARC of Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer, by Wesley Stace
ARC of One Nation Under Sex, by Larry Flynt & David Eisenbach, Ph.D.
ARC of Tiger's Quest, by Colleen Houck
ARC of Wishful Thinking, by Alexandra Bullen
The Fallen: Raziel, by Kristina Douglas
This Side of the Grave, by Jeaniene Frost
Delirium, by Lauren Oliver

From Amazon:
The Mermaid's Mirror, by L.K. Madigan
This Side of the Grave, by Jeaniene Frost

From my friend Em:
Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

For Review:
Legend Destiny, by Nance Bulow-Morgan

ARC of Graveminder, by Melissa Marr

Pictures forthcoming!! My camera battery died... :(

Really Ravishing Review (Across the Universe))

literati_rain66 Saturday, March 5, 2011 , ,
Across the UniverseReview of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis. 

Quickie: Sort of like Lost In Space, but creepy, and with a better love story.

Full: Amy and her parents are being cryogenically frozen. This, in itself, is creepy. They're going to be stored aboard the Godspeed as it makes its way from Earth to a new planet, Centauri Earth. Amy's parents are essential to cultivating the new civilization on Centauri Earth, but Amy... well, Amy is "Nonessential Cargo". Ouch. Cargo?

Fifty years before the Godspeed is set to land, Amy wakes up, still in her cryo-casket (my own wording) and drowning in cryo fluid. This was not how things were supposed to happen! Amy is rescued, luckily, by Elder, the up-and-coming leader of the Godspeed.

Elder is fascinated by Amy, for she's nothing like anything he's ever seen. Really. Every person aboard the ship looks the same, so Amy's red hair and fair skin are akin to magic in Elder's eyes.

But why was she woken up early? Who tried to wake her up? Why didn't they stay and make sure she woke up fully, instead of leaving her to drown? And if they left her on purpose... well that's attempted murder now, isn't it?

As Amy, Elder, and Elder's friend Harley try to discover who is behind Amy's near-drowning, more bodies are pulled out of cryo and left to die. Obviously, the person responsible is still trying to kill off the frozen people, but in spite of the round-the-clock guard that the three have set up, the bodies continue to be unfrozen.

Discovering the identity of the murderer isn't the only problem though- Amy's having a hard time adjusting to her new cage called Godspeed, and she's crushed and horrified that she may never see her parents again... and if she does, she'll be older than them! Elder's got problems too, as he tries to learn all he needs to know to lead the ship, he comes across knowledge and secrets that are truly unsettling, even horrific.

I just want to say outright- I loved this book. It was more than sci-fi (which I love), it was a thriller and a mystery and an adorable love story. It really makes you think. I was alternately fascinated and appalled at the ideas of the Godspeed inhabitants, along with their creations and innovations. I can't even imagine life on board a giant space ship. Spending your entire life in a floating hunk of metal? Knowing your children will have the exact same life that you do? How very... bland and depressing.

The pacing of Across the Universe worked beautifully for me. I never got bored. There are so many secrets to unlock, so many thoughts to explore, there's something new at every turn.

If you don't like sci-fi, you should definitely read it. It's more than sci-fi, it's SciRoMur. That would be Sci-Fi/Romance/Murder Mystery, for those of you who didn't catch that. :-p

4 out of 5 stars.

Really Ravishing Review (Grimspace)

literati_rain66 Thursday, March 3, 2011 ,
Grimspace (Sirantha Jax, Book 1)Review of Grimspace, by Ann Aguirre. 

Quickie: Fantastic Sci-Fi! Loved the world, loved the characters.

Full: Sirantha Jax is a jumper. She was born with the J-gene, a genetic anomaly that allows her to "jump" through space, to take entire ships full of people from one place in space to another. She's the Corp's star, their best. But her last jump, a jump to a planet called Matins IV, went terribly wrong. Stuck in the Unit Psych being interrogated endlessly about the events preceding the crash, undergoing "dream therapy", and reliving horrible, confusing memories, Sirantha is about to break.

Her time there is cut short, however, when an unexpected savior breaks in a takes her out of the Unit Psych and off planet. The question she asks herself after a few days with this "hero" is, "Is this really better?". They're on the run and Sirantha doesn't know why. She soon uncovers the mission of the rag-tag crew she's with though; they're out to create an academy to train jumpers and give the almighty Corp some competition. Sirantha is necessary because they need a jumper to take them to all the different planets that the want to gather untapped jumpers from.

Sirantha's past winds up catching up to her, endangering the whole crew, and Sirantha feels (justly) responsible. She must confront her past and save the lives of those she's grown to care about. Without dying in the process, of course. That proves harder and harder as the Corp uses their power to manipulate and corrupt.

This isn't the first book by Ann Aguirre I've read, so I was prepared for the awesomeness. Even so, I was more than a little bit blown away. Sirantha was so very real. She was flawed and funny and had an extensive backstory that I loved getting glimpses of.

She was also a strong person, and I admired her greatly. Maybe this just shows what a girl I am, but I was heartbroken when she had to shave all her hair off. I'm very attached to my own hair, it's long and it's taken ages to get it that way. So the thought of shaving it all off.... AH! Anyhow, she had to lose her hair and although she was sad, she did it anyway. Maybe she just wasn't as fond of her hair as I am of mine... but still. Props to her for being so cool about it.

Writing-wise, there were a few spots where the pacing wasn't quite ideal, but in general I have no complaints. The characters were multi-dimensional and I loved all the sci-fi gadgets, gizmos, and life-forms. In fact, I was delighted by the realistic qualities... It was a future I could envision. It felt like this was a future that could actually happen, and I could understand the timeline. Usually I feel like sci-fi books are just a spot in time and I can't quite place it, even if they give a date. In Grimspace, I felt grounded, I knew how I got there. There's a good chance I'm not articulating this well, but it's difficult to describe.

Anyhow, I loved Grimspace and I can't wait to read the rest of the series. If you enjoy sci-fi, strong female leads, and just the right amount of humor, you should give Grimspace a try. :)

5 out of 5 stars.