Reviewing the Unreviewed: November 2015

Stephanies Book Reviews Header

I read a lot of books that I don’t end up reviewing for whatever reason. Some because I wasn’t impressed. Some because I didn’t have the time. Some I just wasn’t feeling it on whatever particular day I finished. I thought I’d start doing a post once a month  with just the couple thoughts I shared on Good Reads

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Blackmail Boyfriend by Chris Cannon. Read November 6-7. 1 Star.

I am always on the look out for fake relationship books and when I saw this I thought it would be another cute story. It was not.

Hayley was one of the most unlikable characters I’ve ever read. She was super immature, bratty, delusional, and kind of a psycho. The way she treated Bryce, her blackmailed fake boyfriend, was crazy. And I think if roles would have been reversed and he treated her that way everyone would consider him a creepy, possessive, abusive stalker.

There’s a lot more ranting I could do about this book, but I really don’t want to waste any more time on it.

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Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter. Read November 8-11. 4 Stars.

I admit I have been severely disappointed when I first found out that Karin Slaughter’s most recent two books have not been a continuation of the Will Trent series. However, just like with Cop Town before it, Pretty Girls definitely makes up for any disappointment I had. It’s a smart, suspenseful mystery with very well-developed characters. Twists are given away subtly so they sneak up on you and pack a punch. Even when I suspected something, Slaughter still wrote it in a way that surprised me when it happened and there were several other moments where I honestly did not see things coming. Even though the subject matter was often dark and heartbreaking, I really enjoyed this book.

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Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. Read November 16-19. 2 Stars.

I did not care for this book anywhere near as much as I thought I would. I feel like 2 stars is being generous. The main character is extremely unlikable. She was selfish, not very nice, hypocritical, and I hated how she treated Mitch and even how she treated Bo much of the time (though I liked Mitch much, much more, even though it’s supposed to be Bo we fall in love with). I felt that Willowdean’s path to self-acceptance was disconnected and a little unrelatable, especially when I really thought her story would resonate with me. It did not. I also thought the end was very poorly done.

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Thicker than Water by Brigid Kemmerer. Read November 24-27. 3.5 Stars

The review for this will post closer to it’s release date next month. Like all of Kemmerer’s books, I hate the cover, but love the majority of the characters.

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RE-READS

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To get ready for Oblivion coming out, I re-read Obsidian by JLA. I believe it’s still free through the end of the month, btw, so go get it if you haven’t yet!

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Burn Out

There are seriously very few things I do in my personal time. Mostly there is reading and there is blogging. I’m still reading, though not with the zeal I usually have for it. But blogging is just…not doing it for me lately.

I finished a book yesterday that I wanted to write a review for and I spent probably an hour writing and re-writing the first paragraph before finally giving up on it. For some reason, I just feel burnt out on writing reviews. I can’t figure out how to start them, how to transition from one point to the next. When I do finally write something, I realize after I publish it that I forgot tons of points I wanted to make. There is not one review I’ve written this year that I’m proud of. I honestly can’t think of the last review I wrote where I thought, “yes, that’s a good one.”

The Worst

I also get discouraged comparing my blogs to others. My viewing stats, followership stats are probably better than I ever expected them to be, but then I’ll come across a blog with thousands of followers or blogs that get more views in day than I get in a year and I just don’t get it. Some of the blogs are super fun and clever. But some of the other blogs I think, “Really? That many people like this? My post was better than that.” (*Note, that is a rare thought, indeed, as I mentioned above, I don’t think my posts are great.) I see blogs that get all sorts of free books to review when I get turned down more than I get approved.

So, anyways, this is just a grumpy, I Hate Everything sort of day. I blame all the snow. I’m going to try to come up with some more standard outline for reviews that will help me with my writers block. But until then, I’ll probably be sticking with random pictures of funny things I find on Pinterest.

Reviewing the Unreviewed: November

I read a lot of books that I don’t end up reviewing for whatever reason. Some because I wasn’t impressed. Some because I didn’t have the time. Some I just wasn’t feeling it on whatever particular day I finished. I thought I’d start doing a post once a month  with just the couple thoughts I shared on Good Reads.

So due to NaNoWriMo I did not have a very big reading month, so this post will be pretty short! The only books I read and wrote book reviews for was The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2) by Samantha Shannon and Suspicion by Alexandra Monir (but that was after I won NaNo).

Someday Maybe (Definitely Maybe, #2)

Someday Maybe (Definitely Maybe #2) by Ophelia London. Read October 30 – November 2. 3 stars.

I really loved Definitely Maybe as a Pride and Prejudice re-telling. I was super excited for this book because it’s a Persuasion re-telling, which is definitely one of my favorite Jane Austen books. I was left a little disappointed. It didn’t have as many of the pivotal scenes I would’ve liked. It was a little more like most re-tellings that I’m used to reading, which has more of an “inspired by” vibe. However, it was still a cute read and I’ll read whatever re-telling London puts out next!

Yes Please

Yes Please by Amy Poehler. Read November 17-21. 3.5 stars.

For the most part I found this book enjoyable and funny. I would’ve liked more info on Parks and Rec, though. Some chapters weren’t as funny or interesting as others, but of the three Funny Lady memoirs I’ve read (this, Mindy Kaling’s book, and Tina Fey’s book), this was probably my favorite.

Married for Christmas (Willow Park, #1)

Married for Christmas (Willow Park #1) by Noelle Adams. Read November 23-25. 3 stars.

This is currently a FREE ebook at Barnes and Noble

This was a cute, quick read. I liked that the characters were Christians, yet this wasn’t a “Christian Fiction” book. There’s even a note in the beginning of the book that this is not an “inspirational” read, but the faith of the characters is just one aspect of their lives. Despite not being “inspirational”, I still thought there was some great messages conveyed in the story, without every being preachy.

To almost make up for the religious aspects of the book, there were a few graphic scenes. I couldn’t done without those, but they were your typical romance style scenes and easily skimmed over.

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BACK ON THE TBR SHELF

The Jewel (The Lone City, #1)

The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy Ewing. I just couldn’t get into this book. Maybe it was because I was coming towards the end of NaNoWriMo and was more focused on writing than reading. Or it just failed to interest me, despite the oh so pretty cover. Either way, I’m not ready to DNF it, so back on the TBR shelf it goes!

Review: The Art of Keeping Faith (Uni Files #2) by Anna Bloom

The Art of Keeping Faith (Uni Files #2)

Synopsis from Good Reads:

Lilah and Ben. They are meant to be a thing.

Well, they were. The best thing ever. That was until Lilah decided to teach herself a lesson and let go of Ben since she’s learned The Art of Letting Go.

Now it’s a new academic year, and Lilah has it all to play for and it all to lose as she battles scary lecturers, evil PR girls, and her own inability to make the right decision at the right time.

Life has moved on for Lilah and her friends, and life off campus is more complicated than any of them would have guessed. As the reality of being second-year students sets in and the study starts to build up, cracks begin to appear in the very fabric of their friendships. There is a chance that none of them are going to complete Year Two in one piece.

Facing down her worst enemy, herself, Lilah has to try and change her own past mistakes when she realizes that the only way she is going to get the future she wants is if she manages to learn The Art of Keeping Faith in herself.

The Art of Keeping Faith is the second year in The Uni File Series and continues Lilah McCannon’s diary as she searches for love, tries to find and earn trust, and ultimately discovers who she is really meant to be.

Sometimes the only way to meet your future is to face your past.

While I enjoyed the first book in the series, The Art of Letting Go, I had some issues with both the main characters. Ben was a little stalkerish and intense and Lilah was very immature and very drunk. However, towards the end of the book they both had grown and I was looking forward to seeing what happens next.

For about the first half -maybe a little more – of this book Lilah is still the same immature, drunken mess. Ben is splitting his time between becoming a rock star in the United States and coming back home to Lilah and living their everyday lives. They struggle through Lilah’s jealousy of tabloid photos of Ben with his PR agent and other random groupies and Ben’s jealousy of Lilah’s growing friendship with Richard.

While there is really not a lot that goes on, I enjoyed reading the relationship between Lilah and Ben when they were together. I also liked when Lilah starts to become independent and was able to live her life and even be a little happy when Ben wasn’t around. I didn’t like that her friends started questioning her love for Ben just because she wasn’t miserable all the time while he was gone.

With all the jealousy and miscommunication that is going on, it’s not a surprise when something tragic happens that seems to split them up for good. Even though the situation was awful, I think it’s the best thing to happen to Lilah. She finally starts to get her life together and really evaluate what she wants from life and from Ben.

I thought Bloom’s writing also improved with this installment of the Uni Files. Even when the pace was slow, I couldn’t put the book down. The writing was extremely emotive and Bloom does a great job of making Lilah a likable character, despite her many flaws.

Overall, I enjoyed The Art of Keeping Faith. While the first half or so of the book seemed to be just “more of the same” from the first book, I really liked Lilah’s turning point and how the rest of the story played out. I hope we get another novella from Ben’s POV as I would love to see what happened with him in the States and the real story behind some of the out-of-context paparazzi photos.

Rating (out of 5):
Plot: 3.5
Characters: 3.5
Readability: 3.5
Enjoyability: 3.5
Overall Average: 3.5 stars

Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races

Review from Good Reads:

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

I spent the first half of this book wanting to like it and the second half actually really liking it.

When I first read “water horses” in the summary, I was picturing seahorses…

seahorse

…But that’s obviously wrong. They are kind of sea monsters that look like horses that live in the ocean and occasionally come onto the island of Thisby where they are either captured and trained to race or go on a murderous rampage. They are called capaill uisce (which is apparently a real legend, but Stiefvater takes some liberties with it). They mostly come to shore in October and the race day is November 1st (my birthday, by the way). If you can keep your water horse from dragging you out to sea or from eating the other horses during the race, you may live through it and maybe even win. Despite their treachery, most people from the island love them.

Sean Kendrick (oh, Sean Kendrick) has a special ability to work with the capaill uisce. He saw his father die in the Scorpio Race, but has gone on to run in it and win four years in a row. Kate “Puck” Connolley has never attended the race and her parents were killed by the water horses, but has decided to enter to help her family.

OK, let’s stop here to where I have issues.

-First off, capaill uisce? Couldn’t an easier name be used? It’s over ten chapters in before a pronunciation is given – “Coppie Ooshka”. But at the end of the book in the Author’s Note she says it’s pronounced “CAPple ISHka.” It’s maddening.

-Why is Kate’s nickname Puck? This is never addressed.

-Puck’s reason for entering the race is kind of dumb. Her older brother, Gabe, is leaving the island and she tries to buy a few more weeks before he goes by entering the race. He still plans on going after. Eventually, though, the idea of prize money becomes a necessity, so I can overlook the original reason.

-Gabe. I wanted to like him. Or at least understand him. I didn’t really get either. He doesn’t have much a reason for leaving the island and he has seemingly no care that he’s leaving his younger sister and brother to fend for themselves. And it’s hinted at that he was having an affair with his friend’s mother, but nothing is confirmed or even mentioned again after the original incident.

-Sean Kendrick (who is almost always referred to by both first and last name) is a bit of a mystery. Though the story is told through dual 1st person POV, we never get to know Sean as well as we do Puck. Puck thinks once that Sean Kendrick uses one word when others use five or six and that’s how his chapters seemed. He loves the island and sea horses – most especially Corr, who is basically his best friend. He wants to be able to buy Corr off his boss, but his boss is a jerk.

I was annoyed enough by the things mentioned above, as well as the slow-pace, that I was not enjoying the book. Somewhere around half way through, though, I started to get into it. I think it’s because Sean Kendrick and Puck finally started interacting and the events surrounding the race began to pick up the pace of the story.

One thing Maggie Stiefvater does really well is romance. By that I mean that she tells a story that has romantic elements, without it being a romance. Much like Gansey and Blue in The Raven Boys series, Puck and Sean Kendrick’s relationship is a subtle slow build and Stiefvater manages to make even the smallest touch or briefest word significant and intense. But this never overshadows the actual story going on around them.

Overall, I did end up enjoying The Scorpio Races. It was beautifully written with two strong and likable character leads. It’s also a stand alone book, which is something I’ve come to appreciate.

Rating (out of 5):
Plot: 3
Characters: 4
Readability: 3.5
Enjoyability: 4
Overall Average:  3.625 stars

Review: Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer

Cress (Lunar Chronicles, #3)

Synopsis from Good Reads:

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard.

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

Every book in this series is even better than the one before it. Marissa Meyer just keeps getting better!

There are a lot of characters to focus on in Cress and Meyer juggles them brilliantly. Each character is developed. Each character has their own unique voice. Each character has their own subplot going on, while still being central to the group and their plan to stop Queen Levana. I don’t know how she manages it, but Meyer weaves all these characters together into a well-paced, actiony, emotion-packed adventure.

Our newest heroine is Cress, a skilled hacker who has been living alone in a satellite for seven years. She’s been working for The Queen’s minion, Sybil, to spy on Earth and protect their ships from detection. She’s the one who first alerts Cinder to Levana’s plan to marry and then get rid of Emperor Kai. Cress is obviously a little on the socially awkward side and a little immature, but her growth throughout the book is great and she became a very likable character. I like how Thorne is with her and their friendship.

I also liked the addition of Jacin, a Lunar guard who “joins” Cinder. Through him we get to learn a little more about the Lunars and get our first bit of information about the next book’s namesake, Winter.

As always, Cinder is still my favorite character. Though she’s Lunar and a Cyborg she’s a very human character. She’s smart and determined and brave, while also showing her vulnerability and fear. She struggles with the ethical implications of her growing Lunar powers and how she may need to use them to carry our their plan. And finally – finally – *SPOILER* we get to see Cinder and Kai together again!

Overall, I really enjoyed Cress. The story was well-paced and the character development was great. There were some twists and surprises and heartache. My only real complaint is that we didn’t get enough Scarlet. I would definitely recommend this book to those who have started the series and if you haven’t read this series – start it now!

Rating (out of 5)
Plot: 4
Characters: 4.75
Readability: 4.5
Enjoyability: 4.5
Overall Average: 4.44 stars

The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead – 3 stars (out of 5)

The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines, #4)

Good Reads Synopsis:

In The Indigo Spell, Sydney was torn between the Alchemist way of life and what her heart and gut were telling her to do. And in one breathtaking moment that Richelle Mead fans will never forget, she made a decision that shocked even her. . . .

But the struggle isn’t over for Sydney. As she navigates the aftermath of her life-changing decision, she still finds herself pulled in too many directions at once. Her sister Zoe has arrived, and while Sydney longs to grow closer to her, there’s still so much she must keep secret. Working with Marcus has changed the way she views the Alchemists, and Sydney must tread a careful path as she harnesses her profound magical ability to undermine the way of life she was raised to defend. Consumed by passion and vengeance, Sydney struggles to keep her secret life under wraps as the threat of exposure—and re-education—looms larger than ever.

Pulses will race throughout this thrilling fourth installment in the New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series, where no secret is safe.

So. The Fiery Heart. I just don’t know. Sometimes I really enjoyed it. Sometimes I was just getting through it. I’m going to try to collect my thoughts.

-This is the first book in the series where we get multiple 1st person POV. The chapters alternate between Sydney and Adrian’s POV and I liked it. However, I felt like Adrian’s POV chapters could’ve been a little more Adrian. While I didn’t have trouble forgetting who’s POV we were in, they weren’t really that different. I expected Adrian’s head to be a little more funny and sarcastic than it was. His dialogue still had it, but I would’ve liked to have seen it in his thoughts. I also felt like this allowed more to be added to the story instead of just being stuck with Sydney the whole time.

-We get to see a little of Lissa, Rose, Dimitri, and Christian from The Vampire Academy series, which I liked. I would’ve liked a little more, though. We finally get a little more Lissa, but Christian is still getting the shaft.

-There wasn’t a whole lot of development of secondary characters. I still despise Angeline. And I especially dislike that Trey is still into her. Trey was one of my favorite characters in the first couple of books, but he wasn’t given a lot of time in this book.

-Adrian and Sydney’s romance. What the book lacked in plot, it made up for in romance. Seriously. Not a lot happened in this book that didn’t involve them declaring their love and making out. And they took their relationship to the next level. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t think there should be that much sex in YA books.

-There were some developments with learning how to protect from Strigoi attacks and in making the special Alchemist tattoos for Marcus’ rebellion, but the biggest plot point in the story was Sydney and Adrian trying to keep their romance a secret from her sister, Zoe. Zoe was a poorly developed character and a poor villain, although she did turn out to be more of a threat than anyone really believed.

-The end left on a cliffhanger. Mead wrote in her Acknowledgments, “We’re in the middle of a series, so you know things are going to get rough for the characters, but hang in there! It’ll be worth it.” I read an interview where she compares the development of the series to the way The Vampire Academy developed. This does not give me a lot of hope for what happens next: the book where *VA SPOILER* Rose goes after Dimitri after he becomes a Strigoi and the whole time is spent with Rose pining away and NOTHING HAPPENS.

-Overall, I mostly enjoyed The Fiery Heart. I would recommend it to those who have already started the series. It was an easy, fluffy read with some sweet moments.