Now And Forever

First Lines: 205,132,379.  That’s how many times his new video has been viewed.  That’s how many people went to his site, pressed play, and watched the hottest musician in the world perform his latest single.

This is a book I knew I wanted to read as soon as I heard about it.  I mean, music, hot musicians, and love?  Dude.  That has me written all over it.

Sterling hasn’t been dating Ethan long, but they are crazy in love with each other.  And Ethan is crazy talented.  He’s a fantastic guitarist, singer, and songwriter.  He’s always believed that he’s going to be a star.  But when Ethan becomes an overnight sensation, Sterling finds out what it means to be dating a rock star.  Because it’s not all about the red carpet appearances and designer clothes (though those are great perks).  It’s a dream come true…but whose dream is Sterling living?

I want to start by saying that I really loved Sterling.  She’s a cool girl.  She a little bit tough on the outside, but she also has this quiet inner strength that drives her.  I kind of loved that she’s practically my exact opposite.  I mean, she loves attention and talking to strangers and cooking.  Not exactly three things that an introvert like myself enjoys, but definitely things I enjoyed experiencing from Sterling’s perspective.

I also liked that this story had something of an authentic feel to it.  This isn’t just a story of a boy who is already famous, but how he got famous.  And it goes in depth on the behind-the-scenes things about concerts that I’ve never experienced myself.  That was so much fun, as a music junkie, to read.  I just felt like I was seriously watching a boy become a star.

The love story felt realistic to me too, probably because I just came out of a relationship similar to Sterling and Ethan’s.  (He wasn’t a rock star, but his work was definitely a priority over me, like Ethan’s career is to him.)  I believed the love story, from beginning to end.  Sometimes it was a little cheesy, but isn’t that what your first love is?  Aren’t you so head over heels that you exaggerate the good and ignore the bad?  I think this book did a good job of summing that up.

What was super interesting was the commentary it had on how we view celebrities and those associated with celebrities.  It was kind of a kick in the pants, honestly.  How many of us believe we have some kind of ownership in our favorite celebrities?  How many of us get jealous when that celebrity has a significant other that isn’t us?  These are things the book explores through Sterling.  And I get it.  I want to meet Benedict Cumberbatch as much as the rest of you do…but this showed me how maybe fan culture is a little out of hand.

Finally, I want to say that I thought the plot was a little unconventional at times.  There’s always a certain point in a book where I start predicting how it’s going to end. For this one, I had 2-3 different ways I thought it could end.  And I was about halfway right on my closest guess.  There are some parts that are a tad predictable, but they were barely noticeable in the grand scheme of things.

Overall, it was a sweet and insightful read.  It’s my favorite Susane Colasanti book to date.

The Shadow Society

First Lines: Knowing what I know now, I’d say my foster mother had her reasons for throwing a kitchen knife at me.

This is a book I always mean to grab when I’m at the library, but I never do.  Mostly because by the time I get to this book on the shelf, I already have a stack in my arms.  But this last time, I made an effort to grab these sad, forgotten books.

Darcy Jones doesn’t remember anything that happened to her before she was 5, when she was found in front of a Chicago firehouse.  After being bounced from foster home to foster home, Darcy started believing she didn’t belong anywhere.  But she certainly never expected she’d belong in an alternate world where the Great Chicago Fire never happened.  It’s a world where creatures called Shades terrorize the humans.  Memories start coming back to Darcy after she meets Conn, a boy who puzzles her.  Because for all the interest he shows her, he sometimes looks at Darcy like she’s the enemy.  After Conn’s betrayal, she realizes she can’t rely on anyone.  She needs to infiltrate the Society on her own and discover their newest plot…but what she learns may change her world.

This was interesting.  It’s been a while since I’ve read a sci-fi book, and it was a nice change of pace.  The alternate world thing was a bit strange, but this is a common reaction I have to anything sci-fi.  Anyway, I thought the sci-fi elements were pretty good.  It was creative and adventurous in its approach.

It was clear early on that this story was going to be ambitious.  I mean, all kinds of crazy creative things went into it.  And I appreciated that it wanted to take chances a lot of other books won’t.  I was really surprised to find this wasn’t the beginning of a series.  It sets itself up like one, but never goes on to a sequel.  (Note: there’s nothing wrong with this.  In fact, it’s refreshing to read an ambitious book that doesn’t feel the need to become a series.)

I thought the characters were pretty good, though I favored the minor characters over the main characters.  I think the reason for this is that the story is pretty suspenseful and dramatic, so the main characters are mired in that.  The minor characters are more of the comic relief, and I tend to favor characters that make me laugh.

I think there were a few places where the writing could have been a little better.  I noticed that I didn’t feel the love story as much as I think I should have.  Something about it didn’t feel realistic, and that got in the way.  Also, I would frequently get details mixed up because there are characters who show up for 3 pages and then are referenced in 5 other pages.  But I didn’t remember who they were.  Admittedly, this could have something to do with how I read the book in nearly one day.

Overall, I thought it was a fun and different read from what I normally like.  It was different and exciting.  Just don’t come looking for much of a love story.

This Song Will Save Your Life

First Lines: You think it’s so easy to change yourself.  You think it’s so easy, but it’s not.

Honestly, I think the first time I ran across this book, I didn’t want to read it.  But somewhere along the way, I changed my mind.  I like books about music, so I’m not sure why I passed it up the first time.

Elise hates school.  She’s the butt of every joke and no one will talk to her, no matter how hard she tries to make friends.  When she fails once again to makes friends, she decides that maybe suicide is the answer.  It’s not like life is getting any better, right?  Then Elise stumbles onto an underground music scene and night club.  There she meets Vicky the singer, Char the DJ extraordinaire, and Pippa the free spirit from England.  But most of all, Elise finds a passion she never knew she had: DJing.  So maybe life isn’t as bad as she thought it was…

Now, I don’t normally do this, but there is a very powerful review about this book on Goodreads.  A girl named Emily details how this book lined up nearly exactly with her life.  And it’s seriously emotional and moving.  And eye-opening.

This book was a lot heavier than I thought it would be.  I didn’t realize it was going to be about suicide until I started reading it.  I probably would have put it off if I had known.  But I read it, and it was worth it.

Elise is a complex character.  She’s alone and doesn’t understand why everyone seems to want to make her life miserable.  It’s a feeling I think most of us have had at one point or another.  So I sympathized with her.  But she makes a lot of mistakes when she’s upset, and that made me want to sit her down to talk…which I think was the point.  I think this book is one of those where what we think of the plot is just as important as what happens.

And I thought this book did a good job of covering the heavy topics.  It briefly covers a lot of teen issues, but it doesn’t try to solve them.  What I mean is there are still mean girls at the end of the story.  It’s not like everything has gone to butterflies and rainbows by the end.  It felt…normal.  Like real life.

I think the strengths of this book are that it’s highly relatable and yet still edgy.  The heavy topics make it not the most comfortable reading, but it’s worth it.  And the underground music scene gives it a different kind of edge.  I was kind of impressed.

While there wasn’t anything overtly weak about the story (since we’re talking about strengths, why not weaknesses?), I just can’t give it 5 roses.  I can’t quite put my finger on it.  It was a moving read, but I didn’t feel the same emotional highs and lows that Elise did.  It was more thought-provoking than emotional.

Red at Night

First Lines: I like cemeteries.  They’re quiet, well-groomed, and overall possibly the safest place in the city.  I can talk all I want, and the company doesn’t talk back.

When I heard about this FREE ebook (that is STILL FREE on Amazon), I jumped on it.  I mean, I like Katie McGarry.  And a novella?  That’s like a quick shot of romance.  I couldn’t turn it down.

Stella and Jonah should be complete opposites.  Stella’s from the wrong part of town and sports purple hair.  Jonah is the popular senior with his life ahead of him.  But they aren’t as opposite as they think they are.  And, as if to prove that point, they bond…at the local cemetery.  Jonah, riddled with guilt, can’t stay away from the one person who seems to understand. And Stella knows better than to get mixed up with Jonah, who is friends with her biggest bullies.  But what if what they want happens to be what they need?

Alright.  So first of all, I want to say that the writing deserves an A, like it always does. McGarry knows how to weave a great story with lots of emotional writing.  I mean, even if you initially didn’t like one of the leads, you’d still probably fall in love with them by the end.  Her writing is just that good.

And I like that she tackles issues in her books.  Stella is from the wrong side of town and she deals with issues that are vastly different from what Jonah is dealing with.  It’s nice to get two different perspectives on teen life.  It’s a bit like Perfect Chemistry in that respect.  Because even though one of the two is leading a “privileged” life, they really aren’t.  You see what I’m saying?  And before I forget (I nearly did), there is mention of a charity in the story (that may be real or not real) that deals with a serious issue in this country.  I loved that this was something near and dear to Stella’s heart.

But at the same time, it’s getting to be too cliche.  I mean, of the 4 McGarry books I’ve read, at least 3 have had one of the leads coming from the wrong side of the tracks while the other lives the high life.  And it just feels a little stale.  I still love the writing and everything, I swear, but just wish the basic bare-boned premises were different.

And in that vein, I thought that Jonah and Stella were pretty stereotypical.  I’ll attribute that to this being a novella, because how do you develop great characters in 84 pages?  You rely on stereotypes.  But it just made it less fun for me to read.

Overall, I thought it was cute and roughly on-par with what I expected out of this book.  But it could have been better.

Titan Magic

First Lines: Tonight, no matter what the voice said, Madeleine Lavoie would not listen to it, she would not sympathize with it and, most importantly, she would not obey it.

First, I want to say thank you to the author for getting me a copy of this to read.  I decided to read this one a few days ago when I finished my library books.  Good reason, right?  But I was also curious about this book, because I couldn’t quite pin down its genre.

Madeleine has always been hidden away from those not in her family.  She’s not bitter about it.  She’s a freak; she’s mute and she has auditory hallucinations that she has to obey.  No matter what.  But Madeleine is determined to find her voice in the world, and that may mean going to extreme lengths.  If she’s not careful, she may lose her life in the process.

So with a name like Titan Magic, one might think of Greek mythology, right?  I know I did.  But that would be wrong.  Very, very wrong.

I really didn’t know what to do with this story.  It was odd.  The plot is kind of all over the place.  One minute, it seems like a story about love, then it’s a power struggle, then it’s something else entirely.  I couldn’t pin it down.  It felt like a fantasy, but also like a historical fiction and yet not.  That actually really bothered me, that I couldn’t categorize it.

And yet I still kind of liked it in the beginning.  It was suspenseful.  It had some action.  And I loved trying to puzzle things out.  That was fun.  But the excitement started to fizzle as the story went on.  It was good in the beginning, meh in the middle, and blah by the end.  It just started getting too confusing.

Now, I want to say that I think the concept of this story is cool.  It had its ups, but the writing style (for me) brought some downs.

And I freely admit that some of my negativity comes from what’s been going on in the news lately.  While reading this book, I discovered the #yesallwomen trend and it just killed this book for me.  I couldn’t stand to read any more about Maddy, a girl who is forced to obey someone else no matter what.  I couldn’t do it, not when I was just reading so many real stories of girls who are silenced every day.  Maddy wasn’t the strong heroine I wanted her to be.  That’s not the book’s fault, but it does play into how I feel about the book.

So I can’t entirely blame the book.  And I know it.  I don’t blame the book for all of this.  If I hadn’t found that Twitter trend, I was on track to give it 3 roses.  But as it is, I can’t do it.

Reached (Matched, #3)

First Lines: Every morning, the sun comes up and turns the earth red, and I think: This could be the day when everything changes.  Maybe today the Society will fall.  Then night comes again and we’re all still waiting.

This was another incident of “Hey, I really need to finish this series.  It may have been years since I read the others, but I’ll finish it now.”  Because I have a love-hate relationship with these numbers, it’s been 3.5 years since I read Matched.  I’m just lucky I still remember the basic plot of Crossed.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

It’s time for the Rising to make their move, or so Cassia, Ky, and Xander think.  All three are currently working for the Rising in three different cities in the Society.  They haven’t seen each other in months, and their hope of the Rising ever doing anything is dwindling.  Until finally, the Rising makes a move.  Can the three stay alive and find each other in the chaos?

So obviously, with it being so long since I read the earlier books in the series, I was a bit lost during the story.  I forgot who some characters were that I was supposed to know, like Indie.  I just barely remembered her name, let alone who she was.  And I know this blame falls on me, so I can’t punish the book for it.

However, I was really lost in the story as well because of the narration style.  I mean, it’s told from 3 different POVs that are constantly switching.  As soon as I got used to hearing from Cassia, it would switch to Ky.  It was a battle to stay on top of that.  Not to mention that there is so much going on with each of them, and I needed to keep all of that straight between characters.

I will say that I liked that this book started to shift from a dystopian tone to more of a sci-fi tone.  I enjoyed that, surprisingly.  (I normally prefer dystopias over sci-fi, but it all depends on the book.)

But again, that was nearly ruined because there was just so much going on in the story.  This monstrosity is just over 500 pages.  It’s just a lot to take in anyway.  And it really didn’t help that I wasn’t feeling emotionally invested in the story because it had been so long since I met Cassia and Ky and Xander.

I’m glad I’ve finished their story.  I’m glad I know what happened to them.  But this was just too much to handle at times.

Deadly Little Games (Touch, #3)

First Lines: When I close my eyes I can picture his mouth.  The way his top lip is slightly fuller than the bottom.  The chapped skin on his lower lip.  And how the corners of his mouth turn upward, even when he’s trying to look serious.

It has legitimately been 4 years since I read the 2nd book in this series.  Let me put than in perspective.  When I last touched this series, my biggest concerns were passing the AP Calc test and high school graduation.  (I just graduated college.)  When I last saw this series, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was still huge news.  So it’s been a while here.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Camelia’s ability to see the future just by touching something is as much a curse as it is a gift.  For her boyfriend Ben, his similar ability is dangerous.  At least with Camelia, hers comes out only when she’s manipulating clay in her hands.  Before she fully knows her ability, a new danger arrives.  But this time, Camelia isn’t the target.  It’s Adam, Camelia’s friend and Ben’s enemy.  Camelia needs to decide if saving Adam is worth the tension with Ben, or if she can live with the consequences of doing nothing to help him.  Can she decide before it’s too late?

Surprisingly, given how long I was away from this series, I jumped back into it pretty quickly.  It wasn’t exactly crucial that I remember much beyond who the characters are.  There’s an all-new mystery to this book, which helped make it almost its own independent book rather than part of a series.

But I did find this book a bit predictable.  I ended up picking out the bad guy before the book was halfway through.  And it wasn’t because of clues given in the story.  It was because that character followed the typical pattern of bad guys in mystery stories.  Does that make sense?  It quickly became obvious to me who was the decoy baddie and who was the real one.

And the love triangle.  Just shoot me.  I mean, I realize that love triangles were hot when this was written, but I’ve never really been a fan of them.  (I’m only a fan when I’m rooting for the underdog man.)  What sucked was that I really didn’t care for either guy.  Both boys had so many flaws that I didn’t really see anything redeeming in either one.  I wanted Camelia to run for the hills.

I mean, I thought the way the mystery was presented was really cool.  Puzzles?  I love puzzles.  That was fun.  But otherwise, there wasn’t a whole lot here that held my interest.