DNF Reviews – FALLING INTO PLACE and SWAY

DNF reviews… for the books I just could NOT finish to save my life.

On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect?

Falling Into Place is a textbook it’s-not-you-it’s-me kind of DNF. I don’t remember how far I got into this book, but it couldn’t have been more than a few chapters. I wasn’t mentally prepared to jump around between so many different viewpoints and timelines, nor was I ready for so many issues all at once. The writing itself is lovely, made all the lovelier and more surprising once I learned the author is still in high school. But even after only a few chapters I was burnt out by the barrage of neglectful parents, bulimia, drugs, drinking, and more pervy people than a season of To Catch a Predator. I fully recognize that the issues presented are real issues that real people have to deal with, but this was not a paradigm I wished to be trapped in for the next 300 or so pages.

Note: I received a digital review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

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In Kat Spears’s hilarious and often poignant debut, high school senior Jesse Alderman, or “Sway,” as he’s known, could sell hell to a bishop. He also specializes in getting things people want—term papers, a date with the prom queen, fake IDs. He has few close friends and he never EVER lets emotions get in the way. For Jesse, life is simply a series of business transactions.

But when Ken Foster, captain of the football team, leading candidate for homecoming king, and all-around jerk, hires Jesse to help him win the heart of the angelic Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself feeling all sorts of things. While following Bridget and learning the intimate details of her life, he falls helplessly in love for the very first time. He also finds himself in an accidental friendship with Bridget’s belligerent and self-pitying younger brother who has cerebral palsy. Suddenly, Jesse is visiting old folks at a nursing home in order to run into Bridget, and offering his time to help the less fortunate, all the while developing a bond with this young man who idolizes him. Could the tin man really have a heart after all?

A Cyrano de Bergerac story with a modern twist, Sway is told from Jesse’s point of view with unapologetic truth and biting humor, his observations about the world around him untempered by empathy or compassion—until Bridget’s presence in his life forces him to confront his quiet devastation over a life-changing event a year earlier and maybe, just maybe, feel something again. 

Grump grump grump. I was so looking forward to this book. Cyrano de Bergerac retelling? Guy pretending to fall for a girl and then ACTUALLY falling for her? I am so there. But wow, I dropped this one like a hot potato. I was already disappointed by the beginning of the book, because we start near the end, with Jesse already head over heels in love with Bridget and being threatened for it by Ken, the guy who hired him. Starting this way, with the relationship already in full swing, totally stole away the big punch for me. I love being able to see relationships blossom.

But man, not like I had to worry, because the next few chapters very quickly convinced me to bail. Jesse is GROSS. Every other sentence is profanity-laced, crude, or both. He deals in drugs, he objectifies women, he makes rape jokes (!), and he even thinks some pretty gross things about his married, middle-aged therapist. BLECK. No. No, no, no. I’m out. Not happening. NOT HAPPENING.

(Also—and this is a minor crime, I know—supposedly cool Jesse refers to someone else as an L7. Are you KIDDING me? I have honest-to-goodness never heard a modern day teen use that expression, and it completely killed Jesse’s believability for me.)

Note: I received a digital review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

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Review: MESSENGER OF FEAR by Michael Grant

I remembered my name – Mara. But, standing in that ghostly place, faced with the solemn young man in the black coat with silver skulls for buttons, I could recall nothing else about myself.

And then the games began.

The Messenger sees the darkness in young hearts, and the damage it inflicts upon the world. If they go unpunished, he offers the wicked a game. Win, and they can go free. Lose, and they will live out their greatest fear.

But what does any of this have to do with Mara? She is about to find out . . .

This book is short, so I’ll try to keep the review short. Basically, Messenger of Fear is not what I was expecting, nor what I wanted.

The plot was… weird. The protagonist, Mara, wakes up in a mist-shrouded bit of nothingness with the Messenger of Fear as her welcoming party. The Messenger judges those who know what is right and choose not to do it, and he has made some sort of deal with Mara that required wiping her memory of all but her name. Basically, the Messenger and Mara pop around and judge people for doing bad things that they know are bad. They yank them out of the real world and into Mist Zone to offer them a choice. If they win the game, they go back to their lives (and probably decades of therapy.) And if they lose, hooray, CENTURIES of therapy! It’s… graphic. Really graphic, and that’s coming from me, here.

But at least the graphic nature of the game was attention-grabbing, because the rest wasn’t. The world-building is in shambles. In addition to the Messenger (He of the Readable Yet Not Existent Microexpressions), Mara also meets Daniel (so much of a Good Guy that he should be wearing a white cowboy hat) and Oriax (so obviously Bad Girl that she should be wearing a black bustier.) I’ll tell you right now that who they really are and the implications of their roles in relation to the Messenger are not fully explained in this book. And by “not fully” I mean “practically not at all.” It all ties into “the balance of Isthil” which is… something? It’s a thing, yup, definitely a thing, but that’s a pertinent detail not explained either.

Okay, so, the mythology was a bust, but at least Mara and her mystery kept me hooked, right? Wrong. The truth about Mara is transparently obvious from the beginning, much to my dismay, and Mara herself is a walking paper bag. I felt no life from her, no personality, no spark. Some of this may be due to the prose, which was stiff and too formal. Mara also has a bad habit of “knowing” things instinctively, which further removed me from the action.

Honestly, the only reason I even bothered to finish this book was because it was so short. If I’d had to invest any more time, I would have DNF’d without a qualm. The whole package was so oddly written and preachy that I could barely make it to the final chapter. Goodreads says that people do like this book, as it’s received several four- and even five-star reviews, but you couldn’t drag me back to this series with wild dragons.

Points Added For: I literally have nothing. No, wait! The bit about OCD not being cute or funny was spot-on. Points for that.

Points Subtracted For: Making me want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon.

Good For Fans Of: Michael Grant? Maybe? Really weird, unexplained mythology.

Notes For Parents: Suicide, violence, gore, bullying, dead animals, homophobia.

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Cover Love #73

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Aren’t they looooooovelyyyyyyyyy? Aren’t they woooon-der-fuuuuuul? I saw this redesign on Stacked and couldn’t stop petting my screen. I LOVE these covers. The colors are gorgeous—vibrant enough to catch the eye but soft enough to feel like fairy tale covers. And as the ladies at Stacked pointed out, these covers look timeless, unlike the designs they replaced. These are covers that would look beautiful on my shelf now, five years from now, twenty years from now, and beyond.

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Top 10 Tuesday – Books on My Fall TBR

Grumble, grumble. This topic always makes me despair, because I’m faced with the knowledge that I shall die with books unread. Normally, I break down my list into book I don’t have but want to read, books I have but haven’t read, and books I’ve already read. I’m ditching the middle list for time’s sake, because by gum, I have some reading to do!

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White (HarperCollins)

I’ve heard amazing things! Also, the cover is lovely.

Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz (Disney-Hyperion)

It looks cute, and my friends say it IS cute, so…

On a Clear Day by Walter Dean Meyers (Random House)

It’s like… The Breakfast Club meets the dystopian genre. Not that I’ve ever seen TBC, but still.

Schizo by Nic Sheff (Penguin)

Psychological character study with an unreliable narrator! Yesssss.

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender (Scholastic)

I’ve been lusting after this one for monthsssssss.

The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp (Macmillan/Tor)

I remember reading several different books with this hook as a kid and I loved them. Also, look at the purty cover.

Trust Me, I’m Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer (Random House)

YES. YES YES YESSSSS. SHAE WANTS ALL THE THINGS!

Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger (Hachette)

Moar Soap! Moar Sophronia! Moar Dimity! Moar Bumbersnoot! MOAR OF ALL THE THINGS!

Stranger by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith (Penguin)

Sci-fi dystopian western. What about that isn’t a Shae thing, hmm?

Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan (Bloomsbury)

Wee adorable fake romances on a reality show. Want!

 

The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas

My review

In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis

My review

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Review to come.

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

Can’t review because I am biased now, but honestly, this is the BEST BOOK in the entire series. *squeezes it tightly*

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

My review

Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Review to come.

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Review: A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU by Claudia Gray

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.

Whoo! I did it! You have to understand, I was terrified to start this book. None of my canaries had read it, so I had no way of knowing if it would be any good, and just LOOK at that cover. What would happen to my heart if the book didn’t live up to that beauty? But here I am, alive and whole on the other side of this book, so let’s get down to business.

I repent.

Continue Reading →

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Rewind & Review (65)

Rewind & Review

Blog Posts You Might Have Missed

Don’t forget that I still have two giveaways still going on!

Stuff I Bought

  • The Falconer by Elizabeth May
  • Reunion (Mediator #3) by Meg Cabot
  • Darkest Hour (Mediator #4) by Meg Cabot (thanks for sending them, Rachel!)

Stuff I Received/Won

  • There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake (from Bloomsbury)
  • The Beautiful Creatures series boxed set by Kami Garcia (from Little, Brown)

Thanks Bloomsbury! Thanks, Little, Brown!

What I Read

  • How To Cheat a Dragon’s Curse by Cressida Cowell audiobook – SO CUTE! CRAZY TWIST! MUCH WOW!
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – Lovely reread. I thoroughly enjoyed catching subtext that I missed the first time.
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater – Same as the above. I could ALMOST ignore nasty Kavinsky this time.
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater – !!! and !!!. Also ?!?!?! Review to come.
  • Oh Yeah, Audrey! by Tucker Shaw – Reading this now and am whelmed. It’s cute, but am waiting for some action.
  • The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock audiobook – Gah, so so happy to be with the Schwenks again. SO HAPPY.

Event of the Week

My brother and sister-in-law came back from their honeymoon and surprised us all by saying they were getting a new puppy! My brother already has one dog, Gus, which we have been watching, so they brought the new puppy over to meet his “brother” yesterday.

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Review: THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PRICKWILLOW PLACE by Julie Berry

There’s a murderer on the loose—but that doesn’t stop the girls of St. Etheldreda’s from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.

The students of St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a smart, hilarious Victorian romp, full of outrageous plot twists, mistaken identities, and mysterious happenings.

Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just over here giggling like a tiny child. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I would like SSoPP. I wasn’t a fan of Ms. Berry’s YA novel, but other readers seemed to really enjoy this new adventure. Also, come on. Seven prim and proper Victorian schoolgirls don’t just try to solve a murder but also hide it? This has “Shae” written all over it!

Continue Reading →

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Cover Love #72

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Rachel Walker is devoted to God. She prays every day, attends Calvary Christian Church with her family, helps care for her five younger siblings, dresses modestly, and prepares herself to be a wife and mother who serves the Lord with joy. But Rachel is curious about the world her family has turned away from, and increasingly finds that neither the church nor her homeschool education has the answers she craves. Rachel has always found solace in her beliefs, but now she can’t shake the feeling that her devotion might destroy her soul.

I’m going to completely ignore the description, because it doesn’t do a thing for me. (I’m very wary when presumably non-Christian, unhomeschooled authors attempt to take on two subjects that are very important to me.)

That said, LOOK AT THE COVER. Lurrrrvely, that’s what it is. It isn’t terribly flashy (no dragons or knives or anything), but it caught my attention immediately. I think the colors had to do with my positive first glance. They’re not flashy either, but the warm neutrals drew me in. It’s a soft cover, full of creams and flesh and sunlight and shadows. The only hard thing in view are the window panes. I love how they double as prison bars, separating us from Rachel and keeping her out… or keep us in. It’s a great subtext. Also, hellooooo gorgeous font! The title itself is gorgeously done, but I’m really in love with that capital D.

What do you think of this cover? Does it entrance you the way it does me?

 

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Samplers – Yea or Nay?

Chapter samplers serve dual purposes. Their primary purpose is promotion. By releasing the first X amount of chapters in a book, the publisher allows access to the story and the author’s writing style without giving away the whole tamale. By reading a chapter sampler, fans get a treat to tide them over, and new readers can test out whether they’re be interested in the finale product. It’s a great system. I’ve seen Twitter explode in shrieks and flails over a well-framed chapter sampler.

Chapter samplers are also useful in cases like what we just saw a week or two ago with Orphan Queen. Instead of uploading the entire digital ARC to Edelweiss, HarperCollins decided to upload multiple chapters instead. The situation got a bit messy because HC forgot to mark pre-download that it was only a sampler (what a surprise that sudden ending was), but their logic to that point was sound.

Though we all like to think of bloggers as a happy, altruistic, book-loving hoard, some do abuse their privileges. Digital ARCs are uploaded to Edelweiss and NetGalley with the intention of cutting down the costly process of printing paper ARCs while still allowing bloggers and other reviewers advanced access to the upcoming season’s titles. Unfortunately, some then take it upon themselves to send the eARCs in their entirety to book pirate sites where the stories can then be redownloaded thousands of times, thereby robbing the publishing houses and hardworking authors of sales. And it SUCKS. (Seriously, if you pirate books, don’t call yourself a book-lover or a fan. Just get out of my face.)

By uploading only a portion of Orphan Queen, Harper allowed the chapter sampler to work its magic by getting fans and reviewers revved up for the finished product and thwarted pirates. These same pirates always (erroneously) claim that they provide free marketing for the stolen books, so Harper let them do just that. Upload and download away! Spread that chapter sampler, ’cause you’re still going to have to actually purchase the finished book rather than stealing it!

I personally try to pretend like chapter samplers don’t exist. Don’t get me wrong, they do all the things they’re supposed to do. I can read a chapter sampler and figure out whether or not I’ll jive with an author’s style, become obsessed over the story, wail over the ending, and vow to read the rest when the book comes out. However, I have noticed that I tend to do better gelling with the book in the long term if my reading experience is consistent.

The beginning of the book is the punch that keeps me propelled through the story, but my brain has a bad habit of skipping over parts it finds familiar. So when I read a chapter sampler, my brain goes “MOAR MOAR MOAR WHEEEE,” but there’s no more to read. And then when I read the final book, my brain sees the bits I’ve already read and goes “Been there, done that, what else ya got?” So what I’ve learned to do is avoid chapter samplers like the plague, let my canaries read them instead so they can tell me whether to proceed, and then devour the book whole when the full story is available.

Seriously, what are your thoughts? Do you love them? Hate them? Devour them? Ignore them?

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Top 10 Tuesday – Authors I’ve Only Read 1 Book Of

I have a lot of authors that could be on this list, which is kind of exciting, because it means that I have so many books to hunt down! On the other hand, some of these authors make the list because they reeled me in with a fantastic, wonderful, mind-blowing book… that was also their debut novel, so there’s nothing else to hunt down. Augh! Continue Reading →

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