Friday, May 29, 2015

The Truth About Us

The Truth About Us
by Janet Gurtler

Jess is really good at pretending. She pretends to be popular. She pretends to be cool. She pretends that she really likes to get drunk and party. And she pretends that she's just like everyone else.

One afternoon, her drunken party ways end up getting her in a ton of trouble and her father finally lays down the law; she must spend her entire summer working at a soup kitchen in order to learn the value of all the amazing things she has.

While she doesn't exactly jump for joy at the idea, Jess knows she's earned the punishment and begins to work hard to make it up to her family, while also proving that she won't pretend anymore.

But things get complicated when she meets Flynn.

He's kind. He's respectful. He works hard. He doesn't take charity. And he's very poor. He's not a bad boy, but Jess's dad doesn't believe that and forbids her from seeing him.

Can the spoiled rich girl and the poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks really be meant for each other?

Final thoughts: Cotton candy and not very realistic. The whole thing is meant to be read and forgotten.

Rating: 2/5

The Empath

The Empath
by Erica Crouch

Odessa's mother is a grifter who pretends to be a spiritualist in order to get all the fame and money that she can. Odessa is the real talent who feeds her mother the true information that is given to the customers.

Odessa can read palms, read cards, and see the dead, while her mother only acts like she can.

Despite Odessa's misgivings, her mother decides to conduct a seance on Samhain, It has the potential to be her biggest score yet.

It turns out to be her biggest mistake.

Now Odessa must step forward and take over the business with only her cards, her wits, and her grandmother's magical locket to protect her.

Because Odessa's mother let out a dangerous spirit and that spirit wants Odessa for himself.

Final thoughts: Quick read with very little detail. It's difficult to understand why Odessa stays after the attack, but it doesn't detract too much from the story. Everything happens so quickly that it's hard to pin down what's missing. Essentially, the story isn't really about Odessa as much as it is about the locket and that locket has more stories after this one. OK, but not great.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Eighth Grave After Dark

Eighth Grave After Dark
by Darynda Jones

For the last eight months, Charley and Reyes have been holed up in an old convent, using the sacred ground to protect them from the hellhounds that surround them. 

For the last eight months, Charley has been growing a bun in her oven, preparing for the birth of the one child who will be able to defeat the devil.

Now things are coming due.

Charley is about to pop. Reyes has been unable to sleep as he tries to protect his family. Charley's stepmother is trying to make amends. Charley's uncle is marrying her best friend. And the dead are gathering right outside, waiting for something.

That something is coming... and it's not just Charley's baby.

Final thoughts: Whoa! This whole book felt a little claustrophobic, but that's because the location is basically one place throughout. The tension is ramped up and the payoff is scary. But the worst part is the end. That was just mean, Ms. Jones! This is a great addition to the series and has powerful events happening within it. Of course, it makes me want to re-read the entire set to truly understand the impact of everything, though I may wait to do that until just before the release of the ninth book in January 2016. (Mr. Wong rocks!!!)

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

One of the Guys

One of the Guys
by Lisa Aldin

Toni "McRib" Valentine has never been a girly girl. She's always preferred playing basketball to painting her nails and wearing shorts instead of skirts. For most of her life, she's had her three best friends, Loch, Ollie, and Cowboy, and she's out-belched them all even though they're all guys.

When a prank goes wrong, Toni ends up being sent to an all-girls school. She feels out of place from day one. With her newly required skirt uniform policy and her sudden friendship to an actual girl, Toni's worried she's going to lose touch with her best friends. 

Things change when Toni realizes that she has something the other girls at her school don't have: friends who are boys. She knows how boys work and what they think. So when girls come to her for advice and a little help, Toni sets up "Rent-a-Gent" for platonic dates. Need someone to make an ex jealous? Call Rent-a-Gent. Need to get your parents off your back about who you're dating? Call Rent-a-Gent.

But when Toni discovers that her feelings for one of the boys may be changing, she has to consider whether or not the money she is making is worth the loss of possibly the most perfect boy for her.

Final thoughts: This is basically your typical Hollywood romance for teenagers. It's not well-written and there are a few grammatical and spelling errors, but it's still a story that is easy to read. It's another cotton-candy book designed to entertain without straining the brain.

Rating: 3/5 (might have been 4 if not for the errors)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Lying Out Loud

Lying Out Loud
by Kody Keplinger

Sonny is one of the best liars ever born. She's so good at lying that she can even lie to herself. But the one person she's tried to never lie to is her best friend, Amy. 

That changes when Sonny is forced to stay at Amy's house for reasons that even Sonny won't admit to.

At the same time, a new student enters Hamilton High. Ryder is extremely handsome, but he's also an extreme jerk. Sonny can't see anything to like about him. When Ryder asks Amy on a date, Sonny decides it's time to send him a message.

Things get more complicated when she sends more and more messages and they start online chatting. All the time, as Sonny begins to like Ryder more and more, Ryder likes Amy more and more, all because he thinks he's chatting online with Amy.

Sonny knows she needs to own up to the truth, but she gets so far in that there may be no way to get out without hurting everyone she loves.

Final thoughts: From the author of (and set in the same universe as) The Duff, comes this retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac. The writing is solid and the characters are well-built. I like Sonny, though I felt like shaking her from time to time. In this new world of online anonymity, Ryder's honesty in chat vs. his behavior in front of people is actually pretty realistic. Sonny's catfishing, whether intentional or not, was also pretty realistic. I liked Sonny and Amy and Sonny's situation is one that I've actually seen too often in teens. This is a good, solid read.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Cruel Beauty

Cruel Beauty
by Rosamund Hodge

Nyx has known since she was a young girl that she was destined to end the curse that has kept her homeland separate from the rest of the world. Her father made a deal with a demon to have his two daughters, which resulted in the death of their mother. Part of the deal included Nyx marrying the demon that made the deal, so Nyx has been trained to defeat the demon soon after her wedding night and set her land free.

So Nyx heads off to meet her husband and defeat the curse even if it means her own death.

What she doesn't expect is to fall in love with the demon himself.

Now she has a dilemma and a limited amount of time to figure it all out.

Final thoughts: This retelling of Beauty and the Beast is confusing and poorly written. Nyx isn't likeable at all and her relationships with the people around her make no sense. She keeps changing her mind constantly about how she feels regarding family and those in the demon's castle. She loves. She hates. She loves. She's conflicted. She knows exactly what she needs to do. She's conflicted. In this book, we're told that she is falling in love, but there's nothing to show it.Why does she care about him? Why does he care about her? Why should I care about any of it?

Rating: 2/5

Saturday, May 2, 2015


by Keary Taylor

For most of her life, Jessica has been unable to sleep well. Whenever she falls asleep, she finds herself in the presence of angels, both exalted and condemned. It is her job to stand in the place of someone who has just died and face the judgment of the dead to decide if the soul goes up or down. Every time a decision is made, Jessica suffers from extreme pain and wakes screaming. The scars on her back are proof of her nightmares.

After years of never being believed, Jessica has found a place away from most people where she can fight to stay awake and scream in private when she can't avoid sleep any longer.

When two men appear in her life, Jessica suddenly finds that her dreams are changing and that's not necessarily a good thing.

Final thoughts: This could be so great if the author was better. The idea is fascinating and the beginning of the book sets it up very well. Unfortunately, the writing starts to slip over the course of the book and it just gets worse and worse. There are editing and consistency issues like Jessica's age changing from 24 to 20 in the space of a chapter. Time passes strangely without any clear indications. It starts off pacing over days and then we're suddenly weeks or months later in the timeline. Taylor repeatedly tells the reader things that just don't make sense. "I didn't even notice how the water was ice cold as it hit my skin..." If you didn't even notice it, how could you mention it? She often uses the same adjectives and adverbs repeatedly in the same paragraph. It bugged me no end when she used "amazingly" twice within two sentences. Is there no thesaurus nearby to help find alternate words? The characters started strong and became flat over the course of the book and the ending was rushed, as if Taylor couldn't wait to start on book two. Dull and lifeless at the end, I can't recommend this one to anyone.

Rating: 2/5


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