Cyberbullying in a strange, future New York | The Takedown by Corrie Wang [ARC]

The TakedownKyle is a queen bee. She and her three best friends are the most popular girls in school. On top of that, she’s also on track to be school valedictorian and is working to get into all of her top choices for college. But all of that comes crashing down when a video is leaked of her having sex with her English teacher. Except…it’s not her. As the video goes viral, Kyle watches everything she’s built come crashing down. Nobody believes that it’s not her in the video, so it’s up to Kyle to prove that somebody’s out to get her.

This book first came to my attention because one of my favorite authors (Ryan Graudin) has been raving about it. Unfortunately, I found it to be pretty disappointing. First off, the setting is this really strange, future New York but it’s not really apparent that we’re in the future until a few chapters in. Was it necessary for the book to be set in the future? I don’t really think so. It just made it confusing because I had to learn about a completely new set of technology, social media, etc. And the way they talk was also really strange. It’s like…they would swear, but without the vowels? It was just super weird–I don’t actually think the English language is going to evolve like that.

Kyle, the main character, is not likable. I didn’t feel sympathy towards her or bad for her in any way. She just wasn’t likable and she didn’t really experience any growth. So if that was the goal, then the author definitely accomplished that. But if it wasn’t, then I think she needs to rethink how she¬†writes her characters in the future. Kyle was just really entitled and selfish the whole book. She’s so focused on “me me me me me me” that she doesn’t notice anything that the people around her are doing. Her life is crashing down and she feels like everyone around her needs to be worrying about that as much, if not MORE, than she is.

The secondary characters were just okay. I didn’t really like any of them more than I liked Kyle. I also didn’t like that her brother was also named Kyle. The author gave a reason for that and I understand why it was “necessary” for the plot, but…just no. Figure out another way to accomplish that plot point because having a brother and a sister both named Kyle is just too weird and confusing.

The plot was also just okay. I’ve read a lot of books that are supposed to be a type of mystery, but there’s no way for the reader to solve it on their own. I’d like to read a book where the reader can take an active role in solving the mystery along with the characters. As it is, most books that involve a mystery just expect readers to sit back and enjoy the ride. This book was no different. Sure, there were clues. But in the end, there was really no way for the reader to decide who the “bad guy” was with any certainty. We just don’t get all of the facts until the very end. We’re left trailing the main character instead of working alongside them.

Overall, I was disappointed by this book. There were too many elements that just weren’t working for me. That being said, this book does have a rating of 4.03 on Goodreads, so take my review with a grain of salt I guess. I didn’t like it very much, but you might still enjoy it.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Heavy. Nothing very explicit, but this book is all about a sex tape so it’s talked about a lot.

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What do they call a road trip in space? | Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray [ARC]

Defy the StarsNoemi is determined to save the planet Genesis even if it means sacrificing her own life to do so. But when she finds out there might be another way to save her home planet, she’s willing to travel all around the galaxy to make it happen. In this scenario, the only sacrifice would be a mech that she found aboard an abandoned ship. She’d almost feel bad about it, but mechs aren’t human and don’t have opinions or feelings¬†anyway, right?

I’m starting to think that sci-fi might not be my genre. I either find it really confusing or the explanations of the technology is too boring. I just have a hard time when there’s all this future technology that I don’t really understand. On top of that, this book has multiple WORLDS that I need to try to understand. It’s not easy, I’ll tell you that. I felt like I got a pretty good handle on Earth (obviously), Genesis, and Kismet, but then Stronghold and Cray are toss-ups. I have no idea which world is which. Overall, I wish that there had been a little more world(s) building. Gray had such a huge opportunity to create these awesome new planets, but in the end I feel like I didn’t really get a sense of “there-ness” for any of them. They might as well have been all one planet. Also, I wish the characters had actually gone to Kismet instead of just landing on its moon. That almost felt like a cop-out to me. Like the author didn’t really want to go into all the detail that Kismet would require so she just said, “Here, I’ll have them go to this more boring place instead.”

Noemi was okay as a character. I didn’t hate her, but I didn’t love her either. I don’t really feel like we got to know her that well. We get some of her background, but it’s more telling rather than showing. I didn’t¬†feel anything about her history. Like, I felt bad that she’d lost her whole family, but it didn’t feel like something tragic in her backstory even though it was. Does that even make sense? I did like the religious aspect of her character though, it gave her a little more depth. Abel was a little more interesting. There were times when you could almost forget that he’s a mech (basically a robot) but at the same time, you never really could. There were times throughout the book when his abilities were a little too convenient. Oh, the characters are in a bind? Luckily Abel can do this thing and get them out of it! I mean…everything that he did was plausible with who his character was, but still…too convenient. And I thought all the details about how he’s programmed to be really good at sex was weird and unnecessary to ANY aspect of the plot. Honestly, it just made me feel super uncomfortable every time he brought it up. Secondary characters were alright. They were really just there to help the main characters keep the plot moving.

The relationship between Abel and Noemi just seemed so obvious and contrived. Like…of COURSE they’re going to fall in love. Never mind that Abel is NOT HUMAN. Here’s the thing. I always have a really hard time when a human girl falls in love with an alien, a being who is technically hundreds of years older than her, or robots. Basically anything that isn’t really human. It just feels so weird to me! Like…we wouldn’t have a YA book where a human girl falls in love with a dog, right? So what makes these other non-human love interests okay? In my opinion, nothing. Nothing makes it okay. I’m still creeped out. WHY COULDN’T THEY HAVE JUST BEEN FRIENDS???

Overall, I thought this book was just okay. It was really slow for me to get into, but once I was about halfway through the pace really started to speed up and I finished the last half fairly quickly. It looks like this is going to be a series though and I just don’t see myself having the motivation to pick up the next book even though I wouldn’t necessarily mind finding out what happens next. But if you’re already into sci-fi, then I think you might like this book.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Moderate. No actual sexual encounters, but it is mentioned openly at times.

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Deaf Graffiti Artist Hates Everyone | You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner [ARC]

You're Welcome, UniverseJulia was only trying to defend her best friend and if somebody also appreciated her awesome graf, then so be it. Unfortunately, that same best friend ratted her out to the school administration and Julia is expelled from her deaf school and forced to go to a normal public school. Now she’s trying to avoid her new interpreter, Casey, while lying low so her moms don’t find out that she’s trying to plan a graffiti masterpiece for the underpass. When someone starts tagging her work, Julia becomes obsessed with figuring out who this new graffiti artist thinks they are.

So many feelings about this book… First I’ll say that the writing was fast-paced and punchy which made the flow really fun to read. I also thought that the insight into deaf life was really interesting. I liked that the author didn’t feel the need to say “signed” every time somebody said something. Characters just had normal conversations, but since they were deaf I imagined them signing without the author having to tell me explicitly that that’s what they were doing. I also liked the illustrations included throughout the book and the emoticons that Julia used were a fun touch as well.

That’s about all the positive things I have to say about this book unfortunately. Julia reminded me a lot of Parker from Eric Lindstrom’s Not If I See You First. They were both just so angry as characters. I didn’t really understand where all of Julia’s anger came from. She was very quick to judge other characters and overall I thought she was very selfish with almost no development throughout the story. I mean, she calls her new best friend YP (short for Yoga Pants) throughout the whole book. We literally never learn her name.¬†A couple times Julia just refers to her as “Pants”. Is this for real? That’s so demeaning! And her friend is apparently just okay with this? No thanks.

Julia’s relationship with her old best friend, Sydney, is strange from the start. Julia apparently feels really protective of her. So much so that she graffitis the school. But then her friend rats her out and Julia goes from protective to hating her best friend’s guts. That just doesn’t feel like a genuine relationship at all and only seemed to serve as a way to kick off the story and get the plot going.

My last issue is about the distribution of diversity in this story. I’m all for diversity in YA, but we have this one character who has a disability, is a minority, and also has two moms. It just seems a bit much for one person? I’m not saying that one person can’t have this many diverse characteristics, and the author more or less incorporated each one into the character’s previous development, but it just seems like all of the diversity is concentrated around Julia. She’s surrounded by white characters (with the exception being one of her moms) and even though Sydney is technically also deaf, she has Cochlear Implants so she’s basically a “hearie” according to Julia. It just would have felt more real if the diversity was spread out a little bit more. Share the love!

Lastly, the plot was just kind of there. It was a little confusing and not the most compelling, but it was alright. I didn’t really understand why YP’s ex-boyfriend got so much screen time, but whatever. I would have liked to have had her issues explored a bit more. She had an eating disorder, but then overcame it. But now she’s getting bullied and she has this weird relationship with her ex. But Julia’s so focused on herself that we never get to see what’s going on with YP or figure out why her dad bakes so much. The last thing I have to say about the plot is that the conflict between Julia and YP towards the end felt forced.

Overall, I probably wouldn’t recommend this book. The main character is just too angry and I felt so bothered every time I saw the letters “YP” on the page. I think it’s great that the author is trying to write a book with a deaf main character, but I would recommend Song of Summer by Laura Lee Anderson over this one (my review here).

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Heavy
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Moderate. There’s one scene in particular (not too explicit) that came out of nowhere and literally had no impact on moving the plot forward.

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Prince & Me except not as good | There’s Something About Nik by Sara Hantz [ARC]

There's Something About NikPrince Niklas of Lutgenstadt just wants a chance at living a normal life. As second in line for the throne he doesn’t expect normal treatment all the time, but he just wants to try it for at least a year. His parents reluctantly allow him to enroll in a boarding school in New Hampshire for his junior year of high school where he meets Amber. Last year, Amber was fighting cancer and reeling from the discovery that her boyfriend was cheating on her while she was recovering from treatments in the hospital. This year, Amber plans to focus on applying for a prestigious photography internship by making this year completely boy-free. Then she meets Nik Gustafsson who is as arrogant as he is attractive.

I thought this book started out okay. As characters I wasn’t a big fan of Nik, but I did like Amber quite a bit. I think my deal with Nik is that he seemed unrealistically clueless. I mean, I’ve never been rich, but is it so completely crazy that you have to take your own suitcase to your new dorm room? Then Nik and Amber meet and we’re switching off between narrators and things just started to feel…inconsistent. That’s always a big issue for me–especially in books coming from this publisher. I mean, does no one read these books all the way through to look for that kind of thing before they get published? If not, I am available for hire.

First of the inconsistencies: during his sections, Nik is always hyper-aware and concerned about spilling his secret. But then during Amber’s sections he (seemingly nonchalantly) drops that he’s got servants at home and MULTIPLE DRIVERS to take him wherever he wants to go. Someone who is actively trying to keep their identity secret would not say stuff like that. A second inconsistency that really stood out to me was regarding Amber. She’s supposedly SUPER close to her family but we never once see her brother even though they go to the same boarding school. She tries to explain that away by saying that he’s only in ninth grade so they never see each other, but if her family is so close wouldn’t they eat together or hang out sometimes? And then all this stuff is happening to her and Amber never once even THINKS about calling her parents. Instead, she just turns to Lauren for all life advice. I’ve had roommates that are super close with their parents and let me tell you, they talk to their parents¬†every single day (sometimes multiple times a day) and they tell their parents everything that is happening to them. I understand that, as a reader, we don’t see every aspect of these characters’ lives, but it seems like calling her mom would be a very natural reaction for Amber to have after everything hits the fan.

But anyway, the book is moving along and like I said earlier, I’m not a huge fan of Nik but I like Amber pretty good. Then the big dramatic scene happens and things get really intense between them and Amber’s reaction was just…not good. She compares Nik hiding his true identity from her to her ex-boyfriend Wade cheating on her while she was fighting cancer. She literally says that what Nik did was worse than what Wade did. WHAT??? I mean, of course Nik didn’t tell her who he really was! I don’t feel like he was obligated to tell her even if they’d been dating for two whole weeks. Anyway, the book goes on to place all of the blame squarely on Nik’s shoulders and I just don’t agree with that. Even though I liked Amber better as a character, everything was pretty much her fault and she never owns up to it.

Overall, this book started out pretty good, but then crashed and burned at the end in my opinion. I tend to like the trope where a commoner meets and falls in love with a member of some royal family, but I just felt this one was poorly executed. If you’re looking for something similar, I would recommend reading The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright¬†instead (while still not GREAT, it was at least better than this one).

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Mild
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Mild, some kissing

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Russian Wonder-Kid Saves LA from an Asteroid | Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy [ARC]

23018259There is an asteroid hurtling towards Earth and 17-year-old Yuri has been brought from Moscow to work with NASA scientists in¬†LA¬†because he is an antimatter specialist. Sure, none of his work has actually been published yet, but he knows he’s right–the math is right. So it’s especially frustrating that his team will not listen to him when he says that using antimatter is the only way to save the planet. On top of that, it’s starting to look like Yuri will never be able to return home (the fact that he snuck a look at some classified documents might have something to do with that though). As Yuri gets used to America, he’ll have to decide whether or not it’s more important to be right or to follow the rules.

For whatever reason, this book was an extremely slow read for me. I just wasn’t really into the story or the characters all that much. I mean, I should care about a plot where an asteroid is coming to destroy Earth, right? But I just wasn’t. Even though there was this terrible, impending doom, the plot was so slow. Mostly the reader is left to consider Yuri’s inner angst. The book also made saving the world from an asteroid seem incredibly simplistic. All we see is Yuri working on it–never any of the other scientists–and all he does all day is math. I mean, perhaps that’s really how it would be, but it just seems so…underwhelming. Has anyone seen the show “You, Me, and the Apocalypse”? Because that’s how I imagine things actually shaking down (good show by the way, I’m disappointed it won’t be coming back for another season).

A slow plot I can deal with sometimes, but the characters in this book seem incredibly unrealistic to me. Not that there couldn’t be a whiz kid from Russia, but Dovie and her family are not real. No way. They’re just too much! They only celebrate made up holidays? What is this? The only one of them I felt like I could kind of connect with was Lennon–he seemed the most normal. The rest of them were just too crazy. I did not like Dovie. That’s basically all I have to say about that. I just don’t get her. Also, the people at her school? Crazy and over the top as well. I mean, maybe some high schools¬†are like that, but mine certainly wasn’t and I have a hard time believing that any high school located in a major city/suburb would be.

I felt that the ending of the book was also anti-climactic. I liked that it didn’t end right when the world was or was not saved from the asteroid, but the¬†way the aftermath was described didn’t excite me. Overall, I thought this book had a pretty good idea, but lacked in execution. Probably give this one a pass.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What You Always Wanted by Kristin Rae [ARC]

Maddie has been in love with Gene Kelly from the moment she saw him dance. Too bad he’s long gone and none of the high school boys she knows can even compare. That is until she realizes that baseball star Jesse Morales grew up dancing. He may have traded in his dance lessons for baseball practices, but Maddie knows that Jesse’s love for dancing is still in there somewhere…she just has to bring it out.

25663575I’ve really been a fan of this “If Only” series. I’ve read a few now and liked at least two of them. I just like that they’re fun, clean YA Contemporary Romances. They’re easy reads with (usually) pretty likable characters and just enough drama and angst. Each book is written by a different author and has a different setting and very individual characters, but they still come together in a nice series of stand-alones.

I like in books when the main character has¬†a unique¬†hobby or interest. In this case, our main character is OBSESSED with classic movies and musicals (especially the ones that feature Gene Kelly).¬†This book really put me in the mood to watch “Singin’ in the Rain”, I’ll tell you that. I didn’t always like the things she did as a character, but overall I feel that she was realistic and not too annoying. From very early on, I could felt that she had a lot of potential for growth and development. While she did grow some, I think the growth and character development overall in the book fell short–it was just a little too shallow for me.

Jesse was an okay love interest for me. He wasn’t as swoon-worthy as some of the YA Contemporary Romance male leads are (regardless of how unrealistic it is that a normal teenage boy would every actually act like that/say those things). The fact that he wasn’t as swoon-worthy made him a more realistic character in my opinion, but sometimes he’d say something¬†that would really break the mood of the scene. I could see that being the point though. This whole time Maddie’s been drooling over Gene Kelly and the characters he’s been playing and Jesse makes a good contrast to that type of character.

Some of the secondary characters were pretty good and some were just okay, but I didn’t understand Rica AT ALL. She seemed pointlessly evil. Almost like she was there just to provide a sort of foil for Maddie. She says some really mean things, but then the reader is never shown why Rica is the way she is. Maybe we’ll get a book about her sometime later? I’m not really sure. But yeah, she was such a flat character.

Overall, I thought this book was pretty good, but I wouldn’t buy it–probably just check it out from the library. The dynamic of Maddie’s family was interesting and I’m not sure how necessary that subplot was to the rest of the story, but it didn’t distract too much.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR: Meritropolis by Joel Ohman [GIVEAWAY]

MerMeritropolis (Meritropolis, #1)
by Joel Ohman
Release Date: September 8th 2014
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult

Goodreads|Amazon|B&N

SYNOPSIS: In Meritropolis everyone is assigned a numerical Score that decides their worth to society and whether they live or die. After a young boy is killed because of a low Score, his brother plots to take down the System.

The year is AE3, 3 years after the Event. Within the walls of Meritropolis, 50,000 inhabitants live in fear, ruled by the brutal System that assigns each citizen a merit score that dictates whether they live or die. Those with the highest scores thrive, while those with the lowest are subject to the most unforgiving punishment‚Äďto be thrust outside the city gates, thrown to the terrifying hybrid creatures that exist beyond.

But for one High Score, conforming to the System just isn‚Äôt an option. Seventeen-year-old Charley has a brother to avenge. And nothing‚Äďnot even a totalitarian military or dangerous science‚Äďis going to stop him.

Where humankind has pushed nature and morals to the extreme, Charley is amongst the chosen few tasked with exploring the boundaries, forcing him to look deep into his very being to discern right from wrong. But as he and his friends learn more about the frightening forces that threaten destruction both without and within the gates, Meritropolis reveals complexities they couldn’t possibly have bargained for…

REVIEW: The premise of this book was extremely promising. I like the idea of everyone getting a score to determine a person’s worth in society (not in real life, obviously, but in a fictional scenario, that seems intriguing). I felt like this book fell flat a little bit though as it didn’t really go into the system much–we didn’t really see it operating asides from people being “zeroed out”.

Charley as a main character was kind of hard for me to swallow. He was very aggressive and abrasive–I didn’t find myself connecting with him at all. Sure, he’s got this tragic backstory, and I feel bad for saying it, but I just couldn’t make myself sympathize with him. He seemed really unlikable to me and I didn’t feel like he experienced any kind of character development. I did like other characters though like Grigor and Sandy. They seemed like solid characters and I wish we’d seen more of them.

Overall, this book was just okay. The premise was so promising, but then the world just ended up being confusing (I don’t really understand the animal combinations–they just seem super random).

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Mild


MeritropolisTourBanner2

Click on the picture above to be taken to the giveaway!


JoelABOUT THE AUTHOR:¬†Joel Ohman is the author of the Meritropolis series –“The Hunger¬†Games meets The Village with a young Jack Reacher as a protagonist”. He¬†lives in¬†Tampa, FL with his wife Angela and their three kids. His¬†writing companion is Caesar, a slightly overweight Bull Mastiff who¬†loves to eat the tops off of¬†strawberries.

Get notified of new books here: Meritropolis.com

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Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.