Publisher: HarperTEEN

Caribbean Crusing by Rachel Hawthorne (Mini Book Review)

Posted February 11, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 5 Comments

Caribbean Crusing by Rachel Hawthorne (Mini Book Review)Caribbean Crusing by Rachel Hawthorne
Published by HarperTEEN on April 15, 2004
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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0.5 Stars
The perfect summer story of a girl, several boys, and a cruise ship full of possibilities.

Lindsay has never been on a cruise, but she knows exactly what she wants to do now that she is: climb a waterfall, snorkel, meet lots of cute guys, and look for one perfect guy for a summer fling.

But her to-do list isn't going according to plan, especially when she discovers that it's impossible to have a fling-when you're actually falling in love.

About a week before I was leaving on a cruise, I ran into the bookstore hoping to find cruise books. I love reading books that sync with a vacation I’m on. I found this in the young adult section, and thought it sounded like a cute read for my upcoming week of floating around in the Caribbean.

However… I was annoyed by this storyline. This girl is on an amazing trip, and do you want to know what she’s most concerned with? Losing her virginity. Yes. That’s her main focus. Does anyone else agree that this is poor subject matter to center a book around? There was no plot other than Lindsay’s frustration with being a virgin. Still. Because at 18, surely she should have slept with numerous guys, right? That’s what high schoolers do, right? Every guy she meets makes her think, “Oh! I could sleep with him… Better be nice!” And I can’t tell you how many “hot body” descriptions I read. I was nauseated. I find it rather frustrating that such a book was written, and then placed in the young adult section. This is where 12-year-olds are instructed to buy books from. Is this seriously a lesson they should be taught? And not only was she looking for sex, she was looking for it with no strings attached. A fling. Seriously? Shallow! And of course she couldn’t see a love interest if he smacked her over the head. So she was shallow and dumb. Lovely. I see no reason why she should be someone a teenage girl should look up to.

When I wasn’t downright annoyed at this book, I was bored. I’ve been on cruises. MANY. There is SO much more to write about than this. I can list countless numbers of interesting cruise ship plots. This one just made me want to throw it overboard. Since I don’t litter I didn’t, plus I would have hated for a cute sea creature to suffer as a result of my frustration. I really can’t say I’d recommend this to anyone.


Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (Book Review)

Posted January 11, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 10 Comments

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (Book Review)Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Series: Under the Never Sky #1
Also in this series: Through the Ever Night, Into the Still Blue
Published by HarperTEEN on January 3, 2012
Genres: Dystopia, Romance
Pages: 374
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars
Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY

I really loved this book! Ever since I read The Hunger Games, I’ve been devouring dystopian novels. I honestly never thought I’d find one I liked as much, but this one came pretty close. The story was extremely exciting and had me hooked within a few pages. I became quickly invested in the story and the characters, and fell off the face of the Internet until I finished!

Aria’s world is crazy. These Realms take her and her people, The Dwellers, anywhere in time and in space that they wish to visit–from medieval encounters with the knights of the roundtable, to mysterious forests, to the Paris Opera House. All they have to do is think, and they are transported there. It’s all marketed as being real, but so much better. They live in domed pods with white ceilings, and never see the sky. The outside world is filled with deadly diseases, savages, and cannibals. Nobody wants to go out there, but Aria (named for her lovely singing voice) is forced out there after being blamed for a crime she didn’t commit. When she runs across Perry, she’s in desperate need of help to survive and return home to find her mother who has become unreachable at her scientific research lab miles away. Perry also desperately needs her help, as his nephew has been abducted by her people. A very unlikely duo sets out on a treacherous journey in search of a way to beat the odds.

My favorite character is Perry. He’s very dynamic, with lots of layers that are slowly peeled off throughout the story. His back story has lots of interesting details, and I grew to find him completely captivating. His ability to sense what a person is feeling has made him extremely mature and sensitive. It has also caused him to care very deeply for people. Even though Aria is his enemy, he can’t block out her feelings of pain and sorrow over the possible loss of her mother. He tries so hard to stay away, but can’t help himself from trying to console and understand her. Aria sees him as a dirty savage, but softens as she realizes that he is just as capable of loving and losing someone as she is. As they begin to recognize that they’re both human and are both going through the same thing even though they come from different worlds, their hearts are softened towards one another and a special bond forms. Aria’s pretty strong, considering she was exiled from the only world she knew and thrown into a disease-ridden wasteland, ravaged by cannibals and deadly electric storms. She learns a lot about herself in this story, including where she came from, her powerful desire to survive, her ability to handle scary situations, the gift of her voice, and her desire to love. I liked her, but not as much I liked Perry and his best friend, Roar, who tags along mid-journey and becomes a character you grow to adore. Another character I was surprised to grow attached to was Cinder, an orphaned boy who’s a lot more special than he realizes.

The writing was mesmerizing. I was totally immersed in the vivid descriptions of the land, the Aether (which made me picture the magnificent skies of Vincent van Gogh even before the author mentioned Starry Night), the advanced, limitless technology, the Realms and their virtual worlds, and even the pungent smells of the cannibals (ick!). Perry’s inner struggle with feeling the feelings of others was beautifully written. The author explains his interpretations so well, that it’s like a window has been opened to his mind. I could feel and understand Aria’s fear when she was dropped in the Death Shop. It can be hard to write emotion, but Rossi did a wonderful job. I could feel the love as it grew between Perry and Aria. Nothing was forced or instant, just believable. I could feel Cinder’s inner confusion and Roar’s sense of mischief and humor. It was like I was there, along for the journey. I’m so sad the book is over! I can’t wait to rejoin my friends in book #2, with a pretty vague release date of 2013.

I would definitely recommend this to futuristic dystopian lovers who enjoy action and sweet, innocent romance. I’m so proud of this 2012 debut author! Her first book is amazing, and I know it will only get better from here!


Forbidden by Syrie James & Ryan James (Book Review)

Posted November 30, 2011 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 2 Comments

Forbidden by Syrie James & Ryan James (Book Review)Forbidden by Ryan James, Syrie James
Published by HarperTEEN on January 24, 2012
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance
Pages: 410
Format: ARC
Source: Author
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
She should not exist.

He should not love her.

Claire Brennan has been attending Emerson Academy for two years now (the longest she and her mom have remained anywhere) and she’s desperate to stay put for the rest of high school. So there’s no way she’s going to tell her mom about the psychic visions she’s been having or the creepy warnings that she’s in danger.

Alec MacKenzie is fed up with his duties to watch and, when necessary, eliminate the descendants of his angelic forefathers. He chose Emerson as the ideal hiding place where he could be normal for once. He hadn’t factored Claire into his plans. . . .

Their love is forbidden, going against everything Alec has been taught to believe. But when the reason behind Claire’s unusual powers is revealed and the threat to her life becomes clear, how far will Alec go to protect her?

I was SO excited when Syrie wrote to me and told me that I was the first ever recipient of a Forbidden ARC! I read this book back in August, and was very happy when Syrie asked that I post this review now, rather than wait for the month of the release. Put this on your Christmas lists, guys! I think you’ll enjoy it. :)

First off, I really loved the story. The premise was interesting, and I like how I had to keep guessing and trying to figure out what was going on. I liked the tactic the authors used–to not tell us what Claire or Alec are for quite a while. All these crazy things start happening, and people are not who they say they are. I felt like I was just as lost as Claire was, which was exciting. I wish the back of the book did not mention angels. It would have been more fun to not have had any clue at all.

Alec is an amazing character, and I’m not going to tell you what he is. It’s fun to discover that on your own. He’s a mix of bad boy and sweetheart, which I love. He is so sweet with Claire. He’s also mysterious and dangerous, yet soft and romantic. He’s at Emerson Academy to escape his old life and create a new one… if that’s even possible. He enjoys his isolation. As soon as Claire pops up on the radar as someone the Elders should be investigating, his hiding place is discovered and he ends up having to take drastic measures to protect her from those who wish to destroy her.

I’m not going to tell you exactly what Claire is either, but she’s something forbidden. Haha. Her entire life should not even exist. She starts noticing changes and has to learn as she goes, because not many have ever been in her position. There’s no manuals on how to be herself. Man, this is painful to explain without spoilers, so I’m moving on! She’s sweet and wishes to be noticed by this one guy she’s had a crush on for years. Of course, he barely notices she’s alive. When Alec comes along, though, she begins to gravitate towards him right as this crush starts to gravitate towards her. She’s torn. She doesn’t embrace the love triangle, like so many YA girls end up doing in books. (Like… did Bella have to act so upset to be marrying Edward, but fling herself into Jacob’s arms when he showed up late at her reception? Sorry… I just saw Breaking Dawn yesterday.). She does a lot of thinking, and follows her heart. She seems smart. She also uses her talents to help people, like a classmate who needed a push in the right direction. Those are two main reasons why I like her. She didn’t bug me, which often happens to me with YA heroines. I feel like I’m saying this a lot lately. Maybe authors are starting to write better heroines in general?

I liked Claire’s friends a lot. They looked out for each other, and spent a lot of time sitting and chatting about all kinds of things. Friends usually end up bugging me too. They can so often be petty, catty, etc. I wish I had good friends like them when I was in high school.

There were several plot twists that made me go, “Whoa! I definitely wasn’t thinking THAT would happen!” I’ve noticed that as I read more and more of one genre, books begin to become pretty predictable. I mean, how many love triangles do we see? How many evil villains do we see? How many cliche plot twists do we see. A lot, a lot, a lot. These twists were not something I foresaw. I enjoyed being outsmarted by a genre that I’ve pretty much figured out.

Of course, the sweet kissing descriptions were just as good as the ones I’ve read in Syrie’s other novels. I love romance!

My only possible constructive criticism… I’m not sure if it’s because the book is part of the YA genre (which I’ve never read from Syrie), or if it was because she co-wrote it with her son, but there were parts of the novel that were totally Syrie, and other parts that did not sound like her. I could tell that two people wrote it. I’m not sure if it’s because her writing style and Ryan’s were not blended seamlessly, or if it was just that I’m used to reading adult fiction from Syrie instead of YA. In either case, it’s not a huge deal… just an observation. If I had not read other works of hers, I doubt I would have noticed anything at all. I’ve just come to recognize Syrie’s literary voice because I like it so much!

I asked Syrie if she and her son were planning to write a sequel, and she said that in their minds, it’s a trilogy. However, HarperTeen only committed to one book. They have great ideas for the next two, though, so hopefully Forbidden is well-received, and they can continue the story. I’d love to know more about what’s in store for Alec and Clair. Actually, I’d love a prequel, too. Throughout the story, we hear little bits about Claire’s parents. I’d love to read about their story as well. It has the potential to be a pretty beautiful story.

I definitely think that the book will appeal to more than just YA readers, and I think a lot of that is due to the fact that the characters are not annoying and certainly don’t fit into the stereotypical high school student formula. I think it also helped that Alec had a certain maturity that seemed to influence the other characters, and that brought on more mature conflicts and issues. I’m 24, and a lot of YA novels I read make me feel pretty old. Haha. I know I’m not old, but in a totally different place than most YA characters. I didn’t feel like this while reading Forbidden, and I forgot they were all highschoolers. It was refreshing.

In short, it was a wonderful book. I quite enjoyed it, and only took about 2 days to read it. Hopefully this team gets to continue the story! While it can totally stand on its own, there are plenty of ends that are just a tad loose, that could use some tying up!

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