REVIEW: Dark Shores – Danielle L. Jensen (ARC)

41438037Title: Dark Shores (Dark Shores #1)
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Rating: ★★½

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

I promise, no one is more surprised by this rating than me. It really came down to the fact that I was expecting an action-pack, high-seas adventure and Dark Shores is neither of those things. I really, really wanted to like this because I love Danielle L. Jensen’s Malediction trilogy, but it honestly just fell flat.

Dark Shores is not a fast-paced book, and coupled with the lack of action, I struggled to get through it and had to force myself to sit down and read a few chapters at a time. Nothing happens for almost 80% of the book. The story is told through alternating POVs of the two protagonists, Marcus and Teriana. While I think the characters themselves are fine, I personally did not feel a connection with either of them, and so it made it really difficult to care about their journeys or their struggles.

Some of the early marketing for the book led me to believe this would be a swashbuckling tale featuring some pirates and epic adventures on the seas, but this is not that book. I know Danielle has worked hard to try to steer clear of that image because it’s not correct, but unfortunately my early ideas of what this book would be made an impression in my mind, and it was hard to ignore those expectations as I was reading. Although Dark Shores wasn’t the story for me, I’m still really looking forward to Jensen’s other new series, The Bridge Kingdom, finally becoming a print book later this year and hope I enjoy that more!

REVIEW: Again, but Better – Christine Riccio (ARC)

41147279Title: Again, but Better
Author: Christine Riccio
Rating: DNF @ 63%

ARC provided by the publisher.

This book might be for other readers, but it was not the book for me. First off all, I prepared to love this. I studied abroad for a semester my senior year of college and to this day it remains the best experience of my life. So I was really excited about Christine Riccio writing a YA contemporary that I was hoping would remind me of my amazing memories. Unfortunately, there was so much I disliked about Again, but Better that I couldn’t even force myself to finish the book. 

My first grievance is with the writing. It was so disjointed; there was no flow and it read like a bunch of short anecdotes pasted together one after another. Not only that, but it was like I was just being told what was happening, instead being able to read the story and figure it out for myself. There was a whole lot of telling and not a lot of showing. And this might be me just nitpicking, but there was a lot of overuse of exclamations and sentences that were made to exclamatory when it was totally unnecessary. 

The writing also felt very personal. Other reviews have mentioned how similar the story and the main character, Shane, is to Christine’s life to the point that the story is almost semi-autobiographical. Now, I’m not into booktube so I don’t follow Christine’s channel, but even I could spot the numerous similarities. It was almost uncomfortable to read because it was like I was reading her journal. 

My biggest issue, however, which made me ultimately decide to stop reading the story were the characters. There is ton of light cheating present and I would argue that the crux of the story centers around the fact that the main character, Shane, believes herself to be in love with a guy in a relationship. As soon as it’s mentioned that Pilot has a girlfriend, I hated him. He’s the kind of guy that wants to take a break with his girlfriend before travelling abroad for a few months because he “doesn’t know what’ll happen” while he’s away. Pilot not only hides the fact that he’s currently in a relationship at first, but then seems to have no qualms about engaging in some grey-area cheating (holding hands, sharing a bed with another girl, and kissing). And Shane is no better. She hardly ever mentions his girlfriend and seems to ignore her existence, but yet she actively flirts with Pilot and attempts to make a move on him. 

The fact that I disliked both Shane and Pilot made it extremely hard to continue this book. Why would I want to read something when I literally do not care for characters and am actively rooting against the protagonist? I knew girls like Shane. I knew boys like Pilot. And I hated them both. Literally the only character I cared about in the book was Amy (Pilot’s girlfriend) because not only is she made out to be a villain when she obviously has the right to feel threatened, but she has a really shitty boyfriend and ends up getting the short end of the stick by the end of the book (I’m assuming). Give me a story about Amy moving on from this P.O.S. and living her best life. 

Anyway, rant over. I’m sure there are plenty of readers who will love Again, but Better and are not bothered by the light cheating but that person is not me. I was really, really looking forward to this but I was extremely let down. 

REVIEW: Aurora Rising – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (ARC)

30075662 (1)Title: Aurora Rising (Aurora Rising #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Rating: ★★★★½

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

I’m loving all the great sci-fi/space books coming out recently in the YA genre, and this was no exception. I will admit I was nervous going into this. Not only was there a tremendous amount of hype for this, but I’m pretty sure I’m the only person out there that did not like The Illuminae Files. Thankfully, Aurora Rising quickly squashed my worries and had me hooked from the first paragraph. 

“Um, excuse me.” Finian raises his hand, looking at Pixieboy. “But between me and Red over there, I think the squad already has its sarcasm quota filled.”

From the very beginning, this book was full of nonstop action. I mean, literally, from page one. The authors really killed it with those opening pages and it’s hard not to find yourself hooked from there. Amie and Jay did such a great job with the writing, to no one’s surprise. They’ve created an amazing ensemble of characters, each with their own distinct personalities. Having multiple POVs can be tricky, but I think they did a fantastic job making sure it would be easy to tell each character apart. My only issue was there were a couple of characters whose viewpoints I didn’t enjoy: Zila’s and Cat’s. I couldn’t connect with Zila because she was so quiet and only had a handful of pages written from her POV (because of her personality, I get it). And as for Cat, I’m sorry to say I just didn’t like her, which made me really not care too much about some of the events at the end of the book.

“Then again, I’m two hundred and thirty-seven years old myself. On a ship full of aliens. With whom I just robbed a space station. Nothing is impossible. But something is very, very wrong.”

Besides the action, the story was also full of excellent banter and just enough mystery to keep you on the edge of your seat. The entire time I was reading I couldn’t help but think this would make a really great movie. Aurora Rising was a fun, entertaining book perfect for fans of the YA sci-fi genre!

REVIEW: If I’m Being Honest – Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

IIBH_Reveal.inddTitle: If I’m Being Honest
Author: Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Rating: ★★★★★

I finished this at 3:37am after staying up all night to read it, so I guess you could say I liked it. I’m pretty picky when it comes to YA Contemporary, but If I’m Being Honest was pure perfection and completely cured my reading drought!

The premise of the story draws inspiration from The Taming of the Shrew, in which our protagonist Cameron attempts to “tame” herself in order to win back the affections of her crush. If I’m Being Honest bypassed any expectations I had going into this. I absolutely loved Cameron’s character growth and self-discovery throughout the novel. It was not a smooth ride and she had a few moments of regression, but the way it was written was so honest and real. The book highlights the fact that no one is perfect, and that we should surround ourselves with people who love us despite our flaws, and more importantly learn to love ourselves because of them.

The characters were really the heart of the story. The authors did a fantastic job of creating characters that were fleshed out and relatable. Another positive aspect of the book were all the different relationships; good and bad, old and new. They brought a lot of depth and really made the story stand out. In particular, I thought the relationship that Cameron builds with Brendan was amazing! I am one hundred percent here for cute, nerdy guys a the love interest.

If I was in high school, this would have been the type of book I would have brought with me from class to class and forced all my friends into reading. If I’m Being Honest is a fun, engaging, delightful read that I highly recommend!

REVIEW: Descendant of the Crane – Joan He

36430989Title: Descendant of the Crane
Author: Joan He
Rating: ★★★★

Is Descendant of the Crane a wholly unique story sure to please even the most critical of readers? No. Is this Chinese-inspired fantasy a beautifully written and well-crafted novel? Absolutely.

Descendant of the Crane might be low on the action, but it is high on the suspense and political intrigue. I was expecting something very different from what I read, however not necessarily in a bad way. I actually really enjoyed the slower paced story and the focus instead on the intricacies of the murder mystery and the inner court machinations. Hesina was a character that I greatly enjoyed following as she attempted to navigate her struggles between her personal wants/beliefs and what she needed to portray in order to gain the support and find justice for her father’s murder. There were a few plot twists woven into the story that made it all the more interesting. I did successfully guess the big reveal/twist at the very end, but I loved its cleverness nevertheless and am excited for where the story will go next.

The love interest/romantic plotline was only okay. I didn’t hate it, but on the other hand I think I also might have been okay without it (*le gasp* who am I?!). I still quite put my finger on what it is or why I feel this way, but something about the way Akira was written just felt off compared to the rest of the book.

My biggest disappointment was finding out that there will be no sequel, but rather a companion novel. I felt like Hesina’s story was left totally unfinished, but hopefully there will be some answers with the companion novels. Overall, I think Descendant of the Crane was a wonderfully written YA fantasy debut and I greatly look forward to reading more from this author in the future!