Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi
Genre: YA Dystopian
# of pages
: 326 (hb)
Publisher: Little Brown
Recommended for: 8th & Beyond

Set initially in a future shanty town in America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being dissembled for parts by a rag tag group of workers, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. The harsh realities of this life, from his abusive father, to his hand to mouth existence, echo the worst poverty in the present day third world. When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth, or rescue the girl, Nita, at great risk to himself and hope she'll lead him to a better life. This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss.

I tell you what, I am getting TERRIBLE at writing reviews in a timely manner. I read this book way back in the beginning of August and I'm just now getting around to writing my review... The thing is, I actually remember a lot about this book, so that really speaks volumes to its memorability.
I'd almost given up on dystopians when I picked up Ship Breaker. Dystopian worlds were either interesting-but-improbable (Wither), too-improbable-to-be-interesting (Delirium), or clean-but-just-not-interesting (Matched). And then along c
ame Ship Breaker.
BAM! There's a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world that seems like it could actually happen.
BAM! It's a world that's scary, urgent, and one to be taken very seriously.
BAM! A character who's likable but definitely an underdog
BAM! Action and Suspense!
Ship Breaker begins with a look in the day in the life of a ship-breaker (or scrapper) named Nailer, who lives somewhere along the Gulf Coast in a run-down community of workers who scavenge and salvage along the beach. He has dreams and high aspirations, but the bleak nature of his existence makes those dreams seem impossible to reach. That is, until he happens upon a wrecked clipper ship and finds a wealthy girl, the ship's lone survivor. Suddenly Nailer is faced with several choices about what's right, what's wrong, and how t
he rest of his life is going to play out.
What sets Ship Breaker apart from the other dystopians out there is not only its creativity, but also its substance. There was something about this book that was just...important. I actually cared about what was going to happen next, and I wanted to keep reading. Sadly, I don't always feel that way about the books I read. Bacigalupi also raises interesting questions about our world but doesn't ever get obnoxious with trying to push some agenda. I'd rather have authors probe, rather than push.
Nailer was a good protagonist, but good lawwwwd what a nam
e! The only thing about Ship Breaker that I didn't really like was the character's name because it didn't really sound like a name at all. But anyway. That, and I wasn't particularly fond of the character Pima. She's what I like to call 'filler characters.' When she showed up at the end of the novel, I was like, 'ahhh nuts!'
Other than those two itty-bitty things, the only setback with Ship Breaker was its tone.
Folks, this is a very bleak book. A very bleak, dreary book. I mean, it's practically an emo book. So much doom and gloom and the badness of human nature and negative, negative, negative!
Now yes, dystopians are kind of like this general, but what separated Ship Breaker from - say - The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking series) - was basically a lack of hope. Nailer's world...really, the world in general as it's presented here...is so ugly and so base and just so dark, there's very little light or goodness to counter that.
As much as Nailer seemed like a good character (and he was), I got the feeling that he was almost always motivated by external factors, as oppose to an innate sense of what's right. That began to change towards the end of the novel, but it was enough to make me wonder how many of his choices were for personal gain only. In contrast, I thought The Knife of Never Letting Go had just enough hope and innate goodness in the characters to compensate for the extreme intensity that dominated the novel (and the rest of the series). Same with Unwind or Divergent.
I definitely enjoyed Ship Breaker, and I don't want to sound like I didn't, but it was kind of hard to get through at times, just because it was soooo BLEAK. That is ultimately why I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5. That, and Pima came back at the end of the story. Boo.
But like I said, as far as dystopians go, Ship Breaker is DEFINITELY one of the better ones.
I can't wait for the sequel, The Drowned Cities

Discretion: there is a high amount of violence, incl. domestic abuse, and moderate-level language.
Vague references to prostitution and drugs

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In My Mailbox [16]

Got some stuff these last few weeks!

The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus, #1) - Rick Riordan
^^I went almost a year without getting a copy, but...I couldn't wait any longer

The Space Between - Brenna Yovanoff
^thank you Christie

The Near Witch - Victoria Schwab
^thank you Abigail

Currently Reading

The Carrier of the Mark - Leigh Fallon
Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor
The Name of the Star - Maureen Johnson
^^I'm reading a LOT slower these days, but I still try and get at least 50 pages a day :P

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

please excuse

Dear bloggies,
Please excuse my absence for the next few days. I'm starting a new job in education and it may be a few days or a week for me to adjust to a new routine, but I promise, I'll still be featuring reviews throughout the semester!

Friday, August 19, 2011


The Seven Realms Series - Cinda Williams Chima
(The Demon King and The Exiled Queen)
Publisher: Hyperion (still can't believe they published this)
Genre: YA fantasy
The Demon King @ Parental Book Reviews
The Exiled Queen @ Parental Book Reviews

I actually read The Exiled Queen first, then went back and went through The Demon King, so my reading experience with this trilogy is a little different from most of the novels I go through.
Here's the thing...this series really frustrates me. This is the kind of series that screams 'READ ME AMELIA! You're going to LOVE ME!' Because, see...I lovelovelove high fantasy, probably more so than any other genre/subgenres. Most books that deal with magical and/or fantastical elements are set in the modern world, so true high fantasy novels get my attention faster than cake with icing and the smell of popcorn.
Plus...look at those covers. LOOK AT THEM. I think that out of all the authors with books currently in print, Cinda Williams Chima has been the one with the most consistently beautiful, snazzy, and attention-getting covers (her Heir books, plus these two, and the cover for Grey Wolf Throne are easily the finest I've ever seen).
So all these things said, I really wanted to like these books. I wanted so much to enjoy them, love them, and recommend them. But...I didn't.

There were some things, plot-wise, that I think could have been done differently. There are a lot of subplots and loads of information to keep track of that could have been refined. But what really killed this series, for me, were the characters. The two "protagonists," Han and Raisa, were yet more examples of characters that I felt obligated to care about, but really disliked.
Raisa is yet another of those "kick-ass heroines" (not my term, and I don't much care for that term, as it is sounds incredibly crass) who thinks that the world revolves around her and whose sense of self-preservation borders on extreme, and Han...oy. The supporting characters didn't leave much of an impression, and I really wish that three characters in particular - Amon, Micah, and Bird - would have been axed entirely.
It seems like fantasies, more than any other genre, are the most removed from reality and the reaches of real-world restrictions. They are the most magical, and traditionally, the most epic. And I guess what really disappoints me is the lack of 'epic-ness' with this series. Plus...there's another quality that traditional fantasy characters have possessed that sadly seems to be rapidly diminishing: "good guys."
In the past, fantasy characters (more than characters in any other genre, it seems) were noble. They were virtuous. Yeah okay, maybe a little innocent, but still...they were very cheer-worthy. A lot of times the protagonist went through a rite-of-passage motif, and they represented innocence, integrity, and I don't know...just goodness. No, Frodo Baggins was not 'street-wise.' He wasn't snarky, smooth-talking, and provocative. Neither were any of the hobbits, really, unless you consider Pippin and Merry's ability to persuade Treebeard to fight against Saruman "smooth-talking." One of the greatest young adult fantasy series of all time is the Chronicles of Prydain, and its protagonist, Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper, didn't have any of these personality traits, either. I guess what disappoints me is how common the "sassy bitch" and "smooth-talking bad boy" characters have become, even in high fantasy stories. Again, sorry for the crass vocabulary. The tone of this new series, one of the few true high fantasies of current YA lit, is just so different from traditional fantasies and so similar to the majority of other YA subgenre books out there. It's just a little sad. And I guess what didn't sit well with me, either, was Chima's puzzling need to remind readers how "experienced" her characters are (Han and Raisa); the innuendo in both of these books, but especially the second one, was hard to ignore, to say the least (I mean, for goodness sake, there's even talk of a fantasy equivalent of "the pill." Whaaaaa...?)
And I think that is what really disappointed me about this series more than anything else, including the characters. I'm just tired of everything having to be so dadgum provocative. It seemed very unnecessary for a high fantasy series. And it really irks me to know that this series is being thrown at middle schoolers. That a sixth grader I know could pick up one of these pretty-looking books, read through it, and be treated to reference upon reference of innuendos and characters' excessive exploits. Not cool.
To be fair, nothing I've mentioned here is exclusive to this series alone. Quite a few YA books I've read recently have had one or several of these elements, too. So while I love the explosion of YA literature in the last 10-15 years, and while I am glad that "kids today" have more options than when I was a kid/middle-schooler, I wish that they could experience the kind of high fantasy characters I grew up reading and loving.

In my opinion, Chima's Seven Realms series is the YA equivalent of George R.R. Martin's books ("edgy fantasy."), and therefore, they are not books that I would recommend - either to my friends, students, or family members. After all, a book's cover doesn't tell the whole story...
Please let me say again that this is just my opinion, and just my thoughts.

Monday, August 15, 2011

[Updated] books for TRADE! (yes, trade!)

I try and do posts like these every few months, just because there's such a high turnover.
And now, I'm doing books for trade! As in, actual trade!
As of right now, I cannot ship internationally.

If you see something you're interested in, please email me at
& we'll talk!

These are the current books I have -


I have extra copies of -
  • Wonderstruck - Brian Selznick
  • Blood - K.J. Wignall
  • The Rivals - Daisy Whitney
  • Rock On - Denise Vega
  • Ashes - Ilsa Bick
  • A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
  • Sweetly - Jackson Pearce
  • Underdogs - Markus Zusak (HB)
  • Candor - Pam Bachorz (HB)
  • Pastworld - Ian Beck (HB)
  • Pretties (Uglies, #2) - Scott Westerfeld (PB)
  • Beastly - Alex Flinn (PB)
  • Timeriders - Alex Scarrow (HB)
  • Secondhand Charm - Julie Berry (HB)
  • The Darlings are Forever - Melissa Kantor (HB)
  • Viola - Adriana Trigiani (HB)
  • Awaken - Katie Kacvinsky (HB) - 2 copies
  • Lock and Key - Sarah Dessen (PB)
  • Saving Francesca - Melina Marchetta (PB) - slightly worn
  • The Cinderella Society - Kay Cassidy (HB)
  • Life as We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer (PB)
  • The Secret History of the Pink Carnation - Lauren Willig (PB) - adult
  • The Masque of the Blak Tulip - Lauren Willig (PB) - adult
Some of the titles I'm looking for:
What Happened to Goodbye
- Sarah Dessen
Between the Sea and Sky - Jaclyn Dolamore
The Forgotten Locket - Lisa Mangum
The Death Catchers - Jennifer Anne Kogler
Circle of Fire - Michelle Zink
Under the Never Sky - Veronica Rossi
This Dark Endeavor - Kenneth Oppel
Shatter Me - Tahereh Mafi
The Faerie Ring - Kiki Hamilton
Hereafter - Tara Hudson

I'm also looking for:
Hardback covers of The Sea of Monsters and The Titan's Curse
Heist Society & Uncommon Criminals - Ally Carter

Saturday, August 13, 2011

In My Mailbox [15]

This week's books I received...

Received for Review
In the Forests of the Night (Goblin Wars #2) - Kersten Hamilton
^^thank you to Harcourt and Kersten Hamilton!

Sweetly - Jackson Pearce
Blood Red Road - Moira Young

"In My Mimi's Mailbox"
My Mimi and I went book shopping yesterday, and I promised her I'd feature the 3 YA books she got!
I'm introducing her to the genre of Young Adult fiction with -Nevermore - Kelly Creagh
Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
(Nevermore and Jellicoe are 2 of my favorites, and I have it on good faith that The Book Thief is a good one, too!). Last I heard, she was starting Nevermore first :)

Friday, August 12, 2011


The Girl in the Steel Corset (Steampunk Chronicles, #1) - Kady Cross
Genre: YA Steampunk/Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
# of pages:
473 (hb)
Recommended for: Everyone
In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one except the "thing" inside her.
When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But
no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch...
Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits. Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.
Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help-and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.
But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on, even if it seems no one believes her.

Diesel is for unbelievers -
Electricity is wrong.
Steam has got the power that will pull us along!
There's a light at the end of the tunnel
...and it's YA steampunk!

I was incredibly surprised at how much I enjoyed this oddly entertaining novel. I don't remember what I was expecting, but I know that I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did.
Girl in the Steel Corset is one of the first (hopefully not the last) steampunk novels I've ever read. My prediction is that steampunks will rise up sometime before 2013 and will replace dystopians as YA's hottest trend. And that prediction is thanks in part to books like this one.
This novel hit the ground running from page one, with little dull moments in the 400+ tome. The main character, Finley Jayne, is basically a real life case of 'Jekyll-Hyde' dualism. In fact, most of the main characters at least one sort of strange ability that makes this novel read like a Victorian version of X-Men, plus this life-force substance called Organites seems, I've been told, very similar to a concept borrowed from Star Trek... However, I thought the author pulled the overall story off nicely.
Because Finley's aggressive, Hyde-like nature renders her an ultimate fighting machine, there was a lot of action throughout the story. Honestly, I could have done with a little less 'Miss Macho.' There's no drama or intensity involved if you've got a character who can lick everybody. And I just ended up skimming some of the fight scenes. But what I really appreciated about this novel, and what I consider Cross' strength, is the sheer detail involved in the worldbuilding of this alternate Victorian London. Her steampunk machines, gadgets, and trinkets were exquisitely detailed, vivid, and imaginative, and I really liked that. Besides some personality/cultural anachronisms (characters acted a little too loosened up for late-19th century England, although the fact that this is a steampunk novel may mean it was done purposefully), Girl in the Steel Corset was a well-imagined, inventive-but-not-convoluted story, one that kept me thoroughly entertained.
What also surprised me about this novel was how much I ended up enjoying the characters (reason for my surprise has to do with my less-than-impressed encounters with other Harlequin Teen book characters). I liked how Cross was able to make Griffin's character likable, but not bland. The other secondary characters - Sam, Emily, and Griffin's aunt (forgot her name) - were well crafted. They weren't cardboard characters, in my opinion, but they didn't hog the spotlight from Finley, either. And they all had interesting but not over-the-top abilities as well, just as if there existed a Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters in Victorian England (only here, the "school" is the safe haven of a duke's estate).
There were some characters who seemed a bit unnecessary, though. The smarmy Jack Dandy seemed to serve no purpose at all, except to be yet another love interest for the main character (and I am notoriously grumpy about love triangles). And really, I didn't know what to make of him. He's too smarmy to be a good guy, but he's not menacing enough to be a villain, either. I guess he's supposed to be one of those 'rogues with a heart of gold.' To me, he was just in the way. Griffin's American friend Jasper Renn didn't seem to have much of a purpose either.
Within the 400+ pages of Girl in the Steel Corset, there seemed to be some overcrowding with the characters, like they exceeded the book's maximum character occupancy. It got hard to keep track of everyone. However, maybe everyone's roles will become more finalized in the sequel.
I absolutely loved the 'villain' character, though. If Sherlock Holmes' nefarious Moriarty ever took an interest in taking over the world via automatons, it would look something like this. :)

And my favorite part of Girl in the Steel Corset was how little romance there was involved. For a book published by Harlequin Teen, that was pleasantly surprising to me. I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that romance (and that odious love triangle) will become more pronounced in the next installment. I don't know, though, maybe not.
What I do know is that I was really impressed with Kady Cross' ability to create likable characters (even if there were a few too many), matched with a genuinely interesting plot (creepy automatons and machines thinking for themselves?!) and cleverly created gadgets, clothes, and...well, all things steampunk. So if you haven't given The Girl in the Steel Corset a try...
soon the pistons will be hummin,

Steam will have a second comin'
(Why yes, "Light at the End of the Tunnel" from
Starlight Express would fit just nicely as the theme song for steampunk!)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


All These Things I've Done (Birthright, #1) - Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: YA Futuristic Contemporary/Dystopian
Publisher: Macmillan
Source: ARC
Recommended for: Older Teens & Up

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

All These Things I've Done was quite a roller-coaster book for me, a total whirlwind of emotions. First and foremost, I want to figuratively shoot off spitwads at the above synopsis, because it makes the book sound like an exciting dystopian. This book reads like a futuristic contemporary novel in a quasi-dystopian world. There's nothing really wrong with that, except that it may lead to some disappointed/disengaged readers expecting something else. Just a word of caution, from someone who feels more than a little duped by the enticing synopsis.

My feelings for this book can be seen in my Goodreads status updates:
"Yes, I'm less than 100 pages in, and yes, I am a pretty wary/skeptical reader...those things said, I really think this book is shaping up to be something I can add to the 'Best I've Read' category. Very, very solid start."

"Again, I'm not finished so I don't wanna speak too soon, but...I really think this is going to be one of the BEST books of 2011!!"

and then finally:
"See, THIS is why I don't like to get all excited about books before I'm done with them. In just 1 chapter, this went from extraordinarily good to...kinda crappy, I'm sorry to say."

*Le plummet.*

To be honest, the only reason I was initially engaged in the book is because I liked Anya and her family. The mob elements exist peripherally until the last 50 or so pages, then that whole element came together. If you're going into All These Things I've Done expecting some complex, mafia world akin to the Curse Workers series, you may find yourself underwhelmed.
The worldbuilding is practically nonexistent, and for any book that touts itself as a dystopian, that's not good. Chocolate and caffeine have been outlawed, with little to no explanation as to why. I struggled to suspend my disbelieve that a society would attack caffeine but leave out alcohol. I mean...really? Explain to me how caffeinated coffeehouse, hand-snapping beatniks are more deviant and dangerous than angry drunks, seriously. So I never felt particularly drawn to the plot, because all things considered, there really was none. This is primarily the story of a deceased mob boss's daughter trying to make her way in the world. And that's cool, but this reads more like a futuristic contemporary novel. Dystopians usually need a little more engagement. There were some interesting elements, but mostly the plot didn't come full-swing until the last 50 or so pages. By then, I'd checked out.

So the only thing this book really had going for it was characterization. I loved the main character, Anya, because she seemed so different from the multitude of girls I often encounter in YA lit. She had a maturity that I crave in characters. She seemed grounded, and while she wasn't religious in the personal devotion, private faith sort of way, she had a moral code/set of values that she clung to. And that made me all kinds of happy. But what happens when that's taken away? With me, Zevin quite abruptly withdrew the one major positive I had with this book, the one thing that really had me caring, the one thing that made any sort of personal connection with me. I may lose some readers with the whole religion/values thing (Anya consistently identifies herself as a Catholic), but what I didn't like, that I think may resonate with others, is this picture Zevin drew of a girl who goes from being responsible and a caretaker to her family, to making some boy the center of her world. And I guess that was the last straw (that, and the rather descriptive sexual content that made me, a grownup, pretty uncomfortable).
A basic, forward-moving plot was hardly existent, there wasn't a lot of action, so the whole likability of this book rested on the characters. And for me, Zevin destroyed the main character's credibility. It made Anya's somewhat preachy declarations and internal monologues about her beliefs seem like nothing but talk. And the love interest, Win, had almost no likability with me. He came across as practically manipulative in an emotionally pushy sort of way.

So that's what nagged at me as I struggled to finish this. It's like watching a strong, self-assured character turn codependent. I do want admit that Anya attempts to regain the proactive, strong personality by the end of the novel, but by then, I had just checked out.

What I also realized (I obviously didn't notice this from the synopsis, which was my bad) is that ATTID is really a retelling of 'Romeo and Juliet' with a semi-dystopian backdrop. Since I've already biased up this review, I might as well admit that I think 'Romeo and Juliet' is one of the LEAST ROMANTIC stories of all time, so I am definitely not one to buy into the whole 'starcrossed lovers make the best lovers' idea. And the ending of this book really sets up for more 'Romeo and Juliet'esque drama. Secret relationships. And the whole 'I really love you but I'm going to act like I hate you to protect you!' is just hogwash storytelling, in my opinion. I most likely will not be catching the sequel.

I'm just sad at how this book turned out. I was squee-happy when I nabbed a copy at BEA, and when I started out reading this, I loving it so much. I predict that the main issue other readers will have will be with 1) the lack of a truly solid plot, and/or 2) the lack of truly solid dystopian elements. I doubt most readers will share my disappointment regarding characters. And Zevin's prose is absolutely beautiful. I think that if some characterization elements were taken out, and if more attention had been given to the dystopian setting, this book would have been absolutely phenomenal.
(Due to strong language and sexual content, I would recommend this book for older readers only)

And if anyone is interested trading for my copy, please email me at

Monday, August 8, 2011


Thank you to the huuuuuuge amount of entries this contest got!
I'm excited to do another one in a week or two :)

The winner of the ARC of Circle Nine by Anne Heltzel is

Jessica A. (Firefly Book Loft)!


I'll have another Review Me giveaway up shortly! Thank you to everyone who entered.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

my mailbox! [14]

At the end of each week, I do a quick post about any books I've bought, swapped, or received.

I've had several opportunities to make really cool trades in the last month. If anybody's interested, my list of books/ARCs for trade can be found here.
This week I received -
traded my copies of Cold Kiss, The Future of Us, and Shut Out for:

Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi
The King of Attolia (Queen's Thief, #3) - Megan Whalen Turner
Poison Study - Maria Snyder
^thank you Lyndsey

I've heard that as far as recent dystopians go, Ship Breaker is a must-read, so I'm really excited to have a copy!

And thanks for all the kind words from the great multitude of you last week who reassured me that there is absolutely nothing weird about adults still watching animated movies <3.

Hope everybody had a good week!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Giveaway reminder!

My ARC giveaway of Circle Nine by Anne Heltzel is still going on for one more week!
If you haven't entered already, now's your chance!
The giveaway will end on August 7th.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Unfinished and Abandoned books [1]

What do you do with books you haven't quite finished yet?
I'd been flip-flopping on that until I saw Enna at Squeaky Books' feature called Unfinished Friday. This post is inspired by that.

Over the last year, I've changed my reading views a bit. Used to be that I was absolutely determined to finish a book, even if I didn't like it (or whatever reason)...just to be finished with it.
Now, too many books and not enough time have resulted in way more DNFs and (temporary) DNFs. And really, I read for fun, pure and simple.
But just because I abandon or set aside a book doesn't necessarily mean I don't like it. It just for whatever reason, that book didn't hold my interest. Other books, though, I definitely did not like.

Matched (Matched, #1) - Ally Condie
Unfinished since: January 2011
Commentary: The number one gripe I have with these "I'm-the-next-Hunger Games!" dystopians is that their storyworld is 1) underdeveloped, 2) implausible, 3) boring.
With Matched, I found the whole setup rather boring. Actually, the society seems to run perfectly fine with everybody getting matched together. Authors, please understand: you cannot have revolution if there's nothing to revolt against. And why is it, after _____ years of running successfully, does it take 1 teen girl for everyone to start 'seeing the light'? That's a bit implausible.
That, and I just found the characters very tepid. There's nothing really wrong with this book, and I do plan on finishing it, since I have the second installment, but it was just hard to keep focused.
Positive: There's nothing really wrong with Matched. In fact, I love Ally Condie's writing and I completely respect her for writing a clean story, one that I can still recommend to friends and young adults.

Firelight (Firelight, #1) - Sophie Jordan
Unfinished since: April, 2011
Commentary: It's been harder and harder for me to get through a paranormal book, and I think it's because the formula is getting old. Somebody's some sort of paranormal creature, but we mere mortals are unaware of said creatures' existence. Somebody is "inexplicably drawn to" somebody else. There's a kissy scene before a fight scene (boo). Somebody is a paranormal creature who has any number of abilities/powers, whatever, and yet they're bested by this fearsome institution known as high school. The main character is supposedly some sort of dragon-shifting princess or whatever, and yet she can't seem to handle prissy teenage girls.
All the love interests are all the same - modern day Adonises who are nice but neeever pushy, because we can't have an attentive guy cramping the heroine's style! Oh, the horror, someone who actually has an opinion and isn't afraid to stand up to you! We can't have that in a love interest. Guys are supposed to stand around, be pretty, and let the heroine save the day. (Where have we seen that formula, roles reversed, before?)
Oh, and there's a love triangle. 'nuff said.
Positive: At least Wesley, the love interest, wasn't one of those 'bad boys.' I feel like an '80s made-for-TV-movie just typing that phrase. :S

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1) - Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Unfinished since: November 2010
: It's more than a little intimidating to be unable to finish a book that so many people love, that's for sure. For one thing, this book is just long. I mean, it ambles along and truly fascinating things like magic and spell-casters and curses and so on are bogged down by day-by-day reports made by the narrator, Ethan. A day-by-day commentary of high school is not a good way to write a paranormal book about witches. It's unnecessary. But what I just could not get over was the unreliable voice of the narrator. I've seen many reviews accuse Ethan of sounding like a middle-aged woman. And guess who wrote Beautiful Creatures...?
For example, it's normal for a teen boy to be bored to death living in a small town and want to leave in pursuit of other, more exciting things. But Ethan's constantly whining about how horrible, backwards, and bigoted his South Carolina town is, and I find it hard to believe that any teen boy would be that concerned or aware. And really, as someone who lives in the South, it seemed to me like the authors were trying to make some kind of statement, which I most certainly did not appreciate. This, coupled with the authors' insistence on reminding us how mean everyone is to Lena just because she's different was, to say the very least, over-the-top.
I do not like agendas in the books that I read, and Beautiful Creatures turned out to be one of the most heavy-handed books I've ever read. Screaming about tolerance to the reader is not classy, in my opinion.
Positives: The take on magic in this book is fascinating, when it's actually the focus of the story.
Also, this book is pretty clean, so I could still recommend it.

And last and least -
the first and only BEA book on the list,
All These Things I've Done - Gabrielle Zevin
Abandoned since: July 2011
Commentary: I'm only 100 pages away from the ending, but it's highly likely I will never reach those final pages. If you look this book up on Goodreads, you'll see that there's already a sea of 4-and-5 star reviews. And nestled in there, somewhere, is a 2-star rating from myself.
You see, quite a few books have, over the years, bored me or annoyed me, but only a very few have offended me on a personal level, as this one has. This book is a prime example of why I don't like religion (or religious characters) in young adult novels - because I don't really trust authors to not misrepresent it. The only religious character in this book is also one who simply abandons her previously-held beliefs soon after she starts dating for the first time, because, you know, moral beliefs are just a cramp on a girl's style.
Besides what you may or may not believe about religion specifically, do we as readers really want to get happy-clappy over a girl who just drops her beliefs or principles (whatever they are) because some guy comes along? That it's okay to change who you are and what you believe just because somebody pays attention to you? I certainly don't think so.
So that's my soapbox-problem with this book. But this book started out so well! I absolutely loved the main character in the beginning, as the daughter of a deceased crime boss who tries to live on the outskirts of her family's illegal chocolate trade, because chocolate and caffeine have been banned. There really weren't any major reasons given as to why these substances were banned, which made it hard to really get on board with the futuristic society presented.
This is more of a small-time dystopian, because as of now, the focus is primarily on the girl, Anya Balanchine (*love* that name) and her average life, instead of society as a whole.
It's just a futuristic New York City that's barren and dry (for some reason), with limited electronic technology and a mysterious ban on caffeine products.
Positive: I'm predicting that most people won't have an issue with what I mentioned here, or will overlook it, so that's a positive, I guess.
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