Friday, January 18, 2013

Review: Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Title: Uses for Boys
Author: Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Release Date: January 15, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Format: eARC
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from January 14 to 15, 2013
My rating: 3 stars: I like it (2.5)
Summary: Anna remembers a time before boys, when she was little and everything made sense. When she and her mom were a family, just the two of them against the world. But now her mom is gone most of the time, chasing the next marriage, bringing home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her own—until she discovers that she can make boys her family. From Desmond to Joey, Todd to Sam, Anna learns that if you give boys what they want, you can get what you need. But the price is high—the other kids make fun of her; the girls call her a slut. Anna's new friend, Toy, seems to have found a way around the loneliness, but Toy has her own secrets that even Anna can't know. Then comes Sam. When Anna actually meets a boy who is more than just useful, whose family eats dinner together, laughs, and tells stories, the truth about love becomes clear. And she finally learns how it feels to have something to lose—and something to offer. Real, shocking, uplifting, and stunningly lyrical, Uses for Boys is a story of breaking down and growing up.


I have no father. I have no mother. Then you came along and everything changed. 

Uses for Boys majorly caught me off guard. I started this book thinking it would be just another YA Contemporary about troubled teenagers. In the beginning it does feel like one; but then the story takes a totally different turn from what I expected, and led me along a road I would've never taken if it I had known any better.

Anna grows up with no father. In her early childhood, her mother would tell her again and again that Anna is all she ever wanted, and Anna loved the idea. It was bliss, until her mother starts going out all the time to chase after new husbands, one after another, and then she has no time for Anna anymore. Growing up with no father and as good as no mother, Anna turns to the people who give her attention: boys. All of a sudden boys start talking to her, saying that she's pretty, flirting with her, and Anna goes along with it, giving them all they want, one boy after another, just so she can have their company.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it's quite entertaining. If it were dull, I would've hated it, but it wasn't, so I went through it pretty fast. It has an easy narrative style, like a person talking, rather than a well thought-out piece of writing like other novels. The story is divided into a lot of parts, and each parts come up pretty randomly, so it isn't always predictable. And that's a good things. But on the other hand, the subject matter is quite discomforting. The book talks about sex pretty bluntly, and I feel weird reading this in the words of a thirteen or fifteen year old (I don't remember which one). For a young girl her age, Anna is very experienced with boys, having slept with 4 or more (I lost count), not to mention that she got pregnant, and had an abortion. I didn't enjoy watching someone let her life slip away like that for no good reason other than to feel loved.

Her mother is partly to blame, I get that. Negligent parents do a lot of damage to their children. And we can see how Anna's mother affects her pretty clearly. She would say that she cares, but then she never shows it. What kind of mother lets her child quit school and move out at 13 to live in a boyfriend's apartment? As hard is it is to imagine, I know there are parents like this out there.

In a way, I think I understand that this book just wants to "tell it like it is" with no fancy fabrications, no glorifying, no denouncing. That would explain why the narrative is this way, and why Anna doesn't acknowledge any of her actions to be anything (not the right thing, not the wrong thing, not a mistake, not anything) other than things she feels like she has to do. Trying so hard to impress, Anna willingly falls victim to her so-called friend and boyfriends, and this is very common among teenagers. Like Anna, they're not always likeable, and don't always know right from wrong. We can judge all we want, but it's also important to understand them, why they are the way they are and why they do the things they do. To me, Uses for Boys is a story that speaks of real teenagers with problems. Even though the book falls short of plot and denouement, it's quite an easy and enjoyable read, unless you're put off by dark, discomforting stories with (too) many sex scenes.

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This review is also posted on Goodreads.
I received a digital copy from NetGalley and the publisher for review.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review: The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

Title: The Tragedy Paper 
Author: Elizabeth LaBan 
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format: eARC
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from January 4 to 6, 2013
My rating: 3 stars: I like it (2.5)
Summary: Tim Macbeth is a 17-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is, “Enter here to be and find a friend.” Tim does not expect to find a friend; all he really wants to do is escape his senior year unnoticed. Despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “it” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, and she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone finds out. Tim and Vanessa enter into a clandestine relationship, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher. The story unfolds from two alternating viewpoints: Tim, the tragic, love-struck figure, and Duncan, a current senior, who uncovers the truth behind Tim and Vanessa’s story and will consequently produce the greatest Tragedy Paper in Irving’s history. 


Sometimes it's hard, impossible even, to know how much magnitude a choice holds until it is all over. 

Duncan Meade enters the Irving School a senior this year. As a school tradition, each senior gets their own dorm room without having to share it with anyone. On the first day of school, each senior will go to the senior hall and find their room; and in the room, there will be "treasures" left behind for them from the previous senior who lived there. Duncan has one fear: he is afraid to find out if the smallest room in the hall belongs to him. And of course, it does. The treasures the previous owner, Tim Macbeth, leaves behind for Duncan is a note and a stack of CDs. Those CDs play the recordings of Tim's story for Duncan as the "meat of your Tragedy Paper," which is the Irving School's senior English paper to be handed in at the end of the school year.

The Tragedy Paper started out, for me, as intriguing; I was curious to see how the connection between Tim Macbeth and Duncan Meade would play out. Would it be, you know, like Shakespeare's Macbeth, in which Macbeth kills Duncan? Or would Tim Macbeth share the same tragic flaw with Macbeth, and Duncan the receiving end of that flaw like King Duncan? Or what? Of course, I was expecting the use of these two names to have some significance. I have been taught in Literature class that a text alludes to something like this, it is saying something implicitly, and you should find what it infers. But it looks like this book falls flat in that department, because as far as I know, the only function of this allusion is only to tell the reader: Hey! This book is a tragedy because its two main characters are named after the two in Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth! Hmm. Right now, in my head, I can even see my beloved Lit teacher hold up her index finger in a warning manner, and hear her say her favorite disapproval: "Nonono."

Again, I don't seem to share everyone (who's read it)'s enthusiasm about this book. Some say that it's "deep" and "profound," but I honestly don't see how that can be. It's not like I suck that much at reading between the lines and critical thinking; how about it's just meh? 90% of the book is about Tim told, narrated by Tim's recordings which Duncan listens to; while Duncan's part takes up only about 10%. And this makes me wonder why it has to be written this way. Not only does it bother me that the book doesn't just simply tell Tim's story--which already is the focus, if not the entire meat, of this story--it has to have Duncan as a medium (why bother?), but it also irritates me that, knowing very well Duncan's function is only to hang around and play the CDs so we can listen to them as well, the book tries so hard to have Tim affect his romantic life--in a way trying to make a connection between them when it's strained and uncalled for. If there'd been some believable and close connection between them for the recordings to have their natural effects, I would've believed it and appreciated it more.

In the end, I'll say that The Tragedy Paper is not a bad book, but there are a lot of things that I personally didn't like. The ending, for instance, felt too contrived in the way that it is steered into a tragedy pattern, which I understand since I get it, the point is that this book is a tragedy; but I still didn't like it that much. And the effects Tim's story has on Duncan are to me a little too unbelievable. I'd love for it to have more substance, and if the switching between two points of view is going to be this unbalanced and the connection this strained, how about no switching at all? I'd be happy to read Tim's story alone as the whole book without Duncan having a voice in part. That's just me. For the most part, I enjoyed Tim's story and wanted to see how it was tragic and how it would end, but once I did, I felt greatly underwhelmed. Still, as I said, it's not a bad book. It has good potentials but it's just not my cup of tea. 2.5 stars.

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This review is also posted on Goodreads.
I received a digital copy from NetGalley and the publisher for review.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cover Reveal: The Forgotten Ones by Laura Howard

The Forgotten Ones
Author: Laura Howard
Genre: NA Paranormal Fantasy Romance
Expected release date: May 15, 2013
Age Group: New Adult
Cover Designer: Stephanie Mooney 


Book Description:
Allison O'Malley just graduated from college. Her life's plan is to get a job and take care of her schizophrenic mother. She doesn't have room for friends or even Ethan, who clearly wants more. 


When Allison's long-lost father shows up, he claims he can bring her mother back from the dark place her mind has sent her. He reveals legends of a race of people long forgotten, the Tuatha de Danaan, along with the truth about why he abandoned her mother.





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Monday, January 14, 2013

Review: Broken by A.E. Rought

Title: Broken 
Author: A.E. Rought 
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Format: eARC
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from January 6 to 14, 2013
My rating: 2 stars: Nothing special
Summary: A string of suspicious deaths near a small Michigan town ends with a fall that claims the life of Emma Gentry's boyfriend, Daniel. Emma is broken, a hollow shell mechanically moving through her days. She and Daniel had been made for each other, complete only when they were together. Now she restlessly wanders the town in the late Fall gloom, haunting the cemetery and its white-marbled tombs, feeling Daniel everywhere, his spectre in the moonlight and the fog. When she encounters newcomer Alex Franks, only son of a renowned widowed surgeon, she's intrigued despite herself. He's an enigma, melting into shadows, preferring to keep to himself. But he is as drawn to her as she is to him. He is strangely... familiar. From the way he knows how to open her locker when it sticks, to the nickname she shared only with Daniel, even his hazel eyes with brown flecks are just like Daniel's. The closer they become, though, the more something inside her screams there's something very wrong with Alex Franks. And when Emma stumbles across a grotesque and terrifying menagerie of mangled but living animals within the walls of the Franks' estate, creatures she surely knows must have died from their injuries, she knows.
Hurting is better than forgetting.

As I haven't really been a fan of paranormal books, I started Broken with little to no expectation. After the first few pages, I was hooked. The prose was very delicate and wonderful to read; it sounded poetic. I loved the way the author described things in beautiful metaphors, as it really got the message, tone, and feelings across, embedded within those words. I was deeply impressed, but it didn't take long for things to go the other way around. In this case, I think it's best to quote Markus Zusak of The Book Thief: "Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness." And I don't mean the character's, I mean mine.

Things started to get bad after Emma, forever pining after her dead boyfriend Daniel, meets the new boy Alex. Then the teen girl instinct kicks in and she gets obsessed with him, saying how he makes her feel and how she shouldn't feel that way, asking questions along the lines of why-does-he-make-me-feel-this way and what-does-he-mean-by-saying-that-or-looking-at-me-like-that, which I can't really stand. This continues for pretty much the rest of the story. What's worse, Emma is obsessed with some of the sentences Alex says, and would repeat it again and again and again. I know the function of those sentences and Emma's need to repeat it, but really, the tireless repetition is a little uncalled for. It's like the writer doesn't trust the reader to be smart enough to pick up on the foreshadows, and it's a bit trying too hard to keep the whole story unified. It's too much for me, and after a few times it really started to bother me.

The plot is predictable. So predictable that I felt like it was pointless to read this book at all. There are more parts I disliked than parts I liked. And even though I really did enjoyed it in the beginning, I lost patience with it after a while and had to force myself to finish it. I mean, of course, the romance has to be so sappy that the boy is willing to do anything to be with the girl, and say something like "[My heart] doesn't beat for me. It's for you" even if they've known each other for two weeks. And of course, the boy has to be so messed up that the girl thinks it's attractive. And of course, the boy has to remind the girl of the dead boyfriend and echo his exact words and make her heart confused. And of course, the girl has to be so confused that she keeps a distance but pines for him anyway, 'cause apparently she can't live without him. These are only some examples of the worst cliches ever. Yawn.

In some ways, Broken is so bad that it reminds me of Twilight. Although Broken has better writing (only in the beginning), they're both made of uninteresting characters I don't care about, plots I don't like, romance that makes no sense and I have to roll my eyes at; overall books I can't stand. I think they're on the same level of bad paranormal romance. So readers of Twilight might enjoy this better than I did.

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This review is also posted on Goodreads.
I received a digital copy from NetGalley and the publisher for review.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

Title: Splintered
Author: A.G. Howard
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: eARC
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from December 28 to January 2, 2013
My rating: 4 stars: I really like it
Summary: This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now. When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.


I'm going to London to find the rabbit hole. Even though I'm scared gutless of where it might lead, of who's waiting inside for me. Of whatever I'm supposed to do once I'm there. I have to go. 

Is there a better way to end 2012 and start 2013 than spending time immersing yourself in the enchanting Wonderland of Splintered? No, I don't think so. Even though I've never actually read the original Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, I was still able to catch up with this retelling of the famous and beloved classic, and came away liking it a lot.

Alyssa Gardner believes she's a descendant of Alice Liddell. And she believes that the females in her family are cursed; they hear bugs and plants talk. Alyssa is afraid of becoming like her mother, who is in an asylum--"mad," dressed in a pinafore and refusing to eat anything unless it's served in a teacup--and her grandmother, who, believing she could fly, jumped out of the window to her death. Splintered's Wonderland is a few notches crazier, darker, more horrible, and more twisted, and Alyssa needs to go there to fix Alice's mistakes and put an end to the curse that haunts her family once and for all. But what she doesn't plan is for Jeb, her best friend and secret crush, to get dragged along into this. As they enter Wonderland through the rabbit hole, they take on a journey to do something they didn't intend to, and become involved in a business that is not theirs--a business that, unless carried out successfully, will keep them in Wonderland forever.

What I liked about this book is its captivating spin of the original Wonderland story. As a member of this generation, I cannot help but know about the young Alice and her Wonderland. I believe I have seen a Disney film once when I was little, but I'm not sure; and I saw Tim Burton's film starring Johnny Depp the first week it came out in cinema (I enjoyed it but I didn't think it was that good). So yeah, I do know about it even though I've never actually read the book. Splintered still maintains some things from the original: Wonderland, the Caterpillar, Queen Red, White Rabbit or Rabid White, the Mad Hatter or Herman Hattington, and of course the Alice legend. But they're not entirely similar; Splintered takes an interestingly dark turn, paints Wonderland in a light that is anything but wonderful--a place full of monsters trying to either eat/kill you or use you.

In the latter category belongs Morpheus, a netherling moth (not sure what that is) who somehow grows up with Alyssa. Now, this is an interesting character. Words used to describe him depict him as a sexy, seductive and sensual being that draws Alyssa to him and influences her, rendering her unable to think straight. I think A.G. Howard did a really great job forming this character and choosing words that reinforce his personality, because man, is he hot *fans self*. I could feel his charms permeating the air even by just reading his dialogue, seriously. This is one of the characters who isn't always likeable but always enjoyable to read about. He's, in his own words, mysterious, rebellious, and troubled--"the qualities women find irresistible."

One of those women, besides myself, is Alyssa. I enjoyed it when she doesn't know how to feel around him. But I also liked Alyssa when Morpheus isn't around. Normally she's brave, smart and a little mad. A truly likeable protagonist. Girls that kick ass. Jeb is a delightful character as well. I found the IloveyoubutI'mwithhersoIcantakemymindoffofyou thing way too cliché, but I'll take it because Jeb is just so sweet and always says the right thing and and makes me swoon and everything. But in comparison to Morpheus, he unfortunately pales as a weaker and less interesting character.

On the whole I really liked this book. The writing is fantastic, the characters pleasant, and the story very entertaining. Quite action-packed, this book is a wonderful read. If I were in any position to judge, I would say that this is one interesting interpretation of Wonderland and a very well-done retelling of the classic, not to mention very well thought-out. It's thrilling, with plot twists here and there to keep things unpredictable and exciting. If you're already a fan of Lewis Carroll's book, you won't want to miss this! Or even if you're not, you won't want to miss this either!

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This review is also posted on Goodreads.
I received a digital copy from NetGalley and the publisher for review.
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