Saturday, August 17, 2013

Persy -- Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Y'all should be proud. Because even though I just spent my first night in a college dormroom and I've been way too busy the past few weeks to read a reviewable novel... I'm bringing you an ontime review. Shazam.
All Brittany wants to do her senior year is maintain the perfect life others see: the clothes, the grades, the cheerleader, the boyfriend. What they don't know is that Brittany struggles to take care of her autistic sister and deal with her distant parents.
But her first day goes ominously bad. She accidentally amost runs over Alex Fuentes, the toughest guy in school, and then finds out she has to be his partner in chemistry. Yikes.
Meanwhile, Alex is just trying to take care of his brothers and his mom and protect them from the gangs by being in one of the gangs. But when a bet is placed over Brittany's virginity, his world gets a little more complicated...
I was expecting to either hate the book and quit within the first five chapters or find a surprising new favorite. I did neither.

My first impression was that Simone Elkeles is trying pretty hard, and almost has really good writing. Instead, it's just pretty good. The best thing this book has going for it is that it's real easy to read quickly, so the 350 pages goes by in a breeze. If it didn't, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have finished the novel.

I'm not sure if this is supposed to be a retelling of Romeo and Juliet or not, but it basically is. So I might consider excusing the stupidity and hopelessness of Brittany, the heroine. She's kinda... boring and... silly and... impetuous, in a weird kind of way. I'm honestly not sure what her personality is supposed to be. Alex is a little better, but he's also very dramatic and I can't see why he's so in love with Brittany.
I personally like Alex and Shelley, but whatever.
And then Mrs. Peterson is really cool. In fact, she's probably my favorite character. But whatever.
Y'know what's really silly? The epilogue. I mean, I guess it's kind of cute in a weird kind of way, but it's also just... silly. Sorry.
Overall it's not a bad book, but I certainly wouldn't reread it and I don't think I'm even going to continue the series (the second book is about Alex's little brother and the love he finds in an unexpected place!).
You might like this if you: like shallow romance; like Romeo and Juliet; like high school romance; like forbidden romance; or if you yourself are shallow, in high school, and are involved in a forbidden romance.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Arty -- The Selection by Kiera Cass

Friends, readers, countrymen - I bring you a YA dystopian romance that doesn't completely suck.

I know, I know, le gasp.  This is not to say "GO OUT AND BUY THE SELECTION RIGHT NOW CUZ AWESOME!!!1!!" YMMV and I recommend a library read before committing.


Have a Goodreads summary:

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime.  The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth.  To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels.  To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare.  It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her.  Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want.  Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon.  Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself - and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

I don't actually know what's up with that last paragraph, because... there's nothing much like that in the book at all.  Maybe it's a series overview, I dunno.  But it makes America sound all dramatic when she's such a down-to-earth kind of person.

America is what made the book for me, mostly.  She has her Weepy Sensitive Heroine moments, and she can jump to some pretty drastic conclusions without a lot of evidence, but for the most part, she's a really friendly girl.  Her character is pretty consistent, and along with lovely consistency is likeableness.  It's really pretty dang fantastic.  The only thing that annoyed me was the constant "Oh boohoo I'm not pretty" when basically everyone else told her she was - why that needs to be a thing, I have no idea.

Also, MAXON.  Maxon is a sweetheart.  I don't think Cass was really comfortable writing him at first - he came on kind of stiff, and not just the kind of stiff she was going for - but as it went on, he became a teddy bear.  Impulsive and naive, but a teddy bear.  And, before the inevitable Love Triangle of Wangst broke in, he and America had the most. adorable. friendship.  YOU MEAN BOYS CAN BE FRIENDS WITH GIRLS WITHOUT THERE BEING ROMANTIC INTEREST AT FIRST SIGHT?

(We don't talk about Aspen.  Aspen is a testosterone-fueled child who needs to grow up a few years before getting into a serious romantic relationship.  Go away, Aspen, no one likes you.)

Plotwise, the Selection competition - thirty-five girls being gradually whittled away until Maxon chooses his bride - isn't as fierce as the blurb makes it out to be.  Only a few of the girls turn out to be conniving witches; it's even mentioned, a couple times at least, that the majority of the girls are close and don't want to intentionally sabotage the others' chances.  I liked that, since most YA likes to depict large crowds of girls evil queen bees with a few honored exceptions (aka, the protag and her one/two friends).  Maybe it made the plot less intense, but it was unexpected and there wasn't an overload of the author trying to come up with a load of different ways to tell us "MOST OF THESE GIRLS ARE EVIL."

The rebellion groups - nice, realistic touch, there being more than one rebellion group - weren't very intimidating except for one scene, mostly because the worldbuilding in The Selection is the very weakest part of this book. (It tends to be, I've noticed, in most new YA dystopian romance.)  There is the mystery of one group (I can't remember whether it was the Southern or the Northern group) trying to get inside the castle to steal something, but it was hardly a major plot point.

I can't talk about this book without going into massive hysteria about the last chapter, which should be entitled "In Which America does what Every Female in the Typical YA Love Triangle should Do but usually Doesn't."  No spoilers other than that, but it just made me really, really happy and put me firmly in the court of Team America.

Weak and cheesy writing - on an infrequent but consistent basis.  Not really that much conflict - yes.  Almost total lack of worldbuilding - yeah.  However, The Selection has a great MC, a great prince/friend/love interest, and genuine hope for an even more awesome sequel.  Definitely a recommend!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wednesday Scrolls -- RAMFAP Requiem AKA July Review

Last year, RAMFAP was quite a momentous occassion. I read so many books. Had so much fun. Not that I didn't have any fun this year either... 
For RAMFAP 2013, I read a total of 7 favorite books, with 1,612 pages read not counting an unpaged manga and an unpaged children's book. I actually read a total of 11 books in July, with 3,328 pages read, but not all of those were for RAMFAP. Honestly, I don't think I did too shabby considering all the stuff I've been busy with.
Here's my favorites book list from RAMFAP 2013:
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr, John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert
Generation Dead by Daniel Waters
Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Dragon Flight by Jessica Day George
Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce
Maid-Sama! Vol. 6 by Hiro Fujiwara
Night Gate by Isobelle Carmody
It's interesting to note that Night Gate is the only book that has been in both RAMFAP lists so far -- I tried to keep this year's priority list limited to the books I didn't get to last year, but Night Gate snuck to the top anyway.
How did y'all do, if y'all participated? I'm hoping for a good August!

Arty here.  Yes.  The Arty who hasn't written a review in ages.  COLLEGE, GUYS. *lame excuses*

For RAMFAP... I reread one book.  And it turns out I probably shouldn't have, because The Angel Experiment, the first book in the Maximum Ride series, was a lot better when I was thirteen than it is now.  I still really like the story, but... sorry, Max, you're just not one of my favorites anymore.  Except for maybe nostalgia.

I did get to read around thirteen other books - what can I say, July caught me when my to-read stacks were high and I had succumbed to multiple library temptation.  Some of them were pretty lame - the Supernatural tie-in novel, One Year Gone, was disappointing, as was Mortlock by Jon Mayhew (it had black page edges - black page edges!) - but some of them were pretty dang fantastic and destined to end up on the next RAMFAP list.  Such Wicked Intent, the second book in the Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein series by Kenneth Oppel, and Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection by Matt Dembicki are destined for my favorites shelf.

August is already looking pretty good - hope you all have similar prospects!