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Cuddlebuggery Book Blog

Humorous reviews of Young Adult, Middle Grade and Romance titles.

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Fault Line - Christa Desir Actual rating: 4.5 stars

Sometimes when I hear of professional critics or other authors looking down on the YA genre, I can't help but to shake my head and pity them. "The Young Adult genre is for kids!" they cry. "There's no depth!" they exclaim. And then I read a book like Fault Line and it's clear that those people have no idea what they're talking about. What other genre is able to connect so deeply with people of all ages? What other genre can push the limits as much as YA does and have us re-evaluate the way we see the world through the eyes our childhood we may have long moved past?

Fault Line is not an easy book to read. It's raw, gritty and dark, but it's important. It doesn't tell a new story or one we're unfamiliar with. It highlights a situation in a way that really forces the reader to address the effects of how our society has dealt with rape and how it continues to shape how we view the victim. For me, Fault Line really resonated and made me cry. This will be a book that lingers.

Ben meets Ani and is immediately smitten with her. Her blunt and straightforward personality is not something he's used to and causes him to keep on his toes. Much of the book's first half focuses on their romance and relationship. Their first date, awkward feelings, first kiss. It's sweet the way they fall for each other. You can tell they both care for each other deeply and it eventually develops into love. They're just normal teens, doing what normal teens do.

Unfortunately, all of this unravels after Ani attends a party Ben decides not to go to and the consequences of that night changes everyone. At the party, Ani is gang raped by a group of guys and left passed out with no recollection of the event of the night. In the aftermath, she is left broken, a former shell of the girl she used to be, unable to move past the traumatic experience.

Ben and Kate, the friend who was with her at the party, are guilt-ridden as they are plagued with the what-ifs and could-have-beens. Ben blames himself for not attending the party with Ani. Kate blames herself for not keeping a better eye on her best friend. And Ani. Ani blames herself and everyone, and in the process, losses her self-worth and identity.

This book was so incredibly written. Sure Fault Line could have been written from Ani's perspective, but it would have lost Ben's obsession with fixing Ani, his horror of seeing is girlfriend self-destruct and the domino effect it had on his own life and family relationships. His narration is not always comfortable as he says things or does things that he doesn't mean. However, it was so realistic because he's just a kid, trying desperately to protect and help heal Ani.

Ani and Ben's character development is not going to work for everyone. There's no doubt that her and Ben's life spirals out of control. Ani, who was once the talented artist and jewelry creator, barely smiles and suffers from Rape Trauma Syndrome. Ben, who has the promising future as swimmer and a potential scholarship, can no longer muster up the motivation to get in a pool and becomes obsessed. These characters do develop, just in the most heartbreaking way possible.

It's going to confuse some readers and anger others. But it's also going to raise important questions on victim-blaming, a central theme of the novel. Who is to blame for Ani's attack? Is it Ben for not going to the party? Kate for not protecting her friend when she thought something was wrong? Or is Ani the one to blame for consuming alcohol? For making out with guys, table dancing, announcing to the crowd she would hook-up with the guys? Did all those things make her rapable?

These questions don't surprise me and they do show up in one form of another from Ben, Ani herself and the student body. But they are only a distraction from the real issue, because victim-blaming serves only one purpose: it takes the blame away from the one person who deserves it the most, the rapist.
"I heard one of them say something to his friend like 'We're gonna love this ride' when he was going upstairs with her."

This is, unfortunately, how our society works. All one has to do is look at the most recent rape cases in the media. Just think about what happened with the Steubenville, Ohio rape case. The victim-blaming was astounding. "Oh, she was drunk. She doesn't even remember, how does she know she was raped. She was asking for it. She agreed to it." Ani's situation isn't so different.

I think about this book and then I think about all the other women out there whose story I don't know or hadn't heard because she was too afraid or chose not to speak up or the attack was covered up. As a community and society, we generally suck when it comes to crimes against women and seeking justice for victims.
"Although the police are investigating the party, chances are, they won't pursue it."

Instead, we reason it away: Maybe she was confused. She was drunk. She probably wanted it.
"Could've been roofies, though. I've seen chicks act like that when they're buzzing on Special K. There was a bunch of E going around at the party too."

"Ani, it's still considered rape if you weren't fully conscious. You didn't really make those decisions. You have to be sober to consent."

And make excuses: Maybe she had a history of doing what she did? Maybe she was just "one of those girls."
"I'm not really a jump-in-the-sack-after-the-first-month kind of girl."

Blame other parties: Maybe it's just how she was raised. Probably a broken family or the parents weren't involved in her life.
"When you asked me to have sex with you, I thought I should get her opinion on the whole thing. I knew I wanted to, but we'd only been going out for like a month and sometimes my judgement gets a little skewed by your sexy baldness."

"I figured my mom might help me see through all the hormone drama so I could look at things rationally."

Sympathize with the rapist: But the guys who were with her were equally drunk! They didn't know what they were doing because they were wasted, too.
"Yeah, a couple of guys came down talking about the show. They were the ones who called her the hot little Manhole."

(Interesting how they were sober enough to remember it, tell their friends and brag.)

But again, why do those things even matter? How are saying any of these things better than Todd Akin's "Legitimate Rape" comment? It isn't. But this is how things are. This is how society deals with rape cases in the media. We feel like we just don't know enough to call it rape. And while we sit around in our comfortable, familiar skins debating an incident we were miles and worlds away from, victims and their families suffer. This is the reality.

But Fault Line is not a grandiose mystery novel where the main character sets out to discover the truth of that night. Its focus is on how Ben and Ani cope in the aftermath of her attack. It's about a victim struggling to reclaim her herself. It's about feeling powerless with helping the person you love, watching how one situation ruins a person to the point where they aren't the same anymore and might never be again. What do you do? Run away? Tell someone the secret that's not yours to tell? Stand by that person when it seems they don't even want you around anymore? There are no easy answers.

I should warn readers that this book does not have a happy ending. In fact, some will find it very unsatisfying because of its openness. However, I found it very realistic. The road to Ani's recovery would most likely be hard and long and the novel ends with her at her worst. I'd like to think she eventually gets better, but that doesn't always happen in situations like this.

If I have one negative thing to say, it's on the prologue. It didn't think it was necessary and detracted from the final scene in the novel. I know some have complained that the lighter was added for shock value, but I didn't feel that. Foreign objects used in gang rape is, unfortunately, not uncommon.

To conclude:

This is going to be The Book That Divides. Personal views and experiences are bound to play a factor in how each reader receives Fault Line. Some people are going to love Ani, while others will hate her. Some may question the incident, while others will strongly connect with it. Some are going to question Ben's actions, while others applaud. Either way, Desir has us talking and with a topic that is so very misunderstood, that's never a bad thing.

Highly recommended for older teens and joint reading for younger teens with their parents.

ARC was received via Edelweiss from the publisher. Thank you!

More reviews and other fantastical things at Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.
Turnabout - Carrie Ryan Oh, Carrie, what have we here? Something else to haunt my dreams? You know I can't resist.
Unteachable - Leah Raeder Oh wow. This book, guys!

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Full review to come...
Sia - Josh Grayson DNF at 54%.

Short review to come.
Once We Were - Kat Zhang
Whenever I look at What's Left of Me and Once We Were's covers, I can't help but to think that the cover artist truly gets this series and how clever he/she is.  This always gets me excited because I love seeing the cover actually mean something to the book. As much as I love pretty dresses, it's the depth and complexity that I really crave. It's the kind of cover that you don't quite understand just by looking at it, but as you start reading, pieces of the puzzle fall into place. If What's Left of Me's cover shows Eve, the recessive soul, struggling to find her voice and strength, then Once We Were depicts two souls (the outlines of the face), two distinct personalities, searching for their own identities. But how independent can you be from someone who you share a body with?  Someone who has a different set of hopes, dreams and goals? And what if you were the recessive, finally in charge of some of the bigger decisions? How do you cope with the newfound responsibility? And what if you screw up?

"Maybe I really had been meant to fade away."


In Once We Were Addie and Eva are presented with something they'd never thought were possible: the ability to "go under", where one soul would purposefully fall into an unconscious slumber to allow the other privacy. This works out well for relationship purposes, allowing Eva and Ryan some much needed alone time (because, yikes!, talk about awkward when you're trying to make-out with your boyfriend), but it also allowed something Addie and Eva never really encountered before, keeping secrets. And unfortunately, those very secrets continued to push them further and further away from each other.

And unlike in What's Left of Me, I found myself growing increasingly more frustrated with Eva as she and Addie continued to go in different directions. Their chemistry, bond and fierce determination for one another was what made it easy to connect with their story. But this time around Eva, who now gets a taste of freedom, becomes very wrapped up in the plans for a revolution that she forgets to pay attention to Addie. It's interesting how the two have switched roles in that regard and how it's Addie who begins to take more of a backseat. It's also interesting how different they really are and how little I realized this in book one.

“But the thing is, sharing hands doesn't mean sharing goals. Sharing eyes doesn't mean sharing visions. And sharing a heart doesn't mean sharing the things we love.”


I'll admit, it was difficult for me to connect with Eva due to the decisions she made and risks she took. However, Once We Were was Eva's time to find out who she is, and in that search, mistakes were to be expected. My biggest issue was the fact that she continued putting not only herself and her sister in danger, but the people who rescued her and her friends as well.

As soon as an opportunity arrived for Eva to be apart of something big where she could help change the system, she stopped thinking things through, started keep secrets, lying to those who cared about her, agreeing to compromising situations that put her sister at risk. At times, I started having conversations in my mind with Eva, going all Uncle Ben on her: "With great power, comes great responsibility." Yada, yada, yada. But I had to keep reminding myself that this is a character who isn't used to making such HUGE decisions. The redeeming factor is that she does recognize how terribly she's been to her sister and to others. She does try and fix her mistake at great sacrifice to her own person. So, Eva is far from being a terrible character, but Once We Were does show her flaws more, and sometimes at a more frustrating degree.

As expected, Kat Zhang's writing is beautiful, fluid and mesmerizing. It was one of the things that caused me to fall in love with What's Left of Me and I was so happy to see that continue here. This time around we were also treated to some sections of prose that's written in verse to show the passage of time when Eva "goes under." During that time the verses had a whimsical quality, that made me think of

floating


in a pool


hot summer day


smiling faces


relaxing in the sun


bliss


Still, Once We Were didn't capture my attention the same way What's Left of Me did, and I did struggle a little to get hooked. Thankfully, the last third does pick up, but I was disappointed to have waited so long for it to do so.

What I was really curious for was more world building. I wanted to know how the rest of the world views hybrids, and since Eva and Addie's knowledge is limited, so is the reader's. This time around there we have a new character named Henri from central Africa who's able to give us a small glimpse at how the other nations few the Americas. However, their conversations are few and far between and I would have loved to know more about the other countries' views on hybrids. I'm hoping that'll be discussed more in book 3.

Final thought: Once We Were mainly focuses on Eva and Addie as individuals instead of just one person. They spend more time apart, losing the connection I had with them from What's Left of Me. But I do think this experience has really brought them closer and has set the stage for the final book in the series. With so many questions remaining unanswered, I'm eager to find out what happens next!

Win an ARC HERE. Ends 9/18.

Disclaimer: I picked up an ARC at Book Expo America 2013. 

More reviews and other fantastical things at Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.
Cute & Cuter - Michael  Townsend Let's see if I can write this review without calling this book ridiculously cute!

Janie Jane is one lucky little girl who gets puppy one day on her birthday, Sir Yips-a-lot. The two are a happier than two pigs in a blanket and are inseparable until Janie Jane's birthday rolls around again and she's given a kitty as a present, Lady Meow-Meow. Janie Jane's attention begins to shift from her first pet to the newest. Lady Meow-Meow is the "shiny new toy" and Sir Yips-a-lot stars feeling the beginnings of jealousy.

My kids and I really enjoyed this book. The artwork was in comic book style, sometimes with arrows showing the sequence of pictures. It made it easier for my kids to follow along and understand the story. Not to mention the illustrations were just SO CUTE! :D

I also loved the message and believe Cute & Cuter would be the perfect book to read to a child expecting a new sibling who may feel left out during the adjustment period of an expanding family. It would be a great opportunity for a child to open up about their feelings and for the child to be reassured that he/she is not forgotten.

The only downside to Cute & Cuter is that now my daughter seems to think she's owed a puppy, kitty and an octopus. I blame Janie's parents for buying so many cool presents!

Finished copy was received from the publisher via YABC/Kids Books Central. Thanks!
The Liberator - Victoria Scott Actual rating: 3.5

I can always count of Victoria Scott to bring a smile to my face. Review to come.
The Bone Season  - Samantha Shannon Actual rating: 3.5 stars

The Bone Season is easily the most hyped book of 2013, surpassing even the conclusion of the Divergent series, Allegiant. As the first in a seven book series, it's already been optioned for a movie and did appear on the New York Times Bestsellers list its debut week. But when I heard the magical words "the next J.K. Rowling" my interest, along with many, was instantly piqued due to my severe lack of will-power. But like any book surrounded by a massive amount of hype, there's concern that it won't live up to it. And, in my opinion, The Bone Season both did and did not, leaving me very conflicted at its conclusion. For every one thing I loved about it, the yin wasn't far behind.

It's clear that The Bone Season's strength lies with the world building. As frustrating as it is fascinating, London 2059, under Scion rule, was one imaginative place that kept me in a state of awe over such creativity of all the intricate layers to Paige's world. In fact, it's so imaginative and complex that the first few chapters show the novel's biggest flaw: info-dumping. (Though, this didn't bother me too much in my reading experience, I can see it being an issue for others who may have less patience. My advice to anyone who struggles with the beginning is to power through because the ending does not disappoint.) Learning the workings of the underground crime syndicate, remembering the order of clairvoyance and their abilities, understanding what Paige herself can actually do as a dreamwalker, a rare type of clairvoyance, is a lot to take in, and doesn't really get easier as the novel goes on. That coupled with the novel's slang and the constant addition of other explanations, was enough to make my head spin. But there is more, of course, when Paige is captured, adding another layer of complexity and another set of rules the reader has to learn... all within the first 40% of the book. Then, there's a chart of the order of clairvoyance, a map of London, a map of Oxford, a glossary for the slang, fancy words I don't use and bloody Roman Numerals!

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Suffice to say, reading The Bone Season is not for the faint of heart and, at times, was a bit of a chore to keep up with.

Do not get me wrong, this is not necessarily bad thing at all. It's not everyday I read a book with the level of depth as The Lumatere Chronicles, Star Wars, Harry Potter or possibly even, Lord of the Rings. Shannon's imagination was definitely working overtime with The Bone Season. But unlike the aforementioned works, I'm not sure it possesses the same level of fines to tie it all together. It holds enough intrigue to keep you reading and "your wheels a'turnin'," because even when I wasn't reading, I was thinking about the book and what would happen next (and even after finishing it, I'm still thinking about the ending!). That's not something I can say for most books.

One thing I did really love were the characters. Paige was the perfect kind of heroine for me, neither badass nor weak, leaving her with room to grow as a character, but not possessing a few of the more annoying traits of other main characters. She's smart, but still makes a few careless mistakes, giving her a more realistic feel. She's someone I could sympathize with and understand. I also think the members of the Seven Seals, Paige's gang, were very well-developed. Though, they don't have larger roles in the novel until the end, through Paige's dreams we learn about each of their personalities and whims. Unfortunately, I didn't quite feel that way about Warden, a big player in The Bone Season and Paige's Keeper at Oxford. Throughout most of the novel, Paige attempts to figure out Warden's secrets and plans, but even at the conclusion, I don't feel like a have a firm grasp on his motives.

The plot was slowly paced and may frustrate some readers, but I found it worked well in this situation and helped build the anticipation for the growing rebellion at the ending. My only qualm is that the book reads long (at 480 pages, with smaller print and long pages, I guess that explains it). And with so many things happening and so many new things being thrown at the reader constantly, you really have to pay attention to everything. This may seem like a lot of work to read a book, but it does suck you in fairly quickly and is so very addictive. I didn't like being away from this book for long and was always hungry for the next chapter. It was also never boring despite the slower pace, and by the end, it's pretty much non-stop action. The amount of detail and care that went into arranging everything was evident and impressed me. And the ending. It was pretty damn brilliant and the best part of the novel. When Shannon hit her stride, things definitely came together nicely.

I do have three personal issues, which I'll hide in spoiler brackets are below, but just know that it never really detracted from my reading experience.

1. I'm not really sure how I feel about the romance in The Bone Season. This book already had a lot going on that I feel it was unnecessary. Not to mention, its believability. I couldn't suspend belief long enough to accept that two characters, who didn't trust each other (one of which hated the other for about 75% of the book), could then have all these strong feelings for one another out of nowhere. It was apparent that this was supposed to be building, but I never really got a good sense of that, especially since one of the characters' personality consisted of him being devoid of emotion. So much time was spent on explaining the world and the rebellion plans and not on the couple's growing feelings, that it didn't feel organic. Instead, it felt as if it just manifested to add an extra layer of complexity, something that this novel did not require.

2. I waited until the end of the novel, hoping my one biggest question would be answered and it never was. Why in the world did Nashira keep the Scarred Ones alive after the first rebellion? What was the purpose in that? And more importantly, why give one of them the important role of Blood-Consort? I really hope this is addressed in the next novel because it bothered me to no end. Or perhaps this was explained and I simply missed it. o.O

3. Paige always seemed to be shivering. I don't know why this bothered me, but I really wanted to buy the girl sweater. I hope she finds one in book 2.


To conclude, The Bone Season is a very imaginative novel that will take your brain for one hell of a joy ride. If you've been searching for book with more complex world building and plot, this may be it. I can see this being enjoyed by YA lovers and Adult readers alike with its strong paranormal-fantasy-dystopian roots.  Despite my reservations, I can safely say I'll be checking out the next book because this has the potential to be one serious kickass series. And with the high stakes ending The Bone Season had, I look forward to seeing where Shannon will take this story over the course of the next six books.


Disclaimers: ARC was provided by the publisher for an honest review. Thank you! I have also met this author and think she's a lovely person. I promise her loveliness did not sway my thoughts in this review. Pinky swear!

Win an ARC HERE. Ends 9/12.

More reviews and other fantastical things at Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.
On The Fence - Kasie West I must have this.
Snakeroot: A Nightshade Novel - Andrea Cremer I'm going to give Cremer another shot even though I was supremely disappointed with [b:Wolfsbane|7263429|Wolfsbane (Nightshade, #2)|Andrea Cremer|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1323140262s/7263429.jpg|8342392].
3:59 - Gretchen McNeil
Actual rating: 1.5 stars

One of the biggest reasons for me wanting to read 3:59 was because it took place in a location very familiar to me. Like many other readers, when I hear about a book that's set in my state or near my hometown, I feel this incessant need to read it by any means necessary. Unfortunately, 3:59 proved to be one big fat disappointment.

The book follows science wiz Josie Bryne who starts having dreams at 3:59 of a girl who looks just like her. As her own life begins to fall apart around her (she finds her boyfriend and best friend sleeping together, her parents divorce and she loses her job), she desperately wants the life she catches glimpses of when she sleeps. The girl Jo seems to have everything Josie wants: A perfect boyfriend, happily married parents and a perfect life. But when she finally gets the opportunity to cross over to Jo's world, she learns things are far from perfect.

This sounded like such an interesting concept with it being pitched as Parent Trap meets Event Horizon. I don't even know what Event Horizon is (Okay, so Kat says it's a really scary horror movie. 3:59 is neither of those things.), but Parent Trap (the one with Lindsay Lohan before her life took a decided turn for the worse) is one of my all-time favorite movies. Throw in some sci-fi alternate universe action and I'm totally there. Sadly, 3:59 bares no resemblance to Parent Trap at all and I really need for Harper to stop this whole "Awesome movie/book/concept" meets "Even more Awesome movie/book/concept" thing that they do. Frankly, they are usually so far off and misleading. It's like they're overcompensating for their novels. And let me tell you, there was some serious overcompensating going on for 3:59.

The Writing Style:
So I took 3:59 with me one afternoon while I journeyed on the metro to my favorite children's book store. I read exactly 5 pages and had a sinking suspicion that this book was not going to be my thang. The writing style immediately had a very choppy weird feeling that never felt natural or smooth even as the novel progressed. There were inner monologues from the narrator found in between each section of dialogue, making the exchange seem very long. Someone would say something to Josie and then there'd be a paragraph monologue about what she was thinking or a bit of info-dumping. I couldn't help but to wonder what Josie would be doing in these time spans instead of answering the character's question. Was she staring at them while her brain worked to keep up with her mouth? Perhaps.

Flat Characters:
I don't think there is a single character in this book that I liked or saw growth from. Everyone remained exactly the same from beginning to end. The narrator tells us that Josie had changed, that she was smarter and stronger, but I never got a sense of any of that. Each character had one trait that they encompassed and that's basically what they were for the entire novel.

The Plot:
3:59 relies heavily on science to explain why things are the way they are. It's supposed to be clearly logical. Josie and her friend, Penelope, are supposed to appear smart. And I do appreciate McNeil having intelligent female protagonists solving the mystery. My problem was that since the science behind the book was so very complex, I had an extremely hard time seeing a high school student (or several of them!) knowing that much at such a young age. Is everyone a physics prodigy and able to keep up with all those formulas? Josie just happens to know more physics than her teachers?

But, okay. Maybe I could get behind this idea if all the science jargon didn't create so many opportunities to info dump. Let's be honest, hardly any readers will know what Josie knows. So whenever Josie and Penelope went off of their science talk, there was conveniently another character in the room asking for the For Dummies version. Look, I am not the kind of reader who is easily impressed with an author's ability to recite Big Science Words. So I need to be able to see some type of explanation, and I never really got that. Instead, I got more questions: Where did the mirror in Jo's room come from despite Josie never having one in her room until she moved it there? Why did Josie only start having the dreams recently even though the connection to both worlds had been open for 6 months?

Then we move on to the actual logical fails 3:59 was filled with. There's this part in the book where Josie and Nick go on a tour of Fort Meade (a highly guarded military facility that houses different government divisions like NSA) where they are given a tour by one of the Directors. Somehow, Josie convinces the Director (because he's attracted to her) to give them a tour of a floor they have no business being on. Somehow, conveniently the halls are deserted. That is so inaccurate, I can't even. Then she conveniently leaves her purse on that floor in the bathroom only to later bat her eyelashes at the Director for his access card so she can retrieve it alone. I understand that this is fiction, but Josie was given way too many free passes in this novel. I don't care if she batted her eyelashes so hard that her eyes got stuck in a permanent twitch, there is no way someone is handing over their security badge at the Fort. And there is no way she would make it back up to that same off-limits floor with no one stopping her. You can't just walk around the Fort unescorted. It doesn't happen for security reasons. Where was the research done here?

But I get it. Sometimes you just have to go with it when it comes to some books (hard as that is for me most times). This book was supposed to be built around scientific logic, so I expected basic common sense rules to be applied in other aspects as well. Clearly, I was asking too much because later in the book, Josie just thinks to ask her father (in the alternate universe) to steal a government laser from Fort Meade. The exchange went ridiculously something like this:

"Hey, daddy? Can you steal that government laser for the highly guarded military facility? I need it. I love you so much! xoxoxo!"

"Anything for you, princess! Shall I pick you up some Burger King on the way out the Fort?"

Are you kidding? For Josie to be so smart, I am actually surprised she thought this was legit a possibility even after her real mother specifically told her to trust no one.

Then, right after a character is brutally eaten to death by the nox (creatures that haunt the alternate universe and eat people) right in front of Josie and Nick, these fools start making out right there. Things get hot and heavy, Josie has a moment when she realizes she's in love and she reaches up and grabs the dude's severed ankle.

"OMG, I freakin' love this guy I'm making out with!"

"This is so hot."

"Oh, shit. Is that a foot? Gah! How did this body get here?!"

"Oh, right. He just died."

Gag me, please.

It was there 3:59 and I had a strange turn of events. The book went from giving me a lot of these moments:

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To where I could barely suppress a laugh:

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Honestly, though, I was still being entertained... just not in the way the author probably intended it.

Insta-Love:
So as if this couldn't get any worse, this happens:
She'd never felt this way with her ex-boyfriend. This was something different. Something deeper. Even though they had only known each other a few days, Nick knew her better than anyone else, and loved her even more because of it. - Quoted from 3:59 ARC, page 348.

Sure, sure. She's in love with this guy even though they've had maybe a handful of conversations (all of them related to the plot and had nothing to do with actually finding out things about each other), one of which was sparked by him pointing a gun at her. Boyfriend of the year!

I never once felt the connection between the two. They were these character stuck in this situation and randomly, romance was thrown in because, hey, every YA book has to have its romance. (Obviously, that was sarcasm.) But in the end, the romance didn't add anything extra to the reading experience and felt contrived and forced.

Predictability:
However, I might have even forgiven all of that if only the entire mystery hadn't been so predictable. I know 3:59 is being pitched as a sci-fi thriller, but I never once felt the urgency because things were so painfully obvious. I knew who the bad guy was, what happened to her parents, who was attacking the humans, etc. Josie is depicted as a really smart protagonist, but again, spouting off science words is not enough if the reader is two steps ahead of your detective. The really sad part is that the mystery wasn't bad at all, but really lacked better foreshadowing and a much tighter plot. If I've already figured out the mystery by 50%, there's really no reason for me to stick around.

Not only was the plot predictable, but the character actions. And this is where I feel good old fashion character growth would have helped. Josie, as trusting and sweet as she was depicted, was, frankly, TSTL. I don't think this was intentional, but when you keep telling the reader how smart your character is, but they continually do really dumb things, it rarely works for me.

To Conclude:
In the end, 3:59 didn't live up to my expectations. Had the plot and mystery been tighter, the characters better developed and the romance cleaned up, I would have probably really loved this one. Would I recommend this? My first reaction is, "Eh, no." But I do think if the above doesn't bother you much in novels, you may enjoy this one. I would, instead, strongly recommend checking out a sample to see if the writing style works for you and then abandoning all sense of logic at page one.

1 star because it's not the worst book I've read

.5 star for somehow keeping me entertained despite my frustrations

 

ARC was received from the publisher via Young Adult Books Central.

More reviews and other fantastical things at Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.
My Mom Is the Best Circus - Luciana Navarro Powell Would you believe me if I said this book tells the story of my life? It totally does, and because of this, I feel I have a special appreciation for this short, yet funny little book. The artwork is very colorful and really does a great job at encompassing all the duties motherhood has to offer.

What I really loved was the fact that the mom manages to take care of all her responsibilities at home with her kids, at work and her children (who narrate) understand that. Through the kids' narration, you get a sense of wonder and fascination from their over all the amazing things their mom can do everyday and how they interpret it. When their mom does the laundry, they see this as her taming ferocious beasts. While their mom makes them breakfast, they see this as her being a maestro. And their mom manages to do all this and more... in heels (or stilts to them)! You can really feel the admiration the kids have for their mother.

This book features hard pages, which is awesome for those with younger children, like myself, who love to put any and everything in their mouths, from flip flops to books. It makes for easier page-turning for the tots. I always love these books best simply for their durability, knowing they have a better chance of survival against the whim of my children.

I'd recommend this one for moms with kids ages 0-5 or even early readers since it is features fairly simple words and is short.

5 Year-Old Thoughts: "Awesome book!"

And there you have it from the mouth of a babe. Awesome book.
Chick-o-Saurus Rex - Lenore Jennewein, Daniel Jennewein
Review to come.
Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonists - Chris Duffy, Bobby London, Joseph Lambert, Raina Telgemeier, Charise Mericle Harper, Graham Annable, Jillian Tamaki, Karl Kerschl, David Mazzucchelli, Craig Thompson, Emily Carroll, Gilbert Hernández, Vanessa Davis, Gigi D.G., Ramona Fradon, Jamie Hernandez, Luke Pearson
Review to come.
Gated - Amy Christine Parker One of the best possible ways to read a book is to go in blind, having no clue what it's about. If you do, the plot twists are even more shocking, the revelations are unexpected and everything completely blind-sides you. It's a perfect literary ride. In this case, I read Gated's blurb and had a good idea what it was about, or, at least, I thought I did. Before I started reading this book, I actually thought it was a dystopian novel. The blurb immediately struck me as a story featuring a corrupt society and a girl trying to break free. In this case, I was only partially right because this novel is about a girl trying to escape a corrupt society, but in Gated, her small community is being controlled by a sociopathic cult leader. Intriguing? You can bet on it.

Gated builds its anticipation slowly, introducing us to the protagonist, Lyla, whose family, in the wake of 9/11, suffers a tragedy leaving them broken and emotionally vulnerable to the charismatic Pioneer. He seemingly has nothing but the family's best interest at heart when he suggests Lyla's family, and a few other families undergoing other hardships, move to the middle of nowhere, Mandrodage Meadows, to escape the evils of the world. Pioneer tells them they have all been chosen by the Brethren (deities that only communicate with Pioneer) to survive the coming destruction of the earth happening in only a few months from the start of the novel. In the Community, Pioneer runs a tight ship never allowing any contact with the outside world except for a few supply runs done in the nearby town. There's no TV, internet, newspapers or magazines allowed for fear of corruption of the outside world. Pioneer exerts full control over all parts of their lives right down to pairing their children off for marriage.

Reading Lyla narrate the novel with such confidence in Pioneer is a mixture of downright disturbance and horror. Parker cleverly captured Lyla's fear, naiveté and ignorance perfectly, while at the same time crafting a villain that is so hard to pinpoint. What are his motives? Does he really care about their well fair? Or, how did one man manage to convince a group of intelligent, rich families to abandon everything and move out in the middle of nowhere? It was all very fascinating to watch unfold. But it was even more interesting to see Lyla slowly uncover the truth by way of her relationship with the outsider Cody. I couldn't help but feel incredibly sorry that her entire world was a lie. She's not a character that you would consider badass or weak, but rather, one who learns to adapt to her situation as it changes. In this sense, Parker did an excellent job with her character growth.

The one piece of criticism I would have would be Cody's character. I really enjoyed the romance between him and Lyla. It doesn't consume the plot like other novels and Lyla doesn't lose her head as soon as she meets him. What their encounter does bring is the one thing Pioneer has been desperate to keep out of the Community: Doubt.  She's confused over her feelings for Cody when she has only brotherly affection for her Intended, Will. Cody was never a bad character and I didn't dislike him, but as his role in the novel grew, I never felt I got a good handle on who he really was. Instead, he felt more like Lyla's way out of the Community verses a legit contender for her affections.

The one thing that I really appreciated and loved about Gated was how each chapter started with a quote that hinted at Pioneer's psyche. In the beginning, most chapters featured one from either a religious text like the Bible or from Pioneer himself. Seeing the correlation of his words and the religious quotes really sent chills up my spine because, at first, he doesn't seem dangerous and you can see how it could be so easy for someone to follow someone like him. But as we get further into the story where Pioneer's behavior becomes more and more erratic, the quotes become increasingly alarming in context. We start to see Pioneer's true nature through the quotes from Charles Manson and Jim Jones. From there, the novel steps into full-on suspense mode, making it incredibly difficult to put down.

The ending wraps everything up in a very satisfying manner for a standalone book. While, most of the loose ends are tied up, it does still leave you with a few questions. I still wonder if Pioneer himself was initially responsible for the tragedies that brought all of the families to Mandrodage Meadows in the first place. Did he emotionally break those families only to put them back together truly broken, some beyond fixing? It's a chilling thought.

All in all, Gated is a pretty fantastic debut that has easily made its way to my favorites of 2013 shelf. This is a novel that I'd highly recommend readers who are into psychological thrillers and/or cult novels. If you do embark on this page-turner, be sure to carve out plenty of time to finish the second half in one sitting!

ARC was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

More reviews and other fantastical things at Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.
Starglass - Phoebe North
Loved the ending. Review to come.