Category Archives: Four Star

Book Review + Giveaway: Arise


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AriseArise
By Tara Hudson
June 5, 2012
HarperTeen
Reviewed: ARC from publisher
Author’s Website
Hardcover | Kindle

Amelia—still caught between life and death—must fight for every moment of her relationship with the human boy Joshua. They can hardly even kiss without Amelia accidentally dematerializing. Looking for answers, they go to visit some of Joshua’s Seer relatives in New Orleans. But even in a city so famously steeped in the supernatural, Amelia ends up with more questions than answers…and becomes increasingly convinced that she and Joshua can never have a future together.Wandering through the French Quarter, Amelia meets other in-between ghosts, and begins to seriously consider joining them. And then she meets Gabrielle. Somehow, against impossible odds, Gaby has found a way to live a sort of half-life…a half-life for which Amelia would pay any price. Torn between two worlds, Amelia must choose carefully, before the evil spirits of the netherworld choose for her.

JENNA’S REVIEW:

Fans of Hereafter will find even more to love with ARISE, the second installment in Tara Hudson’s deathly romantic series. But be prepared, all is not well with Amelia in this chapter.

The story starts off with Amelia, Joshua and his family heading to New Orleans for Christmas vacation. After an unfortunate encounter with demons who apparently want to take Amelia by any means necessary (even to the point of hurting those she loves) Amelia is left thinking that she is a danger if she sticks around Joshua. Much of the plot is centered around the decision: Should she stay, or should she go? When it came to how she addressed this question, I personally thought that Amelia acted selfishly, which hurt her “likability factor” in my book. I also am not a fan of the “martyr complex” when they crop up in YA reads.

New characters are introduced in the book, as we meet Joshua’s family in New Orleans. No single character really pops out to me as being unique or overly interesting, since fairly little time is actually spent with the family. Joshua’s grandmother, Ruth, pops up, albeit a lot less than you would expect. Instead, the new character we learn most about is Gabrielle (or Gaby). Gaby throws the biggest wrench ever into the story, one that definitely packs a punch when it comes to the direction that this series is taking us.  While I saw it coming as to who we could and could not trust in this book, this knowledge didn’t dampen my excitement when things actually did pick up. And in the end things “picked up” quite a bit indeed. As far as the pacing goes, while I wish that the first half could have been sped up a bit, the end was totally worth it. Amelia even redeemed herself a bit in my eyes once she got some sense (and a whole lot more than that) knocked into her.

I have high hopes for whatever the future brings for the leading couple in this series. I look forward to whatever Tara has in store for us in the third, and final, installment. If you like romantic ghost stories, you really must check out Hereafter and ARISE by Tara Hudson.

Plot: 8 (the tension is high in this one, but involved too much angst for a large part of the plot)
Characters: 7 (Amelia’s angst ruled the show early on, friendships were forged a bit too quickly)
Setting: 10 (New Orleans graveyards anyone? Yes, please!)
Pacing: 8 (the first half could have been cut down a bit, the second half was exceptional)
Style: 8 (Tara is a master of romantic love scenes, her ghostly creativity is superb)

Grade: 91

How about a giveaway?

Win an ARC of ARISE by Tara Hudson!

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Ends at midnight on Tuesday, June 12, 2012.

Book Review: Dreamless

DreamlessDreamless
By Josephine Angelini
May 29, 2012
HarperTeen
Reviewed: ARC from publisher
Author’s Website
Hardcover | Kindle

Can true love be forgotten?

As the only Scion who can descend into the Underworld, Helen Hamilton has been given a nearly impossible task. By night she wanders through Hades, trying to stop the endless cycle of revenge that has cursed her family. By day she struggles to overcome the fatigue that is rapidly eroding her sanity. Without Lucas by her side, Helen is not sure she has the strength to go on.

Just as Helen is pushed to her breaking point, a mysterious new Scion comes to her rescue. Funny and brave, Orion shields her from the dangers of the Underworld. But time is running out—a ruthless foe plots against them, and the Furies’ cry for blood is growing louder.

As the ancient Greek world collides with the mortal one, Helen’s sheltered life on Nantucket descends into chaos. But the hardest task of all will be forgetting Lucas Delos.

JENNA’S REVIEW:

Was DREAMLESS, the follow up to the stellar story about Greek mythology and STARCROSSED lovers, Helen and Lucas, everything I’d hoped it would be? In many ways, yes, but in others, no. While an enjoyable read, especially when it comes to the mythological aspects of the book, Dreamless still fell slightly below my own expectations. This is not necessarily a bad thing for other readers, though, and let me tell you why…

Dreamless picks up right where Starcrossed ended. Helen, the only Scion who can enter the Underworld, embarks on a seemingly endless mission that leads her to the Underworld, night after night, in an attempt to stop the Furies who control the lives of all the Scions on Earth. In addition, she is dealing with the tragic news that was revealed to her and Lucas about their “relationship” in the previous novel. Little explanation is given as to the existing plot and the events of the previous book, so unless your memory is impeccable, the average reader may feel a bit “lost” for the first few chapters. Luckily, most of the story will come back to you after a few trips to the Underworld. The pace is almost frantic in nature, as one story-changing event occurs after another. So hold onto your horses, readers, you’re in for a fairly eventful ride.

It’s not long before new characters are introduced into the story, both Scion and God, or God-like. We meet the new “wrench” in the love story fairly early on in the book. As one who hates (hates hates hates) the love triangle “plot device”, there was one character who ruined my overall reading experience with Dreamless. That one character was ORION. I literally growled when he came onto the scene. I wanted the true and faithful love between Helen and Lucas to be left untouched. But of course he had to come along to mess things up. I wanted to hate him. And until I got to know him better, I certainly did hate him – with a vengeance. But for some reason he grew on me, and eventually I became just as confused as Helen. I wanted to love Lucas only. Sadly, there isn’t enough Lucas in this installment to make that possible. Plus, Josephine makes Orion such a likeable character, you can’t help but think, “Hey, here’s a guy who could make Helen happy, too.” I did not want to think that, and as a result, Dreamless was not the completely enjoyable read that I wanted it to be. That stupid “revelation” that came about in book one REALLY messes things up for our characters in book two. It also opens up the door to “other options” for Helen. It’s aggravating.

But that leads me to discuss Josephine’s writing style. She is obviously a master at evoking certain emotions in her readers. I am so insanely conflicted inside about the characters in this book that I feel like I absolutely must read the final chapter and as soon as possible, just to ease my current pain. On a higher note, her setting and the way she uses ancient mythology in her story are all very well done. I believed in her Underworld, I appreciated (and perhaps fell in love with) a few of her gods (especially Morpheus, god of the “dream world”).

For the mythology alone, DREAMLESS deserves a 5-star rating, but sadly, since my personal reading experience was dampened by the love aspects of the story, I must drag my rating down a notch. Hopefully things are pulled back “on course” in the final installment. It’s thrilling to try and guess how this one will end.

Plot: 8 (two points removed for the love triangle)
Characters: 7 (three points removed, two for the triangle and one for the lack of Lucas)
Setting: 10 (superb mythology and descriptions of the Underworld and Helen’s “dreams”)
Pacing: 9 (one point removed for the lack of exposition in the beginning)
Style: 8 (two points removed for the use of the love triangle and the beginning)

Grade: 92

Book Review: Unbreak My Heart

Unbreak My HeartUnbreak My Heart
By Melissa C. Walker
May 22, 2012
Bloomsbury USA
Reviewed: e-book (Netgalley)
Author’s Website
Hardcover | Kindle

Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life.

Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now.

Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart?

JENNA’S REVIEW:

What a lovely beach read UNBREAK MY HEART would be… The length is perfect for a day in the sun, as you listen to the waves and imagine yourself relaxing on the same summer boat trip that Clementine and her family have embarked on.

Clem’s summer boat vacation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. She starts out the trip with a horrible weight on her shoulders, no friends and a really, really bad attitude. The events that led up to her current state are alternately described along with the events that occur during her summer boat trip. All in all, the build up and the boat trip provide an introspective plot that any fan of Sarah Dessen, Luanne Rice and Kristen Hannah would enjoy. And you get to spend most of it on a leisurely boat trip over, who wouldn’t enjoy a setting like that? Albeit, your company is a character who is fairly down in the dumps for most of the trip, but still…

Despite her attitude, I highly enjoyed the voice that the character, Clem, brought to the story. She and her friends behaved like fairly average teenagers. All the way from her snide remarks, her split second temper tantrums, to her feelings about… boys. Seeing as Clem spends most of the book on a boat, we are kept within fairly close quarters to the rest of her family. This allows the reader to get to know them quite well. (Her little sister is such a doll.) The motley crew of additional characters, including red-headed, freckle faced, James, his father and an elderly couple who really need to learn how to use sun block, provide added depth to an otherwise small cast of characters. And James, oh what a sweetie he is.

My only gripe about the book is that, other than revealing the events of the past year bit by bit, nothing seems to happen for a large part of the book. What I mean that Clem’s emotional plot is at a stand still for much of the book, as she simply goes about her life on the boat and we learn about her past. Masochist as I apparently am, I was secretly hoping that more horrible things would be revealed about the character, Clem, and her past deeds. I suppose I expected more… drama. This is a small gripe, since I think that the light-hearted events that do occur ultimately keep the story “anchored” to reality. And sometimes it’s nice to just sit down and read a book that’s based more on reality and not drowning in over-the-top drama.

So hoist your anchor, my friends, and don’t forget the sunblock! If you plan to hit the beach or take a nice long boating vacation of your own this summer, be sure to add Unbreak My Heart to your stack of on-deck or beach-side reading. It’s a great book to immerse yourself in for a handful of hours.

Plot: 8
Characters: 8
Setting: 10
Pacing: 8
Style: 8

Grade: 92