Review of ‘True Born’ by L.E. Sterling

True Born (True Born Trilogy, #1)True Born by L.E. Sterling

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

True Born is your typical, dystopian YA read. It has all the stereotypical elements that you’d expect, including that of a “special” girl, “insta-love”, and the world going to hell in a handbasket.

I mean, did you really expect anything less?

Let’s first start off with our “special” snowflake.
Lucy Fox and her sister Margot are identical twins who came into this world conjoined. Now, if you’re thinking that make this book all the more interesting…well, you’re kind of right, and you’re kind of wrong. They’re separated not long after birth, so conjoined they do not stay (how cool of a story would that be?!). But one thing about them, is they’re basically written to have that psychic connection that twins seem to have, and can essentially feel the pain that the other is being submitted to. Kind of cool, yes, but then things begin to go south.
This book is told from Lucy’s POV, so it’s her descriptions we’re taking in. And though these two girls are supposedly identical twins, she’s quick to say how much, basically,
more
…her sister is than her. She’s more beautiful. She’s more brave. And she’s more in that she’s their parent’s favorite. But it’s not long after the book starts that Margot goes through a traumatic experience that ends up causing her to retreat into herself and lose that more that we never really got to experience–except for maybe an early moment when she’s cutting class, big whoopty doo!–thus leading to her character turning out to be a bit on the boring side. When you read how Lucy describes herself in comparison to her sister, you don’t really expect much from her, so it’s kind of funny that she ends up being the more outspoken/brave one. Definitely contradictory to what you expect of the girls when you’re first introduced to them. Then again, I guess that’s what makes a character “special”, huh? I actually didn’t mind Lucy as the MC, but it did get annoying to hear her worrying about Margot, all. Of. The. Time. Really, I understood it the first time she mentioned her worry…and the million times after. I might seem unfeeling, cause yeah, it’s her sibling and she has a right to feel worried about her, but I’ll admit that I get annoyed pretty easily, so I didn’t really care for her obsessive worry.

Now, for the insta-love aspect.
Standard YA trope would call for there to be a love triangle, but blessedly, we’re not being subjected to one here. (This is book 1 of a trilogy, so that could change.) We are, though, subjected to love (lust?) at first sight. Lucy is drawn to Jared at their first meeting, and though she’s initially going on about how irritating he is and all that yadda, she’s pretty much smitten from the start. And yes, this continues on and on. Yay. (Please note that that is a sarcastic ‘yay’.) I’m still not sure what I think of their “romance”, really. Shrug.

Finally, the world going to hell in a handbasket.
What would a dystopian YA be without the world essentially coming to an end in some form or other? In this book, it’s the human race that is the victim here. A plague has erupted at some point in history, and that leads to people being classified into three different categories: Splicers, Lasters, and True Borns. I’m not going to go into detail describing what each of these are–because you should read the book yourself if you’re that curious–but let’s just say that each leave different marks on the world, and yes, that includes survival of the fittest.
You’ve probably already guessed, but of course Lucy–and by twinly association, Margot–is a significant piece in all these goings on, though exactly what role she plays is the biggest mystery.

In conclusion, though I found this book interesting enough to finish it (and probably will read the next one at some point), it’s definitely not one I’d care to recommend.

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Random Review of ‘The Retribution of Mara Dyer’ by Michelle Hodkin

The Retribution of Mara DyerThe Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’d originally read this book closer to it’s original publication (which was around two or three years ago), and for whatever reason, I remember liking it more than I do now. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve read the same cliches so many more times since then, but this book (this series, really) is so stereotypical, that I could’t get past how annoying it really was the second time around.

I’ll admit that I did enjoy the first two books–cliches aside–and even rated them fairly well, but man, this last book underwhelmed me, and honestly, if I hadn’t already known the series continued with The Becoming of Noah Shaw, I would have probably hated the ending more.

Why did I feel this way?

Because the first two books seemed to have all this build up, all this mystery, that promised what would be some very interesting answers, but when the answers came, seriously, I was so disappointed by how unfulfilling they were. They were revelations, sure, but I personally thought them stupid, and oh-so-typical of YA, in the sense of needing to make things more “tragic” than necessary…more “over the top”, so that our emotions will be more invested. Well, I’m pretty sure the emotions the author was hoping for probably weren’t annoyance and disappointment, but that could just be me, and I can’t speak for the general population.

Anyway, what else could I mention…? There was a good amount of purple prose that I was okay with initially, but started disliking when events and the people involved in them started annoying me. Because they’re tied up with spoilers, I won’t pinpoint particular moments, but let’s just say there were moments where I was rolling my eyes, or cringing at the cheesy, overly flowery writing…

At this point, what did I like? Right? I liked friendships…I liked getting answers (even if the answers themselves sucked)…and…?? I think I’ll just end it there, since I’m not sure there’s really much more for me to mention, in regards to things I actually liked.

If I was going to rate the trilogy as a whole, I’d probably rate it a 3.5, because of my liking the first two well enough, but as a whole, I don’t really like it all that much, so on that note, not one I will be personally recommending.

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Mini Review of ‘The Woman in Cabin 10’ by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mini Review Time!

I wasn’t—and am still not—sure what to rate this book. I didn’t find it to be as awful as I’d been thinking it’d be, but I also just couldn’t get past my complete dislike for the MC. She was so determined to find out what happened to The Woman in Cabin 10, that she ends up looking crazy. I don’t know why, but I’ve always disliked characters who go above and beyond in matters that only end up blowing up in their faces. I tend to feel a bit anxious when I think of things getting worse, due to one person’s need for “truth”.

But I digress.

So, you now know that I wasn’t Lo’s biggest fan, but honestly, that’s probably the worst of it for me. I had no problem getting into this book and keeping up with it. I did figure out a few things before they came to fruition, but I can’t say it bothered me all that much.

Anyway, being that I couldn’t stand the MC, I find it hard to recommend this book.

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Review of ‘There’s Someone Inside Your House’ by Stephanie Perkins

There's Someone Inside Your HouseThere’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Synopsis provided by publisher:

Love hurts…

Makani Young thought she’d left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska. She’s found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn’t far behind.

Then, one by one, the students of Osborne Hugh begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets.
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Okay, so though I’m a fan of horror, it tends to be more along the lines of supernatural. I love me a good, ghostly thrill! But when it comes to slashers, I’m not really the biggest fan. Most of my experience obviously comes from films involving teens being murdered by either the undead, out for revenge, or by other teens, who also may be out for revenge. If I were to pick one slasher film series I’d enjoyed, it’d have to be Scream, and that’s likely showing how inexperienced I am when it comes to slashers.

So, knowing this about me, I’m not sure I’m the best judge when it comes to this book, but I’ll go ahead and give the reasons as to why I didn’t really care for this one.

1. The Main Character:
Makani has to be the one of the most boring/annoying MCs I’ve had the (dis)pleasure to read about, ever. She’s brought forth as a biracial girl from Hawaii (check out her name! It’s Hawaiian! *please note the sarcasm) with a dark past, who ends up in cornfield-ridden Nebraska. While I appreciate that Perkins introduced an ethnic girl as the MC of this novel, I just didn’t really end up caring about her all that much. I didn’t feel like enough was given in regards to character-growth (and that could have been intentional on Perkins’ part, due to wanting to give the story a sense of right now in terms of the plot), but this ultimately led to my not really feeling compassionate for her, in her tumultuous times.

2. The “dark past”:
Seriously, when I find out the reason Makani moved to Nebraska, I couldn’t help but feel like it just didn’t really make sense. Sure, what happened was wrong on many levels, but I was sort of expecting something…different. I can’t really say more without giving anything away, but I will say that what happened just feels disappointing, and not really menacing enough for a slasher.

3. The reveal of the serial killer:
I’d made it maybe 70% of the way through the book – and the killer is revealed.
I’ll admit I had no idea who the killer would turn out to be, but I feel like it could have possibly been more suspenseful if the reveal had been put off till the end. Then again, I’m not sure that would have really made a big difference, since I wasn’t impressed with the reveal in the first place…

4. The murders:
Okay, so yes, we have the stereotypical stabby deaths, but the way the serial killer menaced the victims was really cheesy. Like, for example, the first victim, who is unsettled by an egg-timer (yes, an egg-timer), because not only is she finding it in strange places, but it’s described as ‘smooth, white, and innocuous’…obviously I find this description to be so terrifying! (Insert eye roll here.)

And finally:

5. The stupid romance:
I didn’t really care for Ollie, and didn’t find him to be all that interesting, though the way he’s described, I feel like we’re supposed to feel that he’s interesting. Because yeah, dyeing your hair pink and having a lip ring is really all it takes to be edgy these days.

I think it’s safe to say at this point that I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book. It wasn’t the worst I’d read, thus the generous rating of 2 stars, but it was just not what I’d hoped for when it comes to a slasher/thriller. Besides the descriptions of each of the murders – and the moments leading to each death – there really aren’t any true, horrifying moments in this book. And honestly? I’m not sure the murders were all that scary, either.

I will not be recommending this one.

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Review for ‘House of Ash’ by Hope Cook

House of AshHouse of Ash by Hope Cook

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Summary provided by the publisher:
After hearing voices among an eerie copse of trees in the woods, seventeen-year-old Curtis must confront his worst fear: that he has inherited his father’s mental illness. A desperate search for answers leads him to discover Gravenhearst, a labyrinth mansion that burned down in 1894. When he locks eyes with a steely Victorian girl in a forgotten mirror, he’s sure she’s one of the fire’s victims. If he can unravel the mystery, he can save his sanity . . . and possibly the girl who haunts his dreams.

But more than 100 years in the past, the girl in the mirror is fighting her own battles. When her mother disappears and her sinister stepfather reveals his true intentions, Mila and her sister fight to escape Gravenhearst and unravel the house’s secrets—before it devours them both.
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For whatever reason, I hate the word ‘copse’. There’s no real reason why I should hate word, but I do, so that didn’t help when reading a book that keeps identifying a ‘copse’ of trees as the place where strange things begin to happen to one of our MCs, Curtis. The word just kept being used, and I kept cringing whenever it’d pop up on the page. I really do not like the word copse.

Why don’t I move on from that…

House of Ash is one of those books that you can’t help but feel like you’ve heard the story before, maybe not in this exact sense, but in some form or other. For instance, the idea of a boy and girl, both on opposite sides of time, who happen to see each other in some way (a mirror, in this book), fall for each other, and feel the need to save one or the other. Then, there’s the very real potential that one may be actually suffering from a mental illness, imagining things, because a parent of said one may be suffering themselves. Oh, and did I mention that there’s an evil house? A house that listens, and must be stopped at all costs?
Yup, same ol’, same ol’.

Even though the author’s bio says she has drawn from her personal experience with mental illness, I don’t feel like this book was meant to really address what mental illness really does to people. If it was, then I didn’t quite get that from this book. Curtis’ father is mentally ill, and his illness seems to only exist to explain why Curtis might be suddenly hearing things like voices, and to possibly explain why his home life is so rough, leading to his having some extreme behavior in a variety of circumstances in this book. Yeah, so if you’re looking to really read up on mental illness, this is not the book for that.

Moving on from the very real problems that mental illness can invoke, we should now talk about the supernatural aspect of this book. The girl in the mirror. Is she real, or is she a figment of Curtis’ imagination? This is where the supernatural part comes into play. Curtis is seeing the image of a girl who was very real, but how? Especially since we know that the girl, Mila, perished in 1894 in a fire that descimated a very large estate to the ground, along with anyone else who may have been in the home. So we have a ghosty mirror, along with a ghosty girl, and therefore we have ghosty-ness, though it all plays out to be on the bland side. I mean, Mila’s step-father is supposed to be a large reason behind why things ended up the way they did when it comes to her death and the fire, but honestly, he is such an absent villain. It’s like he appears at times, goes BOO!, then heads off to wait till the next time he’ll come around again to instill some sort of fear into Mila. His villainy is pretty boring, and the explanation for why he does the things he does is also pretty boring.

I feel like I should also mention the characters in regards to what I thought of them in general. Starting with Curtis, I’ll say that he is a very angry person, as well as someone who’s very torn as to address issues with others. He doesn’t want to confide in his best friend, and being that there’s no one else for him to do so to, he’s pretty much screwed. So, yeah, this just leads to him being angry all the time. He finds some drive in his research of Mila and the burned down estate of Gravenhearst, but even then, he’s mediocre at research, so his best friend has to help him, but still, he’d rather not confide in the guy, humph. Now that I’ve given you a sort of condensed description of him, I’ll say that I find Curtis to be boring/annoying. Seriously, one day he happens to come across a clearing of strange trees, hears weird voices, and that’s how this book comes about. Not sure if there was absolutely no chance that he wouldn’t have come upon said clearing anytime before in his life, but now is the time for everything to happen, it would seem. Okay, so even if I were to accept that and move on, I still can’t stand Curtis’ personality in general. He just seemed kind of douchey to me, and I’m not a fan of such people.

Now for Mila. Mila’s account begins with her journey/arrival to Gravenhearst, originally with her mother and sister, as well. Yadda, yadda, her mom disappears, then her sister, and now Mila is left to figure out what her step-father, and the evil house, wants from her. Mila isn’t awful, and I found her to be more tolerable than her male counterpart, but that doesn’t really mean anything if you dislike the guy so much, so I’ll leave it at that.

Finally, when it comes to the way this book ended?? It wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t really that entertaining. There are no cliffhangers, so the end is the end, but maybe this book could have benefited from a horror movie-style ending? Shrug, we’ll never know.

I gave this book two stars because as much as I didn’t really care for it, I felt it was readable, and it didn’t take me too long to read, so that’s definitely a plus in my book. Being that I didn’t really care for this book, I won’t be personally recommending it.

Thank you to Amulet Books, via Netgalley, for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘The Boyfriend Swap’ by Meredith Schorr

The Boyfriend SwapThe Boyfriend Swap by Meredith Schorr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary provided by publisher:
Is Christmas really the most wonderful time of the year? New Yorkers Robyn Lane and Sidney Bellows aren’t so sure.

Robyn has always dated struggling creative types. For once, her parents would love her to bring someone with health insurance and a 401(k) to their Chrismukkah celebration. Her actor boyfriend doesn’t qualify. While across town, Sidney’s professional life already belongs to her parents. She’s an attorney at her father’s law firm and she works tirelessly to keep her love life private. If she brings her lawyer boyfriend to their annual Christmas extravaganza, her parents will have the wedding planned by New Year’s Eve.

A mutual friend playfully suggests they trade boyfriends for the holidays. The women share a laugh, but after copious amounts of wine, decide The Boyfriend Swap could be the perfect solution. This way, Robyn can show off her stable attorney boyfriend and Sidney’s high-society family will take no interest in her flakey actor beau.

It’s a brilliant plan—in theory. In practice—not so much. When Will turns out to be the boy-next-door Robyn crushed on hard throughout her teenage years, and Sidney’s family fawns all over Perry like he’s an Oscar-winner rather than a D-list wannabe, one thing is certain: The Boyfriend Swap might just change their lives forever.
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When I had first stumbled onto this read, I was intrigued by the idea of two women swapping boyfriends, and honestly, how it was that they could even get to such a point. You’d assume that at least one person in this quartet would object—because they’re normal—but no, not in The Boyfriend Swap. In fact, the one who initially objects is surprisingly easy to convince, and soon enough, the two women are off on their holiday trips home, fake boyfriend in tow. Which seems ridiculously easy, right? But I’m happy to say that I don’t care, because I really ended up liking this book, and happily accepted anything Meredith Schorr threw at me.

Like, for example, the fact that Robin’s boyfriend would happen to be Lucy’s childhood crush?? I live for coincidences like these that throw people together! It makes it all the better when Lucy brings Will back to her childhood home, and she’s having to pretend she’s in a relationship with him, all while having to pretend that she doesn’t have actual feelings for him… Yes, I just couldn’t help but love the easy way Lucy and Will got along with each other, and the plain fact that it was just easy.

Robin and Perry (Lucy’s boyfriend) were interesting in a different way. Perry was supposed to be someone her parents would easily forget so that when Robin “broke up with him”, it wouldn’t matter. But Perry doesn’t do forgettable, so instead, the whole family ends up falling for him when they meet him, and that leads to Robin trying to find ways to sabotage this growing relationship Perry seems to be having with her family, though things don’t go quite how she expects them to.

I did find the characters to be endearing, and enjoyed their interactions with each other. I especially liked Perry’s character. He was surprisingly kind and thoughtful when you least expected it, and though I won’t go too deep into his role due to spoilers, I will say that he was definitely a big part in helping Robin figure some important things out.

In conclusion, I really did like this book (though I had to knock off a star because of how long it took me to finish this book because I’d had a hard time wanting to get back to it when I’d put it aside for the day) and the whole rom/com aspect of it. I really feel like this book would be the perfect screenplay for a chick flick, and being that I’m a sucker for chick lit and chick flicks, I’d totally watch it.

I would definitely recommend this to you if you’d enjoyed the movie The Holiday, since it invokes similar feels.

Thank you to Henery Press, via Netgalley, for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Flamecaster (Shattered Realms, #1)’ by Cinda Williams Chima

Flamecaster (Shattered Realms, #1)Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To start off, I have to admit that I hadn’t read the Seven Realms series that proceeded this one, but from what I’ve gathered, it’s still readable without prior knowledge from the former–though I’m sure you’d probably have more ‘A-ha’ moments if you had…
Anyway, even without having read the former series, I have to say that I really enjoyed this book and will likely be delving into the Seven Realms books in the near future.

Flamecaster was everything I could have wanted in a fantasy novel (not that I’ve actually read very many), and I’ll go ahead and list a few reasons why:

1. With my first reason, I’ll say that I can be pretty simple at times, and I think one of those moments came into play with the fact that I could actually read a majority of the characters’ names!! I tend to be a bit put off by so many authors and their inherent need for characters to have the most ridiculous names you can think up, so it was refreshing to read a book where Ash (Adrian) and Jenna were the names of the MCs! Sure, there are names like Taliesin, and Ash’s last name is sul’Han, but they’re still considerably easier to pronounce than some of the names I’ve come across before… Now that I’ve gone off on a tangent about names, let’s move on!

2. This being my first read from Cinda Williams Chima, I have to say that I really loved reading about this world she’d created. It was easy to navigate through, and you end up learning bits and pieces about the different kingdoms as you’re reading, leaving you both curious and excited to learn more as the series continues on. I’m not going to go into detail about what I found to be interesting, because of spoilers, but I will say that it concerns a certain geographic area called the Northern Islands… All in all, I just loved this magical world, and really look forward to learning more about the different realms.

3. MCs that I actually liked! Ash is awesome in his role as an ‘assassin hiding in plain view‘. He’s bent on revenge, but the revenge is extremely hard to follow through with when it’s against a king who is very well-guarded. So of course he must take on a role that can earn the king’s trust–that of a royal healer. He’s very skilled, but it’s his magic that first draws the attention of the king, and though I won’t go into that, I will say that the way he does so is very interesting and I can’t wait to see more from him.
Then we have Jenna. I loved Jenna’s intelligence, and I loved the fact that she knew all sorts of things when it comes to blowing things up! She ends up being imprisoned in the aforementioned king’s castle, and that’s when a lot of the exciting things really start happening!!

*The one thing that I didn’t quite care for:

4. The romance was a little meh. It’s a bit too ‘insta-lovey‘ to me, but since it doesn’t happen till later in the book, it didn’t overwhelm, so I’m able to forgive and move past it. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t end up becoming cringe-worthy in the next book!

In conclusion, besides the meh romance, I really liked this book and would recommend it if you’re looking for a well-written fantasy starring characters with beautifully normal names.

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