Review: Beastly by Alex Flinn

Review: Beastly by Alex FlinnBeastly by Alex Flinn
Published by HarperTeen
Pages: 304
Genres: Fairytale Re-tellings, Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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I am a beast. A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog, but a horrible new creature who walks upright – a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.
You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever – ruined – unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and a perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly beastly.

Before you read: Apparently Alex is a she. Huh. So, note that this review was written before Jan set me straight!

Thoughts: Alex Flinn was never a teenager. He went straight from 12 to 20. It’s true. How do I know? Well, I read his book Beastly.

Despite what some people may believe, writing about teenagers is like dealing with teenagers… not easy. You have to write about their hormone-fueled decisions without making them seem completely irrational. It’s really hard, and your “research” cannot be limited to watching She’s All That 30 times. Which is what Alex Flinn did… I can’t think of any other explanation.

Beastly just fell flat. Its characters were illogical, one-dimensional creatures, even though they were based off of the brilliant characters from the Beauty and the Beast tale. In short, Flinn’s Beauty is an idiot and his Beast a real ass. I mean, would the Beauty we all love – who loves her family as much as they love her – risk her future for a drug-addict Daddy? I think not. And would Beast ever purposefully lie to Beauty? No, because he’s a straight-forward ass… not a backstabbing one! *shakes fist* And don’t even get me started on the Beast’s entourage. I mean, what self-respecting teacher would condone kidnapping a teenage girl for some spoiled hermit? Seriously? Seriously?

Ok, so while Flinn completely missed the mark with his characters, there were some things that I liked in this book. I liked the fact that the novel is told from the Beast’s point-of-view. It’s a perspective I honestly had never considered. I also liked how Flinn transferred the tale to modern Manhattan – Beast goes to plastic surgeons looking for a cosmetic cure, and he dresses as a Muslim woman in order to go out in public… isn’t that just ingenious? Shame it didn’t make the characters any more likable.

So… I am giving this book 2.5 stars despite everything I’ve just written. Why? Well, it’s still Beauty and the Beast. And anything Beauty and the Beast is inherently brilliant – even when it misses the mark.

Bottom line? Not worth reading unless you’re a die-hard Beauty and the Beast fan. And even then…

Review: Hourglass by Claudia Gray

Review: Hourglass by Claudia GrayHourglass by Claudia Gray
Series: Evernight #3
Published by HarperCollins, HarperTeen
Pages: 256
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Bianca will risk everything to be with Lucas.

After escaping from Evernight, the vampire boarding school where they met, Bianca and Lucas seek refuge with Black Cross, an elite group of vampire hunters. Bianca must hide her supernatural heritage or risk certain death at its hands. But when Black Cross captures her friend—the vampire Balthazar—all her secrets threaten to come out.

Soon, Bianca and Lucas are on the run, pursued not only by Black Cross, but by the powerful vampires of Evernight. Yet no matter how far they run, Bianca can't escape her destiny. Bianca and Lucas have always believed their love could survive anything—but can it survive what's to come?

Thoughts: The one thing good thing I can say about Hourglass is that it is easy reading. Even when I wasn’t enjoying myself, I could get through the pages. But – honestly – that is the one and only good thing about this book.

Seriously. That’s it. But just because the book was readable, that doesn’t mean I’d recommend you actually read it. In Hourglass, all the things that had once merely annoyed me about Claudia Gray’s series amalgamated into 300+ pages of pure hell.

My problem with this novel – and the entire series, now that I think about it – is that it all revolves around the hideous Lucas/Bianca relationship. And guess what? I would pay money to have both of those characters killed. They are just so utterly and terribly self-involved – hideously self-involved. Every single waking thought that Bianca has revolves around Lucas… and yet, she seems more in love with being in love than she is with him. *spoilers* When Lucas is literally dying in her arms, is she thinking about him? Is she utterly distraught beyond recognition? No. She is comparing herself to Juliet watching Romeo die in her arms… seriously?? *end of spoilers* I mean, people complain about the Twilight series? Seriously? Bella is absolutely nothing compared to Bianca.

And, you know what, that would be fine if this were any other series. But in the Evernight world, Bianca and Lucas being together doesn’t just affect them – it affects everyone else too (although, mostly due to their stupidity and inability to form a plan – they could have found a nice island to live on if they had been more with it). Bianca and Lucas will commit crimes and condone murder in order to stay together. And I find that kind of selfishness absolutely loathsome. Your relationship is NOT more important than someone’s life. Full stop.

Bottom line? Even hardcore YA Paranormal Romance fans should stay far far away from this series.

Review: Beauty by Robin McKinley

Review: Beauty by Robin McKinleyBeauty by Robin McKinley
Published by HarperTeen
Pages: 272
Genres: Fairytale Re-tellings, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, "Cannot a Beast be tamed?"

Robin McKinley's beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple: Beauty and the Beast.

Thoughts: Two things you should know before reading Beauty:

1 – Beauty was written in 1978, about 15 years before Disney’s Beauty and the Beast came out.
2 – This is Robin McKinley’s very first book.

Now, the first point is key, as there are a number of details with which the book seems to overlap with the Disney film. In fact, as I was reading McKinley’s book, I couldn’t help but wonder if the Disney epic had been based on her novel. Since I adored the film, I had absolutely no problem reading a similar (yet very, very different) version of the Disney tale. Still, it is important to remember that any Beauty/Disney overlaps are not at all the fault of McKinley.

In regards to the second point, I found it rather reassuring to know this was not the pinnacle of McKinley’s achievements. Although I enjoyed Beauty, it was not a breath-taking literary achievement. Having heard so many great things about McKinley’s writings, it was good to know that she’s had 30-odd years since the publication of Beauty to refine her style.

Now on to the good bits. Although I have no knowledge of the first Beauty and the Beast tale, McKinley’s style made me feel like I was reading the original version of the story. It was almost as though I were reading the un-filtered first version of the tale – without the weight of an author behind it, visibly guiding the story. Instead, this book just… was. You know what I mean, right? When you read Beauty, you can’t even begin to imagine someone actually writing it. The book, surely, just came into existence by itself.

And, because of that, I feel rather odd describing my issues with the plot – or rather the lack thereof. Even though, yes, this is Beauty and the Beast, everything still felt rather mundane. Beauty does this, then that, then the other, and then things work out to be such-and-such. It was more of a historical account than a dramatic novel, with none of the twists and curves you’d expect in “real” book.

But still, I really did enjoy Beauty. My unwavering love of the tale probably made me more forgiving of its dull moments… yet, I’ve no doubt that McKinley is a skilled author worth of praise.

Bottom line? Beauty is a must if you are a fan of the Beauty and the Beast tale. But if you’re not, I’d try something else from McKinley’s repertoire.

Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Review: Delirium by Lauren OliverDelirium by Lauren Oliver
Series: Delirium #1
Published by HarperTeen, Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 411
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

Thoughts: I read a number of reviews for Delirium before writing mine, and was surprised by the diverse reaction. There are a ton of glowing reviews out there, a few “I don’t get the fuss” reviews, and a some “this is just a bad book” reviews. And each and every review I’ve read – across the spectrum – I have agreed with. There are some themes are raised by the book that some people hated and others loved – it’s just a matter of taste. You know when you really enjoyed a book when the negative reviews don’t change your mind.

While I really enjoyed the plot and the characters and all of the over-arching themes explored in Delirium – it is Lauren’s writing that makes this book a keeper.  Lauren just has such a soft, elegant style to her writing. She molds and shapes her words and sentences with stellar technique. The way she writes reminds me of Maggie Stiefvater: she writes lyrical books that make you want to draw hearts around paragraphs while you’re reading.  Lauren understands love – not just romantic love, but family love – and her descriptions of the emotion are simply stunning.  This book made me re-examine the relationship I was in at the time, reminding me to appreciate love – and the delirium that accompanies it.

Even though I wasn’t over-the-moon-in-love with all of the characters, I enjoyed their part in the story.  I went in expecting to read a straightforward forbidden romance, but what I ended up with was, well, something else altogether.  Delirium was romantic, but it was also so much more than that.  It was a book about the bonds we share with family, friends and even our pets.  Stunning stuff. Not to mention, it has a few pretty fantastic twists that I never saw coming.

Bottom line?  Go out and get yourselves a copy right now – especially if you are a fan of Linger or Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.  Delirium is a lovely, elegant novel that I’d recommend to even the most hesitant of readers.  And don’t be put off by the doom-and-gloom you’re rightly expecting – it’s totally worth it.

Review: Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott

Review: Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth ScottStealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
Published by HarperTeen
Genres: Contemporary YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Dani has been trained as a thief by the best--her mother. Together, they move from town to town, targeting wealthy homes and making a living by stealing antique silver. They never stay in one place long enough to make real connections, real friends--a real life

In the beach town of Heaven, though, everything changes. For the first time, Dani starts to feel at home. She's making friends and has even met a guy. But these people can never know the real Dani--because of who she is. When it turns out that her new friend lives in the house they've targeted for their next job and the cute guy is a cop, Dani must question where her loyalties lie: with the life she's always known--or the one she's always wanted.

Thoughts: I was surprised by Stealing Heaven. I picked it up expecting a cheery, chick-lit read – Ocean’s Eleven a-la-Sophie-Kinsella. That would have been great, but what Scott delivers is about 20x better. Stealing Heaven is a serious book. Dani grows up with a mother who has indoctrinated her into a life of crime – a life that Dani is just not meant for. She’s never been to school, never been able to tell anyone her real name, never had any friends – and, on top of that, there’s her absent father and her mother’s manic relationship with thievery. Less than ideal is putting it mildly.

But even as Dani’s mom behaves in ways unbefitting a mother, Dani is able to recognise why her mother her is behaving so thoughtlessly. It’s really easy for a teen to just turn around and hate their parents – but Dani doesn’t because, even as a teen, she can see her mother with the eyes of an adult. I read this book wishing I could hate her mom – but I just couldn’t. It is fantastic, and adds a whole new level to what could have been a simple break-away-from-your-family book.

Stealing Heaven is about a girl working out who she is, and what that means for her family. About a girl who has to wake up, take her head out of the sand, and truly examine her life. She doesn’t do it for a boy – although she does have an extremely influential romance with, get this, a cop – and she doesn’t do it for a friend – although she makes pals with a lovely girl along the way. Dani changes her life for herself, and it is wonderful to read.

Bottom line?  A fantastic contemporary read for young adults. This book is sweet, sad, and thoughtful – you’ll love it.  I can’t wait to read more by Elizabeth Scott!

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