Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: Just Call Me Ninja (plus a GIVEAWAY)

Just Call Me Ninja, by Clare Haltom. The Goodreads summary:
Sophomore Callista Trent is used to being the anonymous new girl. But when her mother’s nomadic job finally keeps her family in one place long enough to force Callista to settle in, she wants none of it. She doesn’t expect it to last, anyway—it never does.

She also doesn’t expect to stumble across a group of shinobi, modern-day ninjas who also happen to be high school students. Or for them to claim destiny sent her to join them. Or for the hot, harmonica-playing loner from her chemistry class to be one of the instructors.

For once, she starts to think that maybe she could belong somewhere. But she quickly learns her new friends aren’t running some casual karate school. And when Callista’s assigned to a dangerous mission they say only she can complete, she begins to suspect it wasn’t destiny that brought her to the shinobi at all but a carefully laid plan. Oh, and the worst part? The boy she thought she could trust may have known the truth all along.
Ninjas, right? How awesome is that? I always enjoy reading YAs with plot devices I haven’t read before, and teenage urban ninjas definitely fall into that category. But as crazy as modern ninjas might sound, the author makes them fairly believable, and I think she pulls it off mostly because of her main character, Callista.

Callista is just so dang likable and easy to relate to. Plus, she’s funny and down-to-earth . . . the whole package really. So naturally, being the smart girl she is, when she first gets introduced to the world of modern ninjas, she’s completely skeptical at first. And I think because she was as dubious as I was about the plausibility of ninjas, by the time she was finally convinced, I was too. We made the journey together, if you will.

So, obviously, being a book about ninjas, it’s a mostly plot-driven story. The plot falls more into the light and fun spectrum rather than being suspenseful or gripping like you might expect from a story about ninjas, but the less serious approach to the story really worked for me. And while there’s not necessarily a whole lot going on in terms of character development, Callista is so likable from the get-go that it was mostly a non-issue for me.

I could’ve used a little more insight into some of the secondary characters, though, like Mercer, Izzy, Aaron, and Sol. Because what you see of them is so intriguing, and you can just tell they all have good backstories, but the book doesn’t really give you more than glimpses. You get a bit of a deeper look at Nick, the crush, but even with him, I didn’t feel like I was getting the whole picture. So I’m looking forward to them being fleshed out in later books.

As for the writing, I thought the book was pretty dang polished for a self-published. There are a couple places where errors slipped through, but by and large it’s well-written and amusing and reads smoothly. For the most part, I don’t think I would’ve guessed that I wasn’t reading a traditionally published book.

Overall, a fun read that strikes a good balance between the martial arts and making out. Although I could’ve used a bit more development in some areas, Callista is a strong main character that carries the book along effortlessly. And the book sets up some promising plot twists towards the end, so I’m on board for reading any subsequent books in the series. Recommended for fans of Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series or of Leila Sales’ writing style, and it's out today!

Rating: 4 / 5

Received for review.


In an effort to give a new author some buzz, Clare Haltom is giving away 10 copies of “Just Call Me Ninja” (Kindle or paper copy). All she asks is that you consider giving a fair and honest review on your blog, on Amazon, or on Goodreads. To win a free copy, just be one of the first 10 people to leave a comment on this post with your email (or Twitter name or some other way to contact you) by May 5, 2014.

Find Clare Haltom . . .
On her website
On Facebook
On Goodreads
On Twitter
On Amazon

Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: This Song Will Save Your Life

“This Song Will Save Your Life,” by Leila Sales. The Goodreads summary:
Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Leila Sales two other books, it’s that the girl can write. Her writing style is just so engaging and witty, and I find myself getting pulled in whether I want to be or not. Because, to be honest, there were certain points in this book when I was thinking about tossing it into the proverbial DNF pile, but the writing always convinced me to keep going. So, you know, high five to Leila Sales for that.

I think the main thing that got to me about this book was Elise. She just . . . got on my nerves sometimes, and a really petty part of me couldn’t help thinking “No wonder no one at school likes you.” Which thinking that, even about a fictional character, made me feel like a terrible person, but guilt aside, I couldn’t handle Elise at times. I just wanted her to stop being so self-pitying and selfish and to get a grip and get some self-confidence. And, okay, I realize that the whole point of the book is Elise learning to like herself for who she is, etc., etc. But still, I couldn’t ever decide whether the fact that she annoyed me so much made Elise a really poorly written character or a really well-written one.

The other thing I wasn’t too thrilled about was that the “moral of the story,” so to speak, was so blatant. There were certain scenes that just felt like a public service announcement for self-worth. And I like to think most readers would be smart enough to figure out the message of the book without it being handed to them tied up with a bow.

But those two issues aside, I did find myself enjoying the book in other parts. Like all the stuff about DJing I found fascinating, mostly because my knowledge of indie dance parties and what it takes to be a DJ is approximately zero. I also liked the bits with Char in them. Yes, he’s a total tool, but I admired that the author could write a character who’s such a jerk without necessarily making him the bad guy.

Overall, although I had some issues with the book, the strong writing carried me through, and I’ll still be reading whatever Leila Sales writes next.

Rating: 3 / 5

Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: Cress

“Cress” (Lunar Chronicles #3), by Marissa Meyer. The Goodreads summary:
In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.
I really enjoyed “Cinder.” And I totally adored “Scarlet.” “Cress” . . . well, I want to make it clear that I did generally like it. I can tell already that this review is going to come off sounding more negative than I actually feel, so I feel I should state up front that the book was fine. It just that “fine” was a bit of a letdown after the amazingness that was “Scarlet.” So here we go.

First of all, I feel like this book has about a million points of view. There’s Cress’s, Scarlet’s, Cinder’s, and Kai’s, and that’s just for starters. Thorne, Dr. Erland, and Levana have bits from their perspective as well, and I’m sure there are other ones I’m forgetting. And switching between all those points of view got frustrating for me. I didn’t get to spend enough time in anyone perspective to really start to feel at home there.

I think this was especially the case with Cress and Thorne’s story. I mean, Cress is the title character, but I don’t feel like I got to know her in the way that I got to know Cinder and Scarlet in the other books. Same thing with Thorne. There wasn’t nearly enough time for him to develop as a character as much as I would’ve liked. With both of them, there were such promising hints of depth to their characters, but as soon as I felt like we might be getting somewhere with them, the perspective would change and we’d never really get back to that hope of depth.

And speaking of Cress, that girl did not come close to winning me over in the way that Scarlet or even Cinder did. I feel like Cress is always cowering and screaming, and yes, I understand why she’s that way, but it didn’t make it any less annoying. And don’t even get me started on her “relationship” with Thorne. He’s the first guy she’s ever seen, he’s handsome and charming, and they’re tossed in a stressful situation together—there’s no way that’s a foundation for a healthy relationship, and the author never really developed their feelings enough to convince me otherwise.

Plus, Wolf pissed me off in this book. He’s so awesome in “Scarlet” that I wasn’t expecting to be so constantly frustrated by him. It’s like he literally cannot function without Scarlet, and I just wanted to tell him to get a grip and focus on something other than his woe-is-me, my-life-is-over-without-her attitude. Mopey men are NOT attractive.

The shining moment of this book for me was the chapter with Winter. That girl has got fascinating written all over her, and I’m excited for the next book to see more of her.

Overall, like I started out with, I did like the book in general, it’s just that there were so many things I had issues with that it doesn’t really compare to, say, “Scarlet.” I mean, the “unputdownable” point for me (the point where I finally got sucked in) didn’t come until page 483, and in a book that’s 550 pages, that’s a long time to wait to finally get into it. Still, I’ll be reading the final book when it comes out.

Rating: 3 / 5

Other books in this series:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: Counting by 7s

“Counting by 7s,” by Holly Goldberg Sloan. The Goodreads summary:
Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life... until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.
Okay, so I know in the summary it says that this book “is not a tragedy,” but still, going into it I was kinda expecting it to be exactly that. I mean, it says right there in the summary that her parents die in a car crash. But actually, the summary was right. It wasn’t a tragedy. Sad in parts, yes. Obviously. But more than that, I think this book was hopeful. Because although the death of Willow’s parents is a driving force in the book, it isn’t the only thing it’s about.

Instead, it’s about all kinds of good things, like finding somewhere to belong. It’s about the effect we have on others without knowing it, and how small acts of kindness can change everything. It’s about family—both the kind you’re born with and the kind you choose. It’s about how finding a new normal can be so, so hard but possible all the same. I kinda wanted to hug this book when I finished.

Willow . . . basically I want to adopt her. She’s a genius, and it colors her relationships with others and her reactions to the world around her, but it doesn’t make her emotionally distant at all. She’s kind and caring and such a good kid, despite all the hard things she has to go through. I loved her interest in medical conditions and in gardening, and those were the kinds of things that made her feel so real and accessible as a character.

I adored the other characters as well, even the ones I didn’t expect to in the beginning. I mean, Dell Duke is about as pathetic of a character as you can get at the start of the book. But if there’s one thing this book shows, it’s the power that comes from being needed and from other people having expectations of you.

Overall, it was a solid book. I don’t typically go for middle grade books, but this one was worth it. It had powerful lessons to teach, but it didn’t shove them down my throat, and I really appreciate it when a book respects my intelligence.

Rating: 4 / 5
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...