Monday, June 30, 2014

Review: Emerald Green

Emerald Green (Ruby Red #3), but Kerstin Gier. The Goodreads summary:
Gwen has a destiny to fulfill, but no one will tell her what it is.

She's only recently learned that she is the Ruby, the final member of the time-traveling Circle of Twelve, and since then nothing has been going right. She suspects the founder of the Circle, Count Saint-German, is up to something nefarious, but nobody will believe her. And she's just learned that her charming time-traveling partner, Gideon, has probably been using her all along.

"Emerald Green "is the stunning conclusion to Kerstin Gier's Ruby Red Trilogy, picking up where "Sapphire Blue" left off, reaching new heights of intrigue and romance as Gwen finally uncovers the secrets of the time-traveling society and learns her fate.
So if you’ve read this blog lately, you know I’ve been diggin’ the Ruby Red series. While I like the first book better than the second, I’ve just really enjoyed how light and funny these books are while still being an adventure.

I’d say Emerald Green was a satisfying end to the series. I definitely liked it better than Sapphire Blue, but not quite as much as Ruby Red (that book just seriously rocked my socks). All the things that needed to be tied up in the series were tied up, and everything was happily resolved in pretty much the way I was expecting it to be. While being fairly predictable, Emerald Green was entertaining enough that I didn’t really mind. For me, it was more about enjoying the journey to the resolution rather than the nitty-gritty of how I got there, mostly because Kerstin Grier is a really amusing storyteller.

Gideon, who you may remember fell from my graces in book 2, did mostly redeem himself in this book. However, his redemption was tempered by the fact that his and Gwen’s relationship gets a bit too schmaltzy for my taste by the end. I had to roll my eyes just about every time they declared their undying love for each other. Because I mean, they’ve known each other 2 weeks and in that time learned nothing about the other person besides they’re a good kisser. So yes, I was skeptical about the true love angle.

But overall, I had a really good time with this book. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Gwen is just totally hilarious. And the secondary characters, like Aunt Maddie, Lesley, Mr. Bernard, Nick, and Caroline, were in especially fine form in this book, so it was even more of an entertaining experience.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Other books in this series:
Ruby Red
Sapphire Blue

Monday, June 23, 2014

Review: Racing Savannah

Racing Savannah, by Miranda Kenneally. The Goodreads summary:
They’re from two different worlds.

He lives in the estate house, and she spends most of her time in the stables helping her father train horses. In fact, Savannah has always been much more comfortable around horses than boys. Especially boys like Jack Goodwin—cocky, popular and completely out of her league. She knows the rules: no mixing between the staff and the Goodwin family. But Jack has no such boundaries.

With her dream of becoming a horse jockey, Savannah isn’t exactly one to follow the rules either. She’s not going to let someone tell her a girl isn’t tough enough to race. Sure, it’s dangerous. Then again, so is dating Jack…
This book was exactly like the summary led me to expect: rich boy and poor girl fall in love, but their families don’t want them to be together. And I have no problem with that storyline. It’s just that the story never went beyond that—it was absolutely predictable in every single way. I kept hoping that the characters or plot would surprise me, but they never did. It’s like I never got anything deeper out of the book than I would’ve gotten if I had only read the plot summary. I still had a good enough time with the book (it has horses, after all), but I spent the whole time wanting more from it than it gave me.

Rating: 3 / 5

Monday, June 16, 2014

Review: Crash into You

Crash into You, by Katie McGarry. The GoodReads summary:
The girl with straight As, designer clothes and the perfect life—that's who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private-school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy parents and overbearing brothers...and she's just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker-a guy she has no business even talking to. But when the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can't get him out of her mind.

Isaiah has secrets, too. About where he lives, and how he really feels about Rachel. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks-no matter how angelic she might look.

But when their shared love of street racing puts both their lives in jeopardy, they have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they'll go to save each other.
I feel like at this point I know what to expect from Katie McGarry’s books: There will be two teens in messed-up situations who fall in love despite all the things working against them. Family drama will abound. The plot will veer towards the overly dramatic. The boy will be tough on the outside but more emotionally aware than any boy I’ve met in real life. Love will, of course, prevail. And you know what? I’m okay with these books being formulaic, because sometimes you just need a teen romance that you know will hit the spot without asking too much of you.

“Crash into You” meets all the criteria above. In this book, Rachel is struggling with panic attacks and a family who refuses see her for who she really is. Isaiah is dealing with being a foster kid and with his mom coming back in his life. And they both are trying to find a way to get a few thousand dollars that this shady guy thinks they owe him—which means racing to win money. So as you can guess, dramatic situations happen all over the place in this book. I pretty much spent the whole time cringing as one thing after another goes wrong for Rachel and Isaiah. They do not have it easy, that’s for sure.

Isaiah is hot, so that’s kinda all that matters to me on that front. Plus, as mentioned above, he’s got the whole tough on the outside sensitive on the inside thing going on. Rachel was an interesting character, I thought, because her whole life everyone has seen her as weak because of her panic attacks, but with Isaiah, she gets the chance to show her strength, so it was interesting to get to see those different aspects of her character.

The two things that bugged me bugged me for similar reasons. First, I feel like Rachel’s panic attacks, which take center stage for a lot of the book, all of a sudden drop completely off the radar a towards the end when something more dramatic happens. It’s like the author got distracted by this new turn of events and forgot to give any kind of resolution or wrap-up of the panic attack part of the story. The second thing was that I feel like the resolution with Eric (the shady guy they owe money) was really weak. Like, it felt way too easy considering how much it was built up to.

Overall, if you liked McGarry’s other two books, I’m sure you’ll like this one as well, since it follows the same formula. I was a little disappointed when I saw the next book will be about West instead of about Abby, but I’m sure I’ll be reading it all the same.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Monday, June 9, 2014

Review: A Wounded Name

“A Wounded Name,” by Dot Hutchison. The Goodreads summary:
There's a girl who could throw herself head first into life and forge an unbreakable name, an identity that stands on its own without fathers or brothers or lovers who devour and shatter.


Sixteen-year-old Ophelia Castellan will never be just another girl at Elsinore Academy. Seeing ghosts is not a skill prized in future society wives. Even when she takes her pills, the bean sidhe beckon, reminding her of a promise to her dead mother.

Now, in the wake of the Headmaster's sudden death, the whole academy is in turmoil, and Ophelia can no longer ignore the fae. Especially once she starts seeing the Headmaster's ghosts- two of them- on the school grounds.

At the center of her crumbling world is Dane, the Headmaster's grieving son. He, too, understands the power of a promise to a parent- even a dead one. To him, Ophelia is the only person not tainted by deceit and hypocrisy, a mirror of his own broken soul. And to Ophelia, Dane quickly becomes everything. Yet even as she gives more of herself to him, Dane slips away. Consumed by suspicion, rage, and madness, he spirals towards his tragic fate- dragging Ophelia, and the rest of Elsinore, with him.


Yet even in the face of certain death, Ophelia has a choice to make- and a promise to keep. She is not the girl others want her to be. But in Dot Hutchison's dark and sensuous debut novel, the name "Ophelia" is as deeply, painfully, tragically real as "Hamlet".
First of all, this is a drop-dead gorgeous cover. And not only is it gorgeous, it fits the book perfectly—both in plot and tone. But beyond the cover, my feelings for this book are . . . complex, to say the least.

Dot Hutchinson can write. There is absolutely no doubt about that. She strings words together in a way that’s not only beautiful but that creates the perfect atmosphere for the story. But because the language is so lovely, I was about three-fourths of the way through the book before I realized I had some major issues with it. And to Hutchinson’s credit, I think all the issues I had with the book were deliberate on her part. Like, it didn’t seem like any of them were the result of carelessness or not developing something enough, rather they were all part of the way Hutchinson intended to tell the story, as frustrating as they may have been.

And let me tell you, this is not a Hamlet retelling where anyone is redeemed. It’s a tragedy as much as the original play is. And I was expecting that, based on a few reviews I read. But what I wasn’t expecting was for Ophelia to be such a passive character. And I like I said, I came away with the impression that Hutchinson fully intended her to be that way. But still. I wanted her to act for once, instead of always being acted upon. But she never does. She never takes her life into her own hands, always letting others shape her life for her. That was a tragedy to me as much as the deaths were. And I think what got to me the most about Ophelia’s passivity is that Dane is abusive—physically and emotionally—and she just takes it. And more than that, she wants it. She wants him to take his pain out on her, and I just really struggled with that aspect of her character.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read Hamlet, but as far as I can tell, “A Wounded Name” was a fairly close retelling. I think what I found most interesting was that rather than changing the story to make it easier to swallow, the author instead explores what kind of people and events and backstories are needed for the story of Hamlet end the way it does. And in that, she does a fantastic job. I didn’t always like the characters, but their dislikable and complicated qualities made it so obvious why the story had to end with bitterness and death and revenge.

Seriously, I could go on and on some more about this book. Like I said, my feelings are complicated. But I think the last thing I’ll mention is the supernatural element. I just really think it worked so perfectly in this book. It makes Ophelia walking into that lake so incredibly understandable, which is something you don’t get in the original.

Overall, not an easy book, but one I think is worth a read. Ophelia really got to me by then end—to the point where I started yelling at the book out loud—but I think all those complex emotions I had made this a book I’ve thought about more than most others in recent memory.

Rating: 3 / 5 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Review: Sapphire Blue

“Sapphire Blue” (Ruby Red #2), by Kerstin Gier
Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.

At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. Oh, yes. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he’s very warm indeed; the next he’s freezing cold. Gwen’s not sure what’s going on there, but she’s pretty much destined to find out.
So being as giddy about “Ruby Red” as I was, I pretty much immediately went to the library to check out the next book in the series and dove right in. The verdict? While I didn’t enjoy “Sapphire Blue” quite as much as “Ruby Red,” I still had a pretty good time with it.

Like with “Ruby Red,” the main thing that carried the book for me was Gwen. I just find her so refreshingly normal. I feel like with her, I’m in the head of a 16-year-old and not like I’m in the head of a 30-something-year-old author trying to sound like a 16-year-old. Of course, this does mean I get frustrated with Gwen sometimes for acting like a teenager, especially around Gideon, but she always redeems herself. Plus, she cracks me up.

Gideon was pretty much a tool in this book, and I’m really not sure why Gwen thinks she’s in love with him. By the end of the book, his reason for being such a jerk sometimes is revealed (not that it casts him in any better of a light), but still—I was not a fan of Gideon in this book at all.

Also like with “Ruby Red,” this book felt light. I was usually too busy having a fun time reading these books to mind, but they definitely tend to lack depth in terms of character or plot. I’m also starting to get the feeling that this series could actually have all been one book if some of the superfluous scenes had been taken out (seriously, I don’t know why that soiree scene needed to be so long).

Overall, a book that, while lacking in some areas, was still fun to read. On to “Emerald Green”!

Rating: 3.5 / 5
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