Stacking the Shelves (56)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme, hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews, where bloggers can share the books and bookish items that we've bought, borrowed, or received each week.

This StS is for the past two weeks.

For Review
Rumble by Ellen Hopkins
Rethinking Normal by Katie Rain Hill
Some Assembly Required by Arin Andrews

I was so excited when I got these books in the mail, because I remember hearing about Rethinking Normal and Some Assembly Required and thinking that I really wanted to read them.  So thank you so much, Simon & Schuster, for sending these to me!  I can't wait to read them!  (I already read Rumble and reviewed it here.)

What did you guys get this week?  Let me know, or leave a link to your StS post (or IMM or any other alternative) in the comments and I'll try to stop by your blog!

Blind Reads Review: Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

Friday, August 15, 2014
Title:  Evil Librarian
Author:  Michelle Knudsen
Series:  None
Publisher:  Candlewick Press
Publication Date:  September 9, 2014
Pages:  343
Format/Source:  ARC/From Publisher, via BEA
Age Group/Genre:  Young Adult/Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror
#EvilLibrarian He’s young. He’s hot. He’s also evil. He’s . . . the librarian.

When Cynthia Rothschild’s best friend, Annie, falls head over heels for the new high-school librarian, Cyn can totally see why. He’s really young and super cute and thinks Annie would make an excellent library monitor. But after meeting Mr. Gabriel, Cyn realizes something isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the creepy look in the librarian’s eyes, or the weird feeling Cyn gets whenever she’s around him. Before long Cyn realizes that Mr. Gabriel is, in fact . . . a demon. Now, in addition to saving the school musical from technical disaster and trying not to make a fool of herself with her own hopeless crush, Cyn has to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil librarian, who also seems to be slowly sucking the life force out of the entire student body! From best-selling author Michelle Knudsen, here is the perfect novel for teens who like their horror served up with a bit of romance, plenty of humor, and some pretty hot guys (of both the good and evil variety). (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)
**I read this book as a part of my Blind Reads feature.  Go here to see my post from before I read the book, where I list the (very few) things I knew going in and my theories on what the book would entail.**

The Perfect Blind Reads Book...

I saw the cover of Evil Librarian at Book Expo America this year and thought to myself, "That is an awesome cover, and an awesome title.  And it would be perfect for a Blind Read!"  And I'm really glad I chose it as a Blind Read, because I ended up enjoying it even more than I thought I would!

Were Any of My Theories Correct?

Well, yes and no.  I thought, because of the cover, that it might be an adult book.  But I also conceded that it could be YA.  It turned out to be YA, which is cool with me because I love YA and I think if it had been an adult book it might have gone in a completely different direction.

My other theories were spot on.  I said that it would be about an evil librarian, which, shockingly, was correct.  (I've got all the smarts, people.)  And I thought that there would be some humor in the book, and I was very happy to find that I was correct in that theory.

Back To My Regularly Scheduled Review...

Things I learned from Evil Librarian:

  • Making deals with demons is never a good idea.
  • When a demon gets you to do something for them, make sure that the spell has completely worn off before you interact with anyone else.
  • Demons love Sweeney Todd.

I really enjoyed Evil Librarian.  I loved the humor of all the characters (including the demons), and I loved how the plot was set up.  Cyn realizes very early on that something is totally off with the librarian, and it is all confirmed really quickly as well.  In a lot of books, the main character would just have their suspicions for about a third of the book, and then their suspicions would be confirmed at about 2/3 of the way through the book, and the last third would have been spent defeating the demon.  Yet with the way Knudsen wrote this one, Cyn's suspicions are confirmed not even 1/4 of the way in and this meant that the rest of the book was a mystery.  I had no idea where the plot was going to go (other than that they would try to defeat the demon librarian, obvs), and that made me really excited and happy.

Michelle Knudsen also gets some of my Bonus Points for several Star Wars references (50,000 points), and also a reference to my favorite Twilight Zone episode (50,000 points).  And I loved all the action and suspense, especially near the end of the book.  And have I mentioned the humor?  I totally loved all the humor!

My rating for Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen:

Actually more like 4.5 stars.  I really enjoyed it, and I'll definitely be interested in reading more by Michelle Knudsen in the future!
Find it:  Goodreads │ Amazon │ Candlewick Press

You may also enjoy:  Servants of the Storm Good Omens 

Disclaimer:  I received this ARC from the publisher, via Book Expo America, in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any other way for this review.

Review: The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy Ewing

Thursday, August 14, 2014
Title:  The Jewel
Author:  Amy Ewing
Series:  The Lone City #1
Publisher:  HarperTeen
Publication Date:  September 2, 2014
Pages:  358
Format/Source:  ARC/From Publisher, via BEA
Age Group/Genre:  Young Adult/Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopian
The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)

Mixed Feelings...

On one hand, I really enjoyed The Jewel.  I felt like it took some YA dystopians that I enjoyed but found lacking, and filled in the gaps.  I enjoyed the twists and turns and all the WTF moments.  I also enjoyed the fact that some of the YA tropes were called out quickly and didn't drag on and on like they do a lot of the time. (You saw your crush kissing another girl? Before you get all upset and run away, think about it--he's doing his JOB. And thankfully he reminded you of this on the next page.)  I also loved the idea that this city is supposed to be this one city left, surrounded by ocean.  This just makes me think that at one point in the future, we'll find out what really lies beyond the outer walls of the Lone City, and that's the kind of stuff I love to read about in a dystopian story.

But I did feel at times like I was getting hit over the head with pretty solid similarities to The Hunger Games.  The way the city is set up, the way that these people in The Jewel (a section of the city) live their lives, servants who are mute, a hand signal that the surrogates do as a sign of respect to one another, etc.  And this character, Lucien, totally reminded me of Cinna.  But I loved The Hunger Games, and The Jewel really does have its own story, so it really didn't bother me too much.

And then there's the love story.  It's pretty much insta-love but at the same time, for over 4 years, Violet hasn't been treated like a person by anyone but her fellow surrogates.  So I can see why she would fall for Ash, because he really does treat her like a real person when they first meet, and he does seem truly interested in her.

But then there's an issue with some of the characters.  Some of them act a certain way and then you find out more about them and you think, "This doesn't seem to fit their character at all."  For example, one character seems sweet and then you find out that they're not so sweet and yet we are never shown through their actions that they aren't so sweet, we're just told that they've got this secret sinister side.  But then someone else confirms it, so you think it must be true, but we're still never shown through that character's actions.  (Sorry for the vagueness, I just don't want to spoil anyone.)  And then there's another character that everyone hates and at one point there was a conversation that made me think that maybe this character isn't as horrible as everyone thinks, but that isn't ever addressed.  I LOVE complex characters but by the end of this book, I'm not sure if these are truly complex characters that we'll find out more about in the next book, or if they were attempts to make complex characters but they didn't actually work out... I'm certainly hoping it's the former.

Regardless, I did end up enjoying The Jewel.  I think it's a dystopian that, yes, had a love story, but it didn't focus on the love story and disregard everything else.  There have been a few YA books that have come out that were supposed dystopian books, but they really seemed to just be romance books with a side order of a dystopian world.  And I enjoyed some of these books, but I prefer my dystopian books to be heavy on the dystopian with just a dash of a love story.  And I think The Jewel falls into that kind of category, and I was pleased about that.

My rating for The Jewel by Amy Ewing:

4 stars.  I'm definitely interested to read the next book in the series, and hopefully it'll clear up some of my questions! 
Find it:  Goodreads │ Amazon │ HarperCollins

You may also enjoy:  CrewelThe Selection

Disclaimer:  I received this ARC from the publisher, via Book Expo America, in exchange for my honest review.  I was not compensated in any other way for this review.

Mini Review: Savage Drift (Monument 14 #3) by Emmy Laybourne

Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Title:  Savage Drift
Author:  Emmy Laybourne
Series:  Monument 14 #3
Publisher:  Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan
Publication Date:  May 6, 2014
Pages:  305
Format/Source:  Hardback/Purchased
Age Group/Genre:  Young Adult/Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic
The stunningly fierce conclusion to Emmy Laybourne's Monument 14 trilogy.

The survivors of the Monument 14 have finally made it to the safety of a Canadian refugee camp. Dean and Alex are cautiously starting to hope that a happy ending might be possible.

But for Josie, separated from the group and trapped in a brutal prison camp for exposed Type Os, things have gone from bad to worse. Traumatized by her experiences, she has given up all hope of rescue or safety.

Meanwhile, scared by the government's unusual interest in her pregnancy, Astrid (with her two protectors, Dean and Jake in tow) joins Niko on his desperate quest to be reunited with his lost love Josie.

Author Emmy Laybourne reaches new heights of tension and romance in this action-packed conclusion to the Monument 14 trilogy. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)

*Warning:  This is the third book in a series.  While I really don't like spoilers, you might find some slight Book 1 and/or Book 2 spoilers in this review.*

As usual with any sequels, I'm going to just write a mini review for Savage Drift, listing some of my notes:

  • Bonus Points for the maps in the front and the back of the book! (50,000 points.)
  • I loved the kind of recap in the front in the form of a letter that Alex wrote to a newspaper to tell their story and to let their families know what happened to them.
  • The first two books had action right from the start, but this one was a little slow to get to the action.
  • With all of the books, I felt like some of the kids didn't really act their age.  They acted way too young a lot of the time...
  • Some definite OMG and WTF moments!
  • Some nice twists as well.
  • Once again, I got a little teary-eyed at the end, and I hardly ever do that!

My rating for Savage Drift by Emmy Laybourne:

4 stars.  I think I liked the first book the best, but I really enjoyed the series overall!

You may also enjoy:  The Darkest MindsGone 

Disclaimer:  I purchased this book myself.  I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Review: Rumble by Ellen Hopkins

Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Title:  Rumble
Author:  Ellen Hopkins
Series:  None
Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's
Publication Date:  August 26, 2014
Pages:  546
Format/Source:  ARC/From Publisher
Age Group/Genre:  Young Adult/Contemporary, LGBT, Religion, Free Verse
Eighteen-year-old Matthew Turner doesn't believe in much. Not in family—his is a shambles, after his brother’s suicide. Not in so-called friends who turn their backs when the going gets rough. Certainly not in some omnipotent master of heaven and earth, no matter what his girlfriend, Hayden, thinks. In fact, he’s sick of arguing with her about faith. Matt is a devout atheist, unafraid of some Judgment Day designed by decidedly human power brokers to keep the masses in check. He works hard, plays hard, and plans on checking out the same way. But a horrific accident—one of his own making—plunges Matt into a dark, silent place where the only thing he can hear is a rumble, and eventually, a voice. And what it says will call everything Matt has ever disbelieved into question. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)

A Couple of Taboo Subjects...

I like reading books that take on some interesting, and perhaps "taboo" subjects.  Sometimes I worry, though, that they're going to end up being really biased, or preachy towards a certain way of thinking about those subjects.  But lots of authors these days are really adept in writing about these kinds of subjects without crossing that line.  And thankfully, Ellen Hopkins has proven with Rumble that she can do just that.

Rumble includes a few different subjects that could be considered "taboo" or "controversial":  religion, suicide, and homosexuality.  And while there are certainly still plenty of people in the world who are against homosexuality (or think it's a sin), I am not one of those people, and so I flock towards LGBT books.  Religion, on the other hand, is one of those kinds of sensitive subjects that can easily sway a person one way or another, just by the way the subject is handled.  Get too preachy, you turn away readers.  Or show certain viewpoints that people might not agree with, and you might turn away others.  

I have to admit, I was worried that Rumble was going to become preachy.  I was worried that this story was going to be about an Atheist who suddenly "comes to his senses" and becomes a Christian.  Now, I will admit, this can happen.  Atheists can suddenly become believers, or vice versa.  And I don't feel like there's anything wrong with being Christian, or being a member of any religion, for that matter.  But I do have an issue with the idea that an Atheist or Agnostic character needs to become religious because they just have to.  And luckily, Rumble didn't fall into that trap.  Matthew's beliefs evolve throughout the book, and he has some questions, but he doesn't just suddenly become a believer.  Sorry if that's a spoiler--I just had to mention that I was happy that it wasn't a story about an Atheist who suddenly saw the light and became a Christian.  (Nothing against Christians, like I said.  I just personally don't enjoy those types of stories.) 

But I digress.  I really enjoyed Rumble.  It was only the second free verse novel I've read, and it was my first book to read by Ellen Hopkins, and I was surprised to find out that all her YA books are written in free verse.  I thought the free verse was interesting and different and made for a very quick read.

I also really liked the characters.  Matthew has his issues, and even when you take those away he isn't perfect.  I cringed at some of the things that he would say and think about his relationship with Hayden.  They both were at fault when it came to their problems, and it was nice to see this kind of relationship, where it wasn't just one person being horrible to the other.  His parents were horrible at times, but at other times you really felt for them. And I really loved his Uncle Jessie and Quin, and even that crazy guy Gus.  All the characters were really complex and interesting.

I kind of saw the ending coming, but overall I was happy the way it all turned out.  And like I said, I really think that Ellen Hopkins handled these controversial subjects well.

My rating for Rumble by Ellen Hopkins:

4 stars.  I really enjoyed it, and will definitely be reading more of Ellen Hopkins's books in the future!
Find it:  Goodreads │ Amazon │ Simon & Schuster

You may also enjoy:  This Side of Salvation │ Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any other way for this review.

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