Review: Altered


Author: Jennifer Rush
Series: Altered #1
Publication Date: January 2, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown and Co.
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 336 (ARC)
Source: Borrowed
When you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?

Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who’s stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them.

Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.

Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

Words cannot describe how much I loved this book. Full of originality, action, and unexpected plot twists galore, I am anxiously awaiting the release of this one so I can get a copy of my own. It is a must read for any reader, especially those who love adventure, romance, and mysteries!

Ever since she was a young girl, Anna has known about the four boys that live in her basement--her father's secret lab. Sam, the attractive, stoic, leader that she often meets at night to play chess with and may or may not have a crush on. Nick, the one who despises Anna with a burning passion, though he also feels obligated to protect her. Cas, the lovable childish one that can still kick some serious ass. And there's also Trev, a very endearing brainiac who is Anna's best friend and has an inspirational quote from history for just about anything. All completely different, they function as a single unit with the goal to discover their pasts and the secrets that have been hidden from them by the company that employs Anna's father. When they stage an escape and are forced to take Anna with them, the mystery begins and the five of them race against the clock to uncover the hidden secrets before it's too late. This insane treasure hunt was so creative and original that I can't help but say Rush is emerging as a new must-read author.

I truly loved the characterization in this one. Each character, specifically the boys, differed immensely from the next, but somehow manage to blend together beautifully to form a wicked team. I never got them mixed up and they each continuously stayed true to their distinct, unique personalities. Anna, as the only girl among four genetically altered and engineered alpha-males, really held her own for someone who genuinely had no idea what was going on, and I enjoyed reading her thoughts and figuring out my own assumptions from the plot clues I gleaned through her. Cas was able to add a slight bit of humor to an otherwise serious novel which I really enjoyed as well. Out of all the boys, he was the most endearing, though I genuinely enjoyed them all.

There is also a bit of romance in this one. It's incredibly rocky. It falls prey to YA cliches in the sense that they can kiss and then fight, then suddenly have a huge revelation and make up. But at the same time, it is slow moving and the concept of love was never actually mentioned, thus it leads me to believe that the romance will further blossom in book two. I enjoyed the romance because it's hard to form such deep connections when on the run and you can see the characters desire to fight it, but in the end, the heart wants what the heart wants. It doesn't subtract from the serious plot of hunting for clues, which is amazing as well.

This is one read that can be finished in a single sitting because the plot twists are so unexpected. My heart was beating fast by the time I turned the final page. Full of action sequences, guns, and the characters running for their lives, your heart strings will be pulled every which way in this one due to the adrenaline and the heartache that you will experience as a reader. As satisfied as the ending was, I need book two to saturate my hunger as soon as possible. This one definitely comes in high recommendation because it'll take you on the journey of a lifetime.

 
 5 stars

~*~Links~*~

Review: The Spindlers

Author: Lauren Oliver
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading Level: Middle-Grade
Pages: 246 (ARC)
Source: Won
One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbing and pancake-loving younger brother, who irritated and amused her both, and the next morning, when she woke up, he was not. In fact, he was quite, quite different.

When Liza's brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul.

She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him.

To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids . . . as well as terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers' nests, where she encounters the evil queen and must pass a series of deadly tests--or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.

From "New York Times" best-selling author Lauren Oliver comes a bewitching story about the reaches of loyalty, the meaning of love, and the enduring power of hope.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I have a confession...this is the first book written by Lauren Oliver that I have ever read, and after reading it I am kicking myself repeatedly for not picking up any of her young adult books sooner. If she's known for her young adult writing and her middle grade books are amazing, I'm going to go ahead and venture by saying she must be close to a literary genius.

This book is so incredibly imaginative and creative that there's no proper way to put my thoughts into words. Liza, a strong girl despite her young age, ventures into the scary and unknown Below to save her brother's soul from the evil spider-like Spindlers before it's too late. In Below, nothing is impossible. Along her detailed and fantastical journey, we meet unique creatures and the beautifully scatter-brained and rather large rat, Mirabella, that helps teach us the true value of friendship. I also noticed she serves as a vessel for the moral that people don't judge you for your looks, but who you are as a person. This book is full of morals, in all honesty, making it a must read for young, budding readers.

This is also a quick read that took me less than two hours to get through because I was easily able to flip the pages eagerly. It's rather light and whimsical at times while other characters are rather evil, but regardless of what obstacle Liza encounters, she fights through everything and continues to take you on a beautifully detailed and fast paced journey with a plot that keeps moving along without a single bump in the road. With informative trials and tribulations and the smallest hint of darker, magical areas and beings, this is one book not to be missed.

Oliver writes this adventure beautifully, showcasing a playful and fun yet descriptive writing style that was constant throughout the novel. The perfect read to help induce a love in reading in kids, it could find a home in your home, a library, and even a classroom. This one comes in high recommendation among the few middle-grades that I have actually read and enjoyed and its creativity, teachings, and overall cuteness can be adored by pretty much any generation.

 
4 stars

~*~Links~*~

Waiting on Wednesday #23

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that spotlights upcoming releases and it is hosted by the fabulous Breaking the Spine.

My pick of the week is...

A Darkness Strange and Lovely  by Susan Dennard

Following an all-out battle with the walking Dead, the Spirit Hunters have fled Philadelphia, leaving Eleanor alone to cope with the devastating aftermath. But there’s more trouble ahead—the evil necromancer Marcus has returned, and his diabolical advances have Eleanor escaping to Paris to seek the help of Joseph, Jie, and the infuriatingly handsome Daniel once again. When she arrives, however, she finds a whole new darkness lurking in this City of Light. As harrowing events unfold, Eleanor is forced to make a deadly decision that will mean life or death for everyone.
Something Strange and Deadly is my favorite zombie book ever. I normally hate zombie books, so I'm really anticipating this sequel! Plus, Daniel and Elanor in Paris?! Sign me up!

Review: Venom

Author: Fiona Paul
Series: Secrets of the Eternal Rose #1
Publication Date: October 30, 2012
Publisher: Penguin/Philomel
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 432 (Hardcover)
Source: Personal Shelf
Cassandra Caravello is one of Renaissance Venice’s lucky elite: with elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, her own lady’s maid, and a wealthy fiancĂ©, she has everything a girl could desire. Yet ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.

When Cass stumbles upon a murdered woman—practically in her own backyard—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of courtesans, killers, and secret societies. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a mysterious artist with a mischievous grin... and a spectacular skill for trouble. Can Cassandra find the murderer, before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancĂ©, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?

Beauty, love, romance, and mystery weave together in a stunning novel that’s as seductive and surprising as the city of Venice itself.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I'm still struggling to describe how much I loved this book. An amazing debut, Paul easily marks herself as an imaginative writer that will stand out among the best. This is not a series to be ignored. Full of romance, mystery, and secrets galore, I could not find the willpower to put it down. I was easily immersed into the beauty and artistic exploration that was Renaissance Venice, and man, I did not want to leave.

This book takes place in beautiful Renaissance Venice. I love anything relating to Italy, so this made this book an immediate must read for me. As a member of the upper class, Cassandra has many duties and obligations pressed upon her, but her wild rebellious streak that is threatening to overtake her often causes her trouble with her aging Aunt Agnese. Though she is of the upper class, her rank among the elites is waning because she is slowly losing her fortune after her parents death many years ago. I enjoyed this aspect of the book because we were able to have a richer heroine, yes, but she wasn't snooty and entitled like many belonging to the upper class are portrayed to be. When she accidentally discovers a corpse near her estate, her world begins to spiral out of control. She sets out to hunt down the killer before the killer successfully hunts her, all with the help of the mysterious and sly artist, Falco, who she can't help but be attracted to despite wondering what he often does with his continuous late night appointments.

The romance in this book is one that I really enjoyed. Falco, despite being of the lower class, has very defined opinions due to his experiences and love of art. He is devoted to his craft and his friends, making him an easy character to become enamored with. Cass is naive to all things romantic due to her long distance engagement, so Falco's sly and flirty innuendo's in the beginning of the book brought out a vulnerable side in Cass that slowly caused them to gravitate towards each other romantically. Slow-burning and beautifully written, their process of falling in love was absolutely amazing. My heart sped up several times, especially when Cassandra made the slow transition from Falco's female friend to his muse. In all honesty, you could read this book just for him and be entirely satisfied by the thought and complexity exhibited by his character alone.

The murder mystery in this book is incredibly twisted in the good way that only murder mysteries can be. I enjoyed every second of it while simultaneously fearing for Cass's welfare alongside her and any other innocent young women in Venice. As the clues slowly unraveled, I became more and more eager to find out who the killer was, what connection all the suspects had to each other, and the motives behind the killings and their gruesome ends. And as we slowly began to get answers, I was completely blown away. I didn't realize the small hints that Paul dropped along the way, the complexity required to weave such a tale, until we finally learned the identity of the killer. The creativity she exuded to avoid making anything obvious allowed us to have our minds completely blown once the story reached its climax. 

Growing up, my parents always told me that you know you have read an amazing story when the ending of a story satisfies you immensely, but still makes you crave the next installment. For me, this is one of those stories. While we did get many answers, many more questions arose to make way for book two, BELLADONNA. While I was entirely satisfied with the ending, I feel that I may actually spontaneously combust due to the wait required for book two. This is one series that cannot go unread. Perfect for lovers of historical fiction and romance, it'll force you to read the entire thing in one sitting.

 
5 stars

~*~Links~*~

Stacking The Shelves #10


My haul last week was absolutely insane thanks to Nicole, and a great deal of my haul this week was a bunch of surprises she had in store for me as well! <3 She's the best bookish big sister in the world, I'm telling you!

 

Bought
(with the help of gift cards and awesome online Black Friday deals!)
Insignia by S.J. Kincaid
Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors
Renegade by J.A. Souders
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

 Temporary Swap:
Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers

Traded:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laina Taylor 
Thank you, Holly! I hope you enjoy TIMELESS!

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
Thank you, Alley! Enjoy FORGIVE MY FINS!

Undeadly by Michele Vail
Thank you, Nicole! Enjoy 52 REASONS TO HATE MY FATHER!

Gifted
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (Thank you, Nicole!)
Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes (Thank you, Nicole!)

Won
 The Darkening Dream by Andy Gavin (Thank you, Latoya!)

Link me up so I can see what you added to your shelves this week!
 

Review: Soulbound

Author: Heather Brewer
Series: Legacy of Tril #1
Publication Date: June 19, 2012
Publisher: DIAL
Reading Level: Young Adult (12 and up)
Pages: 394 (ARC)
Source: ARCycling
Tril is a world where Barrons and Healers are Bound to each other: Barrons fight and Healers cure their Barrons' wounds in the ongoing war with the evil Graplar King. Seventeen-year-old Kaya was born a Healer, but she wants to fight. In Tril, and at Shadow Academy, where she is sent to learn to heal, it is against Protocol for Healers to fight. So Kaya must learn in secret. Enter two young men: One charming, rule-following Barron who becomes Bound to Kaya and whose life she must protect at all costs. And one with a mysterious past who seems bent on making Kaya's life as difficult as possible. Kaya asks both to train her, but only one will, and the consequences will change their lives forever.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I have not read Brewer's Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, but I really want to after reading this one because I enjoyed it so much. I didn't know what I was getting into when I picked this one up. I knew that it had a heroine who I would love simply because she went against the norm and refused to play the damsel in distress, and I'm happy to say that it lived up to my expectations. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for a heroine who can kick some serious butt, so Kaya is a blossoming favorite of mine and easily commanded my respect.

The plot in this one was amazing. The thought behind it is unimaginable and I have nothing bad to say about it. It dragged me in from page one and I couldn't get enough, easily finishing this book in one sitting, though the ending was predictable. The fight scenes took my breath away and the attention to detail, especially when describing the hideous, fantasy Graplar beasts, was superb. But what upset me is the slight love triangle. It's not overpowering, but it does exist between the rule following Barron that Kaya is Bound to and his rule-breaking best friend that is the only respected Unskilled in all of Tril. As fascinating as it was, it made the characters seem very wishy-washy at times, which is upsetting since the characterization in this novel was so strong and well done.

Believe it or not, this book got its rating for only two reasons. First of all, the ending was predictable. I figured it out on a hunch within the first one hundred pages in the book even though it was barely foreshadowed. What was supposed to be this huge bomb was easily foreseen, though as predictable as it was, I am still craving book two. August of 2013 is way too far away, if you ask me.

My other qualm with this book is the language and, at times, the way it is written. Part of the reason I breezed through a four hundred page book was because it was written for ages twelve and up. As a senior in high school, I still enjoy some middle-grades, so I found no problem with that at all. However, this book liked to use cuss words, but since you can't drop the f-bomb or call someone the d-word in a book for twelve year olds, the words "fak" and "dek" were tossed around a lot. While I understand the need to create unique cuss words in young adult literature these days to make it appropriate for younger readers but somehow convey the powerful frustration and angry emotions that a cuss word is normally used with, a word that seems so out of place sometimes doesn't work out. Honestly, these words, specifically "fak", are found very often in this one, and it mislead me as a reader and tended to constantly ruin serious moments because of the sheer awkwardness and silliness of the faux-cuss word. If you are going to write a book for such a young audience, don't throw such serious insults in. The need for young readers could be found in other scenes throughout the novel because they were written in less detail or very simply so that they could be read by younger individuals. Normally, I wouldn't have a problem with this, but the entire book wasn't written this way, so such moments seemed out of place to me and disrupted the plot flow. If this was corrected, it would have been a much smoother read.

With all of that being said, I am anxiously awaiting book two. I really enjoyed this one and Kaya is a great main character. Though slightly illogical and prone to overly-girlish moments, she's respectable, relatable, and fighting for an amazing cause as an underdog. She'll do anything to protect her parents and the constant death threats against them. In other words, she's my kind of girl.

  
3.5 stars

~*~Links~*~
|Amazon|Goodreads|Book Depository|Barnes and Noble|Author's Website| 

Review: Dead Girls Detective Agency

Author: Suzy Cox
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 384 (ARC)
Source: Trade
Pop quiz: What would you do if you had to solve your own murder to get anywhere in death?

Maybe if I hadn't slept through my alarm, slammed into Kristin--my high school's reigning mean girl--or stepped in a puddle, destroying my mom's new suede DVF boots (which I borrowed without asking), I wouldn't have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I wouldn't have been pushed in front of that arriving train. But I did, and I was.

When I came to, I was informed by a group of girls that I'm dead. And that because I died under mysterious circumstances, I can't pass straight over to the Other Side. But at least I'm not alone. Meet the Dead Girls Detective Agency: Nancy, Lorna, and Tess--not to mention Edison, the really cute if slightly hostile dead boy. Apparently, the only way out of this limbo is to figure out who killed me, or I'll have to spend eternity playing Nancy Drew. Considering I was fairly invisible in life, who could hate me enough to want me dead? And what if my murderer is someone I never would have suspected?
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I traded for this book in hopes of getting a quick, hilarious read with an interesting concept. Well, the read is quick...the book has a very interesting and unique concept...but the plot felt flat and I don't have many things I enjoyed. In my opinion, the hardest type of review to write is one for a book you really didn't like. I sit here wanting to be honest with you, but it's hard to highlight the positive points without dwelling on the negatives. So I'm going to try to make this a simpler review, but elaborate on my qualms and share what I adored.

The plot in this one was set up for so many amazing things, though it did fall flat. One day Charlotte was murdered, pushed in front of a train on the subway train track. She then woke up in some type of limbo for murdered teens in New York City where she meets the Dead Girls Detective Agency--Lorna, Nancy, Tess, and supposedly Edison. She can't move on and leave limbo until she solves her murder and gets the key to her freedom, so she embarks on a twisted journey to find her murderer--one the most unsuspecting characters ever.

However, I have to say that the plot was hindered by a lack of humor and odd characterizing. This book was littered with jokes to lighten to the mood of death, but they all fell flat to me. I could see the jokes so obviously there, but the only reaction they were able to solicit from me was the occasional eye roll or the need to just ignore it and keep going. I feel as if the humor was geared more towards a younger teenage who thinks weird sayings and cheesy sarcasm is hilarious. The lack of humor made the book slightly morbid at times because the humor was supposed to override the team of death and it didn't.

Next, the characterization. For the life of me, I could not connect to Charlotte. I didn't agree with her decisions, her thought processes seemed skewed and slightly batty, and I just didn't like her. While Lorna and Nancy were somewhat entertaining every now and then, they couldn't make up for my dislike of Charlotte. I also really didn't like her ex-boyfriend. Truth is, if you love someone who is murdered, you don't go and hook up with half of the cheer-leading squad just because you don't know what to do and they pay a lot of attention to you. He was not a respectable character at all and more often than not, I just wanted to get rid of him.

And I have trouble grasping the motivation for the murderer. We spend the entire book trying to figure out who it is, and while I was shocked because it was the last person I expected, I hated the motivation to take someone's life. It was messed up, to put it honestly. I know you have to be a little messed up in the head to want to murder someone, but this was just a petty excuse that should never lead to murder. I was slightly angered after reading this part of the book because it was so insane. The big climatic moment fell flat because there was no logic in it. 

Sitting here reflecting on the book, I think that one of the reasons that I had all of these problems was the writing. It didn't seem that complex. It was very simple, and while I like simple, too simple can sometimes be bad. I feel like more description and attention to detail regarding emotions and descriptions may have allowed me to enjoy this book slightly more than I did. I wish that the creativity behind the plot could have been handled in such a way to create a stronger story with more likable and respectable characters.

 
 2 stars

~*~Links~*~

Waiting on Wednesday #22


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that spotlights upcoming releases and it is hosted by the fabulous Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick is...

Death, Doom, and Detention by Darynda Jones

The normal part of Lorelei MacAlister’s life didn’t just slip away quietly the day Jared Kovach came to town. Nope. The normal part of her life shattered. It exploded. It burst into a gazillion shards of fleeting light.

It went out with a bang.

Goodbye normal.

Hello dark and eerie.

While her best friend, Brooklyn, is focusing all of her energy on helping Lorelei hone her abilities, Lorelei is dealing with the reality that Satan’s second in command has taken up residence inside her body. Oh, and the fact that she has a crush on the Angel of Death. But what a beautiful death it is. If those weren’t bad enough, something sinister has come to town and it wants nothing more than to hear Lorelei’s dying breath as it strangles it out of her. Thank goodness the gang has a supernatural champion. But what happens when the only being who can save them switches sides midstream? How can a group of misfits capture one of the most powerful beings ever created? And will they find out how to bring Jared back to them before it’s too late?
 Though the start of its prequel was really rocky for me, once Jared and Cameron's identities were revealed, it was easier for me to get into the book. I'm hoping that this book will be written better because of that and I may enjoy it more, though I can never truly dislike Darynda's writing.

6 Month Blogoversary!!!

Happy 6 month blogoversary to me!!! *throws fake confetti*

Really guys, I'm shocked I've made it this far. I never knew I would be here when I wrote my very first review months ago and, in all honesty, I know I wouldn't be here if it weren't for my amazing readers. So, thank you. Thank you for helping me easily become a member of this amazing world. Because of you guys I have found my niche, and I plan on sticking around for a while.

Over the past six months, I have done many things that I never thought were possible. I created a blog and managed to run it while being part of 2 others, I've hosted insane giveaways, I've made friends that I never want to lose, and even talked to authors--something I never thought I'd be exposed to doing. I've even begun to make my mark on the world with a charity event. It's things like these that I want to take a moment to talk about to thank you once more.

My Blog
Lili's Reflections has given me a place in such an amazing community. I love it dearly. There's not much to say about my blog besides the fact that it truly means a lot to me, and I hope that shows through with each review I'm able to post.

Tynga's Reviews
I have been posting reviews every Wednesday on Tynga's Reviews for several months. Tynga and the team welcomed me very sweetly despite the fact that they were looking for a blogger that was over 18 and I am just 17. I've found some really amazing friends in Tynga, Jenn, and Stephanie, and I highly recommend heading on over there to check them out and chat with them on twitter. They're amazing girls worth meeting and have really helped me strengthen my review writing.

ARCycling  
I also help run ARCycling every Sunday. ARCycling is a program to recycle ARCs and finished copies to other bloggers and I love it to death. Originally, I was just a requester when it began and what started as a joke between myself and the creator quickly escalated into me being her co-ARCyer. Jennifer is now among my best book blogging friends. I don't know how I could love without this girl. She deals with me texting her random things about my life (like my first college acceptance) and advises me the way an older sister would. She's someone worth sticking with.

Also, Jennifer and I are having a 100 book extravaganza to celebrate my blogoversary and to spread ARCycling awareness. Go on over to the launch post while you still have a chance! The contests close at midnight at the end of the month!

Statistics
Statistics normally upset me because I'm not in a race to win. I'm simply doing something I love and loving every minute of it. But the accomplishments I have had thus far are beyond words for me because I never thought I would make it this far.
  • I have posted 101  review: 80 on my blog, 20 on Tynga's, and one guest review! Is that not insane? My output has severely slowed down since the summer, but I am proud of this!
  • I have 403 GFC followers
  • I average anywhere from 6500 - 9000 page views a month.
These are stats that I'm very proud of. I love each and every one of my followers and I'm still shocked that so many of you have stuck with me this far!

Friends
I have made a select few inseparable friends in the last few months.
  • Nicole at Paperback Princess. This girl lives just 10 minutes away from me and is officially my bookish big sister. She has helped me so much and I love her to death.
  • Kristan at Lost Amongst The Shelves. This girl is amazingly intelligent and all around fun. I get to see her at least once a month and it's always so amazing! <3
  • Krista and Becca at Nawanda Files. These two make up the coolest set of twins you will ever meet. They are amazing writers and are going to be published one day, I swear on it. I love trading with them and reading their reviews. They're the sweetest people ever! 
  • And I can't even begin to describe Jennifer. She is the first blogging friend I ever made, even if she claims that Percy Jackson is hers when he's really mine.
I'm hoping that in the following six months leading up to my blogoversary, I can meet more people like them! <3

Authors
Because of book blogging, I've been able to connect and befriend authors--something I never thought imaginable. Two authors really stand out to me and they're the type of people that I do think I can call friends.
  • Gina Rosati author of Auracle - I came home randomly one day to a wonderful e-mail from Gina about my review and my charity program. Weeks later, it's safe to say that it's routine for me to shoot her an e-mail or two every couple of days. She's helped me with my charity program, my thought processes regarding college, and plenty of other things. Needless to say, she and I are having lunch one day in Massachusetts. It's going to happen!
  • Sarah Fine author of Sanctum - Sarah is among the sweetest authors I have ever met. It's hard to say what really began our communications, but she has written one of my all-time favorite books and is, without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite people. I genuinely love it when one of her e-mails is in my inbox.
Blogging has also introduced me to some amazing authors that I would not have discovered otherwise such as: Gina Damico, Brigid Kemmerer, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Tammara Webber, Katie McGarry, Stephanie Perkins, Tahereh Mafi, Tamara Ireland Stone, and so many more.

I also want to give a shout out to Justine Dell, Fiona Paul, Elizabeth Norris, and Tiffany Schmidt. These ladies are so sweet and have helped out my charity program immensely. While all donations are shared in the update posts, I really want to extend a huge thank you to them once again.

Favorite People
These people may not have been mentioned above, but they're some of my favorite people out there!
To put it simply, I love it when I come home to comments from any of you and am constantly stalking your blogs. You all are amazing. And there's so many more people that should be on this list, too, but then it would be never-ending!

Books Change Lives Charity Event

In all honesty, this is the accomplishment that I am most proud of. As an avid reader, reading is important to me, so I have launched a project to get books to impoverished children entitled Books Change Lives because they can't share in something that I value so greatly. It's been a major success thus far and I'm silently hoping to break 1000 book donations one day. I update the launch page linked above frequently and post updates on individual donators every 2 - 3 weeks. If you would like to donate, please e-mail me at reflectionsbylili@gmail.com. It would be greatly appreciated and all books would be going to an amazing cause

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

As you can see, I've been pretty busy these past six months. But it's been an amazing six months and I would do nothing to change it. I love what I've been doing, and I plan on continuing to do it for a while.

Thank you <3



Review: Crewel

Author: Gennifer Albin
Series: Crewel World #1
Publication Date: October 16, 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 368 (ARC)
Source: Gifted
Incapable. Awkward. Artless.

That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: she wants to fail.

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to embroider the very fabric of life. But if controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and wove a moment at testing, and they’re coming for her—tonight.

Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her Dad’s stupid jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because once you become a Spinster, there’s no turning back.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

Once I saw this cover, I knew I had to have this book and, boy, did it amaze me. It's hard to properly describe this book, but the words  "innovative" "unique" and "one-of-a-kind" come to mind. Not to mention the fact that the magnificent world-building surpassed all expectations. The very concept of weaving the world is unique in itself, and it's easy for any fantasy lover to be entranced by the world that Albin weaved for us. This book is beautifully complex and enthralling, I easily got through it in one sitting.

With such amazing vividness used to describe the world of Arras, I was hoping for equally strong characterization. While the characterization was great for the most part, it was slightly frustrating at other times. Adelice, the main character (with such a beautiful name!) was a bit back and forth for me. I absolutely adored her snarkiness, curiosity, and sarcasm. As an elder teenager I could relate to her easily. But when put into specific situations, I was puzzled by some of her responses. Some of the things that came out of her mouth made me sit back and wonder where it came from because it was so out of character. She was a bit wishy-washy randomly. As for the other characters, I liked their building even if I disliked the character as a person. However, the attempts at villainous behavior and the motives behind such behavior were a little odd at times and instead translated to creepiness with a diabolical edge instead of outright villainous behavior. I get that jealousy can make people do stupid things, but being jealousy of a girl who is over a decade younger than you because you have a helpless crush on a boy that is a decade younger then you? Really? They're supposed to be together, they're the same age, you are the one at fault! It's skewed thinking like this that threw me for a loop and had me shaking my head at times. I'm hoping that things will be more realistic in book two.

There was a slight love triangle in this book as well, but it was incredibly clear that Adelice favored one boy much more than the other. While is one arrogant and cocky, the other is strong-willed and observant. Both boys had redeeming qualities, but I must say that I believe Adelice made the proper choice. This is not a love triangle worth getting worked up over because it does contribute considerably to the plot in a positive manner. It helps move it along and the romance does not overpower any plot points.

As for the ending of this novel, it has me craving book two. And while I am beyond anxious for the next installment in the Crewel World series, I was still left with a few questions with this one. While I understand that the place it left off at was reasonable, I have too many questions that are still left unanswered. There are many fates of many characters that still need to be revealed. And the ending itself was slightly bizarre and leads a reader to come up with theories of their own. While this ending is open to interpretation, I may go insane without book two.



4 stars

~*~Links~*~

Stacking The Shelves #9

 

Stacking The Shelves is a wonderful meme hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews that highlights what we added to our bookshelves this week!

So, this is a special STS because it is spanning more than two weeks! However, in these past two weeks, I've gotten more books for BCL than myself. Which is still pretty awesome, if you ask me! Scratch that, IT IS BEYOND AWESOME!

But let's check out what I got, so you can get hints of what books you'll soon be seeing reviews for on my blog as well as Tynga's Reviews!


For Review:
There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack (blog tour stop on December 7)
Dark Companion by Marta Acosta (thank you, Tor!)

Temporarily Borrowing from the Amazing Nicole
Doomed by Tracy Deebs
Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova
Black City by Elizabeth Richards
Level 2 by Lenore Applehans
Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

Permanent Trade
Legend by Marie Lu
Thank you very much, Margie! Enjoy ENDLESSLY.

Starling by Lesley Livingston
Thank you, Lauren! Enjoy DEAD GIRLS DETECTIVE AGENCY!

Won 
Dualed by Elsie Chapman (thank you, Grace!)
Venom by Fiona Paul (thank you, YA Novelties!) 

Review: Death and the Girl Next Door

Author: Darynda Jones
Series: Darklight #1
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 271 (paperback)
Source: Won
Darynda Jones, author of The New York Times bestselling series that began with First Grave on the Right, brings us Death and the Girl Next Door, a thrilling Young Adult novel garnering high praise and early buzz from major authors

Ten years ago, Lorelei's parents disappeared without a trace.  Raised by her grandparents and leaning on the support of her best friends, Lorelei is finally beginning to accept the fact that her parents are never coming home.  For Lorelei, life goes on.

High school is not quite as painful as she thinks it will be, and things are as normal as they can be.  Until the day the school's designated loner, Cameron Lusk, begins to stalk her, turning up where she least expects it,  standing outside her house in the dark, night after night.  Things get even more complicated when a new guy—terrifying, tough, sexy Jared Kovach—comes to school.  Cameron and Jared instantly despise each other and Lorelei seems to be the reason for their animosity.  What does Jared know about her parents?  Why does Cameron tell Jared he can't have Lorelei?  And what will any of them do when Death comes knocking for real?  Thrilling, sassy, sexy, and inventive, Darynda Jones's first foray into the world of teens will leave readers eager for the next installment.

~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I was a huge fan of Darynda's Charley Davidson series, so I was really looking into her foray into the young adult world. I went into this knowing it wouldn't be like her adult series, but I expected the same form of writing and Darynda's easy ability to make me laugh. I was disappointed by all aspects. Perhaps because it was the fact that my expectations were so high due to her adult series. But after reading this book, I feel as if I lost a bit of Darynda's amazing writing style. Her ability to make us laugh and write plot lines like a professional was completely thrown out the window. Instead this book was hard to follow, didn't execute the plot to the fullest extent, and was littered with young adult cliches that I try my best to avoid as a reader.

Everything started going downhill with chapter two. The first chapter introduced us to Lor and her friends Glitch and Brooke, who I love immensely because they did provide the few bits of humorous relief in the book. But once we were introduced to Jared and Cameron, the plot started to go downward. This is literally a love at first sight type thing. New boy who is extremely suspicious shows up at school, hits on plain girl while hot popular girl tries to get in the way, new boy is such a supernova that he cannot be ignored, girl is a lost puppy without him. Then we throw in the fact that the random yet hot loner kid is suddenly stalking the plain girl, too. Not a love triangle, but full of cliche.

The first third of the book did nothing but confuse me. There was a lot of paranormal aspects in the book that went awry. There was a lot of fighting, both Cameron and Jared were acting like psychopaths, and I had no idea why they were able to pause time and hit each other with trucks and somehow survive and randomly do a whole bunch of things. It was all so random. The attempted action that went wrong tempted me into DNFing the book, but I reminded myself that I love Darynda's writing and kept going.

The middle of the book and ending redeemed it somewhat because the plot did move along well. I finally began to understand things once Cameron and Jared's true identities were revealed. If such a thing happened sooner, I probably would have enjoyed this book ten times more because I wouldn't have gotten so frustrated with my immense confusion. However, this book took male machoness to an entirely new level. Jared and Cameron were constantly going at it... crowbars, bats, planks of wood, magical powers, fists--you name it, they used it. It was too much and overly done. 

There was also a heavy case of insta-love in this one. Jared was too gorgeous to be ignored and Lorelei--a girl who never gets male attention--latched onto him immediately. She was impulsive, she went along with whatever Cameron or Jared told her to do, rarely stood up for herself, and let her feelings rule everything just so that we'd have to endure her crying about her decisions days later because she didn't think things through. I didn't enjoy her characterization at all. I liked Jared's more because he is a being of both light and dark. The way he described his feelings for Lorelei, as quick as they arrived and as unbelievable as they are, were amazing. She was his light, his ever-burning fire, and it was absolutely romantic and powerful. Moments such as those made up for the lackluster romance and odd plot line.

This book had so much potential. If you have a book with angels, demons, prophets, secret orders, and poltergeists, you have a recipe for amazingness within your grasp. But this book fell short of all expectations because all aspects of this potentially wonderful plot were not pulled together properly. Instead, things simply happened to help move the plot along. People would conveniently pop in out of nowhere when they were needed, the characters were over-dramatic and emotional, and there were very few plot twists that I didn't see coming. Those that surprised me were amazing, but they didn't make up for the fact that a great majority of the book was predictable. The originality used to weave the tale was amazing as well, but that can't make up for its flaws.

Overall, I'd recommend taking this one out of the library if you're curious about it. I plan on continuing the series because I love Jones and I want my faith restored in her writing. I feel as if I randomly lost her along the way with this one, and I want her back. Since the book did get better after the weird beginning, I'm hoping the sequel will be stronger because there is no need to reintroduce Jared and Cameron again.


3 stars

~*~Links~*~

Books Change Lives Update #3



We are less than 70 books away from collection 500! Thank you so much everyone! We're truly making a difference in the world by getting books to impoverished children. If you have any questions/donations, please e-mail me at reflectionsbylili@gmail.com

These past few books, A LOT of books have come in. And when I say that, I mean well over 150 books have arrived. Between the first two people listed below, there's already 80! Thank you so much to everyone who has had books that have arrived in the past few weeks! Thank you too...


JEN BIGHEART AND JENNIFER DEE
The two Jen's are this weeks big donators. Together they donated 42 MG ARC's while telling me there is more to come. I am speechless when it comes to your generosity. Thank you, you two!


FIONA PAUL
Thank you again, Fiona. On top of the amazing books you donated in the last update, another 24 came in! That's a whopping 38 books! You are so amazing!

KATHLEEN PEACOCK
Thank you, Kathleen, for donating a beautiful new copy of your book and two other books for early readers!

ELIZABETH NORRIS
If you remember, last session Elizabeth donated seven finished copies of her book, UNRAVELING. Well, another 7 came in the mail this week! That's insane! Again, thank you so much for the generosity, Elizabeth! 

LANA KRUMWIEDE
Lana is so sweet! Priority mail, she sent eight new finished copies of young adult and MG books, including two of her debut novels, FREAKLING, signed. Thank you so much!

TIFFANY SCHMIDT
Tiffany donated 40 books! This is insane. Both MG and YA ARCs and finished copies, she donated entire series and plenty of other big books that I'm sure these kids will enjoy. You are amazing, Tiffany!

MONTANA GOLIN
The amazing Montana of The Book Belles sent 15 YA and MG ARCs and finished copies. This is so amazing, thank you!

DIANA RENN
Diana donated 7 books, all new hardcovers, some of which were signed and one which was a manga, which we really need. This was an amazing contribution to the cause. Thank you so much, Diana!

ALYCE REESE
The wonderful Alyce Reese sent 10 children's books my way which were greatly needed, including a finished copy of The Lightning Thief--a series that I really want to get to these kids. Thank you so much, Alyce, these are really appreciated and you are one amazing Mom!

ANGELA DILL
Angela, you are truly amazing. You donated a huge series for younger boys that will really help us out! <3 Thank you so much for the 30+ donations.

TIM GREEN
Ex-football player Tim Green was able to send two of his sports books for young boys my way. This is absolutely awesome since we really need more books for boys! Thank you!

KIMBERLY SABATINI
Kimberly was amazing enough to donate a signed copy of her debut with one of the sweetest messages I have ever read. Thank you for your help!

TAMARA IRELAND STONE
Tamara has many books on the way, but one ARC beat the others and it's a really amazing donation. This book is in high demand, so thank you very much, Tamara! (:

STACEY JAY
Stacey is such a sweetheart. She donated two copies of two of her books, SIGNED! Thank you!

JENNIFER L. ARMENTROUT
JLA is one of my favorite authors ever, so I was really excited to see that she was able to give a hardcover copy of her latest novel, CURSED, to the charity!

CAROLINE STARR ROSE
 We don't have many MG books, so that is why I'm so happy to thank Caroline for sending a SIGNED finished copy of her historical fiction, MG! What a great debut!

MELISSA MARR
Melissa was kind enough to donate a copy of her new anthology, so I'm happy to be able to put something unique into the pile!

JOSEPHINE ANGELINI
Thank you so much for donating and beautiful finished copy of STARCROSSED, Josie!

Review: Anna and the French Kiss

Auhthor: Stephanie Perkins
Publication Date: December 2, 2012
Publisher: Dutton
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 372 (trade paperback)
Source: Trade
Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home. As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?
 ~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

There are no words to describe how much I loved this one. It lives up to the hype and literally warmed my heart. By the last word on the last page, I wanted to cry tears of joy for the characters simply because I loved it so much. Thank you, Krista, for sending this book my way.

This book explores the wonders of what it's like to fall in love for the very first time. It was relatable, it was real, and it took me on the good type of an emotional roller coaster ride. Perkins found a way to put such a complex process full of unexplainable feelings into words. The romance was powerful, slow moving, and swoon-worthy. It took the entire book to develop from both characters denying their feelings to their struggles of coming to terms with the fact that they may be in love to actually finding ways of proclaiming their feelings. It's the entire process rolled into 372 pages that I never wanted to end, no matter how perfect the ending was in my eyes. This will definitely be my go-to cheerer-upper read in the future.

The characterization was superb. All characters were three-dimensional and had a purpose. Even those meant to be hated were continuous in their rude behavior and not there simply to move the plot along. All characters were fleshed out and easy to love, especially Anna's crew of Etienne, Josh, Mer, and Rash. But Etienne St. Clair's characterization is what I love the most. He is American, English, and Parisian--the perfect combination, but his character is flawed. It's so rare to come across an imperfect boy, but Etienne is imperfect which is what makes him so perfect in my eyes. He's confused with what he wants to do with his future and college, he's short, he's impulsive and afraid to be alone, he has a sickening fear of heights, he is compulsively clean and polite, he always wears boots, he keeps sending Anna mixed signals in his attempt to be obvious about caring for her, he's such a complex character...but he is simply perfect for Anna. He is officially one of my favorite boys in all of young adult literature and I would read the book just for him and his Briticisms are pretty laugh-worthy too.

I do want to throw a warning out there. As cute as this book is, parents may not feel comfortable allowing younger kids to read it. It contains the s-word, the f-bomb, f-bomb hand gestures from several countries, drinking, name calling, sexual references and innuendos, and a boy and a girl sharing a bed to sleep (literally just to sleep). I am seventeen years old and I found it all understandable. These characters are the same age as me, this is how we act, this is what we do, but at the same time, I wouldn't recommend a twelve year old reading this. Nothing in it is overwhelming, but it is there and I know some readers who are primarily clean readers that would not feel comfortable reading this, hence the warning.

With all that being said, I would recommend this book to anyone. I am not the biggest contemporary reader, but my faith in the genre is slowly being restored due to books such as this one. It ranks high next to Katie McGarry's Pushing The Limits and Tammara Webber's Easy, in my eyes. Even those of you who are primarily paranormal readers like myself should give this one a chance. It's one hundred percent worth it.


5 stars

~*~Links~*~