DNF: Nameless

Author: Lili St. Crow
Series: Tales of Beauty and Madness #1
Publication Date: April 4, 2013
Publisher: Razorbill
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 328 (ARC)
Source: Trade
When Camille was six years old, she was discovered alone in the snow by Enrico Vultusino, godfather of the Seven—the powerful Families that rule magic-ridden New Haven. Papa Vultusino adopted the mute, scarred child, naming her after his dead wife and raising her in luxury on Haven Hill alongside his own son, Nico.

Now Cami is turning sixteen. She’s no longer mute, though she keeps her faded scars hidden under her school uniform, and though she opens up only to her two best friends, Ruby and Ellie, and to Nico, who has become more than a brother to her. But even though Cami is a pampered Vultusino heiress, she knows that she is not really Family. Unlike them, she is a mortal with a past that lies buried in trauma. And it’s not until she meets the mysterious Tor, who reveals scars of his own, that Cami begins to uncover the secrets of her birth…to find out where she comes from and why her past is threatening her now.

New York Times bestselling author Lili St. Crow thrilled legions of fans with her dark paranormal series Strange Angels. Now she has crafted an evocative update of Snow White, set in a vividly imagined world and populated by unforgettable new characters.
~*~DNF Introduction~*~

I used to be one of those people that refused to DNF books. If I spent money on it or invested any of my time into it, I would push through it to the best of my ability unless the first chapter is so terrible that I just couldn't deal with continuing on. However, it's become obvious to me that you can't like them all. While some books you can struggle through and give a two star rating, you don't have to struggle through others. This book is one I got through a trade, I'm not obligated to review it, thus I'm not going to because I am struggling with it. If I bother to write what I am now referring to as a "DNF REVIEW" it means that I saw something in this book that interested me enough to make me slightly regret DNF'ing it. It means that I'm going to keep it on my shelves and try to go back to it in the future, though I am in no hurry to do so. Thus, for now, all DNF books will receive a disclaimer about where I left off so that everyone knows how much of the book I am reviewing. I don't know what the reaction to this will be, but I feel like I should get my thoughts out about such a thing and keep them on record if I ever do decide to go back to this. So, this is a record of my reflections on the causes of choosing to DNF, nothing more. This blog is here to help me maintain my thoughts on books, and it's going to do that for those I struggle greatly with as well.

~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

Disclaimer: This is not a review of the entire book. I decided to DNF on page 102, so you are about to read my thoughts about the portion of the book I read not as a review, but as a record-keeper if I ever decide to come back to this.

I was really looking forward to this one, so I was slightly upset once I began reading it. I've never read anything by Lili St. Crow before so I don't know if this was just a bad book for an amazing author or if her writing is normally like this. There are several reasons why I chose to DNF and I want to explain them now.

The world-building.
I was about a third of the way into this book and I still didn't fully understand this world. There were so many aspects to this world and so many creatures that I just couldn't grasp anything. There's this thing called the Waste which you don't want to go into, but faeries can. Then there's the Family of Seven which is supposed to be super powerful and feared, but they're like vampires from what I've gotten, though they have this ritual called Borrowing that I don't understand yet. And then normal people have Potential that shines through in charms and these people can do crazy things when they're emotional, but when they hit puberty they can become a Twist which is an evil person of some sort. And there are jacks who are creatures born with deformities like feathers and scales, if I'm grasping that correctly. There was some sort of altered history after WWII and that's pretty much all I got. Oh, and scarecrows and minotaurs are real in this world as well, but minotaurs form from extremely Twisted humans or something of the sort. I'm really confused and this entire little paragraph is me explaining what I did grasp thus far, which is why I'm frustrated because a third into the book I can't tell you, flat-out, about anything because I'm not sure of anything.

The characters.
I didn't really feel a connection to any of the characters. We're introduced to Cami who is the main character and she immediately felt flat to me. I didn't connect to her emotionally, nor did I really have a desire to because I felt as if the pity card was constantly played with her stutter, the nightmares from her past, and her constant talk about hiding her scars. The insecurities were overplayed. We meet her two friends, Ellie and Ruby early on as well. Ruby's supposedly this really gorgeous girl that every guy wants to get with and she loves shopping, so her shallowness did not appeal to me. Ellie has an evil step-mom who likes to ground her and she's poor and I think she is also physically abused, so Cami often buys her a lot of things with her extra money. We met the man and leader of the Seven that adopted Cami and I happen to like him. He's pretty much an ailing Italian mobster, and I like characters like that. We also meet his son and future heir, Nico. Nico is really twisted and self-destructive, which I didn't mind initially. He likes to fight, disobeys his parents on purpose only to get beaten later, and even took a knife to everything in his bedroom because he likes to destroy things. It's now obvious that he's really just a self-serving rich brat that likes to make people's lives difficult.


The "re-telling."
Re-tellings are re-tellings, they're not supposed to stick to the tale 100% though some try to. I understand that, but I saw no remnants of Snow White in this besides artificial things. Cami's lips were red and she had big blue eyes that stood out from her glossy black hair that nobody else in this written world had. Randomly, she would have thoughts about a specific apple that made her weak in the knees. Hearts, as in human hearts, were mentioned oddly and some guy even said she ate a heart as a child before she was found and adopted by the Seven. That's pretty much it. When I first saw the name of the Seven families I thought they would be her dwarves, but this girl is no Snow White. She's not commanding, she's slightly pitiful, and these Seven are extremely powerful dark families dealing in something like a magical mafia. They aren't dwarves. Where are the dwarves? I'm just confused.


The initial romance.
 So, I saved the biggest reason of all that I chose to DNF for last. The synopsis above hints that there may be a romance in the book later on with Tor, but a third in we've only just met him to learn that Cami is fascinated by him because she thinks he's hot and he tends to always look up whenever he senses she's near. It's a little cliche if you ask me. But there's some type of romance before them and that would be between Cami and Nico. There is no kissing, no declarations of love, but it's hinted that they are more than family and they're too close to be just brother and sister. I initially got the incestual vibes very early on in the story and continued on hoping I was wrong, but I reached a point in the story that had me rolling my eyes and I finally decided I was done. Here's an excerpt taken from page 101 - 102 of my ARC after Cami woke the house up from having a nightmare and Nico calmed her down.

Another laugh, this on more genuine. "Good. Move over."
The covers were a mess. And the cloth sticking to her skin was clammy, like the touch of cold fingers. Cami shook, stripping her sodden tank top off while he was punching the pillows into submission. When he settled with a sign onto his back and slid close enough to put her head on his shoulder, he stiffened.
"Whoa." But his arm didn't pause, he hugged her close and she realized they weren't kids anymore just as her entire body turned into one of Marya's crackling fires.
"S-sor-r-r--" Oh, damn it.
"It's okay. Shush." He relaxed all at once. "Nothing I haven't seen before, jeez. Marya used to put us in the tub together."
Well, yeah. But that was years ago. "Th-they kn-know y-you're u-u-u up h-here." The stutter got worse when she tried to whisper, now. Stupid thing, her tongue in revolt.
"What, you think I'm bad for your reputation?" But there wasn't any bite to the words. He sounded, of all things, amused. "Better get used to it."

...WHAT! She took her shirt off without realizing it in front of her brother. Like, you can't not be conscious of doing that. And he doesn't freak out or anything, says he's seen it all before. But you're teenagers now, not little kids sharing a bath. And she relaxed at that. It just bugged me out and made me slightly uncomfortable, like such a thing was not necessary to the progression of the story or realistic at all. I read FALLING KINGDOMS which also has incest in it, but the entire story the character is fighting himself because he knows he has wrong feelings which made it almost appear in a tasteful manner. This almost seems tasteless in comparison. I don't mind darkness in novels, but this excerpt was weird to me and made me take note of the page and close the book. I no longer want to read anymore of this awkward brother/sister romance/relationship/closeness even if one is adopted.

All in all, I know many people who have enjoyed this one. Having gotten over an illness that has kept me from reading for an entire week, I don't want to read books that don't impress me anymore. I had troubles explained above, but the romance was what really did it in for me. The incest in this novel was odd and it's not something that I wanted to continue reading because I felt it was done in a strange manner. I think this book and I just weren't meant to be because many others were able to move past something that I wasn't able to and found this book to be an overall enjoyable read.


~*~Links~*~

Top Ten Author's That I'd Put On My Auto-Buy List


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

So, my auto-buy list is huge much to my parents chagrin. I narrowed it down to my top 12 auto-buy no matter what authors, and then I added in 8 that are pretty much auto-buy except for a select few or they only have one book out so I'm considering making them an auto-buy still. Either way, if you are somewhere on this list, I love you. A lot. For eternity. Yeah.

In no particular order...

1. Tahereh Mafi
2. Marissa Meyer
3. Sarah Fine
4. Fiona Paul
5. Jennifer L. Armentrout
6. Stephanie Perkins
7. Leigh Bardugo
8. Jennifer A. Nielsen
9. Suzanne Collins
10. Cassandra Rose Clarke
11. Brigid Kemmerer
12. Gina Damico

Other Honorable Mentions
13. Jennifer E. Smith
14. Maria V. Snyder  
15. S.J. Kincaid
16. Marie Lu
17. Susan Ee
18. A.C. Gaughen
19. Tammara Webber
20. Miranda Kenneally


Review: Silver

 Author: Talia Vance
Series: Bandia #1
Publication Date: September 8, 2012
Publisher: Flux
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 374 (Paperback)
Source: Won
"As I step into the room, a silver flash blurs my vision. Before I can take a breath, the world falls away."

Brianna has always felt invisible. People stare right past her, including the one boy she can't resist, Blake Williams. But everything changes at a house party where Brianna's charm bracelet slips off and time stands still. In that one frozen, silver moment, Blake not only sees her, he recognizes something deep inside her she's been hiding even from herself.

Discovering she is descended from Danu, the legendary Bandia of Celtic myth, Brianna finds herself questioning the truth of who she is. And when she accidentally binds her soul to Blake, their mutual attraction becomes undeniable.

But Blake has his own secret, one that could prove deadly for them both.

Bound together by forbidden magic, Brianna and Blake find themselves at the heart of an ancient feud that threatens to destroy their lives and their love.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

Can I just say that I really, really enjoyed this one? I've had my eye on it for what seems like forever and it did not disappoint! Full of really interest mythology and plot twists galore, I can't imagine anyone disliking Vance's amazing fantasy review. It's really hard to not go into spoilers with this one, so I'm going to make this review short and sweet.

With a love that is destined to end in death, this romance will certainly take us on the ride of our lives. But what truly is interesting about the book is the romance. So real, it'll make your heart beat double-time in your chest. But the overall question is how much of it really is real and how much of it is fake? This is more than a simple love story. This is the story of a curse that transcends time, a coming of age for a girl who will decide the fate of the gods, and the understanding of first love as well as your role in life. This book is truly unique and stands out among the growing field of young adult mythological literature.

The pacing in this novel was superb as well. It was not too fast and not too slow, it was simply just right. And the flow of the characters and Vance's writing style made the book a breeze to read. There was very little to no confusion in the novel besides in the very beginning where it was almost necessary to the plot. It does help that the characterization was pretty awesome. The band of characters varies greatly and is beyond interesting because it almost seems as if everyone has something to hide. But that's also where my small problem with the book comes into play. At times, it felt like every time we turned the page a new character was suddenly popping out of the blue to reveal that they had hidden talents. I almost wish that the discovery of something so big was a bigger deal and carried out a bit longer. But with that in mind, I still loved the characters, even the secondary ones that did play somewhat of an important role but are still basically part of the back-story like Micah and Jeremy.

I think that this book can be enjoyed by all, but especially those who enjoy mythological and fantastical books. It's a quick read that is unique and will easily remain in your mind. I think it is safe to say that GOLD will be one of my most anticipated sequels of 2013.


4 stars

~*~Links~*~

Stacking The Shelves #23


This is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Obviously, after my birthday haul last week I am in no rush to get any books. However, I did get a book I accepted for a review request about a month and a half ago and a random book for review showed up in my mailbox this week as well. Two really different yet interesting ARCs.


For Review
The Almost Truth by Eileen Cook (Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada)
'Til The World Ends by Julie Kagawa, Anne Aguirre, and Karen Duvall (Thank you Anne Aguirre)

Review: Apollyon

Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: Covenant #4
Publication Date: April 9, 2013
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 360 (ARC)
Source: Publisher for Review
Fate isn’t something to mess with… and now, neither is Alex.

Alex has always feared two things: losing herself in the Awakening and being placed on the Elixir. But love has always been stronger than Fate, and Aiden St. Delphi is willing to make war on the gods—and Alex herself—to bring her back.

The gods have killed thousands and could destroy entire cities in their quest to stop Seth from taking Alex’s power and becoming the all-powerful God Killer. But breaking Alex’s connection to Seth isn’t the only problem. There are a few pesky little loopholes in the whole “an Apollyon can’t be killed” theory, and the only person who might know how to stop the destruction has been dead for centuries.

Finding their way past the barriers that guard the Underworld, searching for one soul among countless millions, and then somehow returning will be hard enough. Alex might be able to keep Seth from becoming the God Killer… or she might become the God Killer herself.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

Oh, God. Jennifer L. Armentrout is the master at keeping her readers on our toes. I will forever love her writing and eagerly anticipate what she has in store for us next. And though this book has yet to release, SENTINEL needs to come out, like, yesterday.


I want to start off by saying that as amazing as this book is, I don't think anything can top DEITY. In my opinion, DEITY was the best book in this series and as great as this book was, it didn't live up to the pure perfection that was DEITY. And that can be attributed to three things: the beginning and the cliff hanger ending, as well as the huge plot twist that I saw coming from a mile away but it took Alex nearly the entire book to figure out. I have never seen her so oblivious before, and that totally bummed me out because one of the things I loved about her was her lack of obliviousness. I felt as if she fell into this young adult heroine cliche only to further the plot along and drag out the mystery.


Aside from her lack of common sense surrounding the identity of the God that was aiding Seth and Lucian, Alex was amazing as always. I felt like she managed to grow even more in this one when I thought she matured to her fullest potential in DEITY. While Alex's impulsive ways will be one of the things we know, love, and hate all at once, she's begun to realize that stepping back and thinking things through will help her in the long-run. This was even acknowledged in the story itself. She also realized that she's the freaking Apollyon with kickass powers that she can wield with confidence! While Armentrout's fight scenes are always awe-inspiring, the new scenes evolving around Alex's Apollyon powers will trump all. Her self-growth and new-found confidence in this book led to a lot of the things that we knew and loved about somehow becoming exponentially better.

Another strong point of this story was the humor and the romance. Any reader of JLA knows that she knows how to deliver on both fronts. I have to say that with the humor in this one, it did get slightly sexual and even rigid characters like Marcus and Aiden were under so much stress that they had to cuss. This series never was for little kids, but in the language sense this book is the worst of all. While it does not bug me, this is not a book meant for clean readers. With that aside, the romance was extremely steamy in this one and, though I thought it was impossible, Armentrout makes us love Aiden St. Delphi even more. There are also many side romances mentioned in the last quarter of the book that will totally shock you.

The plot was action-packed and took us places that I never thought imaginable. I'm doing my best not to spoil any previous books in this review for those who have yet to read the series, but the one plot twist I can point out without ruining anything is that Alex journey to the Underworld. Seriously. The ultimate quest for survival and saving the human race by avoiding a war among the Gods forced her to seek answers in the land of death. Armentrout's love of irony and sarcasm will forever resonate with me in this sense. But, I must admit, with all of the amazing plot twists in this one, the beginning and ending of this novel could have been stronger. The ending itself was awesome, but the cliff-hanger aspect of it will slowly rip your heart in two while you wait until December for the release of the final book in the Covenant series, but the beginning....ah. Armentrout has been really religious about starting each book in this series days after the previous book leaves off. However, this book leaves you with a lot of questions because you have to read the novella, ELIXIR, to fully grasp everything in this one. While not necessary, it will lead to some initial confusion. This led to slight frustration on my part and though I knew what I was getting into after reading the ending of DEITY, the execution of connecting with the First and having him invade Alex's mind could have been produced better. For all of the previous books we've watched Alex's determination to be her own person upon Awakening grow, only to have that hope taken away from us with the first page of this one. As a reader and fan of this series, I was disappointed for the very first time. While I understand the necessity to the plot, it lessened my excitement to initially continue this one right away.

With that being said, I need to address one more character: Seth. While he does not make any direct appearances in this one, he plays a huge underlying role. His only way of communication is through Alex's mind and you can only distinguish him when he's speaking in italics. Overall, he's become even more deranged and it remains easy to hate him, yet my pity for him grew as well. This poor kid is bringing death and destruction to the planet under the belief that it will bring him love. It almost makes me wish he can find some form of redemption in the final book and such developments held my interest in this one. While the love triangle has pretty much disappeared, Seth will always be connected to Alex and her new quest will make his plans go up in flames. My eagerness for the final installment is just... overwhelming.

If you haven't picked up this series yet, you're insane. Action, romance, mythology, and a kickass heroine with a snarky attitude the size of Pluto all add up to create the most enjoyable series around for elder young adults. Jennifer L. Armentrout will never disappoint.




4.5 stars

~*~Links~*~

Review: The Nightmare Affair

Author: Mindee Arnett
Series: The Arkwell Acadey #1
Publication Date: March 5, 2012
Publisher: Tor Teen
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 352 (eARC)
Source: eARC for blog tour
Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.

Literally.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.

Then Eli's dream comes true.

Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

This book is truly an adorable gem. If you're look for a paranormal private investigators type book for a young adult audience, this would be your pick in a heartbeat. Keep in mind it is not for little kids because there are some sexual innuendos. I mean, Dusty has to kneel on a guys chest to feed of of his dreams! Even she refers to the positioning as awkwardly kinky!

I don't know about you guys, but I love magical schools. The Arkwell Academy is ranked up there with Hex Hall if you ask me, though neither can compare to the illustrious Hogwarts. Magical schools create this competition among creatures that's fascinating. A good prank war like what goes on between Dusty and Lance is awesome reading material and horrible charms being thrown about in the hallways of a school housing classes that give you tests by making you float apples into trash cans is pretty awesome. I mean, anyone who denies that is just crazy pants. Arkwell Academy delivers on all fronts with the addition of some never before seen magickind concepts and an awesome mystery.

Arnett's debut paints a vivid world for magickind whose kids attend Arkwell Academy to keep them separate from the ordinaries. Under the rule of the Magi Senate, all of magickind are controlled by The Will. This is an invisible magical force that propels teens to do things that are necessary to their survival, but also stops them from maiming one another using magic spells. So, while The Will forces Dusty to feed off of Eli's dreams on a night that will forever change their lives, it only stops her from using magic every now and then. Nightmares tend to find ways around The Will because their power comes from dreaming and imagination. While all the faeries, demons, werewolves, hags, wizards, sirens, and everyone else suffer from The Will's control, Dusty slowly learns that she can get around it. Nightmares are rare nowadays and the book only speaks of three in existence. Dusty and her mother--who is known for bending the rules--and Bethany who can only be compared to a gorilla that has a human shape. They must go into people's dreams at night and observe alongside them to gain energy. While there is no shortage of paranormal creatures in this one, I thought that the creation of the Nightmare creature was totally awesome.

However, it gets even better. When Dusty witnesses a murder while inside Eli's dream that comes true mere hours later, they realize that they are a dream-seer pair. While Eli dreams, Dusty sees them and analyzes them. Eli the ordinary who is obsessed with private investigating because his Dad is the head of the police force is the shipped off to Arkwell Academy to work with Dusty to uncover the murderer before it's too late. Initially resistive, they eventually become friends and with the help of Paul, Dusty's crush, and Selene, her siren best friend that is so totally against a siren's beauty making them a sex object, they take us on a journey of a life time.

I really enjoyed Selene and Dusty's relationship, just as much as I enjoyed Eli and Dusty's relationship. Selene is almost like a siren feminist which I found to be incredibly entertaining. As roommates they immediately hit it off despite the rest of Arkwell hating on Dusty because her species is so rare, feared, and misunderstood. Selene is always there for her, never batting an eye. Through Selene, we get to see the true realities of high school. There's always that one friend that is going to be there for you no matter what while the evil popular crowd tries to take you down. All of the intricate relationships, both good and bad, formed among peers and faculties and high schools were somehow exemplified in this book. It was a refreshing touch to read a book that somewhat understood the reality of teenagers these days.

But I did have on problem with this book, and that would be the big reveal. I don't really know how to describe it. As determined early on in the story, there are several people involved in this murder spree. The person involved that shocked Dusty the most was very obvious to me from about half way through the book. It's one of those cases that involved said individual always being at the scene of the crime when there was no reason and you can't help but go, "yeah, that's not right." But the other half of the reveal completely blew me away because it was so unexpected. While I guessed one person in the scheme of things and than could infer some things once others were revealed during the final showdown, the drive behind such decisions and desires were not foreshadowed at all, and that is something that slightly made up for the anti-climactic reveal of the first betrayal.

All in all, this was a great debut. A quick, humorous read good for young adults that like paranormal mysteries, I recommend this to nearly everyone. Arnett is an upcoming force to be reckoned with on the young adult paranormal mystery front.


4 stars

~*~Links~*~

Review: Illuminate

Author: Aimee Agresti
Series: Gilding Wings #1
Publication Date: March 6, 2012
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Reading Level: Young Adult (12+)
Pages: 531 (ARC)
Source: ARCycling
Haven Terra is a brainy, shy high school outcast. But everything begins to change when she turns sixteen. Along with her best friend Dante and their quiet and brilliant classmate Lance, she is awarded a prestigious internship in the big city— Chicago—and is sent to live and work at a swanky and stylish hotel under the watchful eyes of a group of gorgeous and shockingly young-looking strangers: powerful and alluring hotel owner Aurelia Brown; her second-in-command, the dashing Lucian Grove; and their stunning but aloof staff of glamazons called The Outfit.
     As Haven begins falling for Lucian, she discovers that these beautiful people are not quite what they seem. With the help of a mysterious book, she uncovers a network of secret passageways from the hotel’s jazz-age past that leads her to the heart of the evil agenda of Aurelia and company: they’re in the business of buying souls. Will they succeed in wooing Haven to join them in their recruitment efforts, or will she be able to thwart this devilish set’s plans to take the souls of her classmates on prom night at the hotel?
     Illuminate is an exciting saga of a teen’s first taste of independence, her experience in the lap of luxury, and her discovery she may possess strength greater than she ever knew.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I had really high hopes for this one, so it kills me to say that it didn't live up to my expectations, though it was still a decent story. Instead of being amazing like I was hoping, it was just okay.

Overall, I thought that the concept of this book was amazing. A group of people that were all incredibly gorgeous are in league with the Underworld and they're pretty much trafficking souls. It was very creative. And by the cover of the novel and the name of the series, you can easily tell that Haven is one of the few good people fighting against the monstrously huge population of the evil, even if she doesn't know it yet. While I very much enjoyed the plot and how Agresti managed to get the kids to the hotel via perfect grades (something I wish would happen to me!) I was not always happy with the delivery. So I want to spend this review explaining what, I believe, hindered this awesome-sounding novel from reaching its full potential.

First of all, the characterization. Haven was an incredibly smart girl that took pride in that. She's not all that physically attractive and she's ashamed of scars over her heart and on her back. She'll do anything to keep them covered up. Found in a ditch on the side of the road as a baby, she was adopted by a nurse named Joan that raised her the way children in young adult novels should be raised--seriously and studiously. She was no absentee parent, which I enjoyed. However, my one pet peeve with Haven is that as smart as she claimed to be, she was very naive to obvious negativity around her and she was very gullible. She had no common sense and lacked the ability to put two and two together, especially when a handsome boy that normally would not pay attention to her decided to realize she actually existed. It was frustrating to see this girl who brags about being independent and intelligent turn into a pile of oblivious putty under Lucian's watchful gaze. Aside from that, I have to admit she's a very strong and intriguing character, I just wish she wasn't so easily taken advantage of. Another example is when Aurelia was in her office talking about something that is going to happen between Dante and Etan. She heard literally what they were planning and didn't put two and two together that Dante was in trouble until chapters later. Instances like this had me rolling my eyes. A lot.

Then there's Dante and Lance. Dante is Haven's best friend. He is a homosexual and was stereotyped in the sense that he knows everything about fashion, tends to be very loud, feminine, and exaggereted with his speech, he's colorful in both the way he dresses and acts, and at some point in the novel he pulls the "you can't understand what I'm going through because I'm gay" card and suddenly turns evil. Now, do I think there's anything wrong with this? Not at all! I have many homosexual friends, but it frustrates me to see homosexuals stereotyped in young adult literature. Do I think it was on purpose? Not really, his character is unique and his certain feminine qualities come in to save Haven's day many times because she knows nothing about fashion and make-up and how to be a girl, but I wish he wasn't feeding into a stereo-type. Lance is the strong, silent type. Also intelligent, he's incredibly tall and lanky with huge glasses. He and Haven quickly become friends when Dante becomes overly enraptured and obsessed with his boss, Chef Etan. Lance, like Haven, has scars he is ashamed of, like one right below his eye. Watching their friendship blossom was very fascinating. He's the type of guy that you realize is super attractive the more you get to know him--the way that young adult love interests should be.

And lastly, there's Aurelia, Lucian, and The Outfit. I don't think I have many positive things to say about any of them. The first thing Haven notices when meeting Aurelia is that she looks nearly Haven's age--not old enough to run a huge hotel based off of Capone's reign in Chicago. The age thing can be found in Lucian, too. Again, he's supposed to be a superior of Haven's, but they're so similar in physical appearance. It bugged me out that there was no proper mention of age until nearly the end of this 500+ page novel. Aside from that, Aurelia and Lucian both need better qualities. While Aurelia first comes off as a savvy business mogul, she quickly begins to show her impulsive, evil, true colors. The switch almost came overnight and was slightly frustrating. And Lucian, half the time he wants Haven and the other half he is standing her up. He's a good guy and his heart is in the right place, but his evil, jealous boss is ruining him as a person--making him a selfish, undesirable, nearly-controlling date. The Outfit is full of glamazons, as the synopsis explain, that can only be compared to evil zombies. That's pretty much it.

Next, I mentioned last paragraph that this book is over 500 pages long and it feels every bit that way. I'm all for detail, I love it, but there's a difference between boring thoughts and essential detail to paint vivid imagery. It took me a solid 50% of this novel to get over the hurdle from the beginning of the book. It was full of so much useless detail. Haven's thoughts didn't drag me in the way they should have and they only truly captured my attention once she began scheming. It took me two weeks to read this one because I just didn't want to get over the first half of the book due to all of the unnecessary information that was slowing it down, but once I was 50% of the way in I finished the book in one sitting. However, if book two is anything like the second half, than I am really excited! I think, in part, that the first half of the book dragged because, in my opinion, there was way too much talk of sinning and the concept of souls. While not religious, it almost seemed religious because some characters spoke of crossing over to the dark side religiously and with such reverence. Souls were brought up in really weird ways. On page 248 of my ARC, Lucian even mentioned how he picked out specific food for his date with Haven to "nourish her soul." Things could have been approached differently. Face it, bosses would never encourage their protegee interns to do bad things and instead would applaud their clearly good nature. The intrigue and attempted luring of Haven could have been better thought out and enacted.

And my last questionable aspect of this novel was the diary. One day near the beginning of Haven's stay at the hotel, a blank black book shows up for Haven and as days go by, entries are suddenly scribbled in it, dictating to her what she needs to do to survive in a world full of evil. As freaked out as she is, she follows the rules the diary gives her because it's all so weird. But I got a very Tom Riddle-esque vibe from this. Magic book suddenly shows up, tells you what to do, slowly takes over your life. Sure, this one wasn't evil, but you catch my drift. In all honesty, I had something similar occurr in a story that I wrote when I was eleven years old. Yes, eleven years old. I feel as if this was a childish solution to slowly help Haven discover who she was that could have been constructed in a better way as well. It's something out of a young middle-grade, not a young adult novel. And the fact that this book was so important to her understanding of things yet we didn't meet who was behind it just yet was frustrating. Again, I sincerely hope that we learn who was behind it in book two or I may not be able to deal with it.

So, all in all, you can see I had a lot of problems with the execution of this one, not the characters and the plot, but how Agresti chose to go about things. It wasn't very believable and, more often than not, childish. However, since I think this book still deserves three stars, the amazing plot concept was enough to keep me reading and overshadow a lot of the negativity until I began reflecting on all of my notes for this review. So, I plan on picking up book two, though I'm going in with more realistic expectations than I did its predecessor. If it is anything like the second half of ILLUMINATE, Agresti will show immense growth that'll excite me and keep me reading. My fingers are crossed.

I recommend this book to those who enjoy good vs. evil stories. Then again, I also think this is more appropriate for younger level readers that like big books. I don't know about others my age, but I think all of my pet peeves are more appealing to younger children. Thank you to Jennifer at ARCycling for giving me the chance to review this book off of my wishlist!   
 


3 stars

~*~Links~*~

Stacking The Shelves #22: The Birthday Edition!


Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews.

This week was beyond awesome! I got some amazing surprises for my birthday and just some awesome books that showed up in the mail this week. I can't express my gratitude enough to anyone. Thank you for making this an amazing 18th birthday full of awesome surprises!

The one thing I asked my parents for was a birthday cake. I didn't want a celebration, I wanted a classic Carvel cake because I haven't had a birthday cake since I was 11. Well, my parents delivered and Eileen demanded a picture!



Only to have my cat eat it...


But check out the amazingness that ensued when I opened presents!

Gifted For My Birthday...

Thank you Kirsten Miller for...
*signed* hardcover of How To Lead A Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller
Already read and reviewed it...4.5 stars

Thank you Inky for...
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger (and the amazing hijack post yesterday)
Already read and reviewed it...4 stars


Thank you Amy for...
*signed* hardcover of Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi with the Best. Personalization. Ever.
Already read and reviewed it...5 stars


Thank you to the amazing Jennifer for...
an ARC of The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen
an ARC of Infatuate by Aimee Agresti
an ARC of Death, Doom, and Detention by Darynda Jones
an ARC of The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
an ARC of The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise
Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger buttons


Thank you to Gillian for...
a pre-order of The Collector by Victoria Scott
a pre-order of The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett


Thank you to my Tanta, the best aunt in the world, for...
Die For Me by Amy Plum
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter
Prodigy by Marie Lu (read and reviewed...5 stars)
a pre-order of Poison by Bridget Zinn (read and reviewed...5 stars)
 Parasol Protectorate Series Box Set by Gail Carriger
Includes Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, and Timeless


Thank you to my Mom and Dad for...
Asunder by Jodi Meadow
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (read and reviewed...5 stars)
The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George
Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George
a pre-order of Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
 
Other Books That Just Came In This Week...

Trade
Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike (Thank you, Eileen!)  



Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta (Thank you, Jennifer!)
Arcadia Awakens by Kai Meyer (Thank you, Jennifer! A book that takes place in Italy!)
What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton (Thank you, Jennifer!)
Erasing Time by C.J. Jill (Thank you, Jennifer!)
Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay (Thank you, Jennifer! Rome and Juliet retelling!)
Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown (Thank you, Jennifer!)
The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen (Thank you, Jennifer! Looks cute!)
Through to You by Emily Hainsworth (Thank you, Jennifer!)    


Gifted
 The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis (Thank you, Jennifer!)
Jennifer is one of the harshest critics I know, and this one made her cry. She told me I had to read it and gave me her spare copy to ensure I do so. I'm really excited to form my own opinions on it!


For Review
an ARC of Something Like Normal by Trish Doller (Thank you, ARCycling)  
an eARC of Emblaze by Jessica Shirvington (Blog tour for Tynga's Reviews)
an eARC of Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson (Thank you Netgalley!)  
an ARC of Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells (Thank you Strange Chemistry! Love steampunk!)


Unknown Origins
an ARC of Arclight by Josin L. McQuein
So, this showed up at my house out of nowhere. Never requested it. The return address was smudged so I don't know if this was a surprise gift or a review book or a mistake, but whatever it is, thank you! This book is AWESOME! I LOVED it!

Library
Outside In by Maria V. Snyder
I loved the first book in this series, so now I want to finish it! <3   



What did everyone else add to their shelves this week? I know that I will never need any new books again!