Monday, December 31, 2012

Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn


When sixteen-year-old Violet agrees to spend the summer with her father, an up-and-coming artist in Seattle, she has no idea what she's walking into. Her father’s newest clients, the Yamada family, are the victims of a high-profile art robbery: van Gogh sketches have been stolen from their home, and, until they can produce the corresponding painting, everyone's lives are in danger -- including Violet's and her father's. 

Violet’s search for the missing van Gogh takes her from the Seattle Art Museum, to the yakuza-infested streets of Tokyo, to a secluded inn in Kyoto. As the mystery thickens, Violet’s not sure whom she can trust. But she knows one thing: she has to solve the mystery -- before it’s too late. 


There aren't many stand-alone mystery books in YA, are there? 

Well, if Diana Renn's Tokyo Heist is any indicator, more mysteries are needed. Immediately. Or maybe just more of her mysteries. 

It is annoying to no end when a mystery book's mystery doesn't make sense. (Cough... PLL... cough... HACK...Such guilty goodness...) You know what I'm say'in/ insinuat'in: 

Why would Ali's killer be someone that the readers already know? Why give clues to whom the killer actually is? That's too boring. Wait. I know! Let's throw in a random evil twin sister halfway in without notice and see where the tide takes us! Yay! 
*All is well and spoiled* 

For those of whom averted their eyes at the spoils, what I'm trying to say is that I want a plot twist I can see coming. Ack! That sounds horrible. What I'm really saying is that I want plot twists... not plot zig-zags. I want where the story is going to make sense! With Tokyo Heist, I couldn't always fully grasp where the mystery was heading, but I could most of the time get an "something's not right" feeling and always look back and see how the plot got where it got. 

Violet is a protagonist I really loved. Yeah, sometimes her manga and Japanese-culture obsession got on my nerves, but only because she took it too far on occasion. I was about to jump in the book inception-style to beat her up after about the tenth time she complained about not having the Japanese word for courage.  Most of the time, though, I loved it. She had a unique passion, and she stuck to it. Her devotion to her manga tied in well with the missing art; seeing how Renn made Violet's passion help her solve the crime was delightful.

Tokyo Heist gets four stars.

Friday, December 28, 2012

It's been a while...

Hey. Hai. Hello. Ola. Prevyet. Gutentaug.

     It's been a while. A year, actually. Okay. So maybe when someone asks me how much longer I'm going to take putting make-up on,* and I reply "a while," no one expects me to take a year. Me taking a year might even surprise some. Some.
    As ya'll probably don't know, I started high school last year. I don't know how I got the notion,** but I felt so under pressure that adding blogging to my plate would've cracked the plate. I tried some blogging last year, but blogging isn't much fun when it's eight at night I just got back from tae kwon do, and I have an AP history paper due the next day that I haven't started yet. I only did book blogging because I liked it. There is no point to posting reviews if it causes more stress than happiness.
     My plate feels light enough for this right now. I forgot how much I loved it until I wrote a review of Angelfall for my school newspaper. Newspaper reviews are pretty to put on book covers, but writing online reviews gives me much more needed freedom. No one expects you to be so annoyingly formal all the time online. "Readers will enjoy Penryn's quick wit and kick-butt style." Nope. Not cool.
    Anyway, I have SO MANY AWESOME BOOKS TO REVIEW! (See? So cool. So casual.)
    Some of the books I need to get to include these beauties:

And so much more I have to find and dig out of the corner regions of my poor overstuffed bookshelf. 

Bye! For now! Post again in a while!

 Ha. No. I'll post back in less than a week.

(Now that I'm back on here I've realized that my profile picture looks nothing like me. Huh. Whatever. I'll fix it later.)

*Just kidding. I don't wear make-up.
**Yes I do: It was all that freaking messed-up YA contemporary I read in middle school. Thanks, Courtney Summers, thanks Laurie Halse Anderson. You guys are awesome suck. Plus the combined effort of all the middle school counselors telling us that we would either fail at high school or have no social life. Thanks. Again.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi


Since she’d been on the outside, she’d survived an Aether storm, she’d had a knife held to her throat, and she’d seen men murdered. This was worse.

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She’s been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.
In her enthralling debut, Veronica Rossi sends readers on an unforgettable adventure set in a world brimming with harshness and beauty.


         This Coke Zero commercial sums up my thoughts on Under the Never Sky pretty thoroughly. Thank you, Coke Zero.

         I only got UTNS at first because it was at the library. When I saw it on the self, just sitting there all new and shiny, I was excited. I wanted to read a book with a bunch of positive hype, and there it was! I was afraid of buying it on my own because I didn't see the "and?" factor that I so love in post-apocalyptic novels. So what? Who cares if your world has been ravaged by storms that have decimated the population? And? You live in a bubble and he lives on inhospitable land? No. It's hard to find a big enough "and" to stand out when being compared to post-apocalyptic "and's" like love is a disease (Delirium) or 24 kids killing each other in an arena (If you don't know this one, the rock you are living under is currently residing in deep space. Might wanna get that checked out.).

             I saw no mind-bending post-apocalyptic concept that would've drawn my attention in. That's okay. Enclave by Ann Aguirre survived with characters I cared about. That was Enclave's "and" factor. Aria and Perry were not characters I really even remotely liked. Aria spends the whole first part of the book complaining about everything. The POV was split between Aria and Perry, which meant I was super-duper lucky. I got to read Aria internally complain from her POV, and Aria externally complain from Perry's POV. Then something happened. Perry complimented her. That was it. No more complaining after that. After that she becomes a badass. No more prompting necessary.

             Major confusion. BUT THAT'S NOT ALL. Perry and Aria's relationship proceeds much in the same manner. The first half of the book, the "loving" couple did nothing but hurl insults at each other. Aria was the talkative one, always trying to strike up a conversation. Perry stays dead quiet except, you know, the insults. After Perry compliments Aria on her badass manner of trying to save Perry with her dying self (Turns out to just be her first period. Lovely.), Perry stops with the insults. Aria still held up the brunt of the conversations they have. Most of their attraction was made out to be physical. Perry sniffs Aria; Aria kisses Perry. BAM. And a soul-mate was born. I almost wanted to say WOAH, GUYS. REMEMBER TEN PAGES AGO WHEN YOU CALLED PERRY A SAVAGE? Remember Perry barley said fifty words since? (You badass. You smell like pretty flower.) I felt like they built their relationship more on proximity than any kind of good chemistry.

          Just because I spent the last three paragraphs trashing everything about Under the Never Sky, from the annoying characters, to it not meeting my twisted expectations calling for about twenty-threeish children to die on a televised event or whatever, doesn't mean it was a complete loss. The world the book is set in was pretty amazing to read about. The descriptions of the tribe Perry lives in, and the virtual Realms Aria spent most of the book lamenting about not being there made me want to visit their messed up world. Not all of the characters were a total loss. Roar was the side character who made the last half of the book better then the first. He becomes a problem when I like him better then the two main characters combined. I would be ecstatic if Veronica Rossi wrote a book about Roar and his own killer forbidden romance with Perry's sister.

         My point is, Under the Never Sky is plain Coke. Three and a half stars. It was good enough for a rainy day, but it was not Coke Zero. It was a dog with a helmet on a skateboard, cool on its own, but it preformed no tricks. It was pretty good on its own, but I don't think I'll be picking up the sequel.

        I hope the Coke Zero analogy made as much sense to you as it did to me when I woke up at two o'clock in the morning with the uncontrollable urge to write "Under the Never Sky = Coke" on a post-it note.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

John Dies at the End by David Wong

Here is the link to the Goodreads page with the picture of the cover. For some reason, probably the new Blogger template (Seriously? I need to download Google Chrome for it to work? I barely have enough space as it is.), I can't publish anything with photos. Sorry for the picturless post!


STOP. You should not have touched this flyer with your bare hands. NO, don't put it down. It's too late. They're watching you. My name is David Wong. My best friend is John. Those names are fake. You might want to change yours. You may not want to know about the things you'll read on these pages, about the sauce, about Korrok, about the invasion, and the future. But it's too late. You touched the book. You're in the game. You're under the eye. The only defense is knowledge. You need to read this book, to the end. Even the part with the bratwurst. Why? You just have to trust me.

The important thing is this: The drug is called Soy Sauce and it gives users a window into another dimension. John and I never had the chance to say no. You still do. I'm sorry to have involved you in this, I really am. But as you read about these terrible events and the very dark epoch the world is about to enter as a result, it is crucial you keep one thing in mind: None of this was my fault.


John Dies at the End is one of my favorite books—probably making the least sense—I have read in 2012. I had never before with a book wished that the pages would flow slower or tried to read in small intervals to make a book last longer. The plot was second in importance when compared with the voices and humor of JDatE’s characters. I think no other book would have accomplished getting me to laugh out loud during a fetal pig dissection (thankfully, I had the option to opt out), while also making me mistrustful of the dead pig because possibly the pig’s internal organs might become external and explode when trying to kill me. Here’s the quote that let me know I needed to buy John Dies at the End immediately because a Kindle sample just wouldn’t cut it:

“Let's say you have an ax. Just a cheap one, from Home Depot. On one bitter winter day, you use said ax to behead a man. Don't worry, the man was already dead. Or maybe you should worry, because you're the one who shot him.”
David Wong, also the pseudonymly named author, is an amazing narrator. He has the whole “So. Paranormal stuff. That’s really weird. And it kinda sucks. Let’s go kick a meat monster’s butt. *Insert funny penis joke here*” vibe going on. It’s not every day you encounter that vibe from anywhere. JDatE has it down to a freaking science. The tone wasn’t so serious that the book lost its whimsical vibe, but the funny narration was presented in a way that the scary things going on still seemed real and scary enough.

Five stars.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Regular posting and SPOLIER ALERT: John Dies at the End


          It’s summer—in case no one noticed. It being summer means there’s no more school. There being no more school translates to no more homework. By no more homework I mean no more biweekly history assignments on writing, just an example, two page essays analyzing the significance of Justinian and Theodora’s mosaics. It was pretty cool to figure out I had it in me to prattle on about the significance of Justinian’s height in relation to his followers for half a page, but that prattle didn’t leave me much opportunity to do much else. Now that summer, the time of abundant free time, is here, I can go back to reviewing the normal at-least-one-every-week way.

            And—omg—I have read SO MANY good books. SO MANY. One of the books just happens to be John Dies at the End by (pseudonym) David Wong. I’m planning to review it later in the week, but just one post does not express how much I fell in love with that book. No, it needs... one post... PLUS A COUPLE OF SENTANCES. So... here it is! Yay! SENTANCES. Yeah. I’m planning on saving most of my hard-core fan-girling for later.

       And here is the link to the movie trailer for John Dies at the End if the below Youtube video is acting not nice. Only the best books get made into real live movies. Remember that.

P.S. Does anyone know how to see something embedded in an online photo? There is a alternate reality game going on the JDATE (Ha! Best. Abbreviation. Ever.) website that allows people to see a preview of the next book. Of course, only the computer savvy are open to such an opportunity. Seriously, what normal person knows what embedding is? Let alone how to see iHAIL KORROK.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Hunger Pains by The Harvard Lampoon

And here is the link to the trailer. Because it made my day, and I'm hoping it will have a similar effect on you. Slinkies save lives.   


          The Hunger Pains was the first parody I’d ever read. I don’t even know how I came to be reading it Just kidding, I know exactly how: After I had lent my copy of The Hunger Games to my sister (who reads at the speed of ten pages per doctor visit), my mom convinced me to relinquish the book to my sister’s care. I think she was in shock that my sister was reading. For fun. She promised to get me another copy, which was fine with me. The orange juice I had previously spilt on the cover morphed into a stain in the shape of a disfigured pencil and it was really starting to bug me.

          I got the book the day after. The first thing that alerted me that something wasn’t right was the dead golden bird. I could have sworn it was meant to be alive. Then I saw that, instead of the word, games, it said pains. My mom had mixed up the two books. They do look quite alike. I saw it was a parody and thought, why not read my first ever parody? And that, my readers, is how I came to read my very first parody. I bet your “first ever parody” story isn’t as cool as mine. To please Buttitch Totalapathy, I will even bet you on it.

         Kantkiss Neverclean of district twelve, the telemarketing district, has been chosen to be a tribute in the seventy-fourth annual Hunger Games along with the doughy Pita Malarkey. The only three people who can possibly get her out alive are Buttitch, Effu Poorpeople, and Cinnabon. Thankfully, Kantkiss has a few... mad skills of her own. A quote to showcase why Kantkiss should be in the running for most badass female protagonist of the year:

       “Here I am, my life on the line, being judged by people who don’t appreciate good theater... Enough is enough. Without even thinking, I shoot an arrow right at the apple in the pheasant’s mouth. I miss pretty badly and the arrow enters the chest of a rainmaker and pins him, dead, against the wall.”

         Most of the parts of The Hunger Pains turned out to be funny. Having random things happen in the context of a favorite book is pretty freaking hilarious. Other parts deserved a well placed facepalm. The Rue part was taken too far into weirdness and the random people dying by explosions got old quickly in the 157 pages of the book. But I did burst into hysterical laughter about every five pages, so.... good show. The Hunger Pains gets three and a half stars.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin


So, let’s say you’re fourteen years old and you live in New York City.
(Well, technically you live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, which is very close to and almost just like Manhattan… except not.) You’d think your life would be like a glamorous TV show, right? And yet...
You don’t have a checking account, much less a personal Black American Express Card. No fake ID, either – not that you’d pass for 21 in a million years even if you did. The only couture in your closet is a Halloween costume your mom made out of an old laundry bag when you were eleven. You’ve never been to a club, or had a drink served in a martini glass or, frankly, done anything really NYC-ish at all.
You definitely don’t have any secret powers, or friends who are vampires, or magical weapons stored in your parents’ basement. You’re about as normal and totally boring as a human being living in the most exciting city on the planet could possibly be.

In other words? You’re me: Kelsey Finkelstein.
But don’t despair, people—I’m starting high school in less than a week! This is going to be the year that I live up to all of my untapped potential—finally.

I have to say… I’m feeling almost optimistic.


       I underestimated Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters. Pretty stupid for a current freshman herself, eh? I thought it was going to be a randomly forgettable, cutesy freshman novel. I was hesitant in giving it a try before I read all the positive reviews on Goodreads. Point is: If any ya’ll are considering not reading Freshman Year and Other Natural Disasters only because the entire plot is about a freshman doing freshmanish things, give it a try. Freshmanish things are surprisingly fun. So are freshmen. Yay freshmen! Freshman Year and Other Natural Disasters never tries to downplay freshman. It’s great book even for really old people, like seniors.

       Expanding on my positive outburst on the subject of freshmen (ehem, “Yay freshmen!”), Kelsey Finkelstein is my hyperbolic hero. Every other sentence in Kelsey’s mind Must Be Exaggerated. And that makes me love her, like, 289.34 times more. If I was as bubbly as Kelsey, I think I would’ve leaped through the ceiling by now. Reading Freshman Year and Other Natural Disasters made me cheerful by osmosis.
            Five stars is greatly deserved.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen

Ella Marino knows three things to be true. One: Edward Willing, a skillful painter, is meant to be her everlasting soul mate. Two: Edward Willing has been dead for almost a century—and not in the sexy vampire way. Nope, he’s dead dead. Three: Ella Marino has more chance of getting a date with the late Edward Willing than she has of being noticed by the living, popular, and possibly nice, Alex Bainbridge.

Unless Ella happens to be taking French . . . and failing it, which she is. Apparently, being an Italian-American does not give Ella mad French skills as her French teacher wishes to believe. And unless Alex just happens to tutor French, which he does (must be all those summers abroad). Then maybe they have a chance.

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare has so much worthwhile humor. Ella’s thought process, family stories, and seemingly useless knowledge make the book. After reading The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, I am convinced that everyone deserves a crazy Uncle Ricky to continually audition for Top Chef. Uncle Ricky doesn’t play a big role, but his mentions in The Fine Art of Truth or Dare make the reader feel at home in the incredible Marino family. Ohh that Ricky . . . life just wouldn’t be the same without him.

But the humor is also one of the reasons why I give this book four stars instead of five. As the official opposite of a pop culture junkie, The Sopranos, “Freddie Krueger,” and other pop culture references make no sense to me. (But, seriously, who is this . . . “Freddie Krueger?”) Pop culture junkies, rejoice: your vast understanding of vague television and movie references will finally be put to good use. The references aren’t enough to make the book unreadable to non-pop culture fans, but by the sixth random television reference I was starting to feel a little annoyed.

Ella Marino is not a normal character, but she’s odd in a good way. How many YA main characters are there with a love for fine art and an aptitude for truth or dare? NONE. I love reading about a main character who is still pretty normal, but has his or her own unique hobbies and loves. I was happily surprised by Ella’s amazing family—no overused absentee parents here. All members are present and loving. Also over-the-top funny. Ella’s superstitious grandma’s speeches are probably my favorite parts in the book. I love her family’s differentness from other families I read about.

I grant The Fine Art of Truth or Dare four figstars.

This review may also be found on

Friday, February 10, 2012

Book titles

       I judge books based on their titles. When people ask me what I’m reading (that rarely happens, but in this case I’m going to pretend I’m inquired about that daily), I want to say, “Oh, yes, I am currently reading Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow by Daniel Nayeri (I bought the book after lovingly memorizing the title. I couldn’t manage to finish the first chapter, but reading the title aloud still fills me with unspeakable joy. Bad books shouldn’t be allowed to tease people with good book names).” I do not want to say, “yup, girrlzz, I’m totes in the middle of The Death of Dark Blood’s Kiss by Made-up StupidName.” There isn’t a book with that exact embarrassing-to-be-seen-reading name, but after much random Google searching I have discovered a book by the name of Born of Blood and Retribution, the third book in The Dark Kiss Trilogy by Liz Strange. Born of Blood and Retribution may be a positively lovely tale of birthing, blood, and the retribution against the birthing of the blood; in fact, in Goodreads averages it four stars. Because of the name, I will never know.

        I’ve made two lists, one for my top five favorite types of book titles and top four most dreaded types of book titles. My lists are in order of the worst of the best book titles to the best of the best. I wish more list makers would do that; it adds wonderful suspense. (“Ohhh if THAT was his/her worst best favorite title then what is his/her SECOND worst best favorite title?!” Please do not tell me I am alone on loving that.)

5. Books with random words that don’t normally go together.

Examples: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma or The Twin’s Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

The words “imaginary girls” isn’t something anyone hears or thinks too often... unless you happen to possess multiple imaginary girlfriends. Then those words may enter your consciousness quite often. If you are not a proud owner of multiple imaginary girlfriends or the happy daughter of a twin, the words are new and interesting. I think I made up and memorized a song to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” where the only lyrics were, “The imaginary girls are the twin’s daughters.”

4. The “of” books.

Examples: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

I don’t have a reason for liking “of” books except I like the fancy ring to it. “Salutations, uneducated one. You may refer to me as the Duke of Awesome”

3. Good name books

Examples: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin or The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

This can also be considered a category of “of” books, but since I am also going to have another category of bad name books later, I thought this was appropriate. Right off a character and the characters defining thing is clear. I immediately know from the start that, hey, this chick’s name is Mara Dyer and this book is about her intriguing process of unbecoming.

2. Known phrases of cool on books

Examples: Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst or She’s So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott

Hmmm... Drink, Slay, Love. Wonder where I’ve heard that before... Eat, Pray, Love. OHHHH. THE CLEVER IS OVERCOMING MEE. It just feels good to see something familiar once in a while.

1. Dependant clauses or phrases as titles

Examples: If I Stay by Gayle Forman, or Between the Sea and the Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore

This is where I go all ninja and use my ninth-grade grammar skills on y’all. (Side note: Isn’t it pathetic that I’ve only started learning the most basic grammatical things in 9th grade? And only the most basic skills. I’m sure my posts are still ridden with vague grammatical crimes against nature.) It’s fun to ask “what” sometimes. What does happen if she stays? Does she turn into a butterfly? Eat brown guacamole? What is between the sky and the sea? Dirt? Hand sanitizer? I may never know. Unless, of course, I read the book.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Boy Project by Kami Kinard

Kara McAllister has a problem. Already in the eighth grade, and she’s never had a boyfriend. Most other girls in Kara’s school have boyfriends–why shouldn’t Kara? How can Kara snag herself a boyfriend? She launches an ingenious research project—The Boy Project–to answer all her burning guy-related questions.

Using her middle school science fair as a cover, Kara puts together a notebook full of notes, graphs, and observations on the opposite sex. But after all that scientific research, one question still remains: will Kara ever get boyfriend?

Reading The Boy Project is like reading a run-on text from a bubbly best friend. Not in the, “hi, I lik 2 tpe lik dis” sense. More in the uplifting and easy to get caught up in sense. Kara’s humor and hyper thoughts make her an easily likeable character, as does her clueless naivety. At one point, Kara decides her soul mate is an Abercrombie employee because he smiles at her. Poor little Kara. So much to learn.

The only thing that bothers me about The Boy Project is . . . err . . . the subject of The Boy Project: eighth grade boyfriends. I don’t want to be like one of those people who say Twilight makes feeble-minded and impressionable thirteen-year-old girls everywhere go out and get into relationships with sparkly, possibly psychopathic boyfriends. But—sorry about this—isn’t the middle grade audience intended (around sixth grade) going to feel a bit boy-pressured? A year ago, when I was in middle school, almost no one had a boyfriend. Only a few Maybellines (“popular” children) and Vines (clingy, eyeliner-wearing children) bothered to. Middle school feels way too early to start obsessing over boys. I know that it’s probably a non-issue. Middle grade readers should be smart enough to tell a fun, light-hearted read from something to actually take seriously—but it did give me a moment’s pause.

The Boy Project gets four and a half stars!

This review is also posted on the amazing