Review: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release date: May 16, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 384
Goodreads || Book Depository

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be—whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

MY THOUGHTS

I love supporting Aussie authors and I was so excited to check out The Love Interest because it had an intriguing synopsis and a really stunning cover. But I was left feeling really disappointed because I don’t think the book lived up to its full potential.

The book is told from the perspective of Caden, who is a Love Interest. He grew up in this secret organisation where he was groomed to become a Love Interest to someone important or powerful enough to have an impact on the world. Love Interests are spies who are expected to report back to the organisation with secrets about their partners. However, in order to be in the lives of their partners, they need to first have a fight to the death with another Love Interest who is also vying for the attention and love of that partner. When the partner makes their choice, the Love Interest who has lost is killed. Caden and Dylan are Love Interests fighting for the love of Juliet, who is a genius scientist and inventor. But a friendship between them forms when they realise that nobody else in the world understands them better than each other.

I actually really liked the first 70 or so pages of the novel. I was captivated by the concept and the world of the Love Interest organisation and I found it to be addictive in a reality TV show/The Bachelor kind of way. But as I progressed through the book, I became a little bit bored with the lack of plot and the lack of development in the story. There wasn’t very much that happened and it just came across as a boy trying to get a girl to fall in love with him using very dramatic and unrealistic methods. I couldn’t connect with the story because of how unrealistic and cheesy it was. I struggled a lot of how little of a learning curve Caden needed to fit into the real world when he’s never actually been in the real world. He seemed to know exactly where to go at school and he seemed to have zero problems starting a job at Starbucks. I know Caden fitting into society wasn’t the focus of the book, but I was just extremely disconnected with everything that happened because there was so little realism.

My biggest problem was with the characterisation. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters in the book, though I did really like Dylan. They just weren’t developed very much and they all kind of just came off as the same person to me. I felt no emotional connection to the characters and this was probably due to the fact that the novel didn’t really explore any of the characters’ emotions. We got to briefly see Caden’s doubts about what he was doing and the guilt he felt at being responsible for Dylan’s death if he won. But none of this was explored in very much detail, which again made me feel like there was a wall between myself and the novel and its characters. The character that I felt the most frustrated with was probably Juliet. She was described as a genius who had been inventing things from a young age. But that never really came across to me throughout the book. She came off as a regular girl, sometimes whiny, and there didn’t seem to be anything special about her. The only time her inventions and her ability came into play was in a very deus ex machina kind of way towards the end of the book, and by that time, it was too late for me to change my opinion of her.

Overall, there wasn’t very much that I could latch onto. I did like the first 70 pages and maybe the last 30 or so pages but aside from that, I was kind of bored and disappointed with the novel.

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Review: A Season for Fireflies by Rebecca Maizel

a-season-for-fireflies

Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: June 28, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 256
Goodreads || Book Depository

A year ago, Penny Berne was the star of her high school’s theater department, surrounded by a group of misfit friends and falling in love for the first time. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, her new best friend is the most popular girl in school, and her first love, Wes, ignores her. Penny is revered and hated. Then, in a flash, a near-fatal lightning strike leaves Penny with no memory of the past year—or how she went from drama nerd to queen bee.

As a record number of fireflies light up her town and her life, Penny realizes she may be able to make things right again—and that even if she can’t change the past, she can learn to see the magic where she never could before.

MY THOUGHTS

25 stars

A Season of Fireflies is a book about redemption and second chances. It’s a short and summery +read if you’re looking for a quick contemporary but if you’re after something emotional with lots of character development, I think you’ll be disappointed.

This story follows Penny, a sophomore in high school who is dealing with some problems at home. Her mother is an alcoholic and it’s tearing her family apart and ruining her friendships as she tries to hide this secret from those around her. She ends up ditching her group of friends and hanging out with the popular girl at school, who doesn’t try to get her to spill her secrets. But when Penny gets struck by lightning and loses over a year’s worth of memories, she doesn’t recognise the person she currently is and realises that she may be able to make things right again.

I thought the redemption arc in this book could have been a lot stronger. The book felt very rushed and unfocused and I didn’t really see that much development in Penny. This was probably due, in part, to the fact that she had no memories of the past year and had no idea who she became after the incident that causes her to ditch all her friends. Therefore, she kind of had more of a blank slate to work with and didn’t have all that great character development that I always look for in these types of books. I also felt that there were some things that were not resolved very well. The novel has a big focus on Penny’s mother’s alcoholism but I didn’t feel that this was explored particularly well. It was definitely just used as a plot device and wasn’t given the attention that the issue deserved. I also didn’t really understand the role of the fireflies in this book. It kind of flew over my head and I didn’t understand the symbolism or why they were in the book.

On top of that, I thought that there were some things that were a bit too unrealistic for my liking. Penny ignores and behaves terribly towards her friends after just one incident. She turns into a completely different person after that single occurrence and I found it a little bit hard to believe. This was exacerbated a little bit by the fact that the transitions in the story were quite poor in my opinion. I never got a good sense of who Penny was before this incident that caused her to lose her friends and I had no idea who Penny was during the time when she had a different group of friends. My overall opinion on the plot is that the book is missing 100-150 pages. It needed more exploration of issues and better plot and character development.

I didn’t really connect with Penny as a main character. I never got a true sense of who she was because there were so many different versions of her in the book. I thought she was quite dislikable at the start of the novel and, while she did kind of redeem herself towards the end, there wasn’t enough growth in her character for me to fully connect with her and root for her. I did like some of the side characters but the book was so short that I didn’t really get a chance to know them. I enjoyed the romance between Wes and Penny but also felt that it was underdeveloped and resolved a bit too quickly.

Overall, while I did enjoy the reading experience and thought it was cute summery read, there were a lot of aspects that were lacking for me. I thought the book just needed to be longer in general so that we could get more development and resolution.

Review: Chewy Noh and the March of Death by Tim Learn

chewy-non-and-the-march-of-death

Publisher: Self-published
Release date: January 29, 2016
Format: ebook
Source: Author
Pages: 311
Goodreads || Amazon

Chewy Noh should be happy. He has a best friend like no other and by using his secret abilities, has found a way to connect Korea and America forever to keep him.

Unfortunately, none of this matters after Death’s messenger comes to tell him that he has one week left to live!

Knowing his death is coming soon, Chewy scrambles to figure out a way to avoid it, but every direction he turns seems to lead him further and further away from his goal—a dead body, a missing person, and at the heart of it, the secret that started that it all.

In the end, if Chewy doesn’t learn how to change, Death might just come out on top.

MY THOUGHTS

25 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Chewy Noh and the March of Death is the third book in Tim Learn‘s middle grade series. I have reviews for the first two books, Chewy Noh and the Fall of the Mu-Dang and Chewy Noh and the Phantasm of Winter.

While it is possible to read the second book without reading the first, I don’t think it’s possible to read The March of Death without reading book 2, The Phantasm of Winter. It’s been a couple of months since I read the first two books and I couldn’t remember all of the details, which was one reason why I struggled a little with this third book. I’m usually a series marathoner but on occasions when I do read instalments as they come out, I rely on the short recaps and reminders that are weaved into the story, in order to remind myself of things that had happened in previous books. I thought The March of Death was slightly lacking in that aspect and it took me a while to get into the story and remember who some of the characters were, especially because they had foreign names. Of course, this wouldn’t be an issue if you read the books back-to-back, but I think a good sequel should sprinkle in enough information about the previous book (but not too much that it’s repetitive) that readers aren’t lost if they haven’t read it recently.

I really enjoyed the plot of this book and it was a lot of fun to read. I think younger readers would definitely enjoy the adventure and thrill of everything that happened in this book. In The March of Death, we follow Chewy as he tries to escape death, which involves outsmarting Death and his servants. We also get a story arc about Chewy’s grandfather and his time as a soldier in the Korean war. This side story is linked to what is happening to Chewy in the present and I liked how they were connected and how everything was revealed. As with the previous books, this instalment incorporated some Korean mythology. While I cannot attest to the accuracy of what was written, I really enjoyed learning about things like the So-chon garden where flowers that possess different abilities and effects grow.

What I had issues with in terms of the plot was the flow of the book. The first third of the book, for me, seemed to lack clear direction and I just felt a bit lost and had no idea where the story was going. This was definitely the kind of book that presented lots of little puzzle pieces and connected them at the end, but the reading experience wasn’t very enjoyable for me because I felt like I was being pushed and pulled in different directions. I also felt like there was too much happening but not enough description and explanation of each scene to fill the gaps. It just lacked a bit of clarity and there were times when I wasn’t sure what was actually happening. There were some things that weren’t really resolved before we had moved on, and I was left wondering what the point of it actually was. I enjoyed Chewy’s grandfather’s storyline a lot more than what was happening to Chewy in the present because his story flowed well and made more sense to me.

In addition to the issues of flow that I had, I thought there were far too many perspectives, which made the book even more busy and choppy. I’m not sure that all of the perspectives were necessary in this book because some added very little to the story. I also had a minor problem with the narration changing from third person in present chapters to first person in the grandfather’s chapters. I can see why the author decided to do that but it was a little bit jarring for me.

What I probably struggled with the most was how unrealistic some of the events were, which made me think that I was probably a little bit too old for this. I definitely had to suspend my disbelief while reading The March of Death. The casualness of death (a phrase that I picked up from Jeann @ Happy Indulgence’s recent discussion about character deaths) was a bit of a problem for me. There were multiple instances of characters dying out of the blue and being brought back to life, and it was honestly a bit hard for me to digest because it was so unrealistic even for a mythological fantasy read. Maybe I just haven’t read enough of these types of books… Because of this, I had to just go along with what was happening, without being fully immersed in the story. I also wasn’t a fan of the absence of parents and the role that the grandmother played in the book. She’s very much the only adult figure in Chewy’s life throughout the whole book and she came across as very irresponsible and flighty. She did things without any clear explanations, and the characters, as well as myself as the reader, were just left guessing a lot of the time.

This was by no means a terrible read. I really enjoyed a lot of the plot and how everything came together in the end, as well as all the Korean culture and mythology. I loved the little bit of historical fiction that we got and reading about the Korean War was super interesting to me. However, I thought the book needed a bit more development and better flow. I struggled a little while reading it and thought it needed a bit more polish.

Review: Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

sinner

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release date: July 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 0545654572
Pages: 357
Goodreads || Book Depository

found.
Cole St. Clair has come to California for one reason: to get Isabel Culpeper back. She fled from his damaged, drained life, and damaged and drained it even more. He doesn’t just want her. He needs her.

lost.
Isabel is trying to build herself a life in Los Angeles. It’s not really working. She can play the game as well as all the other fakes…but what’s the point? What is there to win?

sinner.
Cole and Isabel share a past that never seemed to have a future. They have the power to save each other and the power to tear each other apart. The only thing for certain is that they cannot let go.

MY THOUGHTS

25 stars

Sinner is a companion to The Wolves of Mercy Falls (aka Shiver) trilogy. I was a fan of the trilogy but I didn’t enjoy Sinner quite as much. The novel revolves around Cole and Isabel, who both appear as side characters in the trilogy. While I liked both of them in the previous books, I wasn’t really a fan of them in this book, which was unfortunate. For me, the characters make or break a book. Even though it’s still possible for me to enjoy a story with dislikable characters or characters that I don’t connect with, it’s a lot harder for me to get through it. And I think that was the case for Sinner.

Cole was a very interesting character to me when I first encountered him in the trilogy. He was a bit of a science genius, who was reckless but loyal. In Sinner, we get to see even more of his recklessness and it was almost just too much. There were lots of times when he was just manic and it was very hard and a little bit uncomfortable to read from his perspective. His attitude and decisions also frustrated me a lot throughout the book. I’m generally also not a huge fan of books that heavily feature music, fame and drugs, so I had a hard time connecting with Cole and his story. Having said that, there were lots of instances where I really liked him. He was sweet and romantic, but that never lasted long enough for me to really fall in love with his character.

Isabel was a bit too negative in the book for my liking. She has always been kind of snarky and cynical but, in Sinner, it almost felt too negative. There were instances where she was just very mean to the people around her and I found it difficult to like her sometimes. I did enjoy reading from her perspective more than Cole’s though.

The plot for me was just okay. Like I said before, I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had liked the characters. I also felt like it was missing the paranormal/fantasy element that was in the trilogy. This book read more like a contemporary, which is fine, but I would have preferred it if we had seen more of the wolves and what happened to them after the events that occurred in the trilogy.

I’m not completely sure if Sinner is a companion or a sequel. I think you could definitely read it as a standalone without reading the trilogy but you wouldn’t get much of the back story on the characters. There are some spoilers in Sinner though. For example, the last book in the trilogy has a very open ending but in Sinner, we get to see what happened to Sam and Grace. They really only appear in two scenes though, and it’s also just through phone conversations.

If you’ve read The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy and you really liked Cole and Isabel, I would recommend this book (maybe). It’s definitely not a bad book – I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected/wanted to. If you’re interested in picking Sinner up as a standalone, I’d suggest that you pick up the trilogy instead.