Thursday, May 29, 2014

Review: Beautiful Disaster (Beautiful #1)

Title: Beautiful Disaster (Beautiful #1)
Author: Jamie McGuire
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Release Date: May 26, 2011
Publisher: Jamie McGuire
Source: Audiobook
Narrator: Emma Galvin 

Genre: Contemporary, New Adult

SUMMARY: Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby wants—and needs—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.


Disaster unearths something deep within us, a dark curiosity. Suddenly, you can't look away, though you know you should. You can't move away, though you know you should. That tragic allure, that inexplicable paralysis... is this book.

In a way, the plot seems to glorify emotionally abusive relationships. I think the only person in this book who has her head on straight is Kara, calling out co-dependent behaviors. Unfortunately, she's regarded as a nuisance and not a voice of reason.

I have no idea how to rate this. As a disaster? 5 stars. The title nails this on the head. BEAUTIFUL DISASTER is intriguing and frustrating and shamelessly leaves more than a handful of casualties in its wake, not all of them fictional. And like any disaster, you can't seem to look away.

As realism? Hmm. The tempestuous dynamic between Abby and Travis is overtly present in society, and this novel doesn't shy away from its faults -- which I appreciate. However, there should be a disclaimer at the end explaining that yes, this happens. But NO, it should not. I also opt for an alternate ending where Abby leaves this unhealthy, unstable, controlling alpha male and builds some self-esteem, finally making her own decisions. 

There is a line between protective and controlling behavior, and though often blurred in real life, it's fairly distinct in this novel. Travis, knowingly or not, plays on Abby's guilt and that doesn't change at all from the beginning to the end of the novel. Every argument he makes to her to stay is justified by how it will affect him if she leaves. And Abby -- as a genuinely nice, NON-self-centered person -- lets him do it over and over again. Classic emotional abuse.

I enjoyed reading this, but a significant part of me was waiting and waiting for Abby to realize she deserves better and to move on, but she never does. And that might be the most realistic and disastrous aspect to this tragic story. I think one draw for readers is the desire to know that despite our flaws, there is someone out there who will love us. We all want a happy ending, and this appears to provide a solution. It puts a pretty band-aid of sex and alcohol over the gaping wound of loneliness and self-worth.

If you want an emotional roller-coaster without the abuse, go with CRASH by Nicole Williams.


Moderate-High (occasional intense swearing including F-word)
Moderate-High (kissing, sex used a means of conflict resolution)
 Moderate-High (frequent physical fighting, mob fights, fire)
Drugs/Alcohol: Moderate (underage college partying/drinking)

This review also appears on Goodreads.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: The Luxe (Luxe #1)

The Luxe (Luxe, #1)
Title: The Luxe (Luxe #1)
Author: Anna Godbersen
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: November 20, 2007
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Audiobook
Narrator: Nina Siemaszko 

Genre: Historical, Mystery, Young Adult

SUMMARY: Pretty girls in pretty dresses, partying until dawn.
Irresistible boys with mischievous smiles and dangerous intentions.
White lies, dark secrets, and scandalous hookups.
This is Manhattan, 1899.

Beautiful sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland rule Manhattan's social scene. Or so it appears. When the girls discover their status among New York City's elite is far from secure, suddenly everyone from the backstabbing socialite Penelope Hayes, to the debonair bachelor Henry Schoonmaker, to the spiteful maid Lina Broud threatens Elizabeth's and Diana's golden future.

With the fate of the Hollands resting on her shoulders, Elizabeth must choose between family duty and true love. But when her carriage overturns near the East River, the girl whose glittering life lit up the city's gossip pages is swallowed by the rough current. As all of New York grieves, some begin to wonder whether life at the top proved too much for this ethereal beauty, or if, perhaps, someone wanted to see Manhattan's most celebrated daughter disappear...

In a world of luxury and deception, where appearance matters above everything and breaking the social code means running the risk of being ostracized forever, five teenagers lead dangerously scandalous lives. This thrilling trip to the age of innocence is anything but innocent.


A dramatic glimpse at the glamorous--and not-so-glamorous--lives of New York socialites in 1900. 

THE LUXE begins at the funeral of beloved upper class gem, Elizabeth Holland. As we survey the varying shades of "grief" displayed by those in Elizabeth's social circle, it becomes evident that her death may have been more than just a tragic accident. The novel quickly escalates into a provocative whodunnit as devious intentions unfurl and the plot thickens with greed, envy, revenge, and--possibly the most dangerous motive of all--unrequited love

Deft plotting and colorful characterization will leave the reader begging for more. Recommend for fans of Gossip Girl, Agatha Christie, or anyone looking to add a little intrigue and scandal to their reading repertoire.

Nina Siemaszko nails her performance as narrator, highlighting the eccentric nature of every character in this novel.


Mild-Moderate (Kissing, suggested sexuality, lust, infidelity)
 Mild (Murder or suicide implied, physical displays of rage toward inanimate objects)
Drugs/Alcohol: Mild (Effects of alcoholism depicted negatively)

This review also appears on Goodreads.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: FEED (Newsflesh Trilogy #1)

Title: FEED (Newsflesh Trilogy #1)
Author: Mira Grant
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: May 1, 2010
Publisher: Orbit
Source: Audiobook
Narrators: Jesse Bernstein, Paula Christensen

Genre: Thriller, Horror, Action-Adventure, Post-Apocalyptic/Apocalyptic, Zombie

SUMMARY: The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. Now, twenty years after the Rising, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives - the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will get out, even if it kills them.


So full of awesome. Easily one of my favorite "zombie" books, though this has a stronger focus on the political and social framework of a world in which zombies happen to coexist.

The sibling dynamic between Georgia and Sean Mason is hysterical and completely on-point. If zombie or political-themed books don't scratch your itch, this is well worth the read just for a glimpse at their relationship.

FEED overflows with fresh details for the potential apocalyptic landscape, particularly in lieu of what might happen to the entertainment industry and the news-world. Innovative and well-designed. The shift in structure for bloggers and general news reporting is genius and definitely plausible -- if we take a step back and admit it, we're pretty much already at this point, but Grant highlights it so well to make perfect sense in the more extreme future.

This series can go in so many directions, and I'm excited to discover what happens next in this awful, awful apocalyptic world.


Moderate (F-word, S-word, rude names)
Mild (referenced relationships, suggested images)
 Moderate-High (Intense zombie violence, weapons, blood, suicide, physical and mental threats, explosions)
Drugs/Alcohol: Mild (referenced)

This review also appears on Goodreads.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Katniss Everdeen Portrait

Over the Christmas break, I got some "real" art pencils, meaning they're graded. I've never used them before, so I wanted to practice some techniques to get a general feel for them. What better way to do that than with an actual project? I thought Katniss would be fun to draw, so here are the various stages of her portrait:

Day 1: Outline and face.
2B, H, and 2H Staedtler pencils.

Day 2: Added some depth and detail.
Incorporated 6B, 4B, and 4H.

Day 3: Final portrait. Blending, background, finishing touches.
Also on my deviantart.

Overall, the project took around 10 hours. 
Now I can't even imagine doing any future drawings without this set of pencils. They're amazing.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: The Summoning

The Summoning (Darkest Powers, #1)
Title: The Summoning (Darkest Powers #1)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: July 1, 2008
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Paperback, 390 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal-Supernatural

SUMMARY: My name is Chloe Saunders and my life will never be the same again.

All I wanted was to make friends, meet boys, and keep on being ordinary. I don't even know what that means anymore. It all started on the day that I saw my first ghost - and the ghost saw me.

Now there are ghosts everywhere and they won't leave me alone. To top it all off, I somehow got myself locked up in Lyle House, a "special home" for troubled teens. Yet the home isn't what it seems. Don't tell anyone, but I think there might be more to my housemates than meets the eye. The question is, whose side are they on? it's up to me to figure out the dangerous secrets behind Lyle House...before its skeletons come back to haunt me.


CARRIE meets PARANORMALCY -- in a mental institution.

If you're tired of cliche's in supernatural fiction, give this one a read. Colorful characters and a chilling atmosphere bump it up to one of my favorites.

Armstrong either really did her research or actually spent some time locked up to breathe life into the group home setting in this novel. Details are spot on.

Definitely got some goosebumps while reading. Creep factor: A+

Also, this has one of the best first chapters I've read in a while. It really... grabs you. 

Can't wait to read the rest of the series!


Rare (B-word used twice)
Moderate (Disturbing imagery, physical violence)
Drugs/Alcohol: None

This review also appears on Goodreads.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review: Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Tell the Wolves I'm Home
Title: Tell the Wolves I'm Home
Author: Carol Rifka Brunt
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Publisher: Random House
Source: Audiobook
Narrator: Amy Rubinate

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

SUMMARY: 1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most..


Sometimes, a story can breathe itself right into you. Your lungs fill with its hope and fall with its heartbreak. Your heart swells with its love and shatters with its loss. Sometimes, a story can deliver words that root so deeply, they become an indistinguishable part of you. Sometimes, a story can do that. 

This is one of those stories.

At a glance, you could say this is a book about AIDS -- and it is. A lot can be learned about the initial response to the disease in the late '80's. About dealing with and understanding the tragedy of it. About the who, the how, and the why. 

But the most significant message wrapped within the words and silhouetted in the scenes transcends all of that. This important story thoughtfully conveys the value of innocence. So much can be gleaned from the perspective of the young and innocent, from the vulnerable and pure of heart. The overwhelming tenderness and honesty of this book, of June Elbus and all she sees and how she sees it, is not for the faint of heart.

I feel fortunate to have found this gem of a novel. 

Highly recommend Kleenex as a reading companion.


Mild-None (one S-word)
Sensuality: Mild (kissing, suggested images)
Violence: Mild (brief disturbing images)

Drugs/Alcohol: Moderate (underage smoking, drinking, parties)

This review also appears on Goodreads.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


So, sometimes when I'm bored I draw people who inspire me. 
Here's a quick sketch of two totally awesome bookish people I admire:

Known for the Odyssey Award winning novel Rotters and Kraus' latest book, Scowler.

This sketch started as me procrastinating on studying -- you know how that goes. 
Basic #2 pencil and a terrible scanner to upload.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: Everneath

Title: Everneath
Author: Brodi Ashton 
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins, Balzer + Bray
Source: Audiobook
Narrator: Amy Rubinate

Genre: Young Adult, Action-Adventure, Fairy Tales-Myths, Fantasy

SUMMARY: Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she’s returned—to her old life, her family, her boyfriend—before she’s banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance—and the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.

As Nikki’s time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s queen.


An interesting and original exploration of mythology.

 may or may not be just another PNR trilogy, but I'm leaning toward not since there is actual depth and dimension to the characters and their relationships. 
The expression of human emotion weighs so heavily through throughout the book, it might as well be its own character. 

The plot is totally predictable, but the story is engaging enough to read through what happens. The audiobook version is impressive, so I will likely read the next installments when they are available in audio format.


Sensuality: Mild-Moderate (kissing, suggested images)
Violence: Moderate

This review also appears on Goodreads.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green 
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: January 10, 2012
Publisher: Dutton House
Source: Hardcover, 318 pages 
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Awards: Odyssey Award, Goodreads Choice Award (Best YA Fiction), ALA Teens' Top Ten Nom., Indies Choice Book Award for YA, The Inky Awards for Silver Inky, Abraham Lincoln Award Nom.

SUMMARY: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.


Witty, eloquent, endearing, profound - this book gets all the good descriptive words - but if I could sum up The Fault in Our Stars in one word, it would have to be: 


John Green is one of my favorite people in the world, so naturally I adore his books. This one just might be my favorite.

The message TFiOS conveys about the resilience and underestimated intelligence of teenagers in our world today is powerful and imperative. John Green does not shy away from deeper subjects and the moving use of metaphor, despite - rather, because of - his primarily young readership. That says a lot.

This is more than a book about cancer that will make you cry - even though it will. It is a thoughtful commentary on the importance of life and the significance of every little detail and interaction if we only take the time to observe.

And you know it's a John Green book when you're in tears one minute and laughing hysterically the next.

Plus, this entire book is quotable. There is probably a line in here relevant to any aspect of life.

John Green sets a high standard for contemporary literature now as well as for how we will regard "classics" in the future.


Moderate (occasional swearing)
Sensuality: Moderate (kissing, sensuality, suggested images)

This review also appears on Goodreads and

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: Prized

Title: Prized (Birthmarked #2) 
Author: Caragh M. O'Brien 
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: November 8, 2011
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Source: Audiobook
Narrator: Carla Mercer-Meyer

Genre: Young Adult, Action-Adventure, Dystopian, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Awards: Junior Library Guild Selection, YALSA Best Fiction for YA Nom.

SUMMARY: Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole?


The Awesome:

There are parts of this book that are memorable and wonderful

Like BirthmarkedPrized discusses several difficult and important subjects, including abortion, gender equality, government control, etc.

The world building for Sylum is fascinating and scary and real. I could genuinely feel the pretense of safety and underlying danger in this society, and it is distinct from the openly overbearing Enclave from the first book.

The Not-So-Awesome:

Seriously, a love square?

Part of what I admire most in the first book is Gaia's unyielding sense of justice and her level-headed determination to fight for what is right. Birthmarked is not a dystopian romance with a dash of ethics on top -- it is rooted in eliminating the injustice of the existing system, in changing the world for the better.

Sadly, it feels almost reversed in this sequel. Gaia changes too much and too quickly in this book, but maybe that's just how a girl her age who has been so physically suppressed her whole life, and is now discovering the possibility of love would act -- maybe she would fall for 3 different guys. I was just sad to see it happen.

Gaia does regain a little more of herself near the middle and end of this book, however, and I am so glad for that.

The Verdict:

Overall, I think this is a good series for young adults as it raises questions applicable to our own society and allows the reader to see both sides to several arguments.


Sexuality: Mild-Moderate (kissing, some sensuality/suggested images)

Violence: Moderate (intense, disturbing images of death, birth, government violence and rebellion, weapons)

This review also appears on Goodreads and
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