Sunday, May 12, 2013

Starstruck


Starstruck by Rachel Shukert
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte
Pages: 352
Keywords: drama, mystery, romance
Format Read: Hardcover from publisher in exchange for honest review (thank you!)
Get It: Book Depository
Every week they arrive in Los Angeles — beautiful and talented young hopefuls who dream of becoming stars. It's all Margaret Frobisher has ever wanted — and when she's discovered by a powerful agent, she can hardly believe her luck. She's more than ready to escape her snobby private school and conservative Pasadena family for a chance to light up the silver screen. The competition is fierce at Olympus Studios and Margaret — now Margo — is chasing her Hollywood dreams alongside girls like Gabby Preston, who at 16 is already a grizzled show-bix veteran caught between the studio and the ravenous ambition of her ruthless mother, and sultry Amanda Farraday, who seems to have it all — ambition, glamour... and dirty secrets. Missing from the pack is Diana Chesterfield, the beautiful actress who mysteriously disappeared, and there are whispers that Diana's boyfriend — Margo's new co-star — may have had something to do with it. Margo quickly learns that fame comes with a price, and that nothing is what it seems.
I was immediately pulled in to this book. I felt like I was in Margaret's world in the beginning, sitting in a soda shop yearning to know anything and everything she could about the world of Hollywood and who all the people were. The writing style was descriptive, but not so cumbersome that made it irritating to read. It was the perfect amount of imagery to get me a set up of the world, and then I still got to picture some of it the way I wanted.

The story also jumped every once in a while between narrators, switching between Margo, Amanda, and Gabby. Margo was definitely the main character, and there were only a few chapters headed up by the other two, but it wasn't abrupt the way the transitions happened. Again, Shukert did an excellent job of weaving everything together so the reader doesn't really notice those things.

But at the same time, I actually wanted there to be a little bit more from the side two girls. Their story lines seemed pretty important throughout the course of the book, but as Margo's started to wrap up, theirs just kind of dropped off and stopped. My questions weren't really answered, and I was frustrated because the plot was so interesting thus far, and I really began to like them as characters. I just wanted to know what would become of them since we didn't really get much of an ending. I also had questions about Margo's story (in particular that whole thing with Olive and why she was so interested and how Margo's pin got to her), but for the most part, I felt pretty satisfied with how everything wrapped up.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, but a good one at the same time. I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out.

Read When: You want a blast from the past with a historical fiction, but still totally rad and swoony, romance. Oh, and a lot of celebrities and stars. Award show season is a good time to read.

To Be Maria

To Be Maria by Deanna Proach
Publication Date: July 29, 2012
Publisher: Pulse
Pages: 315
Keywords: drugs, high school, popularity
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley


Seventeen-year-old Anya Preschnikov wants to become a famous actress, but she's faced with two problems. Her father ignores her and doesn't have any money to support her. At school, she's bullied on a daily basis, yet she believes that she will gain her stepping stone to stardom if she's accepted by her peers. All of this changes when Maria Hernandez — an immigrant from Spain — comes to Peach Valley Senior High. Maria knows what it takes to fit in. She's assertive, confident, and she dresses suggestively — characteristics that all of the popular kids admire. Yet, she sees in Anya what no one else sees: beauty and talent. 
When Maria extends her hand of friendship, Anya is elated. Her rise to popularity is about to become a reality, but it ends at a house party when a boy's rude comment sends her into a rage. Desperate to belong somewhere, Anya and Maria seek new friends outside of school. They meet Alex and Marissa, a young couple who eagerly welcomes them into their world of parties and drugs. Anya and Maria soon find out that Alex is a drug dealer, but they are so lured by his wealth, good looks, and aggressive confidence that they can't resist his friendship. They don't know that Alex's gang is at war with a rival gang — one that's run by Anya's older brother, Adrik — until one incident puts their lives in danger's path. To make matters worse, Alex won't let Anya and Maria out of his sight. The two teens are forced to make a decision that's a matter of life or death.

This book did not turn out how I expected. I was left feeling extremely disappointed and frustrated with pretty much everything about the story. As far as the general plot/storyline goes, I think it was trying to be too many things for one novel, especially the way in which the book was written. It kind of went back and forth from Maria's perspective to Anya's, but sometimes we saw inside their heads, which was weird. The narration switched a lot, and made the writing very inconsistent and hard to read. I just felt like I was reading an extremely rough first draft rather than a novel getting ready to be published. But back to the plot. The first half is a girl trying to fit in and be popular and get an acting scholarship, while semi-making friends with the cool kids in about a millisecond. She gets her books ripped up, and turns around and wants to be this girl's best friend all in about 10 pages. In the same day. It makes no sense.

But then the book shifts, and it's almost like all that other stuff that happened at the beginning is not even a part of the plot anymore, and now it's the whole drug dealer, teenagers in the party world sort of thing. And then there's the creepy adult who won't let them go. It was just entirely too many different stories to focus on at once, told from two different perspectives, and it just made everything more confusing. Either way, I wasn't into any of the story lines. The writing was too jumbled and thought-like that it was hard to distinguish between narration, speaking, and thinking.

There were also just a lot of little things throughout the writing that just made me feel very frustrated and mad. For example, on the first page, there was this whole big thing where Anya tries to pick out a shirt to wear, but she has this big speech in her head like, "I wish my clothes were pretty or cool, but my dad's a bum, and that sucks, but this random girl I've never talked to seems cool, everyone thinks my friend Patrick and I are dating, but we're not, something about my sister." No one has full sentences and conversations and replies in their head. It was very unbelievable and I wasn't pulled into the book like I should have been. Also, Maria is Spanish. So is her family. At one point, her mom uses the masculine noun to her daughter. ...... If there is another language in the book, it at least should be correct. Especially something easy like that.

And her family came all the way over for her dad's electrician job or something? Like there's no electricity in Spain? Please. And they wouldn't speak English at home. Especially if they had to use it all day.

Overall, I was disappointed with everything. It seems like some people like it, and I was excited, but felt sad and angry by the time I finished it.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Charm & Strange


Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Publication Date: June 11, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 216
Keywords: drugs, family, supernatural, werewolves
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley

Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself. He's part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.
He's part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable.
Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present. Before the sun rises, he'll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths — that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying. 

This book was strange. And I don't mean that in a bad way. I enjoy when books don't give all the answers away right at the beginning. And this one definitely didn't. It alternated between flashbacks and the present, which was the party in the forest. It took me a while to catch on that Drew was who he was in his childhood, and Win was the version of himself now, at boarding school struggling with his past. I also liked that the main issue with his conflict wasn't really revealed until midway through. I kind of had suspicions, but it was never said outright, which made me involved and invested in this.

That being said, I still wanted more information. I feel like the author brought up some really interesting background story lines, and then just kind of left the reader hanging. I don't feel like conflicts were properly solved by the end, and I definitely had questions about his past, and what happened with the tennis match and his opponent. That was never really finished, and I wanted to know what was going on.

This was a very short book, and I went through it quickly. It was a pretty solid read, aside from the pieces of information I still wanted to be solved up. It's one of those books I wouldn't recommend right off the bat, but if mentioned, I would say you could give it a go.

The Sweetest Dark

The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Bantam
Pages: 352
Keywords: World War I, magic, fantasy
Format Read: hardcover from publisher in exchange for honest review (thank you!)

Lora Jones has always known that she's different. On the outside, she appears to be an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl. Yet, Lora's been keeping a heartful of secrets: She hears songs that no one else can hear, dreams vividly of smoke and flight, and lives with a mysterious voice inside her that insists she's far more than what she seems. England, 1915. Raised in an orphanage in a rough corner of London, Lora quickly learns to hide her unique abilities and avoid attention. Then, much to her surprise, she is selected as the new charity student at Iverson, an elite boarding school on England's southern coast. Iverson's eerie, gothic castle is like nothing Lora has ever seen. And the two boys she meets there will open her eyes and forever change her destiny. Jesse is the school's groundskeeper — a beautiful boy who recognizes Lora for who and what she truly is. Armand is a darkly handsome and arrogant aristocrat who harbors a few closely guarded secrets of his own. Both hold the answers to her past. One is the key to her future. And both will aim to win her heart. As danger descends upon Iverson, Lora must harness the powers she's only just begun to understand, or else lose everything she dearly loves. 

I'll start with the things I liked. I loved the historical setting this story took place in. It was set during World War I, and it was clear the author did her research. Everything was accurate and detailed, adding to the believability of the story as a whole. Though this doesn't happen very often, I actually wanted there to be more of the historical stand point. As in, while all the students are hanging up at Iverson, Lora seems to be the only one actually concerned that their country is in the middle of a war. And all these kids' parents are the rich generals and guys that would actually be involved. I wanted more of the history stuff in there.

I also thought the premise was interesting. It's not one that pops up a lot, with all the supernatural business, this was my first encounter with the dragon thing. However, I did want more of an explanation of why things were the way they were. Lora heard this song when she was nearby Jesse and other things, but I wanted to know why that was, and where it came from, and what it meant. It wasn't bad the way it was explained, I just wanted more.

I also wanted more from some of the characters. Armand and her friend Sophia in particular. I suppose with the way the first one ended, Armand will be featured quite a bit in the second one, but I still wanted more of his backstory and more of his personality in it. It just felt like he was constantly brushed aside. Sophia was also a minor character, but she helped Lora get around and discover some secrets of Iverson, making her a semi-crucial character. I just wanted more of her because her character was so appealing to me.

I probably won't read the second one in this series. I'm fine with the way the first one ended. It was a good book, but I wasn't super emotionally invested in it or any of the characters, but still interesting and fun to read.