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YA Book Reviews, Winter 2013

Posted on the 14 February 2013 by Virginiamae @SugarRushedBlog
YA Book Reviews, Winter 2013
Sweet Valley Confidential: The Sweet Life by Francine Pascal
I suppose this is not technically YA, but as it follows on from Sweet Valley High and University, I'll scoop it in with this batch of reviews.

The plots may not be as tight, nor the characters as complex as the ghost-written, '90s Sweet Valley adventures, yet there is something highly enjoyable in Pascal's ridiculous motifs here.  She's rendered the characters back down to cardboard prototypes, maintaining the sassy tang of the bitchy '80's SVH books while subtracting the Wakefields' brain cells and going a little too heavy on the repetition.  Pascal needs a new editor.  I volunteer.  That would be amazing.

Sure, Elizabeth's gone from a smart, confident young journalist to a soppily lovelorn, desperate idiot who sabotages her basically rock solid relationship with the devoted Bruce Patman at every turn, for no logical reason.  When Bruce is framed for sexual assault, Liz forms a strange allegiance with the clearly-sketchy "victim," a fool so transparently artificial that even the half-braindead Elizabeth of Dear Sister would have sussed out her tired game from a mile away.

Meanwhile, Jessica gets a juicy, Lifetime Movie of the Week-tastic adventure with the increasingly psychotic Liam.  Her crazy stalker's shenanigans are much more entertaining than Jess' on-and-off marriage with the apparently misogynistic, controlling Todd.  The opposites-attract vibe and epic nature of their initially forbidden love should keep the fireworks going, but Todd ruins it with his...Todd-ness.

Speaking of boring husbands, I still fail to see any point in the Lila/Ken pairing, but there's no denying that her "Real Housewives"-esque reality show and faux pregnancy keep the pages turning.  Ditto Steven and Aaron's subplot, wherein their freaking adorable baby Emma is kidnapped - suspenseful and absurd to the extreme.

With the cliffhanger ending, there's no question that the Sweet Valley gang will be back, and it's nice to see Annie Whitman upgraded to a main cast member.  If Pascal can keep the suds frothing at this rate, we're sure to keep excusing the feather-headed, whiney portrayals of these beloved characters.

9 pink flowers out of ten.

YA Book Reviews, Winter 2013

Wither and Fever by Lauren DeStefano

With a knack for the uncannily terrifying which few of her contemporaries can match (and in today's spectrum of creepy post-apocalyptic YA yarns, that's really saying something), DeStefano weaves an unputdownable, yet often flinchingly grotesque saga of love, lust, violence, and manipulation.  Through the lens of sister wife Rhine, kidnapped and sold into marriage to continue propagating a dying human race, the author explores the meaning of friendship and family in shockingly sharp ways as the twists keep piling up.  Name me a scarier villain than Housemaster Vaughn - surely that would be a challenge.

The series' only real flaw lies in the character of Gabriel, who's just too dull to entice much interest.  Luckily, we're so invested in Rhine's happiness that we are willing to care about Gabriel's well being for her sake.

10 pink flowers out of ten.
YA Book Reviews, Winter 2013

Rift: A Nightshade Prequel by Andrea Cremer

Having penned one of the most addictive, yet notoriously frustrating supernatural trilogies ever with the adventures of Calla in Nightshade, Cremer turns back the clock to examine the origins of the Searchers and the Keepers with Rift.  The Scottish brogues, mysterious medieval magicks, and sweeping romance set against lush scenery are enough to charm any fan of this genre, and the dichotomy of the sweet Ember versus the darker, eventually villainous Eira is compelling.  At least in this series, unlike in Nightshade, Cremer has her protagonist fall in love with the right guy (Ren fans, I know you're still cringing; I'm right there with you).
9.5 pink flowers out of ten.
YA Book Reviews, Winter 2013

The Iron King and The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
Paling in comparison to the thrilling faerie tales of Melissa Marr, as well as in contrast to Kagawa's own engrossing vampire series Blood of Eden, this series starts well, hits a few ethereal high notes, and lapses into just-okay-ness.  The lackluster heroine and main love interest fumble around while the quirkily attractive supporting character Puck has all the fun.
7 pink flowers out of ten.
YA Book Reviews, Winter 2013

Fallen in Love and Rapture by Lauren Kate

The middle books of this series hit a few snags, but Kate swerves back to excellence with Fallen in Love, a between-novels set of short stories, and Rapture, the final novel of Daniel and Luce's saga.  Kate neatly sidesteps the endless Luce-whining of Torment and the silly anachronisms of Passion as she unfurls a series of winningly concise and powerful romantic asides in Fallen in Love, then unleashes a gorgeously evocative, suspenseful, satisfying conclusion in Rapture.  If one wishes that Cam got more "screen time," that's only further evidence that he deserves his own spinoff series.
10 pink flowers out of ten.
YA Book Reviews, Winter 2013

Shiver and Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
This is just stunningly well-done supernatural teen angst fiction. Between the earnest, pure love of emo-contemplative soulmates Sam and Grace, and the hot, sarcasm-fueled sparks between Cole and Isabelle, as well as the churning, tragic engines of fate which threaten to turn everyone into werewolves at the most inconvenient times, there's so much going on to fascinate and endear.

Grace's parents are the most obnoxious characters I've read in quite some time.The Audible readers, who alternate from character to character, perfectly capture Stiefvater's revolving cast of first person narrators.I can't wait to read the third book!Ten pink flowers out of ten.

YA Book Reviews, Winter 2013
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Ugh, I am not impressed.  A solid set-up is squandered by a few hundred pages more than are needed to explicate the predictable saga of likable protagonist Ethan and his less engaging, witchy lady love Lena (by far and away too much of a Mary Sue for me to take, and I like a well done Mary Sue-ish heroine).  By the end of the book, one's basically praying for Lena to "go dark" and turn interesting.  
5 pink flowers out of ten.

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