Monday, June 13, 2016

Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

Title: Flawed
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Release Date: April 5, 2016

Cover Impressions: The online version of this does not do it justice.  There is a pretty, translucent, white overlay which allows the background image to show through while prominently displaying the F for flawed.  It looks like this theme will be continued through the series, with the next book being red instead of white. 

The Gist:
Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.

But then Celestine encounters a situation where she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found flawed.

In her breathtaking young adult debut, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society where perfection is paramount and flaws lead to punishment. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her everything.


I received an eARC of Flawed quite a while ago but didn't get around to reviewing it because of work commitments. Then, like a sign from the reading gods, it showed up in my OwlCrate subscription box.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the story and characters and have now placed the second book (Perfect) firmly on my 'can't wait for it' list.  

Celestine lives in a world obsessed with perfection.  Anyone makes a choice that does not fit with the strict guidelines of society is publicly ostracized, branded, and forced to live by an even more confining set of rules.  Celestine has always supported the Flawed system as the only way to maintain a safe and just world.  However, she she herself is targeted for an act she thought of as logical, she begins to see through her own blind faith and to discover how flawed the system truly is.  

Celestine does not begin as a sympathetic character.  She is steadfast in her support of The Guild and, at its head, Judge Crevan - her boyfriend's father.  She sees the world as black and white and trusts that if the guild deems someone flawed, it is because they are a risk to society.  Once she is thrown into the system herself, she is finally able to see the fear and abuse of power that has surrounded her, her whole life.  Her character development is my favorite part of the novel as she embarks on a fantastic path of personal growth.
The world Ahern has created is one that all too chillingly possible.  It is easy to imagine the religious fanaticism that could lead to a system similar to the Flawed one, in the hopes of returning society to the nostalgic notions of the past.  It is also just as easy to see how this system can be manipulated by a man like Judge Crevan, for whom ultimate power has allowed the ability to dispose of his rivals and naysayers while also placing his own family members into positions of high esteem.  The Crevan that the world sees is a very different one than is revealed through Celestine's acts of defiance.
While the story is truly one of personal growth, Ahern did not shy away from action and there are some truly shocking moments.  I did enjoy the plot itself, however, the ending was not quite as satisfying as I would have liked.  No secrets huge secrets are revealed, no problems are solved.  A number of storylines are set up and sure to be fleshed out within the second book, we just have to wait for it.
 Bottom Line: A great intro into a new series with some chilling scenes and great character development.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

Title: Down with the Shine
Author: Kate Karyus Quinn
Release Date: April 26, 2016

The Gist: Lennie always thought her uncles’ “important family legacy” was good old-fashioned bootlegging. Then she takes some of her uncles’ moonshine to Michaela Gordon’s annual house party, and finds out just how wrong she was.

At the party, Lennie has everyone make a wish before drinking the shine—it’s tradition. She toasts to wishes for bat wings, for balls of steel, for the party to go on forever. Lennie even makes a wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was murdered six months ago.

The next morning gives Lennie a whole new understanding of the phrase be careful what you wish for—or in her case, be careful what wishes you grant. Because all those wishes Lennie raised a jar of shine to last night? They came true. Most of them came out bad. And once granted, a wish can’t be unmade…


Kate Karyus Quinn has this way of writing a new novel that makes me want to go back and re-read all her other books so that I can savor them the way that they deserve.  She never shies away from the darkness and, while that is what makes her so appealing to many readers, it may also result in some scenes that are rather intense for those on the younger end of the YA spectrum.

The characters in Down with the Shine are all incredibly complex and interesting.  Lennie is a snarky teenage outcast with reason to feel like the world owes her one good night.  I loved her strange relationship with her uncle, especially in the scene where they had been explaining the magic behind their moonshine and Lennie thought they were trying to have the sex talk.

Where the novel falls, unfortunately, is in the ending, which can't really be discussed without giving away the plot.  Despite this, I enjoyed the writing and the story enough to give it 4 stars.  

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

Title: A Fierce and Subtle Poison
Author: Samantha Mabry
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: April 12, 2016
Rating: 2/5

The Gist: Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl--Isabel, the one the seƱoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill.

Seventeen-year-old Lucas lives on the mainland most of the year but spends summers with his hotel-developer father in Puerto Rico. He’s grown up hearing stories about the cursed girl, and he wants to believe in Isabel and her magic. When letters from Isabel begin mysteriously appearing in his room the same day his new girlfriend disappears, Lucas turns to Isabel for answers--and finds himself lured into her strange and enchanted world. But time is running out for the girl filled with poison, and the more entangled Lucas becomes with Isabel, the less certain he is of escaping with his own life.


A Fierce and Subtle Poison features some absolutely beautiful writing and an incredibly lush landscape.  It is wonderful to see a non-American setting as it is not all that common in YA.  There was a fantastic incorporation of story telling, culture, and folklore.  I am always a sucker for Magical Realism and love seeing more of it within the YA genre.  

Unfortunately, the novel also features a white main character with a hero complex.  Though he is called out on it, it really impacted my enjoyment of the novel, to the point where I really hated him.  As a matter of fact, I did not find any of the characters particularly appealing.  It also featured two father figures, both of whom were horrible people and terrible role models. 

While the story should have been an exciting murder mystery, it just didn't feel that way.  Instead, it seemed like most of the novel followed the main character as he ran through the rain for one reason or another.  There also seemed to be no reason that the kids couldn't have informed the police at several different points throughout the plot. 

While I appreciate the writing, I just couldn't get past my loathing for all the characters and it made this one less than enjoyable.