Adorkable by Sarra Manning: review

10890319Adorkable by Sarra Manning
Stand Alone
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction
Publisher: Atom
Release Date: May 24th 2012
Synopsis: Welcome to the dorkside. It’s going to be a bumpy ride…

Jeane Smith’s a blogger, a dreamer, a dare-to-dreamer, a jumble sale queen, CEO of her own lifestyle brand and has half a million followers on twitter.

Michael Lee’s a star of school, stage and playing field. A golden boy in a Jack Wills hoodie.

They have nothing in common but a pair of cheating exes. So why can’t they stop snogging?

My Thoughts:

“We have nothing to declare but our dorkiness.”

Adorkable is a contemporary novel that I found to be undeniably charming. The book is fun, adorable, and has a really good message. Adorkable also had an uncanny ability to make me laugh, which is always a good thing 😉 This might not be a contemporary filled with emotion and impact, but it was fun.

I admit that the plot is a little ridiculous and the circumstances in the book can be even more ridiculous. I myself probably wouldn’t have liked this book as much as I had if it wasn’t for one thing: Sarra Manning’s great characters.

First is Jeane Smith, who is now one of my favorite characters. Jeane Smith is the blogger (see? She’s awesome already) behind the famous Adorkable, has half a million followers on Twitter, is the queen of jumble sales, and isn’t at all afraid of being her. She can be really terrible, but even then she is sort of fantastic.

“Never shield your oddness, but wear your oddness like a shield.”  

Jeane is one of those people who, upon hearing that you don’t approve of them, will say, “So? I think I’m freaking amazing” and then walk calmly away as if you didn’t exist. I find that absolutely refreshing since there definitely aren’t many characters out there that are like that.

Michael Lee wasn’t as amazing as Jeane, but he was definitely good. I was actually surprised by how believable and honest he was written. Even though he is a genuinely good person, Michael Lee’s thoughts can be pretty unpleasant at times, especially when Jeane is being a little intolerable. But I’ve always valued honest and imperfect more than unbelievable and perfect, so me and Michael Lee got along just fine.

The chemistry and relationship between Jeane and Michael Lee: Perfectly written. Jeane and Michael Lee’s relationship is an undeniably messy one. The way it progresses is not the norm. But that messy relationship was perfectly written, and to be honest, even when Jeane and Michael Lee were verbally battling out, I wished that I was a character in the book so I could ‘accidentally’ push the two together.

Manning’s writing is great, with dialogue and narrative that really made me smile and laugh, making Adorkable a breeze to read. She seemed to know exactly what she wanted to write and understood how she was going to do it.

Adorkable is a very good contemporary and is one of the more refreshing stories out of the genre. I would recommend this book to lovers of fun, adorable stories with great characters. Oh, and also people who want to take a step into the dorkside. Because the dorkside really needs some members.

Tides by Betsy Cornwell: review

TidesTides by Betsy Cornwell
Stand Alone
My Rating: 
5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Magic Realism
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: June 4th 2013
Synopsis: When high-school senior Noah Gallagher and his adopted teenage sister, Lo, go to live with their grandmother in her island cottage for the summer, they don’t expect much in the way of adventure. Noah has landed a marine biology internship, and Lo wants to draw and paint, perhaps even to vanquish her struggles with bulimia. But then things take a dramatic turn for them both when Noah mistakenly tries to save a mysterious girl from drowning. This dreamlike, suspenseful story—deftly told from multiple points of view—dives deeply into selkie folklore while examining the fluid nature of love and family.

My Thoughts:

Upon finishing Tides, my breath was taken away. I am still having trouble coming up with sentences that will actually do this novel justice. Cornwell beautifully captures the salt water waves of the ocean, the magical, fantasy beings called selkies, the ties that bind a family, and love. Tides is a book that feels as real as it feels dreamy.

One of the many noteable qualities of the contents of Tides is the perfect melding of everyday life and fantasy. Cornwell takes time with the problems of the characters that many people have in their mundane lives: wanting to accomplish a dream and the frustration that comes with not quite reaching it, bulimia, conflict inside a family, and supporting your loved ones but not knowing how to. The author also puts a lot of focus on family, especially how a group of people can still be a family even if not blood related. Another major focus is loving someone completely regardless of gender. These themes are all handled with care and sensitivity that is very awe-inspiring.

The story of Tides does deal with the main fear of the selkies, having their skin stolen, that many stories of the same kind deal with, but Tides delivers it in such of a refreshing way that I have no complaints about it. Couple that with the wonderful contemporary element and I downright loved the story. The mystery is suspenseful, albeit a bit predictable since the reader can probably guess who the culprit is right off the bat, but still highly absorbing and quite emotional at times because of the terrible effects the culprit had on the selkies.

Pacing is far from fast in the beginning. There are many characters to introduce and relationships to establish, as this is a character driven story, before all the suspense and mystery kicks in. But when the mystery and suspense kick in, the pacing changes greatly, though not abruptly. I didn’t even notice the change until I thought back on it.

Cornwell writes her characters with amazing depth, each one having their own set of problems to face and conquer and a distinct personality. Which is impressive considering that Tides has a lot of characters. While characters like Noah, Lo, Mara, Maebh, and Gemm take the stage, the more minor characters are also written remarkable well. I could relate to all of them in some way and could emotionally connect with them.

I was absolutely touched by all the relationships in this book. The author definitely knows how to write family, friendship, and romance and doesn’t hold back in this novel. I adored the loving, romantic relationship between Maebh and Gemm, the sibling relationship Noah and Lo shared, the romance between Mara and Noah, and the relationship the selkies of the pod had together. Saying that this aspect of the story is top-notch doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Cornwell’s prose is exceptional with its soft, peaceful feel and power. The words flow nicely and beautifully emphasized the wonder of the ocean and shore. I could hear the waves of the ocean hitting the rocks on the shore. I could feel my feet in the water. The atmosphere was perpetual and comforting, which is something I consider brilliant.

Using multiple point of views in a story is very tricky considering that it can cause characters to be under-developed, and the writer also has the risk of not being able to make the different point of views distinct from each other. Fortunately, Cornwell doesn’t fall into that trap. She pits to use many, many point of views with skill. Transitions are smooth, choices are distinct, and no character is under-developed.

When I read a story I really love, I find it hard to form words with my fingers or mouth. But with Tides I can speak and type just fine– I just can’t stop pouring and rambling my out my feelings about it. Tides is an insightful, gorgeous novel that is full of heart. Saying that I recommend this book would be a massive understatement.

I received an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review via Netgalley

Our Happy Hours by Gong Ji-young, Sahara Mizu: review

Watashitachi no Shiawase na JikanOur Happy Hours by Gong Ji-young, Sahara Mizu (art)
Stand Alone
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Adult/Mature Young Adult
Genre: Josei, Seinen, Romance
Release Date: First Pub. 2007
Synopsis: “I have something I don’t want to lose—
So much so that these terrible feelings have grown.”

A pianist who attempted suicide 3 times, Juri, is taken to help her aunt at a prison where murderers who killed indiscriminately are sentenced to death. There, she meets a man named Yuu who took the lives of 3 people. A mother’s antagonism–a brother’s death… Together they embrace the violent rebellion in their hearts caused by the large, deep scars they carry. However, before long, they both embrace an earnest hope in their hearts. “I want to live”…

An adaptation of a novel by South Korea’s most popular female novelist, Gong Ji-Young.

My Thoughts:

Our Happy Hours. I don’t think that there could be any other name more fitting. From the very beginning I knew deep inside how the story was going to end. All I had to hold on to were the fulfilling, happy hours that Juri, a former pianist that has attempted suicide three times, and Yuu, a man on death row who killed three people, spend together. And when it all ended, I was just left remembering the moments they had together.

I do admit that the premise can cause eyebrows to be raised. A story about a depressed woman spending time with a murderer every Thursday is not a story that many people would call sweet, romantic, or, in fact, normal. But in reality, this story is sweet, in its own tender way, and romantic, in its own hopeful way, and, for some odd reason, the story does feel a bit normal when one actually reads it. And to top it all off, there is a very apparent sense of standing in the rain-like sadness and melancholy lingering in the atmosphere of Our Happy Hours that one can not just shake off. It isn’t the in-your-face kind of sadness as you can put up a little umbrella made out of the happy hours…

It’s just that sometimes I don’t like an umbrella being in the way!

Juri and Yuu are both characters that are hard to write and pull off. Juri mainly because of her depression, which is a condition that takes research and understanding to effectively write. Yuu because, well, he had killed people before. And even though he regrets it enough to actually long for death, his actions are still almost impossible to forgive. But even so, Gong Ji-young writes these characters in a masterfully skillful and sensitive way.

Gong Ji-young really shows how fragile and vulnerable these two characters are. I had this extreme wanting to protect Juri and Yuu, though I knew that it was impossible since I am kind of in a different world than them. Their development, growth, and healing are painful and inspiring at the same time. Seriously, the two leads’ characterization is simply breathtaking.

The flow of the story isn’t slow yet it isn’t fast. It takes its time presenting the characters, their emotions, conflicts, and wants before letting everything take off. I actually wish that the pacing was slower so it would have taken less time to get to the ending.

Let me explain. The ending is painfully sad. The kind of sad that might make you cry, your tears streaming down your face and ruining your makeup. I knew all along that it was coming but it still hit me hard and devastating me. I didn’t even have a tissue box available! It was a perfect ending with notes from the piano and love , but still painful.

Christianity does have a role in Our Happy Hours. Juri’s aunt is part of the clergy and Yuu does study to get his Christian name. I don’t think that this caused the manga to be preachy in at all. In fact, the manga shows the flaws of the people in the clergy (without making an offensive portrayal, of course) and there were some underlying messages that a person, Christian or not, could listen to and learn from.

The art, awhile not the most fantastic thing about Our Happy Hours, flawlessly fits into the mood of the story as a whole. The delicate character designs and carefully drawn backgrounds make the art something really pleasant on the eyes to look at.

Our Happy Hours is an absolutely lovely manga that deserves to have its large audience. It is rare to encounter such a beautifully bittersweet story. I will be cherishing Our Happy Hours for years to come.

Note: I have recently learned that Our Happy Hours is an adaption of a novel by Gong Ji-Young, an author who is considered one of the most popular female novelist in South Korea. Admittedly, I haven’t read the book, and am not sure if I ever will be able to, but I believe that the manga is a fantastic manga in its own right.

Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy: review

CriminalCriminal by Terra Elan McVoy
Stand Alone
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult/New Adult
Genre: Realistic, Thriller, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: May 7th 2013
Synopsis: A searing and gripping read that explores the depths of desperation true love can inspire, from the author of Being Friends with Boys.

Nikki’s life is far from perfect, but at least she has Dee. Her friends tell her that Dee is no good, but Nikki can’t imagine herself without him. He’s hot, he’s dangerous, he has her initials tattooed over his heart, and she loves him more than anything. There’s nothing Nikki wouldn’t do for Dee. Absolutely nothing.

So when Dee pulls Nikki into a crime—a crime that ends in murder—Nikki tells herself that it’s all for true love. Nothing can break them apart. Not the police. Not the arrest that lands Nikki in jail. Not even the investigators who want her to testify against him.

But what if Dee had motives that Nikki knew nothing about? Nikki’s love for Dee is supposed to be unconditional…but even true love has a limit. And Nikki just might have reached hers.

My Thoughts:

I believe that there are different ways to love someone. After reading so many books, watching so many movies and T.V. shows, I think that I have found out about many of those ways. But Criminal is the first novel that I have read that features such a dark, startling honest story about the consequences of being utterly blinded by love. But awhile this is a strong and solid story, I did have a few quibbles here and there.

The Things That I Liked–

— Criminal is super addictive. The story is tough to read through at times, but there is just something so compulsively addictive. Perhaps it is the yearning of knowing the characters’ fates. Perhaps it is the massive want of finally seeing the bright light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever it was, it kept me reading.

— I also have to say that Criminal packs quite a punch. There were times that I felt like it was hopeless. There were times when I celebrated. And then there were times when I just felt angry. McVoy did an excellent job at pulling just the right emotions out of me.

— The writing, although it is very minimalistic at times, is very good. McVoy’s prose matches the mood of the story perfectly, enhancing the dark, cold feel that I already felt all too well.

–Nikki is the type of character who needs to be written with a careful hand. She is very, very rough around the edges. She is desperate, blinded by love. But it is that terrible flaw that makes her transition from a girl who can’t see to a girl who can is incredible. Nikki’s growth as a person is a reason alone to read this novel.

— The side characters were given a fair amount of attention and written well. Bird, Priscilla, and the rest of the group were created with finesse. Awhile some like Cherry can be categorized easily, most of them can’t.

The Things That I Didn’t Like

— I feel massively disappointed by Dee’s character. As the reader, all I could feel towards him was hatred and disgust. I could feel nothing else. Nothing else at all. You see, I like antagonist who are fleshed out. I like feeling sympathy, even if just a fragment of it, toward them. The reader doesn’t learn anything about Dee, which is, to be blunt, disappointing.

— Open endings are not normally my thing. And the ending of this book is no exception. The end of Criminal would have been much more satisfying if it had an epilogue devoted to Nikki’s future.

The Verdict

Criminal is a dark story with solid writing and a good group of characters that knows what story it is trying to tell– and is completely honest about it. Which is absolutely refreshing. I would certainly recommend this novel to people who are aching for a story that doesn’t hold back anything.

Seven Days by Venio Tachibana, Rihito Takarai: series review

Seven Days Vol.1-2Seven Days by Venio Tachibana, Rihito Takarai (Illustrator)
Series: Seven Days #1-2
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Shounen-ai, Romance, Contemporary, LGBTQ+
Publisher:  Digital Manga Publishing

My Thoughts:

Now before I start babbling about how much I loved Seven Days, I need to say that I haven’t read much shounen-ai. Not because I dislike the genre, but because I always seem to be picking up the more… sexually explicit titles by mistake. These little mishaps has caused me to kind of avoid the genre except for on a few rare occasions.

But luckily, I stumbled upon a couple of raving reviews for this gem. And then I found out that the featured couple don’t do anything more than kiss a couple of times. So I started reading. I am so, so glad I did.

Seven Days first introduces us to Shino Yuzuro, a handsome boy who is described to have an air of perfection around him. But because of his blunt, kind-of-impolite personality, girls who date him become disappointed and dump him, and even his friends say he is a waste of a pretty face.

On a certain Monday, Yuzuru happens to meet with Seryou, a guy who is notorious for his habit of dating the first person to ask him out at the beginning of the week and then immediately dumping that same person on Sunday if he doesn’t develop any feelings for that person (which he normally doesn’t). And since Seryou makes that person feel absolutely special those seven days he is with them, he remains popular and well-liked.

After finding out that no one has managed to ask Seryou out yet, Yuzuru asks Seryou to date him. Awhile Yuzuru meant it as a joke, Seryou takes the request seriously and proceeds to stick with his habit. Thus begins a seven day love story.

Reading Seven Days was a bit of a surreal experience. I owe this to the fact that the seven days the manga covers starts to stretch into an amount of ‘time’ that feels longer than just seven days. It feels like Yuzuru and Seryou were together for more than just seven days. Which I feel is quite fitting since, crazily enough, it took three years for this short, two volume series to get completely published in a quarterly magazine.

Although the series is very short, the characters still manage to be developed. Seven Days balances the forwarding of the romance with the development of the characters. So at the very end, the reader know Yuzuru and Seryou well enough that they feel like real people with both flaws and good qualities. I do have a deep want to learn more about these characters, but given the shortness of the series, the creators did a great job at developing them.

The romance is really sweet. The kind of sweet that really makes a person giddy. The kind of way that makes a person go “awww” every few pages. Even though Yuzuru and Seryou are only together for seven days, the romance doesn’t seem to develop to quickly at all. The creators fit in that awkwardness that is present at the beginning of a relationship and everything after that. The growing feelings between seems very natural. Awhile it might be too early to say “I love you,” I didn’t feel like Seven Days had a bad case of insta-love.

One of the best things about the romance is how it is portrayed. It isn’t based on appearances, nor does it base itself on cliches. It is a very pure and captivating kind of love that develops between the two. They love  each other, flaws and all.

It should noted that the story doesn’t revolve around the fact that Yuzuru and Seryou are both boys. In fact, their sexuality doesn’t cause them much trouble at all. Seven Days is more focused on people and their personalities more than what gender a person is interested.

Takarai’s art is pretty in a delicate way. The characters are especially drawn nicely, and the backgrounds are pleasant to look at, also. The art also does a fantastic job at giving a very peaceful, mellow mood to read with.

I was thoroughly endeared by Seven Days. The characters, the romance, the story, the art. Everything is painted in such of an eloquent way. I can really see why this manga has obtained so many loving fans. This is certainly going to be a seven day story I won’t be forgetting.

How To Lead A Life Of Crime by Kirsten Miller: review

How to Lead a Life of CrimeHow to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller
Stand Alone
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Mystery, Contemporary, Thriller
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: February 21st 2013
Synopsis: A meth dealer. A prostitute. A serial killer.

Anywhere else, they’d be vermin. At the Mandel Academy, they’re called prodigies. The most exclusive school in New York City has been training young criminals for over a century. Only the most ruthless students are allowed to graduate. The rest disappear.

Flick, a teenage pickpocket, has risen to the top of his class. But then Mandel recruits a fierce new competitor who also happens to be Flick’s old flame. They’ve been told only one of them will make it out of the Mandel Academy. Will they find a way to save each other—or will the school destroy them both?

My Thoughts: 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from the first chapter to the last. I would even say that I love this book in the way I would love a (fictional) bad boy. There’s priceless dark humor, good ol’ snark, thievery, trickery, flawlessly made characters, a well-planned conspiracy, and a heart-pounding story filled with danger. How to Lead a Life of Crime is a novel that stuck to my hands until I finished. And after I finished the novel, I was whispering to the little hardcover these words:

Nobody stared at me strangely at all awhile I said it, either.

Looking at the synopsis, it’s not hard to get the wrong idea. I myself thought that this was going to be one of those stories that can be compared to a teen graphic novel or movie. But what I thought that this book was going to be like was completely wrong. How to Lead a Life of Crime doesn’t kid around. The Mandel Academy is ruthless and dangerous. Most of the students of the academy have lost hope, and some of them are just crazy. There is definitely that anybody can die atmosphere. And the villain, well, he seems to know exactly what the protagonist are planning at all times.

The carefully planned conspiracy that is happening behind the locked doors of Mandel Academy is perfectly executed. And really, I had a hard time not believing it. Kirsten Miller blends the Mandel Academy so well into the contemporary world of How to Lead a Life of Crime that it actually started to blend into what is happening in reality.

The idea of an academy that takes in kids from the streets, turns them into unfeeling people only after their own desires, and setting them out into the world as powerful people to manipulate the lesser powerful might be hard to believe at first. But if you think about it, it’s kind of not. How many times have people with power or fame been accused of having a hidden agenda that could have negative affects on the population as a whole? Definitely not just a few times.

White did an amazing job writing an authentic male character and voice. In fact, Flick is the best well-written character I ever had the pleasure of encountering. His character is wholly unpredictable. I do remember being shocked by his decisions many times awhile reading this book. And his flaws are brilliantly written in a way that makes the reader look past them and look for the good person behind them all, which isn’t hard to do as the story progresses.

Joi is just as great as Flick. My jaw dropped when she returned. She kicked so much butt with the way she lead and conquered. She is confident in her peer’s skills and invested trust when she knew she could, unlike Flick who tries to go solo. Seriously, this girl is amazing.

How to Lead a Life of Crime also features side characters that play roles that are almost as important as Flick and Joi’s roles in the story. If characters like Ella, Violet, or Aubrey weren’t in the book, I’m pretty sure that everyone would be dead in a puddle of blood or completely brainwashed.

The emotion that the author was able to pull from me was surprising. I don’t think I have worried for a character’s life that much. And don’t even get me started on all the thrill and excitement I went through.

The prose comes with an abundance of clear descriptive writing and sensory, as well as doses of ultra-awesome snark and dark humor that had me laughing out loud. Never had I read a novel with such great snark in the prose.

“’See? You’re the crazy one, you redheaded freak.’

I’ve been attempting to translate the phrase into Latin. If I ever succeed, I shall make it my personal motto.”

The only flaw that I can find in How to Lead a Life of Crime is the censoring of ‘fuck.’ Instead of being written as a complete word, the word is written as ‘f—-.’ I didn’t find any point of doing that. The reader knows what word is being used, so the censoring just becomes an annoyance. But that’s only a itty bitty, tiny flaw that flew right over my head once I got sucked in by the story.

I have nothing but praise for How to Lead a Life of Crime. The plot is incredible, the characters make White worthy of an award, the writing is amazing, and the conspiracy is believable. My only regret about reading this book is that I’m going to be wanting more for the rest of my life. Why must this be a stand alone?

Note: There are also many references to Peter Pan, so if you are a fan of the classic, then you might love this book, also!

Spirit by Brigid Kemmerer: review

Spirit (Elemental, #3)Spirit by Brigid Kemmerer
Series: Elemental #3
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Romance
Publisher: K Teen
Release Date: May 28th 2013
Synopsis: With power comes enemies. Lots of them.

Hunter Garrity just wants to be left alone. He’s learned the hard way that his unusual abilities come at a price. And he can’t seem to afford any allies.

He’s up to his neck in hostiles. His grandfather, spoiling for a fight. The Merrick brothers, who think he ratted them out. Calla, the scheming psycho who wants to use him as bait.

Then there’s Kate Sullivan, the new girl at school. She’s not hostile. She’s bold. Funny. Hot. But she’s got an agenda, too.

With supposedly secret powers rippling to the surface everywhere around him, Hunter knows something ugly is about to go down. But finding out what means he’ll have to find someone he can trust…

*Want to sample Spirit? Well, you can! The first chapter of Spirit is available here.*

My Thoughts:

Brigid Kemmerer has successfully taken my breath away. And I’m still struggling to get it back. Spirit is like a powerful punch to the gut with its emotional and quite addicting the story. Awhile the boy-meets-girl subplot is definitely there, like in the other two books in the series, Storm and Spark, the core of the story is an enrapturing tale of learning to trust that surprised me so much with the intense beauty it held.

Yeah, this is a beauty of a book.

If the writing was decent in Storm and great in Spark, then the writing in Spirit is gorgeous. Kemmerer has a gift for creating witty, substantial prose that will keep a person’s eyes on the pages no matter what happens. I am pretty sure that I wouldn’t have cared if a tornado hit because the writing pulled me in so much. (I am happy that a tornado didn’t happen, though. I do like being alive a great amount.)

The story, well, it isn’t very complex. In fact, Spirit‘s story is pretty simple: the Guides want all the Elementals gone, and a crazy girl wants to create a war. But the constant kicks to the feels, fast pacing, and clean execution make it absolutely amazing. And the refreshing originality is not something that should be missed!

The most risky, awesome thing about Spirit is the character and development of Hunter Garrity. A character that feels completely lost with a  habit of not trusting people and pushing them away and his yearning to please his father, even if he is deceased, is a hard thing to pull off, I believe. And the fact that he seems to be making questionable choices throughout the book doesn’t make his character any less riskier.

But Kemmerer seems to know what she is doing, and pulls off this feat magnificently. I could intimately relate to Hunter, and really felt every bump in the road he had to go through. I felt his anxiety. doubts, and hurt. I also felt hit growth as the story progressed. Hunter is an almost-tangible character.

There is another character, Kate Sullivan. And oh is she a sight to see! She is completely different from Becca and Layne. It only takes a few chapters for the reader to learn that this girl is flirtatious, confident, and bold. But she also has a hidden agenda that could put the Merrick brothers at risk. Kate, like Hunter, has her own self-doubts and apparent flaws. And she, too, gets a realistic development.

I expected a romance and wasn’t surprised when it appeared. I wasn’t expecting for it to be so good, though! Hunter and Kate’s romance is by far the best in the series. Their coming together because of their shared loneliness, self-doubts, and issues with trust, helping each other both overcome their flaws. Just wow. I don’t even know how to begin. Just know that the romance can be compared to many other YA novels and come out victorious.

And there is one certain character death that is just terrible. In an incredibly good, sad way. I was shocked and misty-eyed when it happened. The ending is pretty frigging emotional, too.

I am literally only centimeters away from taking over the world so I can force everyone to read this book. Centimeters away. We’re all lucky that I’m pretty daft and don’t know how to take over the world. If this is what Kemmerer can do, then I have no doubt that she will become one of my favorite writers.

Be sure to follow the rest of the Spirit Blog Tour hosted by The Midnight Garden!

An advance copy was provided in exchange for a honest review via Netgalley.

Spark by Brigid Kemmerer: review

Spark (Elemental, #2)Spark by Brigid Kemmerer
Series: Elemental #2
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Romance
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: August 28th 2012
Synopsis: Gabriel Merrick plays with fire. Literally. Sometimes he can even control it. And sometimes he can’t. Gabriel has always had his brothers to rely on, especially his twin, Nick. But when an arsonist starts wreaking havoc on their town, all the signs point to Gabriel. Only he’s not doing it. And no one seems to believe him. Except a shy sophomore named Layne, a brainiac who dresses in turtlenecks and jeans and keeps him totally off balance. Because Layne has a few secrets of her own…

My Thoughts: 

There is always that fear of the sequel not being as good as the first book when you continue a series. Luckily, Brigid Kemmerer is starting to seem like the kind of author who does nothing but improve. Spark completely blows Storm out of the water– or should I say (…WAIT FOR IT!) fire!

There are so, so many things that have improved since Storm. The characterization is stronger. The prose has developed into something more witty than it was in the previous book. The plot is tighter and more exciting. The family dynamics are at their best. The romance is even more romantic. The whodunnit arsonist mystery is intriguing. And the ending chapters are just amazing.

Some people might be scared off by this installment of the Elemental series, since the novel is narrated by Gabriel. And they have good reason to. Gabriel was a complete jerk throughout the majority of Storm, what with all his sexist comments and insults. In Spark, though, I found myself not disliking him as much as I did because of the look in Gabriel’s mind that the book provided.

Spark shows that Gabriel, our fictional pyromaniac, is a complex, lonely character carrying a lot of self-doubt on his shoulders. He is extremely ill at ease about the fact that he lacks the control to manipulate fire, the Element he has a special affinity to, and feels inferior to his brothers because of that lack of control. And the grief he feels because of his parents’ death, which he blames himself for, is especially apparent to the reader. But he tries to hide all that from the people around him, hiding his true self behind the constant insults and fights. Because of this new depth that was added to Gabriel’s character, I came to love him. Sure, I still wanted to smack him in the fact at times, but there were also times when I wanted to leap inside the book and glomp him.

Layne, the other main character of Spark, is quite the heroine. I thought that she was a bit strange when I first ‘met’ her, since she seemed a bit high-strung. But she also develops into a character I thoroughly loved. Really, how could I not love her? She knew when to get angry at Gabriel when he was acting like a jerk, and how she handled the responsibility of taking care of her family that was left strained because of her mother’s ditching of the family is truly admirable. I could also genuinely relate to her and the bullying she goes through.

Sparks (sorry. I couldn’t help it) really fly with Gabriel and Layne’s romance…although, it does take a while to get the fire (again, sorry) going. There is definitely a awkward phase in which the two characters are very nervous about their attracting to each other. And then you have to consider that both the characters are insecure and tend to push people away. But that awkardness starts to become something very sweet and touching. The chemistry between the two is undeniable.

Some other characters I am interested in are Hunter and Michael. Awhile the reader knows Hunter’s personality, the reader doesn’t know much about him. The same goes for Michael.

Another thing that I have noticed about this series is how is addresses the bullying that goes on in school. First, in Storm, it was Becca becoming an outcast because people thought she slept with half the high school. Now it is Layne being bullied by people because of her burn scars and her brother Simon being bullied because he is deaf. And don’t even mention the beatings that the Merrick brothers get into. Brigid Kemmerer really knows how to show this ugly and common part of life in a way that makes the reader aware, but doesn’t make the novel an ‘issue book.’

The Elemental series is still going strong with its addictive, refreshing story, amazing characters, and occasional moments of substantial emotion. I’m really starting to think that I should just go ahead and marry myself to this series.