Sunday, 18 January 2015

CFB Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

The cover's a bit too fluffy froofroo for me, but I'll take it.

   This is one of those novels that I've picked up and put down over and over again in the bookshop, thinking "Should I? Not this time. Maybe I should...nah, never mind." Then Poland Bananas Books named it as one of her favorite books of 2014, and then I saw it again at the store. I figured that might've been a sign from the powers that be, and I got it.

   Some of you may know that I'm not the biggest contemporary fan. I go way into the past, or way into the future. Probably I wasn't used to the vernacular anymore, which was why during the first few pages, Harper Price (our protagonist) irked me. The language seemed like it tried too hard to be down with the times. But she grew on me, and within the next few chapters, I fell in love with her. She reminds me of myself in high school: part of every school organization, in charge of events, vying for valedictorian, etc. I wasn't Homecoming Queen (my school didn't have homecoming) but I was Prom Princess! Harper's whole life revolved around school, which meant that she was in for quite a shock. By sheer happenstance, she (literally) gets sucked into a centuries-old battle for power. 

   I loved that when the time came for her to accept her destiny, Harper was like, "Yeah...nope. No, thanks. I'm gonna go back to my regular, non-threatening activities because y'all are crazy." I mean personally, I would've hopped on a train to Westeros if it meant seeing magic, but then again, so would 99% of YA heroines out there. What makes Harper different is that she doesn't want any of that. She doesn't want adventure or magic. She wants to be valedictorian and get into a good college. What impressed me is that Rachel Hawkins was able to write a character like this without making her seem petty and shallow. Harper Price isn't some dumb bimbo. Yes, she'll spend a thousand dollars on a dress and throw a hissy fit if she doesn't have the exact shade of lip gloss she needs, but she'll do it while kicking your butt at spelling bees and AP classes. 

   Speaking of Harper's intelligence, can we take a minute to admire her for untangling her supernatural destiny by checking a couple of books out of the library and marathoning Marvel movies? 

   The cast of characters in Rebel Belle were just all so lovable. I've got a soft spot for Bee, Harper's best friend. I like how Rachel Hawkins doesn't play the whole BFF-turns-on-heroine-once-heroine-starts-changing trope. Nope, Bee was at her side the whole time, with a heart bigger than her appetite for Cinnabon. 

   The love story in this book was ace. Towards the end of the novel, when the ball really got rolling on the romance angle, I found myself with a constant case of heart-in-my-throat, because dang it, I just wanted those two suckers to get together already! And Rachel Hawkins certainly did not disappoint. I guess if I had to nitpick, I'd wish that the whole "breaking up with her hottie boyfriend because she's really in love with that other dude" part of the story wasn't so cliché. She did that thing where Harper just doesn't feel sparks anymore for her boyfriend Ryan, and suddenly, she's noticing things about David that she never did before. Yep. We've been down that road plenty of times before. And I don't know how I feel about the revelation that *SPOILER* David's been in love with her all this time. It gave his character an immature angle--"I'm in love with her, so I'll spend all these years bullying her and writing awful articles about her. How fourth-grade am I?" But childish behavior aside, I still love David Stark, and his chemistry with Harper was amazeballs.

   The plot didn't take itself too seriously, which was good in some ways, and bad in others. I do wish there had been more exposition on what exactly a Paladin does, and how she is supposed to protect the Seer. The bright side of a not-too-serious plot is that we avoided the angst-filled chapters usually found in many young adult books nowadays. Harper was an absolute delight to get to know. It was a fun, easy read that you could easily speed through in a few days (I know some of you read faster than that, but two days is fast for me!).

Salve's Hopes for Book #2:

-Ryan finds love and/or tries to win Harper back.
-We get to kick Blythe's ass.
-Bee gets rescued and learns some ass-kicking herself.
-More feels between Harper & David.

My rating: 8/10 for wonderful, lovable characters, light & humorous writing, but I subtracted two from a perfect 10 because of The David Stark Flaw and lack of Paladinsplanation.


Sunday, 4 January 2015

On My Radar: Upcoming January Releases

   Behind my deadline for the second month in a row, shame on me. But it was the holidays! I wanted to let you guys enjoy Christmas & New Year's before I posted anything...fine, you caught me, I was too distracted eating my weight in holiday food to write this up. But now that we're back to our regular old schedules, here's my list of the 10 books I'm most excited for this month!

Vendetta by Catherine Doyle (January 1)

    Vendetta seems to be a modern-day retelling of Romeo & Juliet. You've got your two warring clans and your forbidden love between two members. The summary never outright states that it is a Shakespearean retelling, but we can read between the lines. Let's hope this one doesn't end with a double suicide.

What I'm excited for: Meeting the members of each clan and learning why they've got such a ~*VENDETTA*~ against each other.

All The Bright Things by Jennifer Niven (January 6)

   One of my New Year's Reader Resolutions is to read more contemporary novels. This one looks like a good place to start: two kids, one depressed and the other suicidal, have a chance meeting and stops the other's plan right in its tracks. They begin to spend more time together, exploring their hometown. The Goodreads blurb says it's "The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this compelling, exhilarating, and beautiful story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die." 

What I'm excited for: How Niven will create the friendship between her two protagonists. That, and the feels. 

The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall (January 13)

   When a book is marketed as a "YA Da Vinci Code", how could you not be interested?! From what I've been able to glean from the summary, it's an adventure-thriller that takes place all over Europe, and our heroine is the missing heir to the throne of a secret society (cough, Illuminati, cough). She doesn't want any of that though, and goes on the run to take down the Illuminati Circle of Twelve.

What I'm excited for: The whole dang novel! Maggie Hall, do not let me down.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (January 13)

   While not a fairytale retelling per se, TDPotF certainly draws from fairytale elements: There's a brother-sister tandem involved, knights, fairies, and a person in a glass coffin (except it's a boy!). If I get my hands on it, this book will be my very first Holly Black book! I mean, I've read the Iron Trial and all, but that was penned with Cassie Clare, so to read a pure Holly Black tale should be interesting. She's one of the YA authors I've been hearing about for ages but have yet to read. 

What I'm excited for: This line from the summary: "Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children." If the author means "in love" the way I think it does, then that's going to make for a sibling love triangle with a nice twist to it. 

The Prey by Tom Isbell (January 20)

   Just when you think dystopians are dead, here comes a new generation of 'em. In the world of The Prey, the boys and girls who have been separated from the other gender team up, and try to outrun the Big Bad Dystopian Government. There's also a mention of twins in the summary, and I don't exactly know how that ties in with the whole shebang, but you know me, once I hear a whiff of twin-plotlines, I'm hooked.

What I'm excited for: Learning about the Big Bad Dystopian Government's motives for locking up all these children and consequently, turning them into Prey. Also, I want to know which dystopian backstory the author'll choose to employ. There's famine (The Hunger Games), natural disaster (The Chemical Garden), plague (The Maze Runner), so many tragedies to choose from.


The Way We Bared Our Souls by Willa Strayhorn (January 22)

    This novel is ensemble driven, with five characters all going through hardships: a former child soldier, a teen suffering from MS, a guy whose girlfriend just died, a girl with CIP (a disorder that means she can't feel physical pain), and a drug addict. After sharing their stories with one another, they all somehow taking the other person's problems as their own. It's one of those "walk a mile in my shoes" tales, and it should be really interesting.

What I'm excited for: Hearing each person's story at the beginning, particularly the former child soldier's, because that's not something we really see a lot in YA. 

Woven by Michael Jensen & David Powers King (January 27)

   The plot summary reads like a high fantasy-version of Meg Cabot's The Mediator, and you will hear no complaining from me on that front. The hero is a ghost named Nels who spent his mortal (peasant) life wanting to don the armor of a knight. As a ghost, he goes on an adventure with a princess. Cue Taylor Swift's Love Story.

What I'm excited for: The falling-in-love bit. Give me a good ol' fairytale with a happily ever after any day.

Love, Lucy by April Lindner (January 27)

   This is your typical American-girl-in-Europe story, but sometimes, a good cliché is exactly what you need. Another NY Resolution I've got is to travel more, and not just to other countries, but around the 7,107 islands that make up mine. Maybe Love, Lucy will inspire me to get off my duff and start booking for those promotional travel packages.

What I'm excited for: Seeing Italy through Lucy's eyes. It's definitely one of my favorite European destinations, and I'd love to see if April Lindner's got any hidden Italian spots to share.

All Fall Down by Ally Carter (January 27)

    I've never finished an Ally Carter novel--I read the first book of her Gallagher Girls series and gave up. But maybe that particular series wasn't my cup of tea. Her new book, All Fall Down, seems to be more up my alley. It's got the same international flair as The Conspiracy of Us, and written from the point of view of an ambassador's daughter. The summary seemed very Nancy Drew-like, and if there's a heroine I will defend to the death, it's the original girl detective herself. If the story is as Carolyn Keene-esque as I think it will be, it should make for quite an interesting book!

What I'm excited for: I really hope that her Embassy Row gang of sleuths are comprised of kids from different countries of the world. Like, the Avengers, but with more Asians.

Enter The Uncreated Night by Christopher Rankin

   Such an intriguing book, right down to its lack of release date on Goodreads. It's about a psychiatrist treating a young girl who talks to an imaginary person who seems to know anything about everything, and just typing that sentence out sent chills down my spine. The good doctor also seems to suffer from something himself, as he drugs himself up with cough medicine, almost a la Doctor House. Hmm. Secrets, secrets.

What I'm excited for: The fact that this isn't YA. Hopefully this'll be the start of me broadening my horizons to more general fiction.

That's it for my January #RadarReads! Which one are you looking forward to the most? Leave a comment!



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