Review: All You Never Wanted (Adele Griffin)

Product Details:
Reading level: YA
Pages: 240
Publisher: October 9th 2012 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780375870828
Source: Netgalley

All You Never Wanted
With my eyes closed and Alex's core friends all around me, it was like I'd become my big sister, or something just as good. And so who cared if they were calling it Alex's party? One thing I knew: it would be remembered as mine.

Alex has it all—brains, beauty, popularity, and a dangerously hot boyfriend. Her little sister Thea wants it all, and she's stepped up her game to get it. Even if it means spinning the truth to win the attention she deserves. Even if it means uncovering a shocking secret her older sister never wanted to share. Even if it means crying wolf.

Told in the alternating voices of Alex and Thea, Adele Griffin's mesmerizing new novel is the story of a sibling rivalry on speed.

I know there are mixed reviews out there on this one, and honestly I’m stuck somewhere in the middle. On a small level, this is the story of two sisters that suffer the devastating effects of becoming nouveau rich. On a much larger and deeper level, however, this is a story of sibling rivalry… and that story is dark and troubled.

Thea is the younger sister tired living in Alex’s shadow. She has developed this image of what her life should be like and it eats away at her. It consumes her, really. Thea’s story sucks you in from the beginning. She is so screwed up that you can’t help but continue to read because you want to find out where that train wreck is heading. And what a train wreck she is! Is she crazy? Yes, but that’s an understatement. Border line psychotic? Oh yeah. Pathological liar? Mmm, yep. An endangerment to herself and those around her? Right again! Like I said, complete train wreck.

While Thea’s highly disturbing story unfolds, the mystery surrounding Alex’s neurosis also unravels. You can tell that Alex was once this amazing person (that probably wasn’t too likeable), but her unfortunate “event” has left her scared and damaged. So is so damaged, in fact, that she is allowing herself to fade away—literally. She’s got a plate full of issues to handle too!

So yes, I thought the story behind these two sisters was very interesting. Compelling even. I was captivated for the most part. But the other characters did not hit the mark for me, and I think they took away from the book as a whole. For starters, Alex’s boyfriend was a douche bag. Barf. I understand the purpose he played, but geez. Then there was Xander… I really liked Xander, but the whole Alex-Xander “thing” was too rushed. It happened so quickly. In one paragraph the entire orbit of this book changed and I wasn’t fully buying it. Sorry. I’m happy with the ending. I think it worked, even if it left a lot of questions unanswered. I can certainly say there is no neat little bow ending to annoy you, and that is commendable.

Overall, I think what could have been a phenomenal story was rushed in places, which ultimately took away from the force of the story between the covers. It was still a good read for older YA readers, but not my favorite in this genre.


Review: Vessel (Sarah Beth Durst)

Product Details:
Reading Level: YA
Pages: 424
Publisher: September 11th 2012 by Margaret K. McElderry
ISBN:  9781442423763
Source: review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review

VesselIn a desert world of sandstorms and sand-wolves, a teen girl must defy the gods to save her tribe in this mystical, atmospheric tale from the author of Drink, Slay, Love.Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. The goddess will inhabit Liyana’s body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But Liyana’s goddess never comes. Abandoned by her angry tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.

Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. For the desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale.

The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her goddess. But she has no choice: She must die for her tribe to live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate—or a human girl can muster some magic of her own.

I really don’t understand people only giving this book 4 star reviews. Sarah Beth Durst has hit her mark once again with Vessel! I found this story to be unique and completely immersive. I didn’t want to stop reading it!

The first thing I noticed about Vessel was the amazing world building that Sarah Beth Durst is so famous for. She didn’t disappoint with Vessel. The first page is so descriptive that it sucks you into Liyana’s world before you even realize it. In fact, I used the first two paragraphs to show my students the “power of sensory details.” (Hope the author doesn’t mind.) It was great timing that we were discussing building your setting and using descriptive details to make your writing more interesting, and then I opened Vessel and viola: perfect example! The opening page’s example was a huge hit with my students (who are also reluctant readers). I booked talked the awesomeness and now they all want to read it. J

If you’ve read any other books by Sarah Beth Durst, hearing that the world she creates for her characters in Vessel is like none you’ve ever read about won’t surprise you. She seems to have a knack for developing unique settings.

The mythology she used throughout Vessel was great. I’m a huge mythology nerd, so anything even loosely based on myth will grab my attention. With Vessel, I could recognize the trickster tale elements, but I had a hard time pin-pointing which culture the myths truly came from. Were they borrowed from many cultures or were they a product of the author’s divine imagination? Hard to say. What I can say, though, is that it was flawless. The way the mythological elements were woven into the characters’ every being was fantastic. From battling glass sky serpents and sand wolves to saving your gods/goddesses from an unknown threat—Vessel had it all! I cannot even begin to tell you how much I loved it.

The mythology element in the book also plays a HUGE role in the plot. (Loved it!) It’s rather hard to explain the intricate plot, but I can safely say there were numerous surprises along the way. I usually figure out plots midway through a book, but not with Vessel. I can honestly say I was surprised by the ending. While I was a little disappointed with the turn of events in the resolution, it was still a fulfilling ending.

The characters were also pretty spectacular too. It was hard to make a connection with them because they were so different, but I certainly  found myself invested in them. Liyana was the epitome of a strong female lead, and I loved her. She was resourceful and stubborn. Korbyn was mischievous (which makes sense since he was the trickster god). I could just picture the twinkle in his eye! Loved him. Team Korbyn FTW! The other characters that you meet along the way were equally impressive. They were each unique and brought something special to the plot.

I really wish I would have wrote this review the moment I finished reading Vessel instead of waiting two weeks. I feel like now I can only capture the superficial elements that I enjoyed, instead of the overall impact I had when I read the final words. Since this is the second book by Sarah Beth Durst that I’ve read—and I loved it—I’ve decided that I need to read everything else she has written. Vessel was so different from Drink, Slay, Love, but it still managed to find a place on my shelves as a favorite.  (For the Record, Drink, Slay, Love is my favorite, non-sparkling vampire book of all time.) I also think it should be noted that truly talented authors (like Sarah Beth Durst) are able to make each book they write unique and special. Vessel was nothing like DSL—seriously. It was as if I was reading the author for the first time, and I appreciated that.

So, for all the mythology fans out there, you need to read Vessel. It’s like nothing you’ve read before!

Cover Appeal: Masks

There seems to be a lot of books floating around featuring beautiful women in masks. I could ponder the philosophical hidden connotation of that (because I'm in one of those moods), but I think I would rather just share a few pictures I found on Pinterest that would compliment the trend.

This week's Cover Appeal theme is all about masks.


 Masquerade Mystery

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