Review: Alice in Zombieland

Title: Alice in Zombieland (The White Rabbit Chronicles #1)11300302

Author: Gena Showalter

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Publication Date: September 25, 2012

Summary: She won’t rest until she’s sent every walking corpse back to its grave. Forever.

Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that’s all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone.

Her father was right. The monsters are real….

To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn’t careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies….

I wish I could go back and do a thousand things differently.
I’d tell my sister no.
I’d never beg my mother to talk to my dad.
I’d zip my lips and swallow those hateful words.
Or, barring all of that, I’d hug my sister, my mom and my dad one last time.
I’d tell them I love them.
I wish… Yeah, I wish.

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So this book starts off with Ali, a not-so-normal teenage girl begging her mom to let them go to her little sisters dance recital. Which doesn’t seem like such a huge thing to ask, especially when it’s on her birthday that they forgot again. Except, it is a big deal when your dad refuses to let you go out after dark, because he is beyond terrified that the monsters are going to get them. Yeah, her dad has a few paranoia issues. But in the end, she convinces her parents to go and they have a good time, but stay out past dark. And on the way home, their car crashes and Ali comes to only to find her mother and sister dead and her father being devoured by creatures on the road. Ali survives and finds herself living with her grandparents, where she catches glimpses of creatures in the woods outside her house. Uncertain of what’s happening, Ali finds unexpected answers at her school, where she encounters a smoldering bad boy named Cole who seems to know what’s going on. You guys hear that, a smoldering bad boy… yeah, you know what that means *eyebrow wiggle*

I’ve heard so much hype about this series but I’ve been really good about avoiding spoilers, so I didn’t even remotely know what to expect going into this book. But first of all, don’t let the title fool you. This book is really in no way about Alice in Wonderland, besides the chapter titles and a few fun things thrown in. I was not aware of this so through the first chunk of the book, I was trying to figure out why there was a lack of Alice in Wonderland-ish things. Despite the lack of white rabbits and hookah smoking caterpillars, this was still such a fun read and I found myself really enjoying it.

Alice, also known as Ali, was a heroine that I actually found myself liking. One of the things that I really liked about her was that she was uncertain and vulnerable through a big portion of this book, but managed to still be stubborn and spunky and confident despite that. But with that, I found her to be a little hot and cold. Sometimes she was really timid pushover and other times she was a confrontational bad ass, and it was hard for me to see why she was one way sometimes then the other way a few minutes later. I did really like seeing her coming out of her shell of sadness and depression after losing her family, and finding a sort of purpose again. It felt like she had lost herself during that time and found a new and improved version. Also, this girl was a bad ass. Seriously, since her father had trained her to kick monster butt, when she actually got into fights, it was so cool to see how she evaluated the situation, made quick decisions, and annihilated her enemies. But not to an unrealistic level, she was good, but she wasn’t the best and she still made mistakes and got hurt.

Cole was an interesting character for me because I really wanted to dislike him. When Ali first sees him and he is hanging around a bunch of bad kids and they were all tough and mysterious, I internally sighed. Of course he was going to be one of those boys who wouldn’t share his feelings and got jealous and picked fights with any boy who talked to Ali and was kind of a massive jerk. And he totally was. But I actually found myself really liking him. I know, what’s wrong with me? I mean, he is the most cliche YA love interest ever and I should be immune to his charms. I mean, he wasn’t even a particularly well rounded character, he was kind of flat and we don’t get to learn that much about him in this book. But there was just something about him that I found myself enjoying. I think it was just the fact that he had no shame and Ali totally accepted him how he was. He would just go around giving people the stink eye and scaring them to death, or picking fights for no reason, or say sexy smoldering things, and he was never embarrassed of his actions and never apologized. He oozed this weird sort of sexy confidence and I found myself really liking it and the fact that he didn’t try to change to impress Ali.

And I have to say, their romance is steamy. I mean, I was frantically fanning myself at some parts. There was an insta-love sort of connection of course, but it was so intriguing because it was so random and out of nowhere, that it actually drew me in because I wanted to know what was going on. And they had some stupid petty romance drama through the book, and while constant hot and cold relationships drive me crazy, I kind of liked the game that they were playing, just because I think Ali and Cole were kind of both out of their comfort zone and bumbling around like idiots trying to figure out what they should be doing. This is kind of stupid, but the one thing that drove me crazy was that every single time they kissed, Ali would notice his taste, and every single time he would taste like some new sexy moan-worthy flavor. It’s like he keeps a stash of random scrumptious flavored mints in his pockets and just so happens to eat one right before they smooch it up. He is clearly a man that plans ahead.

When it comes down to the actual plot of this book, there were things I liked and things I didn’t. I really liked the concept of the zombies and how they are able to fight them. It was a really interesting twist on classic zombies and when you add in a whole bunch of spirit stuff and possible super-ish powers, it became that much more interesting and fun. I really enjoyed some of the secondary characters and some of the subplots going on with them, as well as the struggles Ali faces with keeping this a secret from her grandparents.

I didn’t really like though how there were a lot of coincidences in this book. I always kind of have to call bullshit on certain things. Like the fact that Ali just so happens to end up going to a school with a huge group of kids who just so happen to be able to see zombies, one of which who she just so happens to have some special love connection to… Yeah, she must just be really lucky. I also don’t like when I’m reading a book and feel like certain plot things happen just as an excuse for romance. That sounds confusing but here’s an example. Ali gets chased by zombies into the woods, which is a good excuse for the author to show us how well she can defend herself, which she kind of does. But eventually the heroine get’s taken down, only to be rescued by her knight in shining armor, who cradles her broken body in his arms and begs her to stay with him, then saves her life just in time. When I read things like this I feel like the whole part before, with her getting chased and fighting zombies, is just set up for the romantic scene that we can all swoon over. Which annoys me just a tiny bit.

Honestly, I think the thing I hate most about this book is that it made me like things that I swore to despise. I totally shipped this couple despite their insta-love crap. I loved Cole, the cliche mysterious bad boy with a body carved by angels. Actually, with a body like that, I’m pretty sure the devil himself chiseled it out of stone from the second circle of hell, just to unleash it upon the poor unsuspected girls of Asher High. For those of you that didn’t just get that witty reference I made, the second circle of hell is for the lusty sinners. Get it? Lust? Cole’s sexy body? Ha ha. Anyways, as much as I hate to admit it, I can point out all the flaws I found in this book but I still can’t deny that I busted through it in a day and really enjoyed every second of it. I’ve already ordered the second one.

RATING: 

Review: Sweet Evil

Title: Sweet Evil (The Sweet Trilogy #1)  11808950

Author: Wendy Higgins

Publisher: HarperTeen

Publication Date: May 1st, 2012

Summary: Embrace the Forbidden

What if there were teens whose lives literally depended on being bad influences?

This is the reality for sons and daughters of fallen angels.


Tenderhearted Southern girl Anna Whitt was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She’s aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but it isn’t until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage and her willpower is put to the test. He’s the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna.

Forced to face her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?

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When this first book came out a few years ago, I took one look at the silly cover with the creepy guy in black sniffing that poor girl’s hair, or whatever he is doing back there, and promptly stuck it back on the shelf. Yes, I happily judged this book by it’s cover. But come on, look at it. Look at her stupid scrunchy dress and his creepy face and chiseled jaw, the mysterious fog in the background… The whole thing just screams Twilighty tween bullshit. And what’s with her awkward arm across her stomach? Is she trying to stop her ovaries from exploding due to the raw sexy man-power radiating off the guy behind her? That’s got to be it.

Okay okay, but seriously, this book wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be. I just couldn’t understand how these books had so much hype and such a freaking good rating on Goodreads, so I had to find out for myself what sort of sorcery was going on here. And it was exactly what I thought… Swoony, unobtainable guy, forces of darkness, angels vs. demons, sexy hot make out scenes, and a perky blonde heroine. The perfect concoction to guarantee tons of squealing fangirls. This author wasn’t messing around.

Right from like page three, this book had me giggling uncontrollably and reading lines that I found hilarious out loud to my younger brother who just looked confused as to why I was reading something so stupid. I mean, holy crap, I was almost peeing my pants at some of the things out innocent little Anna was thinking about Kaidan. How about a few examples?

“He was smokin’ hot. As in H-O-T-T hott. I’d never understood until that moment why girls insisted on adding an extra T. This guy was extra-T worthy.”

“His eyes were narrow and his eyebrows were a bit thick and… Oh, who was I kidding? I could pick him apart, but even the shifty slant of his eyes made him more alluring to me.”

“Kai, like Thai, only yummier.”

“Good gracious, he was sexy- a word that had not existed in my personal vocabulary until that moment. This guy was sexy like it was his job or something.”

“Gosh, his eyes were gorgeous- the color of tropical honeymoon waters ringed in dark sapphire and enclosed by thick lashes.”

Can you understand why I was cracking up?

So we have the obviously sheltered Anna, who finds out that she is the offspring of an angel and demon, Belial, The Duke of Addiction. She has super senses galore but hides it and only uses her powers for good because even the thought of doing something bad, like lying *gasp!* makes her so upset. She runs into Kaidan who is just like her expect his father is the Duke of Lust, which I’m sure none of you saw coming, and he explains to her what she is and how she has to start working for her father. Any kids of the Dukes have to spread their sin around, so for Anna that means drinking and selling drugs and things, and for Kaidan that means seducing a lot of chicks and getting into their pants. Yuck.

I had a really hard time with Anna just because I found her so unrealistic and I wasn’t able to relate to her at all. She was so angelic that it was almost sickening and I found myself laughing at her the whole time for being so silly. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a good person or not having sex, but Anna was almost just annoying how she constantly cried over things that upset her or acted stupid just to do something nice because she wouldn’t help it. But it was also annoying how I really didn’t get much of a sense of internal conflict from her. I mean, she finds out that she is going to have to start doing bad things, and she just kind of goes with the flow the whole time. And after being around Kaidan for five seconds, she is more than ready to have sex with him. She was so hot and cold that her character felt almost lost and undefined.

And it was so completely ridiculous because a decent chunk of this book was Anna and Kaidan on a road trip to find her demon dad and talk to some nun. But how, you might ask, did she manage to get her parents to let her go with some sexy guy they don’t even know who would clearly take advantage of their daughter? Well that’s a funny question. Anna’s overprotective, freakishly sweet and goodhearted “mom”, who has done everything in her power to keep Anna safe and protected, randomly comes up with the idea herself. That’s right, mommy dearest suggests that they go on a road trip together, but she’s sure nothing could go wrong because she asks the son of The Duke of Lust to pretty please not deflower her daughter? I think I know who’s going to get mother of the year award.

The romance aspect of this book was pretty steamy, I’ll admit that. But it was so freaking dramatic. Kaidan was just the definition of the hot, mysterious guy who wants the heroine so bad but can’t be with her because it’s too dangerous, blah, blah, blah. I mean, one minute he is all over her, trying to seduce her and get laid, and the next minute he is freaking out and smashing lamps and being a cold jerk because she likes him. It was frustrating. There was intsa-love and a weird, awkwardly placed love triangle that I didn’t even understand the purpose of, except to make Kaidan jealous. But I was really excited because at one point in this book, they aren’t around each other very much, and I always like to see the heroine being productive and doing things without constantly needing her man at her side. But Anna just goes into this dark depression because she isn’t seeing Kaidan and is literally just the most pathetic thing ever.

The plot and writing wasn’t anything amazing, but it was fun. Everything was fairly predictable and cliche but in a familiar, relaxing sort of way. I did find the mythology pretty interesting, and getting to meet the other kids with all their different parents and what sort of bad things they have to do was pretty cool. And I do love angel and demon stuff, so the background with Anna’s parents and the struggle between heaven and hell was intriguing too. I have to give this book brownie points for being a fun read, even if I got annoyed a lot, I was still having a good time reading it and interested enough to see where it was going that I kept reading and finished the book pretty quickly.

Over all, this book was pretty much what I expected, but I had a better time with it that I thought I would. Anna didn’t really do anything for me, and I didn’t have much connection with any of the other characters but the ridiculous drama between all of them was entertaining enough that I made my way through it. I actually did order the next book from the library, so I must have liked it a little bit. I just feel bad because the only parts I really did like about it were ones that made me laugh for being so utterly silly. I feel like that wasn’t the author’s intention, but it was a nice quick book with a fun plot and lots of steamy moments, which was exactly what I was in the mood for. Still doesn’t make it a worthy of it’s 4.17/5 rating on Goodreads though.

RATING: 

Review: Red Rising

Title: Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1) 20766595

Author: Pierce Brown

Publisher: Del Rey

Publication Date: January 28th, 2014

Summary: The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.

Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.

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I can’t believe that I waited almost a whole year before reading this. That’s a whole year I went without this book in my life. A whole year I can never get back.

Where do I even start? This book was so far beyond what I had expected. I don’t think I’ve ever been so upset about being late to read a book before. Red Rising had amazing, developed characters, a plot that was full of twists and turns, and was just a beautiful, emotional read that kept me interested from start to finish.

This book is about a boy  named Darrow who is part of a colony of people, Reds, who mine under the surface of Mars and live in awful conditions, competing for food and following strict laws that if broken mean death. But they are okay with it because they believe that they are making Mars habitable for people, that their sacrifice is necessary for the good of the people. Through a series of events that I won’t tell you to avoid spoilers, Darrow finds himself about to die, but instead is smuggled out by a rebellion of people who show him that the surface is already full of people happily living on the world that his people made through blood and sweat, only to be treated horribly and still forced to slave away. The rebellion decides to turn Darrow into a Gold, the highest class of people, and have him infiltrate the system. But to do so, Darrow has to compete  with other young Golds in a sort of strategic battle where if you do bad, the consequences are either disgrace or death.

Darrow as the main character really carried the book for me. He was so rage filled and wanted vengeance and blood for his people, so sad and lost when his world gets turned upside down and he has to question everything, but he still has such a big heart under all of that. I loved that he was so smart, but not like genius smart, more like street smart, people smart and very intuitive. He had a way at looking at a situation, seeing all of the possible outcomes, then picking the one that worked the best to his advantage. On top of that, he has such a way of earning the loyalty of his followers and comrades, by making them all equals. He becomes the best leader anyone could want, just not in the way he is supposed to. I heard a few critiques that Darrow was too perfect, but I completely disagree. We see him fail multiple times through the book, but we see him grow and learn from his mistakes. And I don’t think when he does well in the competition that it’s because he is The Chosen One, I think it’s because he wasn’t raised like a Gold and it’s the differences between him and them that really matters.

On top of Darrow, I also found most of the secondary cast to be full of well developed, interesting characters. Pierce Brown had a way of writing that really made you feel like you knew the character’s soul, that you knew who they were as a person right after they were introduced. Every character brought something important to the story, had some important part to play, and the chemistry and interaction between them was so interesting and always felt very intense. Plus, so many of the characters were so colorful, like Sevro who wore a wolf skin and slipped around in the dark, slitting peoples throats, or Pax, the giant who could crush your skull with his bare hands but had a girly laugh and a heart of gold.

I knew I was going to like this book when less than fifty pages in, I was crying like a baby. Some bad stuff happens, but I was already so emotionally invested in these characters, that it actually caused me emotional distress. Fifty pages in and I already cared about the people and felt this world so much that I was crying over horrible the injustice done to the Reds and how they were treated as a people.

The writing style of this book was really strange but refreshing and enjoyable. It was so gritty and kind of jumpy at times, very realistic, but it also seemed so beautiful and poetic at times. It was really effective to me and definitely a reflection of the book itself. It was very sad and dark and disturbing at some parts, but then Darrow’s thoughts or the messages the book was conveying were beautiful and emotional. It had such flow to it and as I read, it conjured up a lot of visuals, so I became so much more immersed in the story and the world. It was refreshing compared to a lot of other YA authors because most of the things that I’ve come to associate with YA books were absent from this one. There was no cheesy romance, no quick, easy plot line, no predictable changes… Instead, what little romance there was felt really layered and had a lot of depth, and the plot was filled with so many twists and turns that I never knew what would happen next. Darrow would always be like three steps ahead, but as the reader you aren’t three steps ahead with him, so you don’t know why he is inserting himself into situations that are clearly traps, or how he is going to get out of them. The constant tension and excitement kept me on my toes the whole time and I loved it.

This book spans over two years, so it did feel like there was a bit of filler sometimes, but most of the time it felt like necessary filler. It was the sort that really built up the world and the characters, so you understood the world and what it is was Darrow is fighting for and why he needs to succeed and bring down the Golds and free his people. But besides that, the story was so quick paced and interesting and unpredictable that it seemed to fly by and the ending just came out of no where. I felt genuinely disappointed when the book ended because it felt like there was still so much to tell and I was dissatisfied with having to stop and wait for the next book.

In case you couldn’t tell, I absolutely adored this book. I honestly can’t think of a single complaint about it, except that the beginning is a little slow and confusing. But I promise you, if you stick with it, you won’t regret it. This book is a must read for dystopian lovers, and is an intense read, full of plot twists, amazing characters, a great message about fighting oppression, some great bloody fight scenes, and generally just everything you could want from a book. I bloodydamn loved it.

RATING: 

Review: Dortothy Must Die

Title: Dorothy Must Die 18053060

Author: Danielle Paige

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: April 1, 2014

Summary: I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still the yellow brick road, though—but even that’s crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I’m the other girl from Kansas.

I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, and I’ve been given a mission:

REMOVE
The Tin Woodman’s heart,

STEAL
The Scarecrow’s brain,

TAKE
The Lion’s courage,

And then—

DOROTHY MUST DIE.

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I’m going to keep this very spoiler free but I just have to say, it’s books like this that piss me off. Books where the summary or the back of the book itself totally mislead you. I picked this book up, read the back of it which is the same thing as above, and went, “Alright, cool. So Amy is going to have to do kind of this road of trials thing and defeat each of these bad guys, collect their important bits, growing stronger every time, only to face Dorothy at the end as the final boss. That sounds pretty damn awesome!” I mean, isn’t that what you would think?

So imagine my confusion when this whole “REMOVE the Tin Woodman’s heart, blah blah…” was not even remotely mentioned through the whole book. I kept flipping to the back to make sure I’d read it right. Then finally, like seriously five pages before the end of the book, after a whole book with a different plot line than the back implies, Amy is told that those three things have to be done before she can kill Dorothy. I was beyond mad. The book was nothing like it said it would be. Apparently someone accidentally posted the summary for the second book on the first. Either that or they had to rope us in and assumed that the actual plot line for this book would be too boring to do the job.

On top of that, this book was also not what I expected in terms of tone and atmosphere. I’d heard about how this is the dark and twisted Oz, where Dorothy is evil and everything is backwards. I expected it to be really gritty and kind of creepy, maybe a bit like Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie. I didn’t like that movie, but he made Alice in Wonderland a lot creepier and disturbing than the original cartoon, which was kind of what I thought would be happening in this book. And the author definitely twisted Oz around, but not in a way that I found effective. Everything to me seemed to silly and kind of ridiculous, in the worst way possible. It was like a lot of things were supposed to be kind of dark or disturbing, but just fell flat. Nothing in this book felt serious or like anything was at stake because all of the characters were just silly and one dimensional and the darker things that Dorothy or her henchmen did were just so at odds with the rest of the tone of the book, it didn’t mesh. I felt like the author wanted to go with a blend of darkness and humor, but to me, didn’t execute it well at all.

Amy to me was a character that I couldn’t really connect with. From the beginning, she felt very one dimensional, lacking the layers and depth that really makes a character shine. As the book went one, I felt like we learned very little about who she was a person. It was almost like the author would use all of these examples of things in Amy’s life that happened to her to explain why she thought or felt certain things, but we never really see it in her. Since I found her to be so bland, it made her whole mission in the book unexciting and a little boring. What sort of growth do we even really see Amy go through, or what do we learn about her as a character? I’ll tell you right now that it isn’t much.

The romance isn’t even worth mentioning. It was barely even a part of the book and the guy she was getting all smoochy with was just a huge jerk and he of course was immediately infatuated with her. Then there was another girl in love with him, that hated Amy and the whole thing was super petty and out of place. Nox, the love interest, and none of the other secondary characters were very memorable at all, and everyone that had a good chance at being semi interesting or likable was killed off. Woo hoo.

I did like the idea of Dorothy being a mega bitch, but again, her character was so flat. Maybe I skipped past it since I start skim reading about 100 pages in, but I don’t see to recall ever finding out anything about why Dorothy turned out the way she was. Amy basically gets told that the movie was true, then Dorothy went home, wasn’t happy with her simply life, then came back to enslave everyone? Uhm, that’s kind of a huge change to just randomly go through. They said that she just wanted more since she was stuck in that small town back home, but that’s kinda an idiotic answer. And she is twisted. That’s not something that just happens to you overnight. Unless you’re sweet Dorothy from Kansas I guess.

Holy crap, and the most freaking annoying thing ever… It felt like every five seconds, Amy would think or someone would be dramatically telling her that she needed to kill Dorothy. I kid you not. But the worst part was, it didn’t seem like anyone actually had a good reason to support their believe that Amy had to kill Dorothy. When asked, they would just throw out some crap about her being from Kansas too and being able to think like her and having potential and power. As I’m writing this out, I’m realizing that there was a lot of stuff in this book that felt like the author kind of half-assed it.

I was really disappointed with this book. I heard so many good things about it and I just didn’t meet any of my expectations. With a cast of bland, uninteresting characters and a predictable, silly story, there really isn’t much good I can say about this book. The land of Oz was not as dark or twisted as I would have liked, and the huge amount of boring going on left a bad taste in my mouth.

RATING: