Alienated by Melissa Landers

Alienated by Melissa LandersAlienated (Alienated, #1) by Melissa Landers
Published by Disney Hyperion on February 4th 2014
Pages: 344
Goodreads
two-stars

Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them.

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class.

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

I enjoyed Alienated in the beginning. Cara was fiery and fierce. She really spoke her mind and stuck with her personal beliefs. Aelyx was cute and funny. His ways are so different than ours. His people are very formal, bland and unemotional. It was great following his explorations and budding emotions. I was really digging the slow building relationship between him and Cara.

Unfortunately, halfway through this book the storyline took a nosedive. It just really dragged and I found myself steadily losing interest.

Also, I appreciated that there was no insta-love but when the feelings were finally expressed between the two leads it was extreme (to say the least). They were ready to forget everyone else for each other. Cara is bitter and constantly remarking on the fact that her older brother, barely takes interest in her, or their parents. The moment that Cara falls in love with Aelyx she’s ready to ditch Earth and hop on a ship with him. She herself, quickly forgets her parents and sees only Aelyx. That was a huge 360 for Cara’s character. And a letdown.

I don’t know what else to really say. This book just ended somewhere completely different than it started. I’ve easily become bored with the Cara and Aelyx relationship. Given hints towards the end of Alienated, a love triangle might be on the horizon for book two. If anything, I might read the sequel to see what this new guy is like and if he can re-spark this story for me again.

two-stars
Heart of Thorns book cover

The Taking by Kimberly Derting

The Taking by Kimberly DertingThe Taking (The Taking, #1) by Kimberly Derting
Published by HarperTeen on April 29th 2014
Pages: 368
Goodreads
five-stars

A flash of white light . . . and then . . . nothing.

When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day.

Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.

Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own?

The Taking  is the first book in a sure-to-be epic new series by Kimberly Derting. I’m a big fan of Derting’s Body Finder series, so I had complete confidence that The Taking  would be a great and organic story. Which it was! Derting really excels at creating meaty characters and engaging story-lines.

After fighting with her father during the ride home from a softball game, Kyra jumps out of the car and attempts to contact her boyfriend for a lift. A sudden, blinding light appears that instantly disorients Kyra. She blacks out. When Kyra finally awakes, to her, it feels like 5 minutes have passed. In reality it’s been 5 years.

Nothing is familiar to Kyra. Her boyfriend is now 21, at college and in a relationship with someone else. Kyra’s home-life is also especially different. There’s been a lot (emphasis on A LOT) of changes. It’s very hard for Kyra to grasp her new reality.

She’s confused. No one knows where she went because she has no memory and there’s no evidence. Tests show that Kyra is physically the same as she was when she was 16. It appears as though she hasn’t aged. She’s also having trouble connecting to anyone. She doesn’t know how to live in this new life, especially since everyone is 5 years older, wiser and more experienced than her.

This book was eerie. Strange events keep happening. Besides a body that doesn’t appear to age, Kyra is exhibiting other strange… behaviors. There’s two new men that keep appearing. One doesn’t seem to be watching Kyra, just suspiciously showing up all the time. Another is from the NSA and asking Kyra multiple weird questions. They both unnerve Kyra.

The Taking  was an original and addicting story. I needed to know what happened to Kyra. The closer she got to a semi-normal, and more importantly enjoyable life, the more strange things began to occur. You feel like a bomb is going to drop any moment.

The Taking  also has a killer ending – a big finale and epilogue – that has you eager for the next book.

five-stars
Heart of Thorns book cover

The Countdown (The Taking #3) by Kimberly Derting

The Countdown (The Taking #3) by Kimberly DertingThe Countdown (The Taking, #3) by Kimberly Derting
Published by HarperTeen on May 10th 2016
Pages: 378
Goodreads
four-stars

She may no longer be human…but she’s their only hope.

In the concluding book in the otherworldly Taking trilogy, Kyra struggles to understand who she is as she races to save the world from complete destruction.

Ever since Kyra was abducted by aliens and then returned to earth, she has known there was something different about her. Now she knows the truth: she is an alien too. Her alien captors replaced all her human DNA with their own—gifting her with supernatural powers like incredible healing, enhanced eyesight, and telekinesis. But when she’s captured by an unexpected enemy, Kyra begins to wonder if her abilities are also a curse. And is she, as her enemies believe, meant to play some key role in helping an impending alien invasion? Is it programmed into her, something inescapable? Or can she fight that destiny?

No matter what the truth is, Kyra is sure of one thing: She just rescued the love of her life, Tyler, and she is not going to stand by and let anyone hurt him or her friends. Whatever it takes, Kyra will do everything in her power to save the world…even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice.

The Countdown is the final book in the Taken trilogy. After the NSA attacked Blackwater Ranch in the previous book, all the returned and replaced scattered to find safety. When The Countdown begins, Kyra, Kyra’s father, and Tyler are hiding out at a campground. The trio has been bouncing from campground to campground – never staying more than one night in one place in order to stay off the NSA’s radar.

Early on, Kyra is separated from her father and Tyler. She’s jumped and drugged by an unknown blonde assailant. For a while Kyra is on her own, her father and Tyler are desperately trying to find Kyra, and the rest of the Blackwater Ranch crew who made it through the attack, are trying to locate Kyra and any other potential survivors.

The first third of The Countdown was a tad forgettable because it was mostly recap and slow buildup. However, once that 100 page count came and went and more of the taken and replaced joined up again the story really exploded! We got some badass-power-wielding Kyra, deceptions and twists, and some swoony romance – all the elements that made me love this series so much in the first place!

I said it in my review for book two and I’ll say it again, the romance between Simon and Kyra was too forced. Maybe Simon had feelings for Kyra, but I never once felt like Kyra showed any romantic nor sexual feelings towards Simon. All Kyra can think about is Tyler. Even though I think it unnecessarily dragged the entirety of books two and three, I’m glad that this weird triangle was resolved by the end of The Countdown.

When I started reading The Countdown I thought I had everything figured out, but then towards the middle of the book a slew of hidden agendas and lies were divulged and I had no idea what to think anymore. Thank you Derting for pulling the rug out! It’s exactly what this last book needed!
I was initially worried that Derting had made the overall story too big for just three books but by the end of The Countdown I was satisfied with how she tied things up.

I’m sad to see the Taken trilogy end, but the story and characters ran their course. I’ll miss Kyra and her feistiness but I’m sure Derting is hard at work on another stellar book that you can bet I’ll be reading!

four-stars
Heart of Thorns book cover

Altered by Jennifer Rush

Altered by Jennifer RushAltered (Altered, #1) by Jennifer Rush
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on January 1st 2013
Pages: 323
Goodreads
two-stars

When you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?

Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who has stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them.

Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.

Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away.

There’s a lot of books I want to read for a few different reasons. There’s the sequels or continuations of series I already love. There’s books whose concepts interest me but don’t completely sell me yet. Then there’s the debuts such as Altered, that capture my interest right way through a combination of a intriguing concept and stand-out cover. I awaited Altered‘s arrival for months, had it pre-ordered and checked the tracking info probably 50 times a day once it was shipped. I was that anxious for it to arrive. I planned to rip right into the packaging as soon as I got my hands on it. I didn’t even care that it was close to 10 p.m. when I started Altered because I had pre-convinced myself that I’d love it.

And then, about 30 pages in, something happened. With only a couple chapters in, my excitement began to wan. I was still interested in delving deeper because the plot had raised a lot of questions that I wanted answered. However, early on I became detached. Detached from the characters and detached from the emotion. Throughout the whole book I felt like there was general lack of emotion. A lack between father and daughter and a huge lack between two individuals who were supposedly in-love or close enough to becoming. Even the premise says, “Sam who’s stolen Anna’s heart” a concept that Rush tried to convey throughout the story, and one I just couldn’t buy.

By the time Altered begins we’re already told that there’s feelings brewing between these two, or at least, on Anna’s end. She’s known Sam for about 5 years and harbors strong feelings for him. Why, is a question I asked myself over and over again. Sure. He’s hot and pretty nice and Anna has seen him pretty much everyday for the last five years. But besides some late night chess matches, it seems like Anna really doesn’t know him or hasn’t gotten close to him, not like she has towards one of the other boys, Trev. Trev, who she considers one of her best friends is someone she talks to all the time, opens up to, not Sam. The connection between Anna and Sam didn’t make sense to me. It felt physical not emotional and so because Rush pushed so hard for it, that was a loss of one stake itself.

The second problem I had was the plot. At its basis Altered is about 4 boys with altered abilities and memories along with a girl, running from an uber-bad corporation. To be honest though, this corporation called “The Branch” really didn’t strike fear into me. Yes, there was a lot of guns and violence involved but I had too many questions. Where did this company come from. What was its agenda a.k.a. why were the boys involved, or Anna for that matter. I really didn’t understand Anna’s lack of questioning when her house was quite literally built on top of a secret laboratory housing 4 boys in glass and brick cages. Sure, at times she mentions wishing the boys were free, but she seemed awfully complacent for someone in her position. If it were me, I’d be a whole lot more curious and less accepting.

This is one of the most critical reviews I’ve yet to write. I believe this one in particular is so critical because I felt so let down. I wanted to love this book SO BADLY but because of the detachment, I couldn’t. I didn’t understand the motivations, decisions or actions of any of the characters. I couldn’t get a grip on any of their personalities whether it be virtues or flaws. They all just fell flat, which for me, made the whole book fall flat. Sure, the story itself is great, but the characters that are supposed to navigate it, were not.

two-stars
Heart of Thorns book cover

Book Review: The Outsider (Roswell #1) by Melinda Metz

Book Review: The Outsider (Roswell #1) by Melinda MetzThe Outsider (Roswell High, #1) by Melinda Metz
Published by Simon Spotlight Entertainment on November 1, 1999
Pages: 170
Goodreads
two-half-stars

He's not like other guys. Liz has seen him around. It's hard to miss Max -- the tall, blond, blue-eyed senior stands out in her high-school crowd. So why is he such a loner? Max is in love with Liz. He loves the way her eyes light up when she laughs. And the way her long, black hair moves when she turns her head. Most of all, he loves to imagine what it would be like to kiss her. But Max knows he can't get too close. He can't let her discover the truth about who he is. Or really, what he is.... Because the truth could kill her.

I’m a die hard CW a.k.a. The WB fan. Many of my favorite shows (Buffy, Angel, Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls, Charmed, etc.) have come from this awesome network. So about 6 years ago I happened to come across a little TV series called Roswell. Roswell aired between 1999-2002 approximately 3 seasons; a time span where I watched very little supernatural dramas or “real-person” shows because I was still in my Disney and Nickelodeon phase. Anyways, five episodes in and I was officially hooked. We’re talking 60+ episodes (roughly 45 mins each) watched in 5 days in between full time college classes and part time office work. I was barely sleeping 4 hours a night because I HAD to keep watching. I learned half-ways through that this insanely-addictive show was based on a series of novels, but I didn’t fully seek them out until much later. Having been published in the late 1990′s it was very hard to get your hands on a copy. However, I finally invested in a Nook Tablet this past January somewhere around the time that the Roswell series made a jump to the e-scene. I’m so happy to have finally read the book that “started it all”. Although I don’t feel as close to the characters in the book versus the show, I still highly enjoyed reading The Outsider.

Our story takes place in Roswell, New Mexico. A location very close to the famous Roswell crash that occurred in 1947. The book’s POV switched place between few characters, but I’ll start with Liz. Liz Ortecho is a teenage girl who apart from school, spends her time hanging out with her best friends Marie and Alex and also working at her parent’s ufo-themed diner. She’s very smart and and intuitive, yet burdened. We find out early on that her sister Rosa past away (at some point) due to a drug overdose. Her parents are not only highly protective but also very anal when it comes to Liz’s future. Although Liz does aspire to graduate top in her class and attend a high-ranked college, I felt as though her parents over-pressure her to succeed because of the loss of their other daughter. The Outsider begins on a day where Liz is waitressing in the diner during which an out of the blue fight erupts between two customers. This argument reaches a breaking point when one whips out a gun. After some shuffling a shot rings out and Liz immediately slumps to the ground. She’s been shot and is slowing bleeding to death on the diner floor…

Enter Max Evans. He’s described as tall, blue-eyed and gorgeous. He’s a fellow classmate who Liz has known since third grade. After some internal struggle and an argument with his friend Michael, Max reaches Liz and does some type of molecular manipulation that causes the bullet in her stomach to break down into small particles. He then proceeds to repairing the ripped cartilage by reforming her cells. Before any officers show up, Max and Michael make a run for it leaving Liz and her best friend Maria dazed. Later on Liz and Maria notice a faint hand-shaped marking remaining on Liz’s stomach where Max worked his “mojo”. Early on, through POV change we learn that Max his sister Isabel, and their friend Michael are not from “around here”. I don’t want to go into too much detail as to spoiler the overall plot but I will say that there is a huge E.T. aspect to this book. *wink wink*

I liked this book but didn’t love it. I love the original concept and storyline but I found the writing very simplistic. The dialogue is hella-funny but that’s about it. There was a good mix of characters. Some we’re endearing and humorous like Maria while others tended to be prissy and kind of shallow like Isabel. There’s a little bit of everything including suspense, romance, mystery and humor.

two-half-stars