Review: Nick and Tesla’s Secret Agent Gadget Battle – Bob Pflugfelder & Steve Hockensmith

Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle

Title: Nick and Tesla’s Secret Agent Gadget Battle
Author: Bob Pflugfelder & Steve Hockensmith
Series: Nick and Tesla #3
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Source/Format: Publisher / Hardcover, 256 pages
Opening Sentence: “‘It’s her,’ Nick said. ‘She’s the spy.'”
Author Website (Science Bob and Hockensmith) | Goodreads | Amazon

In this third installment of the series, 11-year-old whiz-kids Nick and Tesla discover that someone in the quiet town of Half Moon Bay has placed their beloved Uncle Newt under electronic surveillance—but who is spying on him, and why? To expose the secret agent, Nick and Tesla build all kinds of outrageous contraptions. Throughout the book, the narrative is interrupted by blueprints and instructions so that budding young inventors can follow along. Science and electronics have never been so much fun!

I want to get this out at the very beginning: I think the more I read Middle Grade the less I feel like most MG is for me. Maybe I’m getting too old in mindset, but I don’t know. This feeling, unfortunately, spreads to Nick and Tesla. That being said, I don’t think this review is going to be very long… because I don’t feel like I have very much to say.

For much of the novel I was entertained, but the bare minimum amount. If I’m being completely honest? The only reason I kept reading was because this book was given to me for review. Otherwise I don’t think I would have been compelled to keep going. I actually tried starting it once before and didn’t pick it up again for months because I wasn’t captured by the story.

This is why I think it’s Middle Grade + me, not so much Nick and Tesla + me. The simplicity of the story killed it for me. The dumb jokes would make children laugh, I’m sure, but they were filler to me. I craved a more in depth and complex story and I wasn’t getting it… So I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked. Maybe I’m becoming a bitter adult? I just was having so much trouble getting into the story from the POV of the target demographic (as opposed to the adult I am).

So yeah. I wanted to love this book, I really did. But I think maybe this series and I are reaching our end. Sigh. I’m going to read the next book (because I have that one for review as well), but if I’m still feeling the same way then I’ll walk away content with the feeling that I gave the series a fair shake.

All of that being said, if you’re a hardcore Middle Grade fan then I recommend this series. I’ve spoken to several people who loooove it. And, of course, the science projects included in every book are super cool and most definitely a selling point.

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars


Reviews from the rest of the series:
High Voltage Danger Lab (#1)
Robot Army Rampage (#2)

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Review: Hung Up – Kristen Tracy

Hung Up Kristen Tracy

Title: Hung Up
Author: Kristen Tracy
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Source/Format: Library / Hardcover, 282 pages
Opening Sentence: “This is Lucy calling to update my order BKE-184.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

Can you fall in love with a voice? This witty romance, told entirely through phone calls, chronicles the tale of a wrong number gone right.

It all started with a wrong number. The voicemails Lucy left on James’s phone were meant for someone else—someone who used to have James’s digits. But then when James finally answers and the two start to talk, a unique bond forms between the two teens.

Gradually Lucy and James begin to understand each other on a deeper level than anyone else in their lives. But when James wants to meet in person, Lucy is strangely resistant. And when her secret is revealed, he’ll understand why…

How to explain about a book told completely in phone conversations… I’m just going to be super honest.

I wasn’t as impressed with Hung Up as I wanted to be. The idea was refreshing and cool and I had high hopes, but it fell very short. I was actually somewhat bored reading the book.

Just to get it straight: Hung Up wasn’t bad…. Reading it was easy and fast, but at one point I looked back and realized I had already read half the book. Cool, awesome. But what I said was, “But I feel like nothing has happened.” And really that’s how the whole thing is. The main characters bicker a lot (ugh) and sometimes talk about serious things, but I didn’t care at all about either of them or where they were going. The conflict was interesting but even that came too late and almost felt like it was just smacked in there because the story needed substance.

I really hate when I don’t love books I was looking forward to, but I can’t pretend I liked this one when it was just okayish. 😦

Rating: 2 of 5 stars

Review: Ink – Amanda Sun

ink amanda sun

Title: Ink
Author: Amanda Sun
Series: Paper Gods #1
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: June 21, 2013
Source/Format: Library / Paperback, 369 pages
Opening Sentence: “I made it halfway across the courtyard before I realized I was still wearing my school slippers.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they’ll both be targets.

Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.

**NOTE! I WROTE THIS “REVIEW” LIKE A YEAR AGO RIGHT AFTER I READ THE BOOK. IT’S ALL MIXED UP AND NOT NECESSARILY ACCURATE ANYMORE. I THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO SHOW HOW I FELT AT THE TIME, TOO, SO HEREYAGO!**

To be completely honest, I’m not too sure how I really feel about Ink by Amanda Sun. I was initially drawn to it because the concept is super cool—drawings that come to life? How cool is that?!—and it takes place in Japan. While I was reading, though, I found myself rolling my eyes a lot and generally just having trouble getting through the book. It wasn’t the story, but the execution. I can’t even figure out how to explain it. I’m afraid I was swayed by what other people were saying, though. If I hadn’t known what some people I follow think about it would I have liked/disliked it more? I can’t be sure. The thing is: after I finished reading it I found myself wanting more of the world. I think I started liking it more after I stopped reading it. It grew on me as time passed. I really do like the idea so I’ll definitely be waiting for the sequel to come out, just maybe not as excitedly as possible. I don’t know if I was expecting a lot from Ink and felt disappointed or if it was something else, but I’ll use this as a lesson in keeping my mind open while reading.

UPDATE: I don’t know what was going on with me when I wrote that review, but I don’t feel quite the same way anymore. Those feelings are still there, of course, but I remember liking Ink more than I think I realized. The story is fantastic and I’m super excited for the next book. Woo!

Rating: 2.5/3 of 5 stars

ARC Review: Don’t Even Think About It – Sarah Mlynowski

Don't Even Think About It Sarah Mylnowski

Title: Don’t Even Think About It
Author: Sarah Mlynowski
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: March 11, 2014
Source/Format: Netgalley / eARC
Opening Sentence: “We were not always freaks.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

Contemporary teen fiction with romance, secrets, scandals, and ESP from the author of Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have).

We weren’t always like this. We used to be average New York City high school sophomores. Until our homeroom went for flu shots. We were prepared for some side effects. Maybe a headache. Maybe a sore arm. We definitely didn’t expect to get telepathic powers. But suddenly we could hear what everyone was thinking. Our friends. Our parents. Our crushes. Now we all know that Tess is in love with her best friend, Teddy. That Mackenzie cheated on Cooper. That, um, Nurse Carmichael used to be a stripper.

Since we’ve kept our freakish skill a secret, we can sit next to the class brainiac and ace our tests. We can dump our boyfriends right before they dump us. We know what our friends really think of our jeans, our breath, our new bangs. We always know what’s coming. Some of us will thrive. Some of us will crack. None of us will ever be the same.
So stop obsessing about your ex. We’re always listening.

I really wanted to like Don’t Even Think About It.  From the moment I heard about the subject matter I knew I had to read this book. I wish I could say that I enjoyed it, but to be completely honest I was bored for much of the time I was reading. It felt like I was reading this book forever and hitting the last page was something of a relief.

At the very beginning Don’t Even Think About It kind of read like a TV show. It felt something like a montage of the character’s lives that you would get at the beginning of the series on the first episode. It was interesting at the beginning but I can see how it would get old quickly. There were so many characters in this book that real, in-depth character development was basically impossible. The book would’ve been gigantic and the story suffered for it.

The biggest problem for me, though, was that throughout the entire book there was basically no plot. I mean, yeah, things were happening, but it felt like a book full of events that really added up to nothing. There were a whole lot of dating and relationship problems and other mundane things like that, but when it came to the telepathy there wasn’t a whole lot going on. The characters occasionally got annoyed with always hearing other people’s thoughts and having their thoughts heard too, but that was basically the biggest conflict. I expected more and maybe that’s my fault, but I feel like this book had so much unharnessed potential. Womp womp.

For the most part Don’t Even Think About It is good in theory but the execution falls flat. The characters were kind of annoying and the plot half-baked. (SIDENOTE: I feel like most of the stuff that these characters were thinking and talking about was related to sex, which is a bummer because again, so much potential.) The reason this review isn’t getting one star is purely because the concept is good. I like the concept… I just wish I had liked the book too.

Rating: 2 of 5 stars

Review: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea – April Genevieve Tucholke

between the devil and the deep blue sea april genevieve tucholke

Title: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke
Series: Between #1
Publisher: Dial
Publication Date: August 15, 2013
Source/Format: Library / Hardcover, 360 pages
Opening Sentence: “‘You stop fearing the Devil when you’re holding his hand.'”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town… until River West comes along. River rents the guest house behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard.

Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more?

Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery… who makes you want to kiss back.

Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

I just want to start this off by saying that Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea was basically nothing like I was expecting. That’s not to say it was bad but the synopsis and even the title are a little bit misleading. While I was expecting something to do with an actual devil —that is, a devil in the religious sense—it was more of a “Devil” in the main character’s eyes.

The story itself is rather interesting but I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t have a little bit of trouble getting into it… because I did. There was actually a long stretch of time where I didn’t even touch the book at all. I’ll allow that a couple of outside forces caused it, but I didn’t really feel like I was missing anything. I could’ve dropped the book completely and never finished reading it and I don’t know that it would have been a problem. Forgetting about my preconceived thoughts about what the story would be, though, I was rather impressed by the author’s imagination and storytelling. I know I say this a lot but I’m not sure that I’ve ever read anything quite like this book before.

Overall, I did like the story but I actually did have a few big problems with the book. I know it was explained in the storytelling but I feel like the main character’s parents were just completely nonexistent. Realistically with the parents just abandoning their children and the entire town knowing it I’m pretty sure somebody would’ve called Child Protective Services instead of just ignoring it. I sort of felt like the parents being gone was convenient for the story and the author made up some reason for their absence to support it.

That aside, there was only one or two other things that I’ve found problematic. I felt like there was a lot of the author in the story. I find it very hard to believe that this teenager was so set in the past. Whether her grandmother was from that time period or not I just felt like the author’s knowledge of old movies and things like that leaks into the story quite a lot and in more than one character. I guess what I’m trying to say is the characters could have been more dynamic and rounded out. I saw a lot of common characteristics in several of the characters, so while they were good overall, they had too many similarities for me.

Overall I had a decent time reading this novel but I don’t know that I would read it again. I know I most likely will read the sequel just to figure out what is going to happen but I’m not going to go on a crusade to get the ARC ahead of time. The end of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea seemed very “perfect”, if you will, and that made it feel a little bit dull.

If you like paranormal I recommend giving this book a try. It wasn’t as creepy as I was expecting it to be or as people were saying it is but there are definitely some creepy aspects to it. All in all though it’s mostly just weird. And I’m not sure if that’s any good or bad way.

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Review: Pride & Popularity – Jenni James

pride and popularity jenni james

Title: Pride & Popularity
Author: Jenni James
Publisher: Inkberry Press
Publication Date: May 7, 2011
Source/Format: Personal Library / ebook
Opening Sentence: “‘Taylor Anderson is the hottest guy ever!’ Madison said as she leaned in closer to me to catch a better view of him moving across the concrete basketball court in our local park.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

Chloe Elizabeth Hart despises the conceited antics of the popular crowd, or more importantly, one very annoying self-possessed guy, Taylor Anderson, who seems determined to make her the president of his fan club! As if! Every girl in the whole city of Farmington, New Mexico, is in love with him, but he seems to be only interested in Chloe.

This modern high school adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” is a battle of wits as Chloe desperately tries to remain the only girl who can avoid the inevitable—falling for Taylor.

Pride & Popularity by Jenni James is, obviously, a young adult retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. (YES! to P&P.) I really love P&P, so I thought a YA retelling would be totally awesome. I wanted to love Pride & Popularity, I did… but I can’t very well fall in love with something I rolled my eyes at every few minutes.

For the most part Pride & Popularity was interesting enough to keep me reading. I kept reading because I wanted to know how certain events in the story (that is: Jane Austen’s) would be adapted into this new telling, but I think that says more about the original than the one James wrote. Frankly, Jenni James wrote a fluffy and weak version of Pride & Prejudice. I was never invested in the story at all because the characters didn’t seem real or believable. A lot of the events seemed rather unrealistic and written just to stay in line with Jane Austen’s novel, especially when it came to Blake, Mr. Wickham reborn. (Example: Near the beginning of the book Chloe, the main character, made a point of saying she went four-wheeling every Wednesday with her friend. She met Blake there one week and then after that four-wheeling was mentioned, like, twice again. It completely disappeared.) I felt like I made a lot of sarcastic remarks (“Oh, riiiight” “Yeah, OKAY”) while I was reading because at times the story or characters were completely unrealistic.

All that is not to say I hated the book. It was a valiant effort and not completely un-enjoyable. In fact, I enjoyed myself quite a lot while reading it. It was light, funny, and quick… but nothing more. Where Pride & Prejudice had depth Pride & Popularity was a kiddie pool. Even so, I appreciate this book as a quick read. It would be perfect as that bumper book you need in bet`ween heavier novels. Would I recommend it to everyone? No… Maybe to Jane Austen fans looking for something light and fun to read. Just a fair warning, though: this book sort of seems geared more toward fourteen-year-olds than anyone else. An older audience would definitely be in a boat with me… rolling their eyes.

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Review: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June – Robin Benway

the extraordinary secrets of april, may, & june
Title: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June
Author: Robin Benway
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: June 1, 2010
Source/Format: Library / Hardcover, 282 pages
Opening Sentence: “I hate being the oldest.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

Three sisters share a magical, unshakeable bond in this witty high-concept novel from the critically acclaimed author of Audrey, Wait! Around the time of their parents’ divorce, sisters April, May, and June recover special powers from childhood–powers that come in handy navigating the hell that is high school. Powers that help them cope with the hardest year of their lives. But could they have a greater purpose?

April, the oldest and a bit of a worrier, can see the future. Middle-child May can literally disappear. And baby June reads minds–everyone’s but her own. When April gets a vision of disaster, the girls come together to save the day and reconcile their strained family. They realize that no matter what happens, powers or no powers, they’ll always have each other.

Because there’s one thing stronger than magic: sisterhood.

Well, what to say about this book…. I can’t say I had high hopes for The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June by Robin Benway, because I didn’t. I didn’t have any expectations at all, really, for two reasons: 1) It was the first book I’ve read by Robin Benway. 2) I didn’t really read the synopsis, so I was almost clueless about the story from the beginning. I know Audrey, Wait! is, like, the bomb-diggity… or so I hear, so I was excited to read anything by Benway. (Don’t ask why I didn’t just read that one. I don’t know.)

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June fell short for me. I liked it well enough to finish it, but I don’t know that I would ever read it again. The plot was interesting, but it didn’t read like anything new to me. My sentiments can be largely described in one sentence: “Oh, another story with people that have mysterious powers….” That was something I basically ignored because story ideas are being recycled all the time and there are more important things to consider in the case of this book. (And honestly, I have no problem with stories about people who have powers. It all depends on how the story is presented.)

I found myself a little perturbed with various plot holes throughout the book. I feel like I have so many questions that haven’t been answered. Why do the powers seem so inconsistent? Is this character supposed to be important, because she shows up a lot? Why is this girl acting like that again? It almost felt like The Process was rushed through. This is a short book (not even 300 pages), so it’s not like there wasn’t room to explain things more fully. I definitely would have liked it more if there weren’t so many strings left untied.

I was sort of lukewarm about the characters too. I was on a rollercoaster with them… liking them sometimes and having trouble standing them other times. I like the dynamics of the three sisters. Having siblings myself, I know sometimes you’re fighting nonstop and other times you’re the best of friends. I wish April, May, and June would have gotten along more often than they did. I feel like there was fighting all. the. time. Again, that’s true to life with siblings, but the fighting does subside sometimes, and it just… didn’t in the book until the very end. Though, I was able to see the love all three sisters had for each other. If there was one thing that was unwavering in Benway’s novel, it’s the love the family had for each other at all times. They were a very realistic unit in that sense.

All in all, I didn’t love The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June, but it wasn’t completely terrible either. It had what it took to keep me reading, but it was also very patchy and seemingly incomplete. I think the story could have been improved upon, therefore I think I would only recommend it to Benway fans or, maybe, really fast readers and/or people with a lot of time to read.

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars