Google+ YA Romantics: Mini-reviews: Sway by Kat Spears and Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mini-reviews: Sway by Kat Spears and Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper

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I had a great discussion post planned for today, and then yesterday my internet died. An "outage in my area," whatever that means. A discussion isn't much fun if I'm not online to take part and will instead review two books that didn't end up being exactly what I expected.

Sway
by Kat Spears
Published on September 16, 2014
by St. Martin's

Source: ARC giveaway at BEA

Synopsis from Goodreads: Jesse Alderman, or "Sway," as he’s known, could sell hell to a bishop. He also specializes in getting things people want---term papers, a date with the prom queen, fake IDs. He has few close friends and he never EVER lets emotions get in the way. For Jesse, life is simply a series of business transactions. But when Ken Foster, captain of the football team, leading candidate for homecoming king, and all-around jerk, hires Jesse to help him win the heart of the angelic Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself feeling all sorts of things. While following Bridget and learning the intimate details of her life, he falls helplessly in love for the very first time. He also finds himself in an accidental friendship with Bridget’s belligerent and self-pitying younger brother who has cerebral palsy. Suddenly, Jesse is visiting old folks at a nursing home in order to run into Bridget, and offering his time to help the less fortunate, all the while developing a bond with this young man who idolizes him. Could the tin man really have a heart after all? A Cyrano de Bergerac story with a modern twist, Sway is told from Jesse’s point of view with unapologetic truth and biting humor, his observations about the world around him untempered by empathy or compassion---until Bridget’s presence in his life forces him to confront his quiet devastation over a life-changing event a year earlier and maybe, just maybe, feel something again.
My take: I went into Sway expecting something completely different. That is probably because my ARC had a cover that looked like the one on the left. And I commend the publisher for changing the cover, because a) the old cover is similar to that of another book with a similar bad-boy-falls-for-good-girl plot and b) the old cover makes the book seem like a cute romance, which it is not. 

But enough about that. 

Once I adjusted to the fact that Sway was about a completely amoral, constantly conniving, frequently offensive main character, I was totally fine with it. In fact, I rather like characters like that and I did like the book. For me, Sway comes about the closest I've seen a book come to feeling like a John Hughes movie -- the perfect blend of poignancy cut with wacky humor, and characters so sharply drawn that they border on caricatures.  The only thing I really wished was that (click button for spoiler):



Salt & Storm 
by Kendall Kulper
To be published by Little, Brown
on September 23, 2014

Source: e-ARC from publisher via Edelweiss

Summary from Goodreads:  Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself. Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.
My take:  I love witch books, and based on the synopsis I was kind of picturing this one as The Witch of Blackbird Pond meets Brides of Rollrock Island.  I also love historical fiction, so I was excited about all the whaling lore. There was whaling lore, and a lot of fascinating historical detail. Clearly, this author did her research, and that attention to detail really shines through. But I will be honest: the first two-thirds of this book were pretty slow for me.  For nearly 300 pages, Avery is going around the island, complaining about how awful her mother is and trying to interpret the dreams of the tattooed harpoon boy mentioned in the synopsis. Interesting enough, but for me that wasn't enough to carry the plot for that long. There is also not much witchcraft (as the synopsis explains) and I was feeling pretty restless.

But then in the last third of the story ... ALL the things happen.  Salt & Storm saves all its revelations and heartbreak and action for the last hundred pages or so. And those pages were really good. And, unlike Sway, I was excited that Salt & Storm didn't hesitate to go for the gutsy ending. (That's what I talked about in the spoiler above, if you're curious.)  So if this one appeals to you, and you're finding the pace a little slow, just be patient.

Have you read either of these? Let's hope I was either able to do a Jesse (bribery and conniving) or an Avery (magical spells) and get my internet working again. I am a day behind on returning comments, but I will get caught up -- I promise :)

24 comments:

  1. You are so right! I saw the cute cover of Sway and I wanted to read it because I thought it was sweet romance. But now that I know it's not, I want to read it even more. I love books told from a male POV.
    I already have Salt & Storm, too!
    Thanks for the reviews, Jen!

    Lis @ The reader lines

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    1. I really liked Sway, even though it was not your typical YA. And Salt and Storm started slow but ended with a bang!

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  2. I have been wanting to read Salt and Storm for a while, but I'm SO bad with keeping focused when things are slow and boring. Glad to see that it DOES pick up!

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  3. Haha I didn't notice there were two different covers for the same book! And I've seen both of them around. Salt & Storm sounds interesting but I don't know if I can stick through till the last third of the book......

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    1. I was momentarily confused. But I think the change was a good one!

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  4. I can't stand slow paced fantasy. I just don't have the concentration for it. I like very unlikable characters too, I'm curious about Sway :)

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    1. It's not fantasy exactly. More like historical/paranormal. But to me it was slow. There's a lot of information kept from the main character until the very very end.

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  5. I haven't read either but I have heard so much about both. I really want to read Salt and Storm as it sounds like something I'd enjoy, but then again I'd hate to wait so long to wait for everything to happen but still it sounds interesting. Great reviews :)

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    1. I'm glad I stuck with it because the ending was fantastic!

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  6. I haven't read either but the setup with the offensive main character has me waivering

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    1. It depends on how you feel about characters like that. I kind of love them!

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  7. I agree that Salt & Storm is a bit on the slower side, but I did really appreciate the world that Kulper created and was very impressed with where she took the ending. I mean, lots of authors hint at potential heartbreak like that, but Kulper actually followed through. Glad you were able to enjoy it by the end!

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    1. I wanted even more worldbuilding and definitely more even pacing. I was texting with a blogger friend and she asked if I got to the scene with the "random guy in the bar." At first I was like, no, and then I was like wait, do you mean kerosene guy? That kind of historical detail was fascinating for sure!

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  8. I started reading Sway, but around 40% I put it down. The main character was getting on my nerves so much I just couldn't deal. I think I just wasn't in the mood for it. Maybe I'll try reading it again some time.

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  9. You know, I usually hate endings like the one in Salt & Storm, but I agree that it was the best part of the book. I actually started to feel something for the characters by that point. Though I agree that the beginning was slow, and I lacked connection to Avery for most of it. My favorite part was definitely the whaling history. I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff. But I agree, this could have been AMAZING. And it had a strong finish, but wasn't that great.

    I agree that the original cover of Sway is sooo misleading based on your description, especially because it looks a lot like some other romancey covers. Your description makes it sound pretty interesting though, especially the John Hughes reference. This seems like another example of reader expectations affecting how it's received.

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  10. I absolutely LOVE The Witch of Blackbird Pond! It was one of my top favourites growing up. And I also love Half Bad, which is a witchy tale...but for some reason I just avoided Witch Salt & Storm. (The title also reminds me too much of Shadow & Bone.) I'm sad it's slow. I really can't stand slow books.

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  11. I thought I was the only one who felt like Salt & Storm had a SLOW start, lol. Ha! But you're right, all the juicy stuff happened in the last 1/3 and I did like the gutsy ending, and the amoral character! I actually was invited to review Sway, but declined bc I had way too many early sept releases (as it is, I'm behind on them after reading like a madwoman)... I loved the witchy element though, but the end? I kinda wish things could've been a teeny bit more resolved. Like, one more conversation between Avery and mummy, ya know? ;) great reviews! Hope ur Internet gets fixed
    Dee @ Dee's Reads

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  12. I haven't heard of either of these. Thanks for the heads up on the slow book though. I am stubborn, and if it doesn't capture me by the first three chapters it goes away. Usually if I know that the ending is going to great I will trudge through it...but it's really hard for me to do :)

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  13. I loved Salt and Storm! It really surprised me as I didn't expect to like it at all. It definitely was a gutsy ending!

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  14. Sway looks good, but I've heard some negative things about Salt and Storm. Thanks for your honest thoughts!

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  15. I really liked both of these, but I agree about the cop-out on the ending of Sway. And I was glad that Salt & Storm *didn't* hesitate to take the hard route at the end.

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