Monday, 10 June 2013

Review -- Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan


Title: Unspoken
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Series: Lynburn Legacies (1)
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Adults
Release Date: 11 September 2012
Date Read: May 2013
Rating: ★★★☆

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

Kami has had an imaginary friend her whole life- Jared. He exists in her mind- having conversations with her, the one she turns to when she's had a bad day, her best friend. Imagine her surprise when Jared arrives to her tiny little town of Sorry-in-the-Vale and he's real. Their close proximity means that their emotions, thoughts, secrets are more open to each other more than ever before. Their friendship, so carefree and innocent before, has now turned into their worst nightmare. They know every detail in their lives, every event, every secret, every fear.

"The idea of it's kind of romantic," Holly said. "But it wouldn't be, would it?"

But how do they know whether or not they're going to turn against each other and spill their secrets. I love that Brennan took a different direction with her characters and their 'special bond' than most YA novels. Jared believes their connection is a gift. Kami, on the other hand, can't stop thinking about the fact that she's never alone. Jared will always be with her, in the corner of her mind. She can't even be sure whether the thoughts and emotions in her mind are her own, or just a projection of Jared's. The lines of their own individuality is slowly, but surely blurring together and they don't know how to stop it.

That being said, I love Kami and Jared's relationship. I love it when they're together but I love them as individuals, too. Kami is cheeky, smart, independent, strong, determined and she can flip a guy twice her size over her head. There is no line she won't cross to find the truth, and for justice to be served- a true journalist. She once held a petition to get one of the teachers in her school fired, which then resulted in said teacher to chase her around the school with a hockey stick. Girl has balls. Jared is the resident bad boy, and even though I have soft spots for bad boys, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't like Jared. He's witty, caring, fiercely loyal but at times, he was quite dependent on Kami. He's never had other friends so he never wanted to lose her. He worked so hard to try and satisfy and make Kami happy. But again, kudos to Brennan for acknowledging the fact that you can't find happiness in making other people happy. Seriously, Kami and Jared's relationship development was one of the funnest rides ever.

One thing that usually happens in YA novels is when the heroine finds herself a man, her friends literally doesn't come back for chapters and if they do, it's usually just for a minor appearance and off they go again, doing author-knows-what. But Angela and Holly are Kami's best friends and they were all kinds of awesome. They're the two most beautiful girls in school, one dubbed as a slut, Holly, and the other more of a prude since she turns down every guy, Angela. Angela hates everyone and everything, unless it's a couch or a bed and she can sleep on it. Holly is new to their group of friends but she is welcomed all the same. She doesn't feel sorry for herself, being called a slut just because she grew boobs at 11. I was surprised that she was so upfront about using her assets and not feeling guilty about having them at all. As she should. It was refreshingly different from all the pity parties these character tropes have in other YA novels.

Brennan's writing style is so different. I don't think I've read something quite like it, to be honest, in a while, at least. There's a fairytale-like quality to her storytelling, which of course, fits the novel perfectly. I would like more world-building in terms of the magical aspects and legends of the story. But apart from that, I loved it. It was witty, clever, whimsical and vivid, all the things it needed to be.

Unspoken is hugely character-driven. Looking back, it could've all gone horribly wrong so easily. But it didn't. I'm massively late for reading this just now but at the same time, I'm grateful because it means not having to wait quite so long for the sequel. And trust me, I need that sequel because the ending is just not ok.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Oh, The Places You'll Go!

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the girls over at The Broke and The Bookish. This meme feature features a different theme every week, showcasing book-related lists. And hey, who doesn't love a good list?

This week's Top Ten:
Top Ten Books Featuring Travel in Some Way

Travel novels are among my most favourite novels out there. It's almost guaranteed that I'll love a book if travel is featured in it, in a small or big way. (Usually) novels that feature traveling in some way mainly deals with self-discovery or it's a coming-of-age story. You have to get lost to find yourself. So without further ado, here are my top ten favourite travel novels:

Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Hands down, Just One Day is the best travel novel I have ever read, and one of my all-time favourite novels. Sometimes, when I'm sitting on the couch and my eyes travel to my bookshelf, I see my copy of Just One Day and I'm just struck by the sheer brilliance of this novel. I relive some of my favourite scenes then get sad that all those stuff didn't actually happen to me.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
I am pretty sure I was Colin in a previous life. Fans of Green's works like Katherines the least but this is one of the best, in my opinion. Not many liked all the mathematical/academic stuff that Colin was obsessed but I loved it. Oh, and the anagrams! I loved it, I loved it all.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
PARIS and ST CLAIR and the FOOD. The Parisian culture was so rich, it was like you could taste the Parisian air.

From What I Remember by Stacey Kramer and Valerie Thomas
I was surprised by how much I loved this book. It was such a fun read. It had a lot of cliched tropes but it didn't feel cliched, do you know what I mean? It was hilarious, but still had enough 'serious' moments amidst all the fun. It was kinda like The Hangover, except much better and more heartfelt and with teenagers, instead.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
This is one of the cutest novels I have ever read. About 3/4 of the it takes place on a plane and it's these two teenagers- strangers- who've managed to fall in love with each other in about twenty four hours. But Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (that's a friggin' mouthful) isn't just about a non-insta-love. It's also about coming to terms with a broken family.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K.Rowling
Time travel counts, too, right? Of course it does. 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
TFiOS is one of my all-time favourite books but we're focusing on the travel aspects of the novels so this isn't so high on this particular list. Anyways, this brought Amsterdam on my radar. I never really gave it much thought before but I didn't realize how amazing it is. And how can I forget about Hazel and Augustus' ridiculously romantic date? Who am I kidding, the whole trip was one big ridiculously romantic date.

How They Met and Other Stories by David Levithan
This one is a collection of short stories and only one involves travel but it's one of my favourites. It's stuck with me since I read it and I don't have a clue what the other short stories were about. I'm sure the others were good, just probably wasn't as good as the travel one.

I haven't actually read that many travel books, now that I think about it, no matter how much I love them. I've left the list incomplete since I didn't want to just pick any random thing. So any ones you think I must read?
What books are on your list? Any ones you think I should read? Sound off in the comments, leave me a link to your TTT post and I'll stop by!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Review -- Night School by C.J. Daugherty

Night School

Title: Night School
Author: C. J. Daugherty
Series: Night School (1)
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: 21 May 2013
Date Read: May 2013
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Allie's world is falling apart...

She hates her school. Her brother has run away. And she's just been arrested.


Now her parents are sending her away to a boarding school where she doesn't know a soul.

But instead of hating her new school, Allie finds she's happy there. She's making friends. And then there's Sylvain, a suave French student who openly flirts with her. And Carter, the brooding loner who seems to have her back.

Soon, though, Allie discovers Cimmeria Academy is no ordinary school. Nothing there is as it seems. And her new friends are hiding dangerous secrets.

I got nothing of what I expected from Night School. It had a misleading title, misleading cover and a misleading synopsis.

I thought it was going to be the type of boarding school where select students are secretly paranormal/supernatural. The main character doesn't know she's got some special blood in her, a little romance on the side and something that makes it stand up against all the other YA novels out there.

Allie is shipped off to the middle-of-nowhere-boarding school Cimmeria Academy after being arrested one too many times. Her parents are hoping this strict private school will straighten her out. No internet, no cellphones, no tv, no going out, no life that exists outside of the Cimmeria walls.

I found the first few weeks of Allie's new life interesting to read about. She's focusing hard on her studies, making new friends, real friends and a couple of maybe-more-than-friends friends. I thought it was really good exposition, and the story and characters are being set up nicely. I was having fun. That is, until I realized the whole book was going to be a big set up for God knows what. It went on and on and on, Dear God, and on and on. Daugherty tried to go the 'mysterious plot unfolding' route but it just did not work. I don't even understand what the whole point, the real story of Night School is. After chapters filled with nothing but teenage woes, what we've got is a generic Evil Guy willing to do Anything to get Whatever He Wants. What exactly is it that he wants? I don't freaking know, something the Good Guys won't hand over to him. Why does he want it? I don't freaking know, because he's a big baby throwing a tantrum? Oh, and for Some Reason, Allie is special (of course she is) and she is integral to Evil Guy's plan. Why is she special? I don't freaking know. I don't know why the attention is all on her. She's got no interesting personality and boring as watching paint dry.

The romance was filled with such annoying tropes. There was a love triangle with Golden Boy on one side and the Troublemaker on the other. Allie knew she should be attracted to Golden Boy, and she is (he's smoking hot) but she just can't stop thinking about that Troublemaker whom she made eye contact with that one time. She tried to keep him out of her mind by going out with Golden Boy but it all kind of went to shit after he tried to rape her. Troublemaker to the rescue and now they're in love. Later on, Allie finds out that Troublemaker has been watching her in the beginning, looking in her window to 'keep an eye' on her because he didn't trust her.

Doesn't this book sound like just about every other crappy YA novel out there?

But you know what? I'm over it. I'm over Night School. I'm angry and disappointed and I don't care anymore.

An ARC was received from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Review -- Spirit by Brigid Kemmerer


Title: Spirit
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Series: Elementals (3)
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: 28 May 2013
Date Read: May 2013
Rating: ★

With power comes enemies. Lots of them.

Hunter Garrity just wants to be left alone. He’s learned the hard way that his unusual abilities come at a price. And he can’t seem to afford any allies.

He’s up to his neck in hostiles. His grandfather, spoiling for a fight. The Merrick brothers, who think he ratted them out. Calla, the scheming psycho who wants to use him as bait.

Then there’s Kate Sullivan, the new girl at school. She’s not hostile. She’s bold. Funny. Hot. But she’s got an agenda, too.

With supposedly secret powers rippling to the surface everywhere around him, Hunter knows something ugly is about to go down. But finding out what means he’ll have to find someone he can trust…

I really wasn't keen on a Hunter novel. I hated him in all the other books of the series and I was so sure I was going to hate him being a narrator in this one. Look how well that turned out! Barely 20 pages in and I already changed my mind about him. 40 pages -I was crying for him because the idiot was too stubborn to do it for himself.

If you hadn't already figured it out, Hunter is one messed up, troubled kid. Hunter was first introduced as the mysterious new kid in Storm then later morphed into the dickhead we all thought he really was. In Spark, we found out that there's more to him than meets the eye and maybe he's not so bad. He became pretty good friends with Gabriel. Then he screwed everything up and became a dick again by the end of Spark. I would like to congratulate Kemmerer for changing my mind and my feelings about Hunter. I went from wanting to strangle Hunter, to wanting to strangle everyone else for not listening or liking Hunter. Talk about reader development. I was sympathising with him and felt so guilty that I ever hated him in the first place.

Hunter's life sucks. It sucks balls. His family, the people who's supposed to care for him, can't even look him in the eye for three seconds. He has no friends and he's pushed away everyone who might've become one. What does it matter, though, because Hunter has always thought they were only after him with ulterior motives. When new girl, Katie, arrives and starts paying special attention to Hunter, he's more than a little paranoid but with good reason. Katie is a Guard undercover and was using Hunter to get close to the Merricks.

Spirit is all about figuring out where your loyalties lie. Us vs Them. Hunter doesn't know where to put his trust, doesn't know which side is the right one. Should he believe the Guards- the ones whose beliefs he's been taught since he was a kid: full Elementals are power hungry; the world must be rid of evil full Elementals. But Hunter isn't so sure anymore when the Merricks are the only ones actually helping him, showing him kindness again and again even when he's sure he doesn't deserve it. If the Merricks aren't the bad guys, what does that make the Guards? His father? Him? Hunter's character development was a roller coaster of emotions filled with the worst frustrations, the happiest moments and everything in between.

Katie is Hunter's love interest and half of the book's narrator. I don't know if I like her better than Layne, definitely more than Becca though. Kemmerer was super ballsy with the direction she took on the romance. I just didn't have as big of an emotional response to it as I did with the rest of the events of the book. That is my only complaint, I think.

Since Spirit is Hunter's book, the Merricks didn't have that big of a presence in it, only little scenes here and there. Michael was being the best though- walking, talking bullshit detector. I didn't appreciate him as much as I should have in the previous books but I have seen the error of my ways.

I don't know how Kemmerer does it but she knows her stuff. She's consistently written three books in six different perspectives now, well. They're all different characters and the development is just ridiculously goooood.

If you had asked me to choose which Elemental boy was my favourite, I wouldn't even be able to give you a straight answer. It changed with each book that's released. If that doesn't showcase Kemmerer's brilliant writing already then I don't know what will. Gabriel and Hunter are currently tied for first place but Nick's story is coming up and that's going to be one hell of a ride. I kinda feel sad that I read this book early, that I got an ARC for it because it just means longer waiting time for the next book in the series. Do you have any idea how addicting this series is? How addicting these boys are? I would sell a bunch of my stuff, and then some, to get my hands on more material about them.

If you haven't read Spirit yet, or worse, haven't started the series, you have to. You are really missing out.

An ARC has been received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No gifts or monetary funds were given to sway my opinion.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Review -- The Diviners by Libba Bray

Title: The Diviners
Author: Libba Bray
Series: The Diviners (1)
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: 18 September 2012
Date Read: May 2013
Rating: ★★★☆

Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies."

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer--if he doesn't catch her first.

The Diviners is not an easy book to review. It's not that it was amazing, although it was good, or that it was bad either. There was just so much in this whopper of a 600-something-page novel to think about and absorb. Boy, was it long. I had to give myself a pep talk when I started reading it, for crying out loud. And you can feel those 500-odd pages, sometimes in a good way, sometimes not.

One thing is for sure though. Bray can write. Third person omniscient is probably my favourite of all narratives. It just gives you such a wide view on the story, on the characters, on everything. You can just feel the plot and the story just coming together, all the little pieces being revealed. I had no idea what the pieces actually were or what the big picture was, but I could still feel it, you know? There was greater power at work.

The plot was centered on the rise of the Beast, and also the gradual rise of The Diviners. A cast of special teenagers are working to stop the coming of the Beast, because if he does, he'll bring the apocalypse with him. Raising the Beast requires sacrifices, bloody murders and I loved it. I loved the murderous religious zealot plot. Belief is a powerful, terrifying thing. It can drive people mad and what's scariest of all is that these people truly believe that their evilness is right and justified. It's everyone else that's wrong. Both sides are fighting hard for what they believe to be is right. And the thing is, its not just the Beast, or Naughty John, that has these radical beliefs. He has followers willing to do whatever it takes- hurt, burn, kill - to achieve ehat they believe is right.  
"Naughty John, Naughty John, does his work with his apron on. Cuts your throat and takes your bones, sells ‘em off for a coupla stones."
There's something about a serial murderer just calmly humming a children's 'innocent' rhyme song while he's hacking off body parts of his victims. Actually, it's not just something. It's all of it that's creepy.

Another thing I love is the setting of The Diviners - the roaring 20s. I don't know much about that era, or have read many historical fictions but Bray's world-building is so rich that I was just so fully immersed into it. There was a ridiculous amount of 1920s colloquialisms that I was surprised I really enjoyed. They're teenagers, just like me, but it was so different that I didn't even know what they were talking about sometimes. It was really adorable though! "Oh, that's just the cat's particulars! Just pos-i-tute-ly jake" I'm sorry, but what? Is this how old people feel?

Oh, but the characters were unique and so very different from one another, like it is in reality. The story follows Evie, mainly, in her fight to stop the Beast. Evie is an attention-seeking, vapid, selfish girl. She's also sassy and quick-mouthed, and I kinda love for her that

"But what's as the point of living so quietly you made no noise at all? "Oh, Evie, you're too much," people said, and it wasn't complimentary. Yes, she was too much. She felt like too much inside all the time.So why wasn't she ever enough?"

It's stuff like that that makes me fall in love with Evie's character but then she does something so idiotic, so screwed up, that I wonder what I saw in her in the first place. Whatever annoyances I have with her, her character is very well-established.
The narrative also jumped perspectives to a whole cast of other characters.  Sometimes, it switched perspectives so quickly and naturally that I didn't even realize it switched, you know? I can't even say that anyone was a  'minor' character because it didn't feel like that. Everyone had a backstory. Everyone. You'd think someone is insignificant in the scheme of things. That someone is just a friend, or just an accessory to the main characters, essentially. But no. You'll soon find out you are completely, madly wrong. It makes everyone feel like a real character, a real person, with their own personalitites, history, motivations. I loved the moments where you find out that a character was just hiding out in the corner, waiting to reveal their true identity and purpose until the very right time. It just excited me, to find out what their whole story is and how their decisions are going to play out.
The romance really took a backseat in The Diviners. It was casual and progressive, with none of those annoying YA tropes. There was a love triangle introduced later on in the book that took me by surprise, only because it seemed clear that a relationship was going to develop between two other characters. I don't even mind the love triangle though. I'm in it for the ride.
One last thing, the pace was really not for me in this novel. It took a while for me to get into the story. I started getting interested about 150 pages in but I suppose that's ok since that's, what? 25% of the novel. Sometimes, I just blitzed through it but then other times, I found it so slow that I ended up reading only a couple of pages before I had to put it down. Those were the moments that I felt the sheer size of this novel and it just depressed me that there was still so much to go.

I honestly haven't got a clue what will happen in the rest of the series. There's so many questions, strings left untied, characters to be developed. There's so many variables to even have an idea of what the next one will be about. I have no idea what will happen in the rest of the series but it excites the shit out of me.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event, hosted by Jill on Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. New installment of a series/trilogy, new book by a favourite author or a new release that captured your attention. Whatever book it may be, it certainly tickled your fancy and got you bouncing on your seat, silently giggling to yourself. Waiting on Wednesday allows us to feature books we're eagerly waiting for.

This Week I'm Waiting On:

United We Spy

Title: United We Spy
Author: Ally Carter
Series: Gallagher Girls (6)
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: 17 September 2013

Cammie Morgan has lost her father and her memory, but in the heart-pounding conclusion to the best-selling Gallagher Girls series, she finds her greatest mission yet. Cammie and her friends finally know why the terrorist organization called the Circle of Cavan has been hunting her. Now the spy girls and Zach must track down the Circle’s elite members to stop them before they implement a master plan that will change Cammie—and her country—forever.

Lizzie understands me
I just can't right now. It's the sixth one and it's the last one and Cammie is going to graduate and her and Zach will live happily ever after and it's just all too much. It was announced earlier this week and I found it on my phone during class. I squealed. Really loudly. i got some looks but you know what, this is the last of the series and be thankful that I didn't just break down and cry right then and there. Saved that up for when I got home.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Review -- The Collector by Victoria Scott

The Collector

Title: The Collector
Author: Victoria Scott
Series: Dante Walker (1)
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: 02 April 2013
Date Read: March 2013
Rating: ★★★☆☆

He makes good girls...bad.

Dante Walker is flippin’ awesome, and he knows it. His good looks, killer charm, and stellar confidence have made him one of hell’s best—a soul collector. His job is simple: weed through humanity and label those round rears with a big red good or bad stamp. Old Saint Nick gets the good guys, and he gets the fun ones. Bag-and-tag.

Sealing souls is nothing personal. Dante’s an equal-opportunity collector and doesn't want it any other way. But he’ll have to adjust, because Boss Man has given him a new assignment:

Collect Charlie Cooper’s soul within ten days.

Dante doesn't know why Boss Man wants Charlie, nor does he care. This assignment means only one thing to him, and that’s a permanent ticket out of hell. But after Dante meets the quirky Nerd Alert chick he’s come to collect, he realizes this assignment will test his abilities as a collector…and uncover emotions deeply buried.

It's been a while since I read The Collector, in reviewing terms anyway. I've been putting off writing the review because I wasn't sure how to put into words what I thought of it. Now, I've sat my ass down and told myself to quit procrastinating already and start writing. Almost everyone I know absolutely loved it. I don't quite share their feelings.

What most readers loved about The Collector is Dante Walker. No doubt about it, Dante had a distinct, dominant voice and personality to boot. You know who Dante reminds me of? This guy:

Iron Man, Tony Stark

Iron Man. Ridiculously cocky, arrogant, witty, most of the time a dick and, of course, hot, and he knows it. A lot of the traits in a guy that would normally piss most people off. But like Iron Man, Dante just doesn't. It makes him kinda more irresistible and charming. But here's the thing.I don't like Iron Man. I think he's an arrogant prick. (Don't tell the Avengers fandom, though. They'd have me burned alive.) And I didn't like Dante, either. At first I loved his voice, his arrogant smirks, the overconfident swagger. But somewhere along the line, I got tired of him. I caught myself rolling my eyes at some of the dialogues and thoughts he had. I got tired of 'Boss Man', of 'I am the coolest shit this town will ever see', of 'fo sizzle', ugh. Really? You didn't even say that jokingly. Just shut up, please. He eventually sounded like a 13 year old trying hard to sound cool to me.

Apart from that, I enjoyed reading The Collector. The premise is different and interesting and unique and I really love the whole seals thing. It had an exciting pace. Charlie was adorable. She is lovely and funny and quirky nerd. She was exactly what Dante needed. She was tricked convinced into signing off her soul to the devil in exchange for beauty. I was so disappointed in her when she did that but who was I to judge, exactly? Most girls would jump at the chance to become skinner, to have clearer skin, to have silkier hair, to be more beautiful. Me, included. I thought it was very clever of Scott to do that. It clearly portrayed a teenage girl's desire to fit in and be more than who she believes herself to be. I was prepared to rip this part of the book apart in my review but there was no need. Scott was aware of what she was doing, which I can't say for most authors, and didn't disappoint when she righted Charlie's wrongs and taught her about self-esteem. Because you're worth it.

you're worth it

This is worth a shot if you're in the mood for a fun, quick read, with a little bit of oomph. There is a visible character development for Dante, and thank goodness for that. I'm looking forward to the The Liberator because by the sounds of it and how The Collector ended, I think I'll enjoy it more.

An ARC was received from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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