Tuesday, August 30, 2011

READING : Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles

Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles

Publication date: August 16th, 2011
Published by: Walker Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 5/5
Luis Fuentes has always been sheltered from the gang violence that nearly destroyed his brothers’ lives. But that didn’t stop him from taking risks—whether he’s scaling a mountain in the Rockies or dreaming of a future as an astronaut, Luis can’t stop looking for the next thrill.

Nikki Cruz lives her life by three rules—boys lie to get their way, don’t trust a boy who says “I love you,” and never date a boy from the south side of Fairfield. Her parents may be from Mexico, but as a doctor’s daughter, she has more in common with her north-side neighbors than the Latino Blood at her school. Then she meets Luis at Alex’s wedding, and suddenly, she’s tempted to break all her rules.

Getting Nikki to take a chance on a southsider is Luis’s biggest challenge, until he finds himself targeted by Chuy Soto, the new head of the Latino Blood. When Chuy reveals a disturbing secret about Luis’s family, the youngest Fuentes finds himself questioning everything he’s ever believed to be true. Will his feelings for Nikki be enough to stop Luis from entering a dark and violent world and permanently living on the edge?
I can't believe this series is over already! If only there were more Fuentes brothers we could read of *sigh*

In general, I loved Chain Reaction. No big surprise there, since Elkeles never fails to impress. 
I liked both Luis and Nikki. Granted, she acted stupidly A LOT, but their chemistry was so intense and their scenes together so awesome, that I can almost forgive her anything! Her actions are kinda justified however, considering what she went through when she was 15. She could have been a lot more bitchy and bitter and mean, but she wasn't.
Luis, despite the book's blurb, is pretty similar to his brothers. Tough and cocky. To be honest, it kinda threw me off a little at first because I didn't expect that at all. I thought he was gonna be completely different, like a nerdy, shy kinda guy who "accidentally" gets involved in the gang stuff and not some smug know-it-all. Same goes for Nikki. I thought she was gonna be this total bitch who would eventually, after falling in love with Luis, do a complete 180. The book was advertised as something completely different from its predecessors but when it comes down to it, it's exactly the same. Not that I'm complaining, but a little variety would be nice.

Thankfully, Luis and Nikki's scenes saved the book. Their connection was so powerful and it made their times together very very HOOOT!!
What also saved the book was the huge revelation at the end which I did not see coming. Not sure I liked it but it was a surprise, regardless. Also, Alex and Carlos's cameos were long and many(yes!)and it was great seeing the 3 brothers together and how their relationship's developed over the years.

I enjoyed this trilogy so much and Perfect Chemistry will forever be in my all time top 10 favorite books. With Chain Reaction the story of the drool-worthy Fuentes brothers comes full circle and I really hope we get to read more of Elekes's magic again soon!
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Friday, August 26, 2011

READING : Daughter Of Smoke And Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter Of Smoke And Bone by Laini Taylor

Publication date: September 27th, 2011
Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Paranormal, Angels+Demons
Rating: 6/5

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
What can I possibly say about Daughter Of Smoke And Bone??
I want to lay it down gently and bow down to it. I want to hug it and squeeze it all day long. I want to have an intimate relationship with it. Yes, Really. I wanna.
Because this book is so awesome and amazing, it's ridiculous!

Laini Taylor managed to invent a new, unique and original writing style of her own and break the anachronistic barriers you usually come across when reading a YA book. No unnecessary drama, no needy and moany heroine who no one can identify with, no hot-stuff boyfriend that cares more about his looks that the world ending, none of that.
Daughter has a clean, straight-up story and even manages to stay believable even if it's about angels and beasts. Laini does not lack in imagination, that's for certain! Her story is complex and incredibly interesting, without being tiring or boring. And the book is not short, mind you.  Her descriptions of cloudy and gothic Prague are absolutely beautiful. She couldn't have picked a better place for her story.

Karou the protagonist is quirky, opinionated and pretty stable, considering her "family" and the way she grew up. Her love story with Akiva is EPIC!!!I practically melted when I was reading it, soooo good! After reading a love story like that, so real and uncomplicated, makes me think twice about reading about love triangles ever again. I mean, why over-complecate? Just for the drama? Pfff please don't! Write one great, legendary love story like Karou and Akiva's and you're golden!

Daughter Of Smoke and Bone ismysterious, intriguing, absolutely unputdownable and really really brilliant. 
Pure magic!
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

READING : Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

Publication date: September 20th, 2011
Published by: HarperTeen
Source: NetGalley
Genre: YA Paranormal, Zombies
Rating: 3/5
When her boyfriend, Danny, is killed in a car accident, Wren can’t imagine living without him. Wild with grief, she uses the untamed powers she’s inherited to bring him back. But the Danny who returns is just a shell of the boy she once loved.

Wren has spent four months keeping Danny hidden, while her life slowly unravels around her. Then Gabriel DeMarnes transfers to her school and somehow, inexplicably, he can sense her secret. Wren finds herself drawn to Gabriel, who is so much more alive than the ghost of the boy she loved. But Wren can’t turn her back on Danny or the choice she made for him—and she realizes she must find a way to make things right, even if it means breaking her own heart.
I so wanted to love Cold Kiss but unfortunately it fell kinda flat for me :(

It's not like I hated it or anything, far from it. It was a good book to read but it was not as exciting or world-rocking as I wanted/expected it to be.
Story is pretty straightforward: devastated girl (Wren) loses beloved boyfriend (Danny) in a car accident and brings him back from the dead, only to realise that he isn't the same person he used to be. 
That's my perpetual problem with zombie/resurrection books. While I completely get the reason people chose to bring back their loved ones from the dead, I really don't understand how can they even think these guys would be the same after they claw their way out of a freaking grave! That changes a person, one would think. Evidently, not heroes in books!

So on top of the dead boyfriend problems, Wren is also attracted to the new guy at school (Gabrielle) who seems to know right from the start about Wren's powers. Now, while I was totally convinced about Wren and Danny's chemistry, unfortunately Wren and Gabrielle together didn't convince me at all. Maybe it was the lack of history of which she had plenty with Danny, I don't know. And while they were pretty much OK as individual characters, together they were very "meh" to me.

I really liked the last scene, though. The one with Danny(not saying anymore!). I think it was very well thought out and had the perfect amount of sensitivity without being sappy. 

Overall, Cold Kiss was an OK read. Story dragged a little bit and it was tiring at parts. However, it had its bright moments and those being mostly Danny-centered. The writing was good and despite not being my cup of tea after all, all in all it was a good enough debut novel. 
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Thursday, August 11, 2011

READING : Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach

Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach

Publication date: March 31st, 2011
Published by: Speak
Genre: YA Paranormal, Ghosts
Rating: 2/5
Eligible for Debut Author Challenge 2011
A haunted castle, a handsome young man dead for four hundred years, one heck of a scary portrait of a witch, and a treasure hunt -- not to mention a princess for a roommate! -- all await 15 year old American girl Caitlyn Monahan when she earns a scholarship to a French boarding school.

There are secrets behind the stone walls of Chateau de la Fortune, buried for centuries along with the mystery of who killed Raphael, the charming ghost who visits Caitlyn at night. But as Caitlyn unearths the history of the castle, nothing scares her as badly as the secret she learns about herself, and the reason she was chosen to come to the Fortune School.

And nothing breaks her heart as badly as falling in love with a dead guy.
The idea and story behind Wake Unto Me was very good but the execution was very bad, I 'm afraid.
Wake Unto Me intrigued me for the very first moment I read its summary: ghosts wondering around castles in Paris. Awesome, right? And it was, at the beginning. Actually the first 20-30% of it was quite good. But then things started to get really complicated for no apparent reason.

 I understand why a writer would want pay so much attention to detail and I appreciate it. Cach payed A LOT attention to historical facts, which resulted in the book basically losing its "soul", its pace and its vibe. After a while it felt like I was watching a documentary on History Channel. Tons of information which were not necessary to push the story forward. It wasn't needed at all and inevitably I got bored by the end, waiting for the story to actually happen. Which it turns out was nothing special and a bit predictable. The ending was OK I guess but the book was long and by the time I got there, I felt exhausted. Also the ominous prologue was completely unnecessary, it plays no part whatsoever in the rest of the story. 

And just because the story was drained dry due to the endless overflow of information, characters fell flat too. I failed to see the chemistry between Caitlyn and Rafael, a guy Caitlyn falls in love with from the very first time she sees him in her dreams. Yes, in her dreams. Her friends and her professors were all secondary characters. They could have easily been backspaced to oblivion and leave only Caitlyn and Rafael to take the stage.

 I am so angry at Wake Unto Me because I really thought-and still think-that there was such an interesting idea behind it, and ghost stories,we don't get a lot of them in YA. So I really wanted this to work out. Unfortunately, it didn't.

PS. Blogger needs to get its shit together and fast! Sorry for the text alignment...again!
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Friday, August 5, 2011

READING: The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Publication date: September 27th, 2011
Published by: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Genre: YA Paranormal
Rating: 3,5/5
Eligible for Debut Author Challenge 2011
Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.

She's wrong.
300 pages in The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer I thought that this will be one of my 2011 favourites. When I turned the last page I thought yeah, it was OK. 2 days later,when I had more time to mull it over (never good!) I came to the dreaded conclusion that it wasn't so good, after all. However, I've decided to trust my instinct and not allow the book to suffer because of my indecisiveness, hence the 3,5 starts. Leniency aside though, this book had some serious flaws.

OK let's start with the good parts.  Mara Dyer (sorry for not using the whole title) was a dizzyingly fast-paced book and that's a quality I personally love in a book. Who wants to feel bored, right? Also, what helped the pace was the way the book is divided, into small but many chapters, the clever, funny and short-sentenced dialogues which I full-heartedly enjoyed, but mostly the suspense and tension of the plot. It was all so unbelievably mysterious and puzzling, I was on the verge of skimming it just to find out what happens in the end, something I NEVER normally do. So naturally when the anticipation to find out what's going on is killing you and you reach the end and you go "That's it??", that's when you realise that something went seriously wrong. 

In my opinion, the ending doesn't do the rest of the book justice. It was rushed, very vague and just didn't cut it for me. Also, I thought that Mara Dyer is a contemporary book, well OK with a splash of paranormal. A splash, though, not whole buckets of! Yes, the last pages were intense and cliff-hangery but by then I had lost interest, to be honest.
And there was also an incident with some gators…Yes. The whole gator thing didn't work out all that well. Or at all. If it was all a hallucination as Mara originally thought it would be much better.  

Which brings us to the characters. Mara and Noah. Other people don't matter that much. Well, except for Mara's brother Daniel who had more book-time than the others. 
Mara was OK. It was kinda difficult to dislike her (not that you would want to) because of what she went through in the past and is going through in the present thinking she's seeing things and that she's crazy. Also, she doesn't do anything that's so bad you wanna slap her or have any violent tendencies toward her :) Well, there's the Noah thing. Let's see: he's gorgeous, has a british accent and is smug and arrogant. That's all good right up till a)he reminded me of Patch in Hush,Hush and that admittedly creeped me out and b)Mara's friend Jamie kept telling her that Noah was a jerk to his sister when they were dating just to piss Jamie off and if that wasn't enough he told her that he's the kind of guy that uses girls like condoms: uses them and then throws them away. Not a pretty picture, let me tell you. After Mara semi-confronted him about it, he was so nonchalant about it and practically confirmed it, that I wanted to punch him hard! So yeah, Noah is not the kind of guy that floats my boat, sorry.

Will I pick up the next book? Sure, why not? Will I have any expectations? None whatsoever. Even though I have red FAR worse books than Mara, it's kinda overrated in my opinion. And that's not the book's fault nor Hodkins's.  Those who work the hype-machine should stop and give it a rest already. They're doing more harm than good.
Pick up Mara but don't expect wonders.

(Sorry about the alignment of the text. Blogger is acting up again-must be Thursday!)
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