Friday, November 25, 2011

READING: Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publication date: December 6th, 2011
Published by: Entangled Publishing
Genre: YA Paranormal, Sci-Fi
Rating: 4/5
Starting over sucks.

When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I’d pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring…. until I spotted my hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up.

And then he opened his mouth.

Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something…unexpected happens.

The hot alien living next door marks me.

You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon’s touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I’m getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades.
If I don’t kill him first, that is.
Obsidian is the poster book for how a teen novel-enjoyable, not at all complicated, easy and simple-should be, in order to appeal to as many readers as possible. Whether that appealed to me personally or not, is a whole different matter.

Well to be honest, it did appeal to me. Kinda. OK it was good and I enjoyed it. But nothing was happening till 70% in! Zero action. I guess that has something to do with the fact that the paranormal element (vamp, were, faery, witch, octopus whatever) wasn't revealed until right about the middle of the book. I knew it before I picked up the book and I was still bored. Before all the "action", it was a typical contemp YA with school-hot boys-high school dance-drama. And it was all about Katy and Daemon. I know, duh. This normally wouldn't have bothered me much if I wasn't up to here in hot boys who are complete jerks whom female protagonists drool over even they repeatedly acknowledge their jerkiness, and in girls who go "I don't have a boyfriend and my love life sucks. I don't know why I'm invisible to boys. I'm told I have to die for curves, delicious lips and awesome hair. Oh well, I guess I'm too much of a plain Jane for guys to notice me". 
*cue barf*

Maybe I'm getting grumpy at my old age, but please. Don't create characters who are beautiful and make them act like ordinary, girls-next door so teens can relate to them. It's wrong. I know that a book is fiction and it doesn't really matter but I also know that personally, I can make the distinction between reality and fiction. Unfortunately, from what I've seen out there, there are a lot of people who can't. Stop misleading them further.

Rant aside, I loved the fact that Katy was a book blogger. It was the first time I read the words "Waiting On Wednesday" or "It's Monday, what are you reading?" in an actual book and I couldn't help but smile. I liked Dee, Daemon's sister, I think she was genuinely sweet and generally a good person.
Daemon is kinda hot. OK, a lot. Teenagers out there, beware-he'll break your heart!

Obsidian is another run of the mill YA book with a nice pace, and a somewhat original plot. Fun, easy to finish but not a lot of action in there. I think I'll read book #2 when it comes out, just to see where the story's headed. As long as its cover is not as hideous as Obsidian's.
(Come on, guys! What were you thinking??)
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

READING: Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publication date: October 18th, 2011
Published by: Spencer Hill Press
Genre: YA Paranormal, Vampires
Rating: 3/5
The Hematoi descend from the unions of gods and mortals, and the children of two Hematoi-pure-bloods-have godlike powers. Children of Hematoi and mortals-well, not so much. Half-bloods only have two options: become trained Sentinels who hunt and kill daimons or become servants in the homes of the pures.Seventeen-year-old Alexandria would rather risk her life fighting than waste it scrubbing toilets, but she may end up slumming it anyway. There are several rules that students at the Covenant must follow. Alex has problems with them all, but especially rule #1:Relationships between pures and halfs are forbidden.Unfortunately, she's crushing hard on the totally hot pure-blood Aiden. But falling for Aiden isn't her biggest problem--staying alive long enough to graduate the Covenant and become a Sentinel is. If she fails in her duty, she faces a future worse than death or slavery: being turned into a daimon, and being hunted by Aiden. And that would kind of suck.
Let me start off by saying that those of you who have already read Half-Blood must have noticed its eery similarity to another very well known book of the genre. Come on, don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about! Yes, Half-Blood is a great book. Yes, it has a nice romance and well built story. Yes, it has a very hot male character(or should I say hot male characters?) Half-Blood had all that and still couldn't reach Vampire Academy's (by Richelle Mead) potential, seeing as the former was almost identical to the latter.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about plagiarism. Nothing of the kind. I'm just saying that the story of Half-Blood is exactly the same as the story in VA. And I don't use the word "exactly" lightly. The whole mythology, the Moroi, the Dhampir guardians, their frowned upon intimate relations, Dhampirs' infertility, Strigoi and so much more was pictured the exact same way in Half-Blood, under different names of course. Granted, there are a few differences that thankfully are there to help us readers tell the books apart. But overall, it's undoubtedly a repetition of Vampire Academy's story. That's why I feel I don't have to "review" it, tell you my thoughts about the characters and the plot(ha!). If you know me, you know I love VA so you know what my thoughts are on the book(s).

I'm really sorry if I sound totally obnoxious referencing Vampire Academy so much. You know, before I read Half-Blood friends who had already read it warned me about the inevitable VA comparison. But I never expected for those two to be so alike! And I agree with what people say that there's no originality in art, especially in literature. Besides, expecting to read something truly original in the YA paranormal genre is utopic, to say the least. However, I draw the line in reading the same(almost verbatim "copied")story in two different books. And between you and me, Vampire Academy was way better. 

I mean no disrespect to Armentrout, on the contrary. I enjoyed her book and applaud her effort. It's obvious she can write and she can write very well. I just don't understand why she didn't choose to build a new paranormal world of her own, instead of borrowing one from another book. I don't know, I just feel she can do so much better. I enjoyed Half-Blood, no question about it, but in all fairness, probably because it made me want to read Vampire Academy again.
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

READING: Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

Publication date: November 8th, 2011
Published by: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical YA, Paranormal Mystery
Rating: 3,5/5
New York City, 1882. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart's latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her. As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing...

Jonathan Denbury's soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul.
Darker Still couldn't have come at a worse time for me. I have tons of things on my mind and get easily distracted. So, admittedly I kinda struggled to finish it, it took me a while. That being said, I strongly believe that Darker Still is different from other YA because not only does it combine two genres (historical/paranormal), it's also written the way historical books are written, Jane Austen style, which is something you're either going to find innovative and intriguing or confusing and boring. I was both intrigued and bored.

I liked the characters. It didn't have a lot of them, only 3 major players and 2-3 who weren't important to the story. I liked Natalie. I liked her naivete, her shyness, which seemed real and believable throughout the book, even when she finally succumbs to Lord Denbury's charms. Lord Denbury was the obvious love interest, good looking and alluring. I just can't bring myself to call an 19 century lord "hot", sorry :)

Granted, the story Hieber chose to write isn't the most original, as the basic idea is inspired by Oscar Wilde's "The Picture Of Dorian Gray". Even though Darker Still isn't, understandably, as deep and existential as Dorian Gray was, it still made a good and entertaining read. It focused more on Natalie's and Lord Denbury's romance and how that came to be, rather than the paranormal part of the story and Denbury's malevolent half.
I would have liked more of that, I'm afraid. Not that I didn't enjoy the romance, quite the opposite. However, I think if the book was equal parts romance and actual plot/story, it would have a better flow and would be way easier to read and concentrate on. The flow of information and action was slow at times and that certainly didn't help to move the story forwards. I wanted more magic, more mythology and more bad guy scenes, which regretfully were very limited. Too bad, I kinda liked vicious Denbury!

If you like Victorian era type books and intricate but elegant writing, read Darker Still. Story-wise though, I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

READING: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Publication date: November 15th, 2011
Published by: HarperCollins
Genre: YA Dystopian
Rating: 3,5/5
Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. 
The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color. 
The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now. 
Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior. 

Again, another book I was expecting everything from and only got some. It not exactly left me disappointed but I was not thrilled, either.

First couple of pages in I was like "What the hell am I reading? What is this?" I didn't like the crossed out phrases at all. I thought they were completely unnecessary, pretentious and just plain bad. However, after a while I thought that maybe they were there to symbolize Juliette's gradual transformation from an almost savage being living in a filthy sanitarium, to someone who is loved and capable of loving back. So, if it was intentionally added by the author then I'm in the wrong. If not, well then I stand by my initial opinion and say again that I found it showy and this book didn't need anything showy in it.

The story itself was very powerful and intense. It was original, I'll give it that, and the ending shows that there's much more to the story, has a little twist there. Will I pick up the 2nd book? Sure, why not?
Adam, well. He was a hot/hero/to good to be true guy. Aren't they all? Nothing that distinctly awesome about Adam, don't get why all female readers swooned over him so.

All in all, Shatter Me was a good dystopian novel, as all dystopian novels are overall OK., because the genre is still relatively "new" in YA and not many writers have trampled all over it like with YA Paranormal. So, IMO dystopians can be exceptionally good or just good. Shatter Me was the latter. I hope next book will be the former.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

READING: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Publication date: December 1st, 2011
Published by: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 4/5
What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though-she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there's a new guy in town who threatens her starting position... suddenly she's hoping he'll see her as more than just a teammate.

Catching Jordan reminded me so much of Friday Night Lights which is only one of my top 3 favorite shows ever, that I couldn't help but like it. Aside from that though, it's such an addictive read, that anyone who's a big sucker for contemporary romances will certainly love it.

Catching Jordan started really strong, describing the life of a high school senior quarterback. "Big deal", I hear you say. Well, this quarterback is a girl, and her name is Jordan. 
In the 1st half we see how Jordan struggles to balance everything that goes on in her life. Football, a father who-in her opinion-doesn't care about her hopes and dreams, the new guy,Ty, who might be the first thing to get her mind off football and her best friend since forever, Henry.
I liked how Kenneally didn't make everything appear all fine and dandy in Jordan's life. She is a female quarterback. It's unusual and a lot of people have a problem with unusual. This apparently comes as a shock to Jordan when she realises that college coaches don't take her seriously as a football player. Her dad had told her like a million times, but did she listen? I'm not implying that his behavior was awesome and Jordan was wrong all along, but she could have cut him some slack and understand that he is her dad and whatever he says, he always has her best interest at heart, instead of putting her ego first. So yeah, I didn't like how she talked about her dad, especially after he pulled in some huge favors for her friends.

Now about the romance part. Annoying thing in love triangles? Hello, we meet again. You know what I'm talking about, when girl meets guy and he is so hot and sweet she falls immediately head over heels but then suddenly she realises she loves another and hot guy #1 becomes a jerk. 
I hate that. Why? Because when I am introduced to a character whom my protagonist lusts, swoons and drools over and the writer spends page after page working up to the first kiss blah blah, I emotionally "invest" in him. I like him because he is a couple with my heroine. And since my heroine adores him, all the more reason for me to get attached to him. So you understand my frustration when the heroine, out of the blue, not only stops pining over him but also "invents" bad things about him and his behavior to make the other guy look good. 
I'm NO fan of that. Even though in this particular book, I liked both guys equally.

That being said, Catching Jordan is an undoubtedly enjoyable book. That's what I love about contemporary YA novels. You may not like some stuff in there but when you turn the last page, you wish you could turn back the time and read them again for the first time. Catching Jordan is definitely one of those books.
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Sunday, November 6, 2011

In My Mailbox (44)

::Thanks to the Story Siren for hosting IMM::

You Don't Have To Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning (GoodReads)
(Loooooved it! If you're in adult contemp. romance, pick it up ASAP!)

Ship Of Magic(Liveship Traders #1) by Robin Hobb (GoodReads)

The Mad Ship(Liveship Traders #2) by Robin Hobb (GoodReads)

Ship Of Destiny(Liveship Traders #3) by Robin Hobb (GoodReads)
(A huge thanks to my friend Evi for getting them for me :)
I promise, as soon as I finish Martin's books, I'll get right on them!)

What did you get in your mailbox?
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Thursday, November 3, 2011

READING: Burn Bright by Marianne De Pierres

Burn Bright by Marianne De Pierres

Publication date: March 1st, 2011
Published by: Random House Australia
Genre: YA Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Rating: 3/5
Into a world of wild secrets and deadly pleasures comes a girl whose innocence may be her greatest strength.

In Ixion music and party are our only beliefs. Darkness is our comfort. We have few rules but they are absolute . . .
Retra doesn’t want to go to Ixion, the island of ever-night, ever-youth and never-sleep. Retra is a Seal – sealed minds, sealed community. She doesn’t crave parties and pleasure, experience and freedom.
But her brother Joel left for Ixion two years ago, and Retra is determined to find him. Braving the intense pain of her obedience strip to escape the only home she’s ever known, Retra stows away on the barge that will take her to her brother.
When she can’t find Joel, Retra finds herself drawn deeper into the intoxicating world of Ixion. Come to me, whispers a voice in her head. Who are the Ripers, the mysterious guardians of Ixion? What are the Night Creatures Retra can see in the shadows? And what happens to those who grow too old for Ixion?
Retra will find that Ixion has its pleasures, but its secrets are deadly. Will friendship, and the creation of an eternal bond with a Riper, be enough to save her from the darkness?

Listen well, baby bats. Burn bright, but do not stray from the paths. Remember, when you live in a place of darkness you also live with creatures of the dark.

You gotta fight!
For your right!
To paaaaaaaaaaarty!

That is pretty much the concept of Burn Bright. The one I got from it, at least.
World in Burn Bright is not our own, so this is not a post apocalyptic-I was mowing my lawn when suddenly a terrible plague killed 2,75 gazillion people-world. It's completely fictional and contains a lot of "areas" one could have grown up in. The protagonist, Retra, is a Seal which basically means someone who is devoid of every pleasure in life, is very shy and doesn't have the right to express an opinion. On the other hand there is Ixion, where the sun never rises. A place where you don't have to sleep(only briefly)and you can party and indulge in pretty much anything you can think of all day. Retra, after enduring unbearable physiological and physical pain at home, risks her life to go to Ixion and reunite with her brother Joel who had run off to Ixion a while back.

So. Ixion- the party planet. At first I thought it was something new and original but then meh I don't know. I mean, an island you can party and have sex non stop? Granted, it sounds intriguing and I'm certainly not a prude, but how is this a solution to Retra's or Joel's problems, created by a dysfunctional environment? For not being allowed to look in a mirror because it was considered a sin to choking down "happy pills" everyday, it's kind of a long way. And I liked Retra in the first half because she refused to change. She felt free from her father's tyranny sure, but she didn't become a ho bag in a matter of hours.
Until of course, god-like Lenoir touched her thigh and she had an orgasm.
Then everything changed inside her and she decided to go with the flow and become like the other Ixion-ites, but slightly better since she was Lenoir's favorite.

I don't know what to tell you, I didn't connect with the story or the characters at all. Yes, the book had a nice gothic feel to it. While reading I kept imagining Ixion like a medieval Ibiza. With a bunch of churches and monsters lurking in the dark. Now, that's a pretty picture! But when it's all said and done, I am not sure the imagery alone is enough to make me like Burn Bright. I didn't get the romance between Retra and Lenoir, either. Story of Ruzalia was interesting, though. 
When people at Ixion stopped being young(it doesn't say how young or how old that is), rumor has it that they are withdrawn from Ixion. What does that entail exactly? Nobody knows. Ruzalia claims that the Ripers(Guardians of the Ixion youth) get rid of them once and for all. The Ripers claim otherwise. So Ruzalia and her followers live in a huge pirate - like boat, fight the Ripers and have built a whole new world where people who are withdrawn can go. Second book is supposeed to be Ruzalia-centered so I may give the series another chance.

Burn Bright was an OK book I guess. Nothing special for me and I struggled a little bit to finish it. It's worth a try for dystopian enthusiasts.

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