Tuesday, December 11, 2012

READING: Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame

Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame

Publication date: May 1st, 2012
Published by: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Historical Romance
Rating: 2/5
It’s 1912, and the Darlingtons of Wentworth Hall have more than just the extensive grounds to maintain. As one of Britain’s most elite families, they need to keep up appearances that things are as they have always been…even as their carefully constructed faÇade rapidly comes undone.  Maggie has a secret. And she’s not the only one…the handsome groom Michael, the beautiful new French nanny Therese, the Darlingtons’ teenage houseguests Teddy and Jessica, and even Maggie’s younger sister Lila are all hiding something. Passion, betrayal, heartache, and whispered declarations of love take place under the Darlingtons’ massive roof. And one of these secrets has the power to ruin the Darlingtons forever.  When scandalous satires start appearing in the newspaper with details that closely mirror the lives of the Darlingtons, everyone is looking over their shoulder, worrying their scandal will be next. Because at Wentworth Hall, nothing stays secret for long.
Um…you guys! Where is the rest of the book?? You know, the one with all the character development and the not ridiculous plot line? Because I can't seem to find it anywhere and what I read just didn't cut it.

Wentworth Hall is a YA historical fiction, so it was only natural that as soon as I got my hands on it I would read it immediately, no question. I have read so few YA historical, that I immediately jump at the chance when one comes out and I really thought Wentworth Hall would be the one. It wasn't, though. It didn't even come close.

Grahame did an OK job as far as the writing goes (just OK though), but unfortunately failed at everything else. The characters were not likable at all, not even one, and in 276 pages they had no time to change being busy doing whatever mundane stuff they were doing throughout the whole book. I found it impossible to relate to any of the characters and I didn't believe their relationships for a second. For example, the great romance between the stable boy and the Lord's daughter was laughable, at best. There was no background story to back it up, nor could the reader detect the character's feelings at all. It was like they were actors pushed into a role they hated and they played it badly. Also, why have Maggie's mother help with the baby situation only to have Maggie describe her as a cold and detached parent later? It doesn't make any sense!

As for the plot, it had enormous gaps. What happened with Therese and Wes? What happened to the twins? What went on with Ian and Lila? And most importantly what happened to Wentworth Hall?? I kept thinking there has got to be a book 2 but it turns out there isn't and I don't think there will be one in the future (shocking!).

Granted, Wentworth Hall is readable and a really quick read, if you're interested in something like that. Even if you only want to pass the time though, I suggest you look elsewhere. This is only gonna bring you pain, suffering and frustration!
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

READING: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Publication date: December 11, 2012
Published by: Razorbill
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Fantasy YA
Rating: 5/5
In a land where magic has been forgotten but peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering. Three kingdoms grapple for power—brutally transforming their subjects’ lives in the process. Amidst betrayals, bargains, and battles, four young people find their fates forever intertwined:    Cleo: A princess raised in luxury must embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of a magic long thought extinct.   Jonas: Enraged at injustice, a rebel lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.   Lucia: A girl adopted at birth into a royal family discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.   Magnus: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, a firstborn son begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword...   The only outcome that’s certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?
I know it took me over a month to finish Falling Kingdoms but that has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the book. I was going through some personal stuff, moving overseas, blah blah. But even when I wasn't reading, weirdly enough I always had Falling Kingdoms in the back of mind wandering what happens next. And even after such a long period, when I finally got back to it, I realised that I was still hooked and excited to get into it again. If that's not an indicator of Falling Kingdoms being an amazing book, I don't know what is!

First and foremost I would like to address the George Martin issue. I fully acknowledge and respect the fact that Rhodes (aka Michelle Rowen) has been inspired, if you will, by Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. I think it's pretty apparent, no need to deny it. I have come across myriads of books that were really similar to others or that their authors have "borrowed" (by no means stole) bits and pieces from other books. I usually don't like that in a book, because readers in general want to always read original material and not something they have read again and again.
That being said, I have come to eat my words as far as some of these books are concerned, because I ended up liking them and I feel that the real struggle for their authors is not just to utilise similar stories or characters from other books, but to make them their own and give them their own significant voice and style, and eventually produce an amazing result that is, in its own way, unique. I think that's what happened with Falling Kingdoms and I am really really glad I did not take bad reviews into account and decided to read it after all.

I haven't read any books by Michelle Rowen so I didn't know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by the writing, which was amazing, as I am fully aware how difficult it is to write a fantasy novel. I loved the descriptions of the different kingdoms and in general her edgy and clever style of writing. The story was exciting, kept you on your toes the whole time. There was romance, sword fighting, magic, what's not to like?

What made Falling Kingdoms so special for me were the characters. I notice a lot of readers struggled with the characters and I honestly have no idea why. For instance, I don't think Cleo come across as a selfish brat but for argument's sake, let's say she did. Isn't it understandable? She is the princess of a very wealthy kingdom. She has led a sheltered life with servants at her beg and call so yeah, she may be a little spoiled (which again, I did not get from her). I have seen alleged "heroines" in YA acting way worse than Cleo. The majority of them, actually. So even if she was acting like a brat at the beginning, in the end I think everyone will agree that she grows by leaps and bounds while trying to save herself, the people she loves and her land. I think Cleo is a very misunderstood character and it really upsets me when people bash her. I would have liked to see the romance between her and Theon (thank you Martin for totally ruining that name for me, by the way!) showcased a little bit better. I didn't quite get where all this undying love came from and that made me not care for their romantic relationship as much as I would have wanted to. Now Magnus I fell in love with. He was my ultimate favorite. Jonas was right there with him at some point, but Magnus won in the end. I loved everything about Magnus. He was the most well written character in my opinion. I liked how his mind worked, how he had so many issues it's not even funny, how he alternated between having a superiority complex and an inferiority complex at the same time, how he was so emotionally confused, how he was a total wreck. What can I say? I love a tortured soul! And especially one that doesn't have or even deserve a happy ending, one that not only didn't learn from his mistakes but drowned in them, put simply, a fantastically flawed, freaking awesome character! I just loved every word coming out of his mouth and I just couldn't wait for a Limeros chapter just so that I could read about Magnus.
What I would have liked though was maybe Lucia appearing more in the book. Rhodes made us believe she is a very important character who plays a crucial part in the story, only to keep her in hiding, so to speak. Hopefully we get to see more of her in the sequel.

Jonas was great also, with an amazing back story: who doesn't like a scorned poor guy seeking revenge? Again though, it is not that simple with Rhodes. Jonas is not the great guy who has been treated unfairly and wants to right the wrongs done to him. Well on paper he does, but he is going at it the wrong way, even making him the bad guy at some point, destroying every hero stereotype along the way. That's what makes Rhodes' characters so intriguing and different, in my opinion: their twisted sense of right and wrong.

All in all, Falling Kingdoms hit it out of the park for me. It was dark and captivating-just the way I like them. Some say that a lot of the stuff in there are inappropriate for Young Adults. I can't argue with that, to each its own. I read Stephen King when I was a Young Adult so I wouldn't mind reading Falling Kingdoms at that age. Also, it's a fantasy novel, so let's just take it down a notch with the overreacting, shall we?

Bottom line is this: Falling Kingdoms is awesome, go buy it! That's all you need to know!
Book 2 in the series "Rebel Spring" coming out 2013. Sign me up!

*This book has been given to me by Penguin Australia via NetGalley
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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

READING: Thoughtless by S.C.Stephens

Thoughtless by S.C.Stephens

Publication date: June 11th, 2010
Published by: Feedbooks
Genre: College, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 2/5

For almost two years now, Kiera's boyfriend, Denny, has been everything she's ever wanted: loving, tender and endlessly devoted to her. When they head off to a new city to start their lives together, Denny at his dream job and Kiera at a top-notch university, everything seems perfect. Then an unforeseen obligation forces the happy couple apart.

Feeling lonely, confused, and in need of comfort, Kiera turns to an unexpected source – a local rock star named Kellan Kyle. At first, he's purely a friend that she can lean on, but as her loneliness grows, so does their relationship. And then one night everything changes...and none of them will ever be the same.

I just can't believe I made it through this book, I really can't. It was wrong, so wrong. And not the "Oh it feels so good" wrong, the "I want to gouge my eyes out" wrong. I wanted to trust in it, though, and because I'm extremely naive, I stuck with it, thinking that it can't possibly be that bad, that anytime now it's gonna get better. Let me tell you now, don't be as naive as me, because it doesn't get better. Not at all.

To be honest, I kinda struggled with it from the start. Not so much with the story and the characters, that came later, but with its tormentingly slow pace. We just had to know every little move Kiera made, every little step, it felt like watching a movie in slow motion. There was a small oasis somewhere in the middle, which was unfortunately overshadowed by all the crap that was going on around it.

And that brings us to the story and the people in it. Story is this: a girl named Kiera and her boyfriend named Denny move in with said boyfriend's best friend, Kellan, who happens to be a very hot singer in a band and Kiera falls head over heels with him and they start an affair. I won't go into details about what happens in case you want to read it (I beg of you, don't!) but I will tell you this: I have never hated a girl in a book as much as I hated Kiera. I mean I haaaated her! I loathed her. Everything that I despise in a person, was Kiera personified. She was someone I could not relate to at all, someone who I could not invest in, I could not give a crap about what happened to her or who she ended up with because in my mind she deserved to be completely alone. Or rather, she kinda deserved Kellan because in my eyes, he too was a spineless coward.
The girl was so selfish and manipulative, it was almost a crime. She said it herself at one point, how good it'd be if she could keep it going on with both guys. Without her boyfriend knowing, of course. That poor guy changed his whole life because of her and treated her like she was his everything and what did she do? She had sex with his best friend while her boyfriend was sleeping right across the hall! Wait, it gets better! She then went to her boyfriend's room and had sex with him because, get this, she felt guilty.
Ah, and they say romance is dead!

I mean, I could go on and on about the ridiculously hurtful stuff she did to both guys, we could be here all day. And what ended up happening? Both guys stroking her hair and telling her everything's gonna be OK and please don't cry and don't be sorry. Seriously?? Nuh uh. Unacceptable. She didn't pay ANY consequences for her actions whatsoever and not only that but when it came to the nitty gritty and couldn't make a decision between the two guys offering stupid excuses, her boyfriend made it oh so easy for her by making it for her, practically giving her a get-out-of-jail-free card. Why? Because she is Keira and they both loved her so much that they forgave her for screwing around both of them. I'm sorry but I just can't fathom that, it made me angry as hell. Kiera for me was an immature, spoiled brat who always craved validation, which everyone seemed so eager to give her, and she was still never satisfied.
That being said, I must admit that I get it. Not her, not at all. The story, up until one point. I get that even though you're in a relationship you can meet someone else and fall in love. Yes, of course, that can happen. I have no objection to that. You end it with the person you are with at the moment and get together with the new guy. What you don't do is screw around like nothing is wrong because you're in love with both of them so it doesn't really matters, right? Your intentions are pure. Don't kid yourself. You're a slut. Plain and simple. Even if she truly loved both guys which I highly doubt Kiera did, she had to ultimately choose one of them. Yes, it's hard and it will hurt whoever is being dumbed, but screwing the other guy is hurting him even more. If you're a girl and you're reading this imagine if your boyfriend did this to you. "Hey babe, um, so, I slept with a girl the other night. But no worries. I'm in love with her". Would you go "Oh OK then. Good on you. That doesn't bother me in the least" ? Somehow I doubt it! Ultimately what bothered me more was that Kiera was completely fake, a person that doesn't and can't exist in reality, whom you cannot connect with in any way, and who eventually ruins the the whole book. I mean, she couldn't connect with two guys who adored her, how can the reader possibly connect with her, feel for her?

Don't let me get started on Kellan and his smoldering blue eyes, and sexy lopsided grin. Ugh! What a best friend he was, uh? And he supposedly owed Denny a lot, which of course he repaid by screwing the living hell out of Denny's girlfriend fist chance he got.
I can't even.

The writing was pretty bad. I don't know if it had to do with the ridiculous length of the book (550 freaking pages of torture!) but it was very repetitive and I don't think I've seen the word "blush" and "tear" written so many times in a book. All everybody did was blush or cry, I'm telling you.

The only small tiny redeeming quality in Thoughtless was the steaming hot make out/ sex scenes which in every other context would shine. In this one, they were just good.

Unless you wanna get really really really frustrated and angry, don't touch this book with a ten-foot pole. Consider yourselves warned.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

READING: The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa

The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa

Publication date: October 23d, 2012
Published by: Harlequin Teen
Genre: YA Paranormal, Faeries
Rating: 4,5/5
Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them.

That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs—including his reputation—begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he’s dare to fall for.

Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister’s world—the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myths and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten.

My name is Ethan Chase. And I may not live to see my eighteenth birthday.

Pros Julie Kagawa's writing. I mean, you just can't go wrong. She constantly delivers since the Iron King and I have no doubt she will continue to do so. There is not a dull moment in The Lost Prince, the writing is rhythmic and fluid, which makes the book practically unputdownable.

I loved how we get to see characters from previous books, it's no secret that Meghan, Ash and Puck make an appearance (along with others...). What I liked most about it though, was that they didn't over-stage the new characters, the story was all theirs to tell and not the old timers'. That way we get to see what our favorite characters are up to, without them being tacky, as I've personally witnessed in other spin offs.

Speaking of characters, I really liked Ethan and his goofy style. I know "goofy" is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Ethan, but I think that beneath all that tough guy act, he's hopelessly goofy and dopey. I don't know, he just seems that way to me. If there was one character I really really loved (besides a certain faery queen who I'm not gonna name), is Keirran. I was terrified at the beginning thinking that this was gonna be yet another triangle. Kagawa is much more clever than that though, and I totally give her credit for not taking the easy way out. So yeah, Keirran, apart from being dreamy and all that, is a really complex character. You never know what he's thinking or what he'll do. His story is definitely not over and the ending of Lost Prince suggests so. Can't wait to read more about him. For those of you who are like "What is she talking about?", you probably haven't read The Iron Knight. Pick it up now!

Cons The name of the next book and me coming across it :( Granted, I would have found out some day but did it have to be so soon? Now a million things are going through my mind, and let me tell you, not one of them is good!

In all honestly, I still don't know what the bad guys were about. I really don't. I had an idea but then I see them killing their own kind so I'm like "Yeah. No." I mean, I get the Iron Fey, born of the modern age and the progress of technology, I get Winter and Summer Court, I get the fairies that are in the InBetween, but these guys? I have no clue. I probably come off like a real moron here, but I really don't know. If anyone would care to enlighten me, I'd be forever grateful.

I don't get Kenzie. I'm sorry but I don't get her. I don't see the chemistry between her and Ethan. Ethan is awesome and Kenzie is a great girl undoubtedly, but together, they just don't click for me. They could easily be brother and sister.

But I'm just nitpicking here. The book is great, pick it up, read it, you'll have a great time.

This ebook has been given to me by NetGalley free of charge in exchange for a posted review on my blog.
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

READING : The White Glove War by Katie Crouch

The White Glove War by Katie Crouch

Publication date: July 3rd, 2012
Published by: Poppy
Genre: YA Paranormal, Witches
Rating: 5/5
Every society has its secrets.

The members of Savannah's Magnolia League have it all: money, beauty, power, and love. Some may call them lucky, but we know better. Spells, potions, and conjures are a girl's best friends, and thanks to the Buzzards -- a legendary hoodoo family -- the Magnolias never run out of friends.

Golden girl Hayes Anderson would never dream of leaving the League or Savannah, where there's no problem that can't be fixed with a cup of Swamp Brew tea -- served in a bone china cup, of course -- and no boy who can't be won over with a Conjure Up a New Love spell.

But when danger lurks and family secrets are unearthed, Hayes discovers that her life may not be charmed after all.

Like The Magnolia League, The White Glove War didn't fail to disappoint. I would even go out on a limb and say it was better than TMG.

I love the idea behind this series. There isn't a exclusively witch-y YA book out there, filled with spells, hoodoo, voodoo, afterlife, walking dead and all the awesome things that usually are in a book about a witch convent. At least, not that I know of. This time around Crouch took scary and dark to a whole new level, by introducing The Gray Man, a freakish dead man who is caught between life and death and wants out at any cost. The scene he had with Hayes after the party was brilliant. In hindsight, I should probably not have read that particular scene at night, and neither should you. When reading The White Glove War, I constantly felt like there was an invisible, eerie threat, pretty much like an axe murderer was going to burst into my room and hack me to pieces. Which pretty much sucks, but that's the coolest part of it and in the end, what you expect to find in books like this.

As far as the characters go, there's was some changes going on in Hayes's and Alex's lives and that pushed their characters even further. I kinda expected that from Alex since she is the protagonist, but I didn't expect it from Hayes and I like that we got to get a glimpse of her dark side a little bit, and hopefully in book 3, we get to see more of it, because bad Hayes is amazing. Also, we got to know more about the Buzzards, who are pretty awesome "villains", Hayes mother and grandmother and the decades-long feud between their family and Alex's. All the romantic readers out there, I'm afraid I got nothing for you. Thaddeus doesn't make a significant appearance and I think the same will happen in book 3. If the story remains this good though, I can't say I mind all that much.

I loved The White Glove War and I hope you will, too. I also hope that book 3 will not take as much to get published as book 2. *crossing fingers*
And remember, don't read it at night!
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Friday, June 22, 2012

READING: Golden Lily by Richelle Mead

Golden Lily by Richelle Mead

Publication date: June 12th, 2012
Published by: Razorbill
Genre: YA Paranormal, Vampires
Rating: 3/5
Tough, brainy alchemist Sydney Sage and doe-eyed Moroi princess Jill Dragomir are in hiding at a human boarding school in the sunny, glamorous world of Palm Springs, California. The students--children of the wealthy and powerful--carry on with their lives in blissful ignorance, while Sydney, Jill, Eddie, and Adrian must do everything in their power to keep their secret safe. But with forbidden romances, unexpected spirit bonds, and the threat of Strigoi moving ever closer, hiding the truth is harder than anyone thought.

Golden Lily in general was slow paced, uninteresting and boring. The last scene though was what kept the book alive for me and gave me hope for future installments. It certainly saved an otherwise run of the mill, borderline mediocre YA paranormal book.

Let's dissect this sucker, shall we? First the characters.

I don't like Sydney. I didn't like her in VA and I don't like her now and frankly, I am not seeing myself liking her in the foreseeable future. She's bland, needy, neurotic, absolutely no fun and, what I hate the most about her, an obnoxious know-it-all. That is not what I consider a heroine. Everybody keeps telling her how badass and amazing she is and I'm trying really hard to see it. The girl, besides thinking she's smarter than anybody on the planet, has nothing else going for her. No personality whatsoever. She even tells Adrian at some point that she feels she has to take her amazingly bright mind down a notch so as to stoop to everyone else's level. 
Seriously now? Come on. No way. In a perfect world, Sydney would be a character everyone would laugh at or ignore in a book. Somehow in this one, she's the heroine who is supposed to inspire her peers.
Yeah. No.
I hate hate hate her aversion to magic. I don't wanna hear "That's her lifestyle, she grew up like that" and all that crap. Because it's so unbelievably wrong of her to denounce magic because it plays with people's lives and minds, and may I add rightly so on one hand, and on the other when it's convenient for her, she uses it like it's nothing. That's not cool at all. It reminds me of people eating chicken and when they see other people killing chicken they freak out. Well, where do you think it came from when you put it in your mouth, buddy? That's Sydney for you. Bad, but if it helps her purpose it's good. Awesome principles.

Adrian remained his adoring self. I was a fan of Adrian's since VA so no problemo there.
Well, that's not exactly true. Adrian's character had major flaws and I don't mean as a person, I love his vices, I mean as a written character in a book. In Golden Lily he was more of a caricature most of the time than a solid character. He was the comic relief, everyone will have a laugh seeing Adrian drunk and slurring. Har har. Yeah, it wasn't so funny and after a couple of times, it got old. Also, even though as I mentioned earlier I loved the last scene, there were some things said there that were totally inconsistent with his character, things that Adrian as we know him would never say and honestly, they hit me hard and I'm still on the fence about them. Do I like and embrace the change, or want the Adrian I grew to know and love back? Can't decide.

The others pretty much remained the same. Jill, Eddie, Angeline (the dhampir from the Keepers, remember her?), Sonya, Dimitri. I don't know what will happen with Jill and Eddie's relationship dynamics because, what do you know, once again Sydney meddled and ruined everything. So no idea how it's gonna play out.
Speaking of relationships, in Golden Lily Sydney meets and dates briefly someone who is horrible, whiny, needy as hell and dislikable in general. Someone who everyone, including Sydney, thinks is exactly like her and they're the perfect fit.
Rest my case.

Story wise, there is not a lot happening. Actually, nothing happens as far as action and intrigue and mystery is involved. Most of the time we have to deal with Sydney's freak outs about vampires and magic, her abysmal love life, dances and parties. Something resembling an action scene happens towards the end, but don't get too excited.
Now the last scene of the book, was something else entirely. I loved it. As simple as that. I loved it regardless of the two people participating in it. In fact, I love it in spite of them, it could have been anyone. And even though I disagreed with a lot of what was said, the writing was brilliant and it stuck in my head a long time after I finished the book. I finally got a glimpse of Mead's talent which I haven't seen since Spirit Bound. It's been a long time coming. 

What pissed me off is that Golden Lily was so mediocre overall, that I don't know if I can find any excuse to hold on to this series anymore. Being written by Richelle Mead is not gonna cut it. Unless of course she stops playing it safe hoping that her millions of fans will read anything she writes regardless the quality, and starts writing something really spectacular. She's done it before, she can do it again.
Some people think I'm way over thinking this and I should take it easy and chillax or whatever. Honestly, I don't care. I'm passionate about reading and books and I get invested in what I read and what I love. If you don't get it, then you've probably never been and never will be passionate about anything. 
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

READING: Sirenz Back In Fashion by Charlotte Bennardo & Natalie Zaman

Sirenz Back In Fashion by Charlotte Bennardo & Natalie Zaman

Publication date: June 8th, 2012
Published by: Flux
Genre: YA Paranomal, Gods and Goddesses
Rating: 5/5
It's Hell on heels--again

When Shar tries on a ring from Hades, it activates an obscure contractual clause that puts Shar and former-frenemy-now-friend Meg in Hades' service once more. Shar is whisked away to the Underworld to prepare a ball for Persephone, while Meg is sent to retrieve the errant soul of spoiled rich girl Paulina Swanson and send her to the abyss. Just when it appears the girls will be doomed to serve Hades for eternity, Shar meets two possibly helpful demi-gods who also happen to be gorgeous. Can the girls finally ditch the Lord of the Dead once and for all?

I remember reading Sirenz last year and thinking what an awesome, funny story it is, you can swallow it whole in one sitting. Well, if possible, Sirenz Back In Fashion is even better!

What I like about Bennardo & Zaman's writing is how light it is. In an industry such as the YA industry which is filled with dark, gloomy and haunting paranormal books, Sirenz Back In Fashion certainly stands out as unbelievably refreshing and vivacious. Nothing wrong with the more somber paranormal whatsoever, God knows I read tons of them. But at some point you just want to take a break and relax and have fun while reading. SBIF was the perfect book for that and it practically fulfilled a need I didn't know I had.

This time around, the duo consisting of Shar and Meg split: Shar operates in the Underworld, while Meg remains in the city. They get caught in Hade's web who, with a carefully laid plan, has the girls on his beg and call once again. Hades tries to seduce Shar in the land down under (literally) while Meg frantically tries to find a way to rescue Shar and get rid of Hades once and for all.

Shar's trip to the Underworld-hilarious! See, that's what I'm talking about. Not ridiculous and completely unserious, but funny and witty. We got to meet a lot of new characters and find out that Charon, god of Death, is a cranky dude, Aglaia, the one who stirs Charon's boat, likes flashy, girly stuff and that Castor is a total hottie. I really enjoyed Shar's chapters, admittedly more than Meg's. Every encounter she has with Hades is brilliant and honestly, I don't understand why she hasn't yielded to his charms already, he is so unbelievably awesome!

Lot of things change in the end of book 2, so that leaves us with a whole bunch of new characters in book 3 and some surprising plot twists which I'm already trying to figure out. 
Amazing, funny and clever, Sirenz Back In Fashion was all I expected it to be and more. Pick this series up now! Perfect summer read.
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

READING: A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger

A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger

Publication date: June 5th, 2012
Published by: Poppy
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 3,5/5
Whitley Johnson's dream summer with her divorcé dad has turned into a nightmare. She's just met his new fiancée and her kids. The fiancée's son? Whitley's one-night stand from graduation night. Just freakin' great.

Worse, she totally doesn't fit in with her dad's perfect new country-club family. So Whitley acts out. She parties. Hard. So hard she doesn't even notice the good things right under her nose: a sweet little future stepsister who is just about the only person she's ever liked, a best friend (even though Whitley swears she doesn't "do" friends), and a smoking-hot guy who isn't her stepbrother...at least, not yet. It will take all three of them to help Whitley get through her anger and begin to put the pieces of her family together.

I've been wanting to read The Duff and Shut Out for such a long time but for some reason I was always postponing it. When Little Brown sent me Midsummer's Nightmare however, I thought it's time to familiarize myself with Keplinger's work, whom I've been hearing awesome things about. So MN was the first book I read by her.

Female protag Whitley (what kind of name is that, anyway?) has some family issues. Her parents went through an ugly divorce some years back, and her mother has quit on her and on life in general. With her older brother living with his own family out of town, it's Whitley's chance, and right, she thinks, to be wild and party all the time. When her dad comes to take her to their annual summer vac at their cottage she is surprised to hear that he decided to have a new family, one that Whitley would very soon meet and spend the whole summer with. The story begins from there, as we see the changes in family dynamics and Whitley's desperate attempts for so much needed affection.

It's obvious that Whitley has emotional baggage, created part from her, let's be honest, horrible parents, her brother's absence and of course her own will to use all that as an excuse to shy away from reality and responsibility. She is mad at her mom who was never there for her but only cared about herself, her dad who basically did the same, her brother for leaving her with them, even at the one night stand who dared ask for her number. She is unbelievably pissed at everyone for "ruining" her life, that she misses the big picture, and as a result loses herself along the way.

Her relationship with Nathan was OK but not as romantic as I would have wanted or expected. I guess it was because of the whole almost-relatives debacle. They had scenes together but in most of them either Nathan was pissed at Whitley or Whitley was pissed at Nathan. I liked Bailey's character, Nathan's sister. I don't think she was just a background character, but rather the incentive Whitley needed to change her life. She played a huge part in Whitley's epiphany, more I believe than her parents or Nathan.

What I found hard to swallow however, was how quickly everything solved itself out. I know that there's a limit to books' length, I don't mind that. What I do mind is that 5 pages before the end everything is a tangled mess and suddenly, right before the last sentences, everything is fine and dandy. Keplinger addresses some serious issues here, underage drinking, divorce, bullying, neglect parenting. You can't pretend all these problems are easy to solve, and if they are, you can't expect from the people affected, in this case Whitley, to adapt to the changes that the solution brings so easily. It just didn't seem real to me in an otherwise very realistic contemporary novel.

Was Midsummer's Nightmare the best book ever? No. I don't think that was the author's intention, anyway. Was it horrible? No way. You can't put it down, a great quality in a book if you ask me, and it touches a lot of sensitive subjects for a lot of teenagers, but not exclusively.
My first encounter with a Keplinger book was not bad, so I recommend to those who have yet to read one of her books, to give it a try.
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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

READING: Flirting In Italian by Lauren Henderson

Flirting In Italian by Lauren Henderson

Publication date: June 12th, 2012
Published by: Random House Children's Books
Genre: YA Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 2,5/5
Four girls. One magical, and possibly dangerous Italian summer. Family mysteries, ancient castles, long hot nights of dancing under the stars . . . and, of course, plenty of gorgeous Italian boys!

When there's a book titled Flirting in Italian, you automatically fantasize about sunny summers in Italy, imagine yourself walking through narrow cobbled streets and of course flirting with hot Italian boys in Vespas saying "Ciao" all the time. Right?
Well, not quite. In its defense, Flirting in Italian had all that but not to the expected amount. 

So, we have 2 british girls, 2 American girls and 1 Italian girl in Tuscany, Italy. Violet, one of the British girls, was the protagonist, smart, outspoken and determined. The American girls however were not painted in the brightest colors. They both were beautiful but one was arrogant and the other was kinda dumb. And that wasn't even what bothered me. What I didn't get was their relationship with the English girls. Until the end I couldn't figure out if they were friends or enemies. Violet herself says one thing one time and another thing the other. I guess whenever it suited Violet they were good but, when they contradicted her they were mean. It doesn't quite work that way, but yeah.

I also expected a fiery, passionate romance between one of the girls (Violet, most likely) and a hot as hell Italian. 
Well, I am Greek. I know first hand how Italians act when on holidays in Greece. Let me tell you, it's not pretty. And the way Henderson portrayed the alleged "sexy Italian boys" it reminded me of these guys a lot, and honestly I don't really care for them. If I had not experienced the Italian+summer+Greek island combo I would too find everything in the book pretty cool. But seeing that I have, I can say now that I'm not a fan. So, I was definitely not feeling the hotness of the Italian guys.

There were a lot of historical factoids about Tuscany and Italy in general which was cool. However, there were some dialogues in Italian which were not later explained in English so that was a little bit confusing.
The story behind FIT sounded very interesting at first: Violet enrolls in summer courses in Italy after seeing a painting of a girl in the 1700s who is a dead ringer for her. She always thought herself different from her parents with her dark coloring, and she wants to explore her potentially secret heritage. Unfortunately, we didn't get a lot of that, as Violet doesn't find anything helpful till the end of the book, which mostly revolved around the girls' rivalries and not even develops the much anticipated romance between Luca and Violet.

I expected a lot more from Flirting In Italian than nonsensical conflicts and drooling tourists. I also thought this was gonna be a stand alone book but I was wrong. There is gonna be a companion novel called "Following in Love in Italian". No info yet about its release date.
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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

READING: The Girl In The Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross

The Girl In The Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross

Publication date: May 22nd, 2012
Published by: Harlequin
Genre: YA Steampunk
Rating: 4/5
In New York City, 1897, life has never been more thrilling - or dangerous.

Sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne and her "straynge band of mysfits" have journeyed from London to America to rescue their friend Jasper, hauled off by bounty hunters. But Jasper is in the clutches of a devious former friend demanding a trade-the dangerous device Jasper stole from him...for the life of the girl Jasper loves.

One false move from Jasper and the strange clockwork collar around Mei's neck tightens. And tightens.

The Girl In The Clockwork Collar starts just right where Steel Corset left off. The gang, consisting of Griffin, Finley, Emily and Sam, travel to New York to find out what is the reason behind Jasper's incarceration and find a way to free him.

Those who enjoyed The Girl In The Steel Corset, will surely enjoy Clockwork Collar, as well. It has action, romance, scheming, betrayal. I liked all the characters, just like I did in Steel Corset. The line between good and bad is pretty distinct in both books. I would have liked the characters to be a little bit more flawed, have a darker side, too. The only one who is the embodiment of that is Jack Dandy (you remember him from Steel Corset, right?) who regretfully we don't get to see at all in Clockwork Collar. Too bad, I enjoyed his scenes in SC very much. I guess he was "replaced" by Tesla, who was interesting, to say the least. I am not sure if I love the crazy, kinda insensitive super scientist type of guy (think Dr. Bishop in Fringe) but he didn't annoy me either, which is good. Besides, his interactions were mostly with Emily, who I'm not crazy about, anyway. I love both Sam and Jasper and somehow I think they can do way better than Emily. I don't know why I have this feeling about this girl since Steel Corset. She just rubs me the wrong way.

I kinda had the feeling Collar was a little bit less steampunk-y than Corset. Weirdly enough for me, that's a good thing. Also I would have liked nothing more but for both these books to be shorter at least 50 pages.
That being said, I would recommend it to those who liked the first book and even to those who were on the fence about it. 
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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

READING: Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Publication date: May 15th, 2012
Published by: Viking Juvenile
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Rating: 4,5/5
When Kitty Tylney's best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII's heart and brings Kitty to court, she's thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat's shadow, Kitty's now caught between two men--the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat's meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.

As a big fan of The Tudors, a TV show about Henry VIII, and an even bigger fan of books, when watching season 04 I kept thinking "Wow, wouldn't it be great if there was a book about Catherine Howard, where did she come from, how she came to be a queen, how did she feel about everything?" Well, with Gilt, I got my wish! Without the hot steamy sex and Henry Cavill unfortunately, but I am not one to complain.

I admit to only knowing Cat Howard from the show. I haven't read a biography of Henry the VIII (I have one though, does that count?) so everything I know of him is from the series. Not a very reliable source, I know, but it'll have to do. In Gilt, Cat's story, surprisingly enough was not from her POV but from her "best" friend's, Kitty. Along with other young girls, they lived in a covent-type institution for ladies from not so wealthy families, either because they are orphans, or because their parents wanted to get rid of them and provide them with some sort of education, something like and old maid's school. 
Cat is always the little vixen, urging others in mischief and not shying away from any romantic offer. She is incredibly ambitious and she would do just about anything to get into court, what every young lady aspired to back then. She worms her way into Henry's life and before she knows it she becomes queen. Now, at the time, Henry was a sick man. His leg was seriously injured and smelled soooo bad and he was old. Not a husband a 17,18,19 year old dreams of having. But he was the King of England and that was all Cat wanted and needed. Besides, she had other things going for her which I am not gonna discuss here in case someone doesn't know the whole story. 

Kitty is Cat's friend in the institution. She is supposed to be the level-headed one, the one that keeps the others in check and tries not get in trouble.
On paper. Because in reality Kitty was a miserable little mouse with no backbone or sense of anything, basically. She fell in love with a guy, but she persuaded herself she couldn't and wouldn't be with him because Cat needed her in court and she just couldn't live without her best friend. A best friend who threatened her, talked down to her all the time and was flat out mean to her. Kitty for some inexplicable reason, looked up to her. I guess that explains Cat's very charismatic personality, and the reason she was able to win Henry's heart so easily.
That being said, Kitty was miserable throughout the whole book and she had no one to blame for her misery but herself. She made her choices and every one of them was wrong because they were all based on making a person that neither loved nor respected her happy at all costs. At least that's my take.

What surprised me was how Longthorne chose to portray Culpepper. In the show he is the same smug jerk, but you can see he has some feelings for Cat and Cat is deeply and madly in love with him. In Gilt, Culpepper is this deranged villain, drunk with power, and Cat couldn't care less about him. So, I don't know which side of him is closer to the truth but the romantic in me hopes it's the first one.

Debuts are always hard, but a historical fiction debut must be even harder. You have to have your facts straight and do a lot of research. Even though what I know about Henry and his life story comes from a TV show, Longshore made me believe she knows what she's talking about and that's enough for me.
So despite Kitty's general absurdity, Gilt was a very good historical novel about the life and demise of a woman you can't help but be intrigued by.
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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

READING: Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

Publication date: May 1st, 2012
Published by: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Paranormal, Angels/Demons
Rating: 2/5
What if there were teens whose lives depended on being bad influences?
This is the reality for sons and daughters of fallen angels in Sweet Evil.

Tenderhearted Southern girl, Anna Whitt, was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She’s aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but it isn’t until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage, and her will-power is put to the test. He’s the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna.

Forced to face her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?

I keep seeing 5 star rating after 5 star rating for this book and I just don't get it. I really don't. I think I'm getting too old for the frivolity of YA. Or maybe Sweet Evil was that bad.

And it's a real shame because the arch story wasn't that bad. There are the 7 deadly sins, only with a bunch more in there just so that we can have more characters, and each is represented by a Duke who is a demon. Duke's daughters and sons' job is to embrace their trademark sin and kinda spread it among their peers. Problem is, some of them don't want to follow on their daddy's footsteps and chaos ensues. See? Not too shabby, right?

Because the book had very little to do with that and everything to do with pretty much everything else.
Kaidan (hottie), as Patti (Anna's mother) explained to Anna (angelic virtue personified but in a sarcastic way), is very dangerous and she shouldn't be anywhere near him. After said mother met Kaidan for 20 minutes (Anna knew him less than a day at that point) she decided he was a respectable lad with sensible shoes, so she let her only daughter go to a road trip with him. All alone. Sharing rooms in motels. That kinda road trip. But that's OK. She made snacks for the road.
No comment on how parenting is portrayed in the book.

I don't know what is wrong with YA and romances lately, but I am not a fan of the "hold the sex but throw everything else in there" kinda relationship. This is not the first YA that's done it. Very sensual scenes between Anna and Kaidan. Minus the sex, of course. Because that would be wrong. Honestly, I wouldn't have minded if it hadn't been for the fact that Anna knew him for hardly 2 days, and for the fact that she was emotionally unstable. She keeps throwing the L-bomb at anyone with nice enough hair it seems like, and she wants me to be invested in her relationship and care for it? No way.

Exposition scenes were so awkward. Anna and Kaidan are in the car and he says out of the blue "Is there something you want to ask me? Is there something you want to learn about out heritage? Come on, you know you want to". Ish, you know. But that was the gist. And she started asking questions and he kept answering them, all robot-like. And then later he goes "OK, one last question because girl my bladder is about to burst. I need a loo break stat! We'll come back to the weird, spontaneous Q&A when it suits the story". I'm not kidding. Wish I was. And then again when she goes to see her father, exact same thing. Her father, the Duke of substance abuse, this alcoholic druggie, who has ended up in jail and hasn't seen his daughter for 16 years goes "OK estranged daughter. What do you want to know?" Whoa! OK I'm all for exposition chapters but jeez! Try ease the info in a conversation, don't force it. If you force it, it sounds more of a business transaction than a real dialogue.

I'm very upset because the idea behind Sweet Evil sounds insanely good but the execution was insanely bad. The scene at the end with Gluttony was so intense and perverse, I kinda loved it. Why wasn't the rest of the book like that?? I would surely be a fan of that!
But as it is, Sweet Evil for me, will always be the book about a girl who cried gonorrhea at the first chapter.
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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

READING: This Is So Not Happening by Kieran Scott

This Is So Not Happening by Kieran Scott

Publication date: May 1st, 2012
Published by: Simon & Schuster Childrens Books
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 5/5

After their long summer apart, Ally and Jake were hoping for a drama free senior year. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like things will work out that way...again.
It turns out that Chloe is pregnant and says that Jake is the father. Hammond is pissed at his best friend, but mostly can't believe that Ally would stay with Jake. But Ally is tired of being apart from Jake and is willing to make it work. But that is easier said than done when Jake starts blowing Ally off to go to doctor's appointments with Chloe and Ally joins the school play and meets a new cute guy.
But as graduation approaches, things get more complicated as new secrets come out and Ally realizes maybe Jake isn't the guy she thought he was. After everything they've been through can Ally and Jake get out of Orchard Hill with their relationship intact?

I can believe it's over. It's been 2 years but it feels like yesterday when I first read about Jake and Ally. If you guys haven't read the first two books, She's So Dead To Us and He's So Not Worthy, go to your nearest bookstore or library and get them, you will not regret it.

For those of you who are still trying to pick your jaw off the floor after the last book's explosive ending, This Is So Not Happening will kill you! The answer to the question on everyone's lips comes after the first half of the book, so I can see a lot of bit nails in your future. Scott's writing makes it all worthwhile, though. Alternating POVs between Jake and Ally, she captures the mind of a girl who's dealing with so much crap but tries not to lose it, and a guy who is going through so many changes in a short amount of time, that he feels like he's losing his marbles. The way these two teenagers, with apparently a very different view of things, handle a very serious situation is heartbreaking, awkward, funny, aggravating and admirable, everything it should be. The thought alone of everything one stands to lose but also gain from this experience, is overwhelming for adults, much less teenagers. Scott did an excellent job writing these two, kudos.

I have a tiny insy bit objection, though. 
SPOILERS [highlight to read]
Why did Jake got blamed SO MUCH? I mean yeah, maybe he was a little obnoxious at times, but come on! The guy is 17, he finds out that after one night of protected sex he left Claire pregnant. He had to keep his grades up, his girlfriend and also his mind. And after 5 months he finds out that Claire had lied to him about the baby?? And for what? So she could be more respected by the other Cresties instead of them finding out she had sex with a Norm. Pffff the guy flushed his life in the toilet for her and the baby and everyone was against HIM! Not fair at all. Chloe was way too pampered and spoiled, in my opinion.

So, I guess that's it. This is so not happening concludes the She's so/He's so trilogy. No more Jake and Ally. Unless Scott decides to write another trilogy with them in college. Maybe. Could happen. Just throwing it out there.
Whatever she decides to write next, I know it will be amazing. The Private series is one of my favorite series ever(I swallowed those books up like nobody's business), so her future books are automatically on my to-read list.
Thank you, Mrs. Scott for yet another awesome series :)

NOTE: the reason I decided to use the highlight method for the spoiler zone is because I noticed in a couple of blogs that had spoilers in their reviews, that sometimes my eye got drawn to that area. So I always caught a word or two. With background same as the text, that's not an option. I rarely add spoilers in my reviews so you won't be seeing it all that much. I hope it's not very annoying :)
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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

READING: Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

Publication date: April 24th, 2012
Published by: Walker Children's
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 2/5

Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a horrible car accident—including her memory of the event. As their small town mourns his death, Allie is afraid to remember because doing so means delving into what she’s kept hidden for so long: the horrible reality of their abusive relationship.

When the police reopen the investigation, it casts suspicion on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around town. Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free? Debut writer Jennifer Shaw Wolf takes readers on an emotional ride through the murky waters of love, shame, and, ultimately, forgiveness.

When I first found out about this book, I thought to myself that's a book for me, contemporary YA with a heartbreaking story behind it. And after the first few chapters I really thought it was. Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there.

In an nutshell: Allie is in a car accident with her boyfriend, Trip, from which only Allie comes out alive. Allie does not remember what happened the night of the accident and what made Trip drive his car of a cliff. At first we are led to believe that Allie and Trip are the perfect couple. As Allie starts to remember however, we find out that Trip was sick, and abused Allie consistently. 

Everything was hanky dory up until that point. Well, not the abuse part, you know what I mean. After reading about the myriad disgusting things that Trip did to Allie, I was almost convinced she somehow had a hand in his downfall.
Now here lies the problem of the book in my opinion. Not only Allie didn't speak up during her whole ordeal with Trip (how long were they together? More than a year I think), not only she let her brother suffer watching her being abused, she also had moments after Trip's death when she actually remembered him with fondness and with some perverse sense of love and longing. I just can't accept her not saying anything, not to her parents, not to a guidance counselor, someone. There was no "No one is going to believe me" scenario, since she had the bruises and cuts to prove it. I am enraged by women who can't stand up for themselves. And remember, we're not talking about a married woman with kids, whose husband abuses her and she has to live with him every freaking day. We're talking about a teenage girl, who at the end of the day goes back to her parents who are there for her. I'm not saying that married women shouldn't speak up, quite the opposite. But living with your abusing partner, spending every day with him, and especially if you have kids, it makes women second guess themselves and their decision to pack up and leave. Also for some of them, her husband is their only support, financial mostly. Sad, but true. Allie's situation is completely different. Trip was a high school crush, for Christ's sake! She was afraid she was gonna tarnish his reputation, to which I reply "Who cares?" He's sick, he needs help. If you don't care about yourself, think about all the other women he may abuse in the future. But no, she couldn't. And because of that her brother and only friend got caught in the crossfire and paid the price for something she should have taken responsibility for.

Eventually, Allie was free because Trip drove off a cliff. Horrah. What if Trip made it? What then? I doubt Allie would have talked. We're talking about a girl who got emotional selling the stuff her abusive boyfriend gave her because she said it felt wrong somehow. I can't even.

Also, the fact that the story dragged, was not to its books favor. Pages after pages of Allie wishing her life could have taken a different turn and feeling miserable overall. I wanted to shake that teen so hard and yell at her that she doesn't have a life yet, not really. All her life is ahead of her and she does nothing, NOTHING, for it to take a different turn. 

Excuse my rant, but reading stuff like that especially in books for teens, enrages me.
I have never been abused in my life so maybe I don't have the right to speak about these things. I don't know how it is, how it feels. I just express my opinion as an individual and as an outside observer. I mean no disrespect to anyone who has/had similar experiences. 
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