Wednesday, February 29, 2012

READING: Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig

Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig

Publication date: March 13th, 2012
Published by: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 2/5
High school sophomore Willa and her artist mother move to Arizona where Willa starts attending an elite prep school after her mother finally sells some paintings, and Willa attempts to even things out by stealing from the rich students and giving to the poor ones.

Honestly, I don't get the meaning of this book. It is supposed to teach us what, how to be absolutely ridiculous and irresponsible? I guess, because that was 100% Willa, the female protagonist in Pretty Crooked.

Willa is described as a modern Robin Hood. What she does basically is steal money from her rich, obnoxious friends, and with it, buy designer clothes which she does not keep for herself because that would be selfish. No. She anonymously gives them away to poor kids in the prep school she herself attends because she thinks that if they wore designer clothes, they would feel more confident and forget that they are poor and also, as a bonus, rich kids would stop bullying them.
That is a modern Robing Hood? In what planet?

Robin Hood is set in a time in England when King Richard was away and the kingdom was ruled by cruel and unjust men in his absence, who imposed outrageous taxes on citizens, starving them to death. Robin Hood stole from the rich bastards and essentially gave people back their money so they could buy food in order to survive. He didn't buy them gold carriages or a villa near a picturesque English lake! Huuuge difference! And most importantly, Robin Hood didn't hang out with the sheriff of Nottingham after stealing from him. They didn't share tea or engaged in small talk about the weather, as Willa was more than willing to do with her "enemies".

For me Willa is a complete fraud. She does't have the balls to speak up and tell her friends what she really feels about them because deep down she enjoys being in the spotlight aka the Glitterati(the rich girls' gang), and she doesn't want to be an outcast like Mary and Sherry, the girls she is allegedly trying to "save". Also thinking that designer clothes will make all the bullying and the hurt go away, shows how immature and ignorant she is. Oh, add to that condescending, patronizing and oh so very shallow. Willa needs to fix her moral compass, stat!
Then again, Marrie and Sierra's problems seemed to go away after receiving a $400 shirt and got invited to a party so I guess this book's problem is even bigger than I first thought...

No other character was likeable. Willa's mother was totally absent from her daughter's life, Aidan and Willa had no chemistry whatsoever and he was kinda silly if you ask me, and Tre was the black kid with the obvious criminal record. 

I would also like to comment on the language Ludwig used. Yes, I get that Pretty Crooked targets at a teenage audience and that Willa is 15. However, when I read a published work of an author, I don't want to see words like "realz" and "shiz" and adorbs" in it. What happened to the English language? Is that too much too ask, that a book has whole and complete words? I swear, if I saw an "I haz…" or an "I getz…" in there, I wouldn't have finished it.

Don't think I'm gonna read the next one. Not sure why this is even a series, to be honest.

And last but certainly not least, Ronaldinho is Brazilian, not Spanish. Just one google search away from an accurate reference.

This book has been given to me by NetGalley free of charge 

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

READING: Pieces Of Us by Margie Gelbwasser

Pieces Of Us by Margie Gelbwasser

Publication date: March 8th, 2012
Published by: Flux
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 6/5
Two families. Four teens.
A summer full of secrets.

Every summer, hidden away in a lakeside community in upstate New York, four teens leave behind their old identities…and escape from their everyday lives.

Yet back in Philadelphia during the school year, Alex cannot suppress his anger at his father (who killed himself), his mother (whom he blames for it), and the girls who give it up too easily. His younger brother, Kyle, is angry too—at his abusive brother, and at their mother who doesn’t seem to care. Meanwhile, in suburban New Jersey, Katie plays the role of Miss Perfect while trying to forget the nightmare that changed her life. But Julie, her younger sister, sees Katie only as everything she’s not. And their mother will never let Julie forget it.

Up at the lake, they can be anything, anyone. Free. But then Katie’s secret gets out, forcing each of them to face reality—before it tears them to pieces.

Wow. Pieces Of Us was an emotional hurricane of a book that despite all the anger and frustration I felt, I just couldn't put down.

I have to hand it to Gelbwasser, she had me from the first chapter. Even when I knew it was not gonna end well, I had to know, find out for myself. Like a car crush, I just couldn't look away. As I was reading I found myself feeling agitated, frustrated, angry and unbelievably sad that I couldn't do anything about Alex, I couldn't save Katie. I put the book down, tried to do other stuff to get my mind off it, but nothing would work. It was always about Alex,Katie,Julie and Kyle. 

Each one of these kids was abused mentally or physically or both. Katie by her classmates, Julie by her insufferable, to put it lightly, mother, along with her own suffocating jealousy, Alex by his mom's boyfriends and dad's suicide and Kyle by his brother's dramatic character change. In my opinion, Kyle was the most likeable one, the originally "good" one. I liked how his chapters were in second person, like some faraway observant was documenting his life. like he couldn't trust himself to utter "I" for fear of realizing that all this was actually happening to him.
The character I felt the most animosity towards was first Alex and then Julie. However, as my anger towards their actions grew bigger and bigger, I realised that their behavior mostly stems from traumas of an awful childhood. Was that it though, I still wonder. When does psychological baggage stop and free will begin? How much of their bad behavior is justified? Can we all pin treating other people badly to childhood traumas and by doing that, can we automatically wash our hands of everything we do and never suffer any consequences? That's why in the end, I don't know if I felt sorry about those two. I feel like an awful person saying it but especially in Julie's case, she kinda chose to go down that path, regardless of whatever problems she had with her sister and her mom in the past. She craved for it, it seemed to me. She wanted it from the very beginning. She chose to bury her head in the sand as far as the Katie situation was concerned, telling herself that she is much stronger than her sister and that she can handle it. I really wanted to see how she and Alex ended up (no wonder they were the only ones who stayed to watch the chicken killings every year - chlling scenes, by the way!), but the ending was a bit abrupt and I guess we'll never know. I didn't like the ending at first, but in retrospect I am grateful to Gelbwasser for not prolonging their suffering and misery, or mine.

And how can I not be grateful to her for stirring up such strong feelings in me, even if they are a lot darker that what I'm used to? It was thrilling to get out of my comfort zone and read something this raw and real. So, thank you so much Margie Gelbwasser for writing Pieces Of Us :)

*****I had actually written half of this review when a GR friend informed me that people want Pieces Of Us banned because it has a blue cover and not a red one.
Wait. That's not it.
Oh, yes. Because it has a lot of sexual content for a YA novel. I knew it was something ridiculous like that.
Just when I thought I have finally understood people, they always surprise me and never in a good way. I will not try to educate people or make them less ignorant. They should know however, that Pieces of Us, apart from a YA book, it is also Realistic Fiction. Realistic Fiction=really happening. If you think these things are completely out of this world and don't happen, you're delusional, to say the least.  What I am trying to say is that this is 2012 and whether you like it or not things change and the world goes forward, not backwards. Shocking, I know. It's called progress, deal with it.
I don't wish to be offensive, but when people who claim to be readers and book lovers want to to BAN a book, it simply drives me up the wall. Why don't we go back to the Middle Ages and just burn it instead? Tsk tsk tsk…
PS. If Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma is considered YA, then damn if Pieces Of Us isn't as well!!

This book has been given to me by NetGalley free of charge 

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

READING: Two Truths And A Lie by Sara Shepard

Two Truths And A Lie by Sara Shepard

Publication date: February 7th 2012
Published by: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Contemporary, Mystery
Rating: 3/5
Sutton Mercer watches from the afterlife as her long-lost twin, Emma Paxton, takes over her identity to solve her murder. But after ruling out her early leads, Emma still hasn’t found Sutton’s killer. A lot of people wanted her dead—but one name keeps popping up: Thayer Vega. When the gorgeous and mysterious Thayer returns to town, Emma has to move fast to figure out whether he’s back for revenge…or if he already got it.
As much as I adore Sara Shepard,  it saddens me to say that it seems she has too much on her plate lately and it shows in her books. Her last two books in the PLL series were OKish but Two Truths And A Lie was boring in my opinion, even though it was an one-sitting read for me.

Nothing really interesting happens in TTAAL. Apart from Sutton's memories (2 chapters), everything else was about Emma's new life as Sutton and how she's adjusting. How she gets along with Ethan while trying to keep their relationship a secret, how she copes with the rivalry between her and Laurel blah blah, trivial, everyday stuff. Never Have I Ever had such a strong ending and I was really looking forward to see what happens next because the way I see it Thayer is a very important person in Sutton's life. I guess he is, but we didn't get to see a lot of him, or at all! Only through Sutton's memories and they were definitely not enough. 

In Shepard's defense however, she does have to "compete" against the TV show a little bit. I feel like the show has ruined the books for me, to be honest. And that's because the books are very slow paced and we only get to read two of them a year, whereas in the show something is always happening and we get to watch 20-22(maybe more) episodes a year, so inevitably one gets more accustomed to the TV characters. For example, if you watch the show, you know how Sutton's relationship with Laurel is from episodes 1-4. We are on episode 18 now, so we're way past that. This is book 3! I already know that Sutton and Mads and Char are best friends, I don't want to read any more about it. I want mystery and weird messages and ominous situations, not stuff I already know from the show. If you don't watch the show, which I somehow doubt if you're a Shepard fan, then you don't have a problem.
Surprisingly, Pretty Little Liars is a completely different matter. Show is slow(or quick in its own, distinctive pace)-books real quick paced, way ahead of the show. I think it was too early in the series to do a TV show(only 1st book published) and I am on the fence as to whether I like Sutton dead(books) or alive(show). One thing's for sure: characters in the book are way darker and meaner than the show.

I really hope the next ones get better, because I was really disappointed in this one. I just wish writers didn't do 10 projects at once and rather concentrated on one thing and did it right. Easy for me to say, I know. Then again, that's why I am a reader, not a writer.
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Friday, February 17, 2012

READING: Wings Of The Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton

Wings Of The Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton

Publication date: January 31st, 2012
Published by: HarperCollins / Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: YA Paranormal, Angels
Rating: 4,5/5
Life as the Preliator is harder than Ellie ever imagined.
Balancing real life with the responsibility of being Heaven’s warrior is a challenge for Ellie. Her relationship with Will has become all business, though they both long for each other. And now that the secret of who she really is has come out, so have Hell’s strongest reapers. Grown bold and more vicious, the demonic threaten her in the light of day and stalk her in the night.

She’s been warned.
Cadan, a demonic reaper, comes to her with information about Bastian’s new plan to destroy Ellie’s soul and use an ancient relic to wake all the souls of the damned and unleash them upon humanity. As she fights to stay ahead of Bastian’s schemes , the revelations about those closest to her awaken a dark power within Ellie that threatens to destroy everything—including herself.

She’ll be betrayed.
Treachery comes even from those whom she loves, and Ellie is broken by the deaths of those who stood beside her in this Heavenly war. Still, she must find a way to save the world, herself, and her love for Will. If she fails, there will be hell to pay.

Despite the same rating, I think Wings Of The Wicked might be even better than Angelfire!

Just like Angelfie, WOTW is tremendously engaging, you can't put it down. Moulton's writing is again top notch and her story fascinating. Glad to see the crazy chemistry between Will and Ellie was still there and that there was not a love triangle *phew* 
Fight/action scenes were ah-mazing! They were extendedly descriptive and it shows that Moulton is a stickler for details and it pays off when it has to do with action scenes, in which personally, I get a tiny bit bored. Especially if they are sloppily written. But I can say she manages angry, vindictive angels slashing at each other pretty well.

What I would have liked was less moping, especially from Ellie. I love her, but that girl cried over EVERYTHING! You kinda stop feeling sorry for her after a while, I know I did. Especially when she was such a tease and engaging in these major make out sessions with Will and then all of a sudden when things got hot she goes "Um,no. It's not right. We shouldn't do it. Let's wash dishes instead", to which Will replies "OK cool".
I know it's YA and all but come on. That hot/cold situation happened more times that I care to remember, honestly. More real love and romance and less angst, please! Also, sometimes I got the feeling that this book is this long just so Moulton could stick Will and Ellie scenes in it. Yes, the frustrating ones. Not the good ones! I mean, I'm all for Will and Ellie and the magical thing they have, but I prefer it to be equally balanced with a good story. The good story was there, but it was far outweighed by the romance. I repeat, not the good kind :)

Cadan was pretty cool in TWOTW. I still have serious doubts about him, as I do for Marcus, but that's just me. I suspect everyone from the start just so in the end I can say "Ha! I knew it!" :P
As for who is Marcus, he is a new character along with Sabrina and Ava and some bad guys. They're all pretty cool.

Wings Of The Wicked was buckets of angel-y fun and I can't wait to read book 3!

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

In My Mailbox (48)

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

(Isn't it a beauty?)

What did you get in your mailbox? :)
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Thursday, February 9, 2012

READING: Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey

Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey

Publication date: January 5th, 2012
Published by: Penguin Young Readers Group
Genre: YA Fantasy, Fairies, Dragons
Rating: 5/5
Wilde Island is not at peace. The kingdom mourns the dead Pendragon king and awaits the return of his heir; the uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans is strained; and the regent is funding a bloodthirsty witch hunt, hoping to rid the island of half-fey maidens.
Tess, daughter of a blacksmith, has visions of the future, but she still doesn't expect to be accused of witchcraft, forced to flee with her two best friends, or offered shelter by the handsome and enigmatic Garth Huntsman, a warden for Dragonswood. But Garth is the younger prince in disguise and Tess soon learns that her true father was fey, making them the center of an exciting, romantic adventure, and an ancient prophecy that will bring about peace between all three races - dragon, human, and fairy.
In addition to having an amazing cover, Dragonswood also happens to be an awesome book!
As I skimmed through information about Dragonswood, I found out that it is in fact the second book that takes place in the same world and not the first, which is Dragon's Keep. You don't have to read the first, however, if you want to read Dragonswood, it stands pretty well on its own.

There is a lot going on in Dragonswood. Witches, dragons, fairy kingdoms. There were a number of people who complained that the story was too dense. That, for me, is like saying that tomato soup has too much tomato in it. The genre is fantasy, right? It's in its job description to be dense and has a lot of supernatural elements in it and basically the wilder the author's imagination, the better. There is nothing "not-believable" or "far-fetched" when it comes to fantasy world building and the paranormal element. In a fantasy book, pretty much anything goes.Characters' relationship and everything mortal like is a whole other matter, though. Don't get these two mixed up! Fortunately, Dragonswood didn't have any problem in that arena, either.

I liked all the characters in Dragonswood. Tess is a rebel of sorts. She doesn't want what other girls her age want. She wants to escape her father's tyranny, ride away and never marry. Or rather she would marry if she found a man who would let her speak out of turn, ride, and basically be herself. She finds that man in Garth, even though initially she was really apprehensive when it came to him. What I would have wanted from Dragonswood character-wise, is a clear line between the good and the bad. There is a very mean and cruel character in the book who eventually gets a happy ending and it didn't quite sit well with me.

Overall, Dragonswood is beautifully written (love the medieval-like writing style), and its story wraps up in the end nicely, with no need for book 2,3,4…10. Those who enjoy a good love story wrapped around an epic adventure, you should definitely read Dragonswood!
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Friday, February 3, 2012

READING: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Publication date: June 12th, 2007
Published by: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Paranormal, Fairies
Rating: 3,5/5
Rule #3: Don't stare at invisible faeries.
Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in the mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty-especially if they learn of her Sight-and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.

Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible faeries.
Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

Rule #1: Don't ever attract their attention.
But it's too late. Keenan is the Summer King, who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. His is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost-regardless of her plans or desires.

Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; everything.

I know. Too little too late, uh? Wicked Lovely was published in 2007.
Almost 5 years ago, people!! And it's only now that I decided to read it after a lot of coaxing from friends.

Well, it surely wasn't the best book I read this year, but thanks to Donia, it wasn't the worst, either. As for the other characters, well.
In a nutshell, I didn't like Aislinn AT ALL, I thought Seth was the blandest goth ever, Keenan was somewhat interesting and Beira was like the witch in the TV show Once Upon A Time. And Donia was awesome :)

Let me start from the beginning. Reading into the first couple of chapters you might feel your jaw dropping a little and not in a "Dude, this is amazing" kind of way, but more in a "Dude, what the frak am I reading?" way. And the book pretty much continues on that theme. The reason for the jaw-dropping is that nowhere in the book is the fairy world explained. Nothing. Everything gets thrown in there to the point where you're sure there must be a 0,5 book you aren't aware of. There is no description of the fairy world, fairy subjects, hierarchy, rules. If I hadn't read a couple of fairy books before Wicked Lovely(pretty much the same rules apply)I would be completely lost. An exposition chapter would be much appreciated by the readers, in my opinion, because believe it or not, not all of us were born knowing what sprites and hags are. I know, shocker.

So, to cut right to the chase, Aislinn is one of those girls who don't want to lose their virginity no matter what. They prefer to get run over by a truck than lose the big V. Exaggeration? I think not. She herself says that she considers losing ones sight and ones virginity equally important.
What-who-what?? *blinking rapidly*
For my sanity's sake I decided to leave this little tidbit aside and respect her no-virginity-losing enthusiasm, even though I find it beyond moronic.
A bunch of chapters later, Aislinn still feels strongly about not losing her virginity and she talks about it with Seth. However, she adds that she has no problem doing eeeeeverything else.
No way.
I was patient and forgave a lot of things when it came to Aislinn, but that's where I drew my line with Wicked Lovely. No offense to the people that liked the book, but that is just ridiculous. When someone supports ideas like these is either a hypocrite or a complete idiot, in my book. My money is on the former. 

Then there is Seth. Seth was a goth, with way too many piercings, and had a bet boa.
So, no.
Also he was pretty boring.
Keenan was not all that more interesting than Seth, but what I found intriguing about him was that he was not the emo third wheel I thought he'd be. He stood his ground, even when things didn't go exactly his way and didn't throw a hissy fit or get into a pissing contest with Seth.
Best character in Wicked Lovely in my opinion was Donia's. She was covered in ice and still showed more emotion that all the other characters combined. She was a melancholic, heart broken, ice fairy. And she had a cool pet(not at all like a boa!).
Also because of Donia and what happened to her character(no spoilers, don't worry. Although, I'm pretty sure all of you have read it), I consider reading book 2. I think it doesn't have Aislinn in it so yay!

Overall, Wicked Lovely was not a bad book. Its female protagonist was a miss, sure, but its story and the world Marr has created are interesting.
Maybe I'll pick the book with the Dark Fairies next. That would be cool, I guess.
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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

READING: Double by Jenny Valentine

Double by Jenny Valentine

Publication date: February 27th, 2012
Published by: Hyperion Books Of Children
Source: NetGalley
Genre: YA Contemporary, Thriller
Rating: 4/5
When the sixteen-year-old runaway Chap is mistaken for a missing boy named Cassiel, his life changes dramatically. Chap takes on Cassiel’s identity, gaining the family and friends he’s always dreamed of having. But becoming someone else isn’t as easy as he hoped—and Chap isn’t the only one hiding a secret. As he teeters on the brink of discovery and begins to unravel the mystery behind Cassiel’s disappearance, Chap realizes that he’s in much deeper danger than he could have imagined.

After all, you can’t just steal a life and expect to get away with it.

Double is the story of a teenage runaway named Chap who is mistakingly taken for a boy, Cassiel, who went missing two years ago. Chap, homeless and abandoned himself, seizes the opportunity to finally live the life he always dreamed of, never minding the consequences. 

Double was brilliantly written by Valentine. Her portrayal of Chap is amazing. He is so tormented, poor guy, throughout the whole book. On one hand, he knows what he is doing is wrong, stealing someone else's life and lying to the people who consider him their son and brother. On the other however, he wants that life more than anything, it's what he wanted his whole life and for something like that to be handed to him so easily, he couldn't just pass it by. Guilt eating away at him along with the constant fear that he's going to say or do something that will expose him, is ultimately more than he can handle and he decides to get to the bottom of Cassiel's mysterious disappearance before he and the people he comes to care about, fall completely apart.
All the other characters in Double were wonderfully written as well, even though the book undoubtedly revolves around Chap. I felt so bad for Cassiel's mother and what she went through when he disappeared and I couldn't help but be mad at Chap for deceiving her so. But as a reader, I felt the same dilemma he felt: go or stay? What's wrong for others in contrast to what's right for me.

Even though the ending was a little far-fetched in my opinion, Double is a very artfully written, quick read, full of suspense and mystery. Especially recommended to readers who don't necessarily expect a romance in a YA novel.

This book has been given to me by NetGalley free of charge

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