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 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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