Monday, 30 January 2012

Review: Tris & Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison

Tris & Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison
Published by Egmont 2011

A modern retelling of the German fairytale "Tristan and Isolde", Tris and Izzie is about a young witch named Izzie who is dating Mark King, the captain of the basketball team and thinks her life is going swimmingly well. Until -- she makes a love potion for her best friend Brangane and then ends up taking it herself accidentally, and falling in love with Tristan, the new guy at school.

I bought this while in NY because I'd heard about it from somewhere, and it made its way onto my to-buy list. I bought it, came home to England, and read some reviews. They were very bad to say the least. That made me all the more intrigued: could this book really be that bad? Before reading, I also familiarised myself with the Tristan and Isolde legend and I said, "Yeah, okay, this could be interesting". So here are my thoughts.

Izzie has the perfect boyfriend, Mark. He's the captain of their high school's basketball team and he's perfect for her. However, things aren't going so well in the relationship department for her best friend Branna, and Izzie decides to do something about it using one of her mum's potions - a love philtre. Things instantly go wrong, and Izzie has to deal with it.

I actually labelled this as DNF after reading about 180 pages; I couldn't take it anymore. The main character Izzie was so unlikable; she was self-absorbed and irrational. She meddled with things she had no business sticking her nose in where it wasn't wanted, and she didn't for one second pause to think that what she was doing was wrong. Also, just because her mum was a witch didn't mean it was okay to use magic as she pleased. Stealing one of her mum's potions was a betrayal of trust, and I liked her no better for it. The way she treated the people around her was really negative, and it only got worse once she mixed up the love potion and ended up falling in love with Tristan. That's also another thing that bothered me: why was the love potion called a love philtre? There wasn't really point in that. Tristan was also a very weird character. He spoke like he lived in medieval times, and seemed really out of place in the modern high school setting. Overall, I was really disappointed in this book, and to be honest, I felt a bit cheated. If I have some spare time, I might go back and finish it, although it doesn't seem likely. If you're thinking about reading Tris & Izzie, I suggest you borrow it. 

1 star

Review: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
Published by Sourcebooks Fire 2011

What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though - she leads them as the captain and quarterback on her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there's a new guy in town who threatens her starring position on the team... and has her suddenly wishing to be seen as more than just a teammate.

This was nothing short of amazing and made me feel a lot better after having read two rather disappointing books. I also have some cover love here; it's simple but sweet at the same time. 

Jordan Woods is the quarterback of her high school football team; the only girl. The guys on the team respect her for her amazing talent and leadership skills, and she's got big football dreams for college. Enter Ty Green: former quarterback of his high school team back in Texas, he's just moved here and now he's threatening her position on the team. 

I loved this book so much, it's a new favourite. It was a kind of different read because it involved sports and I have very limited knowledge of American football. However, this wasn't an issue. Miranda Kenneally explained along the way, and managed to not make it boring. Jordan was also a brilliant character; she was strong, a good leader and she wasn't afraid to say what she was thinking in front of the guys on her team. She also had a great sense of humour and this made the book laugh-out-loud funny. Jordan also grew as a character, especially regarding her college decisions and how she wasn't going to let anyone and control her. She had real ambition and focus when it came to football, which I really admired about her. I also really liked how the whole team was like a big family. They all looked after each other and looked out for each other. They weren't afraid to be themselves in front of each other and weren't afraid to mention touchy subjects, which again made for some hilarious reading. It really made me want to part of the gang. Jordan's best friend, Sam Henry (simply referred to as Henry) was definitely my favourite character. He was funny and sweet, and I admired the strong bond that he and Jordan had; their friendship was sweet in general. The love triangle was also done really well here, and I understood Jordan's frustration. However, for me, it was a no contest. I knew who I wanted Jordan to end up with and the ending left me with a smile on my face. Overall, this book was awesome because Jordan was badass and proved that a girl can take down a guy any day, regardless of gender, and the book also had a real family feel with lots of humour. I loved it!

5 stars

Friday, 27 January 2012

Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Enclave (Razorland #1) by Ann Aguirre
Published by Feiwel and Friends 2011

In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first Deuce thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known. 

Enclave was filled with action, violence, blood and lots of gore, combined with the need to survive. 

It takes place in New York City, where after the apocalypse, people have had to move underground and life-expectancy is only at 25. These people live in small communities called enclaves and life is for the most part very basic, with only the simplest of technology. Outside in the tunnels, creatures called Freaks, that were once human before contracting the plague, eat humans and any meat they can find. Children also only receive their name if they survive their first 15 years of life. Before receiving your name in a "naming ceremony", you are simply known as a "brat" or your gender and exclusive number.  When Deuce and her Hunter partner Fade find out that the Freaks are getting smarter, the elders don't believe them. But when Deuce and Fade become exiled, they have to face going Topside: where nothing and no one survives.

The main character is called Deuce, and her story starts shortly before her naming ceremony, and until then she was simply known as Girl15. She's trained her entire life to become a Huntress, and after her naming ceremony becomes so. Deuce was very determined, mostly in proving that she wasn't weak and she wasn't to be underestimated, despite being a "new blood". I found that to be her most favourable and significant trait. She was very persistent on following the rules and her way of life though, so you could see how much the elders' rules had tainted her outlook on how things should be. Fade is an initial outsider, from Topside, found by Hunters and brought in. He was a very different character; in the beginning, we don't really know anything about him but as we learn more about him as the story goes on; he had the right morals and he could clearly see what Deuce could not: that life in the enclave is not how life should be, and things with the elders and how they acted were getting out of control. For this reason, I liked him a bit better and connected with him more. However, the thing I liked most about them both was their companionship. They combined their skills and ultimately made a great team; they learned things from each other. Fade also helps Deuce "see the light" on how things are in the enclave, as it were. Things started to pick up at about page 80 or so, and especially when Deuce and Fade go Topside. Their companionship grew with their need and struggle to survive, and I liked how they supported each other. Together, it's safe to say that they kicked some major ass.

However, I thought the pace in the beginning was far too slow, and I got really frustrated. I also read the word "brat" so many times that it pretty much lost all its meaning and it seemed like it was no longer a word. I also didn't like how the monsters in the tunnels were called "freaks", although there are more names for them later on. I also found the names the characters had in the book to be quite weird. Had moving underground suddenly made people lose the ability to give children normal names in a normal way? I mostly liked the supporting characters, although I found that accepting Stalker into their group after what he'd done just seemed too easy to me. The romance was also shaky - it didn't really connect for me, although we don't really see much of it. Overall, this book was a good read, but I didn't find the story very realistic in some aspects and it was somewhat frustrating. I can see that this series has a lot of potential though, and I want to see where it all goes.

3 stars     

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Waiting On Wednesday (6)

Make sure to get to the bottom of this post for an important announcement!

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine, where we talk about the books that we are eagerly anticipating.

Rebel Heart (Dust Lands #2) by Moira Young
To be published on 30th October 2012 by Margaret K. McElderry

The Tonton have been defeated. Lugh has been rescued.
The heartstone has brought Saba and Jack together.
Now, Saba and her family head west to meet him and start a new life. All should be well.
But shadows of the dead are stalking Saba.
And another kind of shadow is creeping over the dustlands.
Then a messenger shows up.
With news of Jack.

Oh boy, this cover. How I love it so. That sypnosis is also really vague but anything that involves seeing Jack again under an unusual circumstance has sold me! Blood Red Road was really good, and I can't wait to see all the characters again.

So, you may have noticed that I haven't yet posted a review this week, and this blog is being filled with memes. That's not really my fault. I've had to take 4 tests so far this week (3 yesterday and 1 today, a big one) and basically tests and exams are swallowing me whole. On top of that, I am a quivering bundle of nerves to say the least and I haven't had any time to read. I haven't even reached 100 pages in Enclave yet. I basically just wanted to say that there probably isn't going to be a review posted this week, although I might finish by Sunday if I'm lucky. Sorry people :)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Deadly Hemlock UK Cover Reveal!

Bloggers from the UK and Australia who emailed in their blog addresses got the chance to see debut author Kathleen Peacock's UK cover for her book, Deadly Hemlock (called Hemlock in the US) before anyone else! It is being released on 5th July, 2012. So, here it is:

Mackenzie and Amy were best friends. Until Amy was brutally murdered.

Since then, Mac’s life has been turned upside down. She is being haunted by Amy in her dreams, and an extremist group called the Trackers has come to Mac’s hometown of Hemlock to hunt down Amy’s killer: A white werewolf.

Lupine syndrome—also known as the werewolf virus—is on the rise across the country. Many of the infected try to hide their symptoms, but bloodlust is not easy to control.

Wanting desperately to put an end to her nightmares, Mac decides to investigate Amy’s murder herself. She discovers secrets lurking in the shadows of Hemlock, secrets about Amy’s boyfriend, Jason, her good pal Kyle, and especially her late best friend. Mac is thrown into a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that puts her life at risk.

Kathleen Peacock’s thrilling novel is the first in the Hemlock trilogy, a spellbinding urban fantasy series filled with provocative questions about prejudice, trust, lies, and love.

I think the cover is absolutely gorgeous! Thoughts?

Sunday, 22 January 2012

In My Mailbox (8)

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren; in this post we talk about the books we have received this week either through buying them, borrowing them, etc.

Links lead to Goodreads.

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
I saw the trailer for the film, which is coming out at the end of February and I was immediately interested in the book as the trailer was hilarious. It stars Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum, one of my favourite actresses!

I loved Heist Society, and I'm looking forward to getting stuck into her Gallagher Girls series!

Switched by Amanda Hocking
I've been seeing this around a lot lately, so I'm reading it for myself.

Really looking forward to reading all of these. What did you get this week? :)

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Review: Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

Hallowed (Unearthly #2) by Cynthia Hand
Published by Egmont 2012

For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought.
Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.
Described by Richelle Mead as “utterly captivating,” Unearthly received outstanding reviews, garnered accolades from New York Times bestselling authors, and was named an Indie Next Pick. In this heart-wrenching sequel, Cynthia Hand expertly captures the all-consuming joy of first love—and the agony of loss. This beautifully woven tale will appeal to fans of Lauren Kate, Becca Fitzpatrick, and Aprilynne Pike.

Hallowed was one of my highly anticipated books to read this year because Unearthly was my second most favourite book of last year. I had the initial worry that Hallowed might have fallen under the "middle book" curse, but if anything, it was even better than the first. I also enjoy this cover a lot more to the Unearthly paperback cover. 

Hallowed starts off not too soon after the end of Unearthly, where we saw Clara rescue Tucker from the forest fire and there were many questions still lingering about her purpose. Clara starts having a new dream, which she realises is actually a vision, and she knows that someone she loves is going to die. 

The thing I loved most about this book was the character development. There's a lot more on Christian, his feelings and what kind of person he actually is. Jeffrey also gets some light shed on his purpose and what he was doing during the fire. The events are also significantly darker, with the death of someone Clara loves of course, but also reappearances of a certain Black Wing. It was inevitable but when it did happen it made for some very gripping reading. The character development also made it increasingly harder to choose between Tucker and Christian, and I completely understood why Clara was so conflicted. It wasn't all about the love-triangle thing though. I sympathised with Clara while she was trying to figure out who was going to die, and when she finally did find out, it was heartbreaking. She had to go through the process of waiting for that person to die, and there was a lot of love in those pages. Clara also came to accept certain things about life and death, how it wasn't really the end, and how some things were just inevitable. I felt as if she made some good progress in this book. Lots of secrets were revealed and questions were answered. The book also had a steady pace, allowing for some thoughts to come through and time to process new developments. The ending of the book really did tug at the heartstrings, and I'm looking forward to book 3 as we see Clara in a new environment. I look forward to how it's going to go.

5 stars 

P.S. I'm now Team Christian, previously Team Tucker. Don't hate me for it, it's perfectly justifiable once you read this! And don't get me wrong, I love Tucker and Clara together, but in light of recent events and where things are going to go in book 3... well. Team Christian, it is.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Waiting On Wednesday (5)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine, where we feature books that we are eagerly anticipating.

Struck by Jennifer Bosworth
Released 8th May 2012
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR

Mia Price is a lightning addict. She’s survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.

Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.

Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn’t who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.

This book sounds interesting because I haven't seen anything like it before and I feel as if it's quite a unique premise. A love interest/triangle doesn't really seem to be present either, but I can't really tell by reading the sypnosis, although it seems likely. Can't wait until this comes out!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Published by Headline 2012

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Imagine if she hadn't forgotten the book. Or if there hadn't been traffic on the expressway. Or if she hadn't fumbled the coins for the toll. What if she'd run just that little bit faster and caught the flight she was supposed to be on. Would it have been something else - the weather over the Atlantic or a fault with the plane?

Hadley isn't sure if she believes in destiny or fate but, on what is potentially the worst day of each of their lives, it's the quirks of timing and chance events that mean Hadley meets Oliver...

Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

I've been feeling the love for contemporary fiction lately, and this book was no different. First off, it's aeroplane love. Who's never dreamed of having that? Plus the sypnosis makes the book sound incredibly cute and interesting. 

Hadley misses her plane by 4 minutes. She has to get the next flight out to London but she might miss her dad's wedding the next morning, to a woman Hadley's never met. Luckily, she does manage to get a seat on the next flight out. While waiting to board, she meets Oliver, who just so happens is going to be sitting a seat away from her on the plane.

This book was adorable. The romance was light and heartfelt, with lots of humour. Hadley was a nice character despite being the typical cliche of a girl in young adult books - blonde hair and blue eyes (not that I have anything against that). I found her easy to sympathise with, and I liked the way she handled the different situations she was put in, along with how she handled certain feelings. Oliver was undoubtedly a charmer - he was smart, funny and good-looking. I was grinning while reading his and Hadley's interactions throughout the book. However, this book also had quite sad undertones. This did add to how heartfelt the book was in the end but I felt like it kind of ruined the book a bit for me. Hadley did have bitter feelings about the wedding and her father which were understandable and Oliver had feelings of his own, but once they became more prominent than Hadley and Oliver's story I found myself distancing from the book a bit. Nevertheless, the story was full of satisfying romance with lots of heartfelt moments and I definitely recommend it to you.

4 stars  

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Published by Dutton 2012

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

Screw what I said in my IMM post; I'm writing and posting this review now. I pre-ordered my copy of TFiOS back in November. After triple-checking that all pre-ordered copies would be signed regardless of location, I pre-ordered. I was ecstatic when my signed copy arrived and I have to say that the book is even more awesome than the whole signed part and John Green's general awesomeness. Okay, that didn't really make sense.

Hazel Grace Lancaster was diagnosed with stage IV thyroid cancer when she was 12 and she's never really thought of herself as more than terminal. After the Miracle shrunk her tumours, she has been living life as normally as possible; studying at her local community college, watching episodes of ANTM and going to cancer kid support group. There, she meets Augustus Waters.

Let me just say that this book is quite possibly John Green's best book yet, although for me it comes in at an extremely close second to Looking For Alaska. This book is not a particularly happy one, as almost all of the primary characters are cancer patients. Hazel was a very intelligent girl for her age. She had a sophisticated way of speaking but at the same time she was very light and humorous. Augustus shared all of Hazel's qualities but I found him to be slightly more peculiar. I found that they had great chemistry and fitted quite well together; it really was quite sweet, with quite a few funny moments. That's also a redeeming quality of this book: one minute, you're laughing, the next you're on the verge of tears and then you're laughing again. With the combination of both Hazel's and Augustus's intelligence, along with others as well, this book was also slightly too clever. I was really immersed in Hazel's story, her thoughts and feelings raising questions that I'm still pondering right now. It really gives you pause for thought. I was pleased to find that Hazel was a fighter when it came to her cancer and so was Augustus; they refused to give up, and I was rooting for them. In my mind, John Green managed to create a story that captured fully what it means to be living on the verge of death and how one might go about living and thinking about it. For this reason, this book was moving, heartbreaking and thoughtful but it was also full of sweet moments. I was certainly not disappointed with my favourite author's latest offering.

5 stars

P.S. I listened to this song while I was reading the book, and I thought it fit quite nicely with the story. If not, then my bad:

In My Mailbox (7)

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren, where we feature the books we have received this week through borrowing them, buying them, etc.

Just two this week as if I've got myself on a sort of book ban. Here's what I got:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green; 
Nearly done reading this and the review will be posted within the next couple of days or so. I did get a signed copy as I pre-ordered back in November. I got a black sharpie J scribble!

A Million Suns by Beth Revis; 
So excited to read this one!

What did you get in your IMM this week?

Friday, 13 January 2012

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Published by Dutton 2010

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?

I had heard amazingly good things about Anna and the French Kiss before I got it for Christmas, so needless to say that I was more than excited to start reading it. I'd recently told myself that I should take a break from books that are in a series, and read a few stand-alones. I had also been reading dark books that usually involved death of some kind more often than not, so I had a few good reasons to pick this up.

Anna is sent off to Paris by her dad for her senior year, and she's more than reluctant to leave. It means leaving her best friend, Bridgette and the boy she likes, Toph, for almost a year; leaving everything she's ever known to leave to attend school in a country which language she doesn't know a word how to speak. 

This was a book that induced all-round smiles. I smiled so much that my sister and friends started looking at me weirdly; I laughed so often that my sister started to get exasperated, as well as calling my slow-spreading smiles "creepy". Not only that, but I am a complete sucker for books that feature boarding schools; I don't know why, I've always just enjoyed them. This book was, in many ways, just what I needed. Anna was an endearing and engaging main character. I found her extremely funny and relatable when she expressed her feelings throughout the book. She was relatable because what girl hasn't been in her situation before? Really liking a guy you can never have and shouldn't want? Quietly pining away? I know I've been there. I also found her slow progression in learning some French hilarious. She did so many things that I would've done as well if I were in her situation, such as avoiding the hot food counter to avoid having to order in French (granted, I do know how to do that as I've been taking French for 2 years and I was pleased to find that I instantly knew what some French phrases meant in English). I also loved Anna's love of film in this book, as I have that in common with her, and I wish I could go to the cinema more often. Etienne a.k.a. St. Clair, was an absolute charmer. He was funny, sweet and friendly with nearly everyone; not to mention very good-looking with many nationalities: American but has an English accent and a French name. Basically, a girl's ideal boyfriend, but so much better. All the characters were really sweet and brought something fun of their own to the story; I really wanted to be part of the gang, and I love books that do that. This book isn't all boys, romance and France though. All is not well in the lives of those in the gang; especially Anna and St. Clair. I appreciated that realism and it added an edge to the story that the made the ending all the more sweet and heartfelt. Although you pretty much know how the book is going to end, it really worth reading because there's a long journey that the characters go through that cannot simply be predicted. Not to mention that it's also adorable in every single way. This book has the whole package. I love this book with a passion and I hope you will enjoy it too.

5 stars  

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Published by Simon & Schuster 2011

Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.
This book was amazing. I finished it during lunch at school and I haven't been able to get my mind off it since, which is dangerous, I know. This book is also one of the eight I managed to buy during my NY trip and I can't believe I didn't read it sooner, as I've had it under my desk since October. I've got so much cover love for this book and let's be honest, that blurb tells you nothing, which made it all the more intriguing.  
Mara Dyer has just been in an accident that killed all her closest friends and she's struggling to put the pieces together about what happened that night and why she's not really very hurt while everyone else died. She ends up moving from Rhode Island to Miami to try and forget, and starts at a new school. 
First of all, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer has nothing whatsoever in common with The Adoration of Jenna Fox (which I also bought from NY and loved) even though they sound very similar. Michelle Hodkin managed to take this in a whole different direction: the paranormal kind. Second, Mara was a very likeable character and I found her to be quite selfless and determined, despite how much she was struggling inside herself. She was a regular normal girl going through the aftermath of her best friend's death and I really sympathised with her. Then we have Noah. Oh, Noah. I so badly want him to be real; he has absolutely everything when it comes to the features of a swoon-worthy male love interest. Noah is a typical bad boy with the look to match, but at the same time he's just so much better than that. I loved everything about Noah; he had great looks, a great personality and a hilarious sense of humour (as did Mara) that had me laughing out loud at several points throughout the book. Noah and Mara complimented each other really well and I found myself really rooting for them. The story itself was shrouded in mystery. All through the book, you don't really know what's going on and then BAM, it hits you in the face and you go reeling. Hodkin did a great job with the suspense and intrigue and I was constantly guessing. The book also had quite a creepy feel to it and at points I was really afraid for Mara. Hodkin also didn't give too much away; just small pieces that built up to one massive finale and we finally learn what's going on with Mara. I didn't expect the ending because it didn't make sense; in a good way. It was an ending so unexpected that it caused a rather loud "Holy s***!" to come out of my mouth, earning me some curious glances from my peers and my best friends. 
I cannot rate this book with mere stars but they will have to do.
5 stars 

Waiting On Wednesday (4)

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted at Breaking The Spine, where we talk about the books that we are eagerly anticipating.

This book sounds beyond amazing, with a beautiful cover to match! What more could you possibly want? It's to be published on 24th April 2012.

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself- and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Edit 14.01.12

Will not be reading this one, despite how pretty the cover is. The author launched an attack over a negative review on Goodreads posted by Wendy Darling and the link is here and there's more here. What's going on with authors lately? Suddenly it's okay to go after every negative review for your book? 

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (From an original idea by Siobhan Dowd)
Published by Walker 2011

This is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss. The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming. . . .
This monster, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. 
It wants the truth.
Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final story idea of Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.

This book has been on my wish list for a very long time. I went to my school library during lunch on Friday and found that they'd just got this in and I would be the first one to take it out. When I asked the school librarian if I could take it, she said she was somewhat concerned about the content and that I should tell her how it goes when I'm finished. She also told me that it was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal this year (I'd taken the school's Carnegie Shadowing challenge last year). I wasn't even sure if I could write a review of this book. I'm going to try, but this is going to be a pretty hard review.
Conor is struggling to come to terms with his mother's illness. He has nightmares: two of them. One is the nightmare: the worst one of all, the one he can't bare to face. The other features a monster; a terrifying but helpful and wise monster. With the help of this monster, Conor goes through a journey to help him face the real truth: the one inside himself.
This book is simply beautiful; the way it's told is much like the way stories used to be told... the ones with monsters and scared kids and a moral. Conor's stages of grief are painfully mapped out in the pages of this book, and his feelings and actions are part of the truth he will ultimately face. His pain was startlingly evident; it seemed like he was numb, moving through life with this new routine brought on by mother's illness. Ness depicted Conor's feelings very well and I feel as if anyone who has ever truly lost someone will know what Conor is feeling. In that sense, this book is very powerful, full of raw emotion even though Conor came across as numb; you could still clearly see all the emotion inside of him. Beautiful illustrations were done by Jim Kay, featured throughout the book. This for me gave the story quite a vivid feel. The truth that Conor has to face, the real one, is so painful he feels the need to punish himself for it. He needs it. This book is ultimately very sad, full of emotion and the need for understanding. 

I think that's all I can manage to say; well, as much as I can put what I thought of this book into words. You need to read this book, now. Hopefully then my review will make more sense...

5 stars

In My Mailbox (6)

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren, where we show all the books that we have received this week.

Tempest by Julie Cross

The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

These all arrived in the mail on Wednesday from Amazon and I'm excited to read them all! What did you get this week?

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Review: Embrace by Jessica Shirvington

Embrace by Jessica Shirvington
Published by Orchard 2011

I slowly opened my eyes. The sun speared its first bright rays of golden orange into the sky and I leapt from the cliff, with the sorrowful knowledge that no matter what the outcome, at least part of me would die that day...

Violet Eden is dreading her seventeenth birthday dinner. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. The one bright spot is that Lincoln will be there. Sexy, mature and aloof, he is Violet’s idea of perfection. But why does he seem so reluctant to be anything more than a friend?

After he gives her the world’s most incredible kiss – and then abandons her on her front doorstep – Violet is determined to get some answers. But nothing could have prepared her for Lincoln’s explanation: he is Grigori – part angel and part human – and Violet is his eternal partner.

Without warning, Violet’s world is turned upside down. She never believed in God, let alone angels. But there’s no denying the strange changes in her body ... and her feelings for Lincoln. Suddenly, she can’t stand to be around him. Luckily, Phoenix, an exiled angel, has come into her life. He’s intense and enigmatic, but at least he never lied to her.

As Violet gets caught up in an ancient battle between dark and light, she must choose her path. The wrong choice could cost not only her life, but her eternity...

When I picked this up, I was immediately skeptical. I had seen and read far too many angel books last year and in my opinion, the subject of angels is wearing itself out; the same goes for werewolves and vampires. I asked myself, "Is there anything even remotely different that makes this stand out from the rest?" and there was, and there wasn't.

I'd seen the concept of Grigoris before in the first angel series I'd picked up: the Fallen series by Lauren Kate. I liked those well enough. There were all the usual Grigori elements in the story, and as usual there was a war going on that Violet was thrown into, along with a love triangle with two amazingly hot men. However, Shirvington did manage to throw her own ideas into the Grigori world and make the story unique to her, which I enjoyed because it made the concept a thousand times more interesting. Violet was... an iffy character in my opinion. At first, I found her relatable. She was in a love with a guy who thought her as nothing than a friend and she knew that Lincoln would never see her any other way. Then as the story went on and Phoenix was thrown into the mix, I found her kind of naive and blind. The fact that there was more to Phoenix, something sinister and dark, which she at first recognised but after several appearances and him catching her as she fell while rock climbing, she was ultimately won over. It just seemed slightly too easy for me. I was a bit frustrated with her also as she didn't really Lincoln much of a chance to explain why he had kept the huge secret from her; I understood where Lincoln was coming from and why he didn't tell her. I just thought she was being a bit childish. Violet does have redeeming qualities however.  She was selfless and strong at times, and slowly came to terms with the situation; she matured. Lincoln was a gorgeous character and I sympathised with him at times; he is ultimately the best guy for her in my opinion. Phoenix was a dark and conflicted character. I liked him though: he was there for Violet and ultimately great support. I was rooting for him and Violet to get together and they made a good couple. But like I said, I had suspicions. The events and plot of the book were very engaging and interesting; an enjoyable read. I'll be picking up the next in the series... Maybe I'm just too easy to win over.   

4 stars

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Review: Variant by Robison Wells

Variant by Robison Wells
Published by HarperTeen 2011

Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.
He was wrong.
Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.
Where breaking the rules equals death.
But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape—his only real hope for survival—may be impossible.

This is one of the books I bought during my trip to NYC last October. I have SO MUCH love for this book right now. I cannot possibly describe how awesome this book is. There's endless amounts of awesomeness dripping off the pages of this book, people. I may not be able to describe how awesome it is, but I can tell you this: I read this 373-page book in 2 days. During school time. This hardly ever happens. One in a million. Surely that tells you something. I haven't read that fast since the Hunger Games Trilogy!!!

Benson is lucky enough to receive an acceptance into the Maxfield Academy, which seems like a prestigious Ivy League sort of school. To put it in short, he's excited to see that his life is taking a turn for the better. He's driven into the school by Ms. Vaughn, a representative of the school. There he is handed over to Becky, who handles new-student orientations. Then Becky tells him the rules. 

It only takes a chapter to get the whole story set up really, which I was grateful for because I detest books that feel the need to loiter. As we would expect, Benson is struggling to come to terms with the fact that he can't get out. I really admired that he refused to accept that he had no choice but to stay and follow the rules; that he knew that something was definitely wrong with Maxfield. He was a strong male lead, and for once the story isn't told from a female perspective, which I found quite refreshing. I think that Wells handled the structure of the story and all of its key elements really well, making it quite complex but at the same time easy to understand and process. The twists and turns in the story, however, were simply electrifying. I must have said, "OH MY GOD" at least five times throughout. I had suspicions and theories on what was going on but what Wells actually wrote as an answer to my lingering questions completely blew my mind out of the water. We do actually have a fair share of romance in this too, which I liked, but not so much that it overshadowed the situation, which I also liked. A favourite feature of mine is the three groups which are one of, if that the, main feature of the story. The three groups are Society, Havoc and Variant. I liked how each group had their own set of values and loyalties. The minor characters were also very good as well, and they were all different from each other in more ways than one. The cliffhanger at the end was completely unbearable, and I want to get my hands on it as soon as possible! Overall, this book has ultimately a very dark, suspicious feel with lots of tension and it's sure to keep you guessing. And you WILL NOT expect any of the twists and turns that Wells throws. Very very very highly recommended! 

5 stars