Monday, April 29, 2013

Mini Reviews: Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris and Riptide by Lindsey Schiebe

From Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Janelle Tenner is used to having a lot of responsibility. She balances working as a lifeguard in San Diego with an intense academic schedule. Janelle's mother is bipolar, and her dad is a workaholic FBI agent, which means Janelle also has to look out for her younger brother, Jared. And that was before she died ... and is brought back to life by Ben Michaels, a mysterious, alluring loner from her high school. When she discovers a strange clock that seems to be counting down to the earth's destruction, Janelle learns she has twenty-four days to figure out how to stop the clock and save the planet.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I can’t fully put my finger on what I enjoyed about Elizabeth Norris’ Unraveling so much, but I ended up loving the book. The writing was simple but fluid; and I liked how Unraveling started off with a bang, with the main character getting hit by a truck. From there, the story continued to remain action-packed since the plot involved humans being melted by radiation, an unstoppable device ticking down to the end of the world, and the concept of alternate universes. I also liked Janelle, who I found very relatable because she sounded like a typical teen, and yet didn’t disappoint me by making stupid decisions. The secondary characters like Alex, Ben, Cecily and Elijah were great as well. The only thing I didn’t really love about Unraveling was the romance. Yes, it was sweet, but I thought Janelle developed feelings for Ben quite quickly. 

Unraveling was released in April 2012 by Balzer + Bray.  

From Goodreads: For Grace Parker, surfing is all about the ride and the moment. Everything else disappears. She can forget that her best friend, Ford Watson, has a crush on her that she can’t reciprocate. She can forget how badly she wants to get a surf scholarship to UC San Diego. She can forget the pressure of her parents’ impossibly high expectations. When Ford enters Grace into a surf competition - the only way she can impress the UCSD surfing scouts - she has one summer to train and prepare. Will she gain everything she’s ever wanted or lose the only things that ever mattered? 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: When I requested Riptide by Lindsey Schiebe, I figured that there would be a lot of surfing in the novel. What I wasn’t expecting was Riptide to be an issues book that used surfing as a metaphor for Grace's life – and quite heavy handedly, I might add! Another problem I had with Riptide was that I couldn’t care about Grace, which made the book feel even longer. Lastly, Riptide had a second, unexpected main character – Ford. Unfortunately, Ford’s POV detracts from Grace’s story rather than being a meaningful alternative perspective because the two narratives aren’t linked very cohesively. Also, Ford’s POV made him came off as sort of a jerk. (Grace, on the other hand, seemed kind of selfish from both perspectives.) I think Riptide would have been a better story if it had just been Grace’s story. Ultimately, when I compare Riptide to Kirsty Eagar’s Raw Blue, another issues book with a lot of surfing scenes, I find Riptide to be severely lacking. If you’re an older reader or enjoy New Adult, I’d definitely recommend reading Raw Blue instead.  

Riptide will be released by Flux on May 8, 2013. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Flux) for free via NetGalley.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Excerpt: Blood and Snow

Every thousand years the Vampire Queen selects a new body, always the fairest in the land, and this time she's chosen Snow White. Snow isn't an ordinary girl. She doesn't know that yet. When Snow gets bitten by a Hunter, her life is thrown into a whirlwind of change where instead of worrying about what to eat, she has to fight not to drink the blood of fellow high school students. She becomes a revenant - not quite human, not quite vampire. With the help of an eccentric old Professor, his seven adoptive sons, and her best friend, Snow learns to control her blood craving. Sort of. She drinks a bloodlust tea, but she'd rather drink from her Hunter. Or, a human. She also discovers a whole other realm, one filled with fairies, dragons, and magic. And not only does the Vampire Queen want her, but there's a pendant called the Seal of Gabriel created for Snow by the Vampire Queen's twin sister. And Snow's supposed to use it to restore balance to all magical creatures. Including vampires.

As part of the blog tour for Blood and Snow, I have an excerpt from the book:

“Welcome to my secret fortress, Silindra,” Titan said. 

I grunted my response, walking past him to the doorway in the mountain, its entry bursting with light. The surface my feet touched was smooth and hard, like polished rock. But it wasn't rock. It was some kind of iron. It swayed slightly, and I grabbed hold of the rails.  

"This is incredible," Snow White said. 

I agreed wholeheartedly. Metal catwalks crisscrossed each other, reminding me of a spider’s web. Tall beams rose to the ceiling where millions of lights shone. It was as though Titan harnessed a portion of the sun, and somehow held its ray’s captive within. 

In the center of the mountain, and vertical, reaching the top and I guessed touching the bottom, was a thick grated tube. Inside the tube were two sets of stairs. One used to walk up, and the other for down. A steady flow of occupants used them; exiting through archways onto walkways like the one I was on. The walkways led to large, cylinder-shaped holes carved into the mountain. 

Cautious, I glanced over the side and felt my throat drop into my stomach. A seemingly endless amount of walkways weaved from the center stairs, and downward. 

I took a deep breath, noting the tang of something sour, like curdled milk. The voices of thousands echoed as trolls, fairies, gremlins, and other magical creatures busily rushed around. Like a strange city. 

“What is this place?” I finally asked. 

“This is Varden. The place where all the scientific magic happens,” he responded, pushing his bulky body past me, walking briskly along the path. The metal shuddered under his weight, and I held my breath. Snow let out a tiny scream. 

I tried to calm my nerves and Snow’s. 

"It’ll hold him," I told her and myself. 

And I hoped I was right.When he reached the stairs, he turned. “Do you want the strength of a troll or not?” 

Lifting my chin, I said, “Of course I do.”

Blood and Snow can be bought from: [Amazon] 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Rules by Stacey Kade

From Goodreads: 1) Never trust anyone. 2) Remember they are always searching. 3) Don’t get involved. 4) Keep your head down. 5) Don’t fall in love. Five simple rules. Ariane Tucker has followed them since the night she escaped from the genetics lab where she was created, the result of combining human and extraterrestrial DNA. Ariane’s survival - and that of her adoptive father - depends on her ability to blend in among the full-blooded humans in a small Wisconsin town, to hide in plain sight at her high school from those who seek to recover their lost (and expensive) “project.” But when a cruel prank at school goes awry, it puts her in the path of Zane Bradshaw, the police chief’s son and someone who sees too much. Someone who really sees her. After years of trying to be invisible, Ariane finds the attention frightening - and utterly intoxicating. Suddenly, nothing is simple anymore, especially not the rules ...

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Before I started blogging, a book I read and enjoyed was Stacey Kade’s The Ghost and the Goth. Although I still have to read the next two books in The Ghost and the Goth trilogy, I thought I’d give Kades’s latest novel, The Rules, a go. Though not as entertaining as The Ghost and the Goth, The Rules was still a nice read nonetheless.

One of the reasons I liked The Rules was because it really wasn’t a sci-fi novel. Other than the notion of aliens existing and a mention here and there of human-alien hybrids being created, there isn’t much science-y talk in The Rules. In fact, I’m still not fully clear about what GTX’s goals are or what Project Paper Doll is. The Rules, instead, is more of a contemporary novel with some paranormal elements (since one of the main characters happens to be a hybrid teen). So, although there’s a lot of high school drama, I’d pick that over a very sci-fi-ish novel.

The other reason I liked The Rules was because of the characters. Despite not being as memorable as Will and Alona, Ariane and Zane are still likeable. A seemingly stereotypical jock at the beginning, Zane manages to learn to stand up for himself and others by the end of the book. Meanwhile, Ariane has no problems defending herself or others even though she should be blending in.

Through Ariane’s and Zane’s alternating perspectives, you understand both characters more fully and see them come together with a mutual plan to thwart Rachel’s attempt at controlling them. While the romance wasn’t swoon-worthy by any means, it did feel believable. Since the two hadn’t gotten together for long, I also liked that there was no declaration of love. 

The Rules will be released by Disney Hyperion today! 

Comments About the Cover: I like how the focus of the cover is the girl’s eye which I actually find kind of freaky. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Disney Book Group) for free via NetGalley. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: The Testing

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme held by Jill at Breaking the Spine to feature upcoming books that we can't wait to get our hands on. 

Title: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Date of Release: June 4, 2013

Goodreads Description: The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing - their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career. Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies - trust no one. But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

Why am I waiting? I'm not normally a dystopian fan but I love the sound of The Testing, especially the idea of not being able to trust anyone. I also like the two options presented to Cia: "
love without truth or life without trust." I really hope The Testing lives up to my expectations.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Review: Prophecy Girl by Cecily White

From Goodreads: I was born to slay Crossworld demons. Big black flappy ones, little green squirmy ones. Unfortunately, the only thing getting slain these days is my social life. With my high school under attack, combat classes intensifying, and Academy instructors dropping right and left, I can barely get my homework done, let alone score a bondmate before prom. Then he shows up. Jackson Smith-Hailey. Unspeakably hot, hopelessly unattainable, and dangerous in all the right ways. Sure, he’s my trainer. And okay, maybe he hates me. Doesn’t mean I’ll ignore the wicked Guardian chemistry between us. It’s crazy! Every time I’m with him, my powers explode. Awesome, right? Wrong. Now my teachers think I’m the murderous Graymason destined to bring down our whole race of angelbloods. Everyone in New Orleans is hunting me. The people I trusted want me dead. Jack and I have five days to solve the murders, prevent a vampire uprising, and thwart the pesky prophecy foretelling his death by my hand. Shouldn’t be too difficult. Getting it done without falling in love ... that might take a miracle. 

My Rating: 1 heart

Thoughts on the Novel: When I first saw the synopsis of Cecily White’s Prophecy Girl, I got excited about reading the book because it reminded me a little of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy and Jennifer Armentrout’s Covenant series, two of my favourite series. Unfortunately, after reading Prophecy Girl, I can say that it is nowhere as well written as the previously mentioned series. The worldbuilding wasn’t fully fleshed out, the plot ended up thoroughly confusing me, the characters were hard to care about, and the romance wasn’t at all what I was expecting it to be.

Let’s start with the worldbuilding. When we first meet Amelie, she’s out demon hunting with her friend Lisa. Considering she’s a Guardian, I figured we’d eventually learn all about the different types of demons in her world – kind of like with Jana Oliver’s The Demon Trappers. Instead, the demons in Prophecy Girl appear to be mere distractions that crop up once in a while to supposedly show off how badass Amelie is. Another thing, for example, that was hardly touched upon in Prophecy Girl was the angel bloodline. It appears that a Guardian’s bloodline isn’t based on genetics, but we aren't told what it’s based upon nor is there a clear reason as to why it couldn’t have been based on genetics. We’re also not given much information about the benefits or drawbacks of having one bloodline as opposed to another. 

Initially, the focus in Prophecy Girl was on why Amelie’s instructors at school were dying. Later on though, the original conspiracy turns out to be part of a greater plot to cause problems with other Crossworlders – namely, vampires and werewolves. By the end, I had no idea how White made everything tie together as I was just waiting for the book to be over.* I did however accurately predict who the villains would be. 

In terms of the characterization, I found most of the secondary characters – Luc was an exception – to be unmemorable. Meanwhile, I thought Jack lacked complexity – oh, and he wasn’t Amelie’s trainer; thanks a lot misleading synopsis! – and disliked how Amelie became more and more special over time, especially since she was so foolhardy.

Although I disliked Amelie and Jack as individuals, they were even worse as a couple because Amelie kept throwing herself at him and he kept giving her mixed signals. As well, the romance was a total insta-love situation despite the author trying to make it appear not as such. 

An incredibly frustrating read, Prophecy Girl was released by Entangled Teen on April 2, 2013. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s okay. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Entangled Teen) for free via Rockstar Book Tours.   

*Sidenote: The climax was absolutely ridiculous! Highlight for spoilers: We of course can’t have the romantic lead dying so Amelie is able to save Jack with her super special abilities. The problem is that for her to give life back, she has to take a life. But, that would mean that our main character is now the one who’s dying and we definitely can’t have that! Luckily for Amelie, Jack has a vampire friend who can prevent her death. Problem solved!  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review: My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi

From Goodreads: Lucy just had the worst week ever. Seriously, mega bad. And suddenly, it's all too much - she wants out. Out of her house, out of her head, out of her life. She wants to be a whole new Lucy. So she does something the old Lucy would never dream of. And now her life will never be the same. Now, how will she be able to have a boyfriend? What will she tell her friends? How will she face her family? Now her life is completely different ... every moment is a gift. Because now she might not have many moments left. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The topic of HIV/AIDS hasn’t really been tackled yet in YA so I applaud Jessica Verdi for doing so skilfully with her debut novel, My Life After Now. Her book was informative. It was touching. And, it was thoughtfully written.

As a character, Lucy makes some unwise choices both before and after she gets HIV. It would have been all too easy for me to get annoyed by her. Instead, I found Lucy to be an incredibly sympathetic and relatable protagonist.

Through Lucy’s journey in trying to come to terms with her positive HIV diagnosis, Verdi makes the reader think about how a simple mistake can utterly change one’s life. How would you react if you were to be diagnosed with HIV? Would you tell anybody at all about your diagnosis, and if so, who? Verdi also shows the reader how something inconsequential like trying to get a cut treated can become a huge obstacle to navigate for someone with HIV. Finally, through Lucy’s research and conversations with Roxie, the reader learns factual information about HIV.

As great as My Life After Now was, I did think it was a bit idealistic because of how lucky Lucy was in terms of her support system. Her parents are a gay couple and while shocked by her diagnosis, are quick to accept the news and extremely understanding. Lucy’s best friends act like her positive diagnosis isn't life changing at all. The girl who Lucy dislikes (and vice versa) doesn’t spread the news like wildfire when she accidentally finds out that Lucy is HIV-positive. And, the two times Lucy isn’t happy with how she’s treated leads to threats of suing … which is so convenient because one of her dads just happens to be a lawyer.

Still, My Life After Now is worth a read. I dove into it not knowing what to expect, and finished it amazed with how brilliantly Verdi dealt with the topic of teen sex without being preachy about the importance of safe sex.

My Life After Now was released on April 2, 2013 by Sourcebooks Fire. 

Comments About the Cover: Since anybody get an STD, I like that the model is turned away as it gives her an air of anonymity.  

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Sourcebooks) for free via NetGalley. 

Monday, April 01, 2013

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

From Goodreads: Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything? Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row. A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Insta-love is a pet peeve of mine in novels so I was a little hesitant to read a book titled The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. Although Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight did actually end up being a cute, fluffy read; I felt like its romantic aspect was over emphasized by both the cover and title since a relationship can only develop so far in seven hours while on a plane. The more meaningful relationship that’s explored - through flashbacks and Hadley’s conversation with Oliver - is that between Hadley and her dad.

Aside from one scene at the wedding where Hadley acted childishly, I found Hadley to be a pretty relatable protagonist. It was easy to understand why she was so angry and upset with her dad and why she wanted to keep her distance from him. I also liked how she eventually conversed with her dad, knowing that she might regret it one day if she kept pushing him away.

I didn’t like Oliver quite as much. He got points for being British and being well read, but he didn’t reveal anything deep about himself to Hadley – and therefore the reader – while the two were on the plane. In fact, he kind of evaded her serious questions and/or changed the subject. As a result, I didn’t feel like I got to know him until the end.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was released by Poppy in January 2012. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s cute!

Random Thought: Why didn’t Oliver and Hadley exchange contact details right away if they wanted to keep in touch? Considering most people have cell phones, it shouldn’t be that hard to give your phone number to someone else!