Review: Behemoth

June 20, 2011 at 12:00 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , , , , )

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Pages: 485, hardcover

ISBN: 9781416971757

Publisher:

Date Released: October 5th, 2010 (first published September 25th, 2010)

Genre: YA / steampunk / historical

Source: library

Premise:

The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy. It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite. The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.

Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan‘s peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.

Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what’s ahead.

(Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: Book Depository / Amazon

To start off with: I hate the cover. It is such a disaster compared to the masterpiece that was the original Leviathan cover. What went wrong? If I were some random browsing the aisles of the YA section of my local bookstore, I would have shrunk back in disgust, and quickly averted my eyes, as if the horrific cover might somehow infect me. In fact, that’s exactly what happened when I did encounter this book. I had heard news of Behemoth‘s release, and I eagerly went forth to buy the book, which I had pictured would be similar in majesty and beauty as Leviathan had been. But no, I was met with this monstrosity. Once again, I ask, what went wrong? What were Simon Pulse thinking? I actively avoided buying this book for almost a year, until I managed to get my hands on it for $1 when a Borders was closing down. Even then, I was reluctant. Was I willing to pay $1 to have this accident of a cover sit next to my beloved copy of Leviathan? Finally, I caved in, but only because I had already borrowed it from the library and loved what was between those frightening covers.

And this is coming from a hardcore fan of the first book. I had waited impatiently for over a year to read Behemoth. I loved the first book so much. I reread it several times.  And you know what the worst thing is? That the cover for Behemoth would have been even more stunning than it was for Leviathan. Here, have a look. Aren’t you just seething with rage? It’s beautiful, isn’t it. I don’t understand what Simon Pulse were thinking. They had potentially lost a customer (me) and maybe many more with their hideous reboot covers. (and to be brutally honest, I don’t know who’s who on the reboot covers. Whoops. :-/ )

Now, cover rant aside, I loved this book. If I thought Leviathan was good, then this is just a work of art, meant to be savoured.

This book deals with a lot of emotional baggage, from Deryn’s experience with her father dying a few years earlier, to her developing crush on Alek. But, poor girl, she can’t reveal her feelings to him without revealing her true identity! And with that came a fresh and delightful dose of drama. Especially when a new girl enters the picture, causing jealousy to spark from poor Deryn. The results were completely unexpected and hilarious, and I couldn’t have been more pleased at the maybe-love-triangle.

And while Deryn is struggling to hide her true identity, so is Alek. He’s in a new world, filled with the enemy. At any moment, he could be found and killed. The similarities between the experiences of Alek and Deryn make this a great tool to understanding their characters and their motives. They mirrored each other in so many ways, and it was awesome reading about their characters.

The plot is just as exciting as it was in Leviathan, with explosions starting right off the bat (if you’re into that sort of thing). And after that, there’s non-stop action and suspense all throughout the book, making it literally impossible to put down. I sat with Behemoth in my hands for four hours, braving a grumbling tummy and neglected housework. It will leave you completely hooked and wanting more.

The writing is  amazing, but, it still uses the annoying over-used vocabulary like bum-rag and such. Thankfully, the descriptions make up for it. Everything was described so vividly that it was really easy to imagine what was happening, and what everything looked like. This is especially amazing in the completely new setting of Turkey, where everything feels surreal, exotic and wild. The city actually felt like a whole new character, just like how the Leviathan felt like a character in the first book. For that, I applaud Westerfeld. It’s hard to pull off a setting like that, and to make it feel like a living, breathing characters with its own flaws and characteristics.

And, lastly, I have to give an honorable mention to Keith Thompson, whose artworks also feature in this book. Once again, they have left me speechless with their precise beauty. They certainly add depth to an already fantastic book.

I’m eagerly awaiting Goliath, but, unless they go back to the original covers, I probably won’t buy it. The cover just looks bad. I’m very picky with my covers, as you can see. But August can’t come soon enough.

Cover Art: 0
Plot: 5
Characters: 5
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 4/5 stars

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Review: Angel Burn

June 18, 2011 at 9:28 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , )

Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Angel Burn by L. A. Weatherly

ISBN: 9780763656522

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Release Date: May 24th, 2011 (first released September 30th, 2010)

Genre: YA/ paranormal / romance  / action / angels

Source: galley from the publisher

Premise:

Willow knows she’s different from other girls, and not just because she loves tinkering with cars. Willow has a gift. She can look into the future and know people’s dreams and hopes, their sorrows and regrets, just by touching them. She has no idea where this power comes from. But the assassin, Alex, does. Gorgeous, mysterious Alex knows more about Willow than Willow herself. He knows that her powers link to dark and dangerous forces, and that he’s one of the few humans left who can fight them. When Alex finds himself falling in love with his sworn enemy, he discovers that nothing is as it seems, least of all good and evil. In the first book in an action-packed, romantic trilogy, L..A. Weatherly sends readers on a thrill-ride of a road trip – and depicts the human race at the brink of a future as catastrophic as it is deceptively beautiful.

They’re out for your soul . . . and they don’t have heaven in mind.

(Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: Book Depository / Amazon

*Sorry I haven’t been updating in a while, I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather this past week. But I’m feeling better now, and will be updating a bit more often to make up for it.*

I’ll admit, I was rather skeptical about this book at first. I thought it’d be another stupid angel romance story with next to no plot and an abusive, angelic love interest, and a main character who was TSTL (too stupid to live).

Boy, was I wrong. Not only are angels not romanticized here, they’re actually the enemies, who steal something special from their victim, leaving them sick and helpless–a shell. There isn’t some long, drawn out and overused religious lore behind them, they just are. They aren’t God’s messengers. They aren’t heaven-sent. They aren’t the angels you’d expect. They became the perfect enemy, taking over the human world, leaving their imprint and making people of faith put all their trust to them, only to exploit them by feeding off them. What I loved most was that they founded a religion devoted to their worship, making people love them and trust them; it was a nice, ironic touch, and I loved it immensely.

Willow is different from other main characters that I’ve encountered. Right off the bat, we see how strong she is as a character, and she keeps getting stronger. She’s smart, cautious, real. And the way she cares for her mum, it makes me appreciate her more, because, for once, here is a YA main character who doesn’t ignore others for her love interest, especially her family. I love how she gets frustrated with her mother sometimes, because despite doing her best to help her, her mother is too far gone to do anything. Her frustration at her mother’s vegetative state is selfish, honest, real.

At first, I thought the psychic thing would be used to make Willow ‘speshul’, but she actually uses it properly, which is something I applaud. For example, when she see’s Beth’s choices, and what happened to her, she handles it maturely forthe situation and her character, and tries to help Beth as best as she can, even though she knows that it would be futile.

I loved the interaction between Willow and Alex. They had this chemistry together, and it was done really well. They were awkward towards each other, ad avoided interacting with each other because of who they were–Willow, the human/angel hybrid freak, and Alex, the protector of humans and killer of angels–and it brought a whole new meaning to the whole “I love you but I want to kill you” thing that’s so popular in YA romances these days. Alex actually has justification to try to kill Willow at the beginning of the book. He thought she was on the angel’s side, being half angel and what not. All his life, he had been taught that angels are evil creatures, and yet, he found himself stuck with a girl who was seemingly half evil. The way he reacted to her then was fantastic and real.

After a few days of knowing him, Willow tells us that she’s fallen in love with Alex. While this sort of insta-love usually bothers me, I’m willing to accept this, since they’d literally been stuck together for the last few days, getting to know each other and bond. And, oh how they bonded! Their chemistry was beyond delicious! It was addictive, and I wanted more of their shy flirting, of their awkwardness, everything.

Once they manage to finally declare their love, though, they turn into love-sick tweens, acting all cutesy and saying stuff like “I’d die without you”, and it’s enough to make anyone gag. It was a bit of a downer, after such a fantastic build-up. I think I’d rather stick with the teasing sexual tension than deal with twu wuv~! that feels forced and annoying.

One of my main concerns with the book was the writing. It is narrated sometimes in third person, from the POVs of various characters, including the baddies, and sometimes it’s narrated in first person from the POC of Willow. I think that this is the only fault in the otherwise spectacular and gripping writing, but it wasn’t enough for me to drop the book–which I totally would have if it weren’t so OMG-worthy. The writing made it so impossible to put down, it was so action-packed. It will constantly keep you guessing.

This is a book that I would recommend for everyone. It isn’t your typical paranormal novel. It has a well thought out background, a gripping plot and plenty of action. Read it immediately.

Cover Art: 3
Plot: 4
Characters: 3
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 4/5 stars

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Review: Firelight

June 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm (4 stars, review, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Firelight by Sophie Jordan

Pages: 323, hardcover

ISBN: 9780061935084

Publisher: HarperTeen

Date Released: September 7th, 2010

Genre: YA / romance / fantasy / dragons

Source: library

Premise:

A hidden truth.
Mortal enemies.
Doomed love.

Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki—a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.

Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will’s dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away—if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She’ll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.

Mythical powers and breathtaking romance ignite in this story of a girl who defies all expectations and whose love crosses an ancient divide.

(Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: Book Depository / Amazon

I won’t lie. For a YA, this blew me away.

The writing is so vivid and descriptive, and it paints the perfect image in the readers head. It’s so engaging that it becomes fairly impossible to put down.  The writing was definitely my favourite part of this book, especially the first couple of chapters, when we see Jacinda in the wild, where she belongs. The descriptions of her surroundings are amazing, and her world is one that the reader can immerse themselves in.

Jacinda was a character that  really liked. She was strong, defiant and loyal. Her relationship with her sister is rocky, since Jacinda is a draki, but Tamra isn’t. Tamra’s jealousy got in the way of their friendship as they were growing up, because Tamra was the black sheep in the family and in the pride. But once they escape the pride and live amongst the humans, the tables turn. It’s Tamra’s turn to fit in naturally, and Jacinda is the odd one out. She doesn’t belong in the human world.

Now, regarding that, that’s where my problems lie.Their mother takes them to the desert to kill the draki inside of Jacinda, claiming it’s for her own good. She never once asked for consent in that matter, and the idea of slowly losing her draki actually bothers Jacinda a whole lot more than her mother expects. A friend of mine recently opened my eyes regarding consent in stories–particularly in the case of Tangled, when Ryder cuts her hair without consent. I didn’t think these little things mattered, but now, it really bothers me to see that.

That said, Jacinda’s relationship with her mother is strained. Jacinda tells us that whilst her father was proud of Jacinda’s draki, her mother was wary, as if Jacinda was “someone she had to love, but wouldn’t have chosen”. That’s why it’s so easy for her mother to decide to kill Jacinda’s inner draki. It’s kind of tragic, really, that their relationship is like this. It’s the cause for Jacinda’s rebellious stage, because she’s tired of her mother making all of her decisions.

All the characters here are selfish. Tamra and her mother have no qualms with killing Jacinda’s draki, just to have a normal life as humans, and Jacinda is doing all she can to keep her draki alive. I’m not sure if this is intentional or not, but I sort of love it. Their intentions parallel the others’, and it sort of works.

Regarding the romance, I’m sort of on the fence. The writing–as I said before–was fairly fantastic, and it especially shows in the uber hot makeout scenes. The chemistry between Will and Jacinda is just breathtaking, sexy and hot, and it makes me wish that it weren’t YA, so that I could read the hot sex scenes that would have arisen. But Will is an odd character. One moment, he’s sweet, the next, he’s controlling, telling Jacinda what to do. He acts like he has multiple personalities. Also, he sort of breaks into her house and makes her breakfast. It’s sweet that he makes her breakfast, I guess, but still really creepy that he let himself into her house without her permission, especially after knowing her for only a month. And by then, they ‘love’ each other, which I find unbelievable and hardly realistic.
What I liked between them was that this time, it was the girl who was different. It was a nice change, but unfortunately, didn’t stop her from constantly switching from “OMG I love him” to “But we can’t be together :(” and back in a matter of seconds. Ugh, just make your decision and stick with it, please?

I had a huge problem with Brooklyn and Tamra, though. Brooklyn was the stereotypical blonde bitch, who’s angry at the new girl because the hot guy likes newbie more than herself. Brooklyn attacks Jacinda in the bathroom, and when Jacinda fights back–with her fire power, though, so a bit dumb on her part–Tamra throws a massive hissy fit because according to her, Jacinda started that fight just to ruin Tamra’s chances of making friends. Just… no. Tamra didn’t even want to hear Jacinda’s side of the story. Tamra is the most selfish, bratty, conceited sister ever, and I feel really sorry for Jacinda.

Despite that, I’m still really excited to read Vanish, which is expected to come out this September. After the ridiculous cliff-hanger and the plethora of unanswered questions at the end, I’m itching to get my hands on Vanish.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 3
Characters: 4
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 4/5 stars

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Review: The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of The Mysterious Men in Black

May 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , , , , )

Courtesy of Bancroft Press

The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black by Eden Unger Bowditch

Pages: 339, hardcover

 ISBN: 9781610880022

Publisher: Bancroft Press

Release Date: March 15th 2011

Genre: Middle Grade / mystery

Source: galley from the publisher

Premise:

n 1903, five truly brilliant young inventors, the children of the world’s most important scientists, went about their lives and their work as they always had.

But all that changed the day the men in black arrived… (continued on the Goodreads page)

Buy it from: The Book Depository / Amazon

First things first: wow, I was really impressed with the writing. From the very first page, it lured me in. It has this mesmerizing quality that makes this book feel so magical and almost impossible to put down. The writing works well for this MG book (it’s described as YA on Goodreads, but none of the characters are close to teens, and the writing is MG-y). This is the kind of book I wish I had when I was growing up. The writing falls short near the end of the book, but otherwise, is still enjoyable.

The characters feel so real. They’re kid scientists with the ability to create great things. I’m sure some people would find a problem with the little insertions of each child’s life, but I quite liked it. It gave me a insight as to what these kids were like before they were taken from their parents by the men in black. Sort of watching them grow up, so to say. This is especially effective for Faye, who was a horrid, spoiled brat at the beginning. I honestly thought that I was going to hate her, and I worried for a while that she’d remain that way and ruin the book. But, instead, she grew a whole lot. We saw the reasoning behind her brattiness in the first place, and we also see her learn to have friends, and to treat people like, well, people. It’s quite a remarkable change, and I really applaud it.

My second favourite character was Wallace. He’s the character I felt most sorry for. He has a tragic past, where his mother had passed away when he was young, and with her, all the love and affection he ever received. His father had incredibly high expectations of him, and never let him forget it. Amongst all the pressure, Wallace seemed close to cracking. His sweet, secret relationship with his teacher (don’t worry, not THAT kind of relationship), Miss Brett showed just how much his mother’s death had affected him, and it was a bit saddening.

My one issue is the chapter titles. There are two chapter titles for each chapter, and it doesn’t really feel necessary. It feels a bit like overkill. Though, I suppose it’s because I don’t really care for chapter titles.

This is a great book if you want to read something mysterious, or about nerdy kids. Something like Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks.

Cover Art: 2 (one of the downsides of the book. I have no idea what’s going on in the cover)
Plot: 4
Characters: 5
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 4

Total Rating: 4/5 stars


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Review: Preludes & Nocturnes

May 16, 2011 at 12:20 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , )

The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

Pages: 280, paperback

ISBN: 9781563890116

Publisher: Vertigo

Date Released: December 7th, 1993 (first published 1989)

Genre: Adult / graphic novel / fantasy / horror/ mystery

Source: library

Premise:

A wizard attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. Fearful for his safety, the wizard kept him imprisoned in a glass bottle for decades. After his escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On the way, Morpheus encounters Lucifer and demons from Hell, the Justice League, and John Constantine, the Hellblazer. This book also includes the story “The Sound of Her Wings” which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl, Death. (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: The Book Depository / Amazon

I had a love/hate relationship with this volume. It was more love than hate, but the hate parts were more of a slight annoyance, and will hardly hinder my decision to buy the entire series in the near future.

In this graphic novel, Gaiman beautifully crafts out the story and characterisation of the tormented Dream, a Sandman captured and imprisoned by a wizard for decades in a desperate attempt to call Dream’s sister, Death. This particular volume basically chronicles Dream’s search for his 3 tools that he lost to the hands of humanity during his imprisonment, and while not having much more plot than that, it held a lot of substance.

I found it amazing that Gaiman could have created such a story without using many words. I’m not really a fan of comics and graphic novels–I’m more of a word person than a picture person; I hate watching films, and if I end up finally watching one, it has to have subtitles, else I won’t have much fun–but this totally blew me away. I just couldn’t fathom the amazingness.

The artwork wasn’t too great, but then again, it was done in the ’80s. The art for comics has greatly improved since then. But I’d grown a sort of liking towards the artwork. It kind of fit the mood for the story.

On his quest to encounter his lost tools, Dream encounters various characters from the DC world, which perplexed me. I hadn’t realised at the time that Vertigo was an imprint of DC. And you know what? The inclusion of these DC characters hindered the story for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a DC gal all the way, but it took the realism and originality of the Sandman world away. The only DC character that I enjoyed is one I shall not name so as to not ruin the surprise for you (plus, I’ve forgotten his name, heh). He had this amazing character development, and his inclusion was fairly amazing–though fairly gory.

I loved the inclusion of the last issue, “The Sound of Her Wings”, which features a cameo of Dream’s sister, Death. It shows this lovely brother/sister relationship, whilst being oddly philosophical.

Needless to say, I need to get my hands on the rest of the series, and so should you, fellow reader. Though, there are some fairly disturbing scenes, one of which is extremely graphic, featuring violence,  sexual violence and mind control, so approach with caution.

Art: 3
Plot: 4
Characters: 3
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 4/5 stars

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Review: Mercy

May 14, 2011 at 1:00 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , , )

Mercy by Rebecca Lim

Pages: 280, paperback

ISBN: 9780732291990

Publisher: HarperCollins

Date Released: November 1st, 2010

Genre: YA / romance / angels / mystery

Source: library

Premise:

Mercy ′wakes′ on a school bus bound for Paradise, a small town where everyone knows everyone else′s business… or thinks they do. But Mercy has a secret life. She is an angel, doomed to return repeatedly to Earth, taking on a new ′persona′ each time she does, in an effort to resolve a cataclysmic rift between heavenly beings.

The first of a brilliant new series sees Mercy meeting Ryan, an eighteen-year-old whose sister was kidnapped two years ago and is presumed dead. When another girl is also kidnapped, Mercy knows she has to act quickly and use extraordinary powers to rescue her, even if it means exposing her true identity. (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: The Book Depository / Amazon

The opening paragraph was interesting enough. It showed that the writing was clear and concise, but sadly, it was followed by this massive info-dump on what the main character looks like, and it turns out that she’s one of those “I’m pretty but I don’t notice it” characters, which makes me groan, since 90% of YA is filled with these characters. Then, she goes on to describe who I can only assume is a potential love interest, because he has far too many far-fetched descriptions like:

“He is tall, broad-shouldered, snake-hipped, flawless as only dreams can be. Like a sun god when he walks.” – pg 4.

To which I can only respond with WTF? what is with that? Why are all possible love interests described so weirdly. I don’t know. Personally, I find it off-putting, especially with odd descriptions like ‘snake-hipped’ and ‘sun god’. I don’t even know how to imagine snake-hipped. Anyone know?
Lim seems to have an interesting and poor way of describing people visually. They only seem to be described as beautiful and stunning, or disgusting and ugly and flawed. There is no middle ground, which makes me feel uneasy, a bit.
Also, the sentence structure was often repeated in a way that made Lim over-describe something. A couple of times per page, you can expect to see something like “Something COMMA synonym COMMA another synonym COMMA continue with sentence as normal.” It’s constantly used and feels unedited. It blocks the otherwise clear writing that could have made this book even more amazing, I think.

There are some parts I’m not so fond about. Pretty, popular girls are sluts and enemies, and the main character often describes other females with some fairly derogatory terms, such as bitch and slut. For the most part, Mercy is at the mercy (hehe) of a pretty, popular bitch who is a bitch just because she can. It’s fairly annoying and overused.

Now, those are the bad things. Onto the good.

The story is fairly fantastic. The premise holds so much promise, and it delivers. There are two major plot points: 1) that Mercy constantly finds herself in the body of a human, not knowing what she needs to do to be finally free and able to find the man she loves, Luc (or at least, she thinks she does) and 2) a girl had gone missing 2 years ago, and the girl’s brother is still out looking for her.

Both plot points intertwine, and at the same time, they feel completely independent of each other. The first is one that isn’t even close to resolution at the end of the book, whilst the second ends on a cheerful note. Both are executed quite well, in an engaging and exciting way. The story is the strongest part of the book, and it really shows and makes up for the writing.

This is a book that I really love, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, Exile, which comes out in early June, and the third book, Muse, which comes out late October. Isn’t that great? You won’t have to wait long for the next installment! This makes me giddy!

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 5
Characters: 3
Writing: 3
Level of Interest: 4

Total Rating: 4/5 stars


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Review: Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

April 20, 2011 at 3:12 pm (4 stars, Australian, review) (, , , , , , , )

Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

Pages: 304, paperback

ISBN: 9781742373003

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Date Released: May 1st, 2010

Genre: YA / romance / thriller / mystery / contemporary

Source: library

Premise:

Katherine has moved away from her shattered family to start afresh in Sydney. There she keeps her head down until she is befriended by the charismatic, party-loving Alice, who brings her out of her shell. But there is a dark side to Alice, something seductive yet threatening. And as Katherine learns the truth about Alice, their tangled destinies spiral to an explosive and devastating finale.

An intense and addictive psychological thriller

Buy it now from The Book Depository

It was hard for me to decide if I had liked this book or not. At first, the writing was awkward and annoying. It mostly consisted of the tortured inner monologue of the main character, Katherine. There isn’t much action, and far too often, there’s the painful scrutinising over the same details, hammering it into the readers head that her sister is dead and that Katherine is suffering greatly for it. At first, it was interesting, but 130 pages in, and it’s been repeated about forty times. Ugh. It started to get boring, and I had very little sympathy for her.

There is little plot, just Katherine hanging out with her friends, Alice and Robbie, doing random things. After about 100 pages, the idea that there’s next to no plot makes it okay, since there is a great deal of character growth, for all of the main characters.

Katherine, I couldn’t find myself liking, mostly because after being stuck in her head for 300 pages, I grew tired of her inner monologue repeating how life-changing her sisters death was every few pages. Yes, Katherine, we know that it hurts and it sucks. No need to tell us so often.

Alice, I have mixed feelings about. She’s very contradictory, doesn’t have a stable personality, and is the kind of person that I wouldn’t want to involve myself with. BUT, despite all that, while we get to know her, we see what really goes on in her head. She’s a manipulative bitch (and I use this term sparingly, but really, she is one), who only lives to cause trouble for others. It’s this bitchiness that makes her character so interesting, and she fuels the story. Everything that goes wrong is done by her hand. And believe me, a lot of things go wrong in this story.

Finally, Robbie. He sort of read more like a middle-aged woman’s wet dream than a sexy 20 year old. Half the time, he’s described as being sensitive and having tears in his eyes, and it’s just pathetic seeing him like this. He’s emotional to the point where he barely contributes much to the story.

Now, this story found a place in my heart for two reasons:
1, it’s a story about rape and loss, and dealing with that loss. Katherine is bothered by guilt that it’s HER fault that her sister was raped and killed, which shows that it’s not just the rape victims themselves that are affected.
2, it’s also about betrayal, and learning to cope with this betrayal, even if it means having to do it alone.

As the story progressed, and as Katherine found herself having to deal with Alice’s horrible ways–which include the death of someone she deeply cares for–the story becomes gripping, as we delve into the past and find out what really happened back at the party that Katherine’s sister was drugged at, leading to her rape. And we find out why Alice is so intent on destroying Katherine’s life, though her reasons mightn’t be completely logical or moral.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 2
Characters: 5
Writing: 3
Level of Interest: 4

Total Rating: 4/5 stars

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Review: Insatiable

April 19, 2011 at 3:35 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Pages: 451, hardcover

ISBN: 9780061735066

Publisher: William Morrow

Date Released: June 8th, 2010

Genre: Adult / paranormal / urban fantasy / romance / chick-lit / vampires / satire

Source: library

Premise:

Sick of vampires? So is Meena Harper.

But her boss is making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn’t believe in them.

Not that Meena isn’t familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you’re going to die (not that you’re going to believe her; no one ever does).

But not even Meena’s precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side . . . a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire-hunters, would prefer to see him dead for.

The problem is, he already is dead. Maybe that’s why he’s the first guy Meena’s ever met that she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena’s always been able to see everyone else’s future, she’s never been able look into her own.

And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare.

Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future . . .

If she even has one. (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it now from: The Book Depository / Amazon

I am such a major Meg Cabot fan. I grew up reading the Princess Diaries series, and almost annually, I return to them. So, I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of this book. And to be honest? It didn’t disappoint.

Meena, the main character, is a dialogue writer for the hit soap opera, Insatiable. In a time where the vampire craze is spreading, the big bosses feel that Insatiable needs a change, and that vamps should be introduced in order to lure in the younger viewers. This bothers Meena. She hates vampires and what it’s done to society’s younger generation. Also, a small bit of info: she has this weird ability to tell how people are going to die.

I loved Meena for the most part, up until she met Lucien, the sexy vamp prince. Because of his powers, he makes her feel as if she’s in love with him, which in the beginning is a bit funny (apart from the whole mind-rape and control thing; but as this is a sort of satirical work made to mock most of the books being brought out in the vamp craze, I’ll let it slide), but it gets annoying and hard to tell if she really means it.

One major plot point that I detested was when Vampire-hunter Alaric breaks into Meena’s home to interrogate her about the whereabouts of Lucian. He holds a sword up to her. He insults her. When her brother Jon walks in, Jon ends up siding with Alaric for some stupid reason. None of this part flows or makes sense and makes the characters act out of characters.

Otherwise, I found the characters were well-developed to an extent. There certainly were moments when they didn’t act like they were supposed to, and in certain parts, Meena acts TSTL, but most of the time, they felt real enough.

I didn’t think much of the love triangle. It felt a bit weak and underdeveloped, showing a weakness to the character’s relationships with one another.

What I absolutely loved about this book were the cute one-liners and the dialogue. For example:

Meena: You seem REALLY interested in me at the moment.

Alaric: That? That’s just my scabbard.

Man, it’s stuff like that that gave the book this light feel to it.

I recommend this to everyone who a) likes Meg Cabot or b) dislikes the Twilight craze. It’s full of sexy, funny moments, with  a fairly cool heroine and awesome story.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 4
Characters: 3
Writing: 3
Level of Interest: 4

Total: 4/5

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Review: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

April 17, 2011 at 11:53 am (4 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Pages: 375, paperback

ISBN: 9780141329994

Publisher: Puffin

Date Released: January 7th, 2010 (first published in 2005)

Genre: Middle Grade / fantasy / adventure / mythology: Greek

Source: library

Premise:

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school…again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus’s stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves. (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it now from The Book Depository

I was slightly skeptical about this book. A middle grade book about Greek mythology, said to be the next Harry Potter? I didn’t think it could be pulled off properly. And I was wondering what was so good about it that Hollywood decided to make of it (which I saw many months later).

I read it to give it a try. I just knew, though, that I wouldn’t like it.

Every skeptical thought I had was lost on the first page of the book. From the beginning, I was drawn into the world of Percy Jackson. The writing just draws you in and doesn’t ever release its hold until the very last page. Even then, it gives you this thirst to read the rest of the series. The writing flowed in such a way that it kept my attention: fast paced with such an elaborate voice. It really did feel like Percy Jackson was narrating the story to me.  It was fun, and it sounded like a genuine 12-year-old, what with all that silly humour and whatnot.

What I loved most about the writing in this book is how every chapter is filled to the brim with action. There’s just so much going on all the time that there’s hardly any time for a breather, but I think that it works in this case, for it makes putting the book down a near impossible feat.

I loved the characters. They weren’t two-dimensional, they felt so completely real, and I found myself loving each and every one of them (especially Hades and Ares. Man, those two were so hardcore). While I found myself cringing at the niceness at some of the gods, I still found it believable (and I thought it was appropriate enough for a MG novel) especially with the adulterous nature of the gods. I loved that they didn’t exclude that, unlike some novels I’ve seen.

The infusion of Greek mythology  into a modern setting was done splendidly. I was in awe at how well it was done. Some things were a bit predictable, but I guess that’s mainly because I have quite a lot of knowledge on Greek mythology. I loved it.

As soon as I finished this book, I rushed out to get my hands on the rest of the series, and let me tell you, they do not disappoint.

Cover Art: 3
Plot: 4
Characters: 4
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 4

Total: 4/5 stars

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Review: Briar Rose

April 7, 2011 at 12:31 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Pages: 239, paperback

ISBN: 9780765342300

Publisher: Tor Teen

Date Released: March 15th, 2002 (first published 1989)

Genre: YA / historical / speculative fiction / fairytale retelling

Source: library

Premise:

Ever since she was a child, Rebecca has been enchanted by her grandmother Gemma’s stories about Briar Rose. But a promise Rebecca makes to her dying grandmother will lead her on a remarkable journey to uncover the truth of Gemma’s astonishing claim: I am Briar Rose. A journey that will lead her to unspeakable brutality and horror. But also to redemption and hope. A Tor Teen edition of the modern classic by critically-acclaimed author Jane Yolen. (Taken from Goodreads).

Buy it now from The Book Depository

This book is a very loose retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Like, very loose. A young woman must find out why her grandmother’s life revolved around the tale of Sleeping Beauty, and her research takes her to Poland, where she finds the truth.

To start off with, the pacing of this story was really hard to follow. At times, it was easy to get into, and then it would abruptly change into something dull and tedious, and I’d feel compelled to skip past it. Until the second half of the book or so, when we get the perceptive of Josef. It seemed as if Yolen had added in those unnecessary tidbits to lengthen her already short novel.
The writing itself is nothing impressive, was sometimes slow and unclear. It distracted me from the story sometimes, which is obviously not a good thing. It only started to get better–more fast-paced and intriguing– when it started following from the perspective of osef, instead of Becca.

That being said, the characters were quite flat and annoying, except for Gemma, when she was still alive. The dialogue of all the other characters was frustrating and made me groan. I really disliked Becca, she seemed like the worst, most boring protagonist ever. I couldn’t understand her thoughts most of the time, which was incredibly annoying.
I found the romance between her and Stan to be non-existent. It was disappointing, slow and lacked that special something, that spark that made it work. It just seemed like some boring, awkward friendship between two very awkward people who didn’t want a relationship. When they finally kissed at the end, I was bored and unimpressed, taking no interest in the event due to the very poor build up of their relationship.
The only character that I found to be tolerable was Josef, during the second half of the book. It was also the time that the story started picking up, when I finally found myself unable to put the book down. When Josef tells Becca and Magda his story and his survival in Poland during the war, and the story of Gemma, Becca’s grandmother, it was touching, and really played on my emotions. It was then that I really started to care for this book and for the characters. That was one of the two things that redeemed this book for me.

The other redeeming quality was the story in itself. It is a really sweet Sleeping Beauty retelling. That, combined with the Holocaust made it a really strong and emotional story that really hit close to home. Both my parents are from Poland, so I know so many stories about the war. Holocaust stories are something very special to me, I just love them. Stories like Night by Elie Weisel and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak really make me emotionally attatched to them, simply because I understand them. I’ve had grandparents and uncles and parents and family friends tell me every memory of the war that they have.
So, that made it a really good book for me.

If the story hadn’t have started so late in the book,  then I would have given this novel a rating of 5. But alas, it doesn’t get that.
I’d definitely recommend this story. Slow or not, it is a brilliant retelling.

Cover Art: 3
Plot: 5
Characters: 3 (would have been 1 if not for Josef)
Writing: 3
Level of Interest: 4

Total Rating: 4/5 stars

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