ARC REVIEW: The 52nd by Dela

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Publication Date:  October 28th 2014 by Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Genres: Young adult, supernatural, contemporary, romance
My Rating: 3 Stars
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 Not one of the sacrifices chosen over the long history had survived–until now. On the tip of the Yucatan peninsula, the immortal Castillo family gathers in Tulum. Weary and haunted, they receive the names of fifty-two human sacrifices chosen once every fifty-two years for the Underworld, a tradition thought to have disappeared with the fall of the Aztec and Mayan empires. Driving home one night, college freshman Zara Moss swerves to avoid hitting a ghastly figure in the road. Lucas Castillo witnesses the car crash, but when it comes time to supervise her abduction from the wreckage, he intervenes. Something is different about Zara: Lucas has been having dreams of her arrival for five hundred years. As Lucas and Zara come together to put an end to the bloody sacrifices, they discover that the ancient tradition isn’t so easily broken. The gods are angry, and they have until the Winter Solstice to drag Zara to the Underworld.

Oh Dela, I am definitely adding you to my debut-authors-to-watch list after finishing The 52nd. Now, I’ve been pretty excited about this book for some time considering it’s the first young adult read that I have come across in my last decade of reading that features tales of Aztec and Mayan mythology. But this is not the only thing that makes this gloomy, ghostly apocalyptic contemporary so interesting to experience.
The 52nd tells the story of Zara Moss, a girl set to embark on her first year in college who one night is involved in a car accident that leaves her for almost dead, only to be rescued by an odd stranger she has flimsy memories of after her recovery. Zara soon finds herself emerged in a war between Aztec ghosts and Mayan Gods and their age-old war for the souls of men, and part of a prophecy that might help destroy the brutal cycle of sacrifices made in the name of the Underworld that Zara seems to be the last and 52nd victim of. With the help of Lucas and his immortal family, Zara tries to stay alive long enough in order to change the world by Winter Solstice.
pyramidSomething that immediately struck me while reading Dela’s debut was the fact that while, yes, there are a bunch of YA paranormal tropes that seem to orbit around her work, it still sucked me right in. I was supposed to read the first chapter on a day busy with work, but found myself over 150 pages in a couple of hours later simply because I wanted, no, I needed to know what was going to happen and in what kind of world both leads Zara and Lucas would end up in. The thing that really made The 52nd such a compelling read was the fact that I for myself had zero knowledge of Aztec and Mayan mythology and history prior to picking this book up. Dela managed to paint a mythic picture of brutal sacrifices, ghost towns in the heart of the jungle and terrifying grimaces that had me immediately emerged in-between the setting of a modern-day US of A and a mythical mirror world that became more and more conflated. I was able to picture all her settings perfectly, and absolutely loved that they were true depictions of violence rather than a watered down version for the sake of age category. Dela’s writing was great to just be in the setting myself, almost like being part of my own dream sequence.
headAlthough I had trouble connecting with Zara throughout most of the book because she seemed too smooth as a human being, I loved Lucas the more. It was awesome that Dela managed to actually depict him as a gorgeous, Adonis-looking immortal without turning him into a joke. Lucas treated Zara like an average mortal girl he found attractive, and only over time began to fall in love with her. The way he assessed her and deemed her not special in comparison to his immortality was a nice touch that added a whole lot of bonus points to the story. He wanted her physically, she wanted him physically, and even though their meeting was prophesied, their connection didn’t just come out of the blue or was based on a dreaded insta-love moment. They were attracted to each other, and Dela built from that realistically according to their ages. I thoroughly enjoyed all the descriptions of the characters (and their tattoos) because they made honest-to-God sense in the mythology of the story and were such a big part of the creeptastic atmosphere of it – big bonus points for sticking to that and adding two incredibly awesome pets to the whole shenanigan, as well as a seriously captivating underwordly villain that gave me the creeps and made me love him simultaneously. My twisted, twisted soul had wished there’d been more of him, but what we got was pretty awesomesauce, too. While the story started to lack the drive it had at the beginning somewhere in the middle, it managed to pull itself together for the finale in a way I was really exited about. I just wish there were more time for more Gods and tales and stories, because damn, that mythology was one awesome background to built a story around.
pantherFor everyone who loves young adult supernatural set in our modern day, I’d recommend The 52nd simply because damn, its unique setting makes up for what it is sometimes lacking. At times I felt overwhelmed by all the characters, especially Lucas’ family members, and it would’ve been nice to have a smaller pool of them just to lower some confusion throughout. However, the story in and of itself was so intricately and well bound to the setting, I gladly overlooked that aspect for the dreamy quality of the atmosphere. With this being Dela’s debut novel, I can say she did a great job of it, especially considering how well she managed to introduce me to an entire history of a different religion I had absolutely no clue whatsoever about. She managed to do so with such vivacity that I gladly overlooked character development deficits and plot twists I saw coming from a mile away. If you want a fall read that is entirely new, yet still familiar enough you can be sure you’ll enjoy it for the genre that it is, The 52nd is the next read for you. It’s dark and light, brutal and cute, and definitely an enjoyable and at times really positively weird read.

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BOOK REVIEW: Pivot Point by Kasie West

PivotPointHC_jkt_des8bSeries: Pivot Point #1
Publication Date:  February 12th 2013 by Harper Teen
Genres: Young adult, science fiction
My Rating: 4 Stars
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Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . . Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not. In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.

efa659d0aa95c65892aee70a54677779 Kopie Oh, Kasie West, what have you done to all of the synapses in my body responsible for my feelings? Pivot Point was one of those young adult gems that you’re not prepared for. It’s one of those books that take you so much by surprise and catch you so much off guard, that you never could’ve seen the tornado of feelings coming your way, no matter how good of a weather forecast you’re able to procure. Pivot Point emotionally wrecked me with so much reading anxiety, I actually had to put reading on hold a) to fend off the evident finish to the awesomeness of the story and b) because my body and mind were not capable to process and handle myself without falling into a rocking embryo position in the corner of my room. Or any room I’d find myself in, for that matter. You just know a book is for you when it infiltrates your daily life so much so that it takes over 24/7.
Taking place in a very X-Men-esque type of setting, Pivot Point tells the story of Addison, a young girl living in a society consisting of evolved human beings with super brains and powers, kept hidden from us normal folks so as not to infect them with our normal brain capacity. But despite her clairvoyant abilities, Addison’s life takes a turn for the ultimate normal teenage worse when her parents announce, out of the blue, that they’ve decided to file for divorce, and Addison’s father is set to leave for the outside of all things. Addison’s ability to see the future has her search for two possible outcomes depending on which option to chose – life with her mother or life with her father, and sets in motion heart-breaking, heart-mending and heart-rendering chains of events.
football_620x350What makes Pivot Point stand out so much from all the X-Men inspired types of books out there, and what makes for such a fascinating and unique reading experience, is the fact that it is very much a what-if kind of story. And the more you read, the more you forget that what you’re reading is actually two hypothetical turn of events that haven’t come to fruition yet, all wrapped in one book told from Addison’s POV. I loved that while every other chapter takes place in each of the two alternate versions of Addison’s future reality, you start thinking of one as the more prominent one, and thus become more and more anxious for Addison’s final choice. Both realities have their positive and negative aspects, of course, but it’s exactly that option left open that drives you to read faster and keeps you from reading faster, because you know there’s going to be a whole lot of heartbreak at the end of the decision-making either way. I’ve never come across a book that had me so torn. Addison’s choice becomes your choice, and it’s unbearable to make. I also really enjoyed Addison’s narration. It was kept simple and yet managed to keep you on your toes and helped you immerse yourself as the reader in a complex background in a very palpable way.
While what I like to call Search 1 features a whole lot of Addison’s new love interest Trevor to make you swoon about, Search 2 has eccentric best friend Laila causing havoc. Add a drug lord, a special force agent father, a douche in a football jersey and Trevor’s adorable little brother to the mix of both timelines, and you just know you’re bound for drama. A great type of drama you need in your life as an avid reader, though. What I can’t fail to mention is the little sub-story of Trevor and Addison’s comic-writing efforts that I absolutely adored as well. It was such a fun and ironic way to mock the book’s own inevitable X-Men heritage while also acknowledging the irony in Addison’s new life in the Search 1 reality. The story-within-the-story was a cute and brilliant way to make Addison’s fears more tangible.
Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 presetAll in all, Pivot Point has become one of my favourite sci-fi reads. It’s just enough as X-Men as it is very, very different to have kept my attention so thoroughly, and even though I became an emotional cripple once I did finish it, I recommend this book to pretty much everyone. Getting my book BFF Cyra to buy it was one of the most fulfilling book shopping experiences ever, just knowing her spirit would wax and wain and wain some more while reading it. And you know, for me, having books channel your emotions in such a heightened and original and just genuinely exciting way damn well guarantees a 4-star-rating in my scale.

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BOOK REVIEW: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

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Publication Date: May 6th 2014 by Simon & Schuster Children’s
Genres: Young adult, contemporary, romance, coming-of-age
My Rating: 5 Stars
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It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.
Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?
Kiss a stranger? Um…

Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane’s list. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go skinny-dipping?Wait…what

So, thanks to an oddly timed radio pick today (i.e. my radio station playing Miley Cyrus’ 7 Things during the AM), I found the perfect way to express my unadulterated love for Morgan Matson’s recent Since You’ve Been Gone summer release. Oh, this book got me out of a huge reading slump, and it made me giddy with summer love and teenage past and breathless future.
20091024_MG_4545Since You’ve Been Gone, at first glance, seemed to be that kind of book you think you’ve read a thousand times before – invisible teenage girl is left behind by the outgoing best friend and has to check off a couple of things from a list during the summer holidays. I’d had this one for a month before I reluctantly decided to kill it off my TBR pile. And then I read the first chapter, and I didn’t put it down until my body physically couldn’t take any more reading for the night. It became an endless summer night extravaganza, and it’s been one of the very few books that has managed to capture the actual feeling of a teenage summer for me, the atmosphere of young adventures and struggling nights. Since You’ve Been Gone has such authenticity; it was sometimes odd to read Emily’s story and forget that I’m not sixteen myself. Because it made me feel sixteen again, which barely ever happens to me now. Let’s get on with

The 7 Things I Loved About Since You’ve Been Gone
1) The POV: I haven’t identified with a character like Emily this much in a long time. Sure, you adore female leads and think they’re amazing and you’d do anything to be more like them, but you know deep down you could never be. With Emily however, you become her. Her insecurities and wants, her thoughts and needs, you realize that you’ve been through it all. Emily is universal, a little bit of a female Holden Caulfield, though a little less paranoid and phony (;)). She’s relatable, and realistically so, that it was a delight to experience the story from her POV.
2) The List: I loved the list. I loved that it featured things that didn’t seem so big at all, but were HUGE for Emily. A lot of people are afraid of small things, daily things, and sometimes it’s those that need to be conquered rather than more dramatic propositions. There was dare in Sloane’s list, despite the “normality” of it, and that was awesome.
3) The Brother: Emily’s younger brother Beckett was an absolute highlight and the secret star of the novel. The little monkey captured my heart from the get-go, and I only wished he’d gotten more page time. But alas, what we did get was perfection, and he was the icing on the top of this novel.
4) The Parents: I usually get annoyed by parental figures that are present physically but are mentally off doing their thing and ignore their offspring for the better part of the story because it is convenient to the story, but these two really became characters of their own and no sidekicks to a free reign of the protagonist. They were brilliant.
5) The Frank: The love interest, who, I must say, was an awesome pick: he’s super smart, he’s Class President, and he’s an entity that Emily doesn’t realize is a person outside of his reputation. I loved that she got to look behind the façade and get to know him. He became an awesome addition to the cast of the book.
6) The Orchard: A lot of scenes take place in the abandoned orchard outside of town, and I’ve always been a sucker for eerie locations, especially when they’re featured by night a lot. The orchard brings a great setting to the story, and the atmosphere it creates in every scene is so much more than just that of a background. It’s a big part of Emily’s journey, and fittingly so.
7) The Playlists: I always try to get all of the playlists that Matson features in her books done on Spotify and listen to them while I read, and they’re just superb. Not only are they genuinely great playlists, they also let you get to know the characters on a whole different level. As a musicology minor, I love that incorporation of musical characteristics, and it just adds to the already awesome reading experience even more.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 presetHonestly, this read is perfect for everyone out there. If you’re a teenager right now, it’s an awesome read-along to your present life, if you’re even younger, it’s a great bucket of hopeful for what’s to come, and if you’re more on the older side of things, this will make you feel all of those things along with some truly gratifying nostalgia. It’s a summer read, but it’s also a little ode to that last summer that made you grow up and realize it isn’t all that bad to leave behind a little bit of childhood for the sake of something bigger. Since You’ve Been Gone was a long summer night spent outside with the people you love most, and I know we all know what that feels like.

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BOOK REVIEW: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

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Publication Date:  July 3rd 2014 by St. Martin’s Press
Genres: Adult, contemporary, romance
My Rating: 5 Stars
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Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now. Maybe that was always beside the point. Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her. When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything. That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . . Is that what she’s supposed to do? Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

I’d give all of the stars in the universe to this book, no question whatsoever, if it only were literally possible to do so.
Omaha snow 12-08-2009 (22)I finished reading Rainbow Rowell’s newest release, Landline, on my flight home from London (two days after having met her at a signing, if you care to know). I was sat between two rather stoic, angry-looking businessmen, reading away on this little masterpiece of a book and feeling utterly emotionally torn, when, yes, I started crying. I tried not to, because, ya know, public embarrassment and all, but those two businessmen next to me tried everything, and I mean everything to get me to stop because apparently they thought I was hyperventilating or scared of flying. (Which I’m not, by the way, I adore planes and everything involving taking flight). Anyway, when I proceeded to tell them that I was, in fact, alright except for the emotional turmoil my book was putting me through, they grimaced at me and stamped me the crazy kind. It’s safe to say my silent crying was ignored for the rest of the time aboard by those two. Case in point, every single Rowell book has me in heaps of laughs and tears and in-betweens that seems to make other people around me uncomfortable. And I love it.
fabulously-chubby-pug-pups-5276647a2aa1aLandline is my fourth Rowell book, and I’m pretty sure that by now everyone knows that this woman is my biggest girl crush ever to walk this earth. So, my expectations were naturally super high, and you know what? She met every single one of them, and then some. Because honestly, I don’t know how she does it, but Rainbow’s way with words makes all of the emotions buried inside my chest spill out of me, in the best-est way possible. Her writing is challenging, upheaving, soothing, cathartic, and most of all, terrifyingly honest.
Landline revolves around Georgie McCool, who, along with best friend and writing partner Seth, has finally pulled an option to develop their own TV show. The big problem? She’s supposed to write several episodes over Christmas, even though she, her husband Neal and their two girls are supposed to spend the holidays at Neal’s parents house in Omaha. With Neal and the children taking off without her, Georgie becomes more and more depressed, even though all her career dreams seem to be coming true. Missing her family and trying to figure out the state of her marriage, Georgie finds herself spending more and more time at her mother’s house, in her old room to be more precise, and on the phone with a Neal from the past, a magic landline finally letting her hear what’s important and what’s not.
Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetOh. My. God. Let me compare this book to a bathtub overflowing with hot water, because that’s a very fitting comparison to what Rowell’s writing does to you. The bathtub is, naturally, you, the reader, and the overflowing hot water, naturally, all the feels bubbling up from inside you and cleansing you from within and making you feel warm and safe and happy, happy, happy. I believe that if everybody had his or her own Rainbow Rowell, this world would be a better place – a perfect place, even. I am always in awe and speechless over how Rowell uses words and makes them so full of life. In spite of the book’s rather short story, there’s so much in between the lines, it’s breath-taking. I can’t really find words to describe this properly, but once you start reading and emerge yourself in Rowell’s writing, you will understand. There’s no judging Rowell’s characters, despite their many faults, and struggles, and for a writer to evoke so much empathy and love in a reader is truly a phenomenal and exceptional talent. And God, her characters are just to-die-for. If I ever find a man like Neal, I know I will be content with life. He was the heart away from the story for me, because there’s more of past-Neal than there is of now-Neal, but damn. I have literally no words adequate to describe him and the girls. All the meowing (READ THE BOOK AND YOU WILL JOIN ME IN MY OUTBURST OF FEELS) had me burst with love for these fictional characters and their lives. Georgie’s struggle to be a good mom and a successful writer was so relatable – and I’m only 23 and not even close to having kids in the future, and seriously, if a writer manages to have me walk in the shoes of a character in such an authentic way, holy mother of writing Gods, it’s epic. The supporting characters – the mother and step-father and sister and pugs – were heart-warming parts of the story to a point where I couldn’t stop blushing. And the best part about this book is that yes, you will cry, you will laugh, you will burst with every feeling possible, but at the end of it, once you’ve read the last page, you will feel like you’ve just been part of something greater than yourself. Books like this make me, for a moment, believe in a God, or at least a higher power, because so much beauty and so much truth in a small book like Landline cannot possibly be anything but the manifestation of life and love and above all, the universe. Thank you, Rainbow, for this little piece of the universe, this little piece of magic.

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BOOK REVIEW: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

IslaHappilyEverAfterSmallSeries: Anna and the French Kiss #3
Publication Date: August 14th 2014 by Dutton
Genres: Young Adult, romance, contemporary
My Rating: 3 Stars
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From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever. Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

NYC_Empire_State_BuildingStephanie Perkins’ first two books, Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, respectively, are two of my favourite contemporary romance young adult books – ever. Everything about what is encased in their pages – the setting, the characters, the atmosphere, the lessons they taught me and the feelings they sucked out of me – literally, it felt like – made me burst with love and heartache and everything in-between, because they were that amazing. When I finished both of them, there was nothing left that I expected these books to be. They were complete and utter perfection, and I don’t ever use those terms lightly. Now, colour me surprised when I finally, finally – after 3 years of waiting for Isla – got to read the whole book in one sitting, and found myself asking is this really it? I loved both Isla and Josh in their supporting roles in the previous books of the series, and I always expected them to become my favourite couple of the three. However, I quickly realized that what I loved about Anna and Etienne’s, and Lola and Cricket’s love stories, was non-existent in this Perkins endeavour.
Isla focuses on title character Isla Martin and the object of her infatuation, fellow student of the School of Americas in Paris, Joshua Wasserstein. During the summer holidays away from their privileged boarding school, Isla meets Josh in New York, and promptly embarrasses herself in front of him. When the two are reunited for fall term, they quickly find that they’re both ready to take their relationship to the next level after that fateful summer encounter put them on each other’s radars, so to speak. While the two get to know and try to spend every waking minute together, Josh, ever the artist, tries everything in his power to avoid school. When a trip to Barcelona between him and Isla has him shipped off to his Senator family and away from Isla, the separation the two must now face creates unforeseen problems and festering insecurities.
img_2222Now, there are two major aspects that made me give this three out of five stars. Firstly, unlike their friends, Isla and Josh fall in love and become a couple quite early on in the novel, and it’s not exactly a spoiler to say so. While I was initially okay with it I found the lack of development in their feelings unrealistic and eye-roll-inducing at best. Yes, the reader has been aware of Isla’s crush on Josh for quite some time, but to dismiss his relationship with Rashmi so completely felt off and out-of-place. I can believe that Josh liked Isla for a long time, but what I can’t believe is that his time with Rashmi meant nothing to him, and is supposed to convince me that Isla is his one and only. It felt too much like what I loved about both Isla and Josh in the previous books was cast aside to make this version of events possible. Both Anna and Lola were love stories, too, but they were never on the overly cheesy side of things, and they never felt oddly paced. With Isla, I felt thrown into the story that never stopped to breathe and make room for any connection between both Isla and Josh, and the characters and the reader. One might claim that Isla is a standalone work and shouldn’t necessarily be judged by comparing it to Anna/Lola, but I found it extremely difficult to separate the three. These stories are one entity for me, and Isla simply fell out of place, because it didn’t manage to tell the story in a real-time type of time frame. There was no time to connect because we had already been told what to feel early on, and that made for odd timing and lacking empathy within the writing, too.
iheartjoshThe second major complaint that had me shaking my head on and off for the entire reading experience was the fact that yes, Perkins had incredible character possibilities in that book, but she failed to properly resolve them. The book felt like a manuscript that should’ve still had a couple of rounds of revision to go through. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Isla’s crush on Josh was something that I would’ve liked to have explored in a more realistic way, because it had so much potential. There’s a great scene in which Isla has to deal with several insecurities of hers at once, and realizes that she doesn’t know Josh at all. And while these two were together for a month before Josh moved back to the US, that was absolutely true. They had barely had time to actually get to know each other and their layers and faults, and I would’ve liked to have seen that aspect developed more properly. And there were so many instances like this where feelings and insecurities of characters were just pushed aside and forgotten, and considering Isla is a rather short and thin read, I would’ve expected them to be picked up later on for resolution’s sake. There was certainly enough room left for it. With Anna and Etienne (and Lola and Cricket) I was convinced they were going to get their happily-ever-afters together, but with Isla and Josh, I felt like the book and their story just settled for each other. There was so much potential for conflict resolution that would’ve made for an emotional roller coaster ride, but unfortunately, for me, I was left wanting more, and felt unsatisfied with the story.
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThe little cameos Anna, Etienne, Lola, Cricket and Meredith had did however make me tear up and Anna and Etienne’s story coming full circle so beautifully made me give three over two stars. A lot of readers and fellow reviewers have loved this book, so to everyone who has read and fallen head-over-heels in love with Anna and Lola’s stories, go ahead and lose yourself in this final instalment of the series. Don’t expect too much of an Anna because Isla has an entirely different structure and flow than its predecessors. Stephanie, I love you and I will continue to support your books in any way possible, but this one wasn’t for me. I’m happy it was for so many others however, and glad Isla and Josh had a chance to have their story told, too.

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BOOK REVIEW: Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout

obsidian-by-jennifer-l-armentroutSeries: Lux #1
Publication Date: November 23rd 2011 by Entangled Teen
Genres: Young Adult, paranormal, romance, sci-fi
My Rating: 4 Stars
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Starting over sucks. When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I’d pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring…. until I spotted my hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up. And then he opened his mouth. Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something…unexpected happens. The hot alien living next door marks me. You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon’s touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I’m getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades. If I don’t kill him first, that is.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAh yes, Obsidian was my first Armentrout book back when I started reading more excessively. Before, I had always stuck to the classics but found myself bored with books for quite some time before The Hunger Games and the likes started reinvigorating my love for written stories. I realized that young adult was a great genre for me because I was still trying to figure out what to do with life, and dystopian and sci-fi stories reminded me of the TV shows that I grew up with watching. One of my favourites back in the 90s was Roswell, that short-lived drama on High School alien and human interactions, so when I found Obsidian in my recommendations right after joining Goodreads, well, I had to try it. And even though Twilight had made me super cautious when it came to any type of romance book, I still held hope it could be something I liked, because, uhm, hello? Aliens.
Armentrout’s Lux series starts out with Katy and her mother moving to a small town in West Virginia after losing her father to cancer. With sucky internet access and basically no real postal service, Martinsburg is right down hell for a book lover and blogger like Katy. When her mother convinces her to get out there and make an effort with their new neighbours, Katy’s in for a real awakening, because the boy next door, as gorgeous as he might be, is nothing but rude and irritating. His sister Dee however welcomes Katy warmly to the neighbourhood, and even though older brother Daemon does everything to sabotage a growing friendship between the girls, even he can’t stop finding himself coerced into spending time with Katy and getting to know her. But then there’s that fact that has the two siblings hiding a huge secret of government conspiracy proportions concerning an alien species and their mortal enemies, and that Katy is suddenly thrust into with all hell breaking lose in town. And alien races aren’t as fun to have around as you might expect.
light_bodyNow, Obsidian’s storyline featured loads of young adult tropes – new girl in town, single-parent-household, single parent who’s always off to work, hot boy-next-door, secrets surrounding his family, antagonising behaviour but sexual tension between girl and boy, biology lessons, car shredding etc. – but unlike books I had read before, what made me entirely lose myself in the characters was the fact that for one, Katy wasn’t a damsel-in-distress or a pushover, or any of the things I had feared. Katy was strong and consistent, funny and kind, and definitely wore the pants in her relationship with Daemon. Daemon on the other hand, too gorgeous for his own sake and an extra-terrestrial pain-in-the-ass, had some hilarious lines, and I loved how real he came across as. Yes, he was described as physically perfect, but the boy had some serious issues that made him act the way he did, and despite the entire bad boy trope, I felt for him. All the worries and weights on his shoulders, even though he turned out to be from an alien race, were relatable and gave him dimensions from the very get-go. He was authentic in a way I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I hated Daemon, but the more I got to know his history, the more I realized how steady his character development was. Armentrout did an amazing job with her two leads, because I totally bought their I-hate-you-but-I-am-so-attracted-to-you play and didn’t become annoyed by it. It wasn’t illogical for them to turn to each other despite their initial rivalry. I liked that Katy fought her own way through the story, and even though Daemon assisted her somewhat, Katy grew on her own and not because of Daemon, which I think is a great message to put in a young adult sci-fi romance. She showed bravery and determination, and she loved books, for God’s sake, so I quickly fell in love with her even more than I did with Daemon. Armentrout clearly wrote Obsidian to clear up the prejudices this genre seems to garner, and managed to do so wonderfully. She incorporated everything you would normally get bored with because you’ve read it all before, but she managed to not make you notice it at all. I honestly never realized how familiar the plot of the whole thing was until I was done reading, because, well, the characters and writing just sucked me in and I didn’t care.
IMG_7729I didn’t enjoy the secondary charaters as much as I did the two protagonists, because they felt too contrived or were just plainly annoying or boring or storyline agents, but what speaks for Armentrout’s writing in this one is that the banter between her characters was simply amazing. I laughed out loud so many times reading this, and didn’t realize I had finished the entire book in one sitting until there were no more pages to flick through. Yes, Obsidian isn’t the most original work in the book world out there, but it was a brilliant realization of all the tropes circulating around in it. It’s fun and light and yet encouraging and exciting, and as far as books go, that’s what I want from them. Be it romance or fantasy, poems or new adult books. This is one of those books that I reread every time I’m in a book slump, because I’m 100% sure it will raise my mood and never be boring, because those characters utterly, completely roped me in and continue to do so every time anew.

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BOOK REVIEW: Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover

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Publication Date: March 18th 2014 by Atria Books
Genres: Romance
Age category: New adult
My Rating: 2 Stars
AMAZONBARNES & NOBLEiBOOKS

At twenty-two years old, Sydney is enjoying a great life: She’s in college, working a steady job, in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Hunter, and rooming with her best friend, Tori. But everything changes when she discovers that Hunter is cheating on her and she’s forced to decide what her next move should be. Soon, Sydney finds herself captivated by her mysterious and attractive neighbor, Ridge. She can’t take her eyes off him or stop listening to the passionate way he plays his guitar every evening out on his balcony. And there’s something about Sydney that Ridge can’t ignore, either. They soon find themselves needing each other in more ways than one. A passionate tale of friendship, betrayal, and romance, Maybe Someday will immerse readers in Sydney’s tumultuous world from the very first page.

largeGoddammit, high expectations will be the death of me! They so killed the book stars in this one. Colleen Hoover’s Maybe Someday was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and I can’t even begin to describe how stoked I was when my copy arrived early last week. I sat down with my iPod, headphones in place (Griffin Peterson soundtrack playlist all pulled up), and readied myself for a unique and incredible reading experience. For one thing, I absolutely loved, loved Griffin’s songs and arrangements and felt like they became one with the characters and story. For another, the entire soundtrack album became so much more than the book managed to become. The songs unfortunately were the only medium that got me to feel for these characters. Because, well, it pains me to say so, but Maybe Someday wasn’t what I would consider a well-balanced, well-planned and heart-warming story. It was more of a cringe-fest that had me going “Is every single one of you characters stupid?” when the second half of the story deteriorated right in front of my eyes (but thankfully not my ears).
Hoover tells the story of Sydney, a 22-year-old college student who has a bigot lawyer for a father and who doesn’t feel like stepping into his shoes where her life is concerned. She’s studying to become a music teacher and making ends meet on her own, living with best friend Tori and struggling with what the future holds for her and boyfriend Hunter, when all comes crashing down and she finds herself crashing on the couch of Ridge, the talented guitarist whom she’s been watching play for a couple of weeks from across the courtyard. Sydney and Ridge initially only bond over their common love for music and the fact that Sydney is able to write the lyrics for Ridge’s songs when he can’t due to his writer’s block, and now these two find themselves in close quarters along with roommates Warren and Bridgette, trying to avoid the preprogramed emotional chaos that arises when the twosome tries to balance song writing and a growing attraction that becomes more difficult the more time they spent together. But there’s no way they’re acting on any feelings that might be starting to develop, because there’s that tiny little fact that Ridge fails to mention – he has girlfriend Maggie to stay loyal to.
Notenbl‰tterThe first part of the novel flew by quickly and managed to capture my interest in these characters, especially with what Sydney had to go through right in the first chapter and how she and Ridge became part of each other’s lives. However, and here is where Hoover did her biggest faux pas in my opinion, Sydney’s behaviour and how her and Ridge’s story began to progress and unravel was pretty insulting. Sure, Sydney and Ridge’s decisions were all driven by motifs that were plainly explained to the reader, but their actions didn’t make sense. At all. Especially with Sydney, who went through a traumatising experience with her ex-boyfriend to act the way she did? There was no logic behind it. And I know that love makes us do stupid and crazy things, but I’m Sydney’s age, and the lack of self-respect and backbone in her just made me sad for her, if nothing else. It made me sad for this book and its soundtrack, too. Because as much as Hoover tried to convince me of how great of a character she was – selfless, independent or driven – none of that reflected in how she decided to lead her life. Why did she even have to be measured against those standards in the first place? That didn’t sit well with me and how she was written. Why not make her flawed without portraying her as a goody-two-shoes. I couldn’t see why exactly I should be rooting for her and Ridge during most of the novel. And then there was Ridge. Oh, Ridge. He was introduced as this perfect guy (and I fell for it completely in the beginning because how can you really resist a musician who’s kind to a girl in need, right?) but then bam! Asshole decision after asshole decision, and even though sure, they were warranted because he had this incredibly twisted view on loyalty and his past was just as fucked up, it didn’t work for his and Sydney’s story at all. It didn’t make me root for them, it made me wish the book would end with them parting ways and finding love with other people by the middle of the book! If you’re writing a romance and your main characters’ relationship doesn’t work even though the reader’s already a good 150 pages in, I think that’s not a good way for a romance book to commence. Sure, these two complimented each other in the musical aspects of their lives, but there was nothing there between them beyond that in Hoover’s writing. There was nothing natural about their chemistry, and then there was that ending to their story which was rushed and felt forced and came out of the blue and made no sense, either. I would’ve loved a more thought-out ending over that tedious middle part of the story where pretty much nothing happened except whining, whining, whining. And dammit, Sydney and Ridge just became so pathetic that I was glad it was over in the end. I enjoy stories that have characters overcome their own personal struggles in order to find happiness, but I need logical thought progress for that, and there was none here, neither in Sydney nor Ridge, nor in the other secondary characters. Honestly, that ending and the characters featured in it read like an entirely different book. Warren was the only one that I really enjoyed reading about because he had dimensions to him. He called out every character’s bullshit and kept them grounded when nothing else did. He was refreshingly rude and I wish the characters wouldn’t have gotten offended by his speeches so often. He was the only one who was decent and honest and wouldn’t sugarcoat anything and acted according to his character’s logic.
IMG_7710The second thing that had me in fits was the portrayal of the female characters in a whole. Hoover has shown she’s capable of writing female leads that you can sympathize with even though you don’t necessarily see eye to eye with their decisions, but Sydney and the rest of the women were terribly one-dimensional. What is up with all this slut shaming in the new adult category lately? Yes, girls of every age judge each other in real-life, but I would’ve liked for Sydney to not be of that calibre, because yes, non-judgmental girls do exist and Sydney had the chance to rise above that kind of behaviour BECAUSE she had strong motivations not to. And she kept saying so herself. All I wanted was for her to face her situation and be okay with it, stand behind her decisions. But she just ignored them, really, because humans can’t control how they act on their emotions yadda yadda. Uhm, yeah, sure. Sydney was blatantly judging every single girl around her for this or that, when she never took a good look at herself in the mirror and decided to change her course of action because it was obviously morally tainted (according to her personal standards). Sydney kept saying she was above mistakes when she clearly wasn’t, and that grated on my nerves. I just wanted a character that was more authentic, I guess. It was such a shame that every girl in this book was bound to one-dimensional stereotypes only – the backstabbing whore or the heartless bitch or the all-adored sunshine. There was no way to feel for these girls because they were so excessively fabricated, they didn’t seem real.
IMG_7718What makes me so incredibly sad to give this book such a low rating is how amazing that soundtrack was! The songs made me feel something where the book failed completely, and it was the only reason I kept reading, so that I could listen to the songs in context. It was sad to see a big portion of the later part of the book not feature any songs, and I grew bored without them to look forward to. The entire book and soundtrack idea Hoover had was brilliant, but if one of the two doesn’t work, it fails in its execution, and both mediums become independent of another, which happened here. I’m pretty sure I’ll listen to the songs again, but I’m also pretty sure I’ll be doing so without acknowledging their connection to the characters.
Maybe Someday tried so hard to be another Slammed (boy and girl meet, boy and girl can’t be together, throw in lots and lots of heartache and loss, you get the gist) but it didn’t work with this type of story and characters. Sydney didn’t manage to pull me in like Lake did, and I couldn’t buy Ridge’s romantic gestures the way I did with Will because, well, what came out of Ridge’s head and mouth was utter bull 90% of the time. Maybe if Hoover had opted for a different ending, I would’ve been happier with her book in a whole, but as it is, I feel like Maybe Someday failed to let me understand the characters despite the massive amount of info-dumping we got on their pasts. Without the soundtrack, this would’ve easily been a 1-star-rating, but I can’t give it more than 2 because yeah, the book wasn’t my cup of tea at all, whereas the soundtrack easily would’ve gotten four stars on its own. I’d still recommend this to readers who enjoyed Hoover’s other book series because it was a fun reading experience to have songs to listen to, and most readers aren’t as OCD dissecting as I am when it comes to characters, so if you enjoyed the Hopeless series, I’m pretty sure you’ll love this book. Sadly, it wasn’t a story that I could connect with.

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